Why I’m Worried About America’s Future

Our Founding Father’s worried about the future of the Colonies. King George had to balance his checkbook, and the Seven Years War had put the British Empire deep into debt.

Although six European powers had been involved – and the war stretched over the whole of the Empire – George and his Parliament leaned heavily on the American colonies to pay off their debt. After all, the French and Indian War had been a part of this global conflict.

So Mother Britain looked to the Colonies to pay down the debt.

A series of laws flowed out of Parliament – where the colonists had no representation – placing heavy burdens on the Colonies. For many, the Stamp Act was the final straw.

The Stamp Act placed a duty (tax) on virtually every legal document produced in the Colonies. And on newspapers, playing cards, pamphlets, calendars, and more.

Want to place an ad in the local paper? His Majesty gets two shillings. Are you printing pamphlets of less than one whole page? That will be one penny. Each. Want to play dice? Not till you’ve paid the King’s ten shillings tax on them.

Taxation without representation triggered a rebellion. And, so, our nation was born.

Fast forward 244 years…

Once Again, Liberty Stands at a Crossroads

The election of 2020 was messy. America is polarized. Though he’s wildly unpopular, Donald Trump’s base is solid. His opponent is a respected Washington insider: Joe Biden. Biden’s last job was serving as V.P. under the charismatic Barak Obama.

Trump and his allies did all they could to sway the election. Many GOP-controlled states made early and mail-in voting as difficult as they could.

Key states fell, one after another, to Biden. Trump refused to concede.

Trump’s campaign and his allies mounted dozens of legal challenges. The courts slapped down all but one. Even judges appointed by Trump himself deemed some cases meritless.

Trump’s personal lawyers floated conspiracy theories. Votes were changed while being counted in Spain. Catering vans delivered fake ballots to counting locations. A dead Venezuelan dictator had voting machine software sabotaged. Each claim was crazier than the last. All have been disproved.

State after state certified the results. Even swing states controlled by Republican administrations. Trump’s own Depts. of Justice and Homeland Security noted there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Still, Trump and his cronies continue to claim fraud. And they’re turning to ever more desperate ways to overthrow a duly elected government. Even before that government has been seated.

Meet the Party From Crazytown

In Arizona, Trump supporters chanted, “Count those votes!” in hopes of Trump gaining an advantage. At virtually the same time, in Michigan, Trump’s minions were chanting, “Stop the count,” as Biden pulled ahead.

Some GOP-controlled legislatures blocked counting mail-in ballots before election day… meaning millions of votes were counted after in-person votes. Since Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to vote by mail, this led to large last-minute gains by Biden.

Their own party created this situation. But that didn’t stop many Republicans from claiming this predictable situation proved election fraud.

Seventeen Republican attorneys general signed on to a Texas lawsuit trying to deny four swing  states the right to count mail-in ballots received according to those states’ laws. Laws that are strikingly similar to the laws in some of the states that joined the suit.

Consider what Trump’s lawyers are saying in court.

Rudy Giuliani and Trump’s other minions are quick to claim massive fraud in front of the media. But in front of a judge? Not so much.

  • In a PA case, the judge asked a Trump lawyer if he was claiming voter fraud. The response was, “To my knowledge at present, no.”
  • In an AZ suit, a Trump campaign lawyer said, “We are not alleging fraud in this lawsuit.”
  • And, in federal court, Rudy Giuliani himself told the judge, “This is not a fraud case.”

Why? Maybe because lying to a judge has serious consequences.

More Word from Crazytown

Texas Rep. Louis Gomert tried to overthrow the Constitution by suing V.P. Pence over Pence’s role in the counting of Electoral College votes. This suit was such a stretch, Pence and the Dept. of Justice both asked the court to dismiss the case. Which it did.

And still GOP operatives try to overthrow the will of the people.

Freshman Senator Josh Hawley (R- MO), says he will challenge Biden’s victory when the Electoral College count comes up in the Senate on Jan. 6. He joins more than 100 GOP members of Congress.

Hawley’s challenge will trigger debate in both Houses… but should have little effect. First, all the evidence points to Biden winning by over 7 million votes. Second, the grown-ups in the House and Senate are generally opposed to undermining our democracy.

So, Hawley and his co-conspirators appear to be doing this just for political points. And you really have to be from Crazytown to risk our Republic for personal political gain.

But that’s exactly what Donald Trump did when he called Georgia’s Secretary of State, Republican Brad Raffensperger.

Trump spent an hour begging and bullying Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to turn the election his way. After the votes had been counted and recounted… twice.

Trump offered a list of already-disproven rumors as excuses. But it all came down to this:

“All I want to do is this,” Trump said. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”

Flattery, threats, pleading… Trump tried it all. It was pitiful, but there it is.

What About the Aftermath?

Here’s where I really worry. Because the only effective solution is a painful one. It’s tempting to “let bygones be bygones.” But that teaches a destructive lesson:

If you get away with it long enough, they’ll let you off scot-free.

To preserve our Democracy, Trump and his cronies must face the music. All the lies… the ethics violations… the crimes. They have to be laid bare. And they must have consequences.

Robert Mueller found 10 instances of Trump possibly obstructing justice. Prosecutors should evaluate each. The Georgia phone call. Profiting from his lease on the Old Post Office in DC. The list goes on and on.

Plus the state investigations. Did the Trump Organization manipulate values for favorable loans and tax rates? That’s potential bank and tax fraud. Why did Deutsche Bank loan Trump so much money when nobody else would? And why did the executives in charge of Trump’s accounts suddenly resign on Dec. 22, 2020?

We need a full accounting and a resolution to these – and many other – questions before we can move on as a nation.

America’s future hangs in the balance. The resolution lies in laying bare all of Trump’s antics. And that’s why I’m worried.

Because it will involve exposing all Trump’s cronies in Congress.

Can it happen? Yes. But only if Joe Biden’s Department of Justice is ready to yank the bandage off a particularly nasty scab.

Sources:

Peters, C., “The Supreme Court rejects Texas’s undemocratic election lawsuit,” msn(dot)dom. Dec 12, 2020.

Kruzel, J., “GOP lawmaker sues Pence in bid to overturn Biden win,” TheHill(dot)com. Dec 28, 2020.

Berenson, T., “Donald Trump And His Lawyers Are Making Sweeping Allegations of Voter Fraud In Public. In Court, They Say No Such Thing,” time(dot)com. Nov 20, 2020.

Scannell, K., “Trump’s private bankers resign from Deutsche Bank,” CNN(dot) com. Dec 22, 2020.

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.

The Will of the People

If you’ve been listening to the President’s defenders, you’ve probably noticed a common theme. Trump’s supporters say – over and over – the Democrats are trying to reverse the will of the people. To undo the vote. To overturn the election.

But here’s the thing: Trump didn’t win the election. He won the Electoral College. And that’s something very different.

In real terms, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million. In other words, Americans elected Clinton President… and the system overruled the election results.

Which is exactly how the last two Republican presidents came into office. Not by the will of the people… but by the will of an outmoded system.

That’s why the GOP doesn’t want to mess with the Electoral College. But here’s why we should…

A (Sort of) Good Idea Gone Bad

It’s the end of the 18thcentury. A new Republic is getting its first footing. But there are challenges. According to some sources, election logistics were the major issue.

The 13 colonies covered a vast territory in a time when traveling 20 miles a day was admirable. There were no phones… no telegraph… no mass communication. How could you get election results from New Hampshire or South Carolina to the Capital in short order?

The simple answer: Consolidate. Don’t deliver results from every podunk town and village to the capital. Just deliver the state results.

Meet the Electoral College.

The Electoral College boiled every hamlet and village’s votes into a state-by-state result. Which made the final tally quick and simple.

Other sources say the College began as a compromise. Some Founding Fathers felt Congress should choose the President – instead of the average bumpkin landowner. Others felt it should be left entirely to the will of the people. The Electoral College system gave something to both sides.

For those who didn’t trust the average farmer or craftsman to make good decisions, the College diluted the bad choices of individuals. But it would still ensure – usually – that the candidate with the greatest overall support would win.

Still others point to concerns over big state advantages. Just three colonies – Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts – had nearly half the population of the original colonies. These three could have effectively decided any presidential election… mooting the votes of most of the other colonies.

The thing is, we’re not in the 18thcentury any more. None of these arguments hold water in today’s world. The Electoral College has become more hinderance than help. Because the person with the most votes doesn’t win… the person with the most Electors does.

And, as the last two Republican victories show, this means America may choose one candidate, but their opponent wins the election.

The Electoral College Is Anti-Democratic… and Anti-American

The Electoral College effectively negates the “one-person, one-vote” concept. With electors awarded on a winner-take-all basis in 48 states, narrow victories for one party in key states can easily hand the election over to the loser of the popular vote.

That’s how Donald Trump and George W. Bush both wound up in the Oval Office.

The College has become little more than a way to legally steal elections. Now it’s time for it to go away. Because Democracy matters.

Of course, you won’t get much support for this idea from the GOP. They’ve learned how to twist Electoral College results to their benefit. To ensure the will of the majority of voters doesn’t count.

Which has led to handing the Oval Office over to a dangerous clown like Donald Trump.

Trump, who’s alienated most of our key allies… aligned himself with dictators and oligarchs… used his office to enrich himself… and altered tax laws to favor his cronies.

Trump, who’s elevated crooks and incompetents to Cabinet-level positions… promoted white nationalism… and dismantled environmental protections.

Trump, who’s lied to voters over 16,000 times in just 3 years… used his office to damage political rivals… and spent 20% of his time in office golfing.

All accomplished with 3 million fewer votes than Hillary.

It’s Time to Bid the Electoral College Good-Bye

The Electoral College doesn’t serve America’s best interests. It’s become little more than a tool for cynical politicians to “game” the system.

Narrow victories in swing states, like Florida, can hand an election to the popular vote’s loser. And overrulethe will of the people.

Far more voters identify with the Democrats’ platform. Yet manipulation of a flawed system hands elections to the minority party. And our government has begun to look less and less like the one voters say they want.

Trump’s tax breaks for the rich come with calls for cuts to programs that support Americas poorest and most vulnerable citizens.

“Give me your tired, your poor,” Emma Lazarus wrote in The New Colossus, “Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” Today’s GOP leadership complains about immigration from “sh*thole nations,” and wonders why more Norwegians don’t move here.

Republicans use “massive voter fraud” as an excuse to enact laws making voting harder for minorities and the poor. Yet the only cases of large-scale voter fraud in recent years have been perpetrated by pro-GOP forces.

This is why every eligible voter must exercise their rights. Why every election matters. And why the Electoral College has to go.

Every office in the land is filled by direct election… except the most important one. And the Right is using that exception to pervert Democracy. This must stop.

It’s time to end the Electoral College. To end what’s become a perversion of Democracy. And to hand our most important election over to the people.

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.