The Republican Party – Art of the Bad Deal

GOP - Art of the Bad Deal
Contemporary Republicans often like to grab some semblance of righteousness by claiming (correctly) that it was the Grand Ole Party that became the political vessel to end the immoral practice of slavery in this country, and brought forth the 13th through 15th amendments. However, the Party of Lincoln has been dead for decades now and has more in common with George Wallace. In fact, the obscure political party (American Independent Party) who nominated Wallace in ’68 finally did win the presidency because their nominee in 2016 won. That nominee was Donald J. Trump — 45th President of the United States.

A Dispatch from Trumpistan —

I didn’t know where to start with this one. I’ve been putting this one off for awhile now. The events of the last week regarding President Trump’s (yes folks, he’s our president, just not a particularly good one) saber-rattling with North Korea, a country of 25 billion in GDP, which is less than most U.S. states, his bizarre tweets and statements inflaming the situation, and his continued disrespect for the office of the Presidency, made this one hard to focus on without addressing the elephant in the room.

Last night and today #Charlottesville has been trending and the videos we’ve witnessed have been terrifying, saddening, maddening, and any other adjective you could use to describe what is more or less a moral rock bottom. President Trump described the collection of “Unite the Right” activists from Alt-Right, Neo-Nazi, and other White Supremacists organizations and addressed the violence, and hatred spewing from this Virginia community as such:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides.

In this tweet there was not a mention of calling the rally for what it was: white supremacy. As of this writing, there has been one death and 19 injuries. The victims were counter-protesters, ran over by a truck–which quickly sped away (he has since been apprehended by the Charlottesville PD).

If Donald Trump and many on the Alt-Right, Alt-Reich, Corporate Media-Right, and their moderate to conservative enablers within the Republican Party are going to dish out eight years of lambasting President Obama for not using the phrase “radical, Islamic terrorism” then surely Trump and the GOP can be rightfully called out for refusing to call this what it is–white supremacy. A doctrine that has lived on and on in this country despite many grassroots movements throughout our history to alleviate the worst effects of it. One of such effort culminated in the creation of the last third party in this country to replace a major party, the Republican Party. The Republican Party grew out of the abolitionist movement, it grew out of the collective failure of the two parties of the time: the Whigs and the Democrats, to properly address the issue at hand that was fracturing the union and eventually led to a civil war.

Many members of the early Republican Party were profoundly radical, profoundly righteous, profoundly patriotic, and ultimately–they were the progressives of their day. Had I been alive in 1855, I would have fled my former party the Whigs (as future President Lincoln did) and joined this new party in Illinois.

History demanded a new party and drastic solutions to brings us closer to a more perfect union. But that Republican Party is no more and they have not existed for over a 100 years. They are not the party of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, or even George W. Bush either. They are now the American Independent Party, which nominated George Wallace for president in 1968. In 2016 this obscure but still active political party nominated Donald Trump as their candidate in the state of California. Trump was the first GOP nominee that the American Independent Party ever nominated, Wallace included (who was southern Democrat).

And now the GOP and the movement conservative project started in ’55, combined with the Powell memo of ’71 has achieved their dream–completely one party control of the US Government at all levels. Although if Buckley were alive today I think he’d be likely to call it a failure already, and a nightmare. Who still wants to associate with this madness? Was it worth the change to enact the long-term policy dreams of Ayn Rand worshippers of the invisible hands and the God of money like Speaker Paul Ryan (who has condemned the events of today in much stronger tones than the President has).

The GOP tried to stop Trump, it failed. The Democrats tried to stop Trump, they also failed. Perhaps primarily because they had underestimated how many mainstream Republicans would hold their nose and say: “the Supreme Court.” Agreeing Loudly never had such fantasies (see below).

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Agreeing Loudly humorist, historian, and noted public intellectual Allan Branstiter understands the dynamics of U.S. elections more than (permanent) Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (“for every working class vote we lose, we’ll pick up 2 or 3 professional class voters.”)

The Grand Old Party of Lincoln and TR is dead. Long dead. The GOP of today made a deal for power, which corrupts, and corrupts absolutely, especially when absolutely given. That deal is now a nightmare for the majority of the American people, and is being felt every day within the corridors of power by longtime D.C. observers. This is the Art of the Bad Deal.

Nothing is sacred with this administration, and the effects of that are clearly influencing the populace, especially the newly embolden and previously hidden dark corners of this country, who were out in full force in Virginia this weekend.

During the 2016 campaign Trump, who is a full-on draft-dodger and once compared not contracting STDs in the 1970’s as his “personal Vietnam”, mocked John McCain (“he got caught, I like my war heroes to not get caught”), criticized the U.S. military and its service-members, lied about his financial charitable support for veterans’ charities, and ridiculed for political purpose, the Gold Star parents of a fallen soldier. But none of that matters because the “tyranny of political correctness” or something….

Well please allow me to switch to my political incorrect mode then.

The modern-day Republican Party has become a moral abomination. Notice I’m talking about the political party itself and the issue-stances it carries publicly, as well as privately. I’m not talking about Republican voters. I know many of them are good and decent people who simply cannot bring themselves to vote for a Democrat. I understand that most modern-day voter turnout is motivated first and foremost, by hatred of the “other side.” But think about that for a minute… is this sustainable for even another election cycle or two? 

Trump isn’t some isolated incident and bizarre series of unfortunate events. Rather, he is the natural conclusion and culmination of four decades of political, economic, social, and cultural trends in American life.

But while many of the voters that supply the Republican Party with its electoral power may be motivated by fear of immigrants and terrorism (see: 2016 election, Trump won on voters who cited immigration and terrorism as their top issues, Clinton won on the economy and foreign policy). Not only did Trump win in the manner that this website, on its podcast feared back in 2015/early ’16, through running a campaign on overt themes of white nationalism, and fear-based rhetoric around immigration and terrorism (all irrational fears, because nearly everything else is what is actually more likely to harm or kill you), but its perhaps more important to note why this is the strategy of the GOP now, rather than how.

I would argue it is to provide distractions from the policies that otherwise, the vast majority of the American people would never sign onto. It is the same agenda they have been trying for and striving toward for decades.

1. Elimination of social insurance programs (the incredibly popular Medicare, Social Security) and other cuts to social service programs;

2. Privatization of as many public services as possible (up next: education); and,

3. Continuing to rig electoral laws to their forever advantage.

Anti Republican Cartoon in 1860.jpg
1860 political cartoon lampooning the then-new and righteous Republican Party, which started as a third party that grew out of the abolitionist movement to become the legal and political vessel for power when the major parties of the day (Whig and Democratic) proved incapable of reform, and incapable of rising to the historical moment. We are at a similar crossroads today….

Republican policy aims (long-term) are what encouraged them to go along with this…  it is what encouraged them to sign this bargain–the Art of the Bad Deal, and while it is (and could in the future now that the path is clear and while the Democrats remain incompetent) electorally successful, it will ultimately be long-remembered and the beginning of the end for the once-proud GOP, a party formed out of the abolitionist movement, formed with righteousness on their side, only to be reduced to an intellectual and moral embarrassment.

Joe Scarborough has left the party. Evan McMullin did in 2016. While others have joined it, like West Virginia Governor Jim Justice.

That being said, this version of the Republican Party, at least for me, has actually validated some of the better rhetorical pieces of authentic American conservatism (which I hold does not exist as a relevant political force anymore: hence my often-told joke “conservatives don’t exist, Democrats don’t exist”) that sound nice to some if not many, but that we now know the Republican Party is completely unserious about.

Liberals and progressives and moderates (because centrists don’t exist, except in think-tanks and Democratic candidate creation labs) alike should be thinking locally, should re-engage with federalism and constitutionalism, and whether you value or consider yourself religious or a Christian, it is of vital national security and civilizational importance that we re-engage with our faith lives, because there truly are a lot of good lessons to be learned there, and what is currently characterizing Christianity in this country cannot continue.

There is no monopoly on civic virtue, belief, patriotism, etc. But there is the law and theory of dominance politics. Therefore, we cannot let what happened today and last night in Virginia become a national normal otherwise we are doomed to permanent civic and societal decline.

In addition to those silver linings, the GOP and this current administration have accidentally given us a couple of gifts–if we utilize and recognize them as such, and if we snap out of the “history is already written” syndrome that has washed over so many good-hearted Americans, who feel increasingly hopeless in 2017. In years past we had to do some research and infer certain coded themes. Those days are no more. Things are open and notorious now, clear and obvious.

Tucker Carlson replacing Bill O’Reilly symbolizes the distinction between the old “hidden or more disguised” GOP demagoguery, and the new obvious kind by going after not just illegal immigration, but the immigration population generally.

This obviousness is similarly true within government itself. The GOP has long been a partner with the Corporate State. They were the first ones to sign onto the Corporate States of America (founded in 1971, their constitution: the Powell Memo) and their corruption and cronyism, and evidence of big business buying out and colluding with big government to enact the agenda of corporate American, rather than the preferences and beliefs of the vast majority of the American people, manifests itself quite clearly in someone like Secretary of State Tillerson, who is literally the CEO of Exxon Mobil.

This isn’t hard to do anymore. In Trumpistan–no one is even bothering with the dog and pony show, no one is even trying cover up the grift, graft, and rift-raft. And the American people, especially the young generation, the largest one in our history, will long-remember this. Generational solidarity and class solidarity is more likely to happen in our time than ever before.

The major political parties, while legally entrenched with power for now, and economically and financially secure, with propaganda networks at their disposal, despite all these advantages–they are eroding before our eyes. Armed with the traditional sources of power, their societal credibility and integrity has hit rock bottom. A bottom from which it may never emerge from.

So what now? What am I proposing? How do we unravel the Art of the Bad Deal and save the New Deal? How do we save democracy in this country, constitutional governance, and keep this country from unraveling in our time?

It’s quite simple to me now. We have to be for and positively contribute to whatever political movement and counter-force (and the energy and evidence exist everywhere you look right now for the possibilities) that drives the Art of the Bad Deal and this Republican Party into electoral irrelevancy and into the dustbin of history.

 

The Democratic Party – An Identity Crisis

WTF
Sadly, this is not from the Onion. This was a genuine attempt at messaging from DCCC. Folks, we’ve got some work to do….

An exchange I had on January 19th, 2017 in front of the Trump building where tens of thousands of New Yorkers gathered on the last night of the Obama Presidency and before the Trump Presidency began.

Me: No, no I’m not interested in the third party option, for a variety of reasons there are too many obstacles to that. We’ve gotta reform the Democratic Party from within and/or take it over.

Activist: Yeah, good luck with that…

When history is written, I’ll probably end up being on the wrong side of the argument, at least on January 19th. That is, I will be if things don’t change in a hurry.

While no analysis of how we got here is perfect (although the impeccable “Listen, Liberal!” by Thomas Frank gets close), here is my quick rundown of the top ten “Shatter-points” in the history of the Democratic Party that got them to this point. This is meant to be observational. I morally agree with a few of these developments (Civil Rights and Voting Rights, the need to protest and end the Vietnam War).

  1. Taft-Hartley (1948) | Right-to-work legislation is now on the table and begins in earnest.
  2. The Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act (LBJ’s quote: “we’ve just lost the south for a generation.” That proved to be mostly true, as no Democrat was able to win a national election without hailing from the south until Barack Obama won with parts of the “new south” like Virginia and North Carolina).
  3. Assassinations of 1960s political and moral leaders (JFK, Bobby, MLK Jr., Malcolm X, Fred Hampton).
  4. The Vietnam War (Considerable domestic unrest, a significant generational divide reared its head during 1968, not unlike what happened last year.  The ’68 campaign cycle is still above and beyond ’16, which was more so depressing because of most of the candidates, and the way the media covered the campaigns, etc.)
  5. Rejecting figures like Ralph Nader (who at one time was one of the most admired figures in America in the late 60’s/early 70’s) and small-d democracy in general. Not putting Nader on the ’72 ticket was but an illustration, the more precise problem was pushing his mindset out of the party in general. There is no doubt the ’72 defeat was crushing, but the Democratic Party overreacted to it. McGovern did not lose because he was too far left, he lost because he was not a good national candidate, ran a bad campaign, and was facing the best and most shrewd politician of his generation in Nixon. Did you see the GOP overreact and moderate themselves in the long run after Barry Goldwater was crushed in ’64? No. They stuck to their principles and in the long run were rewarded for it).
  6. Carter bailing on labor, Clinton bailing on labor. (Both post-New Deal-era Democratic Presidents hailed from the south, which was never a strong base for organized labor, but that doesn’t excuse the party becoming less and less friendly to one of its most reliable constituencies historically. Free trade policies like NAFTA ensured organized labor had no place to go in American politics and their long decline would continue. Labor today stands at just over 11 percent (from a point where 1/3 of all workers belonged to a union, as high as 40% in the manufacturing belt of the Midwest and Great Lakes states at on time) and just like post-NAFTA, stands at a crossroads themselves.
  7. Clinton triangulating on a plethora of bad policies that directly punishes reliable democratic constituencies (NAFTA, Crime Bill, Ending Welfare as we know it, Financial De-Regulation, and Tele-communications De-Regulation which ensured the AM talk radio and cable news dominance for the next generation). At the end of the day, Bill Clinton deserves a lot of blame for some incredibly short-term thinking that may have benefited his popularity personally and politically at the time, but in the long run ruined the Democratic Party. There may be a lot of ink spent on how many seats were lost during the Obama years, but the damage was already done, and former President Barack Obama mostly inherited a Clintonian Democratic Party that was built around Bill and built around Hillary taking over the White House in a Clinton restoration in 2008…or 2016…or 2020?
  8. Doubling-down on the Corporate Alliance (Wall Street, Big Pharma, Big Auto, Big Tech, Big Everything, against the Little People) In the late 70s the Democratic Party began openly courting corporate sources for campaign funding. One of the key issues that gave Obama momentum during the ’08 primary was refusing Super-PAC money early on. The party itself ended its ban on corporate lobbyist and Super-PAC money late in the Obama years, in anticipation of President HRC.
  9. Failing to Cultivate the Young Talent and Build the Farm from the Obama years. Ultimately, it was the ground effort and labor of the millennial generation that put Obama over the top in Iowa in 2008. And then in the general election. The Democratic Party has failed to cultivate its young leaders, paying only lip service to this. “Lip service” is a continuing theme with the Democratic Party of the 21st century. Whether it is about the problems facing an indebted generation, ending forever war, the corporate takeover of the country, or racial equity. What strong talk there is on these issues is often not backed up by strong actions.
  10. And finally, yes, I’m sorry, but going with Clinton over Sanders was a mistake. (It is my belief that Bernie Sanders, if nominated, would have won, and his coattails could have been substantial, perhaps saving the party from the rock bottom that this website has consistently predicted was around the corner. The Democratic Party should have listening to its younger members which overwhelming went with Sanders across-the-board, the members they have failed to cultivate, and in-fact are more likely to attack these days.)
Sigh...
What could have been.

And as a bonus: lets be honest — there simply is no “membership” in the Democratic Party.

Populism is associated with President Trump right now, and that is a shame. Because populism isn’t a political ideology, it is a mode and theory of who is going to be empowered and where influence will come from and be most respected.

The simplest explanation of how we got to where we are is the GOP embracing its populist movements, no matter how uncomfortable it may have made the GOP elites, and the Democratic Party refusing to embrace its own populist movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. Depressing turnout among the progressive base and youth, and running campaigns that are characterized more so by what you are not, rather than what you are and what you stand for, and will do, is what has created the current situation. The voices and so-called membership of the Democratic Party refuse to listen and simply do not get it. Anyone who has attended fundraisers or meetings knows what I’m talking about. It’s a very top-down led party that does not deal with criticism well and as is incredibly evident in 2017–refuses to do the soul searching that is necessary after historical defeats.

In addition to this top-down, failed strategy, the Democratic Party has become a “fundraising machine” of coastal elites.

If it wants to survive — it has to become a movement. It must embrace movement progressivism the same way the GOP embraced movement conservatism.

If you think I’m being too harsh, come back next week as I take down the GOP from top to bottom. I’m writing these words out of love for my country and its people. Any political system that produces these results must be thoroughly analyzed and criticized across the board.

This is not about Hillary Clinton (who full disclosure, I fully expect will run again in 2020 because my wife has a bizarre track record of being right about these things). In a lot of ways and in some parts of the country, HRC is more popular than the party brand itself. Take a look at the 30 million dollar special election in Georgia. Jon Ossoff, a millennial, who ran on meaningless platitudes of everything being “connected”, the need cut wasteful spending, all while refusing to endorse popular policies progressives and other Americans support like single payer, tax hikes on the wealthy, and ending big money in politics. Ossoff, despite all of the money and the attention, lost by a larger margin than Hillary did in the district. The Democrats have tried to message these closer losses than before as “moral victories” rather than an indictment of establishment politics, corporate neoliberalism, or the generational and ruling class consensus. I’m sure Jon is a nice guy, but there will be no big millennial turnout to reverse the direction of the country if millennials are not allowed to run on what most millennials actually prefer. If young candidates run to please the establishment and status quo it won’t work.

But lets end with something productive — where do we go from here? There are two paths the progressive movement can go, and the answer can be BOTH.

 

Plan A: Take the grassroots movement, and eventually go through the Democratic Party as the vessel (50 states, 3000 counties, primary Corporate Democrats, don’t listen to the Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi’s of the world, etc.)

Plan B: The viable third party movement path (a combination of Draft Bernie for a People’s Party, adding and creating a coalition with WFP, who exist in 13 states, the Green Party, Progressive Democrats of America, and non-party affiliated issue-based movements, in addition to realizing the two fundamental loopholes the two party system has never covered up: 1. There is nothing that binds a state or local party org to its national organization. In other words, if progressives takeover the Wyoming Democratic Party, they can later attach themselves to the People’s Party AND 2. Just because a progressive candidate goes through the Democratic or Republican primaries to win, does not mean they have to continue to stay there. If turncoats like the IDC in New York state can block needed electoral and voting reforms, single-payer healthcare in NY State, why not just pull off the opposite?)

I’ll end with former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s 8 point plan for a new Democratic Party (pay close attention to number 8)

1. Overhaul the DNC
2. Embrace populism
3. Mobilize, energize and educate the base
4. Expose Trump as a fraud
5. Focus on 2018 now
6. Look to the state and local level
7. Protect groups threatened by Trump
8. Failing all else, look outside the party

We will disagree in many measures, but one thing we all must agree on is this — “change will not come from the Democratic Party, change can only be brought to it.”

If we continue on the same path, if we listen to what Mark Penn wants to do (NY Times July 6th op-ed “Back to the Center, Democrats“), not only will Donald Trump be re-elected, but the incredibly deep bench of younger GOP national candidates could very well win in 2024.

This should go without saying but nobody should listen to Mark Penn, who is more interested in protecting his consultancy than improving outcomes for all Americans.

We should listen to the youth, and let them build a movement that has a realistic plan to deal with the dangers and realities of the 21st century.

Not just change we can believe in, but a future we can believe in.

Not just the Resistance, but Beyond Resistance.

Not just “mere politics”, but Beyond Politics, backed by a moral worldview and value-set that can then work its way toward the policies we’re fighting for.

A Nation of Strangers

this-map-shows-the-us-really-has-11-separate-nations-with-entirely-different-cultures
An update on my call to “pierce bubbles” from just after the election. Here is my report of where things stand and my take on what the mood of the electorate is.

Earlier this spring while speaking with educators and mentors of mine who were visiting New York City from my hometown in the midwest, a voice called out to me “you live here?”

“Yes, ma’am, I do”, I replied. A politeness that does not leave me just because I’m in Urbania now, which is filled with politeness by the way, it’s just a different sort of politeness. And it’s politeness that demands awareness of impoliteness.

“I’m sorry” she quipped, meaning it as a joke and an insult. I did not take offense, other than to say that I liked living here and that I chose to live here. I was not aware that I am a person to be pitied for living where my family chose to settle.

In the same month, the long and destructive journalistic, or as he would prefer it to be called, “political analyst” career (i.e. his opinion) of Bill O’Reilly has gone up in flames, ending with a 25 million dollar pay check, because of course it did. Trevor Noah cleverly covered this occasion with a takedown of O’Reilly that has been done time and time again by Jon Stewart before him, but he brought something to the forefront that I think is revealing of my entire efforts to “pierce bubbles.”

Bill O’Reilly is and always was a caricature of what the American mind and spirit has become. Spewing rhetoric that divides us, spending more time on fighting against something than fighting for something. His world of make-believe American history, faux virtue-signaling, attempts to monopolize patriotism, and assassination porn became our own for many Americans as Fox News and other corporate media outlets became consumed by the “sensationalism and conflict bias.” And that’s what the real bias in the media has always been. O’Reilly pushed his fears of the “other” onto the American people on a nightly basis. His comically absurd story of visiting the famous Harlem restaurant Sylvia’s in my view, is the most striking example of his worldview, and what has increasingly become–a defining reason why we’ve become a nation of strangers.

I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patron-ship. … There wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming ‘M-Fer, I want more iced tea. — Bill O’Reilly

O’Reilly had built his entire view of black culture and the capital of black America–Harlem, from stereotypes, hearsay, and never sought out sources that would disagree with his viewpoint because most of our mainstream political discourse has just been reduced to a Google search (i.e. google something to confirm what I already think and want confirmed). The rare times he sought out opposing viewpoints — O’Reilly would yell at them at the top of his lungs on his cable news or talk radio program.

Folks, we’re a nation of strangers in 2017 and we have been for some time. The United States of America is not just many different states but many different states of mind. And this is actually part of the reason why we’ve been so dynamic and vibrant historically. But this has always come with a steep price.

What this election has revealed to me and what subsequent events have revealed since is that our American political factions hold no respect for one another, and that this disrespect has reached the personal level.

If we make it through the next four years, I can only hope that both parties do something to remedy this, because until we have removed all of this type of rhetoric and basic lack of civility, decency, and respect from our systems, this nation will continue to be hopelessly divided.

If our two major parties are incapable of doing this, which is especially saddening and maddening when you factor in just how similar they are about the big ticket economic and foreign policy issues, then a viable new third party movement will be needed, not only to address the growing divide between the political and economic leaders and the people, but to also serve as mediator and bubble piercer between irrational appeal to D vs. R, American against American.

Until next time, take care of yourself out there.

 

 

All Hands on Deck at The People’s Summit

The People's Summit
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spoke and then posed for this photograph with the over 5,000 leaders, organizers, activists, and followers at the 2017 People’s Summit in Chicago.

You cannot build a movement for the common people if you hold the common people in contempt. — Thomas Frank at the 2017 People’s Summit

Chicago, IL — This past weekend Jered Weber and I attended the 2nd annual People’s Summit. The first one in 2016, was held shortly after Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), went from a little known and self-described democratic socialist to the brink of the Democratic Party nomination. Taking on Hillary Clinton (D-NY), former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State in the first Obama administration, who had nearly every endorsement from Democratic elected officials and party leaders, as well as the support of corporate America, Sanders received 46% of the primary vote.

Assembling a coalition of millennials who had previously helped put then-Senator Obama over the top in the 2008 presidential primary and general election, progressives, independents, and populists, Sanders shocked the country, especially the donor and billionaire class by proving that in the Age of Citizens United, there was another way forward. There was another way to run a viable national campaign without having to offer fealty to the Super PACS, corporate lobbyists, and special interests holding the country back in the 20th century.

And what was remarkable to so many who flocked to the campaign, new and old, of all different generations and backgrounds, was that it was the ideas and message that mattered. It was the positivity of the campaign and its focus on the issues, and it was the remarkable consistency and authenticity of the candidate throughout the years.

Sanders repeatedly explained that when the people come together in common effort, they win. It was never about him, it was about a “future to believe in.” And we now know it was never about him because the campaign never ended, because ultimately, it was more of a movement than a campaign to begin with.

And that is where the People’s Summit comes in.

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The People’s Summit is first and foremost, an Ideas Summit.

Not just ideas for the future of the country, but also ideas on how to fundamentally improve and outright save our democracy. Those critical of the People’s Summit only needed to give these ideas attention at the Center for American Progress and perhaps they would not have to get mad that not everyone is falling in line and “uniting.” Before moving on to an analogy for what to think about the People’s Summit, let me just say that no matter which route one prefers to moving this country forward, there is no need to come together on the issues, on party unity, or anything other than basic civility and decency because we still have three years to go. In other words–see you in 2020.

Bubbles need to be pierced, and introspection and national conversations must continue en masse.

Now onto how to think about the People’s Summit in terms of what it means for the future.

Each year movement conservatism (or what passes as that these days) has its annual ideas conference called the Conservative Political Action Conference, put on by the American Conservative Union. Think of it as a “State of the Movement” address to conservatives from all across the country. Upcoming elected officials and advocates often get heavily promoted and featured at the conference. In addition to think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and others, CPAC gathers all of the various grassroots conservative groups and organizations from around the country. Not being included almost serves as a statement that one is not “conservative” enough or not a “true conservative.”

CPAC operates very much like an ideas and state of the movement arm of the major American political party on the right–the Republican Party.

In 2003, recognizing the power think tanks, ideas conferences and so forth had in propelling the conservative movement to electoral victories through its political arm–the Republican Party, John Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, which is both a think tank and has an annual conference. There is no mystery that the annual CAP conference and its ideas are heavily attached to the Democratic Party. But while the Democratic Party was slow to jump on the think tank bandwagon and invest heavily in the think tank model in comparison to the GOP, its adoption of that model and investment in it represent the final shunning of its historical roots as the FDR “party of the people.” Consider this, CAP founder Podesta was national Chair of the Clinton campaign, Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, and later counselor to President Barack Obama, made several versions of this sentiment throughout the 2016 election cycle:

For every working class voter we lose, we’ll pick up 2 or 3 professional class voters.

That’s the thing with the establishment or corporate Dems. I’m not much of an ideologue, I have a governing and leadership philosophy yes, but at the end of the day I have a healthy respect for facts. A respect that is lacking in so many political leaders and those who cover and follow our nation’s politics today. I’m fine with compromising. All democracies and constitutional systems require it. However, what incentive do people who do not like to compromise their belief systems have to follow a strategy that not only is not their views in key areas, but also does not and has not won? I submit these simple truths about where the party stands in terms of electoral strategy:

And I direct these six points of logic to the failed Podesta mentality from above and a similar mentality echoed by (permanent) Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), which stated that “for every working class vote we lose, we’ll pick up 2-3 moderate Republican voters.”

  1. There are not enough professional class voters to form the consensus.
  2. The ones who realigned from the GOP to the Democratic Party did so years ago.
  3. The ones still in the GOP are rich and unpersuadable.
  4. Working class voters are more numerous and more diverse than ever.
  5. Some of them are even organized already, through this thing called collective bargaining.
  6. You can’t build a party of the people if you have contempt for the people. You have to talk directly to the people about the issues, all the people.

Please note that when I say the working class I always mean that anyone who has to work for a living to keep existing. Many choose to work for a living and that is great, but their livelihood does not necessarily depend on it, and they likely have multiple streams of passive income.

Speaking of passive income, George Soros, a major funder of CAP and constant boogeyman that the right wing media likes to use to discredit policy agenda and goals, is not too different from the Koch brothers or any other member of the billionaire class engaged in electoral politics in the Citizens United age if one does not personally agree with George Soros. And that is the problem.

Neither party is seriously committed to taking on big, unaccountable, but organized money in politics.

If you are super-rich in America, or anyone really who can sit on their hands making millions in passive income revenue streams, and if your preferred party (whether Dems or GOP) does not win, you always have the other major party to protect your interests for the most part, with only a few exceptions.

It’s the same model. Controlled by the donor class, and dependent on the labor of others to keep itself in power both politically and economically.

And this is where the People’s Summit comes in. Ideas and voices, organizers and activists, leaders and followers that were shunned or not invited to CAP.

I would argue the People’s Summit is an ideas conference, that allows for networking, learning, and updating on the “state of the movement”, similar to CPAC. As of now, it is without a political party attached to it, but I have no doubt, shall a viable third party arise in the next few years, it will be called the People’s Party and it will have started and spear-headed by the 5,000 or so people that have attended the Summit, and those that followed along online, etc.

The central organizing goal of the movement, like the Republican Party, the last third party to replace a major party before in the 1850’s with slavery, is the biggest moral issue of our time — economic inequality and the forces that continue to make it worse, organized big money in politics and legalized bribery and corruption.

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A Future Beyond Party Labels and Endless Partisan and Media Sensationalism. A Future that is not just Resistance, but Beyond Resistance

In the weeks to come, this website will be recommitting itself to trying to churn out regular content the best we can. Apologies if we miss the mark on that front, as we all have busy lives in addition to written commentary, podcasting, etc.

This weekend the third season of the Agreeing Loudly podcast will be on just one topic and prompt: the Third Party option.

In addition, I’m hoping to finish up three articles in a “state of” series on the nation, the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party.

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While we will never know for sure if “Bernie Would Have Won” — what we do know is that he is easily the most popular politician in America. And while there are loud voices among those 20% of self-identified Democrats that do not like him, especially in the media, corporate America, and on the Twitter-verse, the facts are that the “BernieBro” or lack of diversity myths do not hold up to scrutiny.

If this coalition translated to the electoral college, which I understand is a big leap of logic this far out, but bear with me here, if that DID happen, you would not just see a Sanders victory over the most unpopular presidential candidate of all time (candidate Trump) but you could possibly see the first genuine popular vote AND electoral college landslide since 1988 (and to a lesser extent 2008).

 

My Constructive Criticism of the Summit.

First of all, folks at the summit of all stripes were amazingly self-reflective of what could have gone better not just for the movement, but also for the 2016 Sanders campaign for President.

My two points for potential improvements to next years Summit.

  1. Get a vets or foreign policy-focused speaker to talk about and call for a national “Peace and Security” movement. There are massive levels of economic implications to our #ForeverWar policy that tie into the larger issues presented by the movement. The social and economic costs in caring for our veterans and veterans issues have been some of the best policy work that Senator Sanders has done, so it only makes sense to feature this going forward.
  2. Reach out to Republicans concerned with the direction of their party, big money in politics, and the growing, unsustainable levels of economic inequality. Perhaps this one will be more controversial, but if we’re truly to talk to everyone, we have to mean it. And we see evidence every day, not so much amongst Republican political leaders but we do see it amongst the rank and file and they are growing uncomfortable with the Trump-led GOP. The GOP is dominated by the interests of the donor and billionaire class even more so than the Democrats most years, and disillusioned Republicans becoming former Republicans would be a key feature of any future coalition, especially in current red to light-red states.

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The participants were divided on the question of a Third Party movement, but were engaged, passionate, and committed to the future no matter what — it’s an “All Hands on Deck” strategy for saving democracy for all and creating a 21st century economy that works for the many and not just the few. 

Division is nothing new in this political age. Like the rest of the country, there was a split in views at the Summit. Progressives and populists committed to taking on the corporate state are divided on how best to achieve the desired results of taking on big money in politics and tackling the moral issue of our time–the highest levels of economic inequality in a century. 

My unscientific observations of the sentiments is that the People’s Summit activists, organizers, leaders, and followers prefer starting a vital third party movement in this country. This is a sentiment I agree with more and more each day. However, for the time being, reforming the Democratic Party by taking it over seems to be the immediate goal and interest. A goal that has seen mixed results, winning some small battles early on, but losing the more high-profile battles like the DNC Chair election, California Democratic Party Chair election, etc. What is clear though is the ideas and message is winning over public opinion in America at-large. Significant portions of the speech last Saturday highlighted that.

And what is vitally true, is that we have now reached a 1955 William F. Buckley moment for progressives that this website had called for in 2015 and 2016 throughout the Presidential campaign as all of us ranted and raved about how badly the Democratic Party was going to bottom out in the coming years.

Progressives and populists have finally come to terms with the failure of the current model of the Democratic Party, and from this day forward–everyone knows that change will not come from the Democratic Party, change can only be brought to the Democratic Party. And the more and more party leadership grasps onto and protects their hold on power, even in the name of electoral viability (which is a ridiculous reason when you’ve lost nearly every election), the more and more power the movement, independent of any party control–will be. One way or another, the neoliberal and professional class consensus is over. And thank God for that.

I do not say these things lightly. After all, I am a member of the professional class in this country, but I also think that the younger cohorts of the professional class (Gen X and millennials, those under 45 or so) have far more in common (because of issues with student debt, broader acceptance of diversity, etc.) with the concerns of the working class (now more diverse than at any time in American history) than the concerns of the professional class consensus, whose obsession with incrementalism, education and innovation as a key to mitigating inequality (when in reality, it’s rationalizing it), and insistence that all problems can be solved from Harvard or Yale yard, Wall Street or Silicon Valley, New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles, or by lawyers or financial service professionals, etc.

If the leadership of the party would rather go down on the Titanic, so long as they have a first class seat, then so be it. The overriding focus of the People’s Summit was not to re-litigate the 2016 election, but to move beyond just merely resisting what the Trump administration is doing, because guess what? That only goes so far, both in practical day-to-day terms and in electoral terms.

Folks, the only way out of this is to win elections, and to win elections you need a party willing to adopt a better message. A message capable of capturing a large majority of the nation and turning out and inspiring more voters than at any other point in modern U.S. history, because there are significant obstacles in gerrymandering and voter suppression to overcome.

The ideas and message of the folks who attended the People’s Summit were not welcome at the CAP conference this year, so we took them to our own conference, in the same state where the last successful third party movement in America took off from, Illinois.

The Republican Party was founded as an abolitionist party to end the immoral practice of slavery in this country. Similarly, if neither major party takes seriously the issue of big money in politics and the fact that we are in a 2nd Gilded Age, then it is highly likely that the movement makes a clean break. But as of now, in practical terms, the prevailing consensus was that there is not enough time for 2018, and undecided about 2020.

One of the conference speakers Thomas Frank (writer, historian, and co-founder of the Baffler), put it best at the end of his most recent book “Listen, Liberal!” which was written almost as if he already knew the 2016 electoral result, even though it was published in the summer.

Direct solutions are off the table for the moment… Democrats have no interest in reforming themselves in a more egalitarian way. There is little the rest of us can do, given the current legal arrangements of this country, to a build a vital third-party movement or to revive organized labor, the one social movement that is committed by its nature to pushing back against the inequality trend.

What we can do is strip away the Democrats’ precious sense of their own moral probity–to make liberals live without the comforting knowledge that righteousness is always on their side. It is that sensibility, after all, that prevents so many good-hearted rank-and-file Democrats from understanding how starkly and how deliberately their political leaders contradict their values. Once that contradiction has been made manifest–once that smooth, seamless sense of liberal virtue has been cracked, anything becomes possible. The course of the party and the course of the country can both be changed, but only after we understand that the problem is us.

“The Ties That Bind” – A National Healthcare Act and More

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In light of the spectacular failure of the AHCA, which failed to garner any sort of support, despite being proposed under a one-party state, I’d like to propose what is the only real alternative to the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that is attractive to the public.

There are two truths that I’d like to bring up at the outset that provide context for not just the events of the past week, but also the entire Trump era.

1.) It can be argued that the people of the United States of America lean conservative philosophically, but they most certainly lean progressive, if not outright prefer progressivism, in policy-making and public policy.

2.) Every GOP policy proposal and new law will be an attempt to transfer yet more and more wealth to the richest Americans and corporations, under the auspices of “freedom”, “choice”, “responsibility”, and “effort.”

Earlier in the week on the Mark Zuckerberg machine I made the claim that I could come up with a better health care law in ten minutes. Later on I followed up on it and came up with this (slightly edited and italicized below):

Now that I’ve had ten minutes what I would do is merge federal health care bureaucracy under a Medicare-for-all plan with the option for states to pass and implement their own plan that goes further if they’d like. There would then be a multi-year phasing into period to allow for providers to adjust. The insurance markets would then compete on top of that. They’d have the same adjustment period that providers would have. Single payer would be better for employers, workers, certainly the uninsured, would be a big win for children and young families, and insurance companies would come out the biggest loser. Which I am fine with. States retain their autonomy by being allowed to make their own plan that could supplant but must cover all the parts of the federal (freedom to go further, not less) single payer. The same constitutional arguments made to defend Medicare for over-65 can then be applied to 0 to 65. Healthcare bureaucracy becomes leaner, more efficient, less complex. This along with programs like universal basic income through the social security administration would be the “social vaccine” that the 21st century requires. We can either go in this direction and come together or we’ll continue to be divided, disenfranchised and fail alone.

That’s basically the gist of it. That is the direction that I think the country should go, and the people of the United States of America agree.

Since then, the AHCA or “secret bill” that Speaker Paul Ryan had locked in the capitol basement, and the entire reason for the GOP being so irrationally opposed the ACA (“Obamacare”) for seven years (i.e. ACA is “government” and our plan is “not government”) in the first place, proved to be so historically unpopular with nearly every segment of the U.S. population and members of Congress, that they had to pull it from the house floor this last week. Allan, Carson, and I discussed in greater detail just how revealingly bad the AHCA proposed replacement to the ACA was in the most recent “Margin of Error” episode.

Revealing in the sense that any stated purpose for the bill, whether it be controlling government or private costs, health care coverage, improving health outcomes, or any other conceivable reason the federal government would have to take up passing any sort of health care law, by all objective measures, the proposed bill was a failure. Proving the majority party in Congress and the Trump administration to either be objectively bad at crafting sensible public policy, or just objectively declaring war on more and more sections of the American public. Taken with every other major proposal so far, it is quite clear what the true goal of the Republican Party is and has always been. Systematic deconstruction of government by any means necessary, and transferring that power to select large and already powerful corporations.

When crafting health care legislation, why is it even necessary or relevant to have tax cuts that benefit the very, very wealthy? In a bill that is only 60 pages long, why is it necessary to have 10 pages dedicated to lottery winners potentially on Medicaid? There are nearly more hall of famers that have played CF for the New York Yankees than there are lottery winners on Medicaid. How much money does that even save the government? It’s statistically negligible.

It’s not just health care, lets move to the proposed infrastructure bill. It puts the interests of private companies over the public interest in the form of allowing companies to recoup the return on their investment through fees and tolls. This is the sort of “forced consumerism” that has become more and more popular in GOP policy-making.

This week, the Senate and House repealed necessary FCC rules that protected internet privacy. A massive victory for the telecom industry and just another version of “forced consumerism.” Now more and more content will be directly delivered to your “digital doorstep” asking you to spend more and more money to enrich corporations, the massively rich and powerful, who will then turn around and ensure the political system continues to work for them rather than you. This country, even before the results of the 2016 Election, is at a cross-roads.

We can go the route of the above, more tax giveaways to the rich, more forever war, Gilded Age levels of economic inequality, and “forced consumerism”, or we can endorse “we all do better when we all do better”, recognize “the ties that bind” us all together, and build sustainable communities and locally-based economies that integrate when necessary, all while building a badly needed and necessary social safety net of the 21st century.

The Ties That Bind” us together as a community would have us move toward a universal health care centered around some version of a Medicare-for-all single payer plan. The Ties That Bind would further endorse universal basic income that would learn from the experiments of the Northern European social democracies with that very policy idea right now. One dollar spent on a child in poverty today saves society three to nine dollars when they are an adult.

Furthermore, rather than penalize the largest and most educated cohort in American history through mandated “forced consumerism” while they are already saddled with crushing student debt, stagnant wages and opportunities in comparison to their parents at a similar age, we should stimulate the economy, especially in the area of housing (the fourth largest sector and one of the only sectors of the “real and tangible” economy left) and have some version of a student loan bailout. We have bailed out banks that are “too big to fail” time, and time again, it is time to bail out people too. People are the reason for the government to exist in the first place, not big business.

A single payer Medicare-for-All system. It’s what the majority of the American people want. And if we are to continue to be a democracy at all it’s time for American policy-makers and members of Congress to respect the will of the people. Deal with it, hippies and yuppies.

Public Integrity Alliance v. Tucson, and the 21st Century Battle for American Voting Rights

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Public Integrity Alliance, Inc. v. City of Tucson, a pending petition before the U.S. Supreme Court, challenges the Constitutionality of ward district lines in municipalities.

The 14th Amendment was passed nearly 150 years ago. The Equal Protection Clause later went on to expand the scope of the Bill of Rights and apply it directly to the states. “Equal protection of the laws” has been cited in landmark cases like Brown v. Board of Education (1954). It is one of the most important parts of our Constitution as it currently stands. Today, it could save our democracy and continue to inch us closer to a “more perfect union.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Public Integrity Alliance, Inc. v. City of Tucson (Public Integrity), responding to their writ of certiorari. This case will provide a fresh and interesting precedent for advancing electoral and voter advocacy projects under the Age of Trump. Public Integrity advances the following issue:

Whether the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment permits the City of Tucson to exclude certain registered voters from the primary election for a citywide representative based solely on the geographic location of such voters’ residence within the city.

The City of Tucson employs a “hybrid” municipal electoral system. Primary elections are conducted under ward district lines, while  general elections are conducted citywide and on an at-large basis. Early indications from the Court are that this system violates the “one person, one vote” maxim of the equal protection clause, disagreeing with the 9th Circuit below. The Court’s decision to hear Public Integrity is based on previous rulings holding that geographic location is not a “permissible basis for distinguishing between qualified voters”, Gray v. Sanders (1963), and Smith v. Allright (1944), in which future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall argued that Texas’s Democratic primary system allowed whites to structurally dominate the politics of the one-party South at the time. The Smith ruling unmistakably connected the primary process to the general election as one continuous electoral event for purposes of the 14th Amendment.

If you want to have better outcomes outcomes, you have to control the rules. In recent years, the Republican Party has mastered using voting and election laws to control political outcomes. While the Democratic Party was writing articles and speaking of “demographic inevitability” the GOP was actually rigging the system in its favor, through use of Voter I.D. laws, gerrymandering, and recently, chipping away at key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Democrats should have been fiercely defending this unconstitutional and overtly political usurping of our democracy and defending all constituencies, but they were complacent, far too assured of their historical inevitability.

There is, however, another issue that is nearly as old as the Republic itself percolating behind all of this. The two party duopoly. Nowhere is this more evident than in closed electoral systems, as opposed to open electoral systems. Whereas taxpayers fund primary states, the party pays for caucuses and conventions. Herein lies the difference. It is quite clear, that closed primary elections are unconstitutional. While the Constitution affords great latitude to states and localities in elections, there is no mention of political parties at all. Our nation’s first President, George Washington, warned against factionalism and the growing influence of political parties. For many historical reasons, political parties were not only inevitable in our system, they have often served as the primary organizing tool for American citizens to reach shared goals. Parties have had a special role to play in American history, achieving high heights, but also being attached and at times, the chief driver of tragic consequences. As we wind down the 6th party system and into an unknown and yet to be completely characterized 7th party system, it is important to go back to our roots. On behalf of the “We the People”, the public, and the U.S. Constitution – it’s time to fight back.

Public Integrity will be an interesting test case because it will test the current makeup of the Court’s willingness to hear electoral and voting rights challenges on the basis of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. If and when the Court decides to rule (most likely sometime this summer) that equal protection of the laws is violated, and even if they do not, I would argue closed primaries are much clearer violation of the equal protection clause than ward district lines. Allowing political parties, specifically the Democratic and Republican parties to have such strict control over the electoral system is arguably what has produced an authoritarian, ideological demagogue as President with one of the parties backing him up thus far.

The New York state primary is a textbook example. Not only is the primary closed, but you also have to be registered with the party seven months before the primary election. This disenfranchises new New Yorkers and permanently disenfranchises political independents or unaffiliated voters, the largest self-identified voting group in the country, and the third largest in the state of New York (barely behind the Republican Party, further behind the Democratic Party). Fusion balloting or cross-endorsing despite some encouraging results, has not proven to be an effective check on forcing this false dilemma onto the electorate.

It is unfortunate that a state with the proud legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Al Smith, Fiorello La Guardia, and a state that served as a test bed for many New Deal policies, has been reduced to finishing in the bottom ten in the United States in voter turnout, bottoming out at 48th during the 2014 midterm elections. This trend toward lower turnout is not unique to New York; rather it is unique to closed primaries themselves. Closed primaries have reduced political competition and serve as outdated models used by once-vaunted political machines that can more appropriately be called, anti-machines now, given that political machines are supposed to turn out the vote. Gone are the days of Tammany Hall and Mayor Daley. We have arrived at a time where our country has voter turnout that lags behind all other developed, industrialized democracies. Closed primaries are part of the problem, and they are unconstitutional. This question should be advanced:

 

Whether the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment permits a closed primary electoral system, funded by taxpayers, that discriminates on the basis of party registration and timing of party registration.

Another reason why New York State is the ideal test case for 21st century voting rights precedent is the state appoints its Secretary of State rather than elects it as a Constitutional office. Thirty-five states elect their Secretaries of State. As we saw in the 2000 Presidential election, which turned on a couple hundred votes in the state of Florida, Secretaries of State in all fifty states are very important offices, too important to be left to the partisan will of Governors and legislatures.

The appropriate check on the proper administration of free and fair Constitutional elections is the voters. The devil’s advocate might say that new electoral laws passed through the legislature are the proper avenues for this. Indeed, New York Attorney General Eric Scneiderman’s proposals are a step in the right direction. A step that should have been taken years before the 2016 Presidential Election. It’s no secret that entire precincts in Upper Manhattan and elsewhere officially recorded that then-candidate Barack Obama received 0 votes during the 2008 Presidential Primary in New York. The best way to check this is to open up, modernize, and allow the voters to hold those administering and implementing elections accountable. Therefore, this Constitutional issue should also be advanced:

Whether the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment permits a state to appoint its Secretary of State, who is tasked with administrating free and fair elections, rather than elect this position and allow citizens to check and balance.

Getting rid of closed primaries and unelected Secretaries of State would likely destroy the last few political machines that still exist, and rightfully so. These machines are antiquated, out-of-touch with the concerns of the people. This combined with gerrymandering, voter I.D., and other draconian measures, have contributed to an erosion of voting and citizen engagement that is so severe that for it to endure any longer, is seriously unhealthy for any democracy, let alone the oldest democracy on Earth. But this democracy is now in more danger than at any time since the Civil War.

In an ideal world, Election Day would be a national holiday for federal elections and state elections if they see fit to follow. If we are going to keep celebrating Columbus Day, I’m sure we can decide to set aside one Tuesday every two years to celebrate and renew our democracy by voting in a more free and open manner administrated by people that are elected by we the people. 

 

 

Judiciary is Conspicuously Missing from WhiteHouse.gov as Being Part of the Federal Government

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As of 10:20 PM EST on January 29th, on the tenth day of the Trump administration — the Judicial Branch of the Federal Government is conspicuously absent from WhiteHouse.gov

According to the Way Back Machine on the InterWebs, the Obama Administration had The Judicial Branch of  the Federal Government on its website. While this could have been an oversight, rather than a deliberate political move, like the status of LGBT Americas, Climate Change, Health Care, and Civil Rights, I believe this is a deliberate attempt to delegitimize the Courts, which are the last vestiges in the way of one party fascist rule (in addition to the rights guaranteed us by the Constitution, which must be enforced each and every day by WE THE PEOPLE), and the basic decency and goodness of the American People and our communities.

It takes a long time for the Courts to change over. As you may know, the Supreme Court has had a right wing tilt for a generation or two, but the lower courts have turnover at a much faster pace. While an obstructionist GOP often blocked President Obama’s nominees to the Federal courts – he was able to appoint a total of 329 federal judges, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayer and Justice Kagan.

This legacy of judicial appointments also includes 55 Courts of Appeals judges, 268 judges to the District courts, and a couple dozen more to specialty courts under Article III  (International Trade), Article I (Federal Claims, Tax Courts, Veterans Claims, Military Commission Review, Armed Forces), and Article IV Territorial courts.

This eight year legacy of judicial appointments, the day-to-day bureaucracy, and the majority of the American people stand in the way of significant parts of the Trump Agenda. We’ve already seen constant attempts to delegitimize the media (although they do a pretty good job doing that on their own), and I believe we’ll see more and more of this as long as District court judges stay executive orders, rule legislation unconstitutional, etc. This “battle of the Federal Government branches” mathematically can only last eight years, or even fewer than that.

Why? Because if we allow one party rule under this President and his administration for that length of time, the judges appointed will be far more favorable to executive orders like the one that swept across the nation this weekend.

This has been a dispatch from Publius – a Public Citizen of the “Sons and Daughters of Liberty” – writing from the island where Lady Liberty welcomes new Americans to the land of opportunity, holding a torch, which will burn a little less brightly if WE THE PEOPLE – do not do our duty in the years to come.

Industrial, Light, and “Neoliberal Magic”

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This photo incapsulates better than words can — the failure of neoliberalism as a political governing philosophy in the United States of America. If the Democratic Party is to survive, it must reject both neoliberalism and neoconservativism and leave it in the dustbin of history. Maybe I just don’t believe in the “magic” enough, but hear me out.

This is a dispatch from Publius – a Public Citizen of the “Sons and Daughters of Liberty” – writing from the heart of neoliberalism outside of Davos, Switzerland – New York, NY.

December 10, 2010. That’s the day in spirit I became an independent progressive in a way. This was also the day that Senator Bernie Sanders (VT-I) filibustered for 8 and 1/2 hours over the extension of the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans. While I am proud of the grace, example, and leadership of President Barack Obama– after all, #44 was dealt a tough hand — I have ever since been a “true” progressive, have preferred more independent thinking, and definitely reject the premise of the “Neoliberal magic.”

What is neoliberalism? Allow Bernie Sanders to walk you through the difference between being a liberal and being a progressive in a recent post-election interview with Sarah Silverman.

“I prefer to be called a progressive….many of us, we are liberal with pride on issues combating sexism, racism, and homophobia, on that we are liberal. But you have many ‘liberals’ who are not progressive when it comes to taking on Wall Street or fighting for a trade policy that works for American workers. So I think what progressivism is about is accepting all of the fights that liberals have engaged in, to create a diverse society, a non-racist society, but at the same time, what a Progressive stands for is understanding that this country, in many respects, is moving toward an oligarchic form of society, and that you have a handful of billionaires who can control our economic and political life, and if you are not prepared to engage in that struggle, well, I don’t think you are doing serious politics.”        ~ Bernie Sanders

In the days after the 2016 Presidential Election I read Thomas Frank nonstop. I was not the only one. The book is called “Listen, Liberal” and I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to make sense of what has happened to the Democratic Party. The subtitle of Frank’s new book is Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?

I have been asking myself that for weeks as well. But deep down, I already knew what had happened. After all, this website exists for a reason. We have complained nonstop on our podcasts dating back to 2015 that the Democratic Party is on a b-line toward irrelevance for a reason.

As I stated on Facebook to instigate a robust discussion: there is quite simply no reason for the current version of the Democratic Party to keep existing. It needs to be reformed. It needs a new and fresh direction. It needs new leadership. And it needs to follow the will of its members. The problem with that is, there are no “members” of the Democratic Party. There has been a discussion and a lot of blame toward the DFL in Minnesota this past cycle but truthfully, the DFL is one of the best state parties out there. However, in many other state parties and certainly in the national party, it is a very elitist process, funded and ran by very, very rich people. Some of them are so rich they can blow away what is a lifetime of money on some fine wine in Cannes, France (see the picture above). An extreme example perhaps, but an example that is very true in the city where I reside–New York City. I’m not inherently against anyone for any reason other than their actions or lack thereof.

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Simply put, I share Bernie’s concern about so few people controlling the political and economic destiny and future of this nation. Power concentrated is power corrupted. The Democratic Party has time and again, sold out its members, and has an aloof party leadership within the party and in public elected office that refuses to give up any power or have their authority called into question. I would argue a decades-long trend for both parties has been toward authoritarianism. It’s definitely true on the Republican side, but I believe it is true on the Democratic side as well. Otherwise, the Patriot Act and other erosions of the 4th Amendment may have been reconsidered at some point. If it is not being in bed with Wall Street, there is being in bed with the West Coast version of it–Silicon Valley. The Democratic Party cannot keep being the party of the liberal “elite.”

The American People have spoken and their attitude seems to be that the Republic of Dukes and Earls has failed the country. The ruling classes have failed the country. Globalism is in retreat, rightly or wrongly.

I strongly believe that President Obama left the office and country in a far better position than he inherited it, but it is also fair to say that the world is far more dangerous place than it was eight years ago.

Simply put — the Neoliberalism and Neoconservative two party policy consensus that Agreeing Loudly contributor Carson Starkey loved to rail on these past four to five years–has failed the country. The ruling generation and the ruling elite, who make no mistake about it, are still very much in charge, have mostly lost all moral authority to lead.

So where do we go from here? Read Thomas Frank. Branch out from there.

Agreeing Loudly intends to keep endorsing candidates. We will continue to  recommend and advocate for a better way forward.

We are also committed to effectively fighting the good fight and resisting President Trump and the GOP’s desire to erode and finish off social insurance programs, privatize, deregulate, pursue austerity and belt-tightening, continue ill-suited free trade agreements, continue a disrespect for the First Amendment of the Constitution and fundamental democratic norms and traditions of this country.

This last sentence will be the subject of the next article — a Letter to President Trump.

 

Farewell Barry, and Thank You.

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Barack H. Obama, 44th President of the United States

New York, NY — The other night before going to bed I watched the Netflix original “Barry.” The film was a slice-of-life moment during Barack Obama’s years at Columbia undergrad in New York City.

Last night, I was barnstorming NYC going from protests to anti-inauguration networking events and fundraisers and meeting many people I have never met before. Like so many conversations with friends and complete strangers since November 8th, my faith in the basic decency of the American people was reinforced yet again. I don’t blame soon-to-be (and likely is as you read this) former President Barack Obama for believing in that same basic decency.

Six weeks ago, I had a dream I was a White House aide, serving at the pleasure of the President. It was the series finale of “West Wing: Obama Edition.” I was summoned into the Oval Office, not unlike Charlie Young often was for Jed Bartlet: “what would you have done differently, Troy?”

“Permission to speak freely Mr. President?”

“Granted”, replied the President, on his last night of service after eight years in office.

“Well Mr. President, I would have….pursued something big and grand first, but it would not have been health care reform. At least not if it is going to be the Heritage Foundation’s plan from the early-90s. I would have pursued a carbon tax, put a down payment on a 21st century green economy infrastructure, bailed out homeowners and people instead of big banks, and then given everything that I had to get the world to succeed at Copenhagen in ’09, the “true last best hope” to stem the tide and roll back the worst effects of climate change the world had. Out of those successes I would have then taken the political capital to try and pass single payer healthcare before the 2010 midterms.”

Perhaps we’ll all learn just like Barack that these things are just out of our grasp. Not possible within this political system. But I still have to believe, and hope. 

What I will always remember about the Obama years is something I can be reminded of every day in the friends and company that I keep. I think Time magazine summed it up years ago best…

The Obama victory was not so much about his generation — but the kids two generations behind him, the college kids and recent graduates, blissfully color-blind, who spent patient months as organizers out in the most rural counties… They reminded me, in classic, solipsistic boomer fashion, of my own generation of the remarkable political activists who went down to Mississippi to register black voters and marched against another war, and came to politics in the Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy campaigns of 1968. That generation’s — my generation’s — passion gave us the propulsion to quickly move to the center of political life and the media. The end of their time — our time — in the driver’s seat may have begun in Iowa.

Whether or not Barack Obama goes on to win the nomination — and let’s not forget in the afterglow that this is truly an open question — his field army will endure and, because of their immense skill, they will bend the political process to their will in years to come. And years from now, when they meet in the corridors of power or academia or at the inevitable reunions, they’ll look at each other and smile, and they won’t even have to say the words: We did something amazing back in Iowa, on January 3, 2008, didn’t we?

– Joe Klein, Time Magazine

And this is the central Obama legacy. His policy legacy will very much be in doubt going forward — but the number of talented and inspiring young people that were brought into politics at a time when cynicism was high is what I truly believe will be the lasting legacy of the Obama years. I met so many great people helping get Barack Obama elected President and so many friendships were forged and strengthened.

Allan Branstiter. 

Pat Meacham.

Jered Weber.

Justin Norris.

Carson Starkey.

The list could go on, but I wanted to highlight these five friends and colleagues.

Allan Branstiter and I met in Fargo at an Obama event. He is an Iraq War vet, and in 2007 I revered Iraq War vets (I still do). I had always opposed the war but looked up to each and every veteran I knew. Allan made an immediate impact on me. On some level I must have made an impression on him because he asked me to help him out on his state senate campaign in North Dakota. He was nominated by the Dem-NPL. He said, “you have more connections than I do and I’ll need all the help I can get.” What Allan did not know at the time was that I probably barely had any more connections than he did.

Pat Meacham I have known for years but as you’ll see from the photo below — we spent some time in Iowa together in 2007 and 2010 campaigning and those photos below with then-Senator Obama and Michelle are hanging up at the Lakeside Tavern in Detroit Lakes, MN if you ever are strolling through that part of the country. It’s a wonderful place where I worked as a summer job during college. A lot of my work ethic was built at that place working double shifts with Pat, cooking and talking…dreaming about a better future.

Jered Weber was the only person who agreed to come down to Iowa with me in late ’07/’08 for the caucus because I had an almost fanatical belief that if Senator Obama won Iowa — he would become President. Jered and I struck up an immediate friendship over the campaign, our love of Star Wars, and being raised in small town America.

Justin Norris liked two candidates in the 2008 Democratic field a lot. Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Justin was the first politically involved person I met at Minnesota State and his encyclopedia-esque knowledge about U.S. History and Politics made me remark upon firs meeting him: “jeez, you’re a genius!” His response I will never forget — “nope, I’m just well read.”

I never knew Carson Starkey until my own Army deployment. He was finishing up undergrad while I was overseas. I saw him as basically doing “my story in reverse” and felt compelled to reach out to this humorist that was so dedicated to satire and sarcasm that he made Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert seem tame. If anyone is ever strolling through St. Paul, MN I highly recommend getting to know the Earl of Payne-Phalen.

What is the common thread that brought us together? Or the ties that bind? The Obama campaign and Presidency.

 

Four times I met the to-be President. Four times. Not gloating. But it happened. It turns out that in the end, I’m not much into hero worship. Barack Obama is no hero to me, and I’m no hero to anyone. The only heroes I’ve ever contemplated are the service members of the United States Armed Forces who gave the “last full measure of devotion.” Something tells me that even they would disagree that they are heroes.

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In addition to all the amazing and inspiring future leaders and public citizens I’ve met throughout the Obama years, I will also remember the words.

“Dreams from My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope” are how I will partly remember the Obama years and my role as an American citizen in them.

“Dreams from My Father” is ironically titled you could say, and is a journey a young Barack “Barry” Obama was on that was shaped more by the absence of a Father than anything else. The Obama campaign, like a few things before it, and many things since, gave me a purpose and family away from my own wonderful, but dysfunctional and imperfect family. It brought me back from youthful alienation and into the community of people. Got me away from thinking about just myself. I gave up my pursuit of happiness, because even Thomas Jefferson is not right about everything, and I embarked on a pursuit of joy, which is a far more fulfilling pursuit.

“The Audacity of Hope” was a remarkable journey as well. Where I met amazing people and experienced a Presidential campaign that brought me to three different states, thousands of conversations with people I otherwise would not have met, got me addicted to the “politics of joy”, and impacted my life in ways I’m still pulling together. In the end, Barack was right. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” all along. Not in an egotistical way, but in a democratic way. In the only way a democracy and a civil society can be made more perfect, or truly whole again. With a little help from your friends, asking a little bit more out of yourself, and walking amongst others in a spirit of solidarity, embarking on life’s journey, side by side.

 

Goodbye Barry, and Thank You for serving and inspiring us all to be better citizens.

The Tragedy in Aleppo and the Assassination of the Russian Ambassador.

 

aleppo
The above map (sources indicated) and timeline speaks for itself. The situation in Syria, and especially in Aleppo is deep and complex, there are no good sides, no good or easy answers, and so far — nothing but tragic outcomes.

In the midst of the U.S. Presidential Election this year, nearly everyone in the media, and far too many Americans, have ignored the humanitarian catastrophe that is currently unfolding its latest tragic chapter in Syria. The city of Aleppo, which one or more candidates for the highest office in the land, were clueless about, at least in name (and probably many other areas as well). It has been unfolding for the last five years or so. Its roots go back even further.

We have ignored it, and this website, dedicated to cultural and political commentary, is no exception.

My first inklings of things going awfully wrong in Syria were during my deployment to the Middle East in 2011 and 2012. I, like most soldiers, was singularly focused on our specific mission or would-be missions at the time. However, throughout the ESNN (Enlisted Soldiers News Network) there were plenty of rumors about the situation exploding in Syria and worries over re-deployment there from where we were at in Kuwait (completely unfounded at the time of course). By the time I got back to the United States, and certainly after President Obama was re-elected, ISIS, or ISL, or the Islamic State, very much became a “thing” and a new “wedge” in American political discourse. Much of the discourse was hysterical and unfounded rhetoric, ill-informed and ignorant of the history in the region, let alone recent history. The Syrian civil war, is so complex, that I cannot even begin to explain it in this thousand word article. Instead–I’ll arrive at the timeless news of today. Thousands are dead in Aleppo, many of them innocent children. The complete and utter breakdown in humanity is staggering, and disappointing.

President Barack Obama is a great man, a great example to follow, but a good President. Not a great one.

There have only been three great Presidents — Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. President Obama, while historic, does not belong in the “great” category. He is Woodrow Wilson. Some great ideals, some of the right instincts, a professor-like image, certainly historical, but a lasting legacy that will be shaped more from what he is, rather than what he did or did not do. The Obama policy record on socio-cultural issues is comparatively strong, but very muddled and mixed on economic and foreign policy issues, which are issues the President has far more influence and control over. To be fair, he is still the best President of most of our lifetimes. To be fair to his overall foreign policy record: here are a few select areas where he did well:

  • He has removed over 3/4 the troop levels that he inherited from the Bush administration in Afghanistan and Iraq. While he incorrectly “surged” in Afghanistan in the beginning to do so, getting down to historically low levels of troops in the post-9/11 era is no small feat.
  • Despite lowering troop levels, through his use of special forces and our vast intelligence network, he oversaw the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.
  • He has overseen a policy that has removed roughly 3/4 of the numbers of the Islamic State and suffered very few American casualties while doing so.
  • He understands “smart power” and the limits of American power in the 21st century. He likes to do foreign policy quietly, and he understands that patience is very, very important sometimes to achieve goals that exclusive use of military force cannot achieve.
  • He understands that it is only through using every tool in the toolbox: economic, diplomatic, and the military, that the U.S. can achieve or get closer to achieving its foreign policy goals.

President Obama was and still is a good foreign policy President, I strongly suspect history will be relatively kind to him, but he is most certainly not a great foreign policy President. Very few are.

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Turning back to the humanitarian catastrophe and breakdown of systems and humanity in Syria — there is no longer any running away from the fact that regarding the Syrian Civil War, the international community, regional organizations and power-players, and yes, the United States of America — has failed. This failure of leadership, includes our current President, Barack Obama. No one is safe from it.

Certainly, we’re all human and we make mistakes. A situation like Syria however, where a lack of leadership on the international stage has transpired, will only get worse and more frequent under a Trump administration.

Make no mistake about it — Pax America, for all its warts and faults, is dead.

There is still, however, a great need for solid American leadership on the world stage. There is a need for smart, effective, proportional, and humble American leadership.

For the next four to eight years at least, we will not have that.

Earlier today our time, the Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated in Ankara. A lone Turkish gunman stepped right out of a James Bond film, and shot and killed the Russian ambassador, shouting “don’t forget Aleppo!”

All acts of violence represent a failure in the human character and a failure of political systems to solve problems and disagreements. Russia and many others have failed humanity by propping up an Assad regime that is at least as terrible as the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq that the United States spent more than $2 trillion on, at the cost of thousands of American soldiers’ lives, and well over a hundred thousand civilian lives.

The assassination of the Russian ambassador today is similarly reprehensible. However, it does not represent what Franz Ferdinand represented in the lead-up to World War I.

World War I was caused by many factors, the chief driving one, being nationalism and two power-blocs codifying that system of nationalism via treaties. In general terms — we can describe that as the world retreating to comfortable, but worn corners. That is also what is happening today. Be worried, but do not freak out and do not lose hope. Not only is the Russian ambassador not Franz Ferdinand–but Franz Ferdinand himself is not Franz Ferdinand. In 1914, only folks like Lord Grantham cared about Franz Ferdinand. Ferdinand represented the excuse to do what the powers that be wanted to do anyway. Remember this: large and powerful nation-states only go to war when they think they have something to gain. There is a country that looks like that today: Russia.

But it will not be now and it will not be here.

If you are now very concerned, you should have already been concerned. Russian aggression, combined with rising nationalism in Europe, and the world retreating to “comfortable, but worn corners”, has been going on for nearly a decade. Recent Russian aggressions in Ukraine, Georgia and the ones that will likely transpire in the future (next four to eight years), most likely in Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania (all NATO  member-countries), should concern us all. I dearly hope I’m wrong about those last three predictions, but thus far, this website has a track record of being relatively right about political predictions, and ridiculously wrong about sports predictions.

Like the slow burn of the last decade or so, we will continue to see the rise of far right-wing, national front-type parties in Europe. And if that battle over the future of history is not fought now rhetorically at home, and abroad, I cannot promise anyone anything.