The Struggle for the Soul of America: It’s Time to Fight Back!

In response to the recent Supreme Court decisions undercutting women’s rights, environmental protection, gun control and more, I agree with environmentalist Bill McKibben. His recent observations remind me of the Chinese proverb, “in every crisis lies the seed of opportunity.[1] McKibben wrote:

A reasonable reaction to the week’s Supreme Court rulings, which culminated in Thursday’s gutting of the Clean Air Act, would be: we are so screwed.

But there’s another way to look at it: we can turn the right-wing’s wet dream into a nightmare for them if we fight back. If we seize it, we have the best opportunity in many years for reconfiguring American politics.

The key thing to understand about these Supreme Court decisions is that they’re fantastically unpopular. On guns, on choice, and on climate the Court has taken us places Americans badly do not want to go. By majorities of two-thirds or more Americans detest these opinions; those are majorities large enough to win elections and to shape policy, even in our corroded democracy. The right, after decades of slow and careful and patient nibbling away at rights and norms is suddenly rushing full-tilt. That’s dangerous for us, but also for them. The force of that charge can, jiu jitsu-like, be turned against them.[2]

This past week in the case of West Virginia v. EPA, the Court found that the Environmental Protection Agency did not have the authority to regulate reducing carbon emissions under the 1970 Clean Air Act by forcing utility companies to shift from coal to renewable energy. The Court held that Congress did not specifically authorize the EPA to regulate CO2 in this way. The ruling effectively makes it much harder for the U.S. government to combat climate change.[3]

But it does much more than that. It opens the door to the Court’s usurping the role of ultimate policymaker in many other areas of our lives as well, be it education, healthcare or any matter where Congress has designated the power to regulate to the Executive branch. In a blistering dissent, Justice Elena Kagan accuses the Court majority of substituting its own ideas about policymaking for Congress’s: “…the Court today prevents congressionally authorized agency action to curb power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions. The Court appoints itself—instead of Congress or the expert agency—the decisionmaker on climate policy.”[4]

What’s to prevent the Court from taking this same approach in other regulatory fields? In the short political term, according to McKibben, “a promise from every Democrat that they would overturn the filibuster and expand the Court if elected.”[5]

So, we need to get every Democratic candidate for federal office to make that promise on the record before the election campaigns heat up. That promise could well boost Democratic turnout in November. McKibben argues that “our majorities on these issues are large enough to overwhelm even these archaic structures. Seventy percent is enough.”[6] In fact, this fight must be taken to state legislative elections as well. (More about that in next week’s blog.)

While inflation and the economy will be important in voters’ minds, these recent unpopular Court rulings affecting all Americans could turn November’s election in the Democrats’ favor. Following the West Virginia v. EPA decision, on Thursday a coalition of 15 climate, environmental, and social justice advocacy groups, including the Center for Popular Democracy, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Indivisible, the Movement for Black Lives and the Working Families Party, called for the addition of four justices “to restore balance to the Court.”[7]

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) immediately joined this initiative. Markey asserted that “We cannot sit idly by as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution…We must also pass my Judiciary Act[8] to expand the Court to restore balance and legitimacy to the bench.”[9]

With just four months until the election, the battle lines have been clearly drawn. Support the coalition’s efforts. Urge your senators and Congresspeople to abolish the filibuster and pass the Judiciary Act of 2021. Our rights and American democracy depend on all of us fighting back now!

Bruce Berlin

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.pinterest.com/pin/368169338291210377/#:~:text=In%20every%20crisis%20lies%20the%20seed%20of%20opportunity

[2] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2022/07/02/time-now-people-powered-backlash

[3] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/supreme-court-climegae-change-carbon-emissions_n_62b36169e4b06169caa14933; https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/06/30/epa-supreme-court-west-virginia/

[4] https://reason.com/volokh/2022/07/01/justice-kagan-throws-down-the-gauntlet-we-are-not-all-textualists-now/

[5] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2022/07/02/time-now-people-powered-backlash

[6] Ibid.

[7] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/06/30/markey-bowman-join-climate-coalition-urging-scotus-expansion

[8] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/04/15/combat-right-wing-assault-democracy-new-bill-would-add-four-seats-supreme-court

[9] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/06/30/markey-bowman-join-climate-coalition-urging-scotus-expansion

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Do Recent Decisions Expose Justice Clarence Thomas’s Impeachable Bias?

The struggle for the soul of America got a lot more real this past week. By the end of the week, the Supreme Court had handed down two major decisions imperiling the lives of most Americans.

On Thursday the Supreme Court struck down a New York state law requiring applicants for a license to carry a gun outside of their homes to have a “proper cause” to do so. The law had made it a crime to carry a concealed firearm without a license.[1] With the Court’s ruling, we are all in greater danger of being an innocent victim of a mass shooting wherever we go.

Then, on Friday the court overruled Roe v. Wade, the 50-year-old case which established the right to an abortion was guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The Court found that abortion is not a Constitutional right, thereby giving individual states the power to set their own abortion laws.[2]

With Republicans controlling 26 state legislatures likely to ban abortion, millions of American women will now lose control over their reproductive health decisions.[3] Low-income women will be disproportionately affected since they lack the resources to travel to states where abortion will continue to be legal. The social injustice that the Court has unleashed is unconscionable.

While the conservative majority’s opinions are unnerving, Justice Clarence Thomas’s views deserve greater scrutiny. In the New York gun case, Justice Thomas’s majority opinion invalidated the gun control law because it prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their rights under the Second Amendment.[4] Apparently, Thomas believes an individual’s right to carry a concealed weapon in public outweighs the state’s right to protect its citizens against being killed by an angry man in schools, theaters, churches or wherever. More than 98% of all mass shooters are men, often younger than 25.[5]

In overruling the right to an abortion, Thomas’s concurring opinion indicated that the courts’ rationale should also be used to overturn substantive due process cases establishing rights to contraception, same-sex consensual relations and same-sex marriage.[6]

What is very telling, however, was Justice Thomas’s failure to include overturning the substantive due process right to interracial marriage established in the landmark civil rights case of Loving v. Virginia.[7] For those who are unaware, Thomas is black and his wife, Ginni Thomas, is white. His not objecting to the right to interracial marriage which is based on the same 14th Amendment “due process” clause clearly looks like a biased effort to protect his own marriage. This calls into question Thomas’s ability to be an impartial arbiter of the law.

But Thomas’s inability to be an objective judge goes way beyond shielding his interracial marriage. Thomas’s confirmation hearings were very contentious due to Anita Hill’s accusations of his sexual misconduct. Liberal Democratic senators made it a central focus of the hearings. Later a former law clerk remembered Thomas saying, “The liberals made my life miserable for 43 years…And I’m going to make their lives miserable for 43 years.”[8] Thomas’s desire for revenge while on the court raises serious questions about his impartiality.

In fact, just today Thomas exhibited his lack of judicial objectivity when he was the lone dissenting vote in the Court’s refusal to hear the Coral Ridge Ministries Media appeal. That case challenged the liberal higher bar for public figures to claim libel that was established in the 1964 case of New York Times v. Sullivan.[9] Another example of Thomas’s bias against liberals unduly influencing his judicial decisions.

Last January Thomas was the only dissenting vote when the court rejected Donald Trump’s bid to block the release of his presidential records to the House select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. Later, the Washington Post revealed that Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas, sent then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows texts urging him to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election results after Trump’s loss to Joe Biden.[10]All the other conservative justices, three even nominated by Trump, rejected Trump’s request. Did Ginni Thomas’s involvement in the efforts to overturn the election influence Justice Thomas’s dissent?

Maybe it’s time for Congress to examine Justice Thomas’s lack of judicial impartiality. Along with the Court’s dangerous decisions last week, this is another issue to raise in the November elections. Another reason to vote against the Republicans who want Thomas to remain on the bench, who support carrying concealed weapons without a good reason and who deny a woman’s right to choose. Democrats need to make all this very clear to the voters in the fall. More than ever, we need to get out the vote in order to save and restore our rights.

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.cnbc.com/2022/06/23/supreme-court-strikes-down-new-york-gun-law-restricting-concealed-carry.html

[2] https://www.cnbc.com/2022/06/24/roe-v-wade-overturned-by-supreme-court-ending-federal-abortion-rights.html

[3] https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2021/10/26-states-are-certain-or-likely-ban-abortion-without-roe-heres-which-ones-and-why

[4] https://www.cnbc.com/2022/06/23/supreme-court-strikes-down-new-york-gun-law-restricting-concealed-carry.html

[5] https://www.menagainstgunviolence.org/men-and-gun-violence-stats; https://www.statesman.com/story/news/politics/politifact/2022/05/27/fact-check-most-mass-shooters-ages-18-19-texas-school-shooting-uvalde-robb-elementary/9933032002/

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/24/us/clarence-thomas-roe-griswold-lawrence-obergefell.html

[7]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loving_v._Virginia#:~:text=Loving%20v.%20Virginia%2C%20388%20U.S.,Amendment%20to%20the%20U.S.%20Constitution

[8] https://www.businessinsider.com/clarence-thomas-told-clerks-he-wants-to-make-liberals-miserable-2022-6

[9] https://www.cbs58.com/news/supreme-court-declines-to-revisit-landmark-first-amendment-decision-leaving-higher-bar-for-libel-in-place

[10] https://www.businessinsider.com/clarence-thomas-only-justice-dissent-in-trump-january-6-bid-2022-3

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Republican Dishonor Will Remain

“Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”[1] That was the message Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), co-chair of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection, gave to Congressional Republicans as the committee’s historic hearings began on June 9th.

After concluding three public hearings, Cheney’s warning has become even more foreboding. Yet, despite Trump’s unforgiveable transgressions against American democracy, a great many Republicans continue to support him and believe his Big Lie that the election was stolen.[2] The power Trump has over his party is just mindboggling.

A major test of the impact of the Select Committee’s hearings will be to what extent they influence Americans’ opinions not only of Trump, but of his Congressional Republican enablers. In a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, “58% of Americans think Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in the riot.”[3] That is six points higher than before the hearings began.[4]

As the hearings continue, I believe that majority will likely grow even larger.  In fact, “ex-justice department lawyers say new revelations at the hearings increase the likelihood that Trump will be charged with crimes involving conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding or defrauding the United States…”[5]

It stands to reason that an increasing majority would want to hold Trump’s Congressional enablers accountable as well. Afterall, the backing of a majority of Republican Congresspeople bolstered Trump’s baseless claims,[6] at least in the eyes of Trump voters.

The most effective way to hold those Republicans accountable would be at the polls this November. While conventional wisdom holds that the insurrection will not be a major issue in this year’s midterm elections, the Select Committee’s hearings could change that.

Of course, inflation and the economy will be very important factors in the election. However, if the hearings continue to provide overwhelming evidence of a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election and destroy American democracy, then the seats of all the Congressional Republicans who gave credence to the Big Lie could be vulnerable. Instead of supporting Trump’s efforts to subvert the election, these Republicans could have stood up for the truth and our democracy. But their fear of Trump and their thirst for power were stronger than their allegiance to the Constitution and our democracy. For that, as Rep. Cheney noted, their dishonor will remain.

While Trump will not be on the ballot this November, the survival of our democracy will be. Republicans who supported Trump and his attempt to overturn the election are the enemies of democracy. They must be fully exposed as co-conspirators. Americans must understand that a vote for any of them is a vote to destroy our democratic process and create a Trump-led autocratic government. It is up to everyone who wants our democracy to survive to make that crystal clear to all Americans going to the polls this fall.

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.npr.org/2022/06/09/1104083111/liz-cheney-stark-message-gop-trump-supporters

[2] https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/midterm-primaries-trump-retains-majority-gop-support-poll/story?id=84452201

[3] https://www.yahoo.com/gma/6-10-americans-trump-charged-130009380.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jun/19/trump-charges-january-6-hearings-capitol-attack

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/01/07/us/elections/electoral-college-biden-objectors.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Will the January 6th Select Committee Succeed?

While it’s not a sure bet, I believe the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol will succeed. And, in my view, there is only one measure of success. That is, the Department of Justice will indict Donald Trump for crimes against our nation based on the evidence the committee presents to the American people.

The country is clearly divided on whether Trump is culpable for the insurrection. Thursday’s first televised hearing was only the beginning of the committee’s effort to lay out its case that he is criminally liable. With Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy) leading the charge, it was a good initial step.

The committee’s evidence was convincing that there was a conspiracy to overturn the election. For example, it showed video of a meeting between leaders of two far-right groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, the night before the attack. Then Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards testified that she observed about 200 members of these groups marching to the Capitol at 10:30 the morning of the insurrection, well before Trump urged the crowd at the Ellipse to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.”[1]

If the “riot” was a spontaneous response to Trump’s speech, why were these right-wing groups already meeting in advance of January 6th? Why were they encountering police at the Capitol prior to Trump’s Ellipse speech? It stands to reason that they must have conspired in advance to be on the frontline of the larger attack they knew was coming.

The essential question that the committee must answer with concrete evidence in its subsequent hearings then is, to what degree was Trump involved in the effort to overthrow our government. What did Trump do or not do to advance the insurrection and with whom did he interact? As Rep. Cheney asserted, that attempt went well beyond the January 6th attack on the Capitol. In fact, it continues to this day.

Cheney explained that over the course of several months Trump had a “sophisticated seven-point plan” to overturn the 2020 election and prevent the transition of presidential power. In the next couple of weeks, the committee’s hearings will provide substantial evidence of Trump’s central role in executing his plan. When all else failed, the January insurrection was the final stab at accomplishing his goal.

Other elements of Trump’s scheme included:

  1. Spreading false and fraudulent information to the American public claiming the 2020 election was stolen from him,
  2. Replacing the Acting Attorney General, so that the Department of Justice would support his fake election claims,
  3. Pressuring state election officials, and state legislators, to change election results,
  4. Instructing Republicans in multiple states to create false electoral slates and transmit those slates to Congress and the National Archives, and
  5. Summoning his supporters to Washington and directing them to march on the US Capitol.[2]

When you put this all together, it’s clear that Trump’s intent was to overturn the election and remain in power by unlawful means. In practically all criminal cases, proving the accused’s intent is a critical element in obtaining a conviction. It’s now up to the committee to present evidence in its upcoming hearings that establishes Trump’s intent beyond a reasonable doubt. If it can do that, and I think they can, Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice will prosecute Trump for crimes against the United States.

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.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2022/06/09/january-6-committee-hearing-live-updates/7529743001/

[2] https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/09/politics/jan-6-hearing-cheney-trump-overturn-election-plan/index.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Breaking America’s Gun Safety Gridlock

A new strategy may be emerging to break the logjam on legislation for gun safety. In The Atlantic magazine, senior editor Gal Beckerman proposes students, parents, and teachers take “the next three months to mobilize” a national strike when school starts again demanding gun safety laws. During the summer vacation, “they could create thousands of local committees supporting the strike and decide on what the national demand might be—say, an assault-weapon ban.”[1]

Beckerman points to the student movement after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The Parkland students “built one of the most forceful movements around gun control to date…They also helped persuade Florida’s governor to sign a bill that raised the minimum age for purchasing a gun to 21 and extended the waiting period to three days.”[2]

Many unions were quick to denounce the shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 students and two teachers. American Federation of Teacher’s President Randi Weingarten, whose union has lost many members to gun violence, exclaimed, “Gun violence is cancer, and it’s one that none of us should tolerate for one single moment longer…We have made a choice to let this continue, and we can make a choice to finally do something—do anything—to put a stop to this madness.”[3]

Like most Americans, I am sickened by these school shootings as well as those in theaters, houses of worship and other public places. I agree with Weingarten that we can no longer tolerate this madness. But a national teachers’ strike is a big ask of public servants whose salaries do not often afford them the ability to build large bank accounts in reserve. Therefore, a fund to support striking teachers that many of us could support should be developed as soon as the organizing begins. (Note: This idea came from Margaret Lubalin, my editor/partner.)

With the help of the AFT and other unions, an extended national strike could be very effective. Hopefully, it would force Congress and state legislatures to act. With most Republicans opposing meaningful gun safety measures, it could also have a defining impact on some contested electoral races this November.

As momentum builds, the strike could be expanded to other issues as well. Whether it’s gun safety, abortion rights, voting rights or saving democracy itself, our country is at a dangerous stalemate. And let’s not forget the COVID pandemic and global warming.

Our nation is deeply divided on all these critical issues and at a loss as to what to do. Republicans blame the Democrats who control the government. They say elect them to run the country but have offered no sound solutions. Just recriminations and name-calling. They are obsessed with power and control. To them, their way is the only acceptable way. Democrats rightly respond that Republicans just obstruct any real effort to fix our problems.

The state of American politics is demoralizing and depressing. We once were better than this. A national strike for gun safety would be a big step forward toward bringing Americans of all persuasions together (over 90% want expanded background checks[4]) and making our country a healthier, safer place to live. The question is can we muster the strength and the will to overcome the gun lobby and its allies and find our way back to a more civil society before it’s too late.  Therein lies the struggle for the Soul of America.

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.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2022/05/uvalde-school-shooting-gun-control-walkout/643120/

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://paydayreport.com/strikes-over-gun-control-erie-dc-teachers-went-on-strike-over-gun-control-weingarten-calls-for-action%EF%BF%BC/

[4] https://www.bradyunited.org/key-statistics?gclid=Cj0KCQjw4uaUBhC8ARIsANUuDjX4nlkbjeRY7qs1XkJePFdqdFrRdumlsGZbzF1N9xsOsBrY5-H8gWAaAmIjEALw_wcB

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Enough Is Enough!

This past week we witnessed yet another senseless mass shooting in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Our nation grieves for all the victims of this terrible tragedy, as well as for their families, teachers and classmates.

We have allowed these horrific events to occur for way too long without demanding concrete efforts to prevent them. Enough is enough!

In April 1999, we were shocked when 12 students and a teacher were shot and killed at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO.[1] In just five months this year there have already been 27 school shootings.[2] The next one could be at your child’s or grandchild’s school. They are all at-risk.

Since 2009, there have been 274 mass shootings in the United States, resulting in 1536 people shot and killed and 983 people shot and wounded.[3] The next one could be in your shopping mall or movie theater. We are all at-risk and we must have solid solutions to this deadly epidemic now.

There are two things that have real power in American politics. One is money and the other is people. I wrote a whole book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, on this topic several years ago. (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.) Given the most recent deadly shootings in Texas and Buffalo, New York, this issue is even more relevant today.

In the wake of these tragic events, the roles that both money and people play in dealing with gun violence in our country needs to be made clear to all Americans.

First, how effective is money in influencing public policy on gun control? In my book, I wrote:

“Though 92 percent of Americans want universal background checks for people purchasing guns, our elected officials’ personal ambitions override the public interest and dictate their political actions.”[4]

From 2000 to 2013, the gun lobby, which includes the National Rifle Association (NRA), the firearms industry, and the Gun Owners of America, has contributed a combined $81 million to congressional and presidential election campaigns to defeat gun control measures.[5] The gun lobby’s investment paid off when the Republican Congress refused to renew the ban on assault weapons after it expired in 2004.[6]

Back then, the U.S. senators who received the most campaign contributions from the gun lobby were Republicans like Roy Blunt (R-MO), who received $2.6 million from the NRA during his 2010 campaign, and Ron Johnson (R-WI), $1.2 million from the NRA.[7]

It’s no different today. The top 10 Senate recipients of NRA contributions are all Republicans. Leading the pack is Mitt Romney (R-UT) with over $13 million. Roy Blunt is still up there at number 3 with over $4.5 million. Number 10 is Bill Cassidy (R-LA) with a still sizeable $2.8 million.

When it comes to gun control policy, Republican senators choose taking money from the gun lobby over protecting American lives.

So, what about we, the people’s effect on gun control policy? The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) is comprised of 47 national organizations working to reduce gun violence. Its coalition members include religious organizations, child welfare advocates, public health professionals, and social justice organizations.[8] However, their noble efforts have not borne much fruit.

Since the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Congress has not passed a universal background check statute or any other meaningful legislation to deal with the issue of gun violence in our country.[9]

How to get sensible gun control laws passed? We have to elect pro-gun control candidates and vote those gun lobby-dominated Republican senators out of office. While that will not be easy with all the campaign money they receive, the power of the people to force change can be formidable. Consider the Women’s movement and the Civil Rights movement.

According to the latest poll following the most recent Texas and Buffalo shootings, 65% of Americans support stricter gun control laws.[10]

We must make gun control a top issue in this year’s elections. Republican senators like Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are vulnerable on this as well as the other hot-button issue of abortion rights. Open seats in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio are winnable by pro-gun control Democrats as well.

We need to protect our children as well as all Americans. The best way to do that now is to get involved in this year’s election campaigns. We must make sure that the great majority of Americans who support gun control vote in November. It’s up to all of us to make that happen.

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.history.com/topics/1990s/columbine-high-school-shootings

[2] https://www.npr.org/2022/05/24/1101050970/2022-school-shootings-so-far

[3] https://everytownresearch.org/maps/mass-shootings-in-america/

[4] Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, p. 24 (Santa Fe, NM: Our Time Books, 2016)

[5] Ibid, p. 23

[6] https://www.npr.org/2019/08/13/750656174/the-u-s-once-had-a-ban-on-assault-weapons-why-did-it-expire

[7] Ibid, pp. 23-24

[8] https://www.csgv.org/

[9] Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, p. 23

[10] https://morningconsult.com/2022/05/26/support-for-gun-control-after-uvalde-shooting/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Future of Our Nation in Hands of a New Generation

This week my daughter graduates from UC Berkeley with a Master’s in Social Work. I couldn’t be prouder of her.

I want to say to her and to all those students graduating across the country: Congratulations! You’ve worked hard and achieved an important milestone. Your family and friends are very proud of you. I hope you are feeling immense gratification and delight in what you’ve accomplished. Pause for a moment to take it all in.

This is a time for reflection on how far you’ve come, as well as exploring what’s next. With the completion of your education, you are about to make your way in the world. This can be both difficult and exciting. Starting a career. Finding the right job. Deciding where to live. So much to consider.

Like everyone else, you will not be making these decisions in a vacuum. We live in extremely challenging times. In making your choices, you may have to take into account issues previous graduates have not had to consider: the state of the pandemic, major inflation and the rising cost of housing, climate change, the challenge to reproductive rights and more.

But there is one additional thing I urge you to think deeply about, and that is, the future of your country. Decades before you were born, a young, newly elected president, John F. Kennedy, in his 1961 inaugural address challenged all Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”[1]

Now more than ever, your country needs you. Your country has given you the opportunity to obtain a good education among many other advantages. And you alone will decide how to use them in your life.

At the same time, there is a very dark cloud hanging over our nation. It threatens all of us who believe in American democracy. That murky shadow is autocracy, and it imperils the freedoms and justice so many Americans have fought and died for.

Today we are seeing how destructive authoritarianism can be in Putin’s war on Ukraine. Here at home, we are experiencing this autocratic scourge from book-banning campaigns to laws restricting voting rights and eliminating reproductive rights. Most devastating was the January 6th attack on our Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the peaceful transfer of power. This coup was an affront to the most basic principles our nation founded on.

Though it was not of your making, you are now on the frontlines of an epic battle to save our democracy. Whatever you are planning to do as you begin your careers may very well be disrupted or even wiped out by an authoritarian, white supremacist government that could be in our country’s future.

That is why this November’s elections, and the 2024 election are so vital to the survival of our democracy. I urge you all to step up and get actively involved in them. Now is the time to take a stand. You, who are the future of our country, hold the nation’s fate in your hands.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

(P.S. Since I will be at my daughter’s graduation, I won’t be publishing a blog next week, but will be back 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, 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.archives.gov/milestone-documents/president-john-f-kennedys-inaugural-address

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Living on the Brink

It’s been eight days since police banged on my door in the middle of the night ordering me and my Mineral Hill neighbors to evacuate. Since then, like many other evacuees, I’ve been nervously watching the online daily briefings which describe the efforts being made by fifteen hundred courageous firefighters to contain the raging firestorm that has now engulfed 175,000 acres of northeast New Mexico.

Friday several of us drove back to our country homes to salvage valuable belongings before the fire could consume them. We all wore masks to protect us from the irritating smoke that filled the air. Given the predictions of dangerously high winds beginning the next day and lasting for possibly a week, it appeared likely to be our last chance to save what we could before the fire might come sweeping through our valley. There was no time to lose.

While I anxiously wait to see whether the fire will spare my home, I can’t help thinking about the thousands of New Mexicans who have already lost everything. Many have found refuge in shelters in Las Vegas, Glorieta and elsewhere. Some are living in their vehicles. All are devastated and just want to go home.

Unfortunately, as of Saturday, May 7, the fire was only 21% contained. It will be weeks or months, in some cases even longer, before people can go back to their properties and restore or rebuild their homes. Some without insurance may never be able to do that. But none of us will ever forget this life-altering experience.

Yet could there be a silver lining to this catastrophe? People are coming together to aid each other and help those in need get through this tragedy. My little Mineral Hill community has been in constant contact providing mutual support. Saturday evening, we got together for pizza, beer, and mutual commiseration. We shared our feelings, memories and hopes for a brighter tomorrow.

This devastating fire has brought us closer together. It’s given me a deeper insight into the value and importance of community. I know that there are people I can count on when I need them. And they know they can count on me as well. It’s a special feeling. Ironically, that which is life-shattering can often be life-affirming as well.

Additionally, when disaster strikes close to home, it can be a wake-up call. It is an opportunity for us to re-examine what is truly valuable in our lives. We may desire successful careers, nicer clothes or expensive cars, but what really matters the most in life is good friends, community and family.

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.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Sound the Alarm!

I read the papers and watch the news on TV, but never thought it could happen to me. Then, suddenly, it does.

Friday evening close to midnight, police cars, lights flashing and sirens blasting, came barreling down my quiet country road and up my driveway, 75 miles northeast of Santa Fe. An officer banged on my door and told me I had to evacuate my home. It’s not safe. The raging wildfire that’s already consumed over 100,000 acres and 150-plus homes was just over the hill to the north. I had to leave now before it was too late.

Along with most of my neighbors, I quickly packed my car with family photos, clothes and whatever else I could squeeze in. I left the doors unlocked and my gate opened for the firefighters in case they were able to come and save my home from the uncontrolled firestorm. It was 2:30 in the morning by the time I arrived exhausted at my partner’s home in Santa Fe. 

Now I just sit and wait. Nervously checking online several times a day (See https://www.facebook.com/santafeNF/videos/675228177042752) to learn if the monstrous fire has destroyed my home. There’s nothing else I can do. A friend from across the way tried to get back up to her house yesterday, but the road was blocked off for our own safety. All we can do is pray that our homes are somehow spared.

I am so grateful for the one thousand firefighters giving their all to suppress the fire. I can’t imagine what they are going through. I read online that they don’t expect to have the fire fully contained until the end of July, three months from now. How many more acres and homes will be destroyed by then? It’s mind-boggling and depressing.

I am also very angry. I’m furious that myself and millions of my fellow Americans have been put in such a catastrophic state when it didn’t have to be this way. Climate experts have been warning us about the dangers of global warming since the late 1950s. In 1988 scientists and politicians from around the world gathered at the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere to address the threat to the Earth’s atmosphere from greenhouse gas emissions. “By the 1990s, most scientists thought action was necessary, but opposition from fossil fuel companies and ideologists opposed to any government action were effective in obscuring the facts and blocking action,” according to Spencer Weart, retired director of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics.[1]

The Southwest is in a megadrought. A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change found that “the last 22 years now rank as the driest such period since at least 800 AD.”[2] Human-caused climate change is a major factor driving this megadrought. Yet, our government has failed to respond to this crisis with the urgency and magnitude it requires.[3]

Call the White House (202-456-1111) and your senators and representative (202-224-31-21). Demand that they take immediate action to pass the strongest possible climate change legislation. Our lives and the survival of the planet are at stake.

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.livescience.com/humans-first-warned-about-climate-change

[2] https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2022/02/14/megadrought-in-southwest-is-now-the-worst-in-at-least-1200-years-study-confirms/

[3] https://www.abc10.com/article/news/nation-world/earth-day-biden-climate-policy/507-bf749989-3546-4735-b1fc-4353c01a7b14

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can We Learn from the Wildfires?

Friday afternoon my friend John and I helped another friend evacuate his home to escape the wildfires raging in northern New Mexico. As I carried a few of the precious belongings he wished to save from the house to his SUV, I saw the billowing dark smoke ominously rising in the distant sky.

We had no idea how long it would take before the fire might engulf his home. But he could not wait to find out. He knew he must leave while he still could. It was truly a harrowing experience.

Later that evening another friend called John. She said the smoke at her home was making it difficult to breathe. Could she and her son seek refuge at John’s place? Their car packed with their most valued possessions, they arrived at John’s around 10 p.m. that night. Tragically, they had to leave their horses behind.

Both John’s home and my home are 25 miles or more west of the wildfires. Since the winds are blowing northeasterly, we do not appear to be in any danger. But those winds are wicked. While assisting our friend’s evacuation, gusts must have reached 60 mph at times. There’s no guarantee they won’t turn around and put us in harm’s way.

All this makes me stop in my tracks and rethink our current state. What could be more valued than a good friend willing to drop everything and come to your rescue at a perilous time? What could be more precious than a supportive community working together to save people’s homes from a deadly fire?

Yet, our political culture tends to distance us from neighbors with contrary views. Rather than seeking common ground to work on together, we try to overcome those who see things differently than we do. Just think how much better off our country would be if Democrats and Republicans, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy, could work together for the common good of all Americans.

It can and does happen. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act which promotes online competition has broad bipartisan support. The bill would prevent the biggest platforms, such as Google and Facebook, from giving themselves an advantage over smaller competitors. The GOP joined the Democrats in supporting this legislation which prohibits big tech firms like Amazon from giving its in-house branded products a leg-up over other brands when someone is shopping on its site. Instead of backing their big business allies as they usually do, Republicans put the interests of the American people in fair competition first.[1]

But fires are not only erupting in our forests. In state houses across the country as well as in the halls of Congress, our politicians are throwing verbal fireballs at each other. If we are to rescue our democracy from these overheated partisan flames, this needs to stop. We need to find a way to reach well-meaning Americans with divergent views to lower the temperature and work together for the common good without sacrificing our values. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act is a step in the right direction.

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.wired.com/story/american-innovation-choice-online-act-antitrust-google-amazon/