The Election Chronicles, Volume 19: Where Do We Go With Our Anger?

Most of us who are following the Presidential election find ourselves puzzled at the numbers. We elect a President every four years and by this time in the campaign we expect to know that our next leader will be found among a half dozen of the candidates. We also expect that we will choose from politicians we’ve known for a long time.

Last year at this time most of expected that the primaries would present us with a clear choice: Hillary Clinton vs. Jeb Bush.

It made some sense. Both come from families familiar to us and their resumes are well known. The 2016 campaign was supposed to be fairly predictable.

But it’s not. Turns out large segments of us are tired of “the same old thing” and “the same old politicians,” and they are looking to outsiders. Many of us honestly believe we need to look outside those with political skill sets and choose leaders who have different skill sets.

For many, Donald Trump speaks to their frustrations. His father succeeded in real estate and Donald joined him after graduating from college. Given a fair amount of seed money, Donald parlayed it into the millions he now enjoys.

So here’s the problem: Don touts his own success because he is a “self made man.” Except he isn’t. His father’s wealth gave him a headstart and now he runs on a platform that claims that as President he can give all of us his same success.

He can’t. For better or for worse we’re all going to learn a lesson from junior high school: if you elect the class bully to be class president, all he knows how to do is to bully. Don’s success comes from telling us that he will “stand up” to our enemies but he doesn’t understanding that he needs to negotiate with our enemies and partner with our allies.

We need to use our entire skill set in our negotiations, and power is only one of those skills. We need to convince our allies and our adversaries that their advantage lies in following our lead.

But that never works when we lead with our ability to bully.

Bullying gives us enemies and negotiation gives us allies. The “better angels of our natures” rises when we convert our enemies into allies instead of converting our allies into enemies.

Donald Trump, simply put, is a bully. I wrote about this in a previous post where he said this about Mexican immigrants:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

On July 18th he said this about Senator John McCain who was a prisoner of war from 1967 to 1973: “.. He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, okay? I hate to tell you that.”

Last month he called for a ban of all Muslims entering the United States.

So why is he polling so well? Simply put, he is tapping into a deep anger in many Americans who feel that their American Dream has passed them by.

And their anger comes from a reasonable place. The Washington Post published an article in 2014 that explains that economic growth in the last few decades has disproportionally favored those who were already wealthy while leaving behind the poor and middle class.

Many listen to Don and believe his lies that he will “make America great again.” He won’t. In moments of candor all politicians will admit to a limited ability to grow the economy and basic equality does not come from unfettered capitalism. A Trump America looks xenophobic, isolationist, and much poorer. Wage equality achieved through making everyone poorer is nobody’s dream.

Frankly put, the best route to a better America for all lies with the Democrats. Bill Clinton served from 1992 to 2000 and was the last President to offer a balanced budget. By all accounts his 2 terms made everyone’s lives better. When he left office we were operating at a surplus of $307,000,000,000. Eight years later, when George Bush left office we operated at a deficit of $458,600,000. Seven years into the Presidency of Barack Obama we carry a deficit of $439,000,000.

But it’s not that simple. President Bush passed the keys to the President Obama on January 20, 2009 and the deficit grew to $1,413,000,000 as he was forced to increase spending to end the Great Recession.

Simply put, Presidents Clinton and Obama made America great by growing our economy for everyone, not just the wealthiest. Republican mantras of less government and keeping out people who we fear will not make us great, it will make us poor and weak. It’s always done that before.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 18: Can Anyone Ask Donald Trump These Questions?

I’m certain I’m not alone in this, but I’m weary of listening to Donald Trump making outrageous statements with no follow up. I get that he makes speeches to friendly audiences without taking questions from reporters, but really? Is there nobody who will call him on his statements?

I’m not a reporter but here are the questions I want to ask him:

  • You want to ban Muslims entering this country until “our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” What does this mean? Does that include Muslims who are American citizens who went to the Bahamas on vacation want to return home? Does it mean that Muslims from Europe who travel here on business can’t come here for business? And, by the way, how do you know who is Muslim? I just checked my passport and my religion is not listed. I often get mistaken for being Jewish and no government issued ID shows that I’m Christian.
  • A few months ago you promised to bomb the shit out of Isis. Exactly how do you propose to do this? They occupy a large swath of Iraq and Syria and live side by side with civilians who cower in fear of them. Do you plan to bomb both Isis and the men, women, and children they hold hostage? I hope not. I hope you don’t think that everyone who lives in these areas are members of Isis, or people not worthy of mercy. I condemn Isis for using innocent civilians as “human shields” but I don’t think killing these civilians is the answer.
  • I live in Southern California, about 30 miles from the border with Mexico. You have promised to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. Further you’ve stated that you will make Mexico pay for the wall. I can’t even count how many questions I have for this, but let me get started: What plan to do you have when Mexico refuses your demand? Oh, and this: when you say “a wall” does that mean you will block all traffic between the United States and Mexico? Does that include American citizens who live in Mexico because it’s cheaper to live on the beach there? Does that include Mexicans who work here legally and cross the border every day? Does it include truckers who move commerce across the border and enrich the lives of both countries? If not, are you prepared for the economic downturn we will face when we can no longer trade goods and people with Mexico? If so, how do you prevent immigration that sneaks over a porous border (much as we have today).

Well, Mr. Trump, I’m waiting for your answer.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 17: George Pataki Drops Out

Yesterday we heard from the latest Republican casualty: George Pataki.

He decided to suspend his campaign for President. When I told this to my wife she expressed surprise that he was still running. Yeah, it just doesn’t pay to be one of the “undercard Republicans” who never made it to the national stage. He shared the stage with so many Republicans who sought the 2016 nomination that the debates were split into two: those who did well in the polls and those who didn’t.

He came to the race with some credentials. He was governor of New York from 1995 to 2006, including the morning of 9/11.

He attempted to place himself as a candidate on the mainstream. He opposed the Affordable Care Act but sought an alternative. He described himself as socially liberal on abortion and gay rights and he may well have been the best Republican candidate for millennials, those born after 1980.

But, and I’ve said before, the Republican source of funding and votes are mutually exclusive. He just couldn’t get traction among his own party and his own party just refused to see how valuable he could have been in the general election.

Can I say this? It’s a good for the Democrats. As a Democrat I’m pleased.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 16: Lindsey Graham Drops Out

Many of us expect that some of the Republican candidates will soon see the handwriting on the wall and withdraw from the campaign. Yesterday that candidate was Lindsey Graham.

He suspended his campaign, recognizing that he has no path to the White House. He is an honorable man and he does this for no other reason than to increase the chances of a Republican successor to President Obama.

But it’s been an uphill battle. He clearly staked out a place for himself as a hawk, calling for boots on the ground against ISIS but just couldn’t gain any traction.

Donald Trump continues to consume most of the oxygen of the Republican campaign and it’s made it nearly impossible for serious candidates to have serious discussions.

Lindsey is much too hawkish for me and I never would have voted for him, but I do respect him for the conviction of his beliefs. We will be well served if he continues his work in the Senate.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 15: The GOP Confronts Trump and Have Only Themselves to Blame

The Republican Party has been absent from the White House since 2008 and they’ve not been happy.

They see 2016 as their opportunity to regain the Presidency but they’ve run into a problem: Donald Trump. It’s no secret that Trump thinks of himself capable of doing whatever he wants and he now thinks he can be our next President.

Most of the Republican establishment incorrectly assumed he was doing this as a way to gain publicity for his reality show The Apprentice. Somewhere along this path Don decided he could win and the polls seem to back this up, at least for the Republican nomination.

So what’s the problem? Well, Don appears to be run on a platform of lies. He claims that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the destruction of the Twin Towers. He claims that he witnessed people falling from the Twin Towers even though he was four miles away.

There are more examples, but many Republicans can’t understand why his numbers are strong while he continues to lie.

They shouldn’t be puzzled: they should be ashamed. They gave him the playbook.

The Republican party overflows with experiences where they have encouraged their supporters to ignore the facts and embrace their fears.

Let me give a few examples:

  • On 9/11/2001 we were all united in our grief and fear. We knew almost immediately that Osama bin Laden was behind it. And yet instead of concentrating exclusively on Afghanistan (who harbored bin Laden) the Bush administration claimed that our bigger threat was from Iraq. In 2003 we invaded Iraq, falsely claiming that weapons of mass destruction were poised in our direction. They weren’t and we now know that the Bush administration believed the information not because it was correct, but because it was useful to their beliefs.
  • Despite overwhelming evidence, the GOP continues to deny our role in Global Warming. They continue to insist there is no real evidence that climate change is related to the burning of fossil fuels.
  • During the Bush administration the bookstore at the Grand Canyon was directed to sell the book Grand Canyon a Different View by Tom Vail. Vail claims that the Grand Canyon was formed not by millions of years of erosion by the Colorado River, but by the Noah’s Ark Flood.

Simply put, the GOP spent the last 8 years telling their followers to ignore the facts and instead fear that President Obama and the Democrats are going to destroy America.

And now, much to their despair, Donald Trump has proven the master of their strategy. Don is a polarizing figure and his xenophobic platform virtually insures that he cannot be elected President. I wrote last month how the wheels are coming off on the Republican Party.

They have only themselves to blame.

The Election Chronicles Volume 14: And Now There are Fourteen.

Most of us who are following the Republican Primary believe the field should winnow. Today Bobby Jindal announced he is suspending his campaign. He’s had a hard time gaining traction. His popularity never broke above 2% and he never made the leap to the “adult table” in the Republican debates.

Nearly all the members of the Republican herd feel that the crown will eventually be placed on his (or her) head. They feel that their opponents will implode and the Democrats will self destruct and all Americans will see him or her as the only logical candidate.

Nobody can predict the next 11 months but I think Bobby’s exit doesn’t make much of a difference. I’m guessing that none of the remaining candidates will seek Bobby’s endorsement simply because he holds no power.

Bobby is a good man and a good American, but there is no way he would have made a good president.

The Election 2016 Chronicles Volume 13: Donald Trump's Operation Wetback: He's Still At It

Ever since he began his presidential campaign Donald Trump has made xenophobia a cornerstone of his platform. He famously promised to build a wall along the entire US/Mexican border and send them the bill.

More recently he’s spoken about mass deportations of undocumented workers and families. Nobody knows how many there are, but most think it’s somewhere around 11 million men, women, and children. He justifies this by claiming it’s been done before, and done successfully.

As with many things Trump, he gets many of the details wrong and is vague on how he will accomplish it.

There was a program in 1954 called “Operation Wetback” that intended to deport large numbers of Mexicans in this country. Many of them came to the United States in the 1940s as part of the bracero program to fill agricultural jobs left vacant by U.S. forces fighting World War II. After the war ended the GI’s came back home and had to compete for jobs with the braceros.

It’s not hard to see where this went. The Mexicans, who were once needed, were now expendable and they were deported.

In an NPR interview, Alfonso Aguilar of the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership provided some facts. He said this: “The Eisenhower mass deportation policy was tragic. Human rights were violated. People were removed to distant locations without food and water. There were many deaths, unnecessary deaths. Sometimes even U.S. citizens of Hispanic origin, of Mexican origin, were removed. It was a travesty. It was terrible. Immigrants were humiliated. So to say that’s a success story, it’s ridiculous. It shows that Mr. Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Even given this, he gives few details on how he will deport 11 million people. In a CNN article he explains that he will build a “deportation force” and they will do it humanely in 18 to 24 months. But NBC claims it will cost us between $100 and $200 billion dollars.

OK so assuming that he’s right, what’s the result? He and most of his fellow Republicans complain about the size of government and the national debt and yet he favors this expenditure. Interestingly enough we currently spend $76 billion on food stamps to ensure that nobody starves.

He also claims that deporting these 11 million will free up jobs for Americans. And so I ask you: how many of us are willing to pick crops, wash dishes, and mow lawns for minimum wage? I know I won’t.

I’ve spoken on this topic before but I’ll say it again: we all benefit because our ancestors did the jobs nobody else wanted. The people Donald wants to deport are the parents and grandparents of Americans who will lead our country in the last half of the 21st Century and the first half of the 22nd. They will make us proud.

The Election 2016 Chronicles Volume 12: My Attempt to Keep Up With the Candidates

Every four years I attempt (with limited success) to provide a list of candidates for President. In previous years I’ve listed them on the left column of this page, but that has become unwieldy. You see, I don’t just want to list those candidates who make it to the TV debates. Our democratic system allows nearly anyone who is 35 years old and was born in this country to run.

I don’t want to list only those who “everyone believes” will win. This year I found so many candidates that I’ve created a page for all those I’ve found who are running. You can also access this page on the left column.

I have to confess that I do have some conditions for including candidates. If you (or someone you support) is running and is not listed, please let me know and I’ll consider including that person.

In the meantime let us celebrate the fact that we choose our leaders.

The Election 2016 Election Chronicles Volume 11: Are We Witnessing the End of the Republican Party?

I’m aware that I’ve just written possibly the most provocative subject line of this blog, but it’s been percolating in my head for a while now. At least give it a read before forming an opinion.

Currently in United States most partisan offices are held by members of the Republican or Democrat parties. Nearly everyone knows that there are minor parties (even if we can’t name them) but the 2 major parties really call the shots. And since it’s been that way for all of our memories, we can easily think that it’s always been that way.

It hasn’t. The GOP was formed in 1854 in opposition to slavery. But it didn’t form out of nothing: it rose from (some of) the ashes of the Whig party which was itself formed in opposition to President Andrew Jackson who they referred to as “King Andrew.” It can be reasonably said that President Jackson was the first President who identified as Democrat.

It’s telling that from the beginning the Whigs had only one purpose: opposition to the Democrats. That said they had some success. Members included Presidents William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Millard Fillmore. Influential non Presidents included Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and Winfield Scott. Oh yes, and a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, Abraham Lincoln.

Slavery was the issue that ultimately doomed them. For 21st Century Democrats like me, it’s hard to imagine this but Democrats of the 1840s and 1850s were united in their support of slavery. Not only did they demand that slavery continue in the South, but that it expand westward as territories in the Midwest and West became states. After Andrew Jackson, Democrat Presidents before the Civil War were James K. Polk from North Carolina, Franklin Pierce from New Hampshire, and James Buchanan from Pennsylvania. And while Pierce and Buchanan were from Northern states, they were pretty feckless. One could make the argument that while they didn’t cause the Civil War, their passivity only delayed it.

As the expansion of slavery continued to divide the nation, the Whig party continued to try to remain the party that opposed the Democrats, regardless of any other issue. That inevitably led to a split between the Whigs who opposed slavery and those who didn’t. Northern Whigs opposed the westward expansion of slavery and southern Whigs didn’t. The divide couldn’t be resolved and eventually the southern Whigs joined the Democrats and the northern Whigs formed a new party that opposed both the Democrats and slavery. They called themselves Republicans.

Since then both parties have changed dramatically. President Lincoln successfully kept us together and paved the way to abolish slavery before being assassinated. And while (male) former slaves were eligible to vote, few were able because of deep-seated discrimination for a hundred years. But most of those who were able to register to vote identified as Republicans. This lasted until the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt who they saw as more progressive on civil rights.

Enter today’s Republican Party. Like their Whig ancestors they unite against only this: the defeat of the Democrats. Nothing else matters.

So here’s their problem: there are factions that oppose each other in how they plan to govern and the only uniting factor (defeating the Democrats) won’t give them a path to victory. So let me give a few examples:

  • The Current Race for the Republican Nomination is a mess: For several election cycles the field of candidates has been full, but this time (and at this time) the front runners are Ben Carson and Donald Trump. They are united in this: neither has any political experience. Furthermore, both used to be Democrats. You can read about this here but Ben Carson was a Democrat until November 2014. Donald Trump, in a CNN interview three months ago, admitted he identified as a Democrat in 2004. His “party trail” is more complicated but you can read more about it here. In 1987 he registered as a Republican. In 1999 he changed to the Independence Party. In 2001 he changed to the Democrats. In 2009 he (again) registered as a Republican. Finally, in 2012 he declined to register as a member of any party. In other words, none of the other Republican candidates poll well against two guys who only professed their loyalty to the party in the last few years.
  • Their fights are getting more public and public and more ugly: Ronald Reagan famously proclaimed the Eleventh Commandment: Though Shalt Never Speak Ill of Another Republican. Republicans have famously fought in private while Democrats are often described as using a “circular firing squad” in their conflicts. But this is beginning to fall apart. My best, current example focuses on the Benghazi hearings. The Congressional investigation’s Republican leader, Trey Gowdy recently told fellow Republicans to “shut up” after some of them admitted that the Benghazi investigation was nothing more than a political ploy to hurt Hillary Clinton.
  • They can’t seem to agree on a new Speaker of the House. In January, 2011 John Boehner rose to a position he’d sought for years: Speaker of the House of Representatives. Once there he learned that his tenure would be far from easy. Conservative members of his party (often called the Freedom Caucus) signaled early on that they felt no loyalty to Boehner or the House of Representatives. They’ve been nothing short of an ongoing migraine and finally, last month he’d had enough. He announced he was resigning his seat in Congress and his role as Speaker. He endorsed the majority leader, Kevin McCarthy to succeed him and fully expected that to happen. It didn’t. Rep. McCarthy recognized that he didn’t have the support of the Freedom Caucus and he withdrew earlier this month. As I write this Paul Ryan has agreed to run with the hope that the Freedom Caucus will allow him to lead. I doubt they will.
  • Since 1992 the Republican candidate for President has won the popular vote only once. Bill Clinton won in 1992 and 1996. In 2000 George W. Bush won the electoral vote but not the popular vote. In 2008 and 2012 Barack Obama won the popular vote. Only in 2004 did George Bush win the popular vote. Clearly history is not on the Republican side.
  • All the Republican demographics are decreasing. In the 2012 election 88% of Mitt Romney’s voters were white. For much of the last century white voters comprised enough of the voting population that minorities didn’t matter. They do now. Our population from south of our border has exploded. Some of them vote because they have become naturalized citizens, but most vote because they were born here, children of immigrants. There’s an excellent Pew Research Center article entitled: A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation that was published last April. It identified groups that tilt Republican: Mormons, White Evangelical Protestants, White Southerners, White Men (some college or less), White, and the Silent Generation (those born 1929-1946). Groups that tilt Democrat include Blacks, Asian, Religiously Unaffiliated, Post-Graduate Women, Jewish, Hispanic, and Millenial Generation (those born 1982-1997).

    So what happens from here? Clearly this doesn’t mean that everyone will become Democrat. While I choose to be Democrat I fully understand good and honest people disagree with me on many issues. Perhaps the Republicans will be able to reform themselves into a new party that better reflects the changing values of our nation. Perhaps they will split into different parties: some Republicans don’t care about gay marriage but feel government is too big. Others fear that we are losing our identity as Americans because so many people come from other places with different values and have no trouble with government protecting our food supply or air quality.

    When the Whig party split, some became Democrats and some formed the Republican party. This gave the immediate advantage to the Democrats but Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, six years after it was formed.

    My point in this blog entry is not to cheer the possible demise of the Republican Party, but just to point out that our nation is changing. Our demographics show that we are becoming a nation that embraces marriage equality, an openness to immigration, and wants health care to be available to all.

    There’s an opportunity to respond to this blog entry. If you do respond I will read it. But please don’t send me a response that claims President Obama is a Muslim terrorist or that Hillary Clinton has killed people. It only makes you look like an idiot.

  • The Election 2016 Chronicles Volume 10: Can the American Voters Win a Debate?

    The next Presidential election is 13 months away and the campaigns are in full swing. The idea of watching the candidates debate in the public forum goes back to 1858 when Stephen Douglas (1813-1861) ran against Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) for the Senate seat from Illinois.

    In the 1960 Presidential election, Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John Kennedy gave us the first experience of a Presidential debate since the invention of the TV. Most people thought John Kennedy won the debate and this contributed to his victory.

    After 1960 there were no debates until 1976 when Gerald Ford agreed to debate Jimmy Carter and we’ve been saddled with these debates ever since.

    As someone who actually lettered for the debate team in high school it may seem like a betrayal to say this, but I think Presidential debates are a bad idea. Many years ago George F. Will famously described these debates as “parallel news conferences” and I think he’s right. But my concern goes much deeper.

    I don’t watch most of these debates because I don’t think the candidates use them to explain what they support and what they oppose. If I’m going to watch candidates on stage I want to learn which one best reflects my beliefs and values.

    Alas virtually all of the “analysis” of these debates devolve into reality TV: who won and who lost.

    In 1992 George H.W. Bush was famously seen looking at his watch against Bill Clinton. Regardless of his reason it was perceived as “why do I still have to be here?” and many believed it contributed to his defeat. Four years ago Rick Perry famously stumbled on how many cabinet positions he would eliminate and that essentially ended his candidacy.

    So far in the 2016 election cycle we’ve had 2 Republican and 1 Democratic debates. Virtually without exception the candidates don’t spend their time honing their views or explaining how they plan to govern. Instead they concentrate on “winning the debate.”

    I’m perfectly willing to vote for a candidate who doesn’t win the debate as long as he or she articulates a path to the America I think we’re called to.

    But I recognize that many of my fellow citizens want to “back the winner” and vote for the person who they think will win. And it makes me sad.

    I think that we are not well served by candidates who tell us (in different ways) that we should vote for them because they will be the next President. The fact that “everyone is voting for him or her” means nothing to me. I respect people who vote their values instead of their need to belong. I just wish there were more of us.