Vive la Revolution!

America is at war. 

When Bernie Sanders began his presidential campaign as a relatively unknown senator from rural Vermont, he outlined a platform of providing health care as a right, a commitment to higher education for our young people, a refusal to sweep aside issues of civil rights and injustice for an oppressed African-American community, and a determination to get big money out of our political process.  From the outset, he took pains to tell us that he could not do this alone.  He told us to expect that forces would align against such a cause.  Consequently, he stressed that what we needed in this country was a political revolution.  Well, it is here and it is not going away.

In the aftermath of yet another fraud besmirched primary, this time in New York, the Clinton campaign has issued a series of condescending petitions to the Sanders supporters, couched in vague threats of the possibility of a Trump or Cruz presidency, and have required of those supporters that it is time they get in line behind Secretary Clinton.  What they have failed to grasp all along is that their candidate stands as the personification of all that this revolution is set to confront.

On the surface, this has every appearance of a class war, pitting the millionaire and billionaire classes against the middle and working classes.  It is a revolution setting the haves against the have nots with the presumptive nominee imploring all of us to just have a slice of the corporate cake.  But there is a deeper distinction.  This revolution is really one of money vs. morality.  Now, morality is always an issue in American elections.  But this year, morality is not defined as the thou shalt nots of denying abortion rights or denying LGBT rights.  Instead, it is the morality of thou shalt provide health care to all Americans, thou shalt pay workers a living wage, thou shalt pay women on an equal footing with men, thou shalt heal the divide between races in this country and treat all of us as equal under the law, and thou shalt provide a level playing field of opportunity for all of us.  You can trim the fat with thou shalt not.  Thou shalt is going to cost you.

Europeans love to refer to Americans as puritanical for our seeming obsession with righteousness and sexual morality.  Yet, it is the clarity of our world view, born of that refusal to submit to a perceived injustice, that defines the American psyche.  We each have our line in the sand and once crossed, the fight is on.  That line has been crossed.  This is our Revolution and we mean to have it out.

The Sanders campaign is an altogether humanitarian endeavor.  It stresses the undeniable morality that it is a human right for all, regardless of economic status, to be provided with the best health care of which we are capable, that it is a civil right that none of us should live in fear of the police or of a government which would treat any group as natural resources for a privatized, corporate prison system, and that equality under the law should also mean an economic equality between men and women.  Similarly, it finds a moral imperative in saying that if we are to lift people in this country from poverty, we must provide meaningful opportunities for education and a living wage.  And it shouts that there is no moral defense for sending our young people to fight and die in a senseless war for what our opponent deems a “business opportunity.”

But Corporate America and Wall Street pull the strings of their store bought functionaries, who proclaim, “The cost!  Think about the cost!”

Money.

Greedy, god-damned soulless bastards.  How do you sleep?  How do you balance the scales of children dying of lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan with something so ultimately unimportant as money?  How do you console the husband or wife of a soldier lost to an IED in Iraq while congratulating yourself on the new business opportunity presented by a war ravaged nation?  How do you justify your twenty million dollar salary when your employees require food stamps just to survive on the wages you pay?  Our adversaries in this revolution are the Cynics of Oscar Wilde, the people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Our opponents try to paint this revolution as a seventeen year cicada, a noisy occurrence in an otherwise tranquil summer.  It is not.  For this revolution understands that it is as old as our country itself.  The same people who stood up to the British Empire in 1776, who risked tearing the very country asunder in the Civil War in order to do what they knew to be right, and who landed on the beaches at Normandy to bring a new breath of freedom to a fallen Europe, are the people who today are grimly set to take back their government, their country and their children’s future. 

And Money asks, “What if we gave you more money?  What if we gave you enough money to make you forget how much you’ve been screwed and just look the other way?”

Not this time.  The rallying cry of this revolution is not me, us.  We know what we must do.  If it is within our power to change this country at the ballot box, to cut out the cancer  that has destroyed our economy and enslaved the middle and working classes from within, we will do so.  If we have to take our country by force, we may find that we are prepared to do that as well.

The Clinton campaign and the DNC have gravely underestimated this Revolution.  They have convinced themselves that we would never allow a loudmouthed, bigoted fear-mongering, ne’er-do-well game show host to assume the Presidency.  Yes, we know who Trump is.  We also recognize a corporate shill and a corrupt, venal, political panderer when we see one.  Trump, for all his faults, is happy in his own skin.  Somehow, to many of us, that is less distasteful than someone who would have us believe that she is what she is not.

Americans have a mottled history.  We are not always the guys in the white hats.  But we have enough examples of times when we got it right, to be able to define that quality and to know that we can do it.  The Baby Boomers who today are in their fifties, sixties and seventies received that legacy from their parents, the greatest generation.  And so it is that the Baby Boomers should well know just how lucky they were to be born when and where they were.  They had the chance to grow up with this emerging industrial giant and to reap the benefits of being an American in an age when America dominated the entire world.  The same can not be said for the young people today, facing a bleak future in a Wal-Mart driven economy.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that, “it is never the wrong time to do the right thing.”  In our hearts, we all know what is the right thing.  Some of us just don’t want to have to pay for it.  Some of us don’t want to have to spend their money to help others in need.  Some of us have chosen to put their own interests above those of our country, our children and the generations to come.  And so some of us would cast our votes for a candidate whose policies and allegiances have fortified the walls of the Bastille, to keep the rabble separated from the explosive gunpowder within.  You know who you are.  You are cowards.

There is a strange parallel between the political climate today and the climate of 1776.  In the first American Revolution, we rose up against the British and George III under the cry of “taxation without representation.”  Think about that a minute.  The colonies were being exploited for their resources and treasure by a wealthy elite who provided the colonials with no opportunity to represent themselves and their own interests in the legal halls of government.  Today, Wall Street and Corporate America write the legislation which their lackeys in government pass into law, affording the wealthiest among us the opportunity to exploit the resources and economy of a middle and working class who are being systematically denied a voice in government through a rigged election process and corrupt campaign financing.

And the DNC and Clinton campaigns wonder why we choose not to attend the coronation.  To us, she is just another George III. 

As it did in 1776, so has this new American Revolution risen from the countryside and a mix of tradespeople, laborers, the newly adult and the philosophically mature but idealistic, thinkers all.  We have drawn the line in the sand and those who would own us have crossed it.  There is no going back.  If the DNC and Clinton campaigns persist in their boldfaced rigging of this election, we will dismantle the Democratic party brick by golden brick.  It is only fitting that we will convene once again in Philadelphia.

Vive la Revolution!

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Thoughts on the Brooklyn Democratic Debate

Now that the dust has settled on the ninth Democratic debate, the distinctions between the candidates have become clearer than at any point previously in this election cycle.  On the surface, that can only be an aide in helping each of us to make our decisions.  But those same distinctions are what in all probability will fracture the party, perhaps irreparably. 

In the interest of transparency (and to anyone who has not read any of this site’s earlier articles), I am a Bernie Sanders supporter.  In good conscience, I can not vote for Hillary Clinton to be our next President.  From my vantage point, there is far too much baggage and not enough “there” there.  That being said, and while I truly believe that Bernie Sanders is a once in a lifetime candidate, he too is not above criticism and his campaign will only do better if he shores up a few weak areas and learns to strike while the iron is hot.  His performance on Thursday evening was strong and on point, but he might be the first to admit that he let Hillary off the hook, and that might yet cost him the state.

All campaigns, even those run with the least amount of negativity, share a basic duality.  The candidate must present his or her platform in the most positive of lights, while demonstrating the failings of the opponent or the opponent’s platform.  The balancing act that this becomes is what allows the voter to see a candidate as positive or negative in their campaign style. 

In this case, both candidates have taken shots at each other.  But, on the whole, it would be my contention that Bernie Sanders has focused to a greater extent on the benefits to the country his programs would bring, and on Hillary’s shortcomings to a lesser extent.  Where he has taken his shots, he has chosen his target carefully.  By this time, we all realize that it is within Hillary’s own power to set her record straight; yet she chooses not to do so.  We are all left to make a decision to wonder why or to dismiss her silence as unimportant.

On the other side of the dais, the general lack of enthusiasm evinced by her supporters for her agenda of incremental progress has led Hillary to go more into an attack mode, whether she is focusing on Bernie’s voting record on guns or his health care or college tuition proposals.  Clearly, it is her intent to disqualify Bernie in the eyes of the voters, and, to her detriment, she has opted to cling to a line of half truths in the hope that the voters will look no further than the cheering section of the debate for their answers.  Her campaign has really become one of asking us to settle for pragmatism, for incrementalism, when what most of us crave is the outcome of progressivism.  She has an uphill battle on that front, and as a strategy now attempts to rally voters in dismissing as whimsy her opponent’s idealism.

On to the critique.

Simply stated, Bernie needs to spell it out.  In the debate Thursday as in each of the prior debates, he has missed the opportunity to silence his critics (Hillary and the Republicans) when they assert that his plans are unworkable.  At the Brooklyn Navy Yard, there were three areas where he could have done a much better job of drawing distinctions between his proposals and the characterizations of them by Mrs. Clinton.

Health Care

First, to say that universal health care is some manner of pipe dream is ludicrous.  The rest of the industrialized world has implemented it, and with demonstrably better outcomes than our own health care system while at a fraction of the cost.  To allow Hillary to make that same tired allegation is to continue to allow her to cast shade on Bernie’s entire campaign. 

This is the distinction he needs to be making:  the fundamental difference between the candidates’ approach to health care involves the status of the insurer as a for-profit or not-for-profit entity.  When Hillary asserts that she wants to build upon Obamacare and its reliance on private health insurance companies, while reaching toward 100% coverage of American citizens, she is stating unequivocally that she wants us to continue to pay more in rising insurance rates to for-profit corporations, while expecting lesser coverage, greater deductibles and out of pocket expenses, higher co-pays and increased costs for pharmaceutical products.  We have already been experiencing that reality for decades and it is not working.

Bernie’s program follows more closely the models used in Europe where the health care is either provided directly through the government via taxation or through private insurance companies who provide health insurance on a not-for-profit basis (Germany is an example of this).  Those same companies also provide auto and homeowners’ insurance, and make their profit there.  By taking the profit margin out of the equation, you are left with the true cost of providing the service, and it is on that number that Americans would be taxed to pay for their health care.  Because taking the staggering profit margin out of necessity lowers the actual cost of health care or health insurance, the premiums could substantially decrease.  If the money is coming out of income taxes and you have no job, you have no income to tax.  The health care would come to you at no cost.  Yes, the rest of us are picking up the tab, but we are still saving between one half and two thirds on what we are now paying.  One of Bernie’s core positions is that we, as a nation, need to do what we know to be morally right.  How can we morally and ethically justify turning a profit off the misfortune and misery of other people who are in dire need of medical attention?

Free College Tuition

This is a no-brainer (pardon the pun) as well.  In a prior article, (http://johnqsviews.com/putting-some-perspective-on-income-inequality) I broke down one way in which a tax on the wealthiest fifteen people in America could provide free tuition to over eight million college students each year.  While that was an exercise in basic mathematics, and not intended as a justification for levying a huge tax on just fifteen people, the simple point of it is that there is an unspeakably large amount of money stashed in the pockets of the top 1% to 10% of our nation’s earners, which could be taxed in a line more consistent with tax rates as recent as the 1980’s (50% on the highest income bracket, up from the 28-29% the top earners actually pay today) and which would send all American college students to school, tuition free. 

Similarly, the argument that smarter, more capable young Americans make for a smarter, more capable workforce, is undeniable.  The question remains; whom does it serve to have less intelligent, less capable citizens?  I will argue in another article that there is a segment of our society that wants exactly that.

Energy

Again, I fear that Bernie missed the boat here.  Hillary’s actions as Secretary of State to promote fracking on a global scale (with American technology courtesy of Halliburton, no doubt), and her incrementalist approach to coping with the reality of climate change, make her an easy and open target for the Sanders campaign.  They only half-heartedly took the shot.  Yes, climate change is real (google recent articles on the impact of the shrinking ice sheet in Greenland).  Yes, we are still pumping too much carbon onto the atmosphere.  And yes, the United States remains one of the leading contributors to those same carbon emissions. 

These are all compelling reasons for immediate (as in yesterday) change.  But in making that argument, you are asking the majority of Americans to make a choice now to benefit their future, somewhere down the line.  And Americans, by and large I am sorry to say, do not think like that.  We are an immediate gratification culture.  So, how is it going to benefit us right now to get off the fossil fuel bus? 

We can look at that answer in terms of our economy at home and our foreign policy.  At home, a switch to clean, renewable energy is not just a boon to the environment and an effort to counter the effects of climate change, the process of developing the technology creates new jobs and also benefits all of our industrial facilities  by removing one of the key sources of pollution which factories must minimize (at substantial cost) in order to comply with the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.  In our foreign policy, we continue to deal with an unstable middle east and with the posturing of Vladimir Putin in Russia.  The economies of each of those parts of the world are propped up on fossil fuels.  If we cut dramatically our use of oil and natural gas, we cut the demand for the product on the global market and its value falls.  In a case such as ISIS, take away their income, and you diminish their abilities to pay their own fighters or cause problems for us.  Money is the head of the snake.  Kill the head and the body dies.

How to pay for it?  Stop sending our young people to fight senseless wars in the middle east and trim the Pentagon’s budget by 10%.  That would be a great start.

But there is not enough time in a debate format to explain this!

True enough.  But this is an opportunity for Bernie to look Hillary in the eye and ask her to put her money where her mouth is.  We saw repeatedly in the debate on Thursday that she could not answer simple yes or no questions.  She was asked three times whether or not she would release her transcripts and would not answer.  She was asked three times whether or not she would remove the cap on Social Security taxation and would not answer that either.  If, for example, she wanted to make the claim that Bernie’s health care proposal could not be paid for, he could ask her, “Would you be willing to cede me the time right here, right now, to explain just how it could?”  If she said, “yes,” Bernie has a platform to make his pitch and explain it to a nation-wide audience.  If she said, “no,” Bernie has the freedom to look puzzled and ask, “What are you afraid of?”  Any other response from Hillary would simply demonstrate that she knows her allegations are insupportable.

Other Observations

There are a few other areas where Bernie could make his point more forcefully.  First, he has often pointed toward Hillary’s vote on the war in Iraq as evidence of her poor judgement.  But it isn’t just the case that she voted for the war; she argued for the war.  That argument is all a matter of public record and can be found on YouTube, any day of the week.  Hillary wants to call into question whether or not Bernie is even a Democrat.  Yet, at every opportunity to do so, she has argued for the use of military force and turned the State Department into a global wholesaler of arms and armaments.  Folks, she is a war hawk.  If it walks like a duck, squawks like a duck and hops in bed with Wall Street, Big-Pharma and now, the NRA, it’s a Republican.

In the first or second debate, Bernie famously made the comment that he was sick and tired of hearing about Hillary’s “damn emails.”  He has not raised them as an issue again (though they won’t go away, will they?).  In a similar vein, he can now say to Hillary, “We don’t need to see those transcripts.  We know what is in them.” 

After all, we do know what is in them.  As has been pointed out elsewhere, Hillary received $675,000  from Goldman Sachs for three speeches.  If she had said anything to them that they did not want to hear in the first or even the second speech, she never would have been able to give a third.  She has been telling them exactly what they want to hear and has more importantly been acting in their best interests for decades.  From Goldwater Girl to Goldman Girl, Hillary is not the girl she wants us to believe she is. 

Her contention is that no one can point to a political position or piece of legislation she has endorsed which exemplify her favoritism toward Wall Street.  I would allow for “perhaps,” though Bill Moyer’s interview of Elizabeth Warren demonstrates otherwise.  But this is a two-way street.  We also can not point to a political position or piece of legislation she has endorsed which run counter to the vested interests of Wall Street, either.  It is like fixing a basketball game; you can pay the player to miss the shot or just not take it.  The result is the same.

Now, as she moves into late April against an opponent she thought would have been gone by February, Hillary is feeling nervous.  Her lifetime in politics has been defined by political expediency.  If there was anything in those speeches which would solidify her base going into these big primary states, she would release them in a heartbeat.  There isn’t.  What is in those transcripts would much more likely destroy her remaining support and end her campaign.  You know it, I know it, and the rest of the country knows it.  However, some of us remain content to cover our ears and yell, “Waaaahhhh!”

A related and much more telling point, and again, one on which Bernie failed to capitalize, is the contempt in which she holds all of the voters.  In this I refer to her recent speech in Colorado, where a “white noise” machine was employed to prohibit news people from hearing that speech as they stood across the street from the tent under which she gave it. 

When we look at the mistake that the Goldman Sachs speeches were, just in terms of the bad publicity they have provided her, we focus on her unwillingness to make available to the prospective voters, just what she is promising to Wall Street.  It is a cover up worthy of Richard Nixon.  But, instead of learning from this mistake, she replicates it, thumbing her nose at all of the little people in the process.  Twice now, she has looked us in the eye and asked for our support, but clearly does not trust us to give it if we knew the content and context of what she is promising to her wealthy friends and to Wall Street.  Fool me once shame on you.  Fool me twice….  Americans have learned to tolerate and even rationalize being lied to.  But we hate being held in contempt by someone who positions him or herself as out of our class.  This missed opportunity by Bernie could well have been the final dagger in Hillary’s campaign.

The Strain is Showing

To give Hillary her due, she remains a very capable politician.  In my view, she was well prepared, polished in her rehearsed statements, forceful and monopolized the time element of the debate, always running well over her allotted time and into Bernie’s.  One knock on her though, has always been that she does not exude any real human warmth.  Whether she is actually a rather shy individual or, frankly, cold hearted, it can come off the same way on camera. 

What is troubling is the way she clings to and reiterates half truths or flat out lies, despite them having previously been disproven.  Her claims that Vermont was a chief exporter of guns used in violent crimes in New York are not just laughable, they made her look that much more desperate to find something wrong with her opponent.  Her claims that Bernie had cast votes for the removal of Gaddafi when he had actually cast a vote in favor of democracy in Libya reflect a legalistic parsing of words with which many of us are all too familiar from the last Clinton administration.  Similarly, her claim that she has always fought for the $15 minimum wage was a lie, plain and simple.  In earlier debates, she argued for $12 an hour, which we would reach by 2020.  This one isn’t even close.  At times, I’d like to hear Bernie turn to her and in that flat, unemotional way that John Wayne always did, say to her, “That’s a lie.”  And just leave it at that.  Her reaction would speak volumes.

What the Debate Tells Us About Us

For all the criticism of Hillary, we must acknowledge that she is a highly intelligent person, with a deep understanding of the campaign process.  As an establishment candidate, she has the full support of an enormous political machine, and they do not miss much.  I have to believe that they have researched the voters in the same way a trial lawyer researches the jury pool.  They know how the majority of us think.  And the truth is, to the majority of us, facts don’t really matter.  The overwhelming majority of Americans will not take the time to fact check what a politician says.  The closest they will come is to tune into a main stream media outlet for verification.  So, if you can buy the support of the main stream media…….

Similarly, truth is less important than posture.  We have seen that first hand in the success of the Trump campaign.  The most recent fact check on Trump suggests that he only ever tells the truth by accident.  It doesn’t matter.  He exudes confidence and out-hollers his opponents.  This is the by product of a reality TV watching culture.  The most outrageous characters are the most entertaining and who doesn’t want to be entertained?  Hillary’s clinging to baseless allegations and twistings of reality, couched in carefully scripted anthemic moments (and punctuated with Bill’s infamous thumb capped fist poke) are orchestrated “high points” without any real substance.  Supporters cheer because the moment is structured to elicit a cheer, not because there is anything worth cheering about. 

The Fallout

As I wrote at the beginning of this article, the distinctions between the candidates are clearer now than they have ever been.  In the end, we have a nuanced politician running against a humanitarian.  Hillary would have us believe that the world is a very complex place where a certain equilibrium is only achieved through a willingness to play all sides against the other.  Shifting loyalties and priorities are the norm and we have to put on our big-girl pants and own up to that reality.  Bernie is trying to show us that there  is another way, one in which we take our stand on what is defensible as morally right.  It approaches complex problems (like Israel and the Palestinians) from the simpler perspective of recognizing the equality and working to meet the needs of all, even if that means we have to acknowledge our own previous shortcomings.  In doing so, we risk that forgiveness will not be granted us.  But we also create the possibility of starting with a clean slate and building upon a solid foundation.

Now, it is all over but the voting.  We will soon see just who supports whom.  Bernie’s supporters are well defined in much the same way that his message is clear and unequivocal.  They have consistently been represented primarily as people under the age of 45, heavily stacked with younger voters, from the true progressives of the Democratic party and Independents, many of whom are prepared to make their stand on issues of civil rights, the environment, and ending corporate domination of the American political system.  Polling of late also suggests that many minority voters who had supported Hillary’s campaign are moving toward Bernie’s, possibly in response to a greater understanding of the evil of Bill Clinton’s Crime Bill and the economic struggles they have faced in the wake of a series of terrible trade agreements for which Secretary Clinton has inevitably advocated.  Women too, are moving toward Bernie’s campaign.  While the desire for our first female president remains strong, examples like Elizabeth Warren have demonstrated that Hillary is not the best choice.  In the end, Hillary is a willing political foot-soldier, not a commander in chief.

In Hillary’s camp, I believe that her supporters are often as nuanced as her own brand of politics.  On the one hand, if you are willing to consider that taking millions from Wall Street and from large corporations just might cause a candidate to not rock those boats, if you are able to see that she is indefensibly hiding from the voters her transcripts and her white noise protected speeches to the American aristocracy, and if you can accept that her policies bear a stronger resemblance to Richard Nixon than to JFK, you should come to terms with the reality that she is not a trustworthy liberal.  She is a war hawking moderate Republican.  So, why would you continue to support her?  Why would you continue to vote against your best interests?  It is my belief that many of her supporters are actually ex-Republicans for whom their own party has drifted too far to the right, and Hillary represents exactly their best interests.  They are also a more middle aged group who have reached the pinnacle of their own economic ladder and fear both being toppled from above and being undermined from below.  In her incremental pragmatism, they seek a kind of stasis, a respite from a storm which will not blow over.  Just give us four more years of the same.

The Moment of Truth

Yet to be written is just how history will view this moment, for an historical moment it is.  This contentious primary season has been rife with allegations and evidence of election rigging, all of which has pointed to a corrupt DNC with an agenda that does not reflect the espoused will of the voters.  As the calendar works its way toward the convention in Philadelphia, the tension between the two camps and their supporters is rising.  This is a campaign pitting not Bernie against Hillary, but people against money.  Right now, money has the inside track.

If it is close, and if money wins, the people will have two choices: surrender the ideals which have simmered in their hearts since the late 1960’s, or walk their talk.  As the saying goes, when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.  Money made the mistake of leaving too many of us with nothing and we have nothing to lose by walking. 

Whatever else may happen, we need to find ourselves on the right side of history.  There are ideals which make us American and upon which we have taken our stand time and again.  When we know what is right, we have to do what is right.  Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “It is never the wrong time to do the right thing.”  It is up to us.  We can have the country that embraces the idealism of Lady Liberty in new York Harbor, or we can sell our souls for a key to the executive washroom.  In my lifetime, the chance to make a real change in the direction of our country has never been so close at hand.  If we blow it now, the institutions of wealth and power will work to ensure that we never get this chance again. 

So what is it to be?  Will we sign a lease on four more years of establishment politics, corporate greed and a widening class war in America?  Or will we take the road less traveled and make the difference?  One might leave us with a sense of investment in the familiar, but it leads to our moral bankruptcy.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Super Delegate Math or Myth?

As the primary season continues to unfold, the DNC and their affiliated main stream media remains insistent on counting Super Delegates pledged to Hillary Clinton among her actual, earned delegates for the convention in Philadelphia this summer.  And, while the social media networks are abuzz with chatter about how these Super Delegates will actually vote, what is not addressed accurately is just how they are already influencing the primary process. 

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is on record, having defined the purpose of the Super Delegates as a means by which the party will not be held accountable to a “grass roots insurgency.”  In other words, the voting block that is the Super Delegates is there to turn the tables on the will of the voters, should that will not reflect in lock step the will of the party elders.  So it is that by the outset of the primary season, the Super Delegates pledged in support of Hillary Clinton gave her the illusion of having far outdistanced her opponents and of having already started the process of running away with the election.  Strategically, this remains a key component of the Clinton campaign.

However, nothing could be further from the truth.   The function of the Super Delegates is twofold.  First, they can serve as a tie breaker in the event that neither candidate arrives at the convention with enough delegates to win the nomination outright, and that after the second ballot and the attendant “horse trading” between the candidates, the balloting is perceived as hopelessly deadlocked.  Second, they can serve the function of adding authority to the delegate totals of a winning nominee who managed to win by less than convincing numbers.  Such was the case in 1984, when the Super Delegates chose Walter Mondale over Gary Hart for the nomination.  Neither of the candidates had arrived with enough delegates to claim the nomination outright, but Mondale had about 500 more than Hart and the addition of the Super Delegates put him over the top and did so in a way that made his victory appear more decisive.

1984 was also the first and last time that the Super Delegates even voted in any meaningful way.  In subsequent elections, the candidate either arrived with enough delegates earned in the primary balloting to claim the nomination or, horse trading after the first ballot was cast broke the deadlock and the nominee emerged.  In the former instance, the Super Delegates served as a cheering section which put their weight behind the nominee, to show support  for the people’s choice.  The latter case was exemplified in 2008 when Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign, allowing Barrack Obama to go through as the nominee.  Trailing Obama in a close race, the Super Delegates could have been used to swing the election to Clinton.  But, had they done so, it would have meant overturning the will of the electorate, and would certainly have had major repercussions in the general election.  Instead, back room negotiations secured the Secretary of State post for Hillary and she agreed to bide her time on the presidency.

Now, in 2016, the looming presence of the Super Delegates is again suggesting that the will of the electorate may be undone at the convention.  As in 2008, this would be disastrous for the Democratic party.  Today, in terms of earned delegates to the convention in Philadelphia, Hillary stands at 1243 and Bernie Sanders at 980.  Only 263 earned delegates separate the two candidates, with seventeen states yet to vote and a cloud hanging over the election in Arizona which may yet rain on Hillary’s parade.  Over two thousand delegates are still available, spread across those seventeen states, and the voting trend recently has significantly favored the Sanders campaign.  There is a very strong likelihood that Senator Sanders will arrive in Philadelphia with more earned delegates than Secretary Clinton.

Will the Super Delegates overturn the will of the people and hand the nomination to Hillary Clinton?  If their concern is genuinely with the general election, they will assuredly not disenfranchise half of their base.  This has been a tight race so far and will quite possibly remain so.  The two candidates could arrive in Philadelphia with a fairly even split of the delegates and a lot of bitterness between their two camps.  But, if the Super Delegates are required to break the deadlock, they would be well advised to side with whomever arrives with the most earned delegates.  If not, and if they choose Hillary as most say they will, Bernie Sanders’ supporters will possibly exit the party en masse. 

To arrive at that conclusion, we have to look at just who his supporters are.  They represent the progressive wing of what was once a progressive party, a group of Democratic lifers who already feel that they have been abandoned by the DNC.  His supporters are also Independents and their voting block will be key to the election.  Independent voters now represent about 40% of the electorate and if they come to the conclusion that their votes were nullified by the DNC, their lack of a  lifelong commitment to the party will manifest itself in a mass exodus.  They will sit on their hands in November and look for another party entirely come 2020.  His voters are also young people, the voting block which will grow and age with the party over time.  If the Democrats lose them now, they may never get them back.

So why is such a fuss being made over the Super Delegates, who have not even voted yet, may never vote at all, and almost certainly would not vote to overturn the will of the electorate?  The truth is that what the Super Delegates do best, is to suppress the vote.  Their function is to convince the grass roots voters that their candidate hasn’t a chance, to give up and just stay home.  If they are successful in doing that, then the grass roots movement dies on the vine and the establishment candidate goes through without the Super Delegates ever needing to cast a deciding vote.  The problem this year is those pesky progressives, independents and young people.  They have had enough of establishment politics, enough of DNC posturing, and enough of Hillary Clinton’s promises of incremental change.  They are staying the course, staying true to Bernie Sanders, and are becoming more entrenched in their own beliefs with each successive instance of election rigging. 

To date, every single instance of that rigging has benefitted Secretary Clinton.  Most recently, the misadventure that was the primary in Arizona combined election fraud which forced voters to stand on line for five and six hours, with an election result which was called with only one percent of the vote in.  When you have created in the mind of the voter the idea that Hillary is already within reach of the nomination due to her backing from the Super Delegates, announce that a given primary has already been decided, and force voters to choose between voting and possibly losing their jobs, it is no wonder that many voters broke from the ranks of the ballot lines and went home. 

While no one can say definitively that Hillary was behind it, she is the one who benefited from it.  That is enough.  And, in what is perhaps the most telling aspect of the election fraud, the scope of it is rising as it becomes more obvious that the electorate is not willing to be  buffaloed by the promises of the Super Delegates.  This has been made abundantly clear by the protests of the voters in Arizona, who refuse to be denied their rights.  They have their candidate, they followed the rules and their votes were not counted.  The blame lies with the DNC and local officials who have clearly conspired to rig the process.  But Sanders’ supporters have remained firm and have taken to the streets.  Rather than staying home, Bernie Sanders’ supporters are essentially drawing a line in the sand and daring the DNC and the Super Delegates to step across it.

The Super Delegates though, remain firm in their vocal support of Hillary, even in instances where the primary results in their own states favored Sanders by over 70%.  Why?  It goes back to whether or not the focus is on winning the general election.  It is possible (though doubtful) that the Democratic party leadership would prefer to lose the election rather than adjust their mode of operation to support a Bernie Sanders presidency.  Remember, campaigns and parties run on the fuel that is money.  Lots of it.  Many of the Super Delegates are themselves elected officials.  They will need to run for re-election, or may have aspirations of moving up the elected office ladder.  This too, will require lots of money.  Hillary represents the establishment, the status quo, and with that, lobbyists and Super Pacs and lots of soft money to fuel campaigns and buy media outlets.  Bernie is committed to removing the influence of big money from electing our representatives to Washington.  Without that big money, without the backing of the main stream media, many incumbents will soon be out of jobs.

In the end, the actions of the Super Delegates will tell us everything we need to know about the Democratic party for at least the next generation.  If Bernie Sanders arrives in Philadelphia with more earned delegates than Hillary Clinton and the Super Delegates rise in support of him, it will validate and welcome the progressives, the independents and the young voters to the fold, solidify the base, and quite likely prove overwhelming to the Republican candidate.  If they decide instead to pull the rug out from under Bernie and his supporters, the backlash will cripple the Democratic party, cost them the general election and, in all likelihood, cement the hold the Republicans have on the House of Representatives.  Imagine what a president like Trump or Cruz might accomplish.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Shall We Live What We Learn?

Today, it is time to take a step back, time to take a broader view.  The election cycle demands of us that we continually focus our attention on the nitty gritty of campaigns, sorting through the rhetoric, filtering out the lies and half truths.  But today, today it is time to look more broadly at what we have learned and ask how we shall choose to live in light of it.

We have learned that while there are quite a few bad apples out there, there are a hell of a lot of good and decent people, who want to be involved and want to make a difference.  This time, it seems as though the demarcation line between the two sides is somehow clearer; we have been encouraged to define it as establishment against outsider, but in the end, it has nothing to do with our politics.  This is about our priorities. 

One the one hand, we have the institutions that value money and power.  On the other, people and the planet.  It could not be more clear.  This is not about Democrats and Republicans; each side has its good and its bad people.  Equally, this is not just about the candidates; this is about the people whom they attract as supporters and the actions taken by those supporters to advance the cause.

On one hand, we could express this as the year that pitted hope against hate.  It troubles me, as it troubles so many that the level of vitriol expressed against immigrants, muslims and people of different political persuasions, owes nothing to reality and everything to fear.  It is sorrowful for the country to acknowledge that some candidates made the conscious decision to garner support by catering to that hate and fear.  The good news is that they are losing ground.  In the end, it is much harder to hold onto your hate than it is to hold onto your hope.  Hate burns you up and burns you out.  Hope is sustaining.  I believe that in November, the country will choose hope.

We have also witnessed a pitting of two dimensional vs. three dimensional characters.  A novelist could not create a work of fiction with Donald Trump as the main character and hope to win the Booker Prize.  He has no depth.  There is no there there. 

And it is those same characters, the ones drawn expressly for the six second sound bite on the main stream media, that have allowed the rest of us to see just how much the media has become complicit in the problem.  Calling elections with 1% of the vote in is just the most recent and egregious example.  Not giving equal time to all candidates, creating pundits out of campaign flunkies, and above all else, refusing to report on the real issues facing the country, have shown us the degradation of the Fifth Estate.  The news media was supposed to stand up for us, to speak truth to power, to use our freedom of speech to represent us against the wrongdoings of our own government.  Instead, they have become self-appointed kingmakers.

When the real story is one of voter suppression and election fraud on not just a grand, but growing scale, they choose to present tabloid reports regarding candidates’ wives, purportedly insurmountable delegate leads and Super Delegates who have pledged votes but not actually voted.  Similarly, it is somehow not newsworthy that voters arrive to polling stations after standing in line for five and six hours, only to be handed a provisional ballot which will likely not be counted, because their party affiliation has mysteriously changed since they last voted.  We also seem to not need to know that the votes have actually come in from two caucus states, because the media chooses not to announce the winner until it is late enough that most folks have gone to bed.  But, we have to thank them, because now we see them for what they are.  In showing their true colors, they have done all of us a favor.  We can now consign them to their rightful place as background chatter, the white noise of society.

We have learned that to many, the governance of our country is just a game.  Winner take all, to be sure, but just a game.  For the Mitch McConnell’s of the world, doing the job they have been elected and sworn in to perform takes a back seat to the gamesmanship of obstructing the process, grinding everything to a halt lest it be perceived that the other side has actually achieved something.  And Mr. Mitch is not the only one.  The gamesmanship extends to the campaign trail, where Bill Clinton defined the Obama presidency as “the awful legacy of the last eight years,” but only after the African American vote was secured in the primaries of the southern states.  We have witnessed the efforts of Debbie Wasserman Schultz to rig the election process, from denying Bernie Sanders access to the voting lists, to scheduling debates for times when no one is watching, and making sure that there are never enough ballots for the voters who show up to exercise their civic duty. 

But I find something interesting here, too.  All of these people are looking mighty old.  There is a Picture of Dorian Gray component to this.  The corruption, degeneracy and wickedness of these thieves who would steal the country from its own people, has crept upon their faces like lines on Gray’s portrait.  And all of the spray tan in China can not varnish it away.

Largely, that distinction is now visible because we have learned that there are so many good people, standing up and standing together in opposition to the establishment, the forces of darkness, the forces of same as it ever was.  From Elizabeth Warren to Nina Turner, Bill Moyers to Cornel West, Robert Reich to Spike Lee, Asher Edelman to Danny Glover, there is a vitality among the forces of change and hope that grows stronger by the day. 

The pairing though, that shines most clearly is that of Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.  Two distinctly different generations, two distinctly different experiences of life.  But between them, fire and focus, wisdom and compassion, and most of all, continuity.  What we have learned is that there is a movement, a revolution, that has been going on in this country since the early 1960’s.  It comes back to that mindset of hope.  It hinges on the priority of doing what is right for the planet and for our fellow human beings. 

It has been suppressed, to be sure, for many years.  So much so, that many of us thought we were alone.  We are not.  When the enthusiasm in one county’s voter turnout from 2012 to 2016 rises by half a million voters, we are not alone.  When those people stand in line for five and six hours because they will not be denied their right to participate in the process, we are not alone.  When a candidate takes in over five million separate donations averaging less than thirty dollars a piece, from real working men and women, not the $27,000 a plate crowd, we are not alone.

The single most exciting piece of news during this cycle has to do with the involvement in the process of so many people, young and old, who thought previously that they did not have a voice.  It was not that they had no voice; it’s just that no one was listening.  Now, we have learned that those combined voices can change the world.  The same as it ever was crowd is frightened, as well they should be.  They are circling the wagons and sending out volleys through their super pacs and media cronies, in a last ditch effort to stem the tide of change, to convince us that we need to be pragmatic, that we need not expect too much, that we can not win against that which is inevitable. 

They are trying to negotiate a truce for fear that hope will sweep them from the field. 

In the end, we have learned that you will fail to galvanize a nation around hatred, but succeed when you do so around hope.  You can send out dinner invites with a $27,000 a plate RSVP or you can throw open the doors to the entire neighborhood.  You can deny people their voices in the process with rigged elections, or you can trust the goodness in their hearts to make the right call.  You can believe what you hear or you can shine light on the lie.  As we used to say, you can be part of the problem, or part of the solution.  It is for each of us to choose how we shall live from what we have learned.

Increasingly, we are learning that it is the solution that is becoming inevitable.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Too Late to Stop the Runaway Train?

Over the course of the last two weeks, the political conversation among Republican party elders and increasingly, within the same Media which has helped to create the Monster, has turned to trying to find a way to keep Donald Trump from becoming our next president.  To many of us, the thought that he might actually have a chance at doing so seems ludicrous.  Here is a man with no experience of government, a self-proclaimed master of business with at least four bankruptcies to his credit and a string of failed business ventures which range from comical to con-artist.  If ever there was a candidate ripped straight from the pages of a Superman comic, this is it. 

But alas, it is we who have been proven wrong, as the Trump Train continues to gain steam.  You see, we have committed the cardinal sin of believing that somehow, the election process will run on logic and reason.  It doesn’t.  It never has.  The fuel of elections is raw emotion, visceral gut reaction.  In life, we don’t love and trust people from our head; we love and trust from our heart and our gut.  And the election process is nothing, if not a love fest.

One look at Trump’s supporters should be enough to tell us.  They are not interested in taking the time to hash out the details of his platform; he hasn’t got any.  His campaign is swagger, bluster, braggadocio, histrionics and self-aggrandizement in the extreme.  Every other day it’s “pin the blame on the foreigner” or “when are we gonna get sick of all this winning?”  I have personally witnessed high school pep rallies with a better articulated game plan.

But the Republicans don’t get it.  In desperation, they sent out Mitt Romney, first runner up as most boring man in North America, to strike dead this fire-breathing town dragon.  To say he failed to do so does not adequately paint the pile of ashes Trump and his supporters made of ol’ Mitt.  Next, Marco Rubio threw himself on his sword, overthinking the game and asking his supporters in Ohio to vote for John Kasich.  His supporters everywhere probably saw that Marco’s investment in the election was not 100% and they promptly lost him his home state of Florida.  Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.  Now, Ted Cruz and John Kasich are squaring off against each other, each claiming that for the betterment of the party, the other should step aside.

All of this plays right into the hands of Trump and his followers.  Every time the establishment makes a failed run at derailing his express, they confirm at a gut level, at a heart level, that they fear Trump because he is the strongest candidate, because he has the truest message, because he will make America great again.  This is the same Republican party which has taught the far right to fear that the government is coming for them, that the invasion of Texas by the US military is imminent, that the Supreme Court is coming for their weapons and will confiscate their bibles, that a Kenyan muslim has usurped our government with plans to overthrow the country and instill Sharia law.  Well fellas, you reap what you sow.

Let us be real.  Ted Cruz has all the appeal of a tooth extraction without the Novocain.  John Kasich’s homespun vitality plays well with the flannel shirt crowd, but the establishment Republicans are more of an Armani suit group and Trump’s followers don’t wear shirts; the bib overalls show off the White Power tattoos to greater advantage.  Neither of these guys is going to galvanize enough of the party faithful to overtake the Trumpster.

Now, it appears that Rod Serling is staging a chess match from the heart of the Twilight Zone.  The party suggests that if they can get to a brokered convention, the delegates will be free to vote for a candidate of party choosing.  Trump counters with a riots in the streets threat.  The party probingly hints that they might have to run a third party candidate of their own.  Trump’s smirk emerges like the Cheshire Cat as he instructs his acolytes, “see how the establishment works to undermine the will of the people, my people.”  This may go down in history as the first Reality Presidential Election, with Kim Kardashian installed as the next Secretary of Status.

So, what will it take to put the brakes on the Trump Train?  For stop it, we must.  If you haven’t been living under the neighbor’s porch and have an IQ somewhere north of litmus paper, you know that this guy is bad news.  What he lacks in a legislative record on which to run, he makes up for in a record of dim-witted get rich(er) quick schemes ranging from steaks and vodka, to a crashed airline business, a bogus school for wannabe real estate moguls and a casino empire that has run out of money on four separate occasions.  For Christ’s sake, he’s a game show and beauty pageant host.  Wink Martindale has an equal claim to the Presidency.

In one sense, the Republican elders are right.  If they can somehow drag this to the convention without the obligation of naming Trump the winner, arcane rules of the nomination process can be dusted off and a nominee, maybe someone who has not yet even thrown a hat into the ring, could be crowned heir apparent to Ronald Reagan or perhaps, Zachary Taylor.  But this is a Friday Night Football and Jeopardy kind of crowd.  The way they see it, whomever has the most points at the end of regulation time, wins.  The risk for the Republicans is that they could save the country (from Trump) and fracture the GOP in the process.  And this would not be Socrates knocking back a goblet of hemlock; this would be Jim Jones ladling up the Kool-Aid.

It is possible that a third-party, independent candidate could be run with the backing of a Super-Pac and keep enough votes from Trump in the general to either lose the election to a Democrat or stall it in the Electoral College.  That would send the decision to the Speaker of the House, Republican Paul Ryan. 

On the surface, it would appear that a split ticket from the Republican side would send the Democrat through, but there are no guarantees here.  It is already becoming clear that a large portion of the Democratic base will not support Hillary Clinton, should she become the nominee.  With allegations of voter fraud emerging from Florida, North Carolina and Illinois, and a DNC which has overtly been attempting to rig the primary process, many true liberals are feeling disenfranchised.  In a three way race, they might just stay home.

So, unless a true Republican could be induced to take a dive for the party, it would have to be another outsider running on the third party ticket and that would possibly put Ryan in a quandary.  If he named the Democrat as president, he would remove from the Republican party any license to play the victim at the hands of those Democrats.  If he selected the Third-Party candidate, the faithful would proclaim that the fix was in, and the party would be faced with rebuilding its base for the next decade.  And if he played the Trump card, he would not only risk the American economy, judicial system, a new war in the Middle East and deteriorating relationships with allies across the Western World, he would risk the Republican party becoming a global laughing stock, witnessed as the newest incarnation of a Papa Doc Duvalier led banana republic.

For these reasons and perhaps a few more, the Republican elders are more likely to do nothing, and continue to let the string play out.  “Perhaps,” they may think, “this train is still going to wreck and boy, we wouldn’t want to miss that!”  If they can make it to a brokered convention, they will have to wet a finger and see just how hard the political wind is blowing. 

They may determine that there is no choice but to let Trump run.  They may take him into a back room and make him an offer he can’t refuse; while his ego is immense, his love of money and the sense that he made a great deal might leave him open to an old-fashioned bribe to step aside.  Give him a huge cash settlement and make him ambassador to Monaco.

Or, they may wet the middle finger, test the wind with it and name Cruz or Kasich as their man with the plan.  If there are riots in the streets, well, it is only Cleveland.  Who’d notice?

Ultimately, if they choose to let this nation’s voters decide, the odds are that Trump will take the nomination and will be run against the Democratic nominee.  That is allowing this race to be run right down to the wire.  They could instruct the Super Pacs and Republican office holders to sit on their hands and let Trump play this game with his own money.  But he seems to have plenty of it. 

Then, it comes down to the Democratic candidate.  As I see it, Hillary is the Lou Costello to Trump’s Bud Abbott.  They were made for each other as they were made for entertaining, reality TV.  She is a large target with a string of scandals, a paltry legislative record, a history of failures as Secretary of State, lingering doubts about her honesty and the lurking and leering shadow of her womanizing better half.  All of Trump’s inadequacies as leadership material will have to be set against her on the record lies, obfuscations, legalese, flip-flops and her track record of not being able to work across party lines (let alone within her own party).  In a tragi-comic sense, she makes him look, if not good, acceptable.  And of course, this is a popularity contest.  This is emotion and gut.  People love a winner.  And people don’t like Hillary.

The only way to save this country, and the Republican Party by extension,  from the disaster that would be a Donald Trump presidency, may be to stack him up against Bernie Sanders.  Sanders has the record of achievement that Trump lacks.  Sanders speaks to the heart of the American population from inside.  He is one of us.  There are no scandals surrounding Sanders.  There are no flip-flops, no moral lapses, no equivocations or inconsistencies of political vision.  The socialist tag has not done him any harm.  His actions speak volumes to his integrity.  Like Trump, Bernie Sanders can’t be bought.  But unlike Trump, he is doing this with our money, given gladly by a population that loves the man and trusts the message.  Trump’s style of attack will not find its mark with Sanders.  Instead, Trump will be forced to actually debate Sanders on real issues, and will be shown to be the fool that he truly is.  When the American voter makes an emotional decision here, it will be between everyone’s favorite grandfather and their belligerent, drunken uncle. 

But there is a price to be paid by the Democratic party as well, and they may not be prepared to meet it.  The DNC has backed Hillary because Hillary represents business as usual.  Her election ensures the continued funding from Wall Street, the backing of lobbyists attached to the health insurance and big-pharmaceutical industries, and the quick death of a grass roots movement that might toss out long standing Democratic House and Senate members in favor of new blood who would work with a President Sanders to revive the middle and working classes.  The oligarchy is not prepared for a life in exile, and they fear that Sanders might be punching that ticket.  As the DNC carefully pointed out in explaining the role of their Super Delegates, the Democratic Party does not belong to the people, it belongs to the folks who know better, the elder statesmen of the party, the oligarchs themselves.

Come November, should Trump become the next President of the United States, history will forever blame the Republicans.  But those of us who live through it, will remember that the Democrats, through the actions of the DNC, were absolutely complicit.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Time to Choose Your Revolution

peaceful revolution - JFK

In the wake of the most recent “Super Tuesday,” it is time to consider that a revolution may yet be coming to America.  The races are not over, by any stretch, but one thing that we have clearly seen is that among all of the candidates who have thrown hats into the ring this election cycle, two have garnered more attention and enthusiasm than any other, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.  And, while the two are vastly different as men, as political figures, and as representatives of particular economic classes in our society, there is one constant between them.  Each is calling for a revolution.

In Sanders’ case, he is calling for a political revolution which involves more and more people becoming involved in the political process, such that the leaders we elect better reflect the desires of the broader base of the population and will work together to point our country in a new direction.  His is a revolution based on leveling the playing field for all of us, so that no one economic strata of our society foots the bill for everyone else.  Instead, his desire is for the wealthiest members of our society to pay their fair share, for our country to guarantee as a right, decent health care to all Americans, for the greed that has taken over corporate America and Wall Street to be tempered so that working people have a chance to own a decent standard of living, for us to look to the future and provide all of our children the opportunity to become the best and brightest that they can be, because we will be relying on them to take over for us.  And he is calling for a nation that has given its young men and women to two decades of purposeless war to finally, give peace a chance.

Trump is calling for a very different kind of revolution.  His is based on the idea that our enemies are already in the process of taking over our country from within and without, with the solution that we need to send our immigrant populations home, deny aid to refugees who might be coming instead to attack us, force our economic will upon the world in the form of “great deals” which would strengthen our economy against those of China and third world nations, and secure our borders with a wall which would be visible from space.  He points to outsiders and says, “They hate us.”  He wants to “bomb the shit out of” our enemies abroad and enter into a database all of the ones at home who might be conspiring against us. 

One revolution is about including people in the process and one is about excluding anyone who does not think like him and his.  These two candidates have consistently drawn larger crowds than all of the others. That alone speaks to an understanding among our people that some manner of change must come.

What merits this revolution?  What is different this cycle or has mysteriously managed to focus all of our attention on something we previously had ignored?

Bernie Sanders points to the rigged system and there has been ample evidence of it.  Since the passage of Citizen’s United and the legislated understanding that “corporations are people,” the rise and overt nature of the Super Pacs has become abundantly clear.  Aside from Sanders and Trump, all of the other candidates receive their funding in large part from Super Pacs, organizations of wealthy individuals and corporations who choose candidates to support based on their willingness to endorse the agendas of those individuals and corporations.  There is an old story about Henry Ford, who once said that people could “have a Model T in any color they wanted, as long as it was black.”  As voters, we have come to see that we can vote for any candidate we choose, we just weren’t the ones choosing who ran in the first place.

We have also seen that the mainstream media has attempted to shut out Sanders and his campaign in favor of Hillary the Inevitable and the ever entertaining media darling, Donald Trump.  Understanding that 90% of the main stream media in America is owned by six enormous corporations, which lobby and own their own candidates, makes it easy to understand why they want nothing to do with a candidate who can not be bought.  And, even the DNC itself, has shown that it is part of that same rigged system, organizing debates to run at times when the fewest number of people would be watching, shutting out voters from the process by arriving without sufficient number of ballots, and disregarding President Obama’s own expressed desire to keep Wall Street money from buying Democratic candidates.  When the DNC looks us in the eye and tells us that their Super Delegates exist to make sure that the party is not subject to the will of voters choosing a grass roots candidate, we know the fix is in.

For his part, Trump has asserted time and again that he is self-funding and cannot be bought.  Instead, he exemplifies the section of our society doing the buying.  He is a classic, self-styled “power broker,” able to cite the law and rationalize why he is not to be bound by it.  Rather than come to a fuller understanding of the principles at the heart of our system of government, he deals in expedient and entirely whimsical reasons to thumb our collective noses at those values.  His ignorance shall be our strength.  His defiant scowl, reason enough.  As the world bows to Donald Trump, so shall it bow to America.  I am reminded of a line from an old episode of the Firesign Theater, “All for one and all for one.  Let’s hear it for me!”

But the foundations of this revolution run far deeper.

What we have come to understand about America since the start of this election cycle is deeply troubling.  Where we once thought of our government as sitting at the top of our society, perched like Olympus atop the mountain, we have now come to see that the government is not at the summit of our nation.  That is the playground of the wealthiest people and institutions in the country, the same ones who buy the candidates and the elections themselves.  Instead, the government serves as a buffer between them and us.  The laws are passed to benefit them, to benefit big corporations and big money, to insure that they become bigger still.  And in just the same way that a corporation shields, in a legal sense, the owners from the threat of loss due to lawsuit, the government shields them from us.  We can replace the government, but we can not replace them or their influence on our nation.

Karl Marx once called religion, “the opiate of the masses,” and John Lennon sang that “they’ll keep you doped on religion and sex and TV.”  What we have come to see is that on certain fundamental levels, nothing in our country ever changes.  Bones are thrown our way, to be sure.  The Affordable Care Act promises that we will all be able to purchase health insurance.  But just like something called a Smart phone, it is neither smart nor affordable. 

More often than not, those who own and run the country find ways to pit us against each other.  The rise for example, of evangelical christianity to a point where some 25% of the country’s population identifies itself as evangelical, directly corresponds to the time frame over which this country has become so polarized that Republicans and Democrats have become the Hatfields and the McCoys.  Through a calculated fear mongering aimed at an element of the religious right, evangelicals have been taught to believe that they are under attack from all sides.  Their understandable response has been to rise up in opposition of this perceived threat.  And that keeps everyone’s attention focused like Don Quixote on dragons that are not really there at all.

The endless battle over issues like abortion rights, gay marriage, gun control, corporate taxation, the role of the bible in our government and judicial system, even the birthplace and citizenship of the president, are all issues designed to divide us.  Like a magician’s sleight of hand, they serve the purpose of distracting our eyes from the real issues.  Today, our magicians are all in politics.  And what is politics but the art of convincing people that you are saying one thing, when in reality you are saying something completely different?

The still recent and lingering (despite what Washington tells us)  recession has illustrated what the real issue is; in America, the very wealthy are becoming more and more so, while the rest of us slip a little further down the slope with each year.  When the wealthiest fifteen individuals in the country have seen their earnings grow by $170 billion dollars in two years, and the wealthiest 1% of the country controls more wealth than the bottom 90%, all while they pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than your average secretary, one must see that there is something fundamentally unjust in our system.  When the richest nation on the planet sees 40% of its population with no savings, living hand to mouth on the edge of poverty, worried that the next rise in health insurance or the cost of energy, might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, something is fundamentally unjust in our system.  And when our politicians stare stone-faced at us and say that providing health care as a right to our people or free college tuition to our students, is impossible, despite the fact that much of the industrialized world does exactly that, something is fundamentally unjust in our system.

After all, is ours not a system of justice?  For so long, we have been taught that ours is not a democracy (where the mob can rule), ours is a republic, where there are laws which bind everyone, high and low.  Prove it.  The truth has become all to obvious; there is a class of people in this country who are above the law.  As Bernie Sanders pointed out, of the people on Wall Street who destroyed our economy, stole the retirement savings of countless Americans, and bankrupted cities to the point where they could not pay their retired workers the pensions they had bought and paid for, not a one went to jail.  Not a one was even indicted. 

And well we remember that even on the off chance that a scum bag like Marc Rich could be charged or convicted, the system, in the form of then President Bill Clinton, would pardon him and absolve him of his crime.  When Hillary Clinton laughs at the camera and tells you that she will never be indicted, you can believe her.  It matters not that there is or is not evidence against her that would merit an indictment.  What matters is that like Achilles, she has been dipped in the River Styx by the ruling class, and is nearly impervious.

But Sanders and Trump each know her Achilles’ heel.

And so a revolution may yet be coming to America.

Where establishment candidates like Clinton and Cruz are content to blame each other’s party, whilst wrapped in the flag or clutching their bibles, Sanders and Trump, like the majority of the voting public, know that the apple doesn’t rot far from the tree.  The system is broken, perhaps hopelessly so, and the engine of government needs to be completely overhauled or even replaced.

It is then up to us to decide.  Which revolution shall we choose?

Bernie Sanders has been careful to say, “I can’t do this alone.”  He needs the help of all of us, joining in the political process.  He understands the gridlock that is Washington and just how easy it would be for the Republicans to block his efforts as they have blocked President Obama’s.  But there is a difference this time around.  It just so happens that 88% of the House of Representatives is up for re-election this year.  If the grass roots movement is really paying attention, the chance is there for us to throw the bastards out, and make a real change, from within.  It will be hard, for certain, but if it is truly the will of the people, and the people choose to stand together, it can be done.  Unless, of course, the DNC does not print enough ballots, or the Super Pacs run enough smear campaigns.

Then, we might be left with Trump.  Why it has taken so long for him to terrify the Republican party, I do not know.  But terrify them, he has.  Today, there is even talk of running an independent candidate against Trump in the general election.  It would not be because that candidate might win; it is simply because that candidate might split the ticket and cause both to lose.  Many Republicans would rather see Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in office, than to endure a Trump revolution.

It has been very interesting to me to see all of the comparisons of Trump to Adolph Hitler.  It is easy to make them, based on his attacks on minorities, outsiders and a particular religious group.  His posturing and scowl may owe more to Mussolini, but the comparison to Hitler is certainly warranted.  What worries me more is the style of his revolution.  In some ways, it has a greater resemblance to that of the Bolsheviks.

When the Bolsheviks overthrew the Czar and took control of Imperial Russia, they had before them the task of bringing the revolution to all corners of the empire.  So, while they could easily have exiled the Czar and his family to any one of a number of european countries (the royal families were all inter-related by birth or marriage), they chose instead to line them up against a wall and have them shot.  Years later, they acknowledged that this was done for one simple reason.  After the execution, there would be no turning back.

Trump’s rhetoric is increasingly backing him and his adherents into a corner.  The cult of Donald Trump allows for no errors of judgement, no statements of remorse, no admission of fallibility.  Any such event could topple him like a house of cards.  Instead, his revolution is targeted specifically at those who can not defend themselves.  His followers have been groomed for a generation to believe that they are already under attack and they have armed themselves to the teeth to defend their god, their freedom and their guns. 

Would Trump do something to advance the agenda of his revolution from which there could be no return?  If it was good for business, he just might.  He just might start a third world war with the Islamic world, because our country would then be mobilized into full industrial productivity, full employment for the war effort, and a booming economic forecast.  Think not?  Remember that World War II brought this country out of the Great Depression.

If this election is bringing revolution to America, our saving grace may be that it appears we will at least have a choice.  We can overhaul the engine from within or we an drive off the lot in a shiny new convertible, paid for in the misery of generations to come.  If we make the peaceful revolution impossible, we might make the violent revolution inevitable.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Putting Some Perspective on Income Inequality

A number of different campaign strategies have evidenced themselves during this presidential election cycle.  Among the Republicans, much, if not most of the campaigning has been focused on the need to undo everything President Obama has done, and to insult anyone who holds a different idea or who may have smaller hands than yourself.  For Hillary Clinton, her primary strategy has been one of touting her years of experience, while distancing herself from what she actually said and did during those years of experience. 

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has spent a great deal of his campaign energy on the issue of income inequality in America and its impact upon the middle and working classes of this country.   He has expressed a number of plans for the country, chief among which are implementing a single payer health care system, creating a massive infrastructure rebuilding program to put many Americans back to work in meaningful jobs, and creating a program whereby our young people could go to state colleges and universities, tuition free.

Many pundits and the Clinton campaign have gone out of their way to say that Sanders’ ideas are unworkable, and on the surface it is very clear that they would indeed be costly.  So, as a matter of gaining some perspective on this, it is illustrative to actually break down some numbers and see how some aspect of his ideas could be made to work.

In a recent campaign video from Bernie Sanders on the nature of income inequality in America, he pointed out that the wealthiest fifteen people in America have seen their wealth increase by a combined total of $170 billion dollars in just the past two years.  Let us come to a deeper understanding of that.

For starters, who are these people?  According to Forbes Magazine, the wealthiest people in America are, in order: Bill Gates (Microsoft), Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway), Larry Ellison (Oracle), David & Charles Koch (energy interests), Christy, Jim, Alice and S. Robson Walton (Walmart), Michael Bloomberg, Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Sheldon Adelson (casino mogul), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google). 

Did they really see their wealth increase by $170 billion dollars?  According to Statista.com, yes they did.  We think of their increase in wealth, rather than in earnings, because “earnings” has the suggestion of wealth gained through work.  For people in this income bracket, their money comes from many sources, most of which are outside of what we would traditionally think of as “working for a living.”  Essentially, their net worth as reported in 2013 was set against their net worth in 2015 and the difference was a gain of $170 billion dollars.

Now, you might think that these people pay out a tremendous percentage of their net worth in taxes, but, according to Forbes Magazine, their Fortune 400 pay on average about 22.9% of their income to the IRS.  That is less than the income tax rate on a single person earning $38,250 per year (remember when Warren Buffet said that he pays less by percentage in taxes than his secretary?).

For the purposes of discussion, let us look at this in a different light altogether.  First, we’ll divide that $170 billion dollar figure in half and call it one year’s earnings, $85 billion dollars.  Then, let’s imagine that we are taxing that income at a rate of 90%.

If we taxed $85 billion dollars at a 90% rate, the tax collected would be $76.5 billion and the amount retained by the wealthiest fifteen people in America would be $8.5 billion.  Divide that evenly among the wealthiest fifteen and each would see a net increase in their earnings of just $565 million. That is quite a chunk of change, lost to the taxman.  How would the wealthiest fifteen survive?

Well, if Bill Gates or Alice Walton or Charles Koch were to go into full on panic mode, and determine that he or she might never be able to work again, that $565 million could be stashed in one of the safest investments going, a United States Government Treasury Note.  Now, these notes pay only a very modest return, but they are backed by the federal government and as safe an investment as you can get.  Currently, they have a yield of 4.625% interest per year.  So, if $565 million was stashed in your name in a Government T-Note, and you were to live on the interest from it, never adding another dime to your savings, what would you get per year?  The answer is $26 million, 131 thousand, 250 dollars per year, every year.

Could you eke it out on $26 million a year?

The first part of putting income inequality into perspective is this.  If we took from the fifteen wealthiest people in America 90% of their earnings and forced them to survive on the interest alone from the investing of the 10% left to them, they would each still earn more in a year than the overwhelming majority of Americans could dream of earning in a lifetime.

Now, what of that $76.5 billion in tax that was collected?

In a simple equation, let’s assume that every penny of it was to be spent on providing free college tuition to students attending public (rather than private) state colleges and universities.  In 2015, the average cost of tuition and fees to in-state students at public stage colleges and universities was $9,410 per year.  The cost for same to out of state students was $23,893.  If we divide the tax collected by the cost of the tuition, we get the number of students who could attend college, free of charge.  In this example, those “in-state” students would number 8 million, 129 thousand, 649. 

So, the second part of putting income inequality into perspective is this.  If we as a nation determined that it was in the best interests of the country to educate our young people as fully as possible, so that they might take on leadership roles in business, science, medicine, education, government and the arts (!), and through their leadership, better support the rest of us as we slip into middle and old age, we could send over eight million of them per year to college, tuition free, on the taxes levied against just fifteen people.

Think that a 90% tax bracket is too high?  Remember the lyric to George Harrison’s song from 1966, “Taxman”:

“Let me tell you how it will be, there’s one for you, nineteen for me”

One for you and nineteen for me (the Taxman), is a tax rate of 95%, what the Beatles were paying in England in the mid 1960’s.  AND THEY STILL GOT RICH!

In fact, in the United States, the wealthiest income bracket between the years 1944 and 1963, had a tax rate which vacillated between 90% and 92%.  And what was the cut-off point?  Two hundred thousand dollars.  So, if you earned $200,000 in 1960, your tax liability was $180,000 of it.  That would leave you with just $20,000, but in 1960, $20,000 was roughly four times what an average school teacher earned per year, and three times what your average NFL star earned.  In other words, you would still be very well off.

In 1964, that tax rate dropped to 77% (still on $200K and up) and then to 70% as a top tax rate on the $100K and up bracket from 1965 until 1981.  In 1981, the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans dropped to 50% and it has continued to decline until today, where it stands at 39.6%.  Of course, that tax rate is on W-2 reported earnings, not on dividends, and it is set against various write-offs and tax havens.  This is why Forbes reports that the wealthiest four hundred people in America only pay about 23% of their earnings in taxes.

In the illustration of what taxing the wealthiest members of our society would do to provide for free tuition to public colleges, we looked at just fifteen people.  Bernie Sanders refers to the top 1% of our income earners, a group of people who collectively earn more than the bottom 90% combined.  If we get our priorities straight and make the wealthiest people in America pay their FAIR share (and it need not be as much as 90%), they would still be rich beyond our wildest dreams, and our country would be able to provide for its citizens and our own future.

Disregard the rhetoric; look at the candidates’ records.  And by all means, do the math.  That is why we send you for a free public education.

The Richest People in America:

http://www.statista.com/statistics/201426/the-richest-people-in-america/

How Much the Richest People in America Make:

http://money.cnn.com/2015/12/31/news/economy/richest-americans/

Information on T-Bonds, T-Notes and T-Bills:

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/making-sense-of-treasury-securities-treasury-bills-notes-and-bonds/

Cost of a College Education:

http://www.collegedata.com/cs/content/content_payarticle_tmpl.jhtml?articleId=10064

Federal Tax Rates by Year:

http://taxfoundation.org/article/us-federal-individual-income-tax-rates-history-1913-2013-nominal-and-inflation-adjusted-brackets

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Are Voters Crashing the Party?

Follow the link below for a telling series of comments from DNC Super Delegate Howard Dean and from DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on the process by which the Super Delegates cast their votes in the Democratic Primary. 

When challenged on his decision to cast his Super Delegate vote for Hillary Clinton in the wake of Vermont voters selecting Bernie Sanders by an 86 to 13 percent majority, Dean responded that, “Super delegates don’t “represent people” I’m not elected by anyone. I’ll do what I think is right for the country.”

Similarly, DNC Chair Schultz (an ardent Clinton supporter) has explained the role of Super Delegates as a means by which the Democratic Party is protected from grass roots candidates, you know, the ones the people actually get behind.  Far be it from the Party to allow actual voters to crash the process.

“Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists. We are as a Democratic Party really highlight and emphasize inclusiveness and diversity at our convention, and so we want to give every opportunity to grassroots activists and diverse, committed Democrats to be able to participate, attend, and be a delegate at the convention. And so we separate out those unpledged delegates to make sure that there isn’t competition between them.” – DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz

More Washingtonian Double Speak.  There should be a Rosetta Stone guide to this language.  The gist of it is that the Party wants the grassroots movements, the ones that could change the direction of the party and possibly bring it into the twenty first century, to be represented like a fly in amber, but then conveniently shelved in time to name the candidate the party wanted all along.  Is the primary process just for show?  The implication is that the Party exists as a philosophical plaything of a small group of elite social planners, and that the expressed will of the citizens of this country is understood more as a hindrance to their planning than as a validation of it.

Since his campaign for President began, Bernie Sanders has reminded us that the system is rigged.  I can imagine him now, in his thickest New York accent, bending one arm upward at the elbow and shouting, “You want your rigged system?!  I got it right here!”

Once again, we are witness to an election cycle where contests are exceedingly close. This year, the opposition candidate, frontrunner Donald Trump, is bringing voters out of the woodwork like never before.  And yet, the party elders of the Democratic Party  do not see any real need to support the will of their own base.  After all, they know better than the voter what is good for the country (at least in terms of lobbyist funding for Democratic Super Pacs).  It may surprise them in November to find that the voters think otherwise.

It is very interesting to note that on both sides of the hedge, Republican and Democrat, the party leaders still fail to grasp just how disgusted with party politics the voters have become.  The grassroots movement to which they refer is spreading everywhere, on both sides of the fence.  On that first Tuesday in November, the party faithful may show up for the victory rally and wonder where the party went.

For us, the voters, it is one more example of the reasons we need to vote our conscience and disregard the media pundits, the Super Pac advertising blitzes and the proclamations from the parties, themselves.  If this country is ever to return from oligarchy to one in which the voice of the people resonates in Washington, it will be on our backs and on our votes.

Disregard the rhetoric.  Look at the records.  Decide for yourself whom this government should represent.  Do not let anyone convince you to stay home because the decision has already been reached.  Your vote matters.  Vote your conscience.

http://ivn.us/2016/03/08/former-dnc-chair-superdelegates-dont-represent-the-people-theyll-do-what-they-want/

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Present has Roots in the Past

It was a spirited and at times subtle debate this evening in Flint, Michigan, between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  Hillary is a very skillful speaker and has a well earned reputation for choosing her words very carefully.  Bernie remains a man of the people, clearly not a member of the elite Washingtonian set.  Both candidates made some good points and delivered what is now a well rehearsed synopsis of their campaigns as they made sure to differentiate themselves from each other.

One recurring motif during the night was that Hillary repeatedly bemoaned Bernie’s focusing on the politics of the 1990’s.  It was rather clear that she really did not want to go there.  And of course, there is the presidency of her husband.  No, there were no forays into the sexual peccadillos of the then president.  But Bernie did successfully draw attention to the disastrous trade agreements that began under her husband’s tenure in office (NAFTA in 1994) , and which she has continued to support as Senator and Secretary of State (CAFTA, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, Trans Pacific Partnership), though from which she is now attempting to distance herself as candidate.

What will dog Clinton throughout this election cycle is that she is on record in the senate and on video tape, supporting those trade deals.  And in that way, today’s present has its roots in a past she no longer wishes to discuss.  During her husbands’ presidency, Hillary was often dispatched as First Lady to speak with the press as cheerleader for the President’s economic plan.  And yes, in the early days of those deals, the economic future of America looked pretty bright.  But Bernie Sanders stood in opposition to them then and has been proven right some twenty years later.  The inescapable truth is that the trade deals into which the US government has entered have been catastrophic for American working people.  NAFTA alone cost American working people 850,000 jobs and the Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China has cost us 3.2 million more.  Since 2001, some sixty thousand factories in the United States have shut down as our industry continues to be outsourced into the third world. 

All of this is part of a larger, still evolving picture.  When Bernie Sanders draws attention to Hillary’s ties to Wall Street and the $15 million she has raised through those ties for her campaign, he puts her squarely in the camp of the people who profited through the outsourcing of American jobs.  Her refusal to release the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs is not helping her case.  She can continue to assert that she will release hers when the Republican candidates release theirs, but the Republican candidates are not hiding from their support of big business.  Their platforms consistently call for even less regulation of Wall Street and of big business in this country.  Hillary alone seems to want to have it both ways.  She wants to be seen as the defender of the middle and working classes and hard liner against Wall Street’s transgressions, yet she takes money from Wall Street and gives those two hundred thousand dollar speeches.  If she will not produce the transcripts, we are forced to come to our own conclusions regarding just what is in them.

Each of the candidates sees the need for intervention in Flint and Detroit to help two crumbling cities and so many people in dire need.  What Hillary will have a hard time escaping is the understanding that her husband’s trade agreements and her support of them and of others, is in large part what doomed those cities in the first place.  Flint’s lead crisis is in part due to the fact that it has been one of the most economically devastated cities in North America.  Had it remained the vital and prosperous city it once was, it would have had a tax base in place to be used for infrastructure repairs.  And when the Secretary tries to point to her support of the Auto Manufacturers bailout, it should and probably will fall on many deaf ears.  The reality is that the bailout helped the ownership, not the workers.  In Flint, Michigan, there had been some 80,000 jobs in the auto industry.  Now there are barely 5,000 left.  The bailout, once again, allowed the ownership of an American company to send jobs overseas.  And that bailout was paid for by you and me and the people of Flint, Michigan.

When the subject of hydraulic fracturing arose and Anderson Cooper begged the candidates’ position on it, Hillary was typically equivocal and Bernie was typically not.  Where she laid out the scenarios under which she would oppose fracking and said that there would not be very many where she would support it, Bernie uttered a clear, one word answer.  No, he does not support it.  When Hillary stated that she would demand that corporations engaged in fracking tell the government just what they were pumping into the ground, she already knew that thanks to Dick Cheney and his connections to and ongoing support of Haliburton, that is considered a trade secret.  There is already a law in place, passed under the George W. Bush administration, which prohibits our government from requiring that information of Haliburton.  They can pump what they damn well please.

Bernie used the opportunity of speaking about Hillary’s time in Europe as Secretary of State to segue into the issue of guaranteed health care and here again, there was subtle distinction between the candidates that has a lot to do with the choice of language.  Bernie asserted that like the countries of Europe, we should guarantee health care as a right to each and every American citizen.  Hillary’s response was that we were well on the way to doing just that, with almost 90% of our citizens covered under health insurance. 

Health care and health insurance are two different animals.  Hillary wants to continue with a program by which all Americans are required to have health insurance, provided by our long established health insurance companies.  That same insurance which keeps going up in cost while it drops in coverage, with higher deductibles and higher out of pocket maximums.  Who benefits from that?  Who benefits when a person has health insurance yet can not afford to go to the doctor because he or she can not pay the deductible?  If you do not go to your doctor, the doctor does not get paid.  So where would that money go?  Obviously, it stays in the pocket of the health insurance company.

Bernie, instead, wants us to have health care.  And it is the health care that we really need.  His single payer system will rein in the staggering costs of health care in this country and put us on a system similar to that which is already in place in the rest of the industrialized world (so please do not tell me that it can not work).  Hillary wanted to paint a similarity between her position and that of Bernie Sanders, but the two are actually very, very different.

As Hillary rightfully pointed out, this election is for the presidency which is here and now.  We have problems in the here and now and we must deal with those problems in the here and now.  But Bernie Sanders wants us to see that those problems have roots in the trade agreements, bailouts and legislation which have made it easier for corporations to move their workforces to the third world and their money offshore.  And those roots go back to the 1990’s and the first Clinton administration.  Both candidates have their rhetoric and both candidates have their records.  Hillary’s rhetoric may be timely, but her record is one of supporting decisions which ultimately have destroyed our economy and the lives of millions of Americans.  Bernie Sanders has a record that is now some fifty years in the making and has consistently been on the side of the middle and working classes of this country.  He has released all of his speeches to Wall Street.  We know just whose side he is on.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Why Do You Keep Voting For These Guys?

In the clip from Rachel Maddow’s show below, Bernie asks and answers this all important question, one which we all have to ask of ourselves.  Why do we keep voting for people who drive our country further into the hole?  Our political process, much like society itself, has devolved into a stream of vacuous soundbites, personality cults, fear mongering and knee-jerk responses to what are more often than not, the wrong questions.  And from that, we somehow are expected to find our leaders?

While Bernie’s response in the clip below is focused primarily on the phenomenon that has become Donald Trump, it really is a plain spoken assessment of what we as receptors have allowed the senders to accomplish as a means to their own ends.  We are afraid of the now and even more so of the future.  We have become powerless against the demons under the bed, monsters which most likely would vanish in the light of day.  But the curtains are held closed, the light extinguished, and those who profess to hold the answers keep pulling the covers over our heads.

The American people, the real people of this country, are indeed in trouble.  This has become the first generation who will undoubtedly be providing their children with a lower quality of life than they had, themselves.  It is hard to be all you can be when you are just barely hanging on.  We are working harder, and for increasingly less, but never quite for nothing.  And that is significant.  For, as the old song goes, if we had nothing, we’d have nothing to lose.  Instead, the power brokers and institutions who benefit from the rest of us following blindly like sheep are sure to leave us with just enough that we fear that someone will come and take it.  Why do we keep voting for these guys?  We have been conditioned to respond to that fear by electing, time and again, the man with the plan, the candidate with the answer to the very fear he or she has been spreading across the countryside.  It is as though the knight in shining armor has arrived in our town, bringing his own dragon, just in case we don’t have one of our own.

It is easy to blame the far right for their calculated use of fear as motivator for their brand of conservatism.  They taught us to be afraid of women taking men’s jobs, blacks  moving into white neighborhoods, gays becoming teachers in our schools, the government coming to take our guns and drive our religious beliefs out of our culture, Mexican rapists crossing our borders with drugs, and Muslim terror cells waltzing into the country on refugee visas.  But the Democrats are as much to blame in the dispensation of fear, teaching us to be afraid of conservative Supreme Court justices taking away women’s rights to control their own bodies, the imposition of an Evangelical belief system upon our laws, and a government of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation.  In short, both sides have taught us to fear the other.

These architects of fear have become the builders of our modern political system.  I’ve said this part before, but I believe it bears repeating.  We need to understand that in America, our politics have come to function as a form of religion.  And it is an Old Testament style of religion, built on fear from a house of cards.  Our politics are like a religion in that increasingly, they are built upon assumptions that are unproven or unprovable.  Candidates from each party rail against perceived injustices and Machiavellian designs of the other party, but seldom, if ever, is any injustice really probed, does any design really come to fruition. 

Without the pudding, we never experience the proof.  But there is reason for that, as well.  Just like a religion, if any of our unprovable assumptions were to become provable and demonstrated to be unfounded, that part of the house of cards collapses and possibly takes the rest of the structure with it.  Here we have two churches, Republican and Democrat, and each holds their congregants in large part through fear of the other.  But each instructs those congregants not to look too closely at those fears, not to test the waters of their fear to judge the depth.  As a result, Washington is more devoted to posturing than a Vogue runway.  Very little of substance is attempted or accomplished for fear that if it works, the party that suggested it is validated and the party that feared and opposed it has another wall removed from its own house of cards.  Similarly, if a bill is passed and the results of it merit a failing grade, we pull a card from the stack of the party that suggested it in the first place.  Thus we have replaced bustle with monolith.

An interesting manifestation of this development of the “immovable object” as government can be found  in the candidates running for President.  If you dare not risk validating the ideology of the other church, you do not want to run a candidate who has had much experience mingling with its congregation.  And so we see many candidates for office who have very little real experience of government, very little experience of real political compromise, very little experience of getting legislation passed into law.  The one thing they know is that the fault lies somewhere in the other party.

By way of example, here are the political tenures, at a national level, of the major candidates we have seen thus far (with a couple of ringers thrown in for good measure):

Marco Rubio – one term in the Senate

Ted Cruz – one term in the Senate

Donald Trump – zero political experience

Ben Carson – zero political experience

Carly Fiorina – zero political experience

Rand Paul – one term in the Senate

Interestingly enough, we used to elect former governors to the Presidency, in large part because we found them to have had a great deal of relevant administrative experience and of having worked across the aisles in their own states to get things done.  Aside from John Kasich, who is still trying to get a leg up in the Republican party, three others have run during this election cycle.  All three washed out fairly early on:

Jeb Bush – two terms as governor

Chris Christie – two terms as governor

Martin O’Malley – two terms as governor

Beyond Martin O’Malley, the Democrats present a somewhat different resumé:

Hillary Clinton – one and a half terms in the Senate, four years as Secretary of State

Bernie Sanders – sixteen years in the House, two terms in the Senate

Jim Webb – one term in the Senate

Barack Obama (remember him?) – one term in the senate

John F. Kennedy (remember him??) – one term in the House, one term in the Senate

Why would either political party want to run candidates with little to no demonstrable experience of government?  Perhaps they fear that experience makes agnostics of us all.

Now we are down to five candidates.  On the Republican side, the front-runner has no experience of government, though he does have numerous bankruptcies and a track record of failed business schemes to his credit.  The two candidates chasing him each have one term in the Senate to their credit.  What did they actually manage to accomplish?  Not a whole lot.  Ted Cruz sponsored fifty-seven pieces of legislation and Marco Rubio one hundred and six.  Each has had only one piece of legislation passed into law. 

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton proposed seven hundred and thirteen pieces of legislation, but only three were passed into law.  And those three were fairly nondescript, the Kate Mullany National Historic Site (Troy, NY), the renaming of a post office in New York City (Major George Quamo Post Office Building) and the renaming of a section of State Route 20A as the Timothy J. Russert Highway.  Her tenure as Secretary of State has been the ongoing focus for much of the political discourse in both parties this cycle, and we may have to wait for numerous shoes to drop before we make a final assessment of it.  That being said, she did preside over the mess that has become Libya, Syria and the rise of ISIS.

The lone outlier in this election cycle and the only independent who also possesses a proven track record in government of working across the aisles and passing legislation is Bernie Sanders, whose accomplishments in some twenty-five years on Capitol Hill are too numerous to mention (so they are attached via a link below).

Perhaps it becomes a little easier to understand the level of enthusiasm people have felt for Sanders (due to his accomplishments) and Trump (due to his lack of political failures), the resignation to practicality which has greeted much of the Clinton campaign,  and the vitriol from both Cruz and Rubio, who really do not have much of a record on which to run. 

Each of the candidates has introduced a level of fear into their respective campaigns, often directed at the candidates of the other party.  The Republicans would have us fear immigrants, Muslim extremists, Socialist governmental programs, and the chance that the balance of power in the Supreme Court might switch, meaning the end of gun ownership and Christianity itself.  The Democrats are less unified in their expression of fear (aren’t they always).  Bernie Sanders fears the continued erosion of the middle and working classes and widening economic inequality in the country, while Hillary Clinton seems to fear that the nation will not settle for incremental progress toward hazy aspirations.

What should we fear?  From my vantage point, we should fear exactly what we now have, a society and a government so polarized that we cannot come together, compromise, and seek mutually beneficial solutions to stop the downward slide of the American Dream.  We may choose to imagine it differently, but in the end, we all have the same monster under the bed.  Fear, itself.

Rachel Maddow’s interview with Bernie Sanders:

https://www.facebook.com/aamir.pvz/videos/980505895331895/

Bernie’s record of accomplishment as member of the House and Senator:

https://pplswar.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/what-bernie-sanders-got-done-in-washington-a-legislative-inventory/

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail