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 American Ideal Dies on the Senate Floor

“There have been 15 impeachments in the history of the country. Two of them were cut short by resignations. In the other 13 impeachments there were witnesses… It’s not unusual to have a witness in a trial. It’s certainly not unusual to have witness in an impeachment trial.”

– Senator Mitch McConnell, Jan. 1999

“The whole point that we’re trying to make is that in every trial that there’s ever been in the Senate, regarding impeachment, witnesses were called… What I’m saying about witnesses is that if you take them off the table in the Senate… That would be bad for impeachment law. That would be against precedent, and I hope that doesn’t happen here.”

– Senator Lindsey Graham, Jan. 1999

“I’m not an impartial juror.”

– Senator Mitch McConnell, Dec 2019

“I have made up my mind. I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.”

– Senator Lindsey Graham, Dec. 2019

When Bill Clinton’s presidency was on the line, Senators McConnell and Graham argued passionately for witnesses. As both pointed out, witnesses were called in every previous impeachment trial in the Senate.

Then, when Donald Trump faced impeachment, both became dismissive of the need for witnesses. After all, why would you need witnesses in a trial?

But it gets worse…

A Show Trial in Reverse

Both McConnell and Graham swore an oath at the start of the trial. They swore to act as impartial jurors.

For the record, their oath says, “… that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of [NAME], I will do impartial justice, according to law.” That’s been the oath – with very little variation – since 1798.

When they took that oath, McConnell and Graham were lying. How do we know? Because both had already announced publically they had no intention of acting impartially. Is it a crime? Perhaps not.

But it certainly makes them liars. And violates the oath of office they took to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and to “faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.”

Trump’s trial in the Senate has been like a show trial in reverse. It’s not the government railroading some poor sucker on false charges. It’s the party in power working hand in glove with the defense to assure an acquittal.

With McConnell and Graham leading the charge against the Constitution. And most of their party members following along like the obedient lapdogs they are.

Only two Republican Senators voted to hear witnesses. Which further added to the bizarre nature of this trial.

In a normal show trial, those in power parade out all sorts of false evidence. In Trump’s trial, those with the power have done all they can to blockevidence from being presented.

The damage they’re doing won’t just hurt our Democracy today. This sham trial is setting precedent. Which means it will haunt our nation for generations.

What if There’s “Nothing Wrong” With Abusing Power?

The President’s lawyers presented a strange argument. If the president believes his/her reelection is in the public interest, then he/she can do no wrong in seeking that reelection.

Use funds to force an ally to announce an investigation into a perfectly legal business relationship? No problem. It’s for the public good.

So how far does this concept carry? If a president thinks assassinating an opponent is necessary for his/her reelection, then that’sokay?

Alan Dershowitz, one of Trump’s lawyers, testified a president would have to commit a crime to trigger impeachment. But back in 1999, when Clinton’s career was in the balance, Dershowitz felt very differently.

“It certainly doesn’t have to be a crime,” Dershowitz claimed in 1998, “if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty. You don’t need a technical crime.”

He couldn’t have described Trump more accurately with a crystal ball.

Too bad his crystal ball didn’t tell him there were no federal criminal statutes on the books when the Constitution was written. Divining the Founding Fathers’ thoughts isn’t quite as clear-cut as he’d like us believe.

The President’s defenders and enablers have decided a GOP president can do no wrong. They’ve closed ranks. And they’ve abandoned the Constitution. En masse.

But here’s the most important point: They’re still the minority party. And a significant faction within that party doesn’t support the Crook-in-Chief.

If we set aside our differences, true Americans – of all stripes – can send Trump packing. If not this coming week, then certainly in November.

And I can’t imagine any better reason to work together for the common good.

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Barrett, T., “McConnell opposes impeachment witnesses now — but supported them during Clinton trial,” CNN(dot)com. Dec 16, 2019

Crowley, J., “Resurfaced Video Shows Lindsey Graham Arguing for Witnesses to Testify at Bill Clinton Impeachment Trial,” CNN(dot)com. Jan 7, 2020

Watkins, M., “Sen. Mitch McConnell on Possible Impeachment Trial: ‘I’m not an impartial juror’,” Courier-Journal. Dec 18, 2019.

Goldiner, D., “Lindsey Graham Says ‘not pretending to be fair juror’ on Trump Impeachment,” NY Daily News. Dec 14, 2019.

Beckwith, R.T., “Senator Oath for Trump Impeachment Trial Stirs Partisan Rancor,” Bloomberg(dot)com. Dec 21, 2019.

Mazza, E., “Alan Dershowitz’s Old Comments About Impeachment Come Back To Haunt Him,” HuffPost(dot)com. Jan 20, 2020.

Let’s Hope We Can Last ‘Til November

Politics have always caused friction. But 2020 is shaping up as the knock-down, drag-out battle of our lives. Take the “racist” video of Joe Biden just released by the Right.

In it, we hear Biden run down African and Asian culture. Except we don’t. We hear a couple dozen words, taken out of context. Thirteen minutes of context. In fact, we don’t even get the whole second sentence.

But the usual suspects jumped all over Biden, and the video clip spread across social media like wildfire. The truth is, Biden didn’t say anything bad about Asian of African culture. He was criticizing the culture handed down through English common law.

Expect to see lots more of these distortions in the coming months. Along with more efforts to suppress Democratic votes. Take the new voting law in Texas, for example.

They Can’t Win if They Can’t Vote

Hillary won the 2016 popular vote by nearly 3 million. The Right doesn’t want a repeat. Especially in states that may be in play this time around.

In Texas, a new law bans “temporary” polling places that aren’t open during 100% of early voting. That may sound innocent enough. After all, it’s giving all voters equal opportunities to vote, right?

Sort of. But here’s the thing: Many districts are strapped for cash. They can’t afford to open all polling places all the time. So, they have to close down these temporary polling places. Which tend to be at colleges, elderly housing, and other locations that – Surprise! Surprise! – lean Democratic.

The real result of these shut-downs won’t be equal voting opportunities for all… but the denial of voting rights to groups that tend to lean leftward.

It’s just another example of the Right’s program of voter suppression. After all, the Left can’t win if its voters can’t vote.

And while the Right is suppressing the vote on the Left, they’re revving up their base. Take their boss’s constant refrain as an example…

Meet “The Do-Nothing Democrats”

How many times have you heard President Trump call his opponents “the do-nothing Democrats”? Dozens… scores? To hear Trump and his allies tell it, the Dems have focused on nothing but impeachment since Trump “won” the election.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy quoted the Right-leaning WA Times on this topic. According to McCarthy and the Times, House Dems have issued more subpoenas than they have passed bills.

 

The Times claims only 46 House bills became law in 2019… while the Dems issued 56 subpoenas. Can you believe it?

No; you can’t. The House passed a whopping 298 bills during 2019’s legislative session. Most of those bills were blocked from coming before the Senate by Majority Leader “Moscow Mitch” McConnell. In other words, House Dems got a lot of work done. But the GOP scuttled all that hard work in the Senate.

No matter how hard the House works to serve voters, they’re only one-third of the equation. The Senate has to pass the same/similar bill… and then the president must sign the resolved bill to make it law.

The House did it’s third of the job. But Trump and his allies in the Senate kept these bills from becoming law. The Times article was extremely misleading… McCarthy knew it… but he pushed the lie for political gain.

And speaking of “do-nothing…”

Where’s That Wall… the Obamacare Repeal… Etc.?

Here’s an interesting fact for you: From 2016 to 2018, Republicans controlled the White House, the Senate, and the House. So where were all the accomplishments Trump promised in his first 100 days?

With the entire Congress behind him, Trump didn’t manage to build a single inch of new Wall in those two years. To date, his administration has only managed to replace some aging sections of existing wall. And the concrete he promised us was abandoned long ago.

He didn’t replace “Obamacare,” either. In fact, the GOP still doesn’t have a coherent healthcare policy. And it’s been almost a decade since the Affordable Care Act was first passed. In 10 years, Trump’s party has only managed to chip away at the edges of the act.

And how about that massive tax cut for the Middle Class. Oh, you haven’t seen it? That’s because it was never included in Trump’s tax package.

According to the Congressional Research Service, neither growth nor wages have benefitted from Trump’s tax plan. But the rich have.

The plan – which Trump supporters said would pay for itself – has fallen 95% short. Yup. Trump’s tax cuts have only generated a 5% payback. Which means the national debt will skyrocket. But don’t worry. Thanks to the new tax laws, big corporations and the rich won’t have to cover the shortfall. That will be left to the working stiffs.

 

Things haven’t gone according to plan. So…

Where Is Trump as All These Plans Fall Apart?

Our Commander in Chief spent one of every five days in 2019 at his golf properties.

That’s right. The man who wouldn’t have time to play golf essentially fiddled while Rome burned. We face a nuclear crisis with North Korea… out of control climate changes… healthcare costs most Americans can’t afford… college debt that threatens to sink a generation… and so many more challenges.

But Trump golfs every fifth day. Even worse, he golfs at his own properties… ensuring your tax dollars fill his coffers. While the national debt spirals ever upward.

Now he wants a second term. Really?

We tried the maverick thing. And it turned out exactly as Progressives predicted: We’re in the worst financial mess our nation has faced since the Great Depression. Sure, the stock market is doing great. But most Americans aren’t invested in the stock market. And their wages have stagnated.

Our foreign service is a shambles. We’re seeing health and ecological protections disappear. Heck – to please his trophy-hunting sons – Trump has even eased restrictions on importing animal parts from hunting endangered species!

And the assault shows no signs of slowing.

Which is why we must hold out. Why we have to help everyone we can register to vote. And help them get to the polls. Or submit a valid absentee ballot.

I’ve said it before – and I’ll say it again: We’re facing our Democracy’s last gasp. We can save this noble experiment at the ballot box. But only if we marshal all our forces against those who would make our nation an oligarchy.

We just need to hold out until November.

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Dinan, S., “Nancy Pelosi, Democrats produce more subpoenas than laws,” The Washington Times. Oct 22, 2019.

“House Passes 298 bills to end 2019 legislative session,” KITV Island News. May2, 2019.

Chait, J., “Study Finds Trump Tax Cuts Failed to Do Anything But Give Rich People Money,” NY Magazine. May 29, 2019.

How Trump and McConnell Are Undermining the Judiciary

Imagine you’re standing before a judge. You’re nervous… and you should be. You’re representing yourself, but…

You’ve never tried a case before. You’ve never examined a witness. You’ve never taken a deposition. You haven’t argued a motion or picked a jury.

Now imagine the judge you’re facing is in the same boat. Virtually no courtroom experience at all. It’s like the blind leading the blind.

Welcome to the Trump/McConnell Judiciary

That’s exactly the case with Sarah Pitlyk, Trump’s latest pick as an appeals court judge.

According to the American Bar Association’s (ABA) William Hubbard, “Ms. Pitlyk has never tried a case as lead or co-counsel, whether civil or criminal. She has never examined a witness.”

“Though Ms. Pitlyk has argued one case in a court of appeals,” Hubbard continued, “she has not taken a deposition. She has not argued any motion in a state or federal trial court. She has never picked a jury. She has never participated at any stage of a criminal matter.”

Which may explain why the ABA deemed her “not qualified” to serve as an appellate court judge.

No matter, Senate Republicans rubber stamped her nomination. Maine’s Susan Collins was the lone GOP senator who felt being unqualified should keep Pitlyk off the bench.

So far, the ABA has rated nine Trump nominees as unqualified. Four of those – including Pitlyk – were unanimously rated “unqualified” by the ABA’s standing committee on the federal judiciary.

Since January 1989, the ABA standing committee has unanimously rated only five nominees as unqualified. Trump nominated four of them.

If qualifications aren’t important, what is Trump looking for? And why is Moscow Mitch ramming them through the Senate? In a word: Ideology.

For Trump and McConnell, the main concern is who will toe the GOP line. An appeals court judge with virtually no courtroom experience? No problem! As long as they’ll safely rule in favor of GOP ideology.

Let’s look at how this stacks up in real-world terms.

The GOP Is Hijacking the Courts

Bill Clinton was in office for eight years. The ABA rated four of his nominees as unqualified. Three were confirmed by the Senate.

George W. Bush also served for eight years. The ABA found eight of his nominees were unqualified. The Senate confirmed five.

In just threeyears, the ABA has already rated nineTrump nominees unqualified. The Senate has confirmed six, with a seventh pending.

Now let’s look at a more revealing set of numbers. How many federal judges did the Senate confirm under Obama vs. Trump?

The GOP controlled the Senate for six of Obama’s eight years in office. During his tenure, the Senate confirmed a total of 94 federal district and appeals court judges.

In just three years, they’ve confirmed 150Trump nominees. That’s over 50% more judges confirmed in less than half the time. Moscow Mitch dragged his feet with Obama nominees. Now he’s fast-tracking Trump’s picks.

Including those the legal community considers unqualified for the job.

As we saw with Merrick Garland, McConnell isn’t concerned about qualifications. Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court should have been a shoo-in, as he had widespread support among Republicans.

But Moscow Mitch refused to hold confirmation hearings… for a year. Essentially reserving a Supreme Court seat for Trump. In violation of the U.S. Constitution.

As GOP support wanes among voters, the party is grasping for power. Stacking the courts is one way they can hold on. Because these federal appointments are for life.

Which is why…

Progressives Have to Vote Like Their Lives Depend on It

Trump and his cronies are counting on another “Bernie or Bust” defection. In 2016, disappointed Bernie supporters helped elect Trump. And we all know how that turned out.

Here’s where we need a hard dose of reality. Progressives can’t afford another four years of Trump. Heck, Americacan’t afford another four years of Trump.

Our relations with our allies are in shambles. The national debt is skyrocketing. The wealth gap is expanding. Racism is making a comeback. Health care is moving out of reach – even for many who haveinsurance. Higher education now leads to a lifetime of debt for many. Social Security and Medicare are under assault.

The American dream is on life support. And Donald Trump stands ready to pull the plug. The 2020 vote may be our last best hope to save our Democracy. We mustpull together.

Harris, Buttigieg, Sanders, Booker, Warren… Whoever you support, keep this in mind:

Allof them are more qualified than Trump. And anyof them will help restore our Democracy from his imperial presidency.

If we all don’t get behind the Democratic nominee, we’re doomed. Another Trump term will be the death knell for our grand experiment in Democracy. And all your hopes for the future will go down in flames.

On the other hand, if we all do join together behind the Democratic nominee, we have the votes to send Trump packing. Along with Moscow Mitch and the GOP’s Senate majority.

We can take America back. We can undo the damage Trump and his cronies have done. We can begin to pack the courts with qualified judges – chosen for their abilities, rather than ideologies.

The ballot box is our last best chance to prevent Trump and McConnell from hijacking the courts. If we give them four more years, we may never recover.

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Thebault, R., “Trump nominee who is anti-IVF and surrogacy was deemed unqualified. She was just confirmed,” The Washington Post. Dec 4, 2019.

“ABA ratings during the Trump administration,” BallotPedia(dot)org. Dec 2, 2019.

Bendery, J., “Trump Has Confirmed 150 Lifetime Federal Judges. That’s A Lot,” HuffPost(dot)com. Sep 17, 2019.