How Far Will Dems Go?

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Democrats knew that the 2016 election was an election we really could not afford to lose. We knew that losing would have existential repercussions for the party, the way the American future would play out, and even for American democracy itself. We let ourselves be divided and that would only have worked out fine in the old America. This is not that America. How far will Dems go to fix the balance of power in America?

We knew what the Republicans had been doing to “fix” elections, although we had no clue that Russian assistance would be enlisted. We lamented the Citizens United and related decisions that have flooded elections with corporate money and influence, and offered “creative” ways for the wealthiest Americans to have an outsize influence through PAC’s and 501(c)s, or nonprofits. We know that Conservatives want to extend this financial influence on elections to churches and that there is legislation already written to do just that.

We have watched Conservatives turn the courts (Federal and Supreme) into partisan bodies that would uphold their assault on previous court decisions. We knew about their assaults on abortion clinics, their insistence that America follow their Fundamentalist Christian rules and ban abortions by overturning Roe v Wade, and their refusal to accept that women’s bodies should be controlled by women. Stuffing courts with Conservatives would help in this regard and in many other places the Republican Party wanted to go. They played with the voting rules in the Senate, they obstructed in the House, and they refused to confirm Obama’s legal appointment to the Supreme Court when Judge Alito died an untimely death. Now they are having a field day confirming fairly young, unqualified people to as many lifetime court positions as they can, while they can, and crying foul if Democrats use the same procedures to slow down confirmations that the Republicans previously found so useful.

We have noted all the voter suppression techniques such as extreme gerrymandering that made it almost impossible to elect anyone except a Republican in some Congressional districts (enough to turn Congress red?). We were shocked when the Supremes removed the pre-clearance requirements from the Voting Rights Act which allowed states to change voter laws in ways that negatively affected minority voters more than white voters. We were incredulous when the GOP claimed that they were not being racist; they just wanted to suppress Democrat votes. (It suddenly became the fashion to drop the “-ic” from the word Democratic when using the party name as an adjective because it connected the Democrats too closely to our form of government.) (It also became fashionable to stress that our government is actually a republic as this made the Republican Party the truest representative of American governance.)

We knew all this but all we did was whine, complain, call attention to these behaviors, fight among ourselves, and appear weak. We seemed not to understand that these bad behaviors were symptoms of a party that was making a serious power play. Reactions of Dems fell far short of any effective strategy of resistance. Dems were all talk, little action through all the Obama years. We relied on Obama’s popularity and his elegant statesmanship to win the day, although we all were privy to the hateful undertones in the nation.

We heard the GOP talking points, over and over. We knew the Republicans wanted to use a “tough love” approach to end social programs – no help with food for the poor, no public healthcare, no support for the disabled, no social security for seniors, no housing for the poor, no public schools. America could not afford to have a heart, apparently. They reminded us that none of these things are functions of the federal government according to our founding documents and they insisted these programs should end. States could provide for these needs if they wished (although the right knew the states could not afford to do this). Or they could be privatized.

The GOP saw the resentment building in the workers whose factories had fled, or whose livelihoods had become obsolete because of environmental damage, and they invited them aboard the bandwagon by agreeing that taxes were being used to give aid to people who did not deserve it. Soon it became as if we had all decided to eliminate social goals from our national agenda instead of just being a decision reached within the conservative web of right-wing organizations, foundations, and think tanks centered around wealthy Republicans donors like the Kochs.

Democrats spoke out against this rather Darwinistic view of society but they seemed powerless against the aggressive strategies on the right, the loudest voices in the land at the time. Dems relied on “regular order” and a moderate stance to eventually “break the fever” on the right. Dems appeared to be almost intimidated by the Tea Party’s seemingly overwhelming power over the Republican Party. This could be partially because Democrats are lovers of grassroots politics, and also due to their failure to see the connection of the Tea Party to the white supremacy that was simmering in right wing teapots. Dems did nothing but talk, believing all this would run its course. When people pointed out that the right was mounting a kind of bloodless coup, those people were labeled as extremists.

It was becoming clear that there was a Constitutional argument being fomented. Conservatives decided that America had moved too far from our forefathers’ intentions. They wanted to go all Fundamentalist on American governance – back to the basics. On the left this was seen as unrealistic. It could be seen as an expedient argument used by Republicans to pull out the old states’ rights drumbeat that they had used so successfully (when they were the Democratic Party) to end Reconstruction in the South after the Civil War.

Giving in to this states’ rights stance allowed the racist treatment of Americans of African Descent to continue into the 1960’s (and even to this day) and allowed the defeated Confederacy to nurse their resentment, and their white supremacist attitudes – to continue to see themselves as righteous rebels. This is the rebellion that is still affecting us now. It is the true reason for the rabid defense of the NRA and the encouragement of militia movements. These Republicans/Conservatives planned either to take over the American government from within, or without (rebellion) if necessary. Right now they are doing pretty well with their “from within” set of tools.

The Democrats were not even considering a new war. We were taken somewhat by surprise. Try to find a Dem militia, but I warn you it will prove to be difficult to impossible. However, Democrats also were finding nothing in the Constitution to help them against this organized rebellion that used tactics which were not strictly against established custom and law, but which certainly challenged the spirit of American customs and laws. Democrats did not see that the Republicans could win all by simply killing the Democratic Party and turning America into a single-party government. Such an action is not against our founding documents since parties did not exist when America was born. (Although it did not take long for parties to form.)

There is so much more to the GOP strategy and we have been witnesses to all of it. For example, there was the skewing of the media until some of it was not news at all but merely propaganda, which happened right before our eyes. It was allowed because of how much we treasure everyone’s right to free speech. Perhaps we could have argued sooner that people had the right to say what they wanted to but did not have the right to pass off lies and conspiracy theories as facts or news. We did not react strongly enough in the face of this onslaught. How many governments have been overturned because some of the people in power wanted to stay the course and believed they would eventually win the day; they believed justice was on their side and would prevail?

The Democrats let the Republican Party demonize our best people. Email server unorthodoxy seems a bit tame compared to behaviors power-mad Republicans excuse now. I am guilty here also because I thought America was ready for a female President. I did not think it would be fair to eliminate a woman who had been unfairly tainted (as all powerful women are these days). I refused to see how seriously she had been damaged. Maybe Progressive promises would have been the perfect counterpart to regressive rhetoric. We might have been better off fighting fire with fire. The middle road held too little appeal and too many people bought what the Republican Party was selling. None of this should strip away the guilt of liberals who would not vote against Trump and the Republicans. Still, once the Republicans were left with Trump we may have been “royally” screwed no matter what.

How convinced are the Democrats that their policies will make a more live-able future than what Republicans have to offer? How far are we willing to go to make it so? If our hopes for a blue wave in 2018 are dashed, what’s next? If it looks like our Democracy really will become an autocracy will we resist more aggressively, or slide down into a dictatorship and live quietly underground until it dies, as all dictatorships eventually do? These are terrible decisions to be faced with and yet they may have to be made with no formal forum in which to design a deliberate plan. I do not feel a “fighting” spirit uniting the Democrats yet, in case the resistance is ineffective. Although the majority of Americans lean left we could soon find ourselves living out the Conservative Way. I have no idea what we will do if elections don’t work. We may regret, for a long, long time,  that we did not get our act together in 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

Elect Women in 2016

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Let us make this the year of the women in politics.  We should elect women in 2016, as many women as possible. The men have not been doing such a good job of it lately. We are divided and we are in a war of wills. It is men, for the most part, who have divided us. Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin – all men. Congress is made up of a male majority and has been since our nation’s birth. Women are said to be more communal and more willing to listen and try, as much as possible, to satisfy all parties on any given issue. In fact I am just reading a current nonfiction book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant and the author cites studies that show that women have difficulty succeeding if they are not able to choose an approach that looks communal, as opposed to being perceived as making a bid for personal promotion. Men are not judged in this way.

Our majority male Congress has been unable to set aside personal politics in order to look objectively at our country, in order to make some practical decisions that will unlock this stalemate between the policies of austerity and tough love and the policies of stimulus and compassion, which would allow them to address 21st century problems. They seem stuck in offering only 19th century solutions that look to reproducing a time of past prosperity which cannot be recaptured, when they could be listening and learning about what might work to take us into our real future (They want to reboot a past that only seems rosy in retrospect). There is little reason to look back. Personally the wealthy are doing very well right now. They lament that America just doesn’t feel like the same old America as they stick with old legislation which is clearly producing an unbalanced economy. They will not suddenly be poor even if they change the laws to restore more balance to America’s economy.

Men in Congress right now, and Congress is dominated by Conservative men these days, think that old policies like trickle-down economics, free trade, deregulation, cuts to social programs, privatizing pensions, and busting unions will bring back prosperity but since they have already basically had their way for the past 6 years we can already see that these ideas don’t work. They have our government in a stranglehold however and will not give any other ideas a test drive.

Electing more women to Congress, reasonable, educated women (not women like Sarah Palin) may be just what we need to break the deadlock and let some fresh air float around those fusty old men (actually many of the young ones also seem fusty – just listen to Paul Ryan). Perhaps the women would be less invested in maintaining lockstep adherence to talking points. Perhaps some wiggle room could be found for reform and for legislating for “we the people”, as opposed to worshiping those with way too much money and thinking that they will do what is good for America, when all they really care about doing is shoveling bucks into their own offshore bank accounts.

So I do think we should elect Hillary Clinton, and that she should pick Elizabeth Warren as her VP if she thinks they can work together. And I think we should elect every down-ballot woman who is running – at least the Democrats (and maybe the Republican women also). Rutgers University produces this list of women running in down-ballot elections and they keep it updated so it is a great resource if you want to keep track of how women are doing. I’m a girl. This, I believe, is the year for girl power. Send the ladies to Congress and save America.

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2016 Election: Should One Party Control All Three Branches of Government?

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If we elect a Republican President, we will, for the first time ever give Republicans control of all three branches of government. I might start an argument with this statement, but I can offer justification for it. In the past the Supreme Court has not been counted when determining the balance of power in Washington because the Supreme Court has been held to be nonpartisan. However, if you have been paying attention to politics recently, Republicans and Democrats each give being able to fill the current and any near-term empty seats on the Court with nominees generated by their particular party as a deciding factor in who we should elect.

The Republicans tell their people that appointments to the Supreme Court are the most important reason to elect a Republican President, even if it is Donald Trump. We already have Donald’s list of eleven people that Republicans might like to appoint to the Court during their tenure. Does this sound nonpartisan to you? And of course the Democrats would also like to make the next court appointments. In fact there is a vacancy right now and we do have a Democrat for a President. Obama has played nice and picked a moderate appointee but Republicans will not even give this respected figure consideration.

I do not believe that we can count the Supreme Court or even the Federal Courts as being nonpartisan any longer and this puts justice up for grabs. Whose brand of justice shall we have? The courts are not big prizes for “we the people” in elections because we don’t elect most judges. They are appointed by the President and approved by Congress. They are usually appointed for life which makes the courts a prize that keeps on giving even after your party has left office. Right now the Federal Courts are overwhelmingly in the hands of Conservative appointees and there are many vacancies which should have been filled by President Obama and might have been filled given a more moderate Republican Party. This incarnation of the Republican Party, extreme and very right wing, in take-no-prisoner’s mode, has left many benches empty rather than allow Obama’s appointments to be seated. In this way the GOP turns the courts into a bipartisan branch of our government and they are holding the courts hostage until we elect a Republican President or until they lose their majority.

It is fairly common for one party to control the Executive and Legislative branches of our government but it is difficult to get any information about control of the Supreme Court because the myth remains that it is a nonpartisan body even when everyday evidence suggests that it is not so. Yesterday was a perfect example because the number of justices, usually 9, is down to 8 Supremes so the Court is giving us a string of 4-4 tied decisions on a number of what could have been landmark cases. The fact that there can be a tie proves that the court is bipartisan and, while John Roberts was crossing party lines according to his reading of the law and his conscience, he is less likely to put himself in such a position right now, although he might do so if the case were so important that not deciding it would destroy America. Let’s hope we don’t have to test that out.

I am just trying to make sure that we are all very clear about the ramifications of electing any Republican as our President in 2016, whether it is Mr. Trump or not. If you do this thing (because I will not), unless at least one House of Congress changes its majority party, you will give Republicans carte blanche to enact their entire program which will include things like closing the Department of Education, closing the Department of Commerce, and perhaps a few others in order to drastically downsize government.

The GOP may not immediately make Social Security a voucher program but they will pare our social safety net to the bone and whether you are poor or not, it will affect your life. They will bust our labor unions and they will deregulate Wall Street, banking, and investing and you will let them because they will tell you that it will bring jobs back (which I very much doubt). They will cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans. They will change our health care system by repealing the Affordable Care Act and I am betting we will lose coverage for pre-existing conditions. And if Donald gets his way they will build a wall, leave NATO, and round up illegal immigrants for expulsion. The list is long and you can hear them extol it every day. And they will pack those courts with so many Conservatives that no woman in America will ever be able to choose whether or not she wants to start a family or have another child for decades and we will be finding a lot more religion mixed into our governance.

So I am asking Americans to exercise some restraint and common sense and to not let all three branches of our government fall under the control of one party. There will be no checks; there will be no balances. The GOP will just have their way with us and it will be the end of our grand experiment in Democracy.

(Today, 6/24/2016, the UK decided to Brexit the EU, a decision whose impetus came from emotions very similar to those felt by the American Trump faction. We will have until November to see how such nationalism works for Great Britain. Will humanistic isolation serve them well? Should everyone retire to their separate corners? Does the world need a time out? November is probably too close to give us a true picture of the effects of this stunning move by the people of Great Britain, but we might get some clues. And if we decide to go with the GOP in the 2016 election it comes with lots of other baggage besides nationalism, which takes us back to the question of whether or not we want one party in control of all three branches of our government.)

Celebrating Hillary and History

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Bear with me while I do a little celebration for one historical bit of progress made here in June of 2016. We have just managed to win enough votes in the primary for a woman to become the presumptive nominee of a major political party; the Democrats, of course. It is probably difficult for some of you to understand, as we perhaps come at this from different perspectives of age, gender, political persuasion, but to have this happen in my lifetime is even better than flying cars (although I saw a great one the other day on Facebook).

“YIPPEE” (Sorry that just slipped out.)

We have been one of the most backward nations in this regard, perhaps because some of our men (and a surprising number of them are Republicans) think they are cowboys, and they don’t like to give up any of their power. Not wanting to give up power, however, can also be a sign that the strength of these men does not run deep, that they need a level of support which makes them seem unsure of their place, and that they must constantly be on the offensive. I guess they don’t see that this actually makes them look defensive and weak. Please do not accuse me of lumping all men into one category. I see lots of very healthy and evolved men who are loving, supportive, and not at all threatened by women who are good leaders. They just don’t seem to be in Congress right now.

“I’M SO EXCITED…”  (Oops, a hiccup.)

I ask you to bear with me if you wanted Bernie Sanders as our next President (although it sounds like he may still be calling for “the revolution” to win the day in this regard). Bernie doesn’t look like a leader of a revolt to me right now, just someone who can’t accept when he has lost. I have faith that Bernie Sanders will see some of his wishes for the people fulfilled; but he lost, so I doubt he will get total satisfaction unless there truly is a revolution or the super delegates do a 180 degree turn.

Bernie taught us something very important. He taught us that you can run for office without being a millionaire/billionaire if you understand the needs of the people and if you can project your message with power and authenticity. He taught us that there are ways to get big money out of politics, that we don’t need that Citizens United v FEC decision or the deliberate avoidance of any laws to control dark money in politics. This is an area that is ripe for reform and I hope that it is something Hillary will tackle after she wins in November.

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“SO NOT MEH!”

I also ask you to let me have my mini-celebration now, which I hope will turn into a great big one in November because I know that Hillary Clinton is not everyone’s cup of tea. The people who become leaders by catching a wave of a moment in history when their beliefs, experiences, character traits, or passions are resonating are never perfect. Some are beloved, some are not. Some grow on us, some don’t. Apparently a few of those suffragettes were slightly insufferable. So is Hillary to some of you, although I think the women at least should be more sympathetic and understand the sacrifices Hillary had to make to get to this historical position she has just arrived at. She was not born to a wealthy family although she and Bill did find affluence in politics and law (which many see as suspicious, as proof of unethical practices). She went through the same struggles as any mother in those days torn between staying home to raise and enjoy a child or pursuing a career, especially a high-powered career with a grueling schedule. Chelsea seems to have turned out just fine and is still close to both her mom and her dad, perhaps a sign that Hillary and Bill hit the right balance. You might like to read this article from the NYT’s Sunday Review.

We do not assume that every time a man gets wealthy in public office that he must have taken influence money or sold his support to the highest bidder, even though men have a high incidence of unethical behavior in political circles. Why do we have to believe that this woman, who has come this far, cheated and lied to do so? Perhaps many of us believe it because FOX news says it every day, makes little movies about it, propaganda films that are much more ads than they are news. All I can say to the Hillary haters is “stop watching FOX News.”

So, after apologizing to everyone who might be offended in advance, I will do my little end zone dance – not the one that signals we have won the whole game yet, just the one that acknowledges a touchdown, a milestone for women (and men) in United States history. This is a happy moment, and it is one for the history books, so take a moment to acknowledge its importance and give Hillary and History a high five.

YAY! HUZZAH! BRAVO!

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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

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