30 SEPT 2023
The 4th Congressional District of Ohio is in the north center of the state, and borders Ohio's largest city on its north, Columbus, the capital of Ohio and the location of Ohio State University and its 50,000 students. Currently the district goes a bit further than Lima in the NW and contains Mansfield in the NE. It has I-75 in the west and I-71 in the east.
The US Representative of Ohio District 4 since 2007 is the former assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State (1987-1995) Jim Jordan, who was a high school wrestler and won 156 matches and lost just 1. He wrestled at 134 lbs. He wrestled at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and earned the Baccalaureate degree in Economics there. He got a Master's in Education at Ohio State, and a Juris Doctor degree at Capital City Law School, but never took the bar examination. Nevertheless, he is Chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives.
Ohio is an interesting state, admitted to the Union in 1803, it is now the 7th most populous state in the US at 11.8 million. Thousands of westbound settlers passed through Ohio before and after it was partitioned from the Northwest Territories. In otherwords, those who settled there, settled early in the history of America, before the surges of southern and eastern Eurepean migrations of the 19th century. It was never a slave state, although the Ohio River, forming in Pennsylania at Pittsburgh, separated Ohio from the major slave-trading and slaveholding Commonwealth of Kentucky. Ohio now has a nearly 80% White people and 12.5% Black, with the remainder mostly in the cities immigrants from the middle east and southeast Asia. Currently, Ohio-4 is 88% White.
We stopped in July 1970 traveling west from Washington just north of Dayton, to meet the Smiths, parents of our good friend's wife. We played horseshoes out back, had fried chicken, corn on the cob, mashed potatos and gravy, apple pie, the whole "thing" of the legendary middle America. Mr. Smith seemed an affable pater familias. We heard years later that in one way or another he had abused every member of the family including the dogs. So, his kids were a bit mixed up. Except for this late breaking information, I had thought of Ohio as most people think about butter on toast, that is, "normal" but by no means the whole story of breakfast.
Jim Jordan reminds me very much of the high school wrestling coach and my 10th grade PE teacher. We called him "Bullet." He became the Principal of the high school during the first peak of troubles with drugs and integration in the Virginia suburbs of DC. (Years later the President of the United States visited that high school twice to observe how the melting pot was faring, because there had been race trouble there, and Obama had a program mounted to fix things like that.) But, Jim and Vic were of a type, it seemed to me. They had the wrestler's attention to the muscular poise and carriage of people, even those with whom they were simply chatting. In those days we had no vocabulary for what that was like to experience, if you were able to pick up on it at all, but there was an organic armed mousetrap intrusiveness that faded in and out. As a teacher, Vic comported himself with reserve, and it always seemed like he was holding back.
Jim Jordan, of course has denied any contemporary knowledge of or responsibility for abuses in the wrestling program at Ohio State while he was assistant coach. The Woody Hayes epoch at Ohio State and the institutional response to it—that is, the overall institution-wide imbalance of ethical concerns—suggests that Jim very well might have known more than he has let on. The question resists being cast aside because of the continuous need to assess Jim's character as he rises to more and more responsibility in the US Congress.
Prompting this essay is the interview with Cassidy Hutchinson by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC on Monday of this week. What happened in their conversation went by quite fast. The topic at that moment was what was happening in the Chief of Staff Mark Meadow's office and the Oval during the first hour of the insurrection at the Capitol. The two events were successive in-coming telephone calls, answered by Cassidy, but only after many earlier calls had already been refused by Trump and/or Meadows. The calls came in, and either Meadows or Trump or both asked, "Is it Jim?" ... Hmmm!
It is an easy inference that they were expecting it was Jim Jorden. Both Rachel and then Cassidy said so. Why? What was Jim Jordan's role in the insurrection? We do not know. Some in Congress and maybe the DoJ may know. My admittedly speculative but reasonably informed answer is a) Jim Jordan had a role to play in the events of that day, and if so, b) Jim Jordan, being probably the closest Congressman to Trump, his role was in furtherance of Trump and Co.'s plot to overturn the election. Jim Jordan is a significant leader in the House delegation of MAGA far-right Trumpists. He is accorded deference even by the media. Given that 147 Republicans voted to overturn the election results anyway after the insurrection failed, what must Jordan's role have been before the failure?
One thing about politics is that it does take place among people—plural. That means that others, maybe many, upwards of dozens or scores, know what he was planning to do. It seems inevitable that what it was (and maybe still is) will come out. Let's hope DoJ has the moxie then to arrest Jim and his ilk, if they can show and prove that he and they were up to no good, in violation of their oaths of office, and participating in a conspiracy to destroy our democracy!
19 SEPT 2023
Monday on Deadline White House, and again today, Nicolle Wallace again watched the panel of expert contributors come to the inescapable conclusion that, so far, it is not a fair fight. The MAGA Republicans control the narrative out of shear cheek and ugly threats against society including the putative moderate Republicans. Those are the leaders, but out in the hustings around twelve million committed to Trump and Trumpism are watching the liberals stumble through their paces in the courts and internationally, not oblivious, but un-armed for the fight they are in to preserve the constitutional order. What these Trumpists see is disarray and pretense and honorable and stupid behaviors, as if Democrats taking up the fight against those who are supporting our adversaries would undermine the sort of nation we want to have. There is a sort of truth to that, but it is not a suicide pact. The Republicans have First Amendment and Second Amendment rights, but they do not share the foundation that gives us all those rights. They are demonstrably and vocally committed to a different form of government than we now have. We must stop treating them as if they were colleagues, committed to a thriving inclusive democracy. If they think that sitting it out is their only way, Representatives and Senators who have not stood up for democracy are not colleagues in the fight for freedom and democracy!
First point—By supporting Putin they are acting treasonously against the national security of the nation. Senator Tuberville should be removed. By undermining Ukraine support they are acting against the democratically established foreign policy of the nation and providing China with courage to act against Taiwan and the US. And the rest of the world is afraid the US will let them down and withdraw into its infamous isolationism, leaving them as bait for the crush of Chinese and the rapacious Russians. They are, in every sense of the words, setting us up for a world war!
Second point—Republicans are publically and vocally committed to radical surgery or, as they see it, a "mercy killing" of our constitutional order. White Christian Nationalist Patriarchy is the strong CENTER (not the fringe) of contemporary Republicanism. That ideology does not include the kind of democracy we now have. Most people in America will lose in such a system as we had a hundred years ago, even Republicans, especially and certainly those in the lower economic levels! For Trump it is for personal power and some largesse for those who prop him up, but for those supporters and hangers on and those in the hustings who have given up on liberal democracy to give them a new or a fair deal in the economy, the answer is what they hope will be only a "modest dominion" over "lesser people" of color and liberal persuasion. We cannot continue to pretend that Republicans on any part of that political spectrum are earnestly committed to democracy. There are many among them have been saying this out loud for many years: "We are for a republic, not for a democracy." As for Trump himself, he said three months after taking office: "When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that's the way it's got to be. It's total."
Third point—Joe Biden is statistically too old to run for a second term as President. He was born November 20, 1942. On Inaugeration Day, January 20, 2025, if he were to win, he would already be 82, and 86 in his last year in office. The odds are not good for him, and with him neither is the nation. He is increasing likely to encounter mental problems as he bores into his mid-80s. He is more likely to have sudden physical disabilities and illnesses and life-ending events. It happens, but the cirumstances are that losing a sitting President in the current and decaying domestic and international situations will be very dangerous, if not fatal to our efforts to maintain our democracy and economy. His stubborn pride cannot be our undoing! VP Harris is an excellent prosecutor, but she has not been adequately groomed for the Presidency. The proposed Biden-Harris ticket for 2024 is not the best we can do! More on this soon.
The 2024 election will be fraught with corruption, prevarication, damned lies, violence and terror. Republicans everywhere will try to cow American Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Women in general, into not voting. They all know their votes are essential and will make the difference, and that without their votes the gains made in the 20th century will be lost. The only democratic solution is what I wrote not too long ago, a huge bipartisan ground-swell vote against Republican candidates, but for constitutional government, reproductive freedom, civil rights, international strength, democracy, amendments to the existing Constitution where needed to preserve individual liberty.
The number must be huge and must remove this repugnant breed of Republicans from the political stage completely, forever! It will take more than the hundred million (100,000,000) I said earlier it would take. The 2024 election is the best, maybe the last, chance to save the United States from this vocal, rabid and corrupt political conspiracy.
24 August 2023
One Party System
At long last, Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC's Deadline Whitehouse managed two panels of contributors to accept the idea, today, that Donald Trump's political party is no longer a political party in the common and historical meaning of the term. She and others have been hedging around the edges of this break-through journalistic point of view for well over a year—more like seven years. The description went to the details of what the otherside-hopefuls said in Milwaukee last night in their so-called "debate."
Two members of that group asserted that they would not vote for Trump, if he were convicted of the charges already brought against him in the "Florida Documents" case or the "DC Electoral Coup Plot" case or the "Georgia RICO Election Tampering" case or the "New York Hush-Money" case. The rest of them, Nicolle's panel agreed are fundamentally no longer committed to the rule of law, the US Constitution, or any of the norms and traditions of the American democratic system evolved since 1787.
Accordingly, Nicolle said, we as defenders of the US Constitutional government and society should dispense with the convenient falsehood that we still have a two party system in America, the one committed to progressive politics and moderately regulated economics and the other to conservative but darwinian politics and economics. We have the former party, but the latter has morphed into a cult of personality committed to preserving an undemocratic system of white, christian power for the entire nation, not just the deep post-Confederacy south. Republicans are no longer in favor republicanism, defined as a representative democracy, composed of a three equal and separate branches of government.
As journalism goes, the idea is long since overdue, but as a practical matter, there are vestiges of the status quo ante that are undeniably and inconveniently in the way. For one, the President of the US has not publically subscribed to this idea, and moreover, has been successful in conducting his legislative goals as if the political opposition were still actually Republicans like those of the 1950's or 1980's.
Nor can one easily imagine Joe Biden standing up one day soon to say that DoJ must arrest all members of both houses of Congress who have demonstrably violated their oaths of office, which would include the Speaker of the House, at least eight of the Republicans in the Senate and 139 in the House who voted against the certification of the electoral votes in the 2020 Presidential election, or who have by public utterance or deed otherwise obstructed or attempted to obstruct the lawful operations of the federal or state governments.
The awful fact is that the Democratic Party, although it is a very large-tent accumulation of political points of view, is confronted by a political entity not just inclined to, but vocally in favor of "burning the effing thing to the ground," or (as the lady said in New Hampshire recently) separate (again) and this time go our separate ways ... in other words (since those minority views are completely unacceptable, intolerable, and internationally suicidal), means civil war again, which we must at almost any cost avoid.
As this is being written, the former President is arriving in Atlanta, GA, to be arrested, finger-printed, his mug shot, and his martyrdom established for all his friends to honor and obey. It is historic and yet the math is still on the side of justice, but the aftermath may be more than even vigilant citizens of our country can withstand. Nicolle is right, the forces arrayed against the continuation of our constitutional government should not be under-estimated nor considered worthy of the respect they might have had in the last century. Accordingly, let it be said now across the land that we, the loyal majority will not tolerate their behavior and will pursue them by all the legal means available to us to their vanquishment.
11 August 2023
The Single-Minded Right
Over the last weekend the leading candidate in the Republican presidential primary contest in New Hampshire held a rally and a reporter for NBSNBC interviewed a late middle-aged woman sporting the tee-shirt of her candidate. Reporter: "... what if Donald Trump is not elected?" (slight pause), whereupon she said: " ... Civil War! It is obvious we cannot live together, so we should separate ...."
It was the quick matter-of-factness of her response that struck me, the binary nature of the response devoid of gray nuance that chilled me and angered me. My first thought was that Civil War is essentially a suicidal idea on her part, that she knows so little about ware and its ravages for civilians or militias untrained in warfare. And I thought about the international consequences of another real rebellion from among these people of limited intellectual means and among the better-equipped cynical among them hoping that, out of it all, they will achieve power in communities otherwise unavailable to them or no longer be democratically constrained by a constitutional system.
There are the footsoldiers of the single-"minded" political right and there are those who control them and the information getting to them, mostly propaganda framed as infringements to their liberty, based on falsehoods and mammoth lies about the democratic middle and progressives in this country. As the featured link in this essay attests, this situation is not new in the 21st century, or even in the 20th. It is "simply" the latest phenomenon of the practice of dividing to weaken and to fa, ilitate local control, to preserve slavery, to resist Reconstruction, and to maintain the baseline premise of White Nationalism, which is that America was created by White people for White people, superficially tolerant of lower status White people, but always subordinating others than White Christians.
The August 17, 2023, issue of The New York Review of Books contains two articles, the most important of which is "American Carnage", by Sean Wilentz. This piece is nominally about Timothy McVeigh who bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April of 1995. He is presented as an archetype of the Single-Minded Right, completely committed to destruction of what he was taught about the meaning of democracy in American politics. The opening paragraphs of this account are an excellent description of the beginning of Reaganism and the right's Gingrichean commitment to "taking no prisoners."
The second article is "Invasion of the Democracy Snatchers", by Fintan O'Toole, who represents an Irish-European view of the situation that has devolved under the guidance of Donald Trump, which is to say: the existential nature of the charges so far brought against Trump by Special Counsel, Jack Smith. It is obvious in the media that Trump has chosen (or has no other realistic way forward but ...) to wage his defense politically to a jury of his base—including the ones like Timothy McVeigh and the lady in New Hampshire—and those members of our society who waffle around in the middle, convinced that there are simple answers to complex questions ... and to potential witnesses and jurors in all of the cases in FL, GA, DC, and NY in which Trump is indicted.
Last night, Alex Wagoner, host at MSNBC's 9pm EDT news show, asked the awkward question of whether news about Hunter Biden and GOP fuming about him and his unfortunate tax situation should be ignored "at one's own peril," given that rightwing and center media are giving it ("fair and balanced" and undue) attention. It was awkwardly put, but the question is really, can Donald Trump paint the story of Hunter on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Clearly, if Joe Biden were not President, the issue would never arise. Relatives of elected officials are not the issue. Unless and until Joe Biden is actually linked to Hunter Biden's issues, the matter should not be "perilous" for news anchors, producers, or corporations.
The media, including MSNBC (aka MSDNC in Trumpland), are in the awkward position of reporting on the most consequential evolving threat to the American democracy ever, but it is moving very slowly—now approaching three years since the "contested" election of 2020. One needs a law degree to truly understand what is going on, and experts are provided at MSNBC and other "cable"-news outlets. But, there are things happening all over the world that are being neglected as the antics and lies of Trump are combed over endlessly it seems.
The most overused word these days is "unprecedented." Each new morning is, in fact, sort of unprecedented, that does not mean they are unpredictable, or that "norms" are real and decisively correct ways to guide our behavior or our curiosity or our politics. Trump is not getting the average treatment in court, and we should be angered that he is getting favors. Trump chose to run for President again, it was his personal option ... his "want" not his "need"—truly optional—and fortunately Judge Tanya J. Chutkan, presiding over the January 6th indictment trial, seems to have recognized that Trump did so to seek special treatment. If he had chosen other "want" options for this period, they would not figure in the conduct of the trial. As Rachel Maddow says in an MSNBC advertisement, the main question for history is "how did such a man ever get elected President?"
The answer is given in all the history of the political right from Jefferson and the other slaveholders through the Gilded Age, the Dixiecrats, McCarthyism, Reagan, and Gingrich to Trump. It was not inevitable, but sometimes it feels like it.
22 July 2023
Capitalism, Fascism, and Socialism
Back in mid-February, 2009, I wrote an essay under the title above because I had found an article (of 2/16/09) by Thom Hartmann on FDR-era Vice President Wallace's remarks about whether Fascism "... It Can Happen Here". Hartmann's article at OpEdNews has lost its paragraphing and is very difficult to read now, but you might try anyway. And, so, I will pick up my essay now and make some necessary revisions along the way.
It [the Hartman article] did force me to realize that the issue is really "afoot," as they say. As everyone knows explicitly or "in their bones" we are now in "very interesting times," the outcome of which could go in any of several undesirable directions.
Moreover, the issue is not straightforwardly explicable. There are a lot of good and true reasons to think that Capitalism is different from Fascist Corporatism. And, equally, there are a lot of people who, believing themselves to be "capitalists," are really more simply "entrepreneurs." And, there are "capitalists" who are already "corporatists" and don't even know it. Finally, there are rational people in politics and in the press who believe their job is to mediate the ... Administration away from any "socialistic" tendencies the Democrats may have "under their tent" and in so doing these members of the press are misrepresenting "capitalism" and, wittingly or not, playing into the hands of people who are committed "corporatists" and lacking only the propaganda means to accomplish their aims.
Capitalism has become by the beginning of the 21st Century a complex creation of human ingenuity. Even in its early modern days in the Dutch Republic of the 17th century, Capitalism was complex and already linked culturally to Calvinist religion. It was, thus, something of an ideology with assumptions established in different parts of the Dutch culture. The Dutch were, arguably, the first modern country to dominate world trade. In a sense they defined what mercantilism was and, in so doing, gave a modern definition to "capital." Fundamentally, the study of macroeconomics begins to take shape during this period, that is, "mercantilists" began to understand the larger implications of the accumulation of capital and the necessary role of the state in the accumulation and preservation of capital.
Capital is according to 19th century analysis the accumulation of "surplus value," which is, in the simplest terms, the difference between cost of "materials, production, distribution" and price. Capital has two important functions: one is to simply exist, accumulated, and to represent potential, and the other is as investment, that is, capital committed to discrete purpose. Capitalists are, therefore, persons who accumulate surplus value and persons who commit that value toward some kind of enterprise. Capitalists are not necessarily entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs are not necessarily capitalists, although entrepreneurs seek and must have capital.
Capitalists naturally are aware of the environment in which they operate and so they seek safety for their accumulations of capital and they seek to minimize the risk associated with the capital they commit into investment. In other words, since the beginning, Capitalists have not and do not exist in a vacuum; they exist in cultures and polities and like every other being on the planet they do what they can to control their cultures and polities. The activities of control are what interests us here most.
Capital and capitalists are but one part of the equation, however. You will find many definitions of what constitutes an operational economy, but the traditional view is that land and labor are the other two main components. There is not time to fully argue the reason for doing so, but I am going to substitute the term "commons" for the term "land" in this essay, because I think we need to understand the materiality of enterprise as also embodying the air, the water, the ecosystem, the planet. Perhaps we have come to this substitution too late.
The commons is the neglected part (the corporate "externalities") of the human enterprise equation, and the insertion of a partisanship for the commons is not only necessary, but has been largely misunderstood and too often deliberately suppressed. (A dozen years later, the misunderstanding now proves to have been deliberate corporate policy across the planet, ostensibly to protect investments already made, and markets fashioned to perpetuate and multiply sales.)
Labor is no less complex, but the directly human "variable." The Marxist analysis comes to the more than slightly simplistic conclusion that "surplus value" is actually the congealed value of the work of Labor. Taking that as a moral point, which Marx and Engels do (which is why Marxism has been so acceptable to many), they (along with the even less precise predecessor utopian socialists) arrive at the conclusion that control of the polity and its economy (a community like Oneida or a nation like, say, Sweden) ought to belong in the control of Labor, not in the control of culturally and religiously "irrelevant" or "unnecessary" individuals whose main aim and virtue seems to be acquisitiveness and more acquisitiveness through accumulation of capital and then investment. Once the role of the capitalist is partly revealed, it becomes easy to see a way to replace him within the "division of labor" with technicians. It should be obvious at this point that these technicians will learn to call themselves "management" and that they have exploited both Capitalists and Labor to a calamitous fare-thee-well ever since.
When Labor takes over the function of accumulating the surplus value of an economy and the function of determining how that value is to be invested, we call that Socialism. The idea that our elected representatives in Congress represent Labor is only partly correct, of course, so the current bailout situation (from the Great Recession) is only by a long stretch of the imagination Socialism. Socialism is "social" only in the sense that the private accumulation and investment ambitions of individuals is replaced by those elected to government to do what Capitalists did before, but cyclically botched again and again. It is important to see that Socialism does not obviate the need for capital or "capitalists." It is merely a different mode of control over the economy and the polity and the culture.
So then what is Fascism and Corporatism? In brief, it is the control of the polity and the economy and, accordingly, the culture, by a combination of the Capitalists in collusion with Management (now separating itself from the category of Labor), and importantly with "management" being defined and conditioned by the organized enterprises in which Capitalists have invested, that is, the corporations. The control of government, whether elected or not, is achieved by well-known indirect means, of which we have ample experience in the past sixty years. Rather than allowing themselves to be "dispossessed" by the threat of Labor taking matters into its own hands, Capitalists and Management use the government and economy to control Labor ... and to provide enterprises into which they can safely invest.
Almost needless to say in such a short essay, Corporatism is not a whether, but how much, and like Capitalism and Socialism, it has already happened. The control of the polity is always a balance (or imbalance) among the contesting members of the economy. However, you should notice that of the three methods, Fascist Corporatism has the least moral authority ... only that which the Capitalist brings in from the remnants of Calvinist discipline over one's fellow man. (Or, employs race or nationalism or in America religious pretence, as available in the epoch.)
The current Corporatists and Capitalists complain that Socialism provides no "incentives" for individuals to excel. They are incorrect, of course, since under Socialism a person typically receives only a bare minimum above which his benefits are measured by his work, not some Communist apparatchik's determination of his "needs."
One of the ideas that has affected modern culture is the concept of "complexity" and how confusing, and how often it is baffling to the normal woman or man, considering whether and if to vote, how to decide. Things are complex and rarely fully understood, even by those working tirelessly to make systems work correctly in sync with thousands of other systems. Moreover, complexity can be seen as chaos, and so it is easily so described by demagogues whose explanations draw on stereotypes and mythologies and suggest that only he understands.
I have been considering the situation described to us by good souls in the media using the term "unprecedented." There is no question that things are happening that have never happened before, some are the result of quantitative changes—the fact there are now (November 2022) 8 billion human beings on our planet seeking a reasonable life. Some are the result of qualitative changes, that is, activities we can accomplish now through technology that were unheard of a single generation (30 yrs) ago. "Unprecedented" means there is no previous example and no picture of how it evolved and what it required of people. Let me assert that every moment is unprecidented, that Life itself is an adventure into the unknown, some of the unknown being trivial, but some being amazing or fatal or just plain complicated again.
Let me also assert that most of what seems to be unprecedented is analogous or easily compared to previous experience—but for one glaring thing. What we have learned from the media is that people are mesmerized by "shiny objects," celebrities, sex, and all manner of unexpected—but definitely familiar or easily understood things and events—and so they lose their trains of thought and fall prey to complexity. News hosts over-use "unprecedented" in their description of the events of our epoch. It is because they are dazzled by shiny things. Don't be!
30 June 2023
If it were not crystal clear before this week, it should be clear now that the greatest danger to the Rule of Law, the Constitution, and the Nation itself is the Supreme Court of the United States, which has taken up the billionaires' and White Christian Nationalists' views of what our nation should be. The Court is legislating, exactly what the Framers feared and tried to prevent. SCOTUS should be about the processes of justice, that is, that justice should done as best human beings can do it, that they make sure that the law is applied correctly, fairly, and with compassion.
SCOTUS abandoned that idea long ago (1803). But now there is a super-majority of "radical-conservative" members on the court and a House of Representatives that is supposed to be ready to apply checks and balances on the Court, but cannot tie its own shoes, being run by incompetents and law-breakers, and a few who are mentally ill.
The solution is an overhaul and reform of the SCOTUS. The Chief Justice will not move his dominant pinkie a centimeter in that direction, although given the principle of "separation of powers," the better way to accomplish what must be done would be "internally." So, it falls to the checks and balances branches of Constitutional government to accomplish what must be done as the rights of one group after another are destroyed by zealots!
I would vote for Joe Biden for President in 2024, but I will not vote for him in the California Primary Election. I cannot agree with him that expanding the Court to 13 members as proposed—by Senators Ed Markey, (D-Mass), Tina Smith (D-Minn), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Representatives Jerry Nadler, (D-NY), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Cori Bush (D-MO), and Adam Schiff (D-CA),—in a current bill now called the Judiciary Act of 2023, would establish a precedent of politicization, as if it were not egregiously politicized right now!
The SCOTUS is a Constitutionally mandated body, its membership appointed by the President (Executive Branch) and confirmed (or not) by the Senate (Legislative Branch) and is, therefore, ipso facto political. Biden says expanding the SCOTUS will politicize it, as if it were not already. The Court began with 6 members, then 10, then 9. The court is overloaded and unable to carry out is functions in terms of its mandate to insure swift and sure justice is obtained in our country.
The four new members authorized by the Judiciary Act under consideration would be appointed with a mandate to fix the Court. New members would be explicitly required to state the principles with which they would, if confirmed, act as members of the Court. Of these would be a statement of adherence to the judicial principle of stare decisis, precedent, without which opinions of the Court become legislation, and by the meaning of "separation of powers" unconstitutional.
I have been criticized by attorneys, officers of the courts in their jurisdictions, for stridently asserting that the SCOTUS (and all other courts) do not have the power or authority to declare acts of Congress signed into law by POTUS unconstitutional. I say this again and again because the history of the framing of the Constitution is that the concept was promoted and deliberately and firmly dismissed. The Constitution of the United States as amended does not provide the Judiciary with that authority or power!
Well then, they say, who is to see to it that the bills, acts, and the law as approved do not conflict with provisions of the US Constitution? The answer is that the branches of government empowered by the Constitution to enact legislation: the Legislative and the Executive. And, if they make a mistake, or given that from time to time either or both are incapable or unwilling to correct mistakes, what then? The answer is that a case before a court must be ajudicated toward the least harm to living human beings AND the supposed conflict between a law and a provision of the Constitution be referred back to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate for the necessary repairs.
Biden is fixed on, and exceedingly competent within, the institutions of the federal government. He is what we now call "an institutionalist," a point of view that is congruent with the over-arching principle of "the Rule of Law." Institutions, are human creations and sometimes crumble and fail. Moreover, we are a democracy of women and men, and we depend on the rationality and compassion of women and men EQUALLY with the stability usually achieved by our institutions.
Biden is younger than I, and I am not quite yet headed out to pasture, but I recognize that I am less than I was ten years ago, mostly in body, but also partly in memory and mind. Not to worry, I am good for another ten or so years doing —this—. At the same time, Joe has been exceedingly successful in Congress and in the Executive in the White House. I think he has done remarkably well as the President in the era of a world-wide pandemic, its economic consequences and aftermath, and the consequences of Russian international misbehavior. A second term will not thwart the younger generations, but it will provide a certain amount of unnecessary anxiety and possibly crisis. He should stay in the race and give due respect to those who contest him in the primaries. He should open his mind to the idea of the Judiciary Act and bring it into his campaign as we wait to we see what kind of a Congress we get in January 2025. He should publicly tell the members of the Supreme Court that their terms of office are during "good behavior," not for life. That is what the Constitution actually says.
11 June 2023
Some Republicans have long held that Trump should be taken seriously, but not literally—that while the rage he channelled is real, his threats and proposals shouldn’t be accepted at face value. The DeSantis campaign is taking Trump literally. The central proposition of DeSantis’s career in Tallahassee and, it appears, of his Presidential candidacy, is that he can actually deliver the social retrenchment that his rival has promised. The issue for DeSantis is whether this prospect will appeal only to conservative insiders, as his Twitter Spaces rollout seemed to do, or whether his maximalist war on progressivism is really what Americans want.
Politics is endlessly complex and, perhaps, less spontaneous and "pure" as some would like you to believe. At dinner last evening we discussed Florida briefly and the intensity with which its Governor and its Legislature are carrying out their idea of a "retrenchment," one of the key words in the last paragraph of Wallace-Wells discussion of Ron DeSantis's behavior. In the first sentence there other key words: "rage," "channelled," "threats," and in the rest of paragraph words like "war" and the key expression at the very end of the article the question "whether ... [this war] is really what Americans want." Ending with a period not a question mark, suggesting that the question is rhetorical, and leaving readers suspended for a moment above the fray, dangling over the glowing coals of what probably is not rage at all, but willingness to be herded into a coma of self-satisfying peavishness.
"Channelled" is a loaded word that implies voodoo or massive earthwork. "Threats" are face-value assertions about the future, whether they are realistic or could be attained is asserted by what, for instance, DeSantis has already accomplished in his war against Woke.
We discussed briefly how inept the Democrats are at waging politics, a fact that usually leads to the conclusion that the well-educated leaders do not know how (or even what) to say to the polloi to win their hearts and minds like the brash Trumps and Gingriches do among the continuously wary, more than slightly change-disoriented conservatives. Union leaders fail to bring the level of discourse up to a level where the bigger picture emerges.
The success of Trump is that he has understood the unspoken disequilibrium among the millions as fairly simple disorientation, the natural product of progress toward goals held by some but not all under the sprawling tent of our culture. The "silent majority" concept rests for its silence on a lack of vocabulary. Trump gives them permission to borrow from their more homely vocabularies, taken in the main, these days, from television and the internet. He gives permission by using those words and themes right in front of them, the dialogues of cops and robbers, traitors, real-housewives, ninja, nostalgia, community status and caste, and so on. Whatever adrenalin can be called out of these terms Trump uses to bind his audiences into believers that his goal is to help them defeat their imagined and probable enemies right there in their own neighborhoods.
Rage? Let us be completely clear! The rage stoked by Trump IS NOT REAL! There is rarely rage until discontent is stoked, until permission is given to convert discontent to rampage. The fact that millions of Americans are lumped into a category of "raging militants" is because they have been herded into that category by stoking very common misapprehensions humans have about life "in the big city" or "out in the sticks" and the differences between those two. There is no lack of misapprehensions in the modern world. Children very rarely grow into milkmaids and cowherds these days, they learn about Life from television and the social media on the internet, which of course is rarely the standard version of what is really out there. The generations part ways earlier and more profoundly and families quite often lose their balance of ideas.
Provoking anxiety and then rage is different from yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, but the effect can be much, much worse. That politicians like Trump and DeSantis and Jordon and Cruz do it daily suggests that it may be time to fight fire with fire after all it is suicidal to sit back and just watch as our hard work building a regime of civil rights taking years and decades, even centuries, is sullied, battered, and destroyed!
11 MAY 2023
How Complicated is Politics
When I watched this 48 minute video about infinities and the cosmos the first time —"What is Beyond The Edge?"— it struck me that even our current politics is, to say the least, daunting, almost infinitely complicated, and especially since virtually the entire Republican Party has given up serious thinking about it, especially given the "impossibly" large numbers involved in things like national debt, debt ceilings, and cost of campaigns, for three complicated matters. The Republicans have discovered the national "cosmos" is not at all to their liking and, moreover, they have chosen to believe in entirely different rules from what the rest of us have been using for 247 years. They now believe they can go back in time to an era where they were almost always in charge, a concept that overturns and defies Democracy. We are at the edge of a terrible disaster!
The Edge! Colombus grew up when Europeans believed there was an edge, but after considering evidence, he was pretty sure there was no edge, a profound change of worldview and human cosmology, which eventually combined with Renaissance and Enlightenment ideas about who should rule humanity. The United States, given its inheritance from Britain and France, took the next step and introduced democracy to the modern world.
There are, indeed, cosmic processes taking eons, during which reality is relatively stable or steady or balanced even, yet in a constant state of change. And there are those super-nova moments of annihilation and redistribution of matter. So far physics has discovered that the rules of behavior within processes in our cosmos are two, namely Newtonian-Relativistic processes and Quantum processes, the two of which are coeval, two sets of rules cosmologically overlapping always or only during our own period of evolution of our cosmos, or—who knows?—maybe just one single as-yet-not-understood process. The important discrimating factor between the two processes we know about is spacial, in fact size. Daunting! But is it relevant? Possibly!
What any of cosmology has to do with human political opinion is debatable. In fact, though, all of human opinion, cosmological and political, is constrained by the logic apparent from the observations we have been able to make about how things are and how they behave over time. But, the universe with which we must be concerned is the universe of the United States, which is neither infinite in space nor in time, in fact in both of paltry insignificance compared to the real cosmos, yet it is what we and our world have, and we have to accept reasonable logic to understand it.
So, the population of the US is in 2023 very close to 340,000,000 live persons, with about 8000 deaths per day (2.92 million/yr) and a birth rate of 12.4/1000/yr (in 2023 in the US about 4.21 million/yr). The single most important fact of which is that the US population is expanding, whereas Japan's, China's, and Russia's and those of other European countries are declining. The second most important fact of which is that the US is the third largest and most populous country in the world after India (1,426,778,002, up about 9.5m) and China (1,425,721,307, down about 160k).
The number of registered voters in 2020 was 168.31m, but in 2022 161.42m! 2022 was a General Election not a Presidential Election year. 2024 promises by extrapolation to be close to 174m registered voters, given the stakes for the Republican Party and, more important, the Democratic Party and the Nation itself.
We are dealing with nothing like an infinite number of political positions about which to vote for or against. The practical number of opinions by the 1st of November, 2024, will have reduced to two times the number of candidates for those registered voters who actually vote, that is, yes, no/abstain. The number of actual voters set a record in 2020 when 154.6m of 168.1m registered voted. That was just a fraction short of 92%. Let's posit 94% in 2024 if Biden (D) and Trump (R) are the main candidates. If Trump is in jail or does not get the Republican nomination, but runs as an Independent (I), then we do not know whether the voting rate will go up or down, which is to say that the context is very, very important, and the Democrats will win handily, or there might be bloody insurrection. Republicans keep backing into that corner!
Opinions about Presidents, Governors, Senators, Representatives, state legislators depend on endogenous and exogenous factors. Biden is old and Trump is an unhealthy 75+. Biden is steady and experienced and Trump is a volatile liar and outwardy non-conforming and internally focused on his own interests. Biden is often inarticulate while Trump is undisciplined loquacious. Biden is a centrist and Trump is a narcissist, campaigning as a revolutionary conservative. Harris is a Black woman and "Gov" Christie is a White male. Harris knows the ropes, and Gov DeSantis is known to be crafty and Christian. Harris has strong Justice credentials and served in the Senate, while Sec. of State Pompeo is seen as arrogant, military capable, and maybe a cunning administrator. Democrats are all-in for Ukraine, but Republicans are no more than 65% with Trump favoring Putin. Democrats have to explain the inflation and Republicans do not, even though the Covid caused it and capitalists have profited from it. Blacks overwhelmingly favor the Democrats, while well-to-do and older people tend to be more conservative regardless of race. Women's Medical and Reproductive autonomy—Abortion and Choice—are supported by 85% of Americans, but Republicans find reasons to vote against Pro-Choice candidates. Guns and Police and Civil Rights Abuse issues are at this moment hot issues, as Democrats campaign for meaningful reforms, while Republicans will ignore these last three main issues as much as they can.
I think that is a fair assemblage of the top issues all in one medium-sized paragraph, much easier to see as a tractible porridge now than as an infinitely complex and intractible toss-up and mess. In the case of the visible Presidential candidates the "person" seems at the moment to be more important than the issues, except for the glaring fact that Trump and any number of GOP replacements represent destruction of the nation and its Constitution. Governors and legislators have personalities, but they—as usual—carry the platform of vying opinions about the issues. Biden is the widely esteemed village elder, Trump is the town big-mouth hot shot with noisy, rabid fans. I think Village elder is not what this situation requires, even though I would vote for Bernie in a Vermont second. Nevertheless, the issues totally outweigh the person, so Biden will win overwhelmingly.
Then there is this: institutions that the Democrats are depending to hold, might not. The Supreme Court is undependable and the House also will be in corrupt hands until 2025. The media are a very mixed bag of profit-oriented news companies, the original broadcast news organizations are still playing "fair and balanced," as if Republicans' declared goal of destroying the "administrative 'nanny' state" were just talk. Cable news has strong players like MSNBC as CNN begins to lean toward Trump's base and Fox sees their audience as willing co-conspirators for the MAGAFar Right.
The economy will be receding, inflation will have scarred lots of people. The Rule of Law depends on institutions functioning dependably. Merrick Garland holds the balance scales of Justice trembling. And the likes of Jim Jordan and Ted Cruz and MTG abide. For Democrats, Independents, and moderate Republicans the 2024 ballot is easy to calculate, but the politics may be violent ... again!
7 April 2023
Tennessee is a very long state. The drive from Memphis to Bristol is almost as bad as driving to get out of Texas. Many of the same or similar reasons apply. I have done it twice, once in a bus from Corpus Christi via Little Rock and once going back east to see relatives in DC. As you all heard on TV today, Tennessee is the place where the KKK was founded and organized. Until TVA was founded in the 1930's and built a system of hydroelectric power in the 1940's, Tennessee was very, very backward. To help with that problem Cornelius Vanderbilt put his University in Nashville and the state put UT in Knoxville which really got going when nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory began purifying pitchblend ore into fissionable U-238 for atomic bombs. But most of the state whose legislature voted to join the Confederacy against the strong popular opinion not to do so was and still is (thanks to gerrymandering) led by the Victims of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Losers of the American Civil War, who are still fighting for their Lost Cause.
Ejecting two State Representatives from the State House of Representatives today, Tennessee has abrogated the Constitution of the United States once again. Article IV, Section 4 of the US Constitution says "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic violence."
As a participating state in the Union Tennessee, benefitting from the programs of the federal government more than they ever pay for, they and all states have the obligation to see to it that their Republican Form of Government remains a "constitutional representative democracy." This is the very definition of Republican Form of Government. Tennessee has failed, utterly and despicably today, to do so.
The instant cause of this controversy is the failure of the government of Tennessee to take appropriate action "against domestic Violence," that fatally visited on six persons in a Nashville school, 3 nine year olds, and 3 adult members of the staff of the school. The House of Representatives of Tennessee does not fairly represent the people of Tennessee. Their gerrymandered election districts assured them of that.
But it is the US Constitution I have been quoting. That means that the Federal Government must go well beyond thoughts and prayers toward redressing the causes of non-compliance with our (and their!) US Constitution. The Department of Justice must immediately sue Tennessee to rescind the racist ejection of duly elected persons (albeit in violation of a House rule about demeanor—never since the Civil War ever applied). That suit must be made plain by arrest of the Speaker of the Tennessee House for direct and egregious unconstitutional behavior and speech.
The World is Watching!
7 March 2023
Making the Choice
As most of the readers of Iron Mountain know and understand, I am not in favor of the position that the United States is now an acceptable version of a "more perfect union." There is much to be done yet, and we are not even close to living up to the United Nations document, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I think it is important to draw on the wisdom of all of our planet's people for this kind of statement. It is modern, well-considered and argued, and contains direct reference to situations that mire us down even after centuries of hopeful thinking.
In the United Stvates we now have a vocal and intractible minority of people who do not understand and respect the goal of having a democratic system of government. They are the MAGA Republicans and their supporters who make billions of dollars spouting the lies that deliberately wear away at the confidence people have in their fellow citizens. It seems apparent now that Donald J. Trump saw the enormous potential for political disruption lying latent among a large swath of people, whose motivations are primarily and essentially self-preservation, meaning that they wish to have their own way, their lived experience, that experience that subjected so many more to poverty and indignity and degradation! In a phrase, they want the White Christian hegemony that existed in what has been the United States for nearly two hundred and fifty years —and one hundred fifty years before that—to continue.
They are afraid of a situation in which people of other cultures will get "their way," afraid because deep down they do not believe these "others" are as good as they are, and so the influence of the "other culture" can only be bad. They do not subscribe to the idea in the UN document about "the human family." They reject it, more and more overtly lately. It seems they have finally made a choice: it is more important to them to have that old, abusive, White culture, than to have a democracy that by definition includes the cultures of others: the brown, blacks, LGBTQ+, and anyone else that does not conform to their narrow notions of what life really is.
The rest of us want change, and we are divided not only from the fascist, White Christian Dominion people, but also among ourselves. Most of us are content to work it out within the limited confines of our democracies here in North America, Europe, and the rest of the world, hoping, by the way, to be supportive of like-minded people. For me the problem is that "the existing system" is weak and corrupt and fragile, and yet there is a consensus, (often poorly attended to,) that the the system is sufficiently neutral that we still can and might do what must be done. There are those in power who do not share the urgency.
There have been fascists among us since the beginning: people who do not and cannot cede themselves to the cooperation necessary for a democracy to function correctly. They instantly see their life chances as a pie with only "six" reasonable slices; they take "their slice" and then pretend to cooperate with the hungry, or they have a streak of that in their personality and become the people without the urgency. People accommodate to the pace of change differently. The pace is now faster with many more to consider than when we were born and "conjealed."
Kevin McCarthy, "Speaker" of the House, walked Saul's road to Damascus, but he—also a Pharisee—walked it in hubris rather than humility, in fear rather than hope and empathy. He had seen the end of his days on Earth and his hubris said "become Speaker and you will be forgiven all your mistakes; you will be famous!" And, so he made his choice. The choices of Josh and Ginny, Margorie, Ron, and Ted and countless others were just as bad, but they have made them. They now seem to be playing by the rules, but they know within and among themselves that this is, and must be, for "keeps!" They are our implacable, meaning unredeemable, unpersuadable, enemy now. They despise us, and they still fear us in our vast numbers and each individual strength.
Politics is like any human relationship situation. It only takes one to break faith. We are not required by any doctrine or compact to blame ourselves for their apostasy, their abandonment of loyalty to our democracy. But likewise, they do not get to ruin our system as they try to deceive us into thinking they are still loyal citizens. It is a painful thing to do, but we must. We need to understand the fascists are real and present and out to destroy us! And we need to understand that they have made their choice!
7 February 2023
Grass Roots Briefing
What would it be like to wake up one morning and the neighorhood in which you live was strangely different? We can think of a tthehousand ways this would happen: new neighbors, different kids, different noises, smells, styles and fashions, and any of these plus the differences in thinking and dreaming that goes on behind it all. You turn to your spouse and say something like "I wish those people would learn to 'keep holy the sabbath'. It bothers me that they don't seem to give a shit about how we think and believe."
What would it be like to waup knowing that, despite your "best efforts" to keep the magnitude of the policy restricted, the immigration policy of the country, which was designed to bring in workers to do stuff that we do not like to do or to practice advanced work such as medicine, engineering, and music, ... that that policy included that these new people would have rights just like your own?
What would it be like if your grandfather's family and even your own parents spoke in public about how unworthy many of these new immigrants and their kids were to have civil rights and how dangerous some of them could be, how resentful of us Americans they are, even as they partake of the good things of life alongside our kids and their classmates in public schools?
What would it take, do you think, to get you to hear yourself thinking and talking about how jealous you arre of these people who have found a place to have a meaningful life, but you—having grown up in it—never did or no longer find it meaningful or satisfying?
Let's say you are a Lutheran, born and bred, happy as a clam that there is a refuge from the "injustices" and "injuries" of a life among ruffians like yourself and, especially, those others. Or, maybe, you are a Baptist, thoroughly believing in the rituals and dogmas of your belief that the long-awaited Christ came to earth and then was tortured and killed, but will return one day—maybe sooner than many people think—and fix everything to the way it is supposed to be. What, you wonder, is going to happen to all those people who do not believe it? You decide at last it is not your problem, but theirs, and that you have no responsibility for them "missing the boat," so to speak. Or, you believe that when you speak of the slight glimmer of responsibility you could have—if others also had it—that you must drag them kicking and screaming to the truth that you know.
Let's also suppose that your family, being from Europe a half dozen or fewer generations back, and white is one of the ways you assure yourself that people with that similar experience and appearance are more likely to agree with you. You understand your own race to be advanced over all others, despite the fact that your country has been the unloading zone for the tired and humble masses of your own white race, poor people under-educated, raised by parents whose main experience was like their parents' experience, but clearly not your experience, mainly because of all these other kinds of people, their styles, smells, and dreams.
All of that is called White Christian Nationalism, although it is much, much deeper and habituated and rarely spoken of, except by small instances of the abuses by The Others. White Christian Nationalism is as old as the nation and even the colonies that grouped together to get their freedom from Great Britain. It would take hundreds of volumes to detail every expression of it, and so far the White Christian Nationalists have been quite successful in keeping the story of it suppressed. Now though, it is out in the open as The Others, you and I, have seen how pernicious and toxic it has become to the lives of them and us.
The next election, somewhat like the last, will be a contest for the narrative of our nation. On the one side a very large group of people whose intent it is to suppress the narrative and the people about whom it tells. On the other side are the Progressives and Liberals and Moderates and thoughtful Conservatives that understand that change happens, that we have espoused fundamentally excellent principles, and that we must make this multiracial and multicultural society work.
Here are some of the keys to understanding how to understand what is going on beneath the top surface of the conflicting narratives. Every seat in and of the US House of Representatives will be up for election (or re-election). It is essential that the White Christian Nationalist narrative not be given power again—ever! This means that if you have limited time or funds or both you must choose your candidates early, so they know that the grassroots are supporting them.
The US Senate will elect or reelect 33 of its 100 members. Over two-thirds are Democrats or Democratic, which means twice as much jeopardy as the GOP.
Here is a chart of the Senate races in 2024. Study it.
Democrats could oust Sinema in AZ. In CA Feinstein is almost certain to retire, so either Porter or Schiff are good choices. CT is solid blue. Delaware is Blue. FL is a red mess and will get a lot of press. Hawaii is solid blue. IA is Red. Maine might tilt blue, but not likely. MD is blue. MA is very BLUE. Michigan is newly blue--watch this race. MN is blue. MS is a mess. MO is the White Christian home base. Red! Montana is Red but John Tester is likely to run again, TBD. NV is blue. NJ is blue. NM is blue. NY is Blue. ND is red. OH is mostly red but Brown is Blue. PA is blue and slightly crazy. RI is Blue. TN is Red. TX is RED. UT is RED. VT is Ind/BLUE. VA will be blue, but watch this state. WA is blue. WV is red but Machin is stradling-blue. Wisconsin is blue, but chaotic. WY is RED. What the Senate does is approve the Judiciary of the country. The GOP has tried to take over the Judical Branch, but only the SCOTUS so far. We have to turn this around. Actually, we need to redefine the Court.
The '24 election is a Presidential Election and so the big questions are whether Joe Biden really will run again. He is younger than I am, but quite old for the heat and cold of national and world politics. Most of us think he has done an excellent job, despite polls that say only 36% (Jan2023) think so. The dozen people who were on the Democrat's stage in the 2020 campaign are all (but a few) likely candidates and will run in the primaries against Joe. So the corresponding question is whether Trump will make it past the GOP primaries and, if not, who will run besides Florida's DiSantis and Nikki Haley, former Gov. of SCarolina. Personally, I think the GOP will come close to completing their suicide by Nov '24 and, short of a successful insurrection, will fail.
The other national question mark is Kamala Harris, and whether she brings anything at all to a Biden ticket or her own ticket. I have written that Joe has not done what he needed to to bring her along. The NY Times raises this question. Personally, I thought she would have taken this VP opportunity to make a national name for herself. Biden, (cynically?) gave her the job of figuring out Immigation and the Borders. I will not fault her for not drowning in that, which as I mentioned at the top is the central issue of our time about what American is to be and become. If she manages to survive and prosper in the next 18 months, she could be the "continuity" part of a Klobuchar/Harris or a Sanders/Harris Democratic ticket or a Buttigieg/Harris ticket, although I am pretty sure Nikki Haley could win that one.
Local and statewide elections are, perhaps, more important. Social issues like Women's Rights and Choice, economic issues, and democracy are right there. Here is the place to walk the grassroots for a local candidate or do the telephone work.
The five main national issues: The Supreme Court; Climate Change; Russia and China; Poverty and Homelessness; Fascism and Guns and Policing. Each of these requires focus and intelligence and hopefully experience.
23 January 2023
Grass Roots Homework
There hundreds of things that come to mind as "homework" for those of you who want to participate in politics beyond your steady record of voting. There is the possibility of volunteering for service. You could be one of those people who works the telephonhinges from a list of the party's registered voters to urge them to support candidates by contributing a few dollars, or maybe a smaller amount each month. Or, you could walk precincts, knocking on doors to hand out posters, bills, and voter information, especially on election eve to "get out the vote." I have done both. Phoning was more fun, but if you are younger or have a younger person to go with you, door-to-door in good weather is good for you and enlightening. You have to be reasonably "social" to either one. Having a partner helps in the process of refining both your presentations. Volunteering is not exclusively a near the end of the campaign operation. So, you might inquire early and see what happens. If volunteering is not your best suit then donating some of your income is always appreciated.
Donating money has its rewards, too. You do not get to take donations or volunteering work off your federal or state taxes. You do get the satisfaction of knowing that every bit helps. If you are well-healed, then make sure you stay within your personal legal limits per candidate. You might want to discuss this with the candidate(s) of your choice.
So the main thing about donations is how much you intend to donate in toto. Then you need to decide when you want to do it, perhaps all at once, or monthly, or as the campaign encounters other than ordinary needs. So, let's say you want to keep it under $1000 dollars total for this round. The round is two years long for the House and six years for the Senate, states vary, but thinking at a two year pace will usually work out for you.
If you donate you are going to be asked to donate again and again and again, until you get pretty sick and tired of seeing your email inbox overflowing with asks. My advice is to restrict email access to each candidate or organization when you first donate to them. This last time around I was getting 200 emails each morning and then another batch by bedtime that day. It was way too much and mostly my own fault, but as I will write in the third essay on this subject, the campaigns staffs are mostly young and volunteers and they do not give a flying effword how many emails you get. They just want your money. Candidates share their knowledge of your donations with other candidates. They even offer split donations for two or more candidates.
In my previous Politics essay I included the internet addresses of the principal Democratic Party general purpose donation targets. (Scroll down to the next previous essay to refresh your memory.) I think the average grass-roots person should donate $10 per organization per month, so that's $40 a month for, say, 18 months: $720 for that two year cycle! For a family of four that is about two and a half trips to the grocery store. And, it means that you have only $280 left to stay under 1K for the cycle. One way around that is to budget $1000 per year, not per cycle. Yeah? you exclaim! Figure out what is likely to work for you given the circumstances you see around you economically and politically. It's pretty easy. Incidentally, what's iffy about your household finances is infinitely less than the trouble we have with keeping our democracy.
There are candidates you may know personally or, perhaps, would like to. How far is $280 going to go with your handful of candidates. Umm... seriously, not very far, so plan carefully. In addition to these, there are party leaders like Hakkim Jefferies and Chuck Schumer, both have access to the DCCC and DSCC funds, respectively, but they have special knowledge from sitting Representatives and Senators that helps them direct funds. You might put them on monthly allowances. The $280 for direct donations per cycle or per year is not going to go far enough, so you have two choices. Put aside funds for very special needs—and every election feels that way to the candidates. Or, you can just call it a day, year, or cycle and stand your ground. It's okay! The point is to get involved and support candidates.
Homework: look up the candidates you are interested to support directly and know what they are advocating. Candidates have pet ideas, just like you do, and the reason they are running for office is to get that idea into the fray. Their other reason is that they believe in themselves. One might surmise that some are ego driven. You want some of that, but not too much. People with ego, like "Wiley Coyote," sometimes go off the edge. Ego helps them survive the fall. If, though, the dude is a fatuous ass, then do not support him in the primaries or the general election. Tell others why you think so. Be convincing and back it up with factual anecdotes. Trust your homework. Fox News does not do homework. It is the propaganda network for Rupert Murdock, the very, very rare Australian misanthrope who thinks Americans are fools and their proud democracy a farce.
If you get in over your head, quit. If you have looked up Act Blue and like the feel of it, you should know you can stop a monthly donation program instantly. Do not get in over your head. It is important that you have placed your bets on the good runners you selected. All you have to do is wait to see if they won. I won every race I supported directly, except one. Val Demings, down in Florida, got ambushed. I think she should run for governor when Ron runs for president. Then, of course, there is the Cuban Crowd in Miami, who do not understand democracy or America.
Finally, the point of party politics is to congregate people of like minds, people willing to compromise some of their agenda to see the main points get a better chance of success. Grass roots volunteers, donors, and voters must balance party against personality. The fact is we rarely know which person will actually turn out to be an outstanding leader or law-maker. We deceive ourselves if we believe we can divine the character of a candidate without doing serious homework. For executive positions like governors and presidents, lieutenant governors, and others, Party is very important, for these candidates will be surrounded by others, and appoint others, with views closer to yours.
17 January 2023
Grass Roots Donors
Politics is expensive, which is to say: Democracy is Expensive. One of the reasons running for office is expensive is that "air-time" is expensive, unless the candidates manages to attract news cameras, but that has its own prcablems of focus and messaging. Some politicians prefer the news-camera pathway because their message is unmistakable. It used to be kissing babies to show how human they are. Now it is being seen next to people or things that have their own message ... or being over the top and doing things that are unmistakable, usually short of violent.
The other main reason for the expenses of running political campaign is campaign staff who need to be able to support themselves during two year camyigns. Travel and lodging are also significant in senatorial and presidential elections. Those running nationally for the House of Representatives usually have more compact territories to cover.
There are several ways to donate to candidates. The one I have used is called Act Blue. I have trusted Act Blue to carry out monthly donations alongside single instance donations. It works. The problem is how to decide which organizations to support and how much to spend on them. The decision process usually involves your own savvy about issues and prominent candidates and the stage of the campaign. So, for US House of Representatives every member is up for every election every two years. Back in 1789 through, say, 1869, that made some sense, now it does not. The most serious issue with the House is that members must devote so much attention to funding that they are less attentive to legislation and more liable to succumb to easier ways to accumulate money: K Street lobbyists, corporate donations, PACs and superPacs, which amount to incremental or wholesale buying of the Representative's or Senator's vote.
My own experience is that I have had a strong belief that members of the national legislature should not be choosing which candidates to support, and with some caveats I have changed my mind completely. The Senators and Representatives are far more closely in tune with with politics on the ground than I am, so I contribute monthly to each of the Democrats' four organizations that you need to consider after doing your homework: (homework will be discussed in the next of these essays)
I also contribute to specific individuals who, I believe. are especially important to the Progressive program, whether they are running this time or not, local Calfornian Democrats in tough districts, for instance, and certain Independents who are national figures.
I do all of this through Act Blue. There are other similar organizations like MoveOn.org you might want to check out.
One advantage of Act Blue is that you can get an idea after a while of how much real money you have committed. Those of us on more or less fixed incomes need to do this more or less constantly. Being a "grass-roots" donor is sort of exciting, especially when you know there are lots of you doing it.
Homework is essential. To introduce the subject for next time it is important to know the conjunction of offices up for re-election, such as when presidential candidates or gubernatorial candidates will be running and when people like that become subject to term limits. The other thing is the Senate with six year terms staggered in such a manner that the next election may have more Democratic senators up for re-election than the last or an unusual number in tough races. This is the case for 2024, which obviously, is a presidental election year. You already know that presidential elections bring out more voters, which is a key element of strategy and, therefore, of your donation strategies.
5 January 2023
Burn It to the Ground
The world gapes as the Republicans in Congress finally demonstrate that the tent they erected—the factions they have assembed under their name—to wrest power from the Democrats now includes people who do not and never did respect the basic premise of government: cooperation. The Rbublican party is unconcerned with that premise. The Republican party is a denialist party a significant number of whom at any given moment are some-time or full-time insurrectionists.
The 2022 Congressional Election produced 222 Republican Representatives-Elect, compared to 212 Democrats, a stunning reversal of the typical result, in which pundits predicted as much as a 60 seat majority for the Republicans, not a slender 10.
In the last Congress, the 117th, 147 Republicans, 139 in the House, voted to not accept the 2020 electoral vote results. Most of those who voted on January 6th, 2021, to not accept the fact that Joe Biden won the Presidency were re-elected. The number of election deniers elected now exceeds the number, one hundred thirty-nine, who actually voted "no" in the 117th Congress.
In the 2022 Congressional Election 291 Republican candidates were so-called election deniers and more than 175 of them won their elections and are sitting the House Chamber right now trying to elect a Speaker of the House of Representatives ... and failing. That means that at best there are no more than 45 Republicans who are not radical "burn it to the ground" insurrectionists. Hold that thought!
Nicolle Wallace, on MSNBC, takes the position that the Speaker-Election debacle in the House is not new or a rebellion, it is part and parcel of the thirty-year old faction, now "program" of the party to, if necessary, "burn it to the ground." It is the inevitable result of scraping the (white privilege-christian-nationalist-anti-Semitic and gun-totin') bottom of the barrel to find candidates and points of view with whom and which to ignite the grievances of a large number of American voters. The ones voting for Kevin McCarthy may be following the advice of the former president, or they may see in McCarthy the weaknesses essential to the overall Republican plan to take the country back to 1927 or at the latest 1953. I think she is correct.
I wonder if Hakim Jeffries, the new House Democratic (Minority) Leader, succeeding Nancy Pelosi, sees the truth that no matter who gets the nod from among those seated as Republicans, the result will be unacceptable chaos for the next two years in the House, a clear and present national security, national economy danger for which the House Democrats have only their minority to do those things that must be done to sustain our government and national security, let alone respond to the needs of the American people. If he does, I hope there are members who know six moderate Republicans who would be willing to vote for him as Speaker?
It is a far-fetched idea, perhaps, but already voiced by House Democrats on MSNBC microphones. Jeffries could offer them committee assignments and even whip-leadership assignments, and even dollars to replace those that the RNC would instantly take away from them. There is a golden opportunity in this to force the Republicans into facing the sad fact that they are now an assortment of insurrectionist factions unable and, in fact, unwilling to govern this nation. They may be forced to burn it to the ground, Gingrich said 30 years ago, taking a hard look at the American demographics in relation to the standard GOP program. Burn it down, he said, and now they almost can!
2022 Politics Essays