How Far Will Dems Go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Primaries Come to the Boonies

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

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

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

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

Should Conservative Talk Radio Hosts Moderate the Next GOP Debate?

Friday, 10/30/2015 the RNC cancelled the next debate
with the mainstream media – this time, NBC – relative of CNBC, moderators of
the previous debate. The candidates were very unhappy with the way the debate
was run contending that they were not taken seriously. The questions, they
said, were ‘gotcha’ questions, meant to demean the candidates by suggesting
that they were jokes. 
While I do not like the policies these extreme
Republicans espouse I do think that these debates are meant to help voters hear
what each candidate intends to do if they win the way to the White House.
Asking someone if they are a cartoon figure is a question that should have no
place in a serious debate.
Ted Cruz, who the media claims won the debate by
calling attention to the tone of the moderators, said in an interview following
the debate that he thinks the next debate should be moderated by Glenn Beck,
Rush Limbaugh, and Mark Levin. I find this quite interesting. Whenever I hear
guests on news shows mention that Talk Radio might play a role in the voices of
the Tea Party and the partisan divide in Congress the media backs off from this
topic and waves a hand to indicate ‘erase that’, move on. Of course, not all
Talk Radio is right wing so perhaps the term is just inaccurate. At any rate it
would be difficult to have these particular moderators because they have no TV network
giving them access to such an expensive undertaking.
And so, although we don’t talk about it much, we all know
that Conservative Talk Radio has been stoking white fear, anger, and hate for
decades now. Although these hosts moved from radio to TV they did not get to stay on
TV for long. Telling white people that they are the true patriots, that America
was intended to be a white, Christian nation, that liberal Democrats are
actually socialists, or communists who are turning the Federal government into
a 1984- style dictatorship
controlling every aspect of human behavior has not helped the American dialogue
one bit. 
These Talk Radio guys had some right on their side.
It seems true that Washington, in its supposed zeal to keep Americans safe was
starting to hem people in with some pretty invasive regulations. But these guys
blew the dangers of mind control way out of proportion. It would be quite easy
to back off on some of the more invasive of the constraints and intrusions like
those of the NSA (which actually grew out of the Patriot Acts of the Republican
Presidency of George W. Bush).
However, once white people were injected with the
fear of obsolescence, the specter of a brown-skinned majority holding sway over
the white folks who had perhaps mistreated folks who were not white, many
Americas decided that they were not looking forward to changing places and
moving to an ‘inferior’ position. These fears may be well-founded or not, but
such a cultural flip may not be avoidable and may not entail the retribution
people fear. It would take decades of extreme repression and some rabbit-like
reproductive moves on the part of white people to keep this change in check,
but people used to exploitation and then freedom would not easily allow
themselves to suffer a new round of repression. Maybe making nice would be a
better approach and since we all have the same DNA would represent a useful
leap in cultural evolution.
Anyway, here we are with all these decades of
propaganda catching up with the nation and on display every time the giant
panel of GOP candidates takes the stage. Did Talk Radio create the Republican
base that these Republicans must now answer to or did Tea Party politicians
prime the harangues of Talk Radio to create this base which now holds their
feet to the fire. Did they create their own Frankenstein monster which they now
fear or are they quite happy with their monstrous creation? While income
inequality and the lack of rights that help women and the middle class at work
seem like much more germane issues for all but the richest Americans we are
instead caught up in all these false cultural straw men that cannot be solved
in any ways that fit the American Democratic ideals.
Still, it might be informative to watch a Republican
debate moderated by the Talk Radio trio who have gotten very wealthy by
peddling their fear and hate. In many rather monstrous ways they personify the
American Dream because Americans have never minded scamming their way to the
top.
By Nancy Brisson