Archive for the ‘Republican Party’ category

More Than A New Voice

May 30, 2018

For many who believed Donald Trump was a terrible choice for America, there is little in his first term that would give one pause over that belief.  President Trump has been a national disgrace in dealing with foreign affairs and foreign leaders.  The President has been for, and then against, a wide range of domestic issues.  And, the President’s wanton disregard for the “Emolument” clause has brought the specter of a two bit, third world Presidency to the forefront. 

The Republican controlled Congress has amazingly been silent on President Trump’s behavior and cheered his partisan behavior on issue such as unfunded tax cuts, abandonment of 11 million undocumented residents, and naked attacks on groups hated by evangelicals such as LGBTQ, pro-choice, and women’s rights.  

As midterms approach, the question being asked more often is whether Democrats can put forward a “voice” whose message will persuade enough voters to return Democrats to control of Congress.

So, what might that voice say to voters to earn their vote?

Jobs.  From the 2016 Presidential election results it should be clear that emphasis on any other issue(s) without first establishing believable policies which will produce better jobs are non-starters.  “I’m With Her” or “Inclusion”, while admirable, miss the hot button for most Americans.   Even retraining proposals, while essential, are not the “voice” under employed or out of work Americans want to hear.

Keeping America’s Promise.  Republicans see the growing deficit and debt as an opportunity to make the case for sharp reduction in entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security) and a wide range of healthcare and “safety net” programs.  Republicans are prone to say when referring to the growing national debt, “America has a spending problem not a taxing problem”.  For most Americans, however, even the ones who are resolutely Trump supporters, simply cutting entitlements, healthcare, and safety net items is tantamount to breaking a promise the US Government has made to all Americans.

Restoring the American Dream.  The bulk of Americans (bottom 98% of incomes) do not believe they will achieve more than their parents.  Income inequality has continued, if not accelerated, to grow under President Trump.  Democrats need to emphasize policies which will allow ALL boats to rise, not just the top 2 % of earners.

But is that all it will take?

Maybe.  These three points will speak to most Americans.  If Democrat candidates follow a reasonably moderate path and speak animatedly about Jobs, Keeping America’s Promise, and Restoring the American Dream, the chances of Democrats gaining majorities in Congress are good.  But is that enough?

Probably, it is enough to flip Congress for the next two years but Americans are suspicious of politicians and their slippery words.  Sustaining Democrat control and winning the White House in 2020 will take more.

What is needed, more importantly, is a quiet commitment for integrity and avoidance of personal gain associated with Congressional business.  There is no way either party can deliver on campaign promises when Congress members are preoccupied with personal gain or distracted by integrity issues.

Advertisements

Conor Lamb and Consequences

March 14, 2018

Yesterday, in the Pennsylvania 18th District, Conor Lamb prevailed over Republican Rick Saccone in an election of dubious consequences. The 18th District has in recent years been a relatively safe Republican seat due largely to the disaffected large union population and generous gerrymandering.  President Trump carried this district by 20 points as an example.

So, what was so bad about Saccone or what was so good about Lamb?

Interviews with Trump voters in the 18th and several other districts across the country have revealed that many Trump voters are souring on the President as a person but overwhelmingly like the President because “Trump  gets things done”. Hmmm.

This comment suggests that these voters were disgusted with other politicians claiming they would change this or that, and in the end do nothing.

So, let’s look at some of President Trump’s successes. Lamb did not reject the President’s actions but asked 18th District voters what consequences might follow,.

For example,  Republicans gloated about tax cuts. Lamb asked, what government programs, important to the 18th District, might not happen or might need to be cut back when the Federal Government realizes it has too little money.  How about badly needed investment in roads, bridges, and ports?

Lamb did not say tax cuts are unfair or a bad idea because they grossly benefit the already wealthy (which they do). Rather Lamb framed the Trump action in terms where the consequences would be real to his district’s voters. Lower taxes would also put pressure upon Medicare, Medicaid, and social security Lamb said. Infrastructure projects would be slowed along with the new jobs that would be associated with development.

The key to Lamb’s approach was treating respectively potential voters, many of whom had voted for President Trump. He did not slam Trump as a person but kept the focus upon the President’s policies and what the consequences would likely be.

Even with healthcare, Lamb refrained from advocating universal healthcare but instead spoke of the right of all sick Americans to receive healthcare they could afford. Read more of Conor Lamb’s policies.  Hmmm.

Lamb’s intangibles came through as honesty and bias for action. Lamb appears clean-cut, honest, and hard working. In this contest, that was enough.

Unfit From Any Angle

February 11, 2018

The current crowd that comprises the Republican Party’s Congressional members are unfit to govern. So tell me something that I didn’t know already. Hmmm.

Throughout the Obama years, Republican leaders postured time and again about Obama Administrations incompetence. Republicans pointed to the slow growing US economy, the size of Federal Deficits, and the ruinous impact the Affordable Care Act was having upon jobs were rallying calls. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Republican message never the less kept reinforcing the dooms day outlook.

From the day former President Obama took office, while the US economy was steadily slipping into the dangerous territory between recession and depression, the Obama Administration pushed for a balanced approach between Keynesian economic stimulation and “doing the right thing” legislation.

The 2008 economic decline bottomed out and the Affordable Care Act came into law providing healthcare for millions more. General Motors was saved from itself, consumer protection measures were put in place, and human rights enforcement became the Justice Department’s focus.

The Economy grew around 2-2.5%, unemployment steadily decreased, while America’s GDP growth lead the pack of developed countries. In foreign policy, the Obama Administration proposed that the Middle East policies should not cloud or block America’s view that an emerging super power China must be dealt with. Also, Iran and North Korea both were subject to diplomatic efforts aimed at controlling those countries’ nuclear programs while also recognizing the limits of military force. And, climate realities were met straight on with the US announcing it would join the Paris Climate Agreement in hopes of a global effort to confront global warming.

During President Trump’s first year, the past 8 years have been “denied”. The President has appointed, and the Republican controlled Congress has confirmed, Cabinet Secretaries who were either unqualified or were avowed opponents of each Department’s goals. Turning the Asylum over to the inmates would summarize the executive branch.

Important trade alliances were cast aside and the “what does this mean” slogan America First was substituted. America First is sure fired, naive call which is certain to result in less international cooperation. But the best was yet to come.

The Congress tried it best to repeal and replace Obamacare only to find that strong grass roots support for the Affordable Care Act existed and a repeal threaten the electoral viability of Republican Congress Members. Disappointed but not deterred, the Congress moved on to “tax reform” which in short order emerged as “tax cuts”.

The rush for tax cuts was strange since most business people would ask what would be the spending plan against which levying taxes could logically be set. Republican leaders and spokespersons, however, tried to frame the tax cuts as a means to grow the economy faster and magically paying for themselves.

The tax cuts passed with Republican votes and America woke up to the news that these tax cuts would add another $1.5 trillion to the deficit. Republicans then touted the GDP growth rate as already accelerating, (a near impossibility due to any recent cause and effect).

Republicans claimed that economic growth was now 3% and heading north. Republicans did not say that other modern countries were also experiencing economic growth and relatively speaking, the US was growing no faster than its major trading partners.

Even worse was the recognition that when the US economy heats up, the risk of inflation increases too. So the perfect storm is forming.

Inflation is around the corner, unemployment is near bottom (so where are the workers going to come from to man the heated economy), Republicans’ anal Mexican policies are severely restricting much needed labor, and after 10 years of expansion, sooner or later a real contraction must take over.

But there is more.

This week Democrats and Republicans compromised, not on prudent budget cuts, but instead on fiscally irresponsible, unpaid government spending. This compromise resulted from a basic inability to set national priorities and in order for one group (like Defense spenders) to get their funding, they had to go allow with Democrat favored domestic policies.

Americans will have the GOP to thank for

  • expensive healthcare
  • rising inflation
  • no tools left to stimulate the economy (taxes have already been cut and interest rates are still low) when inevitably the economy slows and slips into a recession.
  • Trading partners will take care of themselves first (as instructed) taking away a consumer of our goods and services.
  • Federal Debt interest rate costs will begin to choke out other spending.
  • A darkening view of the utility (not mention the honesty) of elected officials will occur to more Americans.
  • The American Dream and the necessary “can do” spirit will be stunted.

In real life, most Americans do not have the experience or the time to understand what their Republican elected leaders have put in play.  America First sounds good, and who is not in favor of lower taxes.  For unexplained reason, for profit insurance companies standing between Americans and their doctors sounds better than Government (as in all other modern healthcare systems around the world).

There are many reasons Republican Congress Members are unfit.  Most likely the corrosive effect of money is at the root.  Wealthy individuals have organized and fueled ideologues to frame issues and mold public opinion.  Money speaks, lots of money speaks louder.

The Republican Party has found ballot box success parroting these wealth back conservative think tanks.  Americans are about to find out from real experience, Republicans are unfit to govern.

Warning Signs

February 3, 2018

For most of 2017, the media, and through the media, America was focused upon a dysfunctional President. Imagine a chief executive “tweeting” Presidential thoughts and feelings as if the social medium was a proper channel for conveying thoughtful, strategic, or purposeful thinking.

All the while, right before our eyes, a Republican controlled Congress was demonstrating to Americans how not to govern and how not to have the long term interest of Americans in view. A deliberative body became fully under the influence of “populist” fever.

Critical subjects such as

  • Immigration – where are workers going to come from when American population growth is below one (.7%)
  • Infrastructure maintenance – how will the US repair or improve the roads, bridges, and ports that link Americans together and deliver goods and services which fuel the economy.
  • Military spending – when the US already spends almost as much as all other nations combined and yet finds itself in times of new security threats (such as cyber warfare and nuclear proliferation) searching for more funding.
  • Healthcare – what is Congress’ answer for finding a fair, quality driven, and affordable health care delivery policy in a world where the US spends twice as much per capita compared to other modern countries and the US still does not ensure coverage to all its residents.
  • Human rights – how can Congress speak to the Constitution’s First Amendment recognizing religious rights without also condoning discrimination.
  • Income inequality – in a capitalist system, how can the natural consequence, where the rich become richer, be harassed to meet the financial needs of States and the Federal Government.

This list contains serious problems and opportunities for which there are no slam-dunk answers. Does the Republican lead Congress believe the answer will just come, or are they content to live well themselves and pass the strategic issues onto someone else?

In 2017, Americans witnessed a government which gave little evidence of wanting to fix anything.  Instead Congress tried to deliver less healthcare than what was already a second rate system among like countries at a cost twice as much.

Americans also saw a Congress pass “tax cuts” without addressing any of the needs for infrastructure or defense spending. And, as for the other knotty problems, Congress invested no time to thoughtful study. This lack of willingness to engage tough problems, other than from a populist slogan perspective, may be the most significant of the problems facing the country.

These are huge warning signs that American elected officials are AWOL, even though many have time to appear on talk shows.   The fruits of their labor make it clear.

What are the odds that this view is mistaken, hmmm,  between zero and zilch.

Regaining The Center, Again

January 24, 2018

The Trump Presidency along with the 115th Congress have given renewed meaning to “Regaining The Center”. Beginning with the appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch, an extreme conservative jurist, to the failed attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, to the “trickle down” theory tax cuts, and now to the food fight over immigration, Republicans have pushed the center point of American ship of State and it is now listing dangerously to the right. Will the mid-terms in November provide urgently needed relief?

In any healthy democracy, everyone should recognize that there is not just one way to do things. Most initiatives have a certain momentum and often produces results beyond the stated goal. Over reach, unintended impact, and sometimes simply not achieving the promised results justify a course correction. Variations around some center point, should be expected, if not sought.

In this regard, Democrat Administration followed by a Republican one should be seen as a positive rather than a negative just as the inevitable, a Democrat Administration will replace the Republican one. Unfortunately, extreme conservative or progressive views have little regard or appreciation of the center’s value. For these ideologues, politics is a zero sum game and their personal roles are to drive our country as far to their ideological extreme as possible.

This one dimensional view of politics, Democrat versus Republican or Progressive versus Conservative, however, fails to capture another dimension. Specially, the political world can also be viewed along an axis with poles called authoritarian and anarchist.  There are way points called strict law and order at the authoritarian side, and libertarianism along the anarchy path. Family values, religious themes lie on the authoritarian axis side while women’s and human rights (LGBT included) lie in the libertarian direction.

So, how do these propositions relate to “Regaining The Center”?

The “Center” is safer, like a safe harbor.

What is meant by safer is that the probability of damaging or irrevocably changing the character of the Country is much less. The American democracy experiment is premised upon a healthy dynamic between Federal and States rights. The founding fathers feared both the authoritarian leader (my way or the highway) and the rabble of the common man (short term gains without regard to the future).

The King-like leader or the self interest needs of common, uneducated men.

A strong Federal Government with three equal branches, our founders thought, should provide broad protection and security while individual States should provided a fertile base for individual growth and entrepreneurship. Hmmm.

As the public discussion strays from the center, greater room is provided for public discussion to be hijacked towards extremes such as theocracy, dictatorship, class division in one direction to full libertarianism (anything goes), masses driven wealth redistribution, incompetence through constant change in other direction.

The risks the current Trump and Republican Administration present is the likelihood that their underlying ideological proclivities are fundamentally about wealth accumulation and retention.

 

Their zero sum thinking drives their policies to, by necessity, taking from the poor/average person and shifting wealth to those already wealthy.

 

Their tactics utilize “smoke” such as immigration fears, foreign trade competition, and “us/them” labeling some Americans as preferred and others as unworthy to blind voters’ eyes from what is really taking place.

Only by “Regaining The Center” can we hope to provide room for data based, respectful discussions over which policies, laws, and regulations can raise all boats, not just those of the privileged.

Trapped By Words

January 22, 2018

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump joined other Republicans who heaped criticism upon former President Obama for the existence of ISIS. Joining people like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Trump stressed that the Obama strategic decision to withdraw combat troops from Iraq was a sign of weakness and in a Trump Administration, there would be no weakness.

ISIS, Trump said, was a direct result of Obama’s foreign policy.

After one year as President, I wonder what President Trump thinks? I am not concerned about what he tweets but rather what he really thinks.

ISIS is just another name for al Qaeda or Taliban or Muslim Brotherhood or Hezbollah or Hamas. These radical Islamic groups have existed for many years and represent Muslim factions that seek power and find strict Muslim fundamentalism backed by guns as an effective technique to seize power and hold it.

History has shown that these groups can be held in check only through authoritarian measures.

Had Republicans owned up to George W Bush’s doomed decision to invade and occupy Iraq (and to a lesser extent, President Bush’s decision to allow the morphing of US Afghan foreign policy to nation building), in other words owning up to having opened Pandora’s box in the first place, a far more comprehensive foreign policy might have been found. Alas that did not happen.

So, today the Government finds itself surreptitiously increasing American military presence in Afghanistan and doing the same in Syria and Iraq. The current American posture is ready made for an unforeseen event (like a full scale ambush of US soldiers or an intra-region squabble between Middle East neighbors trapping American forces).

One might cut President Trump a break on this since Pandora’s box is open regardless if Republicans won’t own up. But the President is not going to get any break because he has chosen to side publicly with Israel when common sense would dictate the role of “honest broker”.

What could possibly motivate President Trump to announce moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem?

The US invasion and occupation of Iraq is now woven into the modern Middle East history. For the time being, radical Muslim fundamentalism has access to money and weapons.  There is also plenty of “ugly American” examples which appeal to poor, less educated Arabs and provide the necessary support military units need.

President Trump was, from day 1 of his Administration, trapped by the words of denial by his and other leading Republicans. During President Trump’s first year in office, he has managed to increasingly trap himself (and all of us too).   In a Middle East world where no exit can be seen, cautious words speak louder than foolish ones.

The Oprah Wake Up Call

January 10, 2018

Oprah Winfrey woke up the Golden Globe audience a few nights ago. She spoke with passion and offered a striking contrast to the Trump doomsday speeches even though she was talking about sexual and work place harassment. She offered hope, preached resolve, and in her own way projected confidence.

Oprah is a uniquely successful person who has inspired so many others. It is little wonder that many others immediately wondered whether another television star might think about running for President and made little mystery that Oprah would be a far better TV star President than the one we have now. Hmmm.

IMO, there is little question that Oprah would be a hands down superior pick to Donald J Trump. Unfortunately, comparing anyone to President Trump is the wrong comparison. Would one seriously take Oprah in place of Barack Obama? Or, even George W Bush or Bill Clinton?

President Trump is a boorish excuse for a grownup.  President Trump has willingly followed the policies which the top 1/10th of 1 percent wealthiest Americans and their fully bought out Republican Congress members have put forward. President Trump has reversed one Obama era policy after another in what appears to be an attempt to return to isolationism and the “gilded age”. In a world which has changed, there is no realistic bridge back to time that was not that good for most.

But Americans can (and must) do better than Oprah. Doing better is

  • about surrounding oneself with a diverse, first class team of cabinet leaders and senior officials who seek to raise all ships while protecting America for our children and their children.
  • picking experienced political leaders who can pick up the pieces (which an irresponsible President Trump has, like a spoiled child, strewn around like broken play toys) and put them back together.
  • taking the day in and day out heat from crude, cruel, and deceitful opposition.

To beat President Trump, Democrats will need to offer a “complete” candidate. Simply not being vulgar, rude, and hateful, while wonderful qualities and a sharp contrast to President Trump, the next President must be able to withstand lies, slander, and falsehoods while competently rebuilding America.

Oprah is good, but in 2020, America will need more.