“Go Big” or Regret It?

Lots of people seem to think that this is the moment to “go
big”, to finally:

  • Get big money out of politics
  • Close the loopholes that have insured that the 1% is too well
    taken care of while the middle class is losing ground
  • Break up the big banks who have done wrong and deserve to be
    punished
  • Regulate Wall Street
  • Make sure American workers have certain protections like paid
    leave and a living wage and equal pay.

The “go big” people, the “feel the Bern” people, feel that the
folks who advocate incremental change are killing the buzz. There is rarely a
mass movement to address the way our supposedly democratic society has been set
up to favor the wealthy and to widen the gap between social classes, they
reason, and there should be because this is not the way we expect our democracy
to operate.
Why would anyone back an incremental approach when there is
all this momentum pushing the moment in the direction of “we the people”? It
seems like the times are ripe for big change, revolutionary (peaceful of
course) change. It looks as if this is the moment when “we the people” could
force a fairer economic distribution, could take back some power that has been
awarded, piece by piece, more and more to the elites in America (the wealthy).
The elitism in our election process, which has been recognized
and bemoaned for decades, is suddenly being discussed and critiqued as if it
was slipped by us secretly just last week. (How could Bernie Sanders, in Congress
for 3o years, although not a member of the Democratic Party, not have known
about super delegates?) It is good, however, for a new generation of voters to
be aware of the true depth of actual disenfranchisement of voters who do not
serve in government, to see how the government has set things up so that those
who govern are chosen by the wealthy and by those who govern. This is actually
true to the designs of our forefathers who did not trust the masses to govern
well. Perhaps we will persevere and actually fix this this time, or perhaps we
will get distracted by shinier objects and be surprised all over again in the
next election cycle.
Trying to predict whether “go big” is the way to go, the way
to get the best results from the next 4-8 years, or whether we will gain more
ground from patiently working bill by bill, issue by issue is as fraught as any
attempt to predict the future ever is. Arguments favor incrementalism. If we
look at the makeup of Congress, if we look at years of tantrums that
Republicans say will not end until we get “small government”, six long years of
“go small”, will we end up with just two dug-in sides yelling conflicting
messages at each other. Bernie feels that Americans will rise up, demonstrate,
protest and tip the balance his way. This is not patience; this is passion. It
is good to see such passion, although the fire has not spread to all of “we the
people”.
Plodding through Robert’s Rules or whatever regular order
governs Congress, watching the bargaining, vote counting, seemingly cynical
compromising certainly does not sound as sexy as an impassioned storming of the
elitist gates of governance, but it is the process, it is the way the system is
designed. Can we make the system less elitist gradually (but not too gradually)
and stay within the system as it exists? I think people will be so disappointed
it Bernie loses that they may be even more likely to push his goals, which
would help so many non-wealthy Americans. The objectives that make education
affordable or even free are particularly appealing. Money is being extorted
from young people at expensive trade schools and internet “colleges” taking
advantage of high unemployment and fears of economic failure for the
underprepared.
Bernie’s “go big” list of objectives tends to be a bit
narrower than the vast pool of issues that we have been unable to address for
the past six years. He does talk about infrastructure but rarely has a wider approach
to the economy and he almost never talks about climate and environmental
matters except to advocate banning fracking, although some people feel climate
concerns should be the most pressing issues on our agenda (salt water is
flooding Miami.)
It looks like a pragmatic, incremental attack on the wish list
of “we the people” is going to win out. The problem is that once a path is
chosen, you can’t, at least for a period of time, go back and choose the other
path, so there will always be those who feel cheated. Hillary Clinton, so
determined to win, had better be prepared to serve the people well if elected. “A
word to the wise should be sufficient,” isn’t that what we say? 
By Nancy Brisson
                                                           

Sad That We Can’t Discuss Politics

Today I went to the post office and I ended up being
there for quite a while because I used the wrong envelope and I had to start
over. I let people go ahead of me but by the time I finished my new envelope
the line had not moved at all. Someone was getting a passport, apparently a
very exacting and time-consuming task. If you ever get behind someone filling
in passport paperwork and having it checked over you might as well leave, do
another errand and then come back. There was one other clerk but she had an
Aussie gentleman with very complicated insurance and packaging issues. So we
stood in line. (At least we had a counter to lean on.) We began to discuss our
pets who are, apparently, all spoiled rotten.
As our wait continued we began to discuss the
conditions that were keeping us waiting. We were nice and did not try to make
anyone feel too badly. The man next to me in line knew that the desk was one
clerk short because the missing clerk was his wife. She had a vacation day. We
were pleasant and civil and just chatting. But it was primary day so I
mentioned my anxiety as I waited to find out the results of the voting. I
mentioned that I was looking forward to seeing Hillary Clinton win the New York
primary. I was hoping people would pipe up and say who they would like to see
win.
I know that politics is not a topic that is supposed
to be discussed in polite company. But I, of course, can’t help myself. I
wanted to know what people were thinking on this primary day. Sadly I believe
it has become more difficult for us to discuss politics than ever. We should at
least be able to talk about what we think we know about the candidates and
where we got our information.
However, as soon as I said Hillary’s name a woman
down the line made a sour face and said Hillary is a liar. Now I don’t think
this woman knows Hillary personally. I could not really ask where the woman was
from, although she had an accent, because as soon as I said Hillary’s name she
made that disapproving prune face. If she came from another country maybe
Hillary did something there that had upset her. After all, Hillary was the Secretary
of State. I tried to probe gently, because I couldn’t accept an insult without
some kind of backup, but the woman just repeated that Hillary is a liar.
Perhaps Hillary Clinton is a liar, after all everyone
says she is, but I just tried to argue that the only way we know about Hillary
is through the media and that it is always important to consider the slant of
the particular media that is supposedly offering evidence against Hillary. When
I have traced many of the “proofs” back to their source I have found the media
to be right wing media. I would bet that the main source of news for this woman
was FOX news. I will never know if that is true though.
The woman made an instant decision to dislike me
because I had an opinion about Hillary Clinton that did not agree with hers. I
would have loved to listen to the reasons why she had concluded that Hillary is
a liar. I would have loved to share my reasons why I do not believe Hillary to
be quite the monster that the media paints her. But the conversation was over
and it was over with rancor on the part of one of us and dismay on the part of the
other. Everyone else in that long post office line (we were there for about
half an hour) said not one peep either during or after the exchange.
I can’t help thinking that it is sad that we can’t
talk about politics at all in our free society, at least with anyone whose
opinions differ from ours. People have chosen their favored media outlet and
are not the least bit curious about what other media outlets have to say. We no
longer take in all sides and try to make sense of all of the evidence. We make
up our mind and any attempt to offer another point of view meets with a stone wall
of anger and defensiveness. I know this has probably been true of every society
from time to time when passions run high and answers are tough to come by, but
it’s a shame and I hope such inflexibility disappears and that we will be able
to try to analyze and decide important cultural matters with some
sophistication and a spirit of mediation at some point in the near future.
By Nancy Brisson

The Primaries Come to the Boonies

This is truly an unusual primary. Usually New York
State conducts its primaries quietly in solitary splendor. In general, the
Empire State does not play a deciding role in selecting a general election
candidate for either party, even though we have a lot of delegates. The New
York primary is so late that the early states have already settled the issue.
So it is really quite bizarre to have the candidates
I have been writing about traipsing around even the most out-of-the-way places
in NY, such as my city (Syracuse), Utica, Rome, Dexter – Dexter!
It started two weeks ago with Hillary. She met her
public in a large roofed shed usually used by crafters at the Farmer’s Market
on summer weekends. I thought I would have to stand in a long line for hours,
and I did stand in a longish line for about half an hour, before I walked
through the metal detector and slid my shoulder bag over to the secret service
so they could pat it down.
I did see Hillary. She looks nice in orange (SU was
in the Final Four) and, when I left, when the concrete floor got too hard to
stand on any longer, I still liked her and wanted to vote for her. I took a few
pictures. One is of Adam (no last name) who was in line by me for a while. He
is in the teacher’s union and had on his AFT tee shirt.

The second person is called Jovan (John to us), an
eighty-four year old man who came to America from Macedonia and still has a
thick accent. (He worked in Bldg. 7 at GE, my Dad was in Bldg. 5.) His children
have done very well, one graduating from an Ivy League school, one a doctor
trained at Johns Hopkins. He wants nothing to do with socialism even if it does
have the word Democratic in front of it. Jovan has boundless confidence. He
wended his way to the very front of the rally.

My third picture is of Hillary and was taken by the
tall man in front of me – the one I had to sway back and forth to see beyond,
taken with my camera. We yipped and cheered and raised our arms in the air and
even did a slightly disorganized wave. No signs were handed out but I don’t
know if the concerns were for security or cost. I bought three Hillary buttons
on my way out.

Since then John Kasich came to town, Bernie Sanders
has been here, then Ted Cruz, then Donald Trump, then Bill Clinton. I don’t
think we have ever, in my lifetime been romanced by so many politicians in any
election season. I did not go to any other rallies – I watched them on TV as if
they were happening somewhere else. There are only so many concrete floors I
will stand on in any two week period. But my spidey sense felt them buzzing
around and I wish I could have hovered comfortably overhead, or been the
proverbial “fly on the wall”. (I have no idea where all these bugs came from.)
It was interesting to see that Ted Cruz held his
Syracuse rally in a northern suburb, Cicero, where a group of locals publish a
newspaper called “The Patriot”, full of some well-known right wing conspiracy
theories from which I culled the phrase “Luciferian Church of the United
Nations”, because Agenda 21 and the UN plan for world domination.
Dexter – Donald Trump went to Dexter – a small rural
town west of Watertown, NY on Ontario Lake, a town full of campers, hunters, fishermen, aging hippies, and
farmers, and these days, very few factories. Fort Drum is nearby though, so
perhaps he attracted a lot of soldiers and their families. That would have to
be fact-checked. I’m sure Dexter is still in shock having rarely been singled
out by such a famous (infamous) personality. It’s been a helluva* two weeks in
the North Country (*also, until recently the name of a local cheese company).
It’s sort of fun feeling like the hot center of America for a while. We can use the
excitement. Primary day is Tuesday, April 19th and then the
entire circus will move on. Most candidates have left already. I think Donald
Trump will be the last one out.
By Nancy Brisson

Global Concerns

It is
difficult to watch the strife and human abuse that we see daily on our planet,
but it seems, at least on a global scale, that is all we can do. We have seen
the consequences of meddling, or even just trying to tweak the progress of
those who seem to have “right” on their side, those who seem to promise the
best outcomes for their own people and everyone else on our world. And we have
seen the fallout from trying to wreck those who seem to promise the worst
outcomes.
We want to
bridge the differences in the Middle East, we want to feed starving people
(everywhere except in America it sometimes seems), we want to open up North
Korea and reunite the North with the South, we want to be rid of crazy
megalomaniacal leaders, we want some economic parity across nations and within
nations so as to produce an income for each person that meets and exceeds basic
needs. And we are told that small acts of mercy are not too intrusive, but
stepping in like some kind of overlord, however benign, is not acceptable and
more often than not has unintended consequences and possibly unconscious, but astonishingly
selfish motives.
So what does
a person do as s/he watches, as if human events are some kind of spectator
sport, the parade of inhuman behavior which surrounds us (think of that awfully
amazing Bosch painting, the Garden of Earthly Delights). We try to intervene
gently here and nudge events there and stop, if at all possible the worst of
the horrors, while repulsing any attempt to bring the mayhem to our side of the
globe.
After all,
we have our own internal concerns to attend to, our own problems to solve and
we cannot even choose between some kind of self-interested tough love and good
old-fashioned human compassion. Half of us want the Industrial Age back and half
of us are looking to see what the future will bring and we hope it is something
less materialistic, less back-breaking, and less harmful to the planet.
While it is
tempting to turn inward and wall out the rest of the world, we know in our guts
that it is impossible. We would just atrophy in a kind of unproductive
inbreeding that would eventually destroy us. Injections of new energy are ever
more necessary as the temptation to stagnate and rusticate grows stronger.
We hold
before us, in the chemical pathways of our brains, a gleaming future where
technology enfolds and surrounds us (perhaps also separate us), a sort of
engineer-centric future in which governance is settled (although possibly quite
ponderous) and ingenuity is the “coin of the realm”. The planet still has dark
places and sad corners and back alleys but the main thrust is towards a
mechanics that will propel us outward from this too tiny,
destined-for-extinction planet, out into the vastness of the universe or
universes, one human colony at a time. (What terrible imperialism will be
practiced then depends on whether the universe is populated by others or exists
just for our future expansion.) We call it Space, and it is the only future we
can imagine that gives scope to our restless adventurous spirit and our
insatiable need to know.
We are not
ready to occupy all that beckoning Space right now. We are earth-bound on this
beloved planet to either learn to survive this present chaos or not. So we
watch. We watch the upheavals here on Earth. Is it just growing pains? Is it
the beginnings of a better future? Will it resolve in decades or will it take
centuries? Or will it be back to the Dark Ages, reboot, start over after
whatever annihilation we perpetrate on each other?
 Some people don’t want the world’s leaders to
have a vision of a global future. They believe it betrays America to discuss
some kind of orderly progression towards a more peaceful, and yet still free,
global society. They believe the plan that exists (if there is one) get rid of nations
(in other words gets rid of America) in favor of some kind of world government,
world military, world police force, and global social structure. They want the
future of the world to be an American future. They want America to govern the
world (a prospect that is not looking at all doable right now seeing that we
cannot even decide how to govern ourselves). I also harbor a desire to have the
whole world become an American world. This is the nature of chauvinism. I think
I could let this incarnation of America go if I thought a global government
would strive for the same ideals. A global government seems almost as distant a
goal as populating Space.
We may be
able to sit back and watch the rest of the world as if through a VR headset,
but we will not be able to keep our hands off world events in every case. We
will be inspired to push here, prod there, rescue when necessary and if
possible. This is a very difficult position we are in right now. I doubt we can
maintain our distance for long. There is a cycle to this kind of seemingly
omnipresent upheaval, I think, but are we at the low point or the high point?
In the meantime we still need, at the very least, to call attention to atrocity
where ever and whenever we see it. I think that it helps us to stop in the
midst of all the myriad detailed problems to be addressed to step back and
picture a hopeful future and to take a wide view at the entire world of human
endeavor and possibility.
By Nancy Brisson
Become a Global Citizen  at https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/
 

Who Will End Obstructionism?

I will fight for Hillary Clinton right to the end, whenever
that is. I do think women can do as well in the Presidency as men have done. I
am tired of women being expected to wait until some perfect moment which of
course will never arrive. There are no perfect moments. Even Obama’s seemingly
perfect moment was ruined by racism and obstruction. If we get Bernie I will be
fine with that but I have to stay in the fight.
The only question that bugs me is which of these two will be
able to bring back regular order to Congress, to send the “teabaggers” packing
and the Evangelicals out to do good works?
The Conservatives hate Hillary possibly even more than they
loathed the idea of an Obama Presidency. Their hate has become rabid and
personal. Will we have four to eight more years of obstruction and hate speech,
this time against women? Will they just vote over and over to impeach her? There
could be 60+ more votes against the ACA. How many more votes will there be to
defund Planned Parenthood? More of this will not be good for America. It will
not be good for the world, although perhaps it is emotional baggage we must
sort through. Does Hillary have a plan to change things just in case we don’t
win some seats back in the Senate?
Can Bernie defuse and render harmless the Conservative push to
pursue every policy that would be harmful to America? He certainly understands
what is harmful about the right wing agenda and he will hold the line against
any progress toward the Conservative way. But will he also be unable to breach
the obstructive moves of a party that owns 3o state governments, both houses of
Congress and the courts? Will it help that he pushes Republican buttons by
pursuing policies that are far outside their ken? Will he blow them up to
smithereens when he moves to break up the banks and rein in Wall Street? Will
revolutionary zeal be better than the strategies of someone who knows everyone
and knows her way around the politics of DC? Or will there just be two
revolutionary groups in a war of words?
Is there any candidate the Democrats could have put forth who
could “treat with” today’s GOP? If a Democrat wins the Presidency and the
obstruction continues will the people finally get involved? Will we the people
insist that it is not OK to go to Congress if it is your intention to hold the
American government hostage until it does what Republicans want?
It is troubling that we cannot see into the future and know
who would be able to make headway in America right now against the misguided
and unenlightened mess that is today’s GOP. We can, though, and we should
certainly contribute to the movements by the Democrats to change as many seats
in Congress as possible in 2016. Emily’s List tries to get Democratic women
elected. If you contribute to the DNC the dollars get spread around. Even
Hillary donates some of her dollars to down ballot elections and Bernie is
talking about doing that.
The people’s dollars are stretched thin by all the
causes that need our contributions to fight for right, but at this moment
winning the election must be a top priority. You don’t have to contribute much
because small donations grow very big when millions of people contribute, and
there are often richer donors who match or multiply small donations. Think of
it as creating a war chest in case we need it.
By Nancy Brisson

Bernie Sanders Unfair anti-HIllary Tactics

Bernie Sanders is playing a tricky and dishonest
game in his recent political rallies. He is asking Hillary Clinton to run her
campaign according to his rules. Bernie is a “revolutionary”. He’s deliberately
changing the topography of campaigning without the benefit of any changes in
the actual rules of the Democratic Party. He is staging a revolution before he
even wins the election.
Mr. Sanders doesn’t like campaign financing as it
currently operates. He’s not alone. Many of us want less money in politics;
more “we the people” in politics. And he does get kudos for sticking with his
principles. What does not seem fair is to ask Hillary Clinton, who came up
through the ranks and learned campaign fundraising from the “big boys” that
Bill Clinton hung out with, to decide to throw out all that she knows about
campaigning. It is unfair to indict Hillary for not following Bernie’s rules
when he is the only person in modern politics who ever has done all grassroots
fundraising. Bernie, we have not had the revolution yet!
Come the revolution, Bernie believes, super
delegates shall be banished. Here’s another Bernie rule that Hillary is being chastised
for breaking. I understand that putting super delegates between the candidate
and the popular vote is elitist. I am all for less elitism in politics. But
super delegates have not been outlawed, they are actually part of the Democratic
Party primary process. In fact, winning super delegates is still “state of the art”
in Democratic primary voting.
Now Bernie is trying to steal Hillary’s super
delegates, to turn them “Bernie side up”. Since Bernie discovered he could not
win without super delegates he has decided (too late?) to play the Super Delegate
Game. Bernie – Mr. Sanders – the revolution did not happen yet. Hillary Clinton
does not have to play by your rules. If you become President you can work to
change the election process. Meanwhile, you are sounding quite like a
curmudgeon. Cut it out. I assume you knew what the process was like when you
entered the race.
The point you seem to be trying to make is the one
that paints Hillary Clinton as the “establishment” and you as the “anti-establishment”.
She has never been elected to the Congress as anyone who planned to start a
revolution and the times certainly have not been amenable to the kinds of
changes that Bernie Sanders has wanted to bring to American governance.
We are just entering a time when some Americans are,
perhaps, willing to make actual changes to the role money plays in
government and in elections. The times do seem somewhat conducive to legislating
a truer Democracy in our nation.
But there are just as many signs that people who
want to hang on to the traditional politics of elitism and the powerful impact
of money are as dug in as those who want change and they are much more numerous
and better organized than those on Bernie’s side.
You may all fault Hillary Clinton for moving to the
left, but Hillary has shown that she has a sensitivity to the political climate
of different eras and Progressive ideas may be having their moment, so it totally makes
sense that Hillary would move to meet the current needs of the American people.
She is a politician, not an ideologue. Bernie is an ideologue, not a
politician.
By Nancy Brisson

If You Are Not in the Game, Get Out of the Way

There is only one entrance to the field of play. It
is a narrow opening in a board-and-glass wall. On the field inside the wall,
there is a lop-sided version of the game being played badly by two unequal
teams. The additional players needed on the field want to help their teammates
but the other team is blocking the opening. They have been blocking for a long
time – game after game. The team that won the toss is not able to put their
game plan into action. The game has never been stalled in quite this way before.
This is a symbolic game.

However what happens in the real game affects real
people in an entire nation, in fact in the whole world. And yet the entrance to
this game which we call government has been blocked for almost eight years. The
team that is supposed to be receiving has bent the rules. They have cheated to
get such a lop-sided game. They plan to stop the game until they win the toss
and control the action once again.
Sound familiar? This is what the Republican Party
has been doing. The first two years of Obama’s first term were mainly spent
cleaning up Bush’s economic mess. The GOP’s strategies in the media (Talk
Radio, Fox) and their shenanigans in the states with redistricting and ALEC
allowed them to control the House.

Between 2010 and 2012 Republicans blocked
Obama and, for all practical purposes brought our government to a standstill.
They turned a strategy invented by Dennis Hastert into a rule in order to block
legislation in the House and they used the filibuster to block bills in the
Senate. In 2012 their gerrymandering, their propaganda, their billionaires, and
their control over state governments allowed them to gain a majority in both
the House and the Senate. 

Federal judges were overwhelmingly Conservative and
this Conservative Congress blocked most Liberal court nominations. The Supreme
Court was a bit less skewed, but still tended towards the right. 

The fact that a party can skew the courts on purpose
was known, but never used in such a bold fashion. This ability to stop
government in order to keep your party in power forever is a terrible loophole
in our Constitution, exploited by the very party that vows undying love for the
Constitution as written. If we can’t find some way to fix this loophole and
keep such a sneaky coup from happening then our government, as we know it, may
dissolve. The GOP has hollowed out the US Constitution.
I don’t want us to forget this as we head into this
election. We never experienced the full measure of Obama’s agenda. We will
never know what would have happened to the American economy if Obama got to
carry out his policies. Republicans kept American from being able to test out
the approaches that Democrats wanted to use to engender growth. What if we had
said yes to a bit of liberal spending instead of the GOP’s hypocritical
austerity (after all the GOP crashed the economy to begin with)? We have
experienced the most hobbled version of Obama’s agenda imaginable.
The GOP used up Obama’s time and our tax dollars
voting to overturn the Affordable Care Act over 60 times, voting to defund
Planned Parenthood again and again (which is not even possible without getting
rid of Medicaid), taking food stamps away from poor people, and shutting down
the government. They would not allow infrastructure spending, they invited
Netanyahu to address Congress (Obama was not welcome), 47 senators signed a
letter to the leaders of Iran in an attempt to undermine Obama’s hard-fought
negotiations,
Please remember these things when you go to the
polls in November. We got to look at Obama’s nice face, but we hardly saw any
of his policies put into effect. For eight years we have been following the
Republican agenda. We don’t need to elect them to see what their America will
be like. I think we would be feeling more prosperous if they had not blocked
Obama and the left and I think we need to have a do-over without the
obstruction.
Turn the Senate around, elect another Democratic
President and actually let the left lead for at least the next four years and I
believe that you will see America return to good fiscal health and remain, for
the most part, at peace with a chaotic and changing world. If you believe that
the past eight years represent the outcomes of a liberal agenda, widely applied
as policy, then you are misguided and you have been misled on purpose. Stop
watching Fox News.
By Nancy Brisson