Democrats New Playbook


Not my President

Donald Trump may not be my President but he is the President of America and I am an American so my disavowal means little to nothing in the grand scheme of things. It does, however, make me feel better so I repeat it like a mantra. As for those of us who find a Trump Presidency unacceptable, perhaps it is because of policy statements that sound more like a roster of awful –isms, which most of us never expected to hear in mainstream American speeches. We knew these ideas still lived but they lived at the fringes of American culture. So we hear arguments in the press about whether the racism is real, or the nativism, or the fascism. We are told that the misogyny has been exaggerated, that freedom of the press is not under attack, that Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists are not getting ready to take their places in the President’s cabinet and in the West Wing of the White House. We are led to believe that we are being too dramatic. Will we have an anomaly like the Secret Service protecting Steve Bannon, the Breitbart guy? Why is the press trying to moderate the unimaginable? What should be in the Democrats new playbook?

Signing Petitions

Democrats and Progressives, and even apparently Greens, feel that as Americans they should resist this particular Presidential choice and never allow this person to become our actual President. That sounds like a battle worth undertaking to me. But what will our strategies be? Signing petitions and writing small grassroots checks may be good first steps and we should certainly keep sending in those petitions, calling our Congress people and talking loud and often so everyone knows we’re still out here. But we don’t have much of a voice in Congress right now so I’m guessing our petitions just give these cynical legislators something to laugh about. Still many times the court of public opinion has succeeded by drowning the opposition in paper.

Social Media

I belong to a few pro-Democrat groups on Facebook and these folks are passionate and very much angry and grieving. It is comforting to be among people who agree with my points of view and even to read some of the posts where people vent in language that is way less than socially acceptable. Few trolls get by the sponsors of the sites so mostly you are swimming in friendly company. But is this really activism or just venting?

I get a lot of email from groups that are trying to encourage us to organize and talk to each other and perhaps stage demonstrations and other appropriate activism at the local level. Some are trying to organize busloads of people to go to Washington to demonstrate at the Inauguration. Once DT is inaugurated our choices become more long range in certain ways and more short range in others. Long range, we plan how to win back the American voters. Short range we fight back Congressional action by Congressional action and we do the same against Presidential actions.

How well will such activism be tolerated? Look what is happening to the Dakota Pipeline people and they are only fighting for one essential thing – fresh water. We do not have a history in this country of fighting back if we face possible violence or imprisonment. Lots of implications for quality of daily life if we do stage massive demonstrations, lots of implications if we do not. In the first case the suffering is immediate and perhaps short term, in the second case (if we do not demonstrate) the suffering may be long term and irreversible.) Could it come to Civil War?

The Clash of the Titans

If you look into the plethora of organizations that exist on each end of the political spectrum it is a bit intimidating, especially given the connection of each group with the Koch brothers on the right and, some claim, George Soros on the left. DT did not appear out of nowhere. He may not have been the heir apparent but he is the heir expedient. How do we the people get to make any headway against these American “big men”? Are these opposing kleptocrats already locked in a battle that makes the American people basically irrelevant?

The Koch brothers are the wealthy backers on the right. Here is a diagram of the groups they back or have backed.


By Robert Maguire – link], CC BY-SA 3.0,

If you want to see this information in list form then follow this link:

I have seen lists even longer than this, but you will get the idea.


On the side of the Democrats we have the enemy of the right wing, George Soros who is involved in an astonishingly large number of groups on the left:



(Of course, if you can read this chart you are amazing but it you copy it and zoom it you can see the details.)


(The list of organizations on the left is longer but it also has notes with each entry.)



Is this a situation sort of equivalent to the Greeks and their gods on Mount Olympus? Perhaps we could just tell improbable stories about their doings and get on with our lives pretending that what we believe still matters.

Two Interesting Gambits

We could possibly unseat DT by recounting votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania and if this works we will have to thank Jill Stein for it. If the votes prove to be way out of kilter then perhaps the electors will switch their votes to Hillary.

The other, possibly equally unlikely, option could be that enough electors who are allowed to vote their conscience but in modern times usually don’t change their minds on December 19th and cast their votes for Hillary. I personally love both of these options but the press says we are dreaming if we think either of these moves will change the outcome of the election. I’m not real fond of most of the press right now so I don’t mind hoping that they are proven wrong once again in this most strange election.

Taking a Few Pages from the Republican Playbook

I’m thinking that, while it is nice to have a TV channel like Fox News cheering for your party 24/7, Democrats are not really interested in broadcasting fake news, so that page of the playbook is probably out. We do have our own Talk Radio shows but since they do not wish to play on people’s hate or fear or jealousy it is difficult to whip up the drama necessary to get folks to listen to you nonstop and Democrats don’t really go in much for brainwashing. So that very effective Republican tactic is also probably off the table.

What Republicans also did very well was to use their many organizations to hold conventions, forums and meetings where they honed their big picture policies (although they were not as good at filling in the details.) They gave party members ample opportunities to speak in public and feel comfortable with it. They boiled their message down to talking points which everyone could memorize, internalize and use ad nauseum in the media. They taught their members to deflect uncomfortable questions by demonizing their opponent (and they told them how to do that) or by reiterating those omnipresent talking points. If you notice Republicans are all very glib and that’s because they do not express individual ideas and thoughts; they toe the party line.

Democrats have organizations. Instead of taking more small donations from grassroots members it is time to spend some money on those very same loyal followers and future bench deepeners. Give some scholarships to young people who want to study politics at schools where they will learn why the left is more suited to run a Democracy than the right is. Hold conventions, forums, and meetings and invite people interested in becoming active in the Democratic or Progressive movements to attend and participate. Pay their way if they cannot afford to go. Nurture future Democrats and teach them how to get a message to the nation that makes it clear why the Democrats are better for America in the present and in the future.

If you have a plan for what Democrats should do next write about it. Give details, please.



Donald Trump and the Republicans


I haven’t said much about Donald Trump winning the 2016 election because I don’t know what to say. During his primary rallies, I did discuss what a Trump Presidency might be like. I was really hoping people would not go “there”, but when I saw lawn after lawn and truck bumper after truck bumper with Trump/Pence signs and no signs for Hillary Clinton I began to realize that Hillary fans were laying low.

I wrote many articles in favor of Hillary, but unfortunately no one reads my blog. I did not get a lawn sign, though, until the last month before the election. I felt intimidated by Donald Trump’s casual approach to violence and the way he loved to incite his followers to express their passion for him. I felt very alone with most of my family deciding that Trump would be fine and most of my friends feeling that Bernie got gypped.

I really do not have the slightest idea what Donald Trump will be like as a President. He may be the President of America, but he is not my President. I think he is ruled by adulation. If he feels his audience slipping away he will do what he must to win it back. He does behave predictably in that his reactions to all things are personal and emotional, but he is not ideological. He makes a policy statement one day and reverses it the next.

When I read the Elena Ferrante quartet of books about Naples, Italy I was strongly affected by her descriptions of how Fascism remained a factor throughout Italy long after World War II. I guess I thought, beat Mussolini, beat Fascism. But that was not true. There were many tough guys still around who got their way through intimidation, bullying, and baseball bats. That’s how I recognized Donald Trump immediately as soon as he spoke at his first public rally. That’s when I began to worry about his ability to sell himself and his willingness to use any means necessary to get his way.


I had studied what the Republicans were up to for the past 6 years. They were the enemy I knew. I didn’t like what they were up to. They were planning to pare back the Constitution to 1787, get rid of 200+ years of law and tradition (except the parts that matched their ideology). They have broad plans to benefit the rich and make the poor get off their duffs, but they offer no specifics.

I did not want the Republicans to get control of all three branches of government. They were too radical, they had too many nuts running around shooting off their mouths. They stopped our government until they could win a national election. They cheated and used unfair and perhaps unconstitutional practices to try to make it likely that they would win.

I can’t imagine that Donald Trump was part of their plan, but he did win them the coveted office of the President and he won them the right to appoint at least one Conservative to the Supreme Court. And I wouldn’t be surprised if pressure was brought to get some Liberals to leave the court. But they may have more than they bargained for in Donald Trump. He has to win and if Congress tries to corner him into doing anything he doesn’t want to do or makes him feel that he is not winning, he will find a way to exert his rather frightening authority to get his way. Is he the kind of bully who incites violence but also fears it? Maybe. Another thing we don’t know.

My friends and family are smug and thrilled and they believe that the right person won which is difficult for me to live with. My best course of action is to wait and see what happens. The cast of characters is already making me very nervous, but Donald Trump will not take over completely until after the holidays. Will the Republicans find the strength to resist him if he gets too extreme? Will the people rise up in the depths of winter and cry out against things that our democracy should consider unjust? I think the Donald will probably have his way with us. Our best bet is to become what a Facebook group member suggested – Dumbledore’s Army. Find a hidden Room of Requirement and train up new Democrats. Hash out great policies and reforms and get ourselves a deep bench. Then, if there is any American democracy left when everyone is done with what Donald and the Republicans have in store for them, perhaps we can try some of the real reforms our government needs.


Erasing the Sixties



The “military-industrial complex” is finally poised to wipe out the Sixties. Almost half of America stayed “straight” while the rest of the world grooved to a new beat in the sixties. Change was in the air.

We wanted peace, not war. Our guys were in Vietnam, fighting a war that was not our business although it was sold as a war against the spread of Communism. Since an all-out war on Russia was too risky we fought them in Vietnam, a tiny nation. It was an awful war, as all wars are, but even more difficult because of the terrain and the temperatures and a style of guerilla, hit-and-run warfare we were not prepared for. We responded with Agent Orange and napalm and learned that chemical warfare should be considered unacceptable forever after.

America, for once, found a voice of dissent. We wanted out of this war. But we were divided. Some Americans were hawks even in the Sixties who felt that America, when provoked must respond with military force. There were probably even cynics who believed that war always helped boost the American economy. For some people everything is about money. Many Americans supported the war because they are Americans, they are patriotic, and they had sons, daughters, husbands, fathers in Vietnam fighting this bizarre and deadly war.

We were experiencing a fairly new hostility to the very institutions at the foundations of the American economy. It was just hitting home that our democracy was not quite as democratic as we would like nor were our opportunities quite as equal as we would like. Some Americans began to suspect that the powerful people were stacking the deck in their favor and that our money was going to people who were already powerful and rich. The rich and powerful wanted a national government that was in the control of those who believed that we needed a strong military (possibly putting us in line to be permanently at war), and those who felt that if our laws favored industry the American economy would also be the strongest economy in the world. These folks believed that a strong military-industrial complex would keep America dominant on the world stage.

The other half of America railed against the “establishment” and wrote about change, talked about change, and demonstrated for change. This half of America even tried to live in the changed America they hoped was emerging. The straighter half of America grew long sideburns, wore bell bottoms and went off the work every day. They did not even understand what the “change” chants were all about. They felt that the counterculture was unreal, nonsensical, and possibly treasonous.

These were the days when pressure from people both black and white led to the Civil Rights Act signed in 1965. Passing a law never cures a society’s ills like magic. You can make people act in certain ways, but you cannot make them feel certain things. But this law represented the kind of humanitarian changes that resulted from the idealistic and, some believed, airy-fairy view that was currency in the counterculture. Learning to accept the diverse nature of America’s people was very much a part of “hippie” philosophy. In cities we saw more racial mixing than occurred in earlier decades. Concern about poorer Americans became an issue that should not only be addressed by churches, but also by the American government.

And we had the pill, the birth control pill which gave women the freedom to control their own futures. They could enjoy physical intimacy without having to accept that this would almost inevitably produce an offspring, either planned or unplanned. Women were already a fixture in the workplace, but now you could choose to pursue a serious career, like a man could. Women talked and talked in consciousness raising groups all over America. It gave women a heady sense that they were not just appendages of men. They were half of the human race and they were not feeling at all submissive. Why were they given brains that worked so well if they were not intended to share in their culture and contribute to their culture?

There were always establishment forces who hated these movements that began in the Sixties. Richard Nixon embodied that snide, entrenched opposition to all things “new age”. The side wars between John Lennon and Richard Nixon are perfect representations of how ridiculous and petty his resistance and his fear often seemed. Although John Lennon lived the “revolution” he had too many personal problems to be a real threat. He was essentially an artist, someone who could inspire a counterculture war, but not lead it.

The “establishment” hated the counterculture. Many of the laws, policies, and programs that Republicans hate most have roots in the Sixties. The Great Society may not have arisen fully formed in the Sixties but you can see counterculture concerns all over it. The Great Society gave rise to “big government”. Even environmentalism tended to split along the lines established in the Sixties.

The same decade also gave America a culture split between the Hawks and the Doves. Imperialism, colonialism, American interference in foreign government, regime change were all “old” philosophies of arrogant nations according to the members of the counterculture. These strategies for control of others were now considered wrong and unsuited to the ideals of a democratic nation. But not by everyone. The Republicans did not soften their foreign policy stances. They felt that if America did not remain number one in every arena then America would no longer exist as a nation. We would give up dreams of empire and become just another less-than-spectacular nation among many.

Conservatives have always been wary of social programs. No social program could be passed without ways to make it onerous built in. People who needed help must always be punished for their failure to compete and survive. We do not even know how social programs would have fared if they were offered without blame and without layers and layers of bureaucracy. Can you have both accountability and simplicity or is that something that will always be a paradox?

Many of the people who fell for the things that were broadcast incessantly on Talk Radio and Fox News are the same people who never joined the counterculture. They considered it a passing fancy. They had families to support and they had to work hard to do that but they also had a carrot in front of them. It was the carrot of prosperity, of a legacy for their families, of their own little dynasty that lived and worked nearby, of a retirement of leisure and time to pursue all of the pleasures they had deferred, the carrot of safety and peace. Then the dream began to collapse, one factory at a time, one child leaving home at a time, one pension at a time, one housing bubble at a time.

Is the counterculture to blame for their loss? Is this those damn hippies again? No matter. They look to the very same establishment that shafted them to lift them back up. And we all get President Trump. These “straight shooters” think they have elected a new Ronald Reagan. I believe that a President Trump will more closely resemble a Richard Nixon.

Will the Sixties really die, or will the movement just go underground training new young people in the use of the “force” so we can clean up the mean mess when the fever finally burns out? We might have to bide our time for a bit and see what shakes out but we will stay in touch.

Environmental Diary: The Obama Years by N. L. Brisson

While this may not be an auspicious day for a book that talks about earth’s environmental issues, as of today my book is available on Environmental Diary: The Obama Years by N. L. Brisson.