Category Archives: 2016 election

I Blame Donald Trump

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Donald Trump has changed the 2016 primaries in so many ways. He has been like a deus ex machina who popped up in an enormous list of GOP characters with little to differentiate one from the next. He did not fit the mold but he was no more acceptable to me than any other Republican.

I didn’t think I could be shocked after six years of disrupters in Congress making ignorant suggestions to women that would set the culture back 50 years if heeded. I was afraid when the Supreme Court did not uphold the most essential section of the voting rights act, the requirement that certain states get clearance before changing their voting laws, but still I did not foresee how quickly the states would “celebrate” their “freedom” by repressing votes. Watching states break the law in respect to Roe v Wade by imposing bogus rules to close clinic after clinic seemed quite shocking enough, especially when courts backed them up. I had expected the courts to say “whoa Nellie” (because that’s the way these guys talk – remember the one who recommended that women practice birth control by putting an aspirin between their knees and keeping their knees closed around it). The courts did nothing. That’s when I realized how many Conservative judges had been appointed to courts in many of our states.

I could go on but my point is actually that Donald Trump managed to drive my “no they didn’t” reaction up several more notches. His remarks about Mexicans, about the “wall”, about China, deporting undocumented immigrants, Megan Fox, about women in general, about Muslims – well, you were there – you heard it. Then there was his apparent comfort with a physicality that we usually avoid in American politics. We usually use our words. His behavior made the shock waves of the Republican heresies over the past six years pale by comparison.

As we know the other Republican candidates did not seem any happier with Donald’s injection of himself into an already crowded race. He had been a Democrat. Conservatives who had been making a big point about GOP purity tests had to move over and include this famous person who had certainly not been tested for purity. And he was winning, pulling large crowds, taking up all the space on a 24/7 media that usually could be captured only temporarily by a particularly audacious act. Ted Cruz had attempted frequent newsworthy nonsense, but Donald did it practically nonstop.

However, Trump has also served as sort of a buffer between the Democratic primary race and the rest of the Republican slate, getting picked off one by one before our incredulous eyes. We expected to worry about Scott Walker and Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, but instead every eye and ear was on Donald. For the most part, Hillary and Bernie were left alone to run their own race.

Trump’s presence in the race has also allowed Ted Cruz to take up the second position on the GOP side. He expects an open convention and he expects the coveted Republican nomination to eventually fall to him. I have watched Ted Cruz throughout the Obama administration and he made me very worried right from the first time I set eyes on him. In fact I wrote an article called Ted Cruz: Sinister or Cartoonish about my initial observations. I have predicted to myself that somehow he would “worm” his way into the White House and I have tried to speak out against this whenever possible. He is closer to the White House than he has ever been. He is intelligent, if inflexible, and he is strategic. He believes he is a genius. As geniuses go I can think of several I would prefer over him.

If Donald had not inserted himself into the primary would Cruz have made it this far? I don’t know, of course, no one does. But if I end up with Ted Cruz as my President in 2017, I will blame Donald. Who will I blame if we end up with Donald Trump in the White House? I will blame the Democrats. Hillary, there is a lot resting on your shoulders because if you win the nomination we are counting on you to beat the chosen one of these two guys and Donald has sort of fogged up everyone’s view. Ted Cruz is advancing almost under the radar, a stealth campaign.

By Nancy Brisson

“Go Big” or Regret It?

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Lots of people seem to think that this is the moment to “go big”, to finally:

  • Get big money out of politics
  • Close the loopholes that have insured that the 1% is too well taken care of while the middle class is losing ground
  • Break up the big banks who have done wrong and deserve to be punished
  • Regulate Wall Street
  • Make sure American workers have certain protections like paid leave and a living wage and equal pay.

The “go big” people, the “feel the Bern” people, feel that the folks who advocate incremental change are killing the buzz. There is rarely a mass movement to address the way our supposedly democratic society has been set up to favor the wealthy and to widen the gap between social classes, they reason, and there should be because this is not the way we expect our democracy to operate.

Why would anyone back an incremental approach when there is all this momentum pushing the moment in the direction of “we the people”? It seems like the times are ripe for big change, revolutionary (peaceful of course) change. It looks as if this is the moment when “we the people” could force a fairer economic distribution, could take back some power that has been awarded, piece by piece, more and more to the elites in America (the wealthy).

The elitism in our election process, which has been recognized and bemoaned for decades, is suddenly being discussed and critiqued as if it was slipped by us secretly just last week. (How could Bernie Sanders, in Congress for 3o years, although not a member of the Democratic Party, not have known about super delegates?) It is good, however, for a new generation of voters to be aware of the true depth of actual disenfranchisement of voters who do not serve in government, to see how the government has set things up so that those who govern are chosen by the wealthy and by those who govern. This is actually true to the designs of our forefathers who did not trust the masses to govern well. Perhaps we will persevere and actually fix this this time, or perhaps we will get distracted by shinier objects and be surprised all over again in the next election cycle.

Trying to predict whether “go big” is the way to go, the way to get the best results from the next 4-8 years, or whether we will gain more ground from patiently working bill by bill, issue by issue is as fraught as any attempt to predict the future ever is. Arguments favor incrementalism. If we look at the makeup of Congress, if we look at years of tantrums that Republicans say will not end until we get “small government”, six long years of “go small”, will we end up with just two dug-in sides yelling conflicting messages at each other. Bernie feels that Americans will rise up, demonstrate, protest and tip the balance his way. This is not patience; this is passion. It is good to see such passion, although the fire has not spread to all of “we the people”.

Plodding through Robert’s Rules or whatever regular order governs Congress, watching the bargaining, vote counting, seemingly cynical compromising certainly does not sound as sexy as an impassioned storming of the elitist gates of governance, but it is the process, it is the way the system is designed. Can we make the system less elitist gradually (but not too gradually) and stay within the system as it exists? I think people will be so disappointed it Bernie loses that they may be even more likely to push his goals, which would help so many non-wealthy Americans. The objectives that make education affordable or even free are particularly appealing. Money is being extorted from young people at expensive trade schools and internet “colleges” taking advantage of high unemployment and fears of economic failure for the underprepared.

Bernie’s “go big” list of objectives tends to be a bit narrower than the vast pool of issues that we have been unable to address for the past six years. He does talk about infrastructure but rarely has a wider approach to the economy and he almost never talks about climate and environmental matters except to advocate banning fracking, although some people feel climate concerns should be the most pressing issues on our agenda (salt water is flooding Miami.)

It looks like a pragmatic, incremental attack on the wish list of “we the people” is going to win out. The problem is that once a path is chosen, you can’t, at least for a period of time, go back and choose the other path, so there will always be those who feel cheated. Hillary Clinton, so determined to win, had better be prepared to serve the people well if elected. “A word to the wise should be sufficient,” isn’t that what we say?

By Nancy Brisson

The Primaries Come to the Boonies

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This is truly an unusual primary. Usually New York State conducts its primaries quietly in solitary splendor. In general, the Empire State does not play a deciding role in selecting a general election candidate for either party, even though we have a lot of delegates. The New York primary is so late that the early states have already settled the issue.

So it is really quite bizarre to have the candidates I have been writing about traipsing around even the most out-of-the-way places in NY, such as my city (Syracuse), Utica, Rome, Dexter – Dexter!

It started two weeks ago with Hillary. She met her public in a large roofed shed usually used by crafters at the Farmer’s Market on summer weekends. I thought I would have to stand in a long line for hours, and I did stand in a longish line for about half an hour, before I walked through the metal detector and slid my shoulder bag over to the secret service so they could pat it down.

I did see Hillary. She looks nice in orange (SU was in the Final Four) and, when I left, when the concrete floor got too hard to stand on any longer, I still liked her and wanted to vote for her. I took a few pictures. One is of Adam (no last name) who was in line by me for a while. He is in the teacher’s union and had on his AFT tee shirt.

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The second person is called Jovan (John to us), an eighty-four year old man who came to America from Macedonia and still has a thick accent. (He worked in Bldg. 7 at GE, my Dad was in Bldg. 5.) His children have done very well, one graduating from an Ivy League school, one a doctor trained at John Hopkins. He wants nothing to do with socialism even if it does have the word Democratic in front of it. Jovan has boundless confidence. He wended his way to the very front of the rally.

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My third picture is of Hillary and was taken by the tall man in front of me – the one I had to sway back and forth to see beyond, taken with my camera. We yipped and cheered and raised our arms in the air and even did a slightly disorganized wave. No signs were handed out but I don’t know if the concerns were for security or cost. I bought three Hillary buttons on my way out.

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Since then John Kasich came to town, Bernie Sanders has been here, then Ted Cruz, then Donald Trump, then Bill Clinton. I don’t think we have ever, in my lifetime been romanced by so many politicians in any election season. I did not go to any other rallies – I watched them on TV as if they were happening somewhere else. There are only so many concrete floors I will stand on in any two week period. But my spidey sense felt them buzzing around and I wish I could have hovered comfortably overhead, or been the proverbial “fly on the wall”. (I have no idea where all these bugs came from.)

It was interesting to see that Ted Cruz held his Syracuse rally in a northern suburb, Cicero, where a group of locals publish a newspaper called “The Patriot”, full of some well-known right wing conspiracy theories from which I culled the phrase “Luciferian Church of the United Nations”, because Agenda 21 and the UN plan for world domination.

Dexter – Donald Trump went to Dexter – a small rural town west of Watertown, NY on Ontario Lake, a town full of campers, hunters, fishermen, aging hippies, and farmers, and these days, very few factories. Fort Drum is nearby though, so perhaps he attracted a lot of soldiers and their families. That would have to be fact-checked. I’m sure Dexter is still in shock having rarely been singled out by such a famous (infamous) personality. It’s been a helluva* two weeks in the North Country (*also, until recently the name of a local cheese company).

It’s sort of fun feeling like the hot center of America for a while. We can use the excitement. Primary day is Tuesday, April 19th and then the entire circus will move on. Most candidates have left already. I think Donald Trump will be the last one out.

By Nancy Brisson

 

Bernie Sanders Unfair anti-Hillary Tactics

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Bernie Sanders is playing a tricky and dishonest game in his recent political rallies. He is asking Hillary Clinton to run her campaign according to his rules. Bernie is a “revolutionary”. He’s deliberately changing the topography of campaigning without the benefit of any changes in the actual rules of the Democratic Party. He is staging a revolution before he even wins the election.

Mr. Sanders doesn’t like campaign financing as it currently operates. He’s not alone. Many of us want less money in politics; more “we the people” in politics. And he does get kudos for sticking with his principles. What does not seem fair is to ask Hillary Clinton, who came up through the ranks and learned campaign fundraising from the “big boys” that Bill Clinton hung out with, to decide to throw out all that she knows about campaigning. It is unfair to indict Hillary for not following Bernie’s rules when he is the only person in modern politics who ever has done all grassroots fundraising. Bernie, we have not had the revolution yet!

Come the revolution, Bernie believes, super delegates shall be banished. Here’s another Bernie rule that Hillary is being chastised for breaking. I understand that putting super delegates between the candidate and the popular vote is elitist. I am all for less elitism in politics. But super delegates have not been outlawed, in fact they are part of the Democratic Party primary process. In fact, winning super delegates is still “state of the art” in Democratic primary voting.

Now Bernie is trying to steal Hillary’s super delegates, to turn them “Bernie side up”. Since Bernie discovered he could not win without super delegates he has decided (too late?) to play the Super Delegate Game. Bernie – Mr. Sanders – the revolution did not happen yet. Hillary Clinton does not have to play by your rules. If you become President you can work to change the election process. Meanwhile, you are sounding quite like a curmudgeon. Cut it out. I assume you knew what the process was like when you entered the race.

The point you seem to be trying to make is the one that paints Hillary Clinton as the “establishment” and you as the “anti-establishment”. She has never been elected to the Congress as anyone who planned to start a revolution and the times certainly have not been amenable to the kinds of changes that Bernie Sanders has wanted to bring to American governance.

We are just entering a time when some Americans are, perhaps, willing to make actual changes to the role money plays in government and in elections. The times do seem somewhat conducive to legislating a truer Democracy in our nation.

But there are just as many signs that people who want to hang on to the traditional politics of elitism and the powerful impact of money are as dug in as those who want change and they are much more numerous and better organized than those on Bernie’s side.

You may all fault Hillary Clinton for moving to the left, but Hillary has shown that she has a sensitivity to the political climate of different eras and Progressivism is having its day, so it totally makes sense that Hillary would move to meet the current needs of the American people. She is a politician, not an ideologue. Bernie is an ideologue, not a politician.

By Nancy Brisson

Voting for Reagan in 2016

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There are Americans who have made it through the economic tumult of recent decades relatively unscathed. They did not lose their jobs or their houses or their pensions. Perhaps they had a government job or an office job, maybe they worked for the post office or a utility. Perhaps they were far enough up in the corporate hierarchy that they got to keep their jobs, even if they did have to be willing to keep moving as the Great Factory Migration unfolded.

However it happened, for these hardworking Americans, the American Dream teetered but it did not die. They got raises, they won awards; they bought nicer homes – perhaps even a second vacation home. Their cars got more pricy and RV’s and boats were acquired. Children went to college, and although they may have had to move away, they got good jobs and eventually houses and vehicles and children of their own.

Many of these folks see changes in America but are not really touched by these changes. Their lives run smoothly unless disturbed by health matters and they don’t want to analyze the world or our nation, although complaining is acceptable. They choose not to discuss how change is impacting the lives of so many Americas who have not been fortunate enough to live out the relatively carefree trajectory of these lucky people. These “lucky” people do not think they are lucky; they think they succeeded because they lived life correctly. They did not rock any political boats. All they asked for and all they still ask for is the everyday peace and prosperity to raise a family and enjoy a rewarding social life with family and friends.

What they don’t recognize is that other people who lived correctly but put their future in the hands of corporations or factories did not necessarily fare as well. Their steady working lives, their possessions, their future pension supports were taken away almost without warning. They did not manage to squeak through under the old formula that guaranteed that hard work would pay off. Their progress was interrupted midstream, perhaps never to be regained. From the point where the factory or business that offered them prosperity in exchange for labor left them high and dry their lives atrophied and morphed into something that felt very much like failure.

The group of Americans that succeeded felt pride in their success and began to feel slightly superior to their one-time neighbors who had lost their jobs, although this was often through events they had no control over. As a result they were unwilling to offer aid or sympathy to those who they came to see a losers. The instinct of those who squeaked through the economic changes successfully was to put some distance between themselves and the “losers”, not wanting to get caught in the down suck.

Almost all of these middle class Americans, both the successful and the unsuccessful, tend to see themselves as Republicans and to feel that Conservative principles are the truest American guidelines. They feel that the best way to shore up the American economy is to cut back on programs and expenses. They do not want to pay for the unlucky or the lazy (who they do not necessarily see as two different groups). They don’t want amnesty for undocumented immigrants who stole American jobs (even if this perception is not totally accurate). They identify Republican.

We have seen that the unlucky and angry went with Donald Trump, but this second group of luckier middle class Americans have no stomach for Donald Trump and they have difficulty tolerating Ted Cruz. But they are good voters, good citizens. They have to vote for someone in the primaries and it couldn’t, absolutely couldn’t, be a Democrat. What people are telling me is that they are writing in Ronald Reagan and voting for him. I don’t know if this is a trend or just the choice of a few isolated contented/discontented suburbanites. It is so obviously a throwaway vote, but nevertheless it makes me smile, a little smile of wry amusement. After all the saintly talk on FOX news and in the right wing media raising Ronald Reagan to ranks of perfection never before attained by an American President, this write in vote makes so much sense. It is a vote for the past, a nostalgia vote, a vote by people who like to live simply and be left alone to enjoy the bounty of their nation. It is a vote by people who really need to stop watching FOX News.

By Nancy Brisson

 

 

 

Who’s to Blame?

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I’m sure that the blame game is played during every election season and, in fact, it appears that it is a perennial political favorite, election year or not. Sometimes politicians place blame to distract attention away from the responsibilities their own party bears for some domestic or foreign situation. In the 2016 election it is quite maddening and entertaining to watch Republicans place the blame on the Obama administration for things that we have been blaming on George W. Bush. Should we blame Bush for ISIS or is Obama to blame?

Well there is truth in the cosmic wisdom that all things are interconnected and if you are a Republican it only takes about 85 steps to get from the argument that places the blame on Bush for the Iraq war to blaming Obama. You just have to say over and over that ISIS formed because Obama is weak, or because he used drone strikes, or because he took the troops out of Iraq too soon, or any of a number of different imagined flaws in the Obama government.

But all the razzle-dazzle reasoning that links Obama to ISIS is really just a ploy to hopefully make us forget the much more seminal role that Bush and the GOP played in destabilizing the Middle East. Republicans hope that enough time has passed to convince most Americans that Obama is the one we should be angry with and that the only possible conclusion we can draw is too elect a Republican. The GOP believes, I think that most Americans have the attention span and the intelligence of gnats. The blame game is so useful exactly because it can cause confusion even in those who were once certain they knew who was responsible.

Today I read an article that blamed elitist Democrats for the rise of Donald Trump. You might guess that it took more than a few logical jumps to accomplish that feat of pretzel reasoning. The gist of the argument is that Democratic Party elites did not back up the middle class when the corporations left, when the free trade agreements were passed, when the unions destroyed the marketplace by asking for ever higher salaries and benefits, when people lost their jobs and their pensions. Instead the Democrats voted in favor of free trade agreements which hurt the American middle class and did not continue to support the regulations on Wall Street. The contention of this author was that the Democrats share with the Republicans the responsibility for Trump because they abandoned the middle class and the middle class has, in retribution, abandoned them. It’s creative, but is it true? Surprisingly this article is from The Daily Kos which usually leans pretty far left.

Obviously there seems to be enough culpability so that everyone can be tarnished in the blame game. But probably if blame must be assigned at all, the bulk of it should go to the group that is connected by the straightest lines. If you have to jump through too many hoops to follow the blame trail then we are back in “everything is interconnected” territory.

There are always lessons to be learned though from events or situations that are serious enough that they lead us to look around for someone to saddle with any given mess. In the case of what happened in the wake of the Iraq War and in the case of what is going on in the 2016 election, placing blame correctly has everything to do with who should win the election, although not necessarily who will win the election.

So both parties look around to place the burden of blame on the other party or on the President or on anyone they can think of if they want to confuse voters. As a voter I can say that they succeed somewhat in arguing that day is night and that the guilty party is not who we always thought it was. By the time the politicians and the media are done with the blame game we begin to question even the events we lived through. The resulting brain tangle is one of the reasons many people hate elections and just decide that they will not vote at all. Be vigilant. Don’t let politicians playing the blame game stop you from voting. You can always fall back on that old school saying “your first thought is best.”

By Nancy Brisson

Money and Hillary Clinton

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I actually know very little about Hillary Clinton and money, and neither, apparently does anyone else, although there is plenty of theory and conspiratorial conjecturing going on out there among those who are either very informed or very paranoid. I don’t know what Hillary intended in Libya, or in Africa, or in Honduras. There are many who call her the new Dick Cheney or the new Henry Kissinger and imply that she is a Machiavellian figure, or perhaps one of the Borgias.

To folks in these particular journalistic circles she represents the very worst in American politics which has a secretive dark agenda and sends out our government officials to meddle in the business of nations around the world, build nations up and tear nations down, all for cynical reasons having to do with economics and money. Or perhaps Hillary has no mission to inform her actions but is simply acting on her own. According to these folks Hillary is a sinister figure who ruins nations when their economies are getting too successful and are challenging the America economy. Wow! Who knew Hillary was this powerful and this corrupt? Apparently everyone but me.

Bernie Sanders indicts Hillary for using government service to get rich. He tells his supporters anecdotes which supposedly prove that she has offered influence in return for donations from wealthy nations. Sanders apparently implies that the Clinton Foundation is a front to peddle influence and line the Clinton’s pockets. He believes that accepting money from Wall Street proves that you are absolutely corrupt. His followers believe all this is true beyond a shadow of a doubt and they revile Hillary for this. Again, I did not ascribe to Hillary even this level of villainy. They say that Hillary is a criminal who should be indicted for war crimes, or crimes against humanity, or bribery, or if nothing else sticks, then for the private email server thing (possibly risking national security).

How naïve am I? I see that half of Congress is made up of millionaires, many of whom lined their bank accounts while in government service. I know that Bernie Sanders is solidly against money in politics, feeling that it robs the people of their right to govern. I agree with him. I was shocked when Citizen’s United was upheld by the Supreme Court, giving legitimacy to all the money that floods in and befuddles politics in Washington. But Hillary came up as a politician operating within the system we have now. Bernie is a revolutionary who wants to dump the system we have now. We could possible get money out of politics through a grassroots groundswell, but it is more likely that it will be tough slog, accomplished in baby steps.

Hillary, as the first woman to get this close to being an American President, has a foot in the past and a foot in the future. She cannot be blamed for playing the game according to the rules of the boys club. We are always changing the rules just when a woman arrives at a threshold. Bernie’s purity did not help him shine in Congress although it certainly looks appealing now. But there is no other person in our government like Bernie Sanders and changing the way our government does business cannot be as easy as he makes it sound. If Donald Trump is dividing the nation before he gains the office, then Bernie Sanders is likely to divide it if he becomes our President. People who have been on the gravy train for years are not going to gently step aside. If we the people win the day it might be worth the fight, but we could probably win the day eventually with just good solid strategy if we had a plan.

I believe that people are painting Hillary as a villain based on some pretty convoluted reasoning and theorizing. Of course, if anyone can prove these accusations beyond any doubt then I suppose that Hillary is too byzantine to make a good President. If she actually treats the globe like some kind of calculated game of Risk then that is diabolical and she should be stopped. I just don’t buy it though.

By Nancy Brisson

Trump Demographics

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As Americans were watching their fortunes dwindle, their jobs disappear, their pension agreements getting rescinded, and their homes lose value or get taken back by the same corrupt banks that granted the mortgages – there were voices speaking in their ears, in their cars, in their man caves and media room blaming “others”. These voices said that these beleaguered Americans were giving people who refused to work money through “entitlements” like welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and that they were actually wasting their money. The whispers and vein-popped shouts from right-wing media claimed that giving poor people money actually keeps them down, turns them into dependents. Those who hammered away at middle class Americans in shock at their losses had no proof for their theory. Paul Ryan, a Congressman, cited a fiction book, The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand as proof that these takers are slackers, rather than needy people whose children will suffer if taxpayers harden their hearts.

If you want some other evidence, also from fiction, and far more believable, read Charles Dickens. You don’t have to have unselfish impulses to disavow social Darwinism. You can be quite selfish about it because if the poor live in squalor, that squalor affects us all, especially our health and our mood. People used to walk through London holding a scented handkerchief to their noses, stepping in offal, and even having chamber pots emptied over their heads.

Some people got sold on this short-sighted approach to social concerns. They started to think that small government was a good idea. After all the government kept intruding into their lives, especially in schools. No prayer in school was touted as the root of all moral evil. Teaching Creationism was shouted down by those who felt that science belongs in public schools, religion, not so much. Christians felt they should have the right to teach Creationism. Pundits started to suggest that Republicans would help the middle class get rid of social programs and turn schools into private entities vouchered to the states who could allow state residents to decide on curricula.

Those disembodied voices, avidly attended to over the air waves, eventually made their listeners aware and incensed that minorities would be the new recipients of the American Dream. White folks said “hell no”. Keep America white. Keep America Christian. Americans speak English, they said. Eventually the Republican Party, not in so many words perhaps, but in code, promised that they could make it so. Even as those radio pundits graduated to TV – lo and behold, a Black man, possibly a Muslim, possibly a henchman for someone named Saul Alinsky, got elected to be the President of the United States of America!

It turns out the GOP lied. It lied to the middle class about everything. As long as Obama remained the U. S. President they could not deliver any of their promises. The social programs were cut but not eliminated. In fact Obama, in stealth, in the dead of night, pushed through the Affordable Care Act with no Republican votes, making social health and welfare programs bigger than ever. The government did not pass a huge school voucher program or close the Education Department thus giving states more autonomy in schools. The government doubled down on national standards and the Common Core curricula. The Obama government did not take to Republican obstruction real well and the GOP was now in thrall to the “Tea Party” that coalesced because of the radio “whisperers”.

These folks believe that America will be white again and that white America will be able to eat as much white bread as it wants. America will once again have secure factory jobs for life with pensions that are solid and generous. They believe America will stop this nonsense about fossil fuels and the environment because Big Business doesn’t like it. We will build a wall so no more people can come here from Mexico without documentation and so we will not have to learn Spanish. Life will be like the 50’s – we will freeze forever at a mid-century modern lifestyle – before the pill, before women’s lib, before gay people, before hippies, before Civil Rights, way before 9/11. That’s what the GOP was supposed to produce for their “base”, and that is what the election is about, a Renaissance for white America. These are Donald Trump’s people. Disappointed by America and then disappointed again by the Republicans. Donald Trump comes as close to the hope that the middle class can set things straight as anyone has and they don’t really care how he does it. He seems like someone who truly could turn America into a mid-fifties theme park from sea to shining sea.

But the problem is that white America is tired, old or addicted to bad substances. White America is not the dynamic demographic it once was. We are not reproducing fast enough to prevent our numbers and prospects from dwindling. Even many of those very Republicans riding herd over Obama are ancient artifacts of distant eras (such as the 1950’s). Without the energy and the thirst for freedom and success of our young immigrant groups we will very likely just turn into a fusty, dying social experiment with a Dream that was cancelled for lack of interest. A vote for Trump, or any Republican, is a vote for national stagnation and decay.

By Nancy Brisson

Will We Duke It Out in the Streets?

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When I listen to Ted Cruz lately, sounding like an arbiter of fairness and good grace it is too much for my civility. I watched Ted Cruz in the Senate and all along he has been the ringleader of the disrupters in Congress, stalking back and forth from the Senate to the House, sticking his big nose into Boehner’s business, enforcing “purity” to a Tea Party and Evangelical agenda. He has pandered to angry white middle class Americans for the entirety of Obama’s two terms in office. He has poured hate, criticism, and vituperation on Obama without ceasing. He accuses Obama of doing the things that he, Ted Cruz, is doing and no one seems to call him out on that. He does not represent many Americans but he swears he will represent us all. Clearly he will only represent the Americans he agrees with, those who feel the same way about issues as he does.

You may say that if Ted Cruz is elected that this will be the will of the majority of the American people but you will be wrong. The Republican Party has prepared the way for just such an extreme right winger to win with their gerrymandering, their voter suppression, their Citizen’s United, their packed Supreme Court. Ted Cruz bemoans a Supreme Court packed with liberals; while I bemoan a Supreme Court packed with the current iteration of conservative. We are losing sight of how dangerous Ted Cruz is to America because we are presented with the even more pressing danger of a Donald Trump presidency. Ted Cruz does not, in any way, represent me. I will experience a Ted Cruz presidency as four to eight years of an America that is moving backwards. I will expect to find myself “dangling over the pit of hell” because of some of my liberal opinions along with many other Americans.

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As for the divide we saw at the Trump rally at the University of Illinois in Chicago, which was surprisingly nonviolent, Trump did not create this divide. We have watched conservatives widen a split in America that was already there and which was exacerbated by a tough economy and by the losses of the middle class. America is divided. We are split into a white America that fears it is losing its ascendency and a minority America which might be starting to feel ready to rise. I’m not sure why everyone feels that it must be us against them. Aren’t we all Americans? Don’t we all want America to thrive?

Conservative talk has pried away at the split in America, making it wider, driving a wedge of hate and fear into the breach. It is a reflection of the fear and racism felt at the heart of the Republican Party which has been growing increasingly less diverse and whiter. It is a party that is still reflecting the values of the old South, nursing the wounds of the Civil War, the pride of the beaten Confederacy, and the authority of a supposed superiority of the old slave owners. Backward, backward, backward into a swamp of hate and remorse. Mix in righteous religious anger at the audacity of women legalizing forbidden behaviors and undermining male dominance and you have the toxic brew the Republican Party has been encouraging since Obama took office.

When we see all the white people who the Republican Party have turned into “pod” people, mindlessly repeating Republican talking points, the bible according to FOX News, enjoying themselves at a Trump rally where they can exercise their hate and dismay without the pesky interference of other points of view, it either frightens us or delights us depending on where we stand, which side of the divide. But what we really see is that the divide is real, however it was created, no matter how much it was hyped up by Conservatives. Up until Chicago the opposition, the liberals, the young people, the Black Lives Matter movement was carefully kept out of Donald Trump’s rallies. But in Chicago they organized because they had advanced notice. It is an urban area bursting with diversity and not a small Evangelical college. And there it was, staring us in the face, actually rather politely, the chasm yawning all around us between what is apparently two Americas.

If Donald Trump becomes our President and if he encourages conflict, eggs on his supporters as he has in his rallies will America see our differences boil to the surface? Perhaps papering over our animosities, constantly trying to shove them back into the crevasse is just making them stronger. Maybe we are determined to duke out our differences in the streets. I do not really think this will make us feel any better, or bring us any closer, or heal the divide. After people beat each other up there is guilt and regret and depression and wound licking not building alliances that cure and build up our nation.

We are screwed if we pick Donald Trump as our president and we are screwed if we pick Ted Cruz. Both are too mean, too narrow-minded, too authoritarian, too self-absorbed to stitch the two Americas back together into one people dedicated to making Democracy work. Neither of these men will ever be able to encourage an America that truly presents a united front to the world, an America that lives out, as well as flawed humans can, our ideals, as opposed to our fears.

(I found both cartoons in today’s Post Standard.)

By Nancy Brisson

Racism and Hillary Clinton

 

 

 

If it wasn’t for seven years of the blatant resurgence of racism in America then we might not need Hillary Clinton. Sadly Obama’s presence in the Oval Office allowed racial meanness to rise to the surface in Washington, DC and outside our nation’s capital. When we should have felt proud of America on the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, when we should have been celebrating, we were instead seeing the festering remains of racism being exposed in far too many areas of American society.

The Supreme Court struck a huge blow when it said that certain southern states were no longer subject to clearance before they could change their voting laws. The GOP shamelessly began passing restrictions on voting in those same southern states where clearance had been used to guarantee racial fairness in voting. They justified their actions as necessary to circumvent voter fraud, which turned out to be almost nonexistent. They said they were not being anti-Black, they were just making it harder for Democrats to vote, but they knew, all the time, how important the Black vote was to Democrats. They got two licks in for the price of one.

We have seen all too many unarmed Black folks shot under suspicious circumstances by policemen. It begins to seem as if certain individuals join the police force to deliberately wipe out Black people, a sort of vigilante routine. I don’t know if there is a group that has planned this or if this is just lone racists acting on their own and I admit I may be seeing a trend where there is really only a series of terrible accidents, but we should not have racists on our police forces and if there is any way to root them out we should do it.

We have allowed Black folks to languish in poverty in our inner cities – and I don’t mean languish in a nice way – I mean it in a hopeless way. We have not found strategies to entice all young African-Americans into the schools and that is what we need to do. We also need to learn how to make school relevant enough that they will stay and go “all the way” through. We need to stop concentrating poor black, brown, and Asian people in our center cities and find ways, perhaps through real estate options, to intersperse poor Americans in more affluent neighborhoods where people can afford to help lift them up.

Yes, we have finally been made aware of how over-zealously and unequally the War on Drugs was conducted. We have been shocked by the staggering numbers of Americans of African Descent incarcerated for minor drug offenses and the role unaffordable cash bails have played in this. This was one of those cases where a program that folks thought would help solve a problem, exacerbated the problem and created new ones. I’m not sure it was intended as a “racist” policy, it was supposed to “scare people straight” in dangerous inner city neighborhoods, but, in retrospect, we can see that the enforcement of this program affected Africans-Americans far more than white Americans and either the program and/or the enforcement of the program was racist in the way it was implemented in the lives of real people. In this case a flawed answer intended to solve a social problem has produced terrible consequences and most of these consequences were visited upon Black people. If may take decades to turn around the effects of over-incarceration and inappropriately harsh sentencing.

We have also seen how we have allowed the South to revere the defeated Confederacy and to turn the white folks in Southern states into martyrs and heroes in a Civil War we should never have had to fight. We see how this has become another way to keep racial hatred alive – to remind Black folks of their “shameful” roots in our nation and to insure they don’t get “uppity”. How any of this shame accrues to Black folks is impossible to even imagine, unless you grew up in the South I guess.

Americans of African Descent have been here longer than most Americans, although not by choice. If they did not have black or brown skin they would have blended in long ago. Why can’t we get over this idea that the more pigment one has the less human one is? We have to all get past this. What will happen if we are confronted with a truly alien species?

Because the GOP has shown itself to be especially prone to letting “racial” traits and their own fears inform their behavior (or misinform it) we cannot elect a President from among the Republicans. If you consider all of the candidates for the 2016 election Hillary has shown the best understanding of what America needs to do to address fairness, equality, and opportunity for Americans of African Descent. I don’t think Bernie is any more racist than any of us, but I do think he believes his policies will lift all boats and perhaps doesn’t understand the unique obstacles Black Americans face.

I think it might be true that we are nicer when we feel more affluent, when our economy is humming along; but how long must these Americans, who have been here since our beginnings, be kept from the freedoms that should be theirs as well as ours. Clearly this particularly stubborn issue of “racism” did not disappear in more prosperous times, but there was a more generous spirit and it looked, for a while, like things might have turned a corner.

If the existence of all this hate and inequality and separation had not bubbled up from the depths it had been stuffed into, up into the light of day – that would be a bad thing. Let’s not try to contain it away from view of white eyes once again. Let’s try to solve this and heal America once and for all. At the risk of sounding corny perhaps that is what Hillary means when she talks about making America “whole”.

By Nancy Brisson