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.

As the election draws closer – and Donald Trump’s unpopularity has begun to erode his support – the minority party has grown increasingly desperate. Following are a few observations and comments…

Chris Christy gets religion.

Christy, like much of the Republican leadership, mostly ignored the medical experts on the coronavirus. Then a maskless, non-social distancing Christy contracted Covid-19. And spent several days in the ICU before recovering.

Suddenly, Christy has seen the light. He’s advocating for masks and recommending social distancing. This is Christy’s first break with Trump since the 2016 election. But he won’t have to worry about upsetting Trump. The Donald has treated him like a dog the whole time.

Sen. Sasse grows a spine… sort of.

On a recent call with voters, Ben Sasse of Nebraska bad-mouthed Trump. Sasse criticized Trump for flirting with white supremacists, kissing dictators’ butts, selling out our allies, and mocking evangelicals in private.

Now that Trump’s popularity has taken a nosedive, Sasse says he never really liked the guy. Too bad he’s been a solid Trump voter while in office. Better to vote Blue than make the mistake of sending another Sasse to the Senate.

Lindsey Graham begs for money.

Over the course of barely two weeks, Sen. Graham recently appeared as a guest on Fox News no less than five times. Begging voters for financial support each time. His Democratic rival, Jaime Harrison, has been out-earning him by far. And his once safe Senate seat is now up for grabs.

I’m just going to take a shot at this, Lindsey… but maybe your massive hypocrisy over the last four years has something to do with it. In 2016, Trump was “unfit for office.” But now you’re solidly on his team? The hypocrisy chickens are finally coming home to roost.

Majority Leader McConnell shows his true colors.

Not that any clear-eyed observer ever believed anything else… but Mitch McConnell has little concern for our democracy. Or the voters he supposedly serves. This was on full display during his recent debate with challenger Amy McGrath.

When McGrath chided him for calling a Senate recess this spring – with no Covid-19 relief bill in sight – McConnell laughed.

That’s right the Senate Majority Leader thinks it’s funny when tens of thousands are dead… millions are out of work… and countless families face eviction. Apparently McConnell finds the suffering of the American people amusing.

Sen. David Purdue goes a little bit racist.

At a rally on Oct. 16, Georgia senator David Purdue made a little “oopsie.” At a campaign rally, he called Kamala Harris, “KAH’-mah-lah? Kah-MAH’-lah? Kamala-mala-mala? I don’t know. Whatever.”

Forgivable? Well, he has worked in the Senate with Harris for more than three years.

Yet Purdue insisted on mis-pronouncing her name. His press secretary claimed he “didn’t mean anything by it.” But can you imagine working side-by-side with anyone for three years and still not knowing their name?

In the end, it sure smells like racism.

Donald Trump goes tone deaf… again.

At a recent rally in Johnstown, PA, Trump made his case to “suburban women.”

“… I ended the regulation that destroyed your neighborhood. I ended the regulation that brought crime to the suburbs,’ Trump claimed, “and you’re going to live the American dream.”

Trump was referring to rolling back regulations on affordable housing in the suburbs. A move also generally known as “racism.”

“… So can I ask you to do me a favor? Suburban women, will you please like me?” Trump continued. “I saved your damn neighborhood, okay?”

Seriously. The President of the United States actually said that.

Meanwhile, Rudy Kazootie drops in from La-La Land.

Rudy Giuliani, the clown prince of the Trump administration, delivered “dirt” on Hunter Biden… straight from a legally blind computer repairman.

Hunter supposedly left a laptop with this technician and abandoned it. After sitting on this “blockbuster” information for months, the technician supposedly turned the info over to Giuliani.

Giuliani and that other pillar of truth, Steve Bannon, gave these “damning” e-mails to the NY Post. The Post belongs to Rupert Murdoch…a publisher so far to the right, he’d probably scare Ronald Reagan.

True to form, the Post published unverified and suspect “e-mails.” When CBS News interviewed the technician, his story changed repeatedly over two hours. And the Post refused to share any of the supposed trove of e-mails with other news outlets.

In other words, the NY Post published unsubstantiated claims from a questionable source… and represented them as fact. Giuliani’s historical sources not only include the suspect Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman… but also unreliable sources linked by the FBI to Russian Intelligence.

Lies on Top of Lies.

As the Trump Train careens further and further off the rails, expect to see more wild stories like these. Trump’s team will seemingly claim anything to slow the Blue Wave.

But, the truth is, if you care at all about Democracy, there’s simply no excuse for voting for Team Trump.

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.