Focus on What’s Important …

I was thinking this evening, as I tried to thaw my frozen fingers by the heat emitting from the side of my laptop, about my blogging priorities for the coming year.  I was making a list, trying to focus on the most essential things that need to be kept in the spotlight as we ramp up to the 2018 mid-term elections in November, and at the same time trolling the news for anything interesting or inspiring.  Suddenly I came across an OpEd piece by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, that just seemed to mirror my thoughts.  I am a firm believer in not re-inventing the wheel, as they say, and so I thought that I would share a portion of his article, for he says it better than I could.

This new year, tell Trump: Enough  By E.J. Dionne Jr. Opinion writer December 31, 2017

DionneWith New Year’s resolutions and almost everything else in life, it’s essential — and often extremely difficult — to set priorities. This applies especially to politics, now dominated by the provocations and outrages that emanate daily from President Trump and his White House.

In 2018, Trump’s abuses of power, his indifference to truth and his autocratic habits will be the central issues in our politics. Nothing else comes close.

This means there is no more vital business than containing Trump and, if circumstances demand it, removing him from office. This applies not only to progressives and liberals but also to everyone else, from left to right, who would defend our democratic values and republican institutions.

This may sound obvious, but it’s not. Among Democrats, there are often irresistible temptations to fight internal battles in preparation for 2020: Clinton people vs. Bernie people, the center-left vs. the left, the market-friendlies vs. the social democrats and democratic socialists.

These are necessary arguments, and, in any event, they cannot be suppressed. But they are not the most important thing. With special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation under constant threat from Trump’s apologists, solidarity among his opponents is imperative. This is all the more pressing in the face of the Republican leadership’s shameful cowering before a president who is perpetually in search of loyalty and sycophantic praise.

It is a habit of political commentators to say that Democrats “lack a message” and a program. It’s worth mentioning that this has not stopped them from winning a lot of elections, some in unlikely places, over the past few months.

Of course, Democrats must offer a compelling vision of a just country and a coherent approach to the world. They have to be mindful of the complicated and highly diverse coalition they need to build — starting with African Americans but also reaching out to working-class voters of all races who are being hurt by Trump’s policies. Most districts cannot be won without broad, multiracial alliances.

But this is a year of midterm elections, not a contest for the presidency. Voters typically use off-year ballots to render a judgment on a president’s course, particularly when they are unhappy — think 2006, 2010 and 2014. The most effective midterm slogan ever was the GOP’s 1946 plea: “Had Enough? Vote Republican.” With a change in the last word, it would fit the current anti-Trump mood well.

Trump, not some ingenious new policy, will be the issue on voters’ minds, and opposition to him will be the most powerful force pushing voters to the polls. Yes, progressives should talk about Trump policies they would try to check or roll back — beginning with the GOP’s egregious tax giveaway — and work to make their ideas on health care, jobs, infrastructure, the environment and education more persuasive. But the point of 2018 is to meet the emergency this presidency has created.

Let’s not shilly-shally about this. To truly check Trump, Democrats will need to win elections in usually unfriendly territory. As my loyally Republican Post colleague Michael Gerson wrote recently, Republican politicians will abandon Trump only “if they see it as in their self-interest.” For this to happen, they will have “to watch a considerable number of their fellow Republicans lose.”

Friends of republican democracy are called upon to set aside their differences to resist the corruption of presidential authority, to stand up for truth, and to insist that Trump be held accountable.

The priority of 2018 is for our nation to rise up and say: Enough.

Well said, Mr. Dionne!  I will add, only, that my two highest priorities in the coming twelve months are removing Trump from office and changing the demographics in Congress through the mid-term elections.  These goals necessarily start with protecting the sanctity of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump entourage and Russian interference in our election and democratic process.  I will also be focusing on the actions of current members of Congress who are not working in the interest of this nation or its people.  Other issues that I cannot ignore are climate change and our role in the global effort to protect our environment, the decline of the value of education in the U.S., and everything else that affects the quality and equality of life.  Looks like I have my work cut out for me, yes?  Here’s to fighting he good fight starting … NOW!

President Trump’s First Year’s Reign Has Been Worse Than Expected

On the morning of November 9th, 2016, many of us predicted that Donald Trump would tarnish our image in the world, and make a shambles of our democracy, if left unchecked. My hopes at that time were that Congress would put the brakes on him. Unfortunately, Congress has failed miserably and our predictions not only held, but the reality of the Trump presidency has far exceeded our predictions, and not in any good way. Please take a few minutes to read Gronda’s post for a clear summary of the past year with the new disease, Trumpitis, spreading rapidly over the nation. Many thanks to Gronda for this post and her generous permission to share.

Gronda Morin

Image result for photos of trump christmas at the white house

“We the People,” the coalition of the decent, the “Never Trumpers,” The Resistance participants including those of the “Women’s March, Indivisible and others, the democrats along with the majority of independents and a significant number of republicans, all knew that we were in for a rocky ride. It has been much worse than we could have imagined.

Here is the rest of the story…

On December 25, 2017, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post penned the following opinion piece, Trump’s first year was even worse than feared.”

Excerpts:

“Grit your teeth. Persevere. Just a few more days and this awful, rotten, no-good, ridiculous, rancorous, sordid, disgraceful year in the civic life of our nation will be over. Here’s hoping that we all — particularly special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — have a better 2018.”

“Many of us began 2017 with the consoling thought that the Donald Trump presidency…

View original post 699 more words

2018 Or Bust …

Many of us, this writer included, have pretty much placed all of our hopes for the future of this nation on the mid-term elections for 33 senators and 435 representatives on 06 November 2018.  For most of this year, I convinced myself, given the shambles that Trump and the current Congress have made of our federal government, that the mid-terms were a no-brainer … the Democrats would sweep, would carry the day.  Some readers, primarily my friends from across the big pond, however, were less optimistic.  “Maybe not”, they said.  “I wouldn’t count on it”, I heard.  It is easy to kid ourselves, to say that they don’t live here, so they don’t understand.  But the reality is that they sometimes see things more clearly than we do, for they have the benefit of a bit of distance and a much longer history.  The more I study the situation, the more I consider, ponder, scratch my head and lose sleep, the more I am convinced that the mid-terms may not be the salvation for which we are hoping.

I have at least six points of concern:

  • Democratic Party disoganized
  • Russian interference
  • Voter disenfranchisement
  • Lobbyist influence
  • Bannon influence
  • Voter apathy, especially among democrats/minorities

To be sure, the Democratic Party has a few advantages at this point.  The president’s party typically loses seats in midterm elections, and Trump is a historically unpopular president – the most unpopular in modern times. Then there are the encouraging wins for Democrats in Virginia and Alabama special elections recently.  But I think it would be a mistake to take those wins as a sign of things to come, for there were extenuating circumstances in both that may not be replicated in the broader mid-term elections.

A Washington Post-ABC News survey released in April found that a majority of the public thinks the Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of average Americans. I would agree and don’t think that has changed much since April. The Democratic Party will need to have squeaky-clean candidates next year, ones without a breath of scandal in their past, for there is no doubt that the opposition will be digging deep, spending millions to find “dirt” on every candidate.  Whereas Alabamans were willing to overlook Roy Moore’s pedophilia and sex scandals, it must be understood that so much as the hint of any such scandal in the past of a Democratic candidate will be be a death knell. The Republicans have a propaganda machine in Fox News and Breitbart that cannot be discounted, that is very powerful.

The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable that the Russian government did, in fact, have influence in our election process.  The extent of their influence is, I think, still unknown, but there can be no doubt that they did have an impact, a role in putting a madman in the highest office of the land.  We need to be taking steps to ensure that there can be no outside influence in 2018, but are we?  Given that Trump denies any such interference existed, even though such denial is an obvious and pathetic attempt to cover his own posterior, it is doubtful that any meaningful steps are being taken to protect the integrity of next year’s election.

On May 11, 2017, Trump signed an Executive Order establishing the “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity”. Mike Pence chairs the Commission, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach serves as the vice chair. This commission was established as Trump claimed, falsely, that there was widespread voter fraud with thousands of people voting twice.  Never mind that he won the election, he was offended that he did not win the popular vote.  The commission also serves as a smokescreen for the real issues that made our election a sham, the aforementioned Russian influence. I have written before about this commission, and the fact that Kris Kobach as Secretary of the State of Kansas, has long called for greater voting restrictions, and in July, the commission demanded that states turn over to the commission all citizen’s voting records. Thus far, the commission has not been notably successful, however the fact that it exists is chilling and may keep some voters away from the polls next November for fear of having their personal information shared.  Additionally, the commission has claimed they will remove duplicate names from voter registries, even though in many cases there may actually be two people legitimately named John Smith.

There is no doubt that big donor money plays a key role in elections and it has been magnified many times over this year, with the large corporations and lobbying groups emboldened to tell members of Congress that if they do not vote as the donors wish, they will never receive campaign funding again.  This is a slam against the democratic process and needs to be checked immediately, but of course, it will not end any time soon.  We cannot change campaign finance rules in time for the 2018 elections, but we must make absolutely certain that we do not support any candidate who is taking large campaign donations from these groups.  The information is public, and one only has to do a little research to find out who is being bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial complex, the NRA and others.

Steve Bannon has vowed to pursue the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” He has pledged to support and promote candidates that are of the extreme right ideology, as he did Roy Moore in Alabama.  He will, I belive, choose his battles wisely and use any and every tactic to put extremists in Congress next year.  He certainly has the money, the voice, and the resources to get his message through, and poses a significant threat to the democratic process.

And lastly, I think that voter apathy or angst played a large role in the election of Donald Trump and the defeat of Hillary Clinton.  It would make sense that voter apathy/angst among Democrats is even higher now than it was in 2016. One reason, of course, is the defeat of Hillary Clinton in the electoral college.  Another is the Russian influence.  People may think the system is rigged, and their vote doesn’t matter or will not be properly counted.  Minorities have absolutely no reason to vote for a Republican candidate, for the current administration and Congress have increasingly supported legislation and spewed rhetoric harmful to African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims and the LGBT community.  But does that mean they will come out and vote for a Democrat?  Not necessarily, for they may find it simpler to simply stay home.

The Democratic National Committee must step up to the plate, must become organized, support only those candidates who are above reproach.  They must generate enthusiasm and their trademark must become the very things that our government is lacking today: transparency, honesty, integrity and equality.  And those of us who have a voice, even a voice that may reach only a few hundred people, must help generate enthusiasm, must help explain the issues, introduce the candidates, and light a fire under the voters. We simply cannot afford to end 2018 with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, for as we have seen this year, they are not working for We The People, but for their own interests.  I say it is time to clean house, but do not for one minute think it is going to happen without a fight.

The Congressional Bubble …

More than once I have bemoaned the lack of our ability in this, the Trumpian era, to have civil discourse, to discuss issues calmly, reasonably, and with mutual respect. I have a couple of friends and an occasional reader with whom an exchange of ideas without rancor is possible, but overall, I find that the divide between Democrat and Republican, Liberal and Conservative, is simply too wide and issues too fraught with emotion on both sides for meaningful conversation that might begin to build a bridge between right and left.  I’ve long wondered why, and it is one of the great questions of life about which I ponder when my head hits the pillow at night.  I think I have hit on the answer …

Our very ‘leaders’, those we have shown enough respect to support with our votes, our work to help them get elected, and our campaign contributions, are driving the wedge ever deeper between the two sides and seem to have an agenda for doing so.  Take, for example, Representative Mary Franson, a Minnesotan Republican.  A group of high school students very respectfully reached out to this woman to request a meeting in order to express their concerns and give her an opportunity to explain her stances to them.  Here is how it went down …

In a tweet from a group of students at Alexandria Area High School

“We’ve made some calls to your office, and haven’t recieved [sic] a response, but as politically active, community centered students we’d love to have a meeting with you soon to address our concerns, and have a respectful productive talk.”

The group went on to propose a meeting at Franson’s official legislative office.

“I don’t meet with partisan groups in my office — besides, isn’t your group actively campaigning against me? One of your members is soliciting funds for my opponent.”

The student group responded …

“Just because we are of different parties doesn’t mean we shouldn’t meet and talk out our differences. We actually think that’s necessary, regardless of what campaign some of our members are on! We are constituents who have concerns.”

And Hanson’s curt reply …

“AAHS Dems is a partisan group. Thanks for playing.”

FransonIs it the case, then, that our elected officials believe they represent only the ones who voted for them?  In my book, this is unconscionable behavior for more reasons than one.  First is the obvious, that while I may not have voted for a specific public servant, as a taxpayer, I am still paying his/her salary, therefore I am still his/her employer.  They represent all of the people, not only the ones who voted them into office! Second, how are we to ever understand the reason behind the choices and decisions of our elected representatives if they refuse to speak to us?  There is little benefit to speaking only to those who already agree with them.

Apparently I am not alone in my thinking, as Franson came under intense criticism for her treatment of the student group.  Franson shut down her official Twitter account over the weekend and claimed there was some legal reason that she was unable to meet with the group, as they are minors and it would appear to be ‘bullying’. But the founder of the student group, Jack Ballou, disputes any such notion:

“I was in the high school page program at the state House and I was able to meet with her one on one, and I was a minor back then. We’re still constituents and I’m not sure what legal issue would arise.”

Since then, Franson has blocked every member of the high school group from her Twitter account! The bottom line, it would appear, is that Franson simply does not wish to be called to answer the questions, to be forced to account for her actions as an elected official.  This is a blow to the democratic process in no uncertain terms.  And it certainly sends the wrong message to these young students who are becoming politically aware and who are trying to understand, trying to take their place in the process as informed and involved citizens.

Increasingly this year, members of Congress have been unwilling to hold their usual Town Hall meetings when they return to their home states, and there are other reports of those who have refused to meet with citizens’ groups.  They are hearing the voices of only those who agree with them, and as long as they continue receiving their pats on the head from Trump and from their mega-donors, they are content.

Town Hall meetings are the people’s opportunity to meet with their elected representatives, to ask questions, and to make their voices heard.  Yet in August, The Washington Post reported that less than a third of representatives held the traditional meetings during their month-long break.  With so much unpopular legislation in the works, wouldn’t it have made sense for them to reach out to us, to try to explain why they were voting as they were, and to listen to our concerns? Instead, they are operating in a bubble that isolates them from the voices of the very people they have sworn to represent.

Why do our elected representatives not wish to have a two-way dialogue with us?  They have voted to strip us of affordable healthcare, to bring about the ruination of our environment, and to increase our taxes while reducing our benefits, in order to cut taxes on the wealthy.  Surely they are aware that We The People are not happy, and apparently they do not wish to discuss it with us.  Could it be they feel guilty, or do they simply believe that they should not be held accountable to the very people who elected them, who gave them their jobs?

This is not the way a democracy works, or at least not the way it is supposed to work.  We write letters and emails, we call and leave messages, but there is no two-way dialogue.  In fact, we do not know whether our letters were read, our voice mails heard. I ask you, readers, how do we force our way through their bubble … and do so civilly, without violence?  Truly, I do not know the answer, but I do know that those who will not even speak to us and listen to us in return should not be re-elected next year, for they are not doing their jobs, they are not representing We The People.

For All The Wrong Reasons …

There is concern among republicans in the Senate about the candidacy of Roy Moore, the candidate in Alabama who is, amid a maelstrom of controversy, seeking the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions.  There is equal concern among COP party leaders.  They should be ‘concerned’, in fact they should be horrified that Alabamans may even consider electing such an abominable ‘man’ for such an important position.  But they are concerned for all the wrong reasons.

Mitch McConnell, for example, is worried that Moore will drag down Republican candidates in 2018, which is shaping up to be a tough year for the GOP, and will hurt the party’s brand. Another, a strategist associated with Republican Senate leadership said, “Not only does Moore really hurt Republicans in the Senate and Republicans nationally, he also does great damage to the conservative movement. Roy Moore comes along, claiming to be a conservative, and now all conservatives are saddled with a guy who is known for one thing and that’s assaulting kids.”

At least 13 Republicans have called for Moore, to step aside. Two rescinded their endorsements. The Senate’s GOP fundraising arm bailed on him.

The right thing, but not for the right reasons.  There are many reasons Roy Moore should be seen as unfit to even be considered for the position.  First, he has been removed from the federal judicial bench, not once, but twice … both times for failure to uphold the law.  Why did he fail to uphold the law?  In both cases, his religions beliefs were in conflict with the law. Never mind that his religion is not mine, nor is it shared by a large portion of U.S. citizens.

moore-3The other reason he must not take a seat in the United States Senate is, of course, the fact that he is accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls when he was a district attorney in his 30s.  The accusations appear to have merit, have shown consistency, and several of Moore’s former colleagues have stated that it was well-known at the time that Moore liked to ‘hang out’ with teenage girls.  There is enough smoke that there is fire somewhere.

moore-4Yet, rather than being outraged because of Moore’s terrible record in failing to uphold the law, rather than being horrified because Moore is a sexual predator, the GOP, McConnell, and a handful of other Republican senators are disturbed because it could cause a few of the senate seats that will be on the ballot a year from now to be lost to Democrats.  Were it not for that, apparently they would be perfectly willing to welcome Moore into their club.

And then there are those who support him, despite the overwhelming evidence that he is not qualified nor fit for the job.  Among those are Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, and some 48% of Alabama voters.  A former judge, who has refused to uphold the very law he was sworn to uphold, putting his personal views ahead of the law of the land.  A former law enforcement officer who is in all likelihood a child abuser and sexual predator.  And he has the support of the people of his state AND the ‘man’ who occupies the White House for the moment. Mind-boggling, isn’t it?

Donald Trump’s reason for supporting Moore is as wrong as McConnell’s reason for not supporting him:  “I can tell you one thing for sure, we don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat, Jones,”   And his mouthpiece, Kellyanne Conway further explained, “we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through.”  Ah yes, that tax bill that will increase our debt astronomically and benefit only the wealthy.

moore-3Now, my take as an independent voter who votes her conscience rather than a particular party, and as a woman … let me tell you the right reasons to reject Roy Moore’s bid for Senate.  In the Senate, he would have a vote on every bill that comes before the Senate.  His values are nil, obviously.  His religious views are the criteria upon which he bases his decisions, and thus his votes.  Let us look at a few of his political beliefs:

Roy Moore does not believe in any sort of ‘socialized’ health care, but believes that instead, churches should help poor people with their health care needs. (Good luck with that one)

Roy Moore believes in using the military to keep immigrants out and that Trump’s wall must be built immediately.

Roy Moore believes that LGBT people should not be allowed in the military.

Roy Moore believes that coal mining and oil drilling “should be encouraged”.

Roy Moore believes that the federal government should have no role in education, but that it should be entirely left up to the states to determine educational structures.

Roy Moore is against the United States membership in the United Nations.

Roy Moore is a strong proponent of U.S. increasing its arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Roy Moore opposes a woman’s right of choice, same-sex marriage, LGBT rights, civil unions. (Does the word ‘bigot’ come to mind?)

A quote from Roy Moore sums it up:

“We must remain a moral and virtuous people, “One Nation under God.” I support freedom of worship and the recognition of that God upon Whom we have always relied in peace and war.”

Add to all this his blatant disregard for the law and his disrespect and abuse of women and young girls, and I cannot see how anybody … anybody … with a conscience can vote for or support this so-called ‘man’.

The GOP has lost its way, the people of Alabama seem to have lost those values they claim to be so proud of, and the only thing on the minds of republicans is keeping their majority in Congress, even if it means hiring a pedophile.  Way to go, people … way to go.

Is this, then, what the nation has come to?  That we put partisan politics ahead of all else, that we are willing to overlook heinous crimes just to keep a conservative majority in Congress?  If so, we certainly have sunk to a new low, and we have no right nor reason to be proud of this country.  Think about it.

ENOUGH!!! (Part I)

 

Senators Bob Corker (l) and Jeff Flake (r)

They need to invent a machine … one that I can scream into, and there will be no sound, it will mute and be absorbed by some material within the machine.  The reason I need this is because when I am perusing the news and see something that particularly sets my teeth on edge, my scream has a tendency to scare the family and the Significant Seven half to death.  So, some of you scientific geniuses out there, please hurry before I either get thrown out of my home, or give everybody else in the home heart failure.

pillow-scream-2


On Tuesday, Senator Jeff Flake, a republican from Arizona, announced that he does not intend to seek re-election next November.  He also gave a very moving, thoughtful speech, which I share with you now …

As I contemplate the Trump presidency, I cannot help but think of Joseph Welch.

On June 9, 1954, during the Army-McCarthy hearings, Welch, who was the chief counsel for the Army, famously asked the committee chairman if he might speak on a point of personal privilege. What he said that day was so profound that it has become enshrined as a pivotal moment in defense of American values against those who would lay waste to them. Welch was the son of a small prairie town in northwest Iowa, and the plaintive quality of his flat Midwestern accent is burned into American history. After asking Sen. Joseph McCarthy for his attention and telling him to listen with both ears, Welch spoke:

“Until this moment, senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness.”

And then, in words that today echo from his time to ours, Welch delivered the coup de grace: “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

The moral power of Welch’s words ended McCarthy’s rampage on American values, and effectively his career as well.

After Welch said his piece, the hearing room erupted in applause, those in attendance seemingly shocked by such bracing moral clarity in the face of a moral vandal. Someone had finally spoken up and said: Enough.

By doing so, Welch reawakened the conscience of the country. The moment was a shock to the system, a powerful dose of cure for an American democracy that was questioning its values during a time of global tumult and threat. We had temporarily forgotten who we were supposed to be.

We face just such a time now. We have again forgotten who we are supposed to be.

There is a sickness in our system — and it is contagious.

How many more disgraceful public feuds with Gold Star families can we witness in silence before we ourselves are disgraced?

How many more times will we see moral ambiguity in the face of shocking bigotry and shrug it off?

How many more childish insults do we need to see hurled at a hostile foreign power before we acknowledge the senseless danger of it?

How much more damage to our democracy and to the institutions of American liberty do we need to witness in silence before we count ourselves as complicit in that damage?

Nine months of this administration is enough for us to stop pretending that this is somehow normal, and that we are on the verge of some sort of pivot to governing, to stability. Nine months is more than enough for us to say, loudly and clearly: Enough.

The outcome of this is in our hands. We can no longer remain silent, merely observing this train wreck, passively, as if waiting for someone else to do something. The longer we wait, the greater the damage, the harsher the judgment of history.

I have been so worried about the state of our disunion that I recently wrote a book called “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.” I meant for the book to be a defense of principle at a time when principle is in a state of collapse. In it, I traced the transformation of my party from a party of ideas to a party in thrall to a charismatic figure peddling empty populist slogans. I tried to make the case for the sometimes excruciating work of arguing and compromise.

This was part of the reason I wanted to go to the Senate — because its institutional strictures require you to cross the aisle and do what is best for the country. Because what is best for the country is for neither party’s base to fully get what it wants but rather for the factions that make up our parties to be compelled to talk until we have a policy solution to our problems. To listen to the rhetoric of the extremes of both parties, one could be forgiven for believing that we are each other’s enemies, that we are at war with ourselves.

But more is now required of us than to put down our thoughts in writing. As our political culture seems every day to plumb new depths of indecency, we must stand up and speak out. Especially those of us who hold elective office.

To that end, and to remove all considerations of what is normally considered to be safe politically, I have decided that my time in the Senate will end when my term ends in early January 2019. For the next 14 months, relieved of the strictures of politics, I will be guided only by the dictates of conscience.

It’s time we all say: Enough.

Senator Bob Corker, who announced in September that he would not seek re-electin in 2018, and Senator Flake, both republicans, are just the latest in an ever-growing list of legislators who are saying Enough of Donald Trump.  And, predictably (ho-hum), Trump had an almost immediate comeback …

“The reason Flake and Corker dropped out of the Senate race is very simple, they had zero chance of being elected. Now act so hurt & wounded!” (precisely 140 characters … how does he do that?)

“The meeting with Republican Senators yesterday, outside of Flake and Corker, was a love fest with standing ovations and great ideas for USA!” (again, exactly 140 characters)

“Jeff Flake, with an 18% approval rating in Arizona, said “a lot of my colleagues have spoken out.” Really, they just gave me a standing O!”

I repeat what I have said so many times in the past … such maturity from the ‘man’ in the White House.

Trump’s remarks are not germane to this discussion, but follow his usual (ho-hum) pattern, a pattern that is beyond old and tiresome.  But, that aside, we are just over a year away from the mid-term elections and should be asking some questions.  The first one is obvious … what does it mean, relative to the 2018 elections, that these members of Congress are leaving?  To date, there are a minimum of 14 who will not be seeking re-election or are leaving prior to the elections.

Common sense would lead us to believe that this is a positive, that it will open the door for democratic wins in both Senate and House, given Trump’s continuing low approval rating of under 40% (37% as of yesterday’s FiveThirtyEight aggregate polls).  And, typically members of the president’s party have a harder path to winning in mid-term elections.  But common sense flew out the window sometime prior to 8 November 2016 and has not yet returned.

For the most part, the representatives and senators that are leaving are among the less radical, more moderate branch of the GOP.  Steve Bannon, who is still, I am certain, Trump’s top advisor, just not on the payroll, at least officially, has stated his goal of putting more far-right conservatives in office next November, rather along the lines of his Alabama pick, former judge Roy Moore, who is the least-qualified candidate for Congress I have seen.

I will return later this week with further analysis of what this all means in the grand scheme of things, as well as a look at some of the specific seats that will be up for grabs with no incumbent next year.  Also, question #2: Why have these legislators kept silent for nine full months?  Stay tuned, folks …

 

On Rats Deserting Da Trumptanic

Those of us who lean toward the left and a more liberal ideology than that of the GOP have hoped for more than seven months now that the republicans in Congress would get fed up with Donald Trump and start standing up to him, standing for policies that benefit their constituents rather than Trump and his wealthy cronies.  Well, apparently the more moderate among them are getting fed up, but instead of standing up to him, challenging him and refusing to do his bidding, they are jumping ship.

charlie-dent

Charlie Dent

The latest in the exodus to escape the toxic environment is Charlie Dent, a republican representative from Pennsylvania.  Dent is moderate republican who has publicly expressed concerns about Trump in the past. He called for Trump to drop out of the race last year after the release of the Access Hollywood tapes that should have doomed Trump’s political career.  Since then, he has spoken out against Trump’s travel ban, his firing of James Comey as FBI director and his false moral equivalency after Charlottesville.  I applaud Mr. Dent for taking those stands and wish more would follow suit. However, he has also voted with Trump’s wishes more than 90% of the time during the past seven months. Dent cites “disruptive outside influences that profit from increased polarization and ideological rigidity that leads to dysfunction, disorder and chaos” as part of his reason for not seeking re-election next year.

Reichert

Dave Reichert

Dent is not the first congressional republican to jump ship, nor likely the last.  Just the day before Dent made his announcement, another republican representative, Dave Reichert, from the state of Washington, announced his plan to retire after seven terms.  And republican representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida has announced her intention to step down also, saying that the prospect of two more years in the current environment just didn’t appeal to her.

Lehtinen

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

“I’m not one of those name-callers that think the Democrats don’t have a single good idea. Too many people think that way, and I think that’s to the detriment to civility and of good government.”  Give the lady a round of applause!All three of the departing members of the House of Representatives were moderate republicans, the kind we need more of in order to have a functioning, truly bi-partisan Congress.  Obviously, the upside is that this is three seats up for grabs, and we could hope that they are ‘grabbed’ by democrats in 2018.

Here is something interesting … the three representatives who are reportedly fed up with Trump, have voted to support Trump’s agenda more often than not:

Charlie Dent                       90.7%

 

Dave Reichert                    83.3%

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen        70.7%

In the case of Mr. Dent, he only disagreed with Trump on issues of the ACA repeal, Russian sanctions, and requiring state and local governments to distribute federal funds to qualified health centers even if they perform abortions. Other things, such as rolling back environmental regulations, partial repeal of Dodd-Frank, and immigration, he voted the ‘party line’.  If Mr. Dent is so fed up with the Trump regime, wouldn’t the better way to make a statement have been to vote more in line with the best interest of the country and its citizens?

Interestingly, pro-Trumpeters held an ‘anti-Dent’ rally in Allentown, Pennsylvania last month.  It was a small affair by any standard … Breitbart reported 300 attended, a local news source reported just under 200, and The Washington Post reports about 100, so take your pick. Ed Martin, one of the event planners, said, “Charlie Dent and the Tuesday Group have been masquerading as Republicans, while running President Trump’s agenda straight into the ground. It’s high time we called out these liberals in Pennsylvania and across the country for betraying their voters and capitulating to … the far left.”

A fairly homogeneous group, wouldn’t you say?

If the exiting representatives were the more hard-right Freedom Caucus members, I would be more than happy to see them go.  But these three, along with about 45 others, were the ‘moderate’ voices of the GOP.  Some pundits see the decision not to seek re-election by these three as an opportunity for democrats to win these seats, and the GOP is concerned also. When Ros-Lehtinen announced in May that she would not seek re-election next year, The Washington Post headline read:

With Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s retirement, the good news for Democrats just keeps coming …

Forgive me for being a cynic or a Debbie Downer, but frankly I think this is a matter of putting the cart before the horse.  Remember that over-confidence killed the cat! In the case of Florida representative Ros-Lehtinen, it may be a valid assumption that a viable democratic candidate could take the seat, as Hillary Clinton won in that district last year by 20 points, however her district remains strongly republican. Reichert is in a swing district that also supported Clinton, so his seat, also, may be easier than some for Democrats.  However, Dent’s district is predominantly republican and I think it will be a tough sell to get a democrat elected.

So where am I going with all this?

First, I would like to see more of the moderate voices in Congress speak up and out.  However, I don’t necessarily wish to see a mass exodus of moderate republicans from Congress because … that will ultimately leave only the more hardcore, unbending ones.  Some democratic strategists say these retirements are just the latest proof points that the Trumpeters have completed their hostile takeover of the GOP.

Second, there are 424 days left until the mid-term elections. The Democratic Party needs to get busy now, not a year from now. And while yes, I would certainly like to see democrats a majority in one or both chambers, I am more interested in seeing moderates of both parties speaking up for the good of the nation, not for selfish interests, not simply to go against the other party or support/deny Trump, but in true bi-partisanship.  The legislative branch is intended to ‘check and balance’ the power of the executive office.  Right now, it is doing a damn poor job of that.

We DO Know What We Want — Just Not How To Get It …

On last Sunday’s Meet The Press, Chuck Todd interviewed Ohio’s republican Governor John Kasich, during which Kasich made the following statement:

Kasich“The problem with the Democrats––I can’t figure out what they’re for. I mean, they have a golden opportunity, right, to be able to come in and win elections, but they can’t figure out anything other than the fact that they don’t like Donald Trump. I mean, they better figure out what they are. What’s happened to the Democratic party? It’s almost lost its soul and it better get its act together if they want to compete.”

My initial reaction, predictably, was to bristle.  Of course we know what we stand for!  We stand for environmental protections, affordable healthcare for all, equal rights and opportunity for all, an end to racism, stricter gun regulations, etc.  But, once I was done with my internal tirade and mental foot-stomping, I realized that … he is right.  He is wrong in saying that we do not know what we stand for other than hating Donald Trump.  But he is right about everything else. The Democratic Party has done very little in the last seven months to put together a platform and even less to build strategies for successful mid-term elections next year.  Kasich is right that this is a golden opportunity, with the majority of the country disgusted by the policies of Donald Trump and with a Congress that continues to lick his boots and ask “how high?” when told to jump.

One of the biggest challenges next year, I believe, will be inspiring voters to go to the polls. If we are relying only on ‘anything but Trump’ to encourage voters to vote for democratic candidates in 2018, we are doomed.  It did not work last year and it will not work next year either.  According to a recent Gallup survey, the current percentages of registered voters by party in the U.S. are …

Republicans        28%

Democrats          28%

Independents   41%

Meaning …. It will require some serious motivation to excite those 41% of independents enough to get them to the polls and convince them to vote for a democratic candidate.

We have all, myself included, been so focused on convincing Trump supporters to ‘see the light’, to abandon their love of Trump, that we have ignored the rest. Only about 36% support Trump, and it is apparent that short of a dramatic event that affects them on a personal level, they are not likely to back down.  We can no longer waste valuable resources on the 36% to the exclusion of all others, for those resources are needed to promote strong, viable candidates in the House and Senate elections next year.

Political analyst Steve Phillips wrote a relevant article for the New York Times last month that I encourage you to read.  A few of his key points:

“The Democratic Party is at risk of repeating the billion-dollar blunder that helped create its devastating losses of 2016. With its obsessive focus on wooing voters who supported Donald Trump, it is neglecting the cornerstone of its coalition and failing to take the steps necessary to win back the House of Representatives and state houses in 2018.

In spring 2016, when the progressive independent expenditure groups first outlined their plans for $200 million in spending, they did not allocate any money at all for mobilizing black voters (some money was slotted for radio and digital advertising aimed at blacks, but none for hiring human beings to get out the vote).

Predictably, African-American turnout plummeted. According to new census data, 59.6 percent of eligible black voters cast ballots last year, down from the 66 percent who voted in 2012.

The Democratic Party’s fixation on pursuing those who voted for Mr. Trump is a fool’s errand because it’s trying to fix the wrong problem.”

In June, Bernie Sanders also wrote an OpEd for the New York Times, titled How Democrats Can Stop Losing Elections.  This piece definitely warrants a closer look.  The first paragraph is an eye-opener:

sanders“In 2016, the Democratic Party lost the presidency to possibly the least popular candidate in American history. In recent years, Democrats have also lost the Senate and House to right-wing Republicans whose extremist agenda is far removed from where most Americans are politically. Republicans now control almost two-thirds of governor’s offices and have gained about 1,000 seats in state legislatures in the past nine years. In 24 states, Democrats have almost no political influence at all.[emphasis added]

Mid-term elections typically do not generate the same level of voter enthusiasm that presidential elections do.  According to Sanders, “We already have among the lowest voter turnout of any major country on earth. Democrats will not win if the 2018 midterm election turnout resembles the unbelievably low 36.7 percent of eligible voters who cast ballots in 2014.”

election-2018.jpgGranted, it is early days yet, with the 2018 mid-term elections just over 14 months away.  But in this day of nearly endless campaigns, it is not too early to start igniting the fires of enthusiasm.  While we cannot set aside our arguments against the Trumpian regime currently in office, and we must continue to speak out against the policies that go against what we believe is right and just, we must also make clear not only what we don’t want, but what we DO stand for, as well.  And we must somehow motivate and inspire every eligible voter to realize that their vote DOES count, that they CAN make a difference.

The Democratic National Party needs to do its part by stating clear, reasonable goals and investing in viable candidates.  The 2018 elections are our next best hope for reclaiming a truly bi-partisan Congress, a legislative body that can actually legislate, rather than spend their days bickering and feuding. The purpose of the legislative branch of the U.S. government is to make law that is in the best interest of the nation and its people, to provide ‘checks and balances’ to the power of the presidency.  Its purpose is not what we have seen for the past seven months.