In the late 1970s, Rev. Jerry Falwell launched the Moral Majority, an ambitious project that created an evangelical political empire. This organization remade America in its angry, narrow-minded image. By energizing right wing citizens who vote religiously, Falwell ensured politicians from Ronald Reagan to modern day crusaders, such as Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, danced to its intolerant tune.
So far, the progressive movement has miserably failed in creating an analogous structure to the Religious Right. So-called “Values Voters” reliably vote for conservative Republicans in elections big and small. Progressives too often show up at the voting booth for glamorous presidential elections, then lumber back into hibernation for the next four years.
As a result of progressive sloth, inspiring politicians, such as Barack Obama, can offer hope – but we don’t provide the Congress they need to make real and lasting change. It is a miracle that Obama has accomplished as much as he has, considering the obstacles he’s faced in Congress.
The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart explains how we, as Democrats, are failing ourselves through inconsistent voting:
Between the historic election of 2008 and 2010, Democrats saw a plummet of 26 million voters, from 65 million people to 39 million people. Meanwhile, Republicans saw a drop-off of just 7 million voters, from 52 million to 45 million. The GOP took over the House.
Six million fewer Republicans voted for Senate candidates in 2014 than in 2008. But 14 million fewer Democrats went to the polls. That 42 percent drop in turnout allowed the GOP to take over the Senate. The 2014 election also saw the Republican majority increase in the House to its largest since World War II.
“Democrats did not lose the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014 because working-class Whites fled the Party [for the GOP],” explained Steve Phillips, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and co-founder of PowerPAC.org. “They lost because voters of color and their progressive White allies stayed home.”
Phillips delivers this data in a chapter titled “Requiem for the White swing voter,” in which he argues that Democratic campaigns and candidates should shift their focus from trying to win over the ever-elusive white swing voter to what he calls the “New American Majority.” That is, a 51 percent coalition of all eligible voters in the United States that includes 23 percent of progressive people of color and 28 percent of progressive whites.
Democrats need to consistently hammer home the message that we can’t accomplish anything without consistent voting – and this includes off-year elections. To inspire voters, Democrats should steal a page from Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America.”
Democrats should unveil a 20-point “Progressive Promise to America” to let voters know what we will deliver if they show up to vote in FOUR consecutive election cycles, giving us a Democratic president, a majority in the House, and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
The plan, a “Progressive Promise to America”, would offer:
– Comprehensive immigration reform
– Declare Election Day a national holiday, as well as roll back attempts at GOP voter suppression in the states
– Sweeping transformation to help end racial disparities in the criminal justice system and society
– A national LGBT rights bill that prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations
– Ensure a woman’s right to choose with minimal restrictions
– Equal opportunities for women including equal pay for equal work
– National decriminalization of marijuana
– Affordable college for all
– Healthcare coverage for all Americans
– Revitalize America’s crumbling infrastructure
– Strengthen unions to return power to workers and rejuvenate the middle class
– Abolish or renegotiate trade deals that send American jobs overseas and depress wages at home
– Raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour
– The fastest high speed rail in the world connecting major urban centers
– Strengthen consumer protections against predatory behavior from unscrupulous business practices
– Climate Change: Break our addiction to fossil fuels and lead the world in creating innovative solutions with a revolution in clean energy
– Commit to leading the world in science, technology, and innovation
– Appoint judges to overturn Citizens United and stop special interests from flooding politics with money to buy elections
– Reform Wall Street to ensure markets are both free and fair and operate for the public good instead of private greed
– Common sense gun control reform
– Ensure that America continues to have the strongest, most modern military in the world, as well as zealously defend our nation against terrorism. However, the military should avoid foreign adventurism that needlessly costs America in blood and treasure, while degrading our standing in the world
America is a center-left nation. Progressives only lose because we don’t consistently vote. Stop complaining and start contemplating how we are going to fundamentally alter our relationship with the voting booth, where the solutions to our problems can be found.
The Republicans are playing with fire. Their hyper-partisan reaction to the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is completely unacceptable and un-American. Republicans need to understand one thing: Obama beat them twice – in spite of efforts to suppress the vote. It is time they grew up and got over it. They can begin by reading the United States Constitution they so often keep in their pockets to bandy about like clubs.
Their usurpation of Obama’s constitutional role to nominate Supreme Court and appeals justices is one step too far. The role of the United States Senate is to advise and consent, not abdicate and obstruct. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz are derelict in duty and ought to recuse themselves from the process or be sidelined.
The wacky, partisan idea that a president can’t nominate members of the court in an election year is at odds with the law and historical precedent. It is at cross-purposes with a healthy, functioning democracy. It is deleterious to the political process and destabilizing to The United States of America.
Some things are worth fighting for and it is critical that Democrats aggressively push back against this borderline sedition. Why do I call it sedition?
1) Leading Republicans have taken it upon themselves to declare Obama’s term over, even though he has nearly a year left in office. There is no provision in the constitution that declares a president a “lame duck” simply because you do not like his politics.
2) The GOP is increasingly a party of cheaters. They believe that they get to enjoy the spoils when they win – but increasingly they also think they get to make the rules when they lose. This is a risky form of political mutiny that should not be tolerated. The Party has crossed the line from loyal opposition to disloyal obstruction at the expense of the nation. We have also seen such inexcusable behavior when Republicans hold the debt ceiling or the federal budget hostage to their undemocratic demands.
3) Disturbingly, Republicans have gone beyond policy disagreement with Democrats, and have seemingly questioned the very legitimacy of Democratic presidents. From the ridiculous impeachment of Bill Clinton, to the offensive and absurd questions about Barak Obama’s birth certificate, Republicans have, to an unnerving degree, staged attempts to disqualify democrats who have won fair and free elections.
4) The Republican Party has brazenly abused its power by shamefully using a record number of filibusterers to thwart presidential appointments.
5) The role of the Senate is to take a serious a look at the President’s court nomination(s) – and decide if the nominee is intellectually fit and eminently qualified. The predetermined, unilateral, and possibly illegal decision that NO nominee will get a fair hearing, under any circumstances, is an abandonment of leadership.
6) The GOP is no longer a coherent party with a rational, mainstream decision-making center that puts forth serious policies. No, the Republican Party has become an incoherent group of rabble-rousing extremists who seemingly have nothing in common except a collective mood disorder.
The New York Times put the current Republican judicial ploy in perspective:
Just as there is no precedent for leaving a Supreme Court seat open because it is an election year, as Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, vowed to do hours after Justice Scalia’s death was announced, there is also none for virtually shutting down the appointment of new appeals court judges so early. Each of Mr. Obama’s predecessors since Ronald Reagan also faced a Senate controlled by the opposing party, yet they appointed between 10 and 18 appellate judges in their last two years in office.
Republicans have framed their resistance as payback for the decision by Democrats in 2013 to change Senate rules and eliminate the ability of lawmakers in the minority to block confirmation votes with a filibuster.
What Republicans won’t tell you is that they got what they deserved. They horribly abused the filibuster process, skirting the spirit of the law, to effectively turn their minority into a majority. The GOP’s strategy has created a backlog of judicial nominees. The New York Times continued:
Last June, a conservative radio host referred to the rule change in an interview with Mr. McConnell, and asked how the new Republican majority was handling judges.
Mr. McConnell replied that “so far, the only judges we’ve confirmed have been federal district judges that have been signed off on by Republican senators.” He added that it was “highly likely” the pattern would remain for the rest of the 114th Congress.
Barack Obama is the president, whether disloyal Republicans like it or not. They need to get on with the nation’s business or step down (or be removed) if they can’t perform their jobs or fulfill their constitutional duties.Read More »
Nine years after President Barack Obama launched his presidential bid in Springfield, he returned to offer wisdom and a bit of regret with former colleagues. The president spoke to warring political factions, bitterly divided over an epic eight-month budget stalemate in Springfield.
According to president’s speech: “We’ve always gone through periods when our democracy seems stuck, and when that happens we have to find a new way of doing business. We’re in one of those moments. We have to build a better politics. What’s different today is the nature and extent of the polarization.”
Then the president concluded: “One of my few regrets is my inability to reduce the polarization and meanness in our (nation’s) politics. I was able to be part of (reducing) that here and yet couldn’t translate it the way I wanted to into our politics in Washington.”
President Obama is correct to lament the lack of bipartisanship in Springfield and Washington. Always the gentleman, and a true statesman, he is still probing for ways to work with good Republicans. The problem is, there are so few.
Mr. President – you have tried mightily to find common ground – and all the Republicans have done is come after you with uncommon enmity and groundless assaults. It’s time that you take some advice from Robin William’s in the movie Good Will Hunting: “It’s not your fault.”
The truth is, we don’t have a partisan problem in America. The issue isn’t Washington. We have a Republican problem.
Beginning with the unseemly rise of Newt Gingrich as House Speaker, the embrace of the Religious Right, and the adoption of America’s most nefarious special interests – the Republican Party has deliberately embarked on “my-way-or-the-highway” slash and burn politics. The reason Illinois has gone eight months without a budget is because Gov. Bruce Rauner is reading from the Republican Playbook.
Here are the facts: Republicans and Democrats used to have genuine policy disagreements – but they were often friends outside of work. They hung out together, they socialized, they did not try to paint members of the other party as inherently evil human beings.
A mercurial congressional backbencher from Georgia changed this. He pioneered the idea of using the media to relentlessly tar his opponents to gain power and media attention. He told Newsweek in the late 80s, if you’re not in The Washington Post every day, you might as well not exist.”
His ticket to getting mentioned in The Washington Post was to exploit a new cable television channel – CSPAN, which first aired in 1979, a few months before he was sworn in as a House freshman. He organized a cabal of cantankerous troublemakers to continuously appear on CSPAN to slander then-Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill and other Democratic members of Congress with nightly personal attacks. Mother Jones magazine, for instance points out the time Gingrich accused O’Neill of putting “communist propaganda” in the Speaker’s lobby.
O’Neill was so outraged by Gingrich’s demagogic broadsides that he once ordered the House cameras to pan across the empty House chamber to reveal that Gingrich was talking to no one but the cameras, and called Gingrich’s exploits “the lowest thing” he had seen in 32 years in Congress.
On the floor and in front of the cameras, Gingrich fired back that O’Neil was coming “all too close to resembling a McCarthyism of the Left.” A resulting two-hour exchange, which was covered by the broadcast news outlets, made Gingrich into a folk hero on the right.
Gingrich’s then hired cynical pollster Frank Luntz. He advised Republicans to “talk like Newt” by describing Democrats with terms like “corrupt,” “devour,” “greed,” “hypocrisy,” “liberal,” “sick,” and “traitors.” Luntz is also infamous for a 2003 memo on how Republicans could effectively negate concerns about climate change. According to the memo: “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue.”
“There is the assumption—pioneered by Newt Gingrich himself, as early as the 1970s—that the minority wins when Congress accomplishes less. Gingrich’s proposition, and maybe accurately, was that as long as…our party cooperate[s] with Democrats and get[s] 20 or 30 percent of what we want and they get to say they solved the problem and had a bipartisan bill, there’s no incentive for the American people to change leadership,”
This is the unfortunate roadmap that explains how we got to where we are today. The so-called Gingrich Revolution was about personally demonizing Democrats though unfair smears, innuendo, and manufactured outrage. While politics were important, what defined this movement was its sneering attitude, unwillingness to compromise, and a nasty disposition. Gingrich was about elevating himself and grabbing power, rather than allegiance to serving the American people. He was about a new paradigm where loyal opposition was replaced by disloyal obstructionism. It was a take-no-prisoners strategy that caused a partisan rift that has infected the soul of our nation.
Mother Jones goes on to point out that Gingrich also “shortened” the Congressional workweek to three days in order to maximize fundraising opportunities and provide more contact with constituents. But this also limited the time lawmakers spent in Washington where they could make personal connections across the aisle.” Gingrich also cultivated major Republican donors who are now part of the Koch network.
Clearly, this overreliance on big corporate money has helped the polarization of our politics, because powerful donors often exert influence to control how politicians vote on issues. This leaves virtually no room for compromise.
In a pre-cursor today’s Freedom Caucus, in 1983 Gingrich organized firebrand conservatives to create the Conservative Opportunity Society. Gingrich was rewarded for his efforts by winning a narrow election as House minority whip in 1989 over more moderate Republican, Ed Madigan, from Illinois. As Gingrich put it, he would use his perch to “build a much more aggressive, activist party.” Within five years, Gingrich led a landslide of fifty-four new Republicans into the House and was elected Speaker.
But to get there, in May of 1988 Gingrich defied moderate Republicans and brought ethics charges against then-Democratic Speaker Jim Wright relating to a book deal. His partisanship reached it’s nadir when he led the change to impeach President Clinton for having an affair with Monica Lewinsky – even while he was engaging in his own extramarital affair with Callista, the most recent of his merry-go-round of revolving wife.
Gingrich, was the precursor and role model for Ted Cruz and other Republicans. He took the debt ceiling hostage fifteen years before Boehner did. Gingrich began the trend of refusing to approve disaster relief funds unless they were offset with spending cuts. Gingrich’s orchestrated the 1995 and 1996 government shutdowns. The government closed for five days in 1995 and for twenty-one days a year later—the longest shutdown in history.
Gingrich laid the dysfunctional foundation on which our modern politics is built. It is the reason that Barack Obama encountered the Caucus Room Conspiracy, where Republicans decided that their number one goal was to deny Barack Obama any achievements and make him a one-term president. It is the also reason why Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner believes that he can shut down government services, even though he does not have the votes to enact his deeply unpopular Turn Around Agenda, which involves undercutting unions. The governor is the radical spawn of the Gingrich Revolution – where the rules of civility, decency, and compromise don’t apply.
So, to the Barack Obama and the Democrats in Springfield – don’t despair. It’s really not your fault.Read More »
One year ago, would you have laughed in my face had I told you that the winners of the New Hampshire primary would be Bernie Sanders in a landslide and Donald Trump with a commanding victory?
Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist from a small state best known for skiing and maple syrup. He had cultivated a small, but fervent following, appearing on progressive media like Thom Hartmann and Real Time with Bill Maher. Donald Trump is a brash casino operator and magnetic reality TV star. With Trump, it’s always a competition to see which is larger: his ego or his bank account.
These two men are radically different. One is a narcissist and a bigot with borderline fascist tendencies. The other is an old school FDR liberal with big dreams. The appeal of both is that they have vision and inspire hope – and the flip side of hope, which is loathing from their foes. Trump and Sanders are men of Big Ideas, while their opponents are playing small ball.
The marketing genius of Trump is seen in his pitch perfect slogan: “Make America Great Again.” The optimism in this refrain is so gigantic it has overshadowed and overwhelmed the negative mudslinging that the candidate has displayed on Twitter and at his boisterous allies.
Bernie Sanders is also a marketing phenomenon. He has his pulse on the American Dream. He intuitively understands the mounting concerns and deep anxieties of everyday Americans. Sanders wants to also make America great again – or more succinctly, remake America so it is better than ever.
There is a feeling that America is falling behind – unless you are one of the lucky few. There is a growing consensus that the game is rigged. There is mounting frustration that we are told we must accept the debilitating and infuriating status quo. The lucky ones tell us – that’s the way it is – and in order for the economy to prosper – we must accept the preeminence and permanence of the gilded society and the graft that built it.
People are beginning to say “NO.” Or, in the words of Bernie Sanders – “Enough is enough.”
The political class in Washington looks stunned at the political upheaval. They didn’t think we’d notice that our incomes had stagnated. They didn’t think we’d see that the consolidation of the airlines led to the lavish expansion of First Class, while they shrunk our seats.
I guess they thought we were blind and would not see our pathetic airports, in comparison with the beautiful terminals in other countries. Or, the crappy Internet service we offer compared with other modern nations. They thought we weren’t paying attention to inferior trains in America, while other nations have bullet trains. Or the fact we are falling behind in education.
They thought we’d put up with deteriorating infrastructure – the unsightly potholes and the dilapidated, dangerous bridges. The lead in water pipes in too many big cities, including Chicago.
I guess, they thought we were sleeping when the too big to fail banks stripped our dignity and robbed our future – while no one paid a price.
I guess they thought we never crossed the border into Canada and saw a largely happy, safer society with a broad social safety net.
I guess they didn’t think we were watching this year – as 107 people or groups – many with ties to the oil or pollution lobby — gave $1 million or more to try to buy the elections.
And, I guess they assumed it was okay that the 100 largest U.S. CEO retirement packages are worth a combined $4.9 billion, equal to the entire retirement account savings of 41% of American families.
Or that a shocking 95-percent of income growth since the recovery started has gone to the super-wealthy. Or that a new Oxfam report said that 62 people own as much wealth as the 3.5 billion people in the bottom half of the world’s income scale.
I guess they thought we forgave the American companies and cheats who tried to manipulate their way out of paying taxes. The United States has already imposed more than $1.3 billion in penalties on 80 Swiss banks in settlements involving upward of 34,000 accounts that held as much as $48 billion dollars. These sneaky criminals with their Swiss Banks are the ones telling us that we can’t afford Medicare for all or free college.
The political elite keeps trying to slide though trade deals that put American workers at a competitive disadvantage. Steve Ratner wrote in the New York Times: “Last year our nation added 2.65 million new jobs. Just 30,000 of them were in manufacturing…At first glance, the automobile industry looks to be in batter shape. From the depths of the crisis in 2009 through 2013, employment in the auto manufacturing sector in the United States rose by 23 percent, to 690,000 from 560,000….That sounds pretty good, except that employment in the Mexican auto sector rose to 589,000 from 368,000 during the same period. I’m happy that 221,000 more Mexicans got jobs, but let’s be honest: Absent open borders, many of those jobs would have been in America.”
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are the ones who are saying – there are special interests and corporate fiefdoms that are blocking progress. We are going to remove these unfair barriers, so America can move forward.
Their opponents of the other hand, are making the uninspiring cases that they are the most experienced to negotiate with the special interests or pay cheaper tolls to the trolls at the fiefdom bridges.
In the early 1970’s corporate America decided that they would exert financial muscle to rewrite the rules to their favor. The number of corporate lobbying offices leapfrogged from 170 in 1971 to 2,445 a decade later. By 1978, these 2,000-plus corporate interests in Washington had a total staff of 50,000 employees, 9,000 lobbyists, and 8,000 public relations executives. In fact, these business interests outnumbered Congress 130 to 1.
People are fed up with being outnumbered by lobbyists and want leaders that respond to their interests rather than special interests. And this is the reason why Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump won New Hampshire.
Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are attacked by those who say: What are your specifics and how are you going to pay for it?
They don’t seem to understand that in this particular election, specifics are secondary to leadership qualities, vision, and most important of all imagination. Trump and Sanders may not always have a visible trail. But voters trust them to beat a new trail though the thicket – because they come across as trailblazers. Their subliminal message: “We will forge a path where one does not exist. When there is a will – there is a way.
The two men diverge on their method at forging a new path. Sanders tells his supporters, join me on this journey and we will build a movement, and together we will navigate until a new trail is forged. Trump, on the other hand tells his woefully misguided followers, “I’m smarter than everyone, so leave it to me to find solutions to your problems.”
Sanders is a potential statesman, while Trump is a charlatan. During his victory speech last night, Trump promised to scrap Obamacare and come up with TrumpCare. He would magically end the heroin crisis in New Hampshire. If that weren’t enough on his plate, he would wave his wand and Mexico pay for a wall on the border, and to boot he would eliminate ISIS. That’s a tall order, or, more likely, a tall tale.
Nonetheless, this election is about unshackling the American Dream – and Trump and Sanders are the ones who have allowed Americans to imagine an exciting, invigorating future.Read More »