Five Ways Progressives Can Do Better in 2021

As years go, 2020 was a dumpster fire. Here are just a few of the year’s lowlights…

  • Senate Republicans decided asking a foreign leader for dirt on his political opponents in exchange for military aid wasn’t enough to put Trump out of office.
  • Our president dallied and downplayed a deadly pandemic for months… even though he’d known how serious it was since February.
  • Moscow Mitch McConnell blocked scores of bills from coming to the Senate floor. Including bills to strengthen election security and to send out $2,000 relief checks.
  • The Republican-led Senate rammed through Trump’s third Supreme Court pick just before the 2020 election. In spite of refusing to consider President Obama’s nomination in early 2016.

And so it went.

While our nation is deeply divided, there’s one thing most of us agree on. We can’t wait to see 2020 disappearing in our rear-view mirrors.

Meanwhile, here are five ways we Progressives can do better in 2020.

  1. Stop Squabbling With Moderates

For the last 20 years – or more – progressive and moderate Democrats have shot themselves in the foot over and over. Need a good example? Bernie Sanders.

In 2016, Bernie drew a large and dedicated band of followers. Moderate party leaders rallied behind Hilary Clinton, fearing Bernie would be “unelectable.” And they may have put their thumbs on the scale just a bit.

The result? Angry “Bernie-or-Bust” voters didn’t turn out… or, in some cases, turned out for Trump. And we all know how the next four years have gone.

I’m not saying the more Progressive elements of the party should cow-tow to moderate sensibilities. I’m saying we have to be honest with one another… and compromise. If we don’t, the next Trump is right around the corner.

  1. Change the Districting Game

How does the minority party control so many state legislatures? And seats in Congress? In a word, gerrymandering.

Austin, TX is full of Democrats, but the Republican legislature has carved it into several districts, diluting Progressive votes in the region’s more conservative outlying districts.

Proportional Representation is just one of many ways to overcome this problem. In one form, a party would get seats in a legislature based on the proportion of the total votes it received. So if Party X received 75% of a state’s votes, 75% of the seats in its legislature would go to that party.

Proportional Representation ensures each party would have representation based on the number of voters who support that party.

The result would be parties that sought to win voters hearts and minds… instead of parties that demanded blind loyalty from voters.

  1. End the Electoral College

We directly elect our Congresspersons. We directly elect our Senators. Why shouldn’t we directly elect our President?

Our current Electoral College system puts a handful of “swing states” in the driver’s seat. And this system hasn’t worked well lately.

George W. Bush won the presidency with a minority of the popular vote. So did Donald Trump. In fact, since 2000, Democrats have won the popular vote twice while losing the Electoral College vote. The result?

Out of six elections, Republicans won the popular vote only once (16.66%). But a Republican was sworn in as president three times (50%). Which means the Electoral College subverted the will of the voters in one-third of this century’s elections.

That’s not how democracy works.

  1. Overturn – or, at Least, Defang – Citizens United vs. FEC

The Citizens United decision was a game changer. In simple terms, the Supreme Court ruled unlimited election spending by individuals and corporations amounted to free speech. And, therefore, it could not be banned or regulated.

As long as big spenders don’t “coordinate” with a candidate’s campaign, they can spend as much as they want. In other words, it’s okay to buy an election.

Since then, the Koch brothers and other wealthy donors have flooded election cycles with cash. Donors are disguised by Super PACs that suggest they are grassroots movements. And that don’t disclose the source of their funding.

Many of these Super PACs also play fast and loose with the truth.

There’s no reason Congress can’t pass laws to require PACs and Super PACs to reveal the sources of their cash. Or to penalize those who publish false or deceptive claims about their opposition.

After all, we may have freedom of speech… but that doesn’t mean freedom from consequences. I’m free to (falsely) claim that Donald Trump murders babies and bathes in their blood. But, if I did, I should expect to face a lawsuit and financial ruin.

Buried under lawsuits, the worst Super PAC offenders would have to dissolve.

  1. Bring Back the Three-Martini Lunch (for Congress)

This may sound crazy, but hear me out…

Once upon a time, both Houses of Congress lurched awkwardly forward on an idea called “compromise.”

Compromise is the crazy notion that you’ll give me some of what I want, if I give you some of what you want.

Is it perfect? No. But does it work? Yes. It’s not a direct path to anybody’s goals. But our nation’s history is riddled with progress made via compromise.

Sometimes compromise sucks for everyone. But, more often than not, it makes one side pretty happy… while not making the other side totally miserable. That’s hardly ideal. But look at the mess we have now.

In the 1980s, House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill was famous for hammering out compromises with his opponents. O’Neill even got Ronald Reagan to compromise on the president’s plan to hamstring Social Security.

O’Neill and Reagan are also said to have regularly shared a few post-negotiation beers.

Alcohol is known to cloud judgement. But it’s also known to lower inhibitions. Based on past experience, this may include resistance to compromise.

Maybe – just maybe – a few lubricated lunches are exactly what our government needs to end the current gridlock.

Donald Trump and The Republicans’ Sunk Cost Problem

Donald Trump created a problem for the Republican Party the day he declared his candidacy. He opened his campaign outside the normal bounds. And once the GOP began backing him, they had a problem.

You see, Trump’s campaign started on a dicey note. He launched it with an appeal to white nationalism. He made racist comments about Mexicans. His party failed to respond. And this set the direction the GOP had no choice but to follow ever since.

Here’s how Donald Trump hijacked his party… and made it all but impossible for them to break from him.

The Theory of Sunk Costs

A sunk cost is an investment you can’t get back if you change direction. The phrase began with the oil industry… but it quickly made sense in politics.

For example, the GOP leadership didn’t outright condemn Trump’s early racist comments. They saw his core voters respond to his racist message. They probably thought they could transfer these voters’ loyalty to a more reasonable candidate during the primaries. So, they remained silent.

That silence was a sunk cost. Once you begin digging a racist hole, there’s no climbing out.

With each outrageous act and statement, Trump dug the GOP’s hole a little deeper. The party leadership continued to think they could reel in Trump’s supporters when he failed. Only Trump’s primary opponents voiced dissent.

Then those opponents fell one by one. Trump won the nomination. Then he won the Electoral College… and his voice became the official voice of the GOP.

Every event – like the Charlottesville incident – moved Trump and his supporters further and further from the mainstream. And dragged the Republican party with them.

Step by step, the Republican Party had multiplied their sunk costs in Trump. To maintain unity, the GOP had to defend his increasingly bizarre words and actions.

Party leaders had to bend over backwards to explain what Trump “actually meant” when he said something crazy – or racist. To spin his outrageous claims into something the rank and file could swallow. To excuse his bizarre behavior.

Now, they find themselves defending the actions of an increasingly unhinged would-be dictator. The sunk costs have grown too large. So, the GOP has dug in.

Party Before Country

Trump suggested to the president of Ukraine that U.S. financial support hinges on Ukraine “investigating” Joe Biden. Trump knows this is wrong, because White House senior staff “buried” the call in a top-secret server. Even though nothing on the call involved secrets.

Now we know this isn’t the first time White House staffers have done this – to protect the President from himself. Calls with other leaders have suffered the same “bury-the-evidence” fate… Even though nothing on the calls was classified or secret.

Just potentially damaging to the President. And the GOP that backs him.

After all, this is the man who…

  • Revealed classified information to Russian officials – and laughed about it
  • Suggested those who exposed his unlawful acts should be executed
  • Claimed speaking to whistleblowers should be considered “treason.”

Trump withholds information from Congress – even information the Constitution says Congress should have. He’s “hinted” he’d pardon staffers who ignore the law. He’s even suggested defying him could lead to civil war.

This lawlessness should set off alarm bells for any American – especially those sworn to uphold the Constitution. But his GOP allies have dug in, and continue to defend their standard-bearer.

Mike Pompeo sat in on the Ukraine call… but feigned ignorance when asked about the transcript. Congressman Jim Jordan lied to Jake Tapper on national television about that call. GOP leadership insists Trump did nothing wrong on the call – in spite of the clear quid pro quo even the doctored transcript reveals.

The GOP has thrown their lot in with Trump. They’ve backed his radical platform to the hilt. Now, not backing Trump means not backing their own platform.

Today’s Republican party can’t abandon Trump. They’ve tied themselves too closely to his radical agenda. So, as suicidal as it may seem, Republicans have no choice but to back Trump.

Facing the GOP’s Hard Reality

That’s why the GOP isn’t calling for impeachment. And why most Republican leaders will fight it tooth and nail. Damning Trump has become the same as damning themselves.

As richly deserved as that irony may be, the GOP can’t go there.

They counter charges of Trump’s corruption with a fabricated story about Joe Biden’s “corrupt” defense of his son. They’re counting on the repetition of a lie to create controversy. It’s the age-old “charge-your-enemy-with-the-crimes-you’ve-committed” play.

Fortunately, we now have the ability to record – and play back – the truth. Which shows the GOP’s claims about the Bidens are lies.

But they’ve invested so much in their corrupt leadership, they have no other viable option. They must follow Trump off the rails. Or undermine their whole position.

So, the White House refuses to cooperate with Congress. The GOP leadership lies about the call. And their party defends a president who used strong-arm tactics to get a foreign government to smear a political opponent.

But – for better or worse – they’ve hitched their star to Trump. Maybe they should have listened to one of his biggest detractors back in 2016.

A Sober Assessment of Donald Trump by a Leading Conservative

So, what does the Republican leadership really think of Donald Trump? Here are some thoughts from one of their most influential members.

“At the end of the day, Donald Trump, his foreign policy is gibberish,” he said. “His understanding of the world is bizarre…”

“I think Donald Trump would be a pathetic commander in chief,” this Trump foe continued, “unequal in temperament, judgment and understanding of who our friends are.”

This same man also said of Trump, “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.” And claimed, “He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for… He’s the ISIL man of the year.”

Another observation from the same source: “I do not believe he is a reliable Republican conservative, nor has he displayed the judgment and temperament to serve as commander in chief.”

In February 2016, this GOP leader said, “I think he’s a kook. I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit for office.”

So, who is this GOP official with such a low opinion of Donald Trump?

None other than Senator Lindsey Graham. Yes… the same Lindsey Graham who golfs with Trump regularly, defends the President’s every indiscretion, and seemingly worships the ground Trump walks on.

The party has invested so much in Trump, even his harshest critics within the GOP have become toadies. Lindsey Graham now dances like a puppet on the end of Trump’s string.

And if Graham – one of Trump’s harshest critics – will do this… imagine how far the rest of the party leadership will go. Because they’ve painted themselves into a corner.

So, we can’t rely on help from the Right to defeat Trump. Which means we have to get out the vote of every reasonable, freedom-loving American in 2020. Because, if we don’t, we may not have the chance in 2024.

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Walker, H., “Lindsey Graham fires back at ‘pathetic’ Donald Trump,” Yahoo!News. Feb 18, 2016.

Brest, M., “FLASHBACK: Graham says Trump is ‘a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,’” Washington Examiner. Jul 15, 2019.

Bergengruen, V., “Sen. Lindsey Graham: I won’t vote for Trump in 2016,” McClatchydc.com. May 6, 2016.

Mazza, E., “Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Old Words About Trump Come Back To Bite Him In The Butt,” HuffPost.com. Nov 30, 2017.

Bonus Post: Five Tweets That Reveal Trump’s Character

The current administration commits so many scandals and outrages, that it’s nearly impossible to keep up. We have quite a few articles that were abandoned as a more pressing issue came up. Here’s one from earlier this year. It still applies.

 

How anchored is Donald Trump to reality? Well, based on his tweets, not very.  Here are a five spewings that reveal Trump’s character very clearly…

February 25 – Spike Lee Accepts an Oscar

Be nice if Spike Lee could read his notes, or better yet not have to use notes at all, when doing his racist hit on your President, who has done more for African Americans (Criminal Justice Reform, Lowest Unemployment numbers in History, Tax Cuts, etc.) than almost any other Pres!

Lee never mentioned Trump. He praised his grandmother. He remembered the enslavement of his ancestors. And he ended on a positive note:

“The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize. Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing! You know I had to get that in there.”

Why does Trump assume choosing love vs. hate is an attack on him? Sounds like a guilty conscience. Maybe because he knows his “more for African Americans” claim is pure B.S.?

After all, this is the guy who said the Central Park Five should remain in prison… even after DNA evidence completely cleared them.

February 25 – The Border Wall

We have a State of Emergency at our Southern Border. Border Patrol, our Military and local Law Enforcement are doing a great job, but without the Wall, which is now under major construction, you cannot have Border Security. Drugs, Gangs and Human Trafficking must be stopped!

Trump has made several references lately to prayer rugs at the border, women tied up with their mouths covered with duct tape, and other scenes from the Hollywood movie “Sicario.”

None of these scenarios have been recorded on our southern border… but Trump uses them to push for his wall.

And then cannibalized key military projects to add to the wall. Apparently, he doesn’t know the difference between a movie and a documentary.

February 22 – New U.N. Ambassador

I am pleased to announce that Kelly Knight Craft, our current Ambassador to Canada, is being nominated to be United States Ambassador to the United Nations….

….Kelly has done an outstanding job representing our Nation and I have no doubt that, under her leadership, our Country will be represented at the highest level. Congratulations to Kelly and her entire family!

When Trump anointed Craft as ambassador to Canada, the Canadian press noted she had donated more than $265,000 to the Trump campaign in 2016. She and her husband had also donated almost $3 million to other Republican causes.

Her qualifications as a diplomat? Well… One speech to the U.N. general assembly under George W. Bush. Simply put: Money over qualifications.

February 21 – The Jussie Smollett Controversy

.@JussieSmollett – what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA

I’m not going to defend Jussie Smolett here… but this seems a bit hypocritical from the man who called Neo-Nazis “fine people” after the Charlottesvlle incident.

And it took him days to make any comment on the Coast Guard officer who planned to kill liberals. Even though he weighed in on the Smollett case almost immediately.

Trump has insulted tens of millions with racist tweets… but hasn’t apologized for any of them.

February 20 – NYT Is “Enemy of the People”

The New York Times reporting is false. They are a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!

Once again, Trump directs his hate and anger at the press. At this point, it doesn’t even matter what the story is. Trump is stoking hate – and thus advocating violence – against the press.

The problem is the press is reporting the truth. Trump calls any news story he doesn’t like “fake news.” Then foments violence against the source.

If the New York Times is failing, as he claims… why does he have to spend so much time pointing it out? The NY Times’ subscriber base is one of the most robust in the industry.

Look, if you’re still excusing Trump, it’s time to stop. The man is out of control. And out of touch with reality. How long can you deny the evidence? It’s all on video.

Trump is a racist. He’s anti-American. And he has no respect for our Constitution.

He needs to go.

Is there room for conservatives in America? Absolutely. But only those conservatives willing to work within the bounds of our Constitution.

Our Democracy has lasted for 200 years. Let’s not let one self-absorbed billionaire destroy the greatest political experiment in human history.