Category Archives: Later, on politics

Don’t Screw This Up

If Democrats are unable to reconcile the differences between the two wings of the party (moderates and progressive liberals), what chance do they have of governing effectively after the election? A new administration can make progress on its policy promises only with some measure of reconciliation between Republicans and Democrats.

A vote for Bernie Sanders is a vote for continued gridlock in Washington D.C., at best, and that assumes that the Democrats hold onto the House. With Sanders at the top of the ticket this fall the greater the risk that Republicans will continue to dominate the Senate and even take over control of the House.

The election in 2016 taught us that it is possible for a presidential candidate to win the presidency without having a majority of the popular vote. That could happen again this year. The question for Democrats during this primary stage is which candidate would make it more likely that the party will have a victory in the Electoral College.

Sanders, by his own rhetoric, is running not so much to be a leader as he is to champion a “movement” or a “revolution.” I must admit that the notion of revolution appealed to me in my early 20s. We said we wanted a revolution… well, you know, it never came. Perhaps, as I grew older, I lost faith in the revolution, but Bernie still seems to believe.

The entire Sanders progressive agenda rests on his revolution becoming a reality. His theory of governing is that his agenda will be so popular that a grassroots’ movement will rise up and demand that Congress enact it.

But no matter how bold, or how logical, or how just, or how right these revolutionary ideas will seem to many, it is naïve to think that there will be no resistance from an equally determined oppositional leadership. There is no doubt that the Sanders revolution will encounter setbacks–probably more setbacks than successes–and the revolutionary fervor of his supporters will dwindle. The revolution itself will peter out.

The truth is that Sanders is running on a romantic memory of younger days when revolution was so cool they wrote songs about it. It appeals to today’s 20- and 30-year olds for the same reasons that it appealed to those of us of the Sanders generation who came from a certain socio-economic background.

Why did our revolution have to die? Why did the Age of Aquarius have to end? If only we could go back and see it through. We could have changed the world.

The Sanders movement has foundered on the hard reality of Super Tuesday. The massive turnout that he needed to fuel his revolution did not materialize. There is little reason for Sanders to expect that the remaining primary races will tell a different story.

Already, he is pushing the idea in the mind of his supporters that “the establishment” is to blame for the failure of the revolution to take hold. The rhetoric is so familiar. It was the establishment that held us back fifty years ago. We railed against the establishment. It was the target of our revolution. When the revolution died, the establishment was the convenient culprit, but maybe we just got tired of the struggle.

By casting the contest within the Democratic Party as us progressives versus them establishment moderates, Sanders is playing a dangerous game. To defeat the Republicans in November, the party cannot afford to mire itself in a self-defeating battle in which the damage is done as soon as sides are declared.

The party message in the fall is unity over divisiveness. Democrats must first demonstrate that they are capable of unifying themselves before anyone will believe that they can bring the country together.

For Sanders, that means having a plan B if the promised revolution continues to fizzle. Real leadership in that circumstance would be to show by example that reconciliation within the party is not only possible but necessary for success in the general election. Blaming the establishment does not get it.

For his part, Biden must resist the tendency to demonize and instead embrace the Sanders movement. There must be a meaningful role for progressive policies within the party.

Just as important, Democrats must make a home for disaffected Republicans who have no faith in liberal ideas but who share a desire for a return to decency and honesty in our politics.

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    On Tuesday night, November 9, 2016, Donald Trump was elected to be the forty-fifth president of the United States. Although more people voted for Hillary Clinton (she is ahead by 786,000 as of this writing*), Trump has won where it counts, in the Electoral College, which will formally vote on…

The Opposite of Tranquility

Despite the indelible stain of his impeachment, the Senate, to no one’s surprise, acquitted Donald Trump. They found that their “chosen one” committed no offence to the Constitution. Claiming that he did nothing “impeachable,” the senators completed a coronation.

The Senate Republicans behaved as though they had a duty to acquit. They just would not be bothered by any new testimony or documents that might have revealed more of the truth and delayed the enthronement.

The newly-blessed King Donald has launched a vigorous campaign of vengeance against those he deems insubordinate or disloyal. He has branded all political opposition as “horrible” and “vicious” – oddly casting the king as whiner. The acquittal has confirmed his belief that there is no effective check on his power. He can (and will) run the nation even further into the mud.

While the acquittal is awful, conviction might well have been worse. It would have meant the elevation of Mike Pence, Vice-President and Supreme Sycophant. It would have been the birth of the legend of the Martyrdom of Trump, a legend that would have haunted the nation for a hundred years (assuming the union would survive so long).

We are left with a battered nation, an imperfect Union, and with the gutting of domestic Tranquility. The Blessings of Liberty are unfulfilled for ourselves and our Posterity. We are insecure in our freedom, and our politics is vulnerable to foreign intrigue and interference.

I am ashamed to leave this nation to my child and to the children of my generation. We can do better. I know this because I have seen it in my lifetime.

One odious man has single-handedly shredded all of the progress I thought we had made as a country while I have been alive.

It is an election year. There is a possibility for change.

After the Framers signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787, the long process of ratification began. I have been reading Kevin Gutzman’s James Madison and the Making of America. In the book, he describes Virginia’s ratification debate, the Richmond Convention, which opened on June 2, 1788 and finally approved the Constitution on June 25 by a vote of 89 to 79. Virginia became the tenth state to ratify.

Four days before the vote, Madison had addressed the convention on the issue of Congressional power. Opponents of ratification were concerned, in Madison’s words, that “the General Legislature will do every mischief they possibly can…and will omit to do every good which they are authorised to do.”

Madison countered with the idea that the people would choose virtuous leaders to be their representatives:

“I go on this great republican principle that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. Is there no virtue among us? – If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks – no form of Government, can render us secure. To suppose that any form of Government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea…. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.”

It was beyond the imagination of Madison and his contemporaries that the people would choose to elect a king and a king’s court of enablers in the Senate. After all, the people had only recently declared their independence from the British monarch and had fought a war to secure that independence. It must have seemed obvious to trust the people’s virtue and intelligence in selecting their leaders, and yet it now seems a glaring flaw in our Constitutional democracy.

In Philadelphia, before the vote that created the Constitution, an aging Benjamin Franklin told the delegates that he didn’t approve of parts of the document but that he would “agree to this Constitution with all its faults.” He doubted whether a better one could be made.  He gave his consent to the Constitution, he said, “because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best.”

Madison too understood that the Constitution might be flawed but that no form of government could secure liberty or happiness.

Every political election since ratification has been a test of the virtue and intelligence of the voters. This year will be no different. No election could be more important.

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    The Next President: Trump’s Trail to GreatnessDonald Trump, age 69, is chairman of The Trump Organization, a firm started by his father, a real estate developer. He spent his high school years at the New York Military Academy and later graduated from the Wharton School of Business in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Student…
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