The Struggle for the Soul of America: Stand Up for the Right of All Americans to Vote

On Tuesday, Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced he would call for a Senate vote on S1, the For the People Act, before the end of the month. While Minority Leader Sen. McConnell (R-Ky) and his Republican colleagues are sure to block the vote using the filibuster, Schumer hopes the GOP’s obstruction will help convince Sen. Manchin (D-W.Va.) to change his mind and support S1 because bipartisanship is not really an option.[1]

Manchin has been demanding that the bill must have bipartisan buy-in. And, in fact, it does, just not in Congress. In a May opinion poll, 69 percent of Americans, including 52 percent of Republicans, support the bill.[2] In Manchin’s home state of West Virginia, an overwhelming 79 percent of the people favor the legislation.[3]

Sen. Schumer has indicated that “Failure is not an option, voting is too sacred.”[4] He has also explained, “Now, is it possible we might change a few things here and there? We’re gonna do it. We had discussions with Sen. Manchin and they’re continuing.”[5]

What makes the passage of this legislation even more critical is the recent outbreak of deadly threats against election officials and volunteers across the country. On June 11, Reuters issued a special report: “Trump-inspired death threats are terrorizing election workers.” Its investigation found thatTrump’s baseless voter-fraud accusations have had dark consequences for U.S. election leaders and workers, especially in contested states such as Georgia, Arizona and Michigan. Some have faced protests at their homes or been followed in their cars. Many have received death threats.”[6] This is another dangerous effort by Trump loyalists to undermine our democracy.

Fortunately, the Justice Department is taking these threats very seriously. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday that the Department will double its civil rights enforcement division staff within the next 30 days and take other actions to protect Americans’ right to the ballot. While supporting the For the People Act, Garland stated the Department “would not wait to enforce voting rights while lawmakers fine-tune those pieces of legislation…(and) is going to investigate and prosecute any violation of federal law against” election officials and volunteers.[7]

While Washington officials are doing the right thing, we cannot leave this crucial fight up to them. On Thursday, I attended a Zoom gathering of 15 or so New Mexicans who want to press for the passage of HR1/S1 to protect our right to vote. The meeting focused on initiating a statewide effort to participate in a national campaign urging Congress to approve these major election reforms to save our democracy. This national campaign is being led by the Declaration for American Democracy coalition[8] and Indivisible,[9] two high profile groups with large, dedicated memberships.

The New Mexico Voting Rights committee will meet again via ZOOM this Tuesday, June 15 at 4 p.m. (MDT) to develop a plan of action. We need you to get involved, before it’s too late. The right to vote and protect our democracy hangs in the balance. Don’t wait. Register to attend this important meeting at
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcvcuyopjoiGdNRhqptzjTkPjIEv_AHXzM4.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

(Note: Due to other commitments, I will not be able to post a blog next week but will be back again the following week.)

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (now RepresentUs New Mexico), a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/06/08/for-the-people-act-vote-492159

[2] https://thefulcrum.us/hr-1-public-opinion-polling

[3] https://www.newsweek.com/arizona-west-virginia-gop-voters-back-democrats-election-bill-conservative-opposition-mounts-1591695

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7dGo8_3JK0

[5] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/06/08/for-the-people-act-vote-492159

[6] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-georgia-threats-special-rep/special-report-trump-inspired-death-threats-are-terrorizing-election-workers-idUSKCN2DN14M

[7] https://www.courthousenews.com/justice-department-taking-action-to-protect-ballot-access/

[8] https://dfadcoalition.org/

[9] https://indivisible.org/resource/deadline-democracy-event-toolkit

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Trump’s Failed COVID 19 Response Is the No. 1 Election Issue

President Trump and his administration “have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy…When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”[1] This perspective is from the editors of theNew England Journal of Medicine, one of the most respected medical journals in the world.

Despite over 210,000 Americans having lost their lives due to the coronavirus, on Monday President Trump told the nation, “Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it. We have the best medical equipment. We have the best medicines….”[2]

Well, that’s easy for Trump to say after receiving the best medical care on the planet at Walter Reed Medical Center following his coronavirus diagnosis last week. “(T)he president’s COVID-19 treatment surpassed what most people would receive. Fewer than 10 compassionate-use requests have been granted for Regeneron’s experimental antibody cocktail,” including Trump. “He would never have gotten access to the monoclonal antibodies if he weren’t the president,” noted Brown University Prof. Rose McDermott who has studied presidential illness.[3]

You or I would have had to pay over $100,000 for the treatment Trump got for free.[4] Actually, in 2016 and 2017, our billionaire president did pay $750 a year in taxes,[5] so his public healthcare wasn’t entirely free. Still, quite a deal, don’t you think?

While Trump receives top-notch healthcare at taxpayers’ expense, he has been doing whatever he can to eliminate healthcare insurance for millions of Americans. On June 25, the Trump Administration petitioned the Supreme Court to find the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional.[6]

Incredibly, the Administration’s efforts to gut the ACA is in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic which has infected over seven million Americans and thrown tens of millions off their health care rolls due to lost jobs.

“Dismantling the law wouldworsen racial disparities and make it harder for sick people to get new coverage at a time when COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting Black and Latino Americans and leaving hundreds of thousands with potentially lasting health problems. It would also leave 23 million Americans without health coverage,” according to the Center for American Progress.[7]

Clearly, Trump is not concerned with the healthcare of millions of Americans, particularly when the great majority of them are lower income minorities. At the same time, he had no problem taking care of very wealthy Americans like himself with huge tax cuts that don’t produce significant economic growth,[8] but do significantly increase the national deficit.[9]

But, it gets even darker. Back in February, knowing how dangerous the coronavirus was, Trump downplayed the threat and did nothing to protect the American people.[10] In fact, he was so careless and highhanded regarding COVID 19 that months later Trump and more than 30 of his aides and their contacts contracted the virus. And then, when he returned to the White House from the hospital still carrying the disease, “he immediately removed his mask before entering the building — setting off concern that his behavior may put staffers, complex workers and Secret Service agents at risk.”[11] Of course, his image was much more important than their health and wellbeing.

One last thing. Trump promised to replace the ACA with a much better, “terrific” healthcare plan. After almost four years in office, he has produced no such plan.[12] Once again, Trump has conned the American people. It’s time we put an end to his cruel charade on November 3rd.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

[1] https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2029812?query=featured_home#article_references.

[2] https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/519740-trump-tells-americans-dont-let-coronavirus-dominate-you-following-his.

[3] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/10/president-trump-health-insurance-covid/616627/.

[4] https://news.yahoo.com/much-trumps-coronavirus-treatment-cost-130318676.html.

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_returns_of_Donald_Trump#2020_New_York_Times_reporting

[6] https://time.com/5861290/affordable-care-act-obamacare-trump-biden/.

[7] Ibid.

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/oct/09/trump-tax-cuts-helped-billionaires-pay-less.

[9] https://www.forbes.com/sites/christianweller/2020/01/29/trumps-wasteful-tax-cuts-lead-to-continued-trillion-dollar-deficits-in-expanding-economy/#4efb589766c4.

[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f22A8PWpGY8.

[11] https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/34-people-connected-white-house-previously-infected-coronavirus/story?id=73487381.

[12] https://khn.org/news/back-to-the-future-trumps-history-of-promising-a-health-plan-that-never-comes/.

Where Are the Democrats?

While Donald Trump and the Republicans struggle to pass any meaningful legislation, there is one thing they know how to do well. That is, grab the public’s attention in order to enlarge and intensify their base of support.

            Long before he declared his candidacy for president, Trump was in the spotlight claiming Barak Obama was not a legitimate president, falsely asserting Obama was a Muslim born in Kenya. At the same time, House Republicans, though they knew they didn’t have enough support in the Senate, voted again and again to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, in a very visible effort to sabotage the president’s signature piece of legislation and rally their base.

            Now the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak. Trump is in the White House and the Republicans control Congress. But where are the Democrats? Yes, they rolled out their “Better Deal” package of economic reforms back in July,1 but how many Americans even remember that three months later, let alone got excited by it then?

            Since Trump became president, there have been a multitude of speeches, tweets and decisions that the Democratic Party could have pounced on to galvanize support for its fight for everyday Americans of all races and ethnicities. Trump’s failure to unequivocally denounce the white supremacists’ march in Charlottesville is a primary example. Another is his ongoing feud with gold star families who have lost loved ones serving our country. Yet another is Trump’s use of the presidency for his personal financial gain in violation of the Constitution. And then, there’s the Republican Party’s bankruptcy of values in their continuing to back Trump, knowing he is utterly unfit to be president.2

            So, where are the Democrats, the “opposition party,” when our country desperately needs them? Why haven’t they risen to the occasion?

            The sad truth is the Democratic Party does not have the courage, boldness or vision to overcome Trump and his Republican cronies. Since Obama was elected president, the Democrats have lost over 1,000 elected positions across the country. Rather than offering Americans a visionary agenda that would inspire their base and draw in new voters, party leaders like Nancy Pelosi timidly stick to the center of the political spectrum despite polls that indicate the majority of Americans want more progressive programs like Medicare for All. In fact, Democrats have achieved their greatest political and policy successes when they have ignored the “centrists” and promoted bolder policies like the New Deal and Medicare.3

            Even worse than maintaining their middle-of-the-road positions, old guard Democrats are actively blocking the Party from moving to the left. At a recent Democratic National Committee meeting, Chairman Tom Perez, who became chair earlier this year only due to the strong backing of the Obama-Clinton wing of the Party, ousted from DNC leadership positions four long-serving officials who represented the so-called “Sanders wing” of the Democratic Party. These officials all had backed Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison over Perez for the chairmanship. Consequently, despite it’s call for unity, “the Democratic establishment is ruthlessly tightening its grip on the party.”4

         This does not bode well for the Democrats in the 2018 mid-term elections. A divided party is a weak party. Why would Sanders supporters turn out if all they will get in return is more of the same centrist policies that don’t come close to meeting their needs or desires? Is total control of the Party more important to establishment Democrats than winning elections, stopping the Trump/Bannon takeover of our country, and improving the lives of most Americans? The Democratic Party needs to do some serious soul-searching now, before it’s too late.

1 See https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/08/why-the-democrats-better-deal-is-political-suicide.

2 See https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/59e7dc46e4b0e60c4aa367cb.

3 See https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/10/25/why-centrists-will-sink-democrats-if-they-havent-already.

4 See http://inthesetimes.com/article/20627/dnc-purge-ellison-perez-bernie-sanders-left-center/.

 

The Shameful Republican Congress

The political pressure cooker in Washington is nearing the boiling point. Republican Senator Bob Corker’s (R-TN) recent public proclamations that “the White House has become an adult day care center” and that President Trump was risking World War III are just the tip of the iceberg. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson thinks Trump is a f—king moron. And, Chief of Staff John Kelly is continually scrambling to manage Trump’s constant outbursts. Our nation is in deep trouble.

Meanwhile, a great number of Republicans in Congress agree with Corker’s assessment that Trump lacks the stability and competence to succeed as president. An October 12th L.A. Times editorial declared that it is “beyond question…that many Republicans in Congress and around the country and even in the president’s own Cabinet consider him a potential menace to the country: an under-qualified man of poor judgment, a bellicose hothead who returns small slights with disproportionate attacks. “1

Nevertheless, despite the mounting danger that Trump poses to the nation, Republicans are not calling for hearings to determine whether to impeach the president. It seems Republicans are more concerned with achieving tax cuts for their wealthy donors than they are with protecting the nation from an unstable, incompetent commander-in-chief. Republican sources reportedly have indicated that they want to enact tax reform before considering impeachment.2 Sadly, they are not ready to place the future of our country ahead of party politics.

Republicans are between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they want to achieve at least some of their legislative agenda and they need Trump’s support to do that. On the other hand, the Republican Party brand is being seriously tarnished by Trump and establishment Republicans would like nothing better than to remove him from the White House.

Unable to repeal and replace Obamacare, congressional Republicans’ main objective now is a major overhaul of the tax code. If they turn on Trump, any chance of their accomplishing this goal would disappear and their re-election prospects would diminish as well. In fact, they are afraid of Trump’s base. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former alt-right advisor, is already preparing to primary practically every sitting Republican senator running for re-election next year.

At the same time, Trump has attacked many Congressional Republicans and blames them for failing to pass his legislative priorities, even though he, himself, has done little to help them achieve his agenda. While only 29% of Americans view the Republican Party favorably, 79% of Republican voters still support Trump.3 Consequently, with few exceptions like Sen. Corker, Republicans on the Hill are unwilling to publicly express their displeasure with the president despite the fact that a great many of them would like to see the Trump administration end.4

While Corker’s comments have shed some light on congressional Republicans’ true sentiments, what will it take for those same legislators to turn on Trump? On Monday, October 16th, the president falsely asserted that former president Barack Obama and other presidents did not contact the families of American troops killed in duty.5 He made that claim despite the fact that Trump, himself, had not called to console the families, nor had he spoken publicly about the four Green Berets killed in an ambush in Niger two weeks ago. Since then, Trump chose to spend a good deal of his time playing golf, picking a fight with the NFL players over their right to protest, and mocking Sen. Corker’s height, instead of paying his respects to these fallen warriors and their families.

Trump’s failure to pay tribute to the families of these soldiers brought this response from San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich:

“This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner – and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers – is as low as it gets.  We have a pathological liar in the White House: unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this President should be ashamed because they know it better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.”6

That congressional Republicans continue to ignore Trump’s inexcusable behavior and utter unfitness for the presidency is the greatest shame of all, and the gravest danger to our country.

1 See http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-corker-trump-20171011-story.html.

2 See http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-impeachment-latest-robert-reich-former-republican-senator-unhinged-tax-bill-us-a7996341.html.

3 See http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/24/politics/cnn-poll-republican-party-approval/index.html.

4 See http://www.newsweek.com/trump-impeachment-articles-republican-impeach-685831.

5 See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/16/us/politics/trump-obama-killed-soldiers.html.

6 See https://www.yahoo.com/sports/gregg-popovich-president-trump-soulless-coward-225829012.html.

Did Trump Win ‘Fair and Square’?

 

           Under the headline “Note to Dems: Stop Whining,” syndicated columnist Diane Dimond writes that “Trump won fair and square” in the November 19, 2016 Albuquerque Journal. Really?!

            When hundreds of thousands of registered voters are secretly purged from numerous GOP-controlled states’ voter rolls by Republican operatives, is that fair and square? When these voters are targeted by Republican operatives because they are mainly minorities who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, is that fair and square? And, when Republicans pass restrictive voter requirements in multiple states under the guise of unsubstantiated voter fraud making it harder for minorities and the poor to vote, is that fair and square?

            Dimond writes that those who are protesting the election of Trump “denigrate our political system and malign the office of the presidency.” I would strongly argue that it is Trump and his Republican cronies who have severely damaged our political system and the office of the presidency.

            In his new book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, and movie of the same name, investigative journalist Greg Palast convincingly illustrates how the 2016 election was stolen by the Republicans. (See http://www.gregpalast.com/.) Employing a system called “Crosscheck,” Republicans robbed over a million minority voters of their right to vote in crucial states, explains Palast. Crosscheck compares voter rolls in two states and purges voters with very similar names (e.g. George Gonzales and George M. Gonzales) from the rolls in both states for double registering, without proof the two names are the same person. For example, the North Carolina Crosscheck purge list consisted of 589,393 voters. Since Trump only won North Carolina by about 177,000 votes, the overwhelmingly Democratic, purged voters would easily have wiped out Trump’s victory had they been able to vote. Palast indicates that Crosscheck was utilized in 29 states, including critical states like Arizona, Florida, Michigan and Ohio.

            In addition, Dimond implies that conservatives are too civilized to “hit the bricks in rowdy, confrontational and sometimes violent street protests.” Does Ms. Dimond prefer the Congressional Republican protest method of pledging to make President Obama a one-term president by obstructing every proposal he makes, even when many of them were originally GOP ideas? (See http://www.eclectablog.com/2013/08/10-ideas-republicans-loved-until-barack-obama-became-president.html.)

            Republicans seem to exploit every trick in the book to make certain they get their way on election day. In fact, they’re not above hacking into voting machines to assure their candidate becomes president, which appears to be how George W. Bush won Ohio and the presidency in 2004. (See http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/2319:new-court-filing-reveals-how-the-2004-ohio-presidential-election-was-hacked.) And, if it were not for GOP-controlled state legislatures gerrymandering districts, Republicans would today most likely not be in control of the U.S. House of Representatives. (See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-power-that-gerrymandering-has-brought-to-republicans/2016/06/17/045264ae-2903-11e6-ae4a-3cdd5fe74204_story.html?utm_term=.b00980e8f6aa.)

            So, you are right, Ms. Dimond, Democrats need to stop whining. Instead, they need to start building a national movement to fix our rigged political system and make the government work for all Americans along the lines I suggest in my book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America: Working Together To Revive Our Democracy. (See www.breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.)

 

Is There A Silver Lining?

The 2016 presidential election was an excruciating experience for millions of Americans. Many are in a state of despair and disbelief. Like me, they wonder how we could possibly have elected Donald Trump as our president.

            This election pitted the Establishment against the Anti-Establishment. A great number of Americans, including many who worked for Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries, were fed up with a self-serving Establishment. After decades of being left on the sidelines, millions of voters enthusiastically backed Donald Trump, the political outsider who shrewdly crafted a message that addressed their frustrations. Finally, someone understood their anger and resentment.

            On the other hand, Hillary Clinton represented the epitome of the Washington insider. Most Democratic, and even some Republican, officials supported her. She had been around D.C. for almost 25 years. She knew how to play the game well and accomplished a good deal for our country over the years. But, in the end, Clinton had too much baggage to carry the day and win the big prize.

            Nevertheless, despite the looming darkness of a Trump presidency, there just may be a silver lining to this election. I have long thought that things may have to get worse before they could get better. Many of us have been willing to go along with the status quo because our own lives have not seemed to been affected very much by the corruption and gross inequality in our country. While we might donate to various social causes and/or write a letter to our state or federal representatives, the vast majority of good Americans have had little time for organizing and volunteering to build a fairer, more just political system.

            The election of Donald Trump very possibly changes all that. We have received a wake up call signaling that we are losing our democracy and becoming an oligarchy. With the implementation of Trump’s programs, I believe many more Americans will grasp how much politics and government policy can personally impact us in a negative way. Consequently, Trump’s election can be a great organizing tool for Democrats and progressives.

            Moreover, if Hillary had squeaked out a victory, Trump and the Republicans would have constantly been attacking her. It would have been as bad, if not worse than how they obstructed Obama. She would have had a hostile Republican House and Senate on her back all the time. We would have had more Washington gridlock, another government nightmare with little chance of Clinton successfully pursuing much of her agenda. And, what she was able to achieve would, most likely, have been watered down to meet Republican and, quite possibly, her own donors’ objections. While progressives would have been lobbying for stronger social programs and climate change legislation, it’s really hard to imagine how they could have achieved very much under such conditions.

            Now, instead, Trump and the Republicans control the whole government, ready to advance a right-wing agenda that favors big business, non-regulation and large tax breaks for the wealthy. Additionally, many of the hard-won, social justice advances of the last fifty years are in serious jeopardy. The lines between Trump’s course and one that would truly serve most Americans and our planet are now clearly drawn. That should make the need for building a broad-based, non-partisan national movement to revive our democracy even more urgent and, hopefully, our goal of a just society more obtainable. So let’s come together and get to work!

            Go to www.breakingbigmoneysgrip.com to learn how to get started. And, if you are in Santa Fe, come to the next meeting of the Democracy Organizing Committee on Monday, November 14, at 6:15 in the LaFarge Library Community Room.

 

The Great American Divide

            Our country is more divided than it’s been in a very long time, quite possibly since the Civil War. This great rift has been growing for many years. While significant political differences have always existed, a larger, more troubling gap began to develop when income inequality started accelerating in the late 1970s. According to the Economic Policy Institute, from 1978 to 2015 the average corporate CEO’s salary grew 997% while the average salary of a private sector, non-supervisory worker increased just 10.9%.1

            Additionally, as I noted in Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, between 2009 and 2012, the first years of the economic recovery after the Great Recession, 95% of the total gain in income went to the families in the top one percent. Consequently, more and more Americans were feeling left behind as our nation dug itself out of the 2008 Recession.

            While the Establishment in both political parties was addressing the needs and desires of the donor class, they were doing little for the rest of their constituents. During the last days of the George W. Bush administration, Congress passed TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Though TARP funds were primarily to be used to save the nation’s biggest banks from collapsing, the government could have used some of it to prevent the foreclosure of average citizens’ home mortgages. But President Obama refused to require foreclosure relief from these banks as a condition for their receiving a massive bailout of hundreds of billions of dollars2 paid for by American taxpayers.

            Even Obama’s singular achievement, the Affordable Care Act, was drafted more in line with the wishes of corporate America than those of the general public. As a result, the Act failed to include a ‘public option,’ which would have helped limit the cost of people’s health insurance, while it contained the insurance companies’ requirement that all citizens obtain health insurance.

            Meanwhile, since the Great Recession, Congress has refused to pass a substantial jobs bill, mostly due to Republican obstruction, which would have assisted millions of Americans in getting back on their feet. And, if that weren’t enough, Obama continues to lobby for the passage of the TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty, that would further hurt American workers while it boosts Big Business.

            How many times can we expect working class Americans to take it on the chin before they start fighting back? Can we really blame them for being mad as hell and supporting Donald Trump? Yes, Trump is a charlatan. But, when people are drowning, they will grab onto any apparent lifesaver within reach. In fact, the rise of Trump’s presidential campaign is in large part the result of our nation’s failure to respond to the needs of his followers.

            The truth is that the Establishment, Republican and Democratic alike, has been more focused on protecting and furthering its own self interest than it has been in building a nation where we all have an equal opportunity to enjoy healthy and prosperous lives. But, this is the way it has always been. The status quo does not change unless people organize and demand it. Just look at how it took millions of Americans coming together in the LGBT, Civil Rights and Environmental movements to overcome the opposition of the status quo and achieve their successes.

            Now that this bitter presidential campaign is finally over, it’s time we turned our attention to the causes that made it so acrimonious. In particular, we must examine an economic/political system that provides so much to so few and so little to so many. Then, we must organize a broad-based, non-partisan Democracy Movement to redevelop that system into a fairer, more equitable one for all Americans. For how we can do this together, visit breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.

1 See http://www.epi.org/publication/ceo-pay-has-grown-90-times-faster-than-typical-worker-pay-since-1978/

2 See http://www.salon.com/2015/03/31/barney_frank_drops_a_bombshell_how_a_shocking_anecdote_explains_the_financial_crisis/

We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For

It’s been way too long since I’ve written here. Now, however, I’m setting the intention to blog twice a week, if not more. So, here goes….

While the 2016 election cycle is about to end, our work as engaged citizens is just beginning. I believe this election, regardless of who wins, has finally awakened the American people to the fact that we are responsible for the state of our union.

Whether our government functions in the best interests of the people is up to us. Too often we have allowed the politicians and special interests to determine policy without regard for the public interest. For example, when President Bill Clinton negotiated NAFTA, the North American Trade Agreement, was he looking out for American workers or big business? And, whose concerns guided our government’s decision to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act that separated commercial banking from investment banks? Wall Street or Main Street?

In 2003 when the Bush Administration promoted and initiated a war against Iraq, was that in the best interests of the American people? With then Vice President Cheney leading the way, Halliburton, Cheney’s former company, and other Big Oil corporations sought to profit from the needless killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the wasteful expenditure of trillions of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars.

More recently, when the 2008 Great Recession crippled the country, President Obama used our money to bail out Wall Street while doing little to help millions of his fellow citizens save their homes from foreclosure. In all these and other similar situations, the vast majority of Americans felt helpless, watched their government act against their best interests and did nothing.

But, the times they are a changing. A great number of Americans from all political persuasions are fed up with government as usual. They are giving notice that they will no longer stand by and allow Big Money and special interests to run the show. Whether they support Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, voters are angry and ready to fight for what they believe in.

When President Obama was elected, people thought he would deliver the”change you can believe in” that he had promised. They did not hold his feet to the fire to assure he would make good on his promises. While one can argue that Obama faced much opposition which obstructed his performance, we, the people, were not organizing the mass movement that would have provided the necessary support and force to overcome some of the obstacles he faced.

This time is different. We are under no illusions that either Clinton or Trump will produce the change most Americans desire. This time we know that it is up to us to battle for the kind of country we want. We must make our voices heard and demand real change for the public good, not the special interests. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Democracy Organizing Committee Forming

Dear Friends,

This pivotal time in our country requires bold action – a Democracy Movement.

Real change in the United States occurs when Americans come together and demand it. Whether it was women’s suffrage or labor or civil rights or marriage equality, grassroots movements were necessary to compel our nation to address these issues. Now a Democracy Movement is required to break Big Money’s grip on America so that we can form a government of, by and for the people that will effectively deal with today’s critical issues: climate change, affordable healthcare, money in politics, gun violence, international terrorism and immigration reform, to name a few.

Therefore, I would like to invite you to the first planning meeting of the Santa Fe Democracy Organizing Committee (DOC) at 6:30 pm on Monday, August 8, in the Community Room of La Farge Library on Llano Street in Santa Fe, where we can begin working together to make a real difference.

As my new book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America: Working Together To Revive Our Democracy, demonstrates, the dominance of Big Money not only corrupts government itself but also blocks effective action on virtually every major issue Americans care about. It then illustrates that the only force capable of challenging Big Money’s corrupt and powerful hegemony is a diverse, nonpartisan, nationwide, grassroots movement for democracy.

Democracy Organizing Committees (DOC)

Creating local DOCs in communities across the country is a realistic strategy for building such a movement. It is a viable vehicle for mobilizing Americans of all persuasions whose primary political concerns are eliminating the corrupting influence of money in politics, developing political equity so every citizen’s voice counts, and creating a political process in which our policymakers are accountable to the people and the public interest. (See www.breakingbigmoneysgrip.com for more information about DOCs and building a Democracy Movement.)

If we really want a government of, by and for the people, it is up to us to make it happen. We have seen time and time again that our political leaders are too beholden to special interests and their corporate sponsors to truly serve our needs.

I urge you to attend this organizing meeting on August 8. Bring your friends and colleagues along with you. After introductions, we will discuss what a Santa Fe DOC might look like, what it could do and how it might align, or not, with other political efforts. Then we will begin planning how we can work together to revive our democracy by building a strong Santa Fe DOC in the coming months. We will end by 7:50 pm.

If you have questions about the meeting or can’t make the meeting and want to be involved in this effort, you can email breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com. I hope to see you at La Farge on August 8.

Best regards,

Bruce Berlin

 

How To Unite the Democratic Party

On the eve of their national convention, the Establishment wing of the Democratic Party claims that the party is uniting. At the same time, the progressive Sanders wing couldn’t disagree more.

First, the Sanders people are very disappointed, if not angry and bitter, with Sec. Clinton’s choice of centrist Sen. Tim Kaine for VP. On top of that, the recent release by Wikileaks of DNC emails strongly supports the claim that the DNC rigged the primary process in favor of Clinton. Progressives are in no mood to unite with a party they see as unethical and undemocratic as well as tied to Big Money and corporate America.

Without a united party, the Democrats will have a more difficult time getting out the vote in November. And, without a large voter turnout, Clinton could very well lose the election. What can she do?

As I wrote in a blog earlier this month, the one person who can unite the party is President Obama. The majority of the Democratic Party, including Clinton, Sanders and 83% of Congressional Democrats who voted against fast-tracking the TPP, oppose this trade agreement in its present form. The main reason the platform committee failed to include a definitive statement against the TPP in the party platform appears to be their desire not to embarrass Obama, who champions the trade pact.

As Obama’s Secretary of State, Clinton also strongly favored the TPP. However, in large part due to the Sanders’s campaign, she has recently reversed her position, as has her VP choice, Sen. Kaine. Sec. Clinton now understand how much the TPP would adversely affect American workers and the American middle class. As Sen. Sanders explained, the TPP would “boost the profits of large corporations and Wall Street by outsourcing jobs; undercutting worker rights; dismantling labor, environmental, health, food safety and financial laws; and allowing corporations to challenge our laws in international tribunals rather than our own court system.”

Therefore, the soon-to-be anointed new leader of her party, Sec. Clinton, along with Sen. Kaine, needs to have a heart-to-heart talk with the president. She and Kaine must make perfectly clear to him why they have changed their minds about the TPP, and why he must as well. And, they must do it immediately. They have to convince Obama that for the good of the party, the best outcome in the election and the wellbeing of the nation, he has to publicly withdraw his support for this terrible trade agreement at their convention. Then, together they can all pledge that the TPP will not be approved in a lame duck session of Congress after the election.

If Clinton can accomplish this in the next few days, the Democratic Party could come together in Philly. It would not be a perfect union by any means. The Establishment wing of the party would still have work to do to gain the enthusiastic support of many progressives. But it would be a big step forward. Clinton, Kaine and the party would be demonstrating that they do, in fact, stand with the party’s progressive base, the working people of America, against Big Money and corporate America.

Bruce Berlin is the author of the new book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America. See http://www.breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.