Number of posts: 91
Email address: email
By Andy Schmookler:
- The Republican Party (“the Party of No”) has chosen to prevent anything from being accomplished.
- To choose across-the-board obstructionism is to knowingly hurt the nation.
- The Republicans’ motivation for obstructionism is to regain power…
rule of the thug
As America enters the Age of Trump, it is important to recognize that what’s happening is not just about Trump, and not just about America. Forces kindred to Trump have lately been ascendant around the world.
We see different manifestations of this same ascendant force that has borne Trump into the presidency in Putin’s Russia, in Erdogan’s Turkey, in Britain’s Brexit movement, in right-wing ethno-nationalist parties across Europe (France, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, etc.), in Netanyahu’s Israel, and in Duterte’s Philippines.
a monstrous force
If Donald Trump wins next Tuesday – God forbid! – then it goes without saying that American politics are in for a time of profound ugliness.
But it is becoming increasingly clear that even if Donald Trump is defeated, a time of ugliness lies ahead. That forecast now goes well beyond the issue of Trump’s telegraphing of a refusal to accept the outcome. The ugliness may well begin with that violation of the American norms …
A pattern in support for Donald Trump has repeated itself twice in recent months. In early August, Trump’s continued questioning of the ability of a judge to do his job because of his Mexican heritage, combined with his days-long attacks on a Gold Star family that had publicly criticized him, led a number of Trump voters to withdraw their support. Then …
just for attention
This ugly presidential campaign will soon be over, but ugliness threatens to continue beyond Election Day. Donald Trump, who threatened that if he wins he will seek to jail his opponent, has been inciting his followers with accusations that, if he loses, it’s because of a conspiracy.
Win or lose, Mr. Trump threatens the foundations of American democracy. Polls indicate that Trump probably will lose…
what kind of person?
“Some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others their principles for the sake of their party.” – Winston Churchill
No one who feels allegiance to a political party wants to have to choose between party and principle. But sometimes history compels people to make that choice.
That is how a large group of prominent people, who describe themselves as “members of the Republican national security community,” see their situation in this year’s presidential election.
perception v. reality
A letter in the most recent AARP Magazine got me thinking. The previous issue of the magazine had a piece titled “Leading Ladies,” featuring several older actresses – Sharon Stone, Jane Fonda, and Alfre Woodard – who have done well despite Hollywood’s long-standing ageism.
The letter-writer, describing himself as a Vietnam-era veteran, felt insulted by the inclusion of Jane Fonda, whom he remembers bitterly “as the traitor ‘Hanoi Jane.'”
Everybody has reasons not to want to believe what scientists are saying about climate change.
For starters, who wants to believe that we humans are facing our greatest challenge ever? Life is hard enough, just meeting the challenges of taking care of our families.
And most of us resist change. It’s so much easier to just keep on doing what we’re doing.
And who wants to accept the troubling news that our children and grandchildren will be hurt unless we act responsibly in the face of the unwelcome truth.
a cry from the heart
We’d likely have less controversy over the slogan, “Black Live Matter,” if we had more of a shared understanding of the relevant American reality.
Sometimes a single clue reveals something big about that reality. There’s the clue, for example, that we white people have heard about in recent times in the wake of headlined shootings of unarmed black men. It’s “the talk” that many black parents give to their children, especially their sons.
Madame Secretary, you have said that as president, you’ll “break the gridlock in Washington.” You have also said that you are good at reaching “across the aisle” to get things done.
But although President Obama also reached across the aisle, the Republicans — rather than work in Congress — rather than work with him — never budged from their determination to obstruct everything he proposed. And it didn’t matter what were the specifics of his proposal, The Republicans chose to obstruct across-the-board in order to make him fail.
feckless and reckless
I’ve always been politically liberal, because – like my parents, who came of age during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt – I believe that government has a vital role to play in making our society what it should be. But at the same time, I’ve always had respect for conservatives because I believed them to be the people who put an appropriate emphasis on “character” and – again, like my parents – I believe the character of a person is what matters most.
no free pass allowed
Yesterday, President Obama said this:
“I think what’s been interesting is the repeated denunciations of his statements by leading Republicans,” he said in a press conference. “The question I think they have to ask themselves is, if you are repeatedly having to say in very strong terms that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him? What does this say about your party …
our collective narcissism
Let me first try to make sure I’m not misunderstood. I am not saying that I wish the Democrats had done anything different at the convention. As many observed, the Democrats were smart to occupy the upbeat, patriotic, American-exceptionalist, morning-in-America space that Trump’s GOP abandoned with its fear-mongering dark picture of the state of the nation. Those chants of “U.S.A! U.S.A.!” may help some Republicans and Independents, unhappy with Trump…
line that floored me
It is not President Obama’s way to deliver a blow in the ring of the sort that puts an opponent down for the count. (“When they go low, we go high.”) But last night he said something – delivering so unexpectedly powerful a blow – that made me leap from my seat.
I’ve seen several mentions of Obama’s having referred to Trump (without naming him) as a “homegrown demagogue.” But if anyone has taken notice of what a devastating and powerful attack that phrase was in its context, I haven’t seen it.
do your job
If there’s one thing people can count on you for, it’s that you will put your party’s interests ahead of the good of the nation. Fortunately, there’s something you can do now to redeem yourself. It won’t be with your second-guessing FBI Director James Comey, who determined that Hillary Clinton’s email fiasco doesn’t warrant bringing charges.
You probably knew there would be no indictment, since most legal authorities had reached that same conclusion. And surely you know that Mr. Comey — appointee of George W. Bush, and contributor to the presidential campaigns of McCain and Romney – has no partisan motive to help the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
recipe for injustice
When I was involved in electoral politics here in Virginia, I was advised by Democratic politicians to stay away from the issue of “right-to-work” laws. Most Virginians favor those laws, I was told. They think that “right-to-work” is a matter of “liberty,” and no one running for office can succeed in explaining to them what these laws are really about.
If that’s wise counsel, it’s a sad commentary on our politics — for it’s doubtful that most of the Virginians who support right-to-work understand how these laws take money out of their pockets.
confession is the first step
NFL football and World War II share certain characteristics that make them, for me, guilty pleasures.
The pleasures come from my lifelong love of good games of strategy and of heroic action.
For these pleasures, no sport seems to me the equal of NFL – largely because of the excellent structure of the game: the series of downs, which can be renewed; the cumulative nature of field position; the balance between offense and defense; the management of the clock; etc.
a civilization-wide challenge
Some commentators have reminded us lately of what originally inspired the nations of Western Europe to move toward unification. The impetus came after two horrific wars, originating in Europe, within the space of thirty years.
In the immediate aftermath of World War II, after tens of millions had been killed and with much of Europe in ruins, some visionary European leaders understood the necessity of weaving the nations of Europe into a more whole order enabling its nations able to live together in peace, and to work together for their common good.
whole woman’s health v. hellerstedt
At year’s end last December, on a radio show in the Shenandoah Valley, I was asked at year’s end for my predictions for the coming year. One prediction I made was that the Court would strike down the Texas abortion law. I thought that the decision might be as much as 6-3 (this was before the death of Scalia), with Chief Justice Roberts joining the majority. My reason was this: whatever a justice might think about abortion, if s/he cares about the authority of the Supreme Court s/he will refuse to accept this Texas law which is clearly an attack on that authority.
not us v. them
The world is a complicated place (even more so than when I worked in American national security circles during the neo-cold war years of the 1980s). Making the right policy decisions is therefore a great challenge.
And the stakes are high – war and peace, life and death – not only for us Americans but, because of the power and leadership role of the United States, for everyone on earth.
Although defeating Donald Trump is one essential goal for this fall’s campaign, that should be seen as one important means toward the ultimate goal, which is to move the nation forward.
There is every reason to believe that the Republicans in Congress would try to do to a new Democratic President what they’ve been doing for more than seven years to the current Democratic President: use their power to obstruct progress on all fronts.
For that reason, a wise Democratic campaign must also minimize Republican power in Congress.
There’s been a change in how I see Donald Trump.
A few months ago, I saw him as an accomplished actor, able to pick what role to play for the occasion– such as to become the dominant figure in the race for the Republican nomination. I believed he had understood how he could tap into the passions simmering in a large part of the Republican base and ride those passions to power.
persuade your supporters
Show us how you’ll campaign, as the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party to take power away from the obstructionist Republicans in Congress, which must be overcome for anything to be accomplished now matter whether it’s you or Hillary who wins the White House.
And let’s hear the speech you’d make to your followers to motivate them to do all they can to make sure that Donald Trump doesn’t become president. You’ve said yourself how vitally important that is. Let’s hear how well you can persuade your supporters to see what you see about the urgency of stopping Trump…
only once every four years
This is not addressed not to those Republicans who think Donald Trump is an appropriate kind of person to be President of the United States. If you like what you see, go ahead and vote for him.
It is addressed rather, to those Republicans who have regarded Mr. Trump unfavorably because they saw him as lacking the character and temperament necessary for our nation’s highest office. (Reports indicated not so long ago that quite a few Republicans felt that way.)
I would like to ask those Republicans: Given what you saw about your party’s nominee, can you now vote for him?
take it to scotus
The Republicans are getting away with their disgraceful strategy of blocking the whole constitutional process for filling a Supreme Court vacancy. All signs show that although roughly two-thirds of voters do not think this stonewalling is right, the issue is simply disappearing from view and thus is falling off the radar as an electoral factor.
Something should be done, and it can.
doing ignoble things
Which party do you think of when you hear the phrase, “defender of the Constitution”? I would wager that members of both parties would immediately think of the Republican Party, because they are the ones who most loudly proclaim their deep allegiance to our founding document.
Yet in recent years, the leaders of the GOP have engaged in an assault on our constitutional system in ways unprecedented in American history…
important first step
The rise of Donald Trump means that the American political system, already sick, could be degraded still further. But – if Trump does become the Republican nominee for president, which looks probable – this danger also presents an opportunity to restore the health of American politics to levels not seen in years.
But seizing that opportunity will take more than defeating Trump because the political pathologies that he represents – such as a Republican base ready to support a proto-fascist candidate…
Dear Senator Sanders,
You’ve done the nation a great service in calling attention to the way Big Money is rigging our politics and our economy. But in focusing so much of your fire at “the billionaire class” and “giant corporations,” you are not waging the battle as effectively as you should. You are a political leader and your battles are in the political arena against political adversaries. Although you rightly oppose the dominance of “the billionaire class,” it is not that class that you need to defeat — not that class that you can directly fight — but rather their political servants.
not just about you
Your recent squabble — with one questioning whether the other is “qualified to be president” — highlights how you two have not been giving us the kind of campaign that would best serve not just the Democratic Party but the nation.
The differences between you may be important. But way less important than that whichever of you gets the nomination wins in November. Two extraordinary aspects of our national circumstance oblige you to allow that priority to dictate how you conduct your campaigns.
governing by fiat
An op/ed column in Saturday’s Washington Post, by an attorney named , proposes a most interesting idea. The essence of the idea is suggested by the title, “Obama can appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court if the Senate does nothing.”
The essence of the argument is contained in this passage:
It is altogether proper to view a decision by the Senate not to act as a waiver of its right to provide advice and consent…
supreme court nomination
I just got an email from Marc Ash, editor of the progressive news site, Reader Supported News. The title gives a clue about how exasperated Ash is at President Obama’s pick for his Supreme Court nominee.
In the piece, he describes how Garland was someone that Senator Orrin Hatch, conservative from Utah, had suggested would be a good pick. And then Ash writes: “Battle? Ideological confrontation? Reshaping of the Court? Forget it – Garland is a safe pick for America’s ruling class. Obama punted. Hatch defeated him without a fight.”
Donald Trump has been called a “buffoon.” That’s a mistake. “Buffoon” implies foolish, stupid. But Donald Trump possesses a kind of genius: He’s a genius at getting attention for himself.
One might say that the quest for attention – more than “making deals” — has been the driving force in Trump’s life. And for decades, he has succeeded in getting considerable public attention. But it is only in recent months that he’s demonstrated how extraordinary is his ability to seize – and hold – the spotlight.
strife over cooperation
Why have our politics become so dysfunctional? The answer is really not so hard to find. Our founders knew the nation would always have its divisions — of interests, values, opinions. The hope in framing the Constitution was that we’d nonetheless find ways to move the nation forward by negotiating compromises.
The question “How can we fight to increase our power?” would always be there, they understood, but the question “How can we cooperate to serve the good of the nation?” was supposed to have greater weight.
It is now 60 years that I’ve been following American politics closely. Long enough to get surprised when the way things have always been change dramatically into something never seen before.
I have been surprised, for example, to see people who regard themselves as “conservative” readily support leaders who break well-established American precedent. Aren’t conservatives the people who recognize that traditions are there for a reason – that you respect established norms, not just trample on them?
the greed system
When I was a kid, growing up in the 1950s, I loved the religious spectaculars one could see at the movie theaters – films like The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur. I’ve never found it easy to believe that there is a God who intervenes in human affairs to punish the wicked and reward the good. But I loved entering that world in these enthralling works of the imagination.
I loved watching how God sent Moses to Egypt to tell Pharaoh to let his enslaved people go…
Democratic voters have a choice between two candidates. Which candidate is the better choice depends on what you think is possible for us to achieve.
If you think we are stuck with the power system we have — in which moneyed interests take over the American democracy and get to call more and more of the shots, and where politicians can be rewarded rather than punished for betraying the American people — Secretary Clinton is an admirable choice…
In 2012, Americans engaged in the constitutional process for deciding who would get the powers of the presidency.
In that election, millions of us Americans won an important right: to have our guy name the person to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court if any were to open up. We won it fair and square.
We can talk about the president’s constitutional responsibilities and privileges, but ultimately this about the rights of us American citizens who participate in the American electoral process.
fighting the real opponent
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have a great opportunity to advance the Democratic cause, but to seize it they’ll have the think differently about their contest. This opportunity grows out of a shadow that hangs over the campaign for the Democratic nomination. It is widely recognized that any Democrat who is elected president will be unable to accomplish much of what he or she is calling for. On the big issues…
Dear Senator Sanders,
You say you want to lead a “political revolution.” You say that our urgent problems cannot be solved just by utilizing the system in place in Washington, where the powers that need to be overcome remain too strong. The American people have to be mobilized, you say, to fight to take back the power (and their fair share of the American bounty) that has been stolen from them by the plutocracy…
For years, there’s something that we Americans have urgently needed to see. If now isn’t a teachable moment – what with the spectacle of the Republican presidential race before us – I don’t know what would be. We can begin with Trump as a flagrant piece of a much bigger picture.
Consider what it means that the British parliament lately debated the question of whether Donald Trump should be banned from Great Britain. Britain, perhaps the United States’ greatest friend, our “special relationship” for the better part of a century. And Donald Trump — the front-runner of one of America’s two major political parties…
sympathize for the suffering
If a person has a hostile relationship with a neighbor, we don’t know if the problem is with one of them, or the other, or some of both. But if someone has a hostile relationship with all his or her neighbors, would you not agree there must be something amiss with that person?
And so it is with that part of the American electorate that is rallying to the support of Donald Trump as he — the current frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president — expresses hostility to one major group among us after another.
what do your see?
It’s understandable that the media give wall-to-wall coverage to Donald Trump: he gives them great ratings. But at this point, it is not Trump himself we should be focusing on.
By now, we’ve gotten a good look at what Trump is up to, and the spirit he is serving. When even Republicans are using the word “fascist” to describe Trump’s message, the picture has surely become clear enough.
cry the benighted country
“Make America great again,” Trump says. Not a bad idea, but first we need to understand what’s gone wrong.
In every society, both constructive and destructive forces are always at work. But the balance of power between those forces is not constant. Such factors as the quality of its leadership and the impact of its national experience can strengthen either the best or the worst in a society.
Consider, for example, the peoples of Great Britain and Germany at two points in the twentieth century.
In 1910, a time of relative stability before the outbreak of World War I, British society and culture might have been judged moderately healthier than the German…
threatens as much as war
The word “conservative” means something different today than it used to.
Conservatives have traditionally understood the importance of stability—and the dangers of disrupting the established order. They considered it a responsibility to preserve their heritage and pass it down intact to the next generation.
Conservatives have been the guardians of tradition because they saw that what our forebears created is a great achievement, built with difficulty over time.
people will die
As the American public recognizes, our political system has become dysfunctional. A big component of the problem is that disgraceful political conduct has become acceptable, and is often even rewarded. The rejection of Medicaid expansion by the Republicans in many states in which they have the power is a case in point.
That includes my own state of Virginia, where the Republicans in the General Assembly have steadfastly rejected Medicaid expansion. It is hard – perhaps impossible – to find a way that this rejection is good for Virginia for its people.
meet april moore
It is reasonable to believe that the state senator in our part of Virginia is being groomed to do for Virginia—or I should say do to Virginia—what Scott Walker has been doing to Wisconsin. This state senator’s name is Mark Obenshain. In the election of 2013 he came within a hair of winning statewide office as Virginia’s Attorney General. Now there is much expectation that in 2017 he will try to become governor. Here is an important clue regarding what it would mean for him to succeed in fulfilling that ambition: in his Attorney General race, Mr. Obenshain was helped by a $60,000 donation from the Koch Brothers.
Shame on us, the American People. Giving more power to a Republican Party that has has been blatantly indifferent to the good of the nation. Never in American history has there been a party so consistently destructive in its impact on America. Indeed, it is hard to find an instance these past six years when the Republicans have even tried to be constructive, tried to address our national problems…
In order to regain its moral and spiritual passions, Liberal America does not have to to embrace the forms traditional religion has used to represent the issues of good and evil. That reconnection can be achieved, by moving further forward along the path of rational, empirically-based scientific knowledge.
In other words, the path of evidence and reason can provide us good answers to those vital questions of value — answers that can connect us to those deep parts of our human core from which comes the passionate intensity required for this urgent battle.
Recently my wife and I attended a reunion of her first cousins (and their spouses). These cousins are the children of the children of a couple of Swedish immigrants who settled in Iowa to farm in the late 19th century. What a wonderful family event! Just enough people to fill all the seats around a table not so big we couldn’t all converse together. In all our time together, there wasn’t a single hurtful word. Even the spouses, like me, were embraced in the family feeling, all glad to be together.
People like Bill O’Reilly call upon people to raise themselves up while helping keep a foot on their necks. Conservatives like O’Reilly do have some kernels of truth on their side. They rightly think people should develop good character, including virtues such as discipline and responsibility for oneself. And they are rightly concerned to assure that social policies don’t discourage people from developing such virtues.
Are you, like me, unhappy about where you sense our nation is heading? Do you, like me, fear that the prospects for our children and grandchildren will be darker than what we have known? For years, the polls show, a substantial majority of Americans have been unhappy about where our nation is headed. But we don’t all see the same dangers or agree on what to do about them. For example, the fear of millions that Obamacare is another step toward a socialist tyranny has little to do with reality. This distraction is indeed just one more symptom of what’s gone wrong.
This piece begins a discussion that is addressed especially to those who believe that there is no such thing — and can be no such thing — in the world as an “evil force.”
The crucial battle in America today is being fought in the political arena, but the heart of it goes deeper than politics. It is at the moral and spiritual level. The issue in America today is this: will constructive or destructive, life-serving or life-degrading forces prevail in shaping this nation’s future?
It is the morning of October 3rd. As I have for the past more than forty October 3rds, I take from the cupboard a special kind of candle and light it. As I do so, I think about my father.
It was in the early morning hours of October 3, 1967, in a hospital in Minneapolis, that my father died. It was a great loss. He was not yet 49, I was 21, and his death came way too soon for me to be done needing him.
Some of my liberal friends say they have lost all hope for American democracy, and a great many others act as if they had. They see that Big Money is wresting power from the people and, with the help of the Supreme Court, making it ever harder for the people to retrieve what has been taken from them. They see that one of our two major political parties is systematically blocking Congress from implementing solutions to our nation’s problems.
The the destructive force that has arisen on the right is only one side of America’s present national crisis. The other side is the weakness of the response from Liberal America to this profound threat to our nation’s well-being. I’ve described President Obama’s failure to wage the battle that must be waged. But the problem of liberal weakness – and of its blindness – is not confined to the president. These defects were evident among Democratic leaders before Mr. Obama assumed the presidency, and they are manifested, I would assert, by Liberal America taken as a whole.
I’ve undertaken to present this “Press the Battle” series because, believing it might make an important contribution, I feel a moral obligation to do so. At the age of 68, and after a whole decade of fighting against this ugly force that’s taken over the right, I’m certainly not doing it for fun.
Maybe now is a good time to explain why I think what I’m presenting here might just possibly help turn the tide of battle. A reader recently wrote me privately wondering when I was going to stop the preliminaries and explain what I’m proposing to do…
The American electorate is probably about to give more power to a party of traitors. This statement, though shocking, can be verified by these steps (many of which are substantiated here):
Hey, Mr. President. Why aren’t you out there on the hustings talking to the American people? There’s an election coming up, and the American political system is more dysfunctional than it’s been in generations, maybe ever. What does it mean that you, as president, are not using this last opportunity of your presidency to talk to voters about what’s gone wrong with the system and what voters can do now to get back a government that does the people’s business?
If Barack Obama had become president at a time of normal politics, with a normal opposition party, there’s no telling how much he could have accomplished. On many issues, President Obama has strived to move the country in wise and beneficial directions. He might have become the transformational president he aspired to be, and that many of us hoped for when we elected him in 2008. But it is his misfortune to be President when our politics is far from normal, and to have faced a Republican opposition more dishonest and destructive than anything ever before seen…
A friend of mine, who is liberal, told me recently, “Having grown up in the South in the 1950s, I know something about how it feels to be part of a group you’re told is superior. It feels really good. It’s a feeling that shouldn’t be under-estimated.”
That got me thinking about the anger of many white men, and why they’ve lent the force of that anger to the political right.
In the conduct of today’s Republican Party, we can see a pattern of destructiveness. It displays an insatiable lust for power and wealth, an impulse to prey upon the vulnerable, a preference for conflict over cooperation, a persistent dishonesty, and a willingness to sacrifice the greater good for selfish advantage. Putting the pieces together, we see that our national crisis is not just at the political level, but goes deeper to the moral and spiritual levels.
I have a message and a plan to help turn back this force. To succeed, it will need the help of many.
In America right now there’s a battle that needs to be fought and won in our political arena. It’s a battle over what kind of country, and what kind of planet, our children and grandchildren will live in. Although some people like waging battle — some even insist on it — most liberals I’ve known are capable of living richer, more balanced and fulfilling lives. Most of us liberals would rather lead those better lives than focus on political combat. But over the past decade or two, while we’ve been living our fuller, more rounded lives, we…
in the name of balance
I have claimed that America now faces one of the most profound crises in its history, but unlike with the other major crises, this time our national conversation has not focused on discussing what’s gone wrong and how it might be set right. If I’m right, what does that say about the performance of the press? Our founders instituted special protections for the press not because they had a love for journalists, but because they recognized that a free press is necessary for the maintenance of a free society.