Seeking Dialogue to Inform, Enlighten, and/or Amuse You and Me
I've been a nonfiction writer for many years, exploring diverse topics that pique my curiosity, as noted in my first blog posting (Greetings!). I'm seeking dialogue with others committed to joining me in this exploration, sharing my conviction that different views can be exchanged in a respectful, civil discourse where we can learn from one another and be agreeable, even when we disagree. These postings depend for their enrichment on your participation: your ideas, insights, knowledge, opinions, and personal stories.
Candidates flailing arms in the air, bent
on talking, one over another Hapless moderators—too many, too
weak to control the mayhem Another Democratic debate, Offering less light than heat Seemingly not laser-focused on our
closeness to the abyss.
In the far too-White House, a lawless
President—unrebuked by his
tarnished party— No-nothingly claims the gathering
pandemic will soon be gone
And helter-skelterly seeks funding only
after a ka-chinging Stock Market dives into waters darkened
by viral uncertainty… Even as he tears away our protective
Intel and Rebukes/replaces experts and judicious
judges, Instead producing pattern-setting
pardons of those justly Convicted of crimes against the State… As back in Russia, Vladimir does his
happy dance with wanton abandon.
When an aroused people stands together Elevating our shared goal beyond our
Change of the most positive nature can
unfold As we become Citizen Activists as never
before: Noting the work ahead, and
enthusiastically signing on
Exercising our right to vote for whoever
we think best—but Not turning away if the nominee is other
than our choice, Determined to banish the unclothed
emperor above all.
In this nation of great promise and
hard history This is our time, finally, to get
In my previous post, I cited the free newsletter by RB Hubbell of California (email@example.com). His February 26, 2020, issue (No. 380) is a treasure trove of action steps we can take, with links to organizations focused on the important issues of voter registration, turnout, and voter protection, among others.
They include several I’d never heard of, such as Changing the Conversation Together (in which volunteers have issue-oriented discussions with people in their homes), Vote Forward (you sign your name to letters on a template sent to under-represented voters), and one I found particularly interesting: Payback Project, dedicated to defeating ten Republican Senators (including Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, and Mitch McConnell), and thereby taking back the Senate.
And in today’s newsletter (February 27, 2020, No. 831), Hubbell adds another compelling possibility: Sister District Project, which tries to turn states blue by winning state legislatures, thereby helping to end gerrymandering. The organization says it has teams “across the country.” With the 2020 Census under way, leading to redistricting in 2021, it is vital that we have Democratic Governors and state legislators involved in this effort to ensure that representation is accurately apportioned.
After watching the pre-Nevada caucus Democratic debate, I began writing this post with feelings of frustration approaching despair. There were many things to criticize, and I was emptying my angst onto this page, and thus preparing to send it on to you.
With the latest evidence—which we already knew—from the Intelligence briefing to the House that reiterated Russian meddling in the 2020 election, which was followed by the President’s replacement of the acting intelligence chief with someone with less than zero qualifications for the job, I cannot and will not deny that we are living in increasingly perilous times. See The New York Times article here.
The question I’ve been pondering is this: as we search for someone who is best able to defeat Donald Trump, how do we handle ourselves? And that question makes me feel more closely attuned to my more optimistic, better self—the one that really believes we can find common ground.
What brought me to this more positive place? Meditation helps, but my “recovery” was nurtured by a very calming, cogent newsletter that a friend who had just subscribed to forwarded to me. Its author, RB Hubbell, is based in California. The daily newsletter is free and can be obtained by sending your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Voice of Reason
I don’t know how large Hubbell’s subscriber list is, but he began his discussion of the aftermath of the debate by saying his inbox had “exploded” with emails that “exhibited a level of angst, anger, and disgust I have not seen before.”
He then said he wanted to share readers’ reactions, because he’s been told that hearing from others helps his readers “ground their feelings and test their own reactions to this crazy mess in which we find ourselves.”
There’s nothing wildly original about Hubbell’s message or his readers’ reactions. Maybe I was just ready to hear his words, but they hit me exactly right. Here’s a sampling:
“Before we get to the details, let’s say the important things first: We must stick together. We are on the same side. If we do not stand together, we will fall together. Whatever passion or disappointment or anger you feel, it cannot cause you to withdraw from the process or give in to feelings of hopelessness or lash out in anger at fellow Democrats. We are facing a grave threat to democracy. Our personal preferences for president are subordinate to the need to ensure the election of the Democratic nominee—whoever he or she is.
“A secondary point is the need to focus on the long-term. Yesterday’s debate was freighted with expectations and led to disappointment. Accept that fact and move on. We can’t freak out every time something bad happens; otherwise, we won’t make it to the Democratic convention in July, much less the general election in November. If ever there was a time in our history when we needed to toughen-up, hunker-down, and keep our eyes on the horizon, now is that moment.”
It’s Okay to Withdraw, But Not for Long
Hubbell’s readers include many people who told him they’d withdrawn from the fray for the sake of their mental health. I can relate to that feeling. My last three posts were about goldfinches and squirrels; solar railways and my carbon BigFootprint, and guidance on comforting the sick and dying.
But I knew I had to return to politics because this is an “all hands on deck” moment.
Interestingly, although Hubbell probably wouldn’t reveal his preferred candidate under any circumstances, he notes that he’s mostly filled out his own ballot for the California primary but has not yet determined which candidate he’ll support.
He concludes in a way that ties in with my primary objective with this post, referencing a Twitter thread by Walter Shaub, the former Director of the Office of Government Ethics (when there was such a working institution in our government!). A “snippet”:
“ Take Action. Any action. It’s not big things that will save us. It’s persistent small actions carried out by one individual, and another, and another and another across the nation…Make a very small donation, even just a dollar, to something, sign up to volunteer for one hour, go learn how to register voters.”
I wish I could include the entire thread because there’s lots of wisdom there. If you’re on Twitter, go to @waltshaub and you can read through it.
A Valuable Way to Make a Difference
Many of us have been repeatedly sending money to the Presidential candidate(s) of our choice. That’s important. But my action at the moment is to focus our attention on the House of Representatives. We must, must, must maintain the Democratic majority in the House.
All the members of the Class of 2018, those moderates in either swing districts or districts that Trump won, have been targeted for extinction—in good measure because they flipped formerly Republican seats AND had the courage to vote for impeachment. Many won by a single vote.
They are among the more than 50 House members being targeted for defeat by the National Republican Campaign Committee. According to Roll Call, the NRCC Chairman, Tom Emmer of Minnesota, enunciated the slogan the Congressional Republicans plan to run on:
“Freedom or socialism—that’s the choice in 2020.”
These targeted Democrats need our help, as their opposition is often flooded with cash and a revved up base. I’m listing their names, districts, and web sites in the hope that if you feel strongly that it is imperative to retain a Democratic-controlled House, you’ll be able to support their reelections in whatever way you can, including volunteering and importantly by contributing, no matter how small the amount.
In addition to donating to them directly, in most cases you can also go through ActBlue. I’m planning to work my way down the list, eventually giving modest donations to all of them.
Remember: each one of these individuals did what he or she believed was right for this country and upheld that oath—knowing that vote might well end their careers.
Let’s begin with the seven brave souls—all with national security backgrounds—whose OpEd in the Washington Post was instrumental in changing Nancy Pelosi’s mind about the need for an impeachment inquiry. They are:
Note: Jared Golden (ME-02): jaredgoldenforcongress.com has also been targeted by the Republicans, but the Democrats aren’t happy with him either: He voted to impeach the President on Article 1, but not for obstruction of Congress.
Missing from my version of the list are Katie Hill (CA-25), who resigned from Congress due to a personal scandal; and Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02), who switched his party affiliation and is now a Republican.
On this list of valuable legislators, one who has impressed me deeply is Katie Porter of California, who asks the tough questions and seems fearless in speaking truth to power. She is under particularly strong attack. I believe it is extremely important that her voice continues to be heard in Congress; thus, I’ve highlighted her information.
I’ll conclude with RB Hubbell’s closing remarks in the newsletter issue I referred to above:
“We are in the fight of our lives, but we are in it together. That should give us all comfort.”
That fight demands that we act positively and don’t despair. And make sure you’re registered to vote!
I have been fortunate to connect with Abigail Johnston, a dynamic woman who has selected a title for her blog that’s a perfect description of her and her mission: “No Half Measures: Living Out Loud With Metastatic Breast Cancer.”
Faced with a daunting diagnosis that could crush many of us, Abigail has instead seized the time she has to become a patient advocate and educator. While she’s unsparing in her descriptions of her own and others’ ordeals–often worsened by bureaucratic entanglements and seemingly uncaring (possibly burned-out) professionals–her posts are marked by humor, a sense of the absurd, compassion, and practical suggestions. They are life-affirming.
I am pasting her most recent post, “Ring Theory,” below because its approach to communicating with seriously ill people–and their loved ones–provides information that I think we all need. And, when we eventually find ourselves in the center of the ring, I believe we will all hope that those around us are similarly well-informed.
[From the blogNo Half Measures: Living Out Loud With Metastatic Breast Cancer, by Abigail Johnston.]
I ran across this theory early on in my experience with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer and it really resonated with me. The longer I’ve lived with the disease, the more it resonates with me. While I’m horrible at asking for help and often overestimate what I can handle, the kindness of some family and friends has driven home how important this idea really is.
Actually it’s probably more the actions of some family and friends who have not shown kindness that has really driven home how important this concept is to those of us who are dealing with a health crisis.
I’ve included a link below to the full explanation of the theory, but here are the basic tenets, paraphrased from Silk and Goodman:
1. Draw a circle. In this circle, write the name of the person at the center of the Health crisis.
2. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In this ring, put the name of the person next closest to the crisis.
3. In each larger ring, put the next closest people. As Silk and Goodman state, “Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. . . When you are done, you have a Kvetching Order.
A pictorial representation may help:
The basic idea is that the person in the middle does not receive the venting/kvetching from outer circles, especially when said venting is about the person in need of help.
For example, if you are a family member of a terminally ill patient who spends the night in the hospital with your dying family member, you don’t then get to complain to that dying family member about how that night away from your family was stressful for you or how others in the family did or didn’t communicate nicely when arranging for someone to spend the night.
This theory takes into consideration that the person who is dying is carrying a much heavier psychological load than anyone else and that close family is affected more than distant relatives or acquaintances.
In essence, this theory is how to demonstrate love in a clear and understandable way. Violating this idea creates more and more angst and damage to the person who is already carrying more than a healthy person ever could understand.
Why would someone who loves a dying person want to cause further damage?
Here’s an article that lays out the ring theory in much more detail for anyone who is interested in learning more.
I hope after you’ve read Abigail’s post, You’ll also read the Psychology Today article about the Ring Theory to which she links, and the original LA Times Op-Ed by the authors, Silk and Goodman. The Psychology Today article includes some practical suggestions that are extremely helpful.
Please don’t let yourselves be put off by the rough-hewn drawing; this material is more than worth the few minutes it will take you to read through it all.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about my carbon footprint. This internal exploration began after I’d written a quick little poem about a portion of President Trump’s beloved wall being blown down by a heavy wind, which you can read here.
One of the comments I received was from blogger Willedare, whose lovely posts at amusicallifeonplanetearth invariably bolster my spirits. Will combines recordings of his songs, research and anecdotal history about the composers, beautiful photos, and interesting insights. His blog is well worth visiting—and revisiting.
Here’s how Will raised my consciousness:
“…And due to our own desires to continue consuming fossil fuels (almost all of my friends continue to fly here and there as they have always done, taking vacations as they have always done, heating their homes and their hot water as they have always done, driving their cars — instead of walking or riding a bike or taking the bus or a train — as they have always done using FOSSIL FUELS) combined with the climate-change-denying leadership which we have elected to serve/lead us, we will all be receiving more and more ‘unmistakable jolts/From Mother Nature herself.’ Deep breath in. Deep breath out.”
And here’s my response:
“Ah, yes: we know a lot of the changes we really must make, but it’s so hard, isn’t it?
“I’m getting better at the little stuff: turning off lights, taking shorter, cooler showers, watching food purchases to try to reduce what gets thrown out and fuels methane in the landfills…
“But then I realized that the trip we just signed up for—to go to Alaska to see and hear about the impact of climate change on the glaciers and wildlife—will, in the plane trips back and forth and the small ship that hugs the land, give me a carbon footprint that’s larger than BigFoot’s, when I’m striving for one more Thumbelina-sized. Oh, the irony!
“Breathe in, breathe out—for sure! Thanks very much for your valuable reminder.”
This past week, as I exercised on a stationary bike at my gym, the delightful woman seated next to me and I began to talk. A former kindergarten/first grade teacher, now retired, she’s a full-time environmental activist.
As she described her group’s work, which is actually leading to legislative accomplishments, I told her that I’d written about climate change on my blog, but had had a rude self-awakening about my carbon BigFootprint.
The first wonderful thing she did was alleviate my guilt with some common sense real-world talk—giving me credit for the climate change discussions I’ve included on my blog as a contribution that had some meaning.
The second was to tell me about one of her organization’s efforts, which is gaining attention from powerful decision-makers and has a real chance to succeed: retrofitting the trains in our area to become solar-powered. “It’s happening in other countries, it’s feasible, economical, and it can happen here.”
Some Good News About Trains
This struck me as really big, good news. Since there’s so little of that on climate change these days, I hasten to share it with you.
It may not be happening as quickly as it should, but solar is being incorporated in trains in a number of countries—though not yet in the US, I must note. Some examples follow.
——A planned Argentinian connection with Machu Picchu for tourists;
——A planned effort by Bankset Group, a British renewables financial investor, that may expand the potential significantly: with partners from Europe, China, and the US, Bankset has trials to attach solar panels to railway sleepers in many European and international locales;
—An Italian company, Greenrail, already has a range of solar-powered sleepers with photovoltaic panels “and also contribute to a circular economy—being made up of some recycled materials.”
But with the exception of Australia, I believe, the trains aren’t near-totally solar: they have solar panels on their roofs and are backed up by batteries charged in stations.
Still, a spokesman for Bankset Group said:
“We believe that solar panels on rails are able to provide 30% of national grids’ 24/7 energy load requirements, and that this is now the most cost-effective solution.”
But he added,
“It is a political issue as most of the rail network belongs to regions and respective states; many rail lines are privatized.”
Some Muddling of the Issue
So there’s much to be hopeful about. But when we look at the carbon footprint facts concerning today’s modes of transportation—aren’t trains better than planes? Pretty simple question, yes?
No. That task took me down a dusty path that made my head hurt. It’s not so straightforward, and there are many qualifiers. “Flight-shame,” a new phenomenon among environmentally conscious folks, isn’t totally justified.
Let’s quickly pass over the wag who said the best carbon footprint comes from staying home and looking at postcards.
And we don’t need anyone to tell us that walking, hiking, canoeing, and biking are less damaging to the environment than other modes.
But after that, it’s hard to give a simple answer. Often, it depends…
This is important because around 1/5 of total greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, with the number closer to 30% in most industrialized countries, according to two researchers at University of California, Davis, reports Salon.
“Train virtually always comes out better than plane, often by a lot,” according to a BBC Science and Environment report. But the type of train and other variables factor in. The carbon emissions from diesel trains can be double those of electric trains.
The electricity source is also important. In France, for example, about 75% of electricity comes from nuclear power, compared with Poland, which is 80% powered by coal.
(I recognize how bad coal is, but nuclear power has scared the hell out of me since I read “We Almost Lost Detroit,” a book that describes a partial nuclear meltdown of the first commercial breeder reactor in 1966. Still, nuclear power is considered an important transitional fuel to get to a greener future.)
A 2009 study found that passenger travel on the Boston light rail, an electric commuter train in the US, produces as much as or more emissions per passenger than does a jetliner for the same reason: the electricity was generated by fossil fuels such as coal, while commercial aircraft burn kerosene, which is cleaner. I hope it’s improved since then.
The Most and Least Harmful Ways to Travel
A group called Indigo Park Services UK compared the ways to travel based on how much carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere per person, per kilometer (0.6 miles), reports Salon.
The single most harmful way to travel? Number 1 in this study are large ferries that carry freight vehicles and passengers—exactly the type onto which we shall drive our car this summer for our yearly island visit with dear friends (!).
They emit 0.85 lb of CO2 per kilometer, per person, compared to only 0.04 lb if the ferry just carries passengers on foot.
Oh no! My Carbon BigFootprint just grew exponentially. (Or maybe the ferry we take isn’t considered quite so massive…)
2. Long-haul flight, first class
3. Large gas/petrol car
4. Large Diesel Van
5. Large autogas car
A bicycle has the same amount of emissions as an electric car with solar panels—none.
So those are are 1. and 2. on the “least harmful” list, followed by
3. Electric car (no solar panels)
4. International rail (Eurostar)
5. Foot passenger ferry.
Cruise ship emissions appear to be similar to those from airplanes, though cruise lines have been pressured for years to reduce not only high emissions, but also the impact of waste disposal and air pollution, reports the BBC.
Some Interesting Data
*Traveling the same distance on a short haul flight, economy class, is environmentally better than traveling in a small car powered by gasoline.
*If you choose to go first or business class, the additional space between passengers throws off that calculation.
*Try for direct flights, as take-offs and landings use the most fuel.
*Pack lightly: “if all passengers packed one less pair of shoes, or roughly 2 lb/1kg, the aircraft’s fuel savings would be the same as taking 10,500 cars off the road for an entire year.”
*If you can’t avoid having your lap in luxury, you can check Atmosfair’s airline ranking for the most efficient airline.
*And you can actually purchase carbon offsets, which cancel emissions somewhere else in the world and are offered by most domestic and many international airlines. This New York Timesarticle tells you how to do it.
*Though we’d all love to stretch out in a less-than-full plane, all those bodies smushed together is environmentally good, so peak-time flights are better than late-night ones.
When driving your car, you can increase your mileage by 33% on the highway and 5% locally by avoiding hard acceleration and braking.
Similarly, increased mileage occurs when you drive below 60 mph, reduce idling, and do regular maintenance on your car (oil filters, tires, etc.)
What Should Our Carbon Footprint Be?
According to the Nature Conservancy, which has a non-working calculator that I thought would help me find out my actual Carbon Footprint, the average for a person in the US is 16 tons, whereas the global average is closer to 4 tons.
If we’re to avoid a 2 degree Celsius rise, the average global carbon footprint must shrink to less than 2 tons by 2050.
“By making small changes to our actions, like eating less meat, taking less connecting flights, and line-drying our clothes, we can start making a big difference.”
(That last one about clothes drying is tough for me; I well remember the cardboard-stiff bath towels my mother would remove from the backyard clothesline. I’d happily pay carbon offsets to avoid those…)
As my new friend at the gym advised me, we don’t have to make ourselves crazy over all this, but if each of us makes some effort, we can collectively make a difference. I shall certainly pack fewer pairs of shoes next time I fly!
In case you didn’t see/hear or read about Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s official Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address, it appears below.
I believe her focus here is the path the Democrats must take to win the Presidency, House, and Senate in November. It was the successful path to retaking the House in 2018, and there are many reasons to believe it will work again.
I’ve added emphases to several points, but I hope you’ll read the entire speech.
Good evening. I’m honored to be here and grateful that you’re tuning in. I’m Gretchen Whitmer, the 49th governor of the great state of Michigan. Tonight, I’m at my daughter Sherry and Sydney’s public school East Lansing high school. We’re here today with families and parents, teachers, and most importantly, students. I want to thank you all for coming.
But tonight I’m going to talk to those of you who are watching at home.
I’d need a lot more than 10 minutes to respond to what the president just said. So instead of talking about what he is saying, I’m going to highlight what Democrats are doing. After all, you can listen to what someone says, but to know the truth, watch what they do.
Michiganders are no different from Americans everywhere. We love our families and want a good life today and a better life tomorrow for our kids.
We work hard, and we expect our government to work hard for us, as well.
We have grit and value loyalty, and we still root for the Detroit Lions.
We and all Americans might be weary of today’s politics, but we must stay engaged. Our country, our democracy, our future demand it. We’re capable of great things when we work together.
We cannot forget that despite the dishonesty and division of the last few years, and that we heard tonight from the President of the United States, together we have boundless potential.
And young Americans are proving that every day by taking action. That’s what I want to focus on tonight.
Monte Scott is 13 years old and lives in Muskegon Heights, Michigan. Monte’s street was covered in potholes. They were ankle deep and he got tired of waiting for them to get fixed, so he grabbed a shovel and a bucket of dirt and filled them in himself.
During my campaign, people told me to fix the damn roads, because blown tires and broken windshields are downright dangerous, and car repairs take money from rent, child care or groceries. And we, the Democrats, are doing something about it.
In Illinois, Governor J. B. Pritzker passed a multibillion dollar plan to rebuild their roads and bridges. Governor Phil Murphy is replacing lead pipes in New Jersey.
All across the country, Democratic leaders are rebuilding bridges, fixing roads, expanding broadband and cleaning up drinking water.
Everyone in this country benefits when we invest in infrastructure. Congressional Democrats have presented proposals to keep us moving forward, but President Trump and the Republicans in the Senate are blocking the path.
When it comes to infrastructure, Monte has tried to do more with a shovel and a pile of dirt than the Republicans in D.C. have with the Oval Office and the U.S. Senate.
Bullying people on Twitter doesn’t fix bridges, it burns them. Our energy should be used to solve problems, and it’s true for health care, too.
For me, for so many Americans, healthcare is personal, not political.
When I was 30, I became a member of the sandwich generation. That means I was sandwiched between two generations of my own family for whom I was the primary caregiver.
I was holding down a new job, caring for my newborn daughter, as well as my mom at the end of her brain cancer battle. I was up all night with a baby, and during the day I had to fight my mom’s insurance company when they wrongly denied her coverage for chemotherapy.
It was hard. It exposed the harsh realities of our workplaces, our health care system, and our child care system.
And it changed me.
I lost patience for people who are just talk and no action. So as a state senator, I worked with a Republican governor and legislature to expand health care coverage to more than 680,000 Michiganders under the Affordable Care Act.
Today, Democrats from Maine to Montana are expanding coverage and lowering costs. In Kansas, Governor Laura Kelly is working across the aisle to bring Medicaid coverage to tens of thousands. In New Mexico, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham enshrined ACA protections into law.
Every Democrat running for president has a plan to expand health care for all Americans. Every one of them has supported the Affordable Care Act with coverage for people with preexisting conditions.
They may have different plans, but the goal is the same. President Trump sadly has a different plan. He’s asking the courts to rip those life-saving protections away. It’s pretty simple. Democrats are trying to make your health care better, Republicans in Washington are trying to take it away.
Think about kids like 17-year-old Blake Carroll from Idaho, who organized a fundraiser to pay for his mom’s colon cancer treatment, or 19-year-old Ebony Meyers from Utah, who sells art to help pay for her own rare genetic disorder treatment.
No one should have to crowdsource their healthcare, not in America.
But the reality is not everyone in America has a job with healthcare and benefits. In fact, many have jobs that don’t even pay enough to cover their monthly expenses.
It doesn’t matter what the President says about the stock market. What matters is that millions of people struggle to get by or don’t have enough money at the end of the month after paying for transportation, student loans or prescription drugs.
American workers are hurting. In my own state, our neighbors in Wisconsin and Ohio, Pennsylvania and all over the country, wages have stagnated while CEO pay has skyrocketed.
So when the president says the economy is strong, my question is, strong for whom? Strong for the wealthy who are reaping rewards from tax cuts they don’t need?
The American economy needs to be a different kind of strong. Strong for the science teacher spending her own money to buy supplies for her classroom. Strong for the single mom picking up extra hours so she can afford her daughter’s soccer cleats. Strong for the small business owner who has to make payroll at the end of the month.
Michigan invented the middle class, so we know: if the economy doesn’t work for working people, it just doesn’t work. Who fights for working, hard-working Americans? Democrats do.
In the U.S. House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats passed a landmark bill on equal pay, another bill to give 30 million Americans a raise by increasing the minimum wage, and groundbreaking legislation to finally give Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices for America’s seniors and families.
Those three bills and more than 275 other bipartisan bills are just gathering dust on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk. Senator McConnell, America needs you to move those bills.
Meanwhile, Democrats across the country are getting things done. Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf is expanding the right to overtime pay. Michigan is, too. Because if you’re on the clock, you deserve to get paid.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper are working to give hardworking teachers a raise. And speaking of the classroom, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers unilaterally increased school funding by $65 million last year.
In Colorado, Governor Jared Polis has enacted free all day kindergarten, and in 29 states, we’ve helped pass minimum wage hikes into law, which will lift people out of poverty and improve lives for families. That’s strength. That’s action.
Democracy takes action, and that’s why I’m so inspired by young people. They respond to mass shootings, demanding policies that make schools safer. They react to a world that’s literally on fire, with fire in their bellies, to push leaders to finally take action on climate change.
They take on a road filled with potholes with a shovel and some dirt. It’s what gives me great confidence in our future, and it’s why sometimes, it feels like they’re the adults in the room. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. It’s not their mess to clean up. It’s ours. The choices we make today create their reality tomorrow.
Young people, I’m talking to you. And your parents and grandparents. Democrats want safe schools. We want everyone to have a path to a good life, whether it’s through a union apprenticeship, a community college, a four-year university, without drowning in debt.
We want your water to be clean. We want you to love who you love, and to live authentically as your true selves. And we want women to have autonomy over our bodies.
We want our country welcoming, and everyone’s vote counted. 2020 is a big year. It’s the year my daughter Sherry will graduate from high school. It’s also the year she’ll cast her first ballot, along with millions of young Americans.
The two things are connected. Because walking across a graduation stage is as important as walking into the voting booth for the first time. Her future, all our kids’ futures, will be determined not just by their dreams, but by our actions.
As we witness the impeachment process in Washington, there are some things each of us, no matter our party, should demand.
The truth matters. Facts matter. And no one should be above the law.
It’s not what those senators say. Tomorrow, it’s about what they do that matters. Remember, listen to what people say but watch what they do. It’s time for action. Generations of Americans are counting on us. Let’s not let them down.
Thank you for listening. God bless America. Good night.
I will note that I do miss the voices of Cory Booker and Julian Castro, reminding us of all the folks who haven’t made it into the middle class.
I just can’t seem to help myself. Pretty soon I’ll get back to happiness and haiku. I’m much more comfortable seeking common ground and expressing optimism—and not preaching against a particular Democrat (or Independent running as a Democrat). After this post, I hope to leave this topic.
But for now, with the President’s awfulness mounting, and the chances of his removal from office practically nil, I feel I must use my little platform to try to help prevent a giant case of Buyer’s Remorse.
I think the evidence is strong that if the Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders, we will see him lose—big time. And with the very nature of our democracy hanging in the balance, that’s a scenario I feel compelled to address.
My overarching goal, like most Democrats and a goodly number of Independents and former or current-but-disgruntled Republicans, is to defeat Donald Trump. But I will vote for whoever wins the Democratic nomination for President—unlike some of the above. And there’s the problem.
In my previous warning about Bernie Sanders, I concluded by saying I hoped the press would do their job. Well, some of them are. You may not be seeing these stories in The New York Times, The Washington Post, or on CNN, but there are writers out there warning us quite clearly.
Here are links to a sampling of the articles, which I encourage you to read in their entirety:
These articles stress that Sanders’ past has never received the scrutiny it will get from Trump, that his present includes some questionable decisions, that most voters aren’t zeroing in on the implications of his socialist plans (as distorted by the Republicans, who call every Democrat a socialist, and now would have a real one to attack), and that the victorious 2018 women elected to Congress show where this election can be won.
In The Atlantic, Frum elaborates on a point that was the focus of the 2016 Newsweekarticle I cited previously.
“Bernie Sanders is a fragile candidate. He has never fought a race in which he had to face serious personal scrutiny. None of his Democratic rivals is subjecting him to such scrutiny in 2020. Hillary Clinton refrained from scrutinizing Sanders in 2016. It did not happen, either, in his many races in Vermont.”
Frum refers to a 2015 Politico profile by Michael Kruse, asserting that Sanders had
“benefited from ‘an unwritten compact between Sanders, his supporters, and local reporters who have steered clear’ of writing about Sanders’s personal history ‘rather than risk lectures about the twisted priorities of the press.’
(That sounds a bit Trumpian, doesn’t it?)
But there will be no such niceties from Trump and his campaign, Frum writes.
“It will hit him with everything it’s got. It will depict him as a Communist in the grip of twisted sexual fantasies, a useless career politician who oversaw a culture of sexual harassment in his 2016 campaign.
“Through 2019, Donald Trump and his proxies hailed Sanders as a true voice of the people, thwarted by the evil machinations of the Hillary Clinton machine.
“They will not pause for a minute before pivoting in 2020 to attack him as a seething stew of toxic masculinity whose vicious online followers martyred the Democratic Party’s first female presidential nominee.”
And if you think Trump won’t get away with such charges because of his own horrendous behavior, you are applying rationality and a sense of justice to a man who has successfully defied both.
That toxic masculinity charge lurks not far beneath the surface: Sanders appears at best to be indifferent to misogyny (a trait that’s fairly apparent in some of the devoted Bernie Bros).
Frum cites the Sanders’ campaign’s video celebrating the endorsement of “the mega-podcaster Joe Rogan,” apparently an icon among white men who are pretty sensitive about their status these days.
The Sanders’ embrace came despite Rogan’s mocking of many of the causes dear to the left, as well as “dancing around conspiratorial thinking of the left and right fringes: 9/11 denialism, Obama birtherism, and speculation about dark deeds concerning Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.” (emphases mine throughout)
Is this Sanders’ idea of how to reach the Trump voters? If any of his fellow candidates had embraced such an endorsement, would he have simply shrugged and said, “OK, ya gotta do what ya gotta do”? I think not.
And how will that play with the angry white suburban and African-American women who were such an important part of the 2018 Democratic House victory? They won’t vote for Trump, but will they stay home in disgust?
Jonathan Chait notes in New York Magazine,
“the totality of the evidence suggests Sanders is an extremely, perhaps uniquely, risky nominee. His vulnerabilities are enormous and untested. No party nomination, with the possible exception of Barry Goldwater in 1964, has put forth a presidential nominee with the level of downside risk exposure as a Sanders-led ticket would bring.
“To nominate Sanders would be insane.”
He notes that because the socialist label isn’t as unpopular as it had been [especially among young people], “many people have gotten the impression ‘socialism’ is actually popular, which is absolutely not the case.”
Saletan, writing in Slate, makes the same observation, noting that Trump uses the word socialism at every rally to make the Democrats look “radical and scary.” As an avowed Socialist, Sanders is the opponent of Trump’s dreams.
Saletan cites poll after poll in which voters as a whole state their opposition to socialism. In a HarrisX survey asking “Would you ever vote for a Socialist for elected office?,” liberals said they would, but 72 percent of registered voters, including 64 percent of Democrats, said they would not.
The term “Democratic Socialism,” which Bernie espouses, draws fewer negatives (52 percent) but they include 25 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of voters who “lean liberal.”
[I stress here that I personally see the urgent need for greater government intervention to redress our current shameful economic disparities, which are the worst they’ve been since the 1930s.
There were compelling reasons for the New Deal, and too many Americans are hurting today. I do not regard socialism as the incarnation of evil. But I’m looking at the larger picture here, and I strongly believe Trump will persuade enough Americans of that supposed evil to defeat Bernie.]
Chait discusses Sanders’ “web of creepy associations” that will make it easy to depict him as a dangerous radical, reinforcing “attack narratives” that will stick in portraying his world view just as surely as pictures of Dukakis in a tank or Romney’s dismissal of the 47% did for theirs.
“Sanders has never faced an electorate where these vulnerabilities could be used against him. Nor, for that matter, has he had to defend some of his bizarre youthful musings (such as his theory that sexual repression causes breast cancer) or the suspicious finances surrounding his wife’s college.
“Democrats are rightfully concerned about attacks on Hunter Biden’s nepotistic role at Burisma, but Sanders is going to have to defend equally questionable deals, like the $500,000 his wife’s university paid for a woodworking program run by his stepdaughter.”
Interestingly, after my previous Bernie post, a Vermont friend (a progressive who said no one she knows supports Bernie), wondered why there hadn’t been discussion by the media of Jane Sanders’ financial fiasco, which some in Vermont regard as mere stupidity, but others view as fraud.
Most important to me is Chait’s exploration of the 2018 winning of the House. Citing various progressive voices claiming how wrong the Dems were to run the kinds of candidates they did, he notes the following:
“As we now know, it was a good strategy to win the House. Democrats flipped 40 seats. Tellingly, while progressives managed to nominate several candidates in red districts…any one of whose victory they would have cited as proof that left-wing candidates can win Trump districts, not a single one of them prevailed in November.
“Our Revolution went 0–22, Justice Democrats went 0–16, and Brand New Congress went 0–6.* The failed technocratic 26-year-old bourgeoise shills who were doing it wrong somehow accounted for 100 percent of the party’s House gains.”
And here I think Chait makes an interesting observation. If the Democrats hadn’t won the House, their critics on the left would have said they’d been vindicated.
But instead of considering their broad losses in various geographical areas, they focused on the left-wing candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, “who defeated center-left Democrats in deep-blue districts.”
In this effort, they were helped by the conservative media, seeking to make AOC and her small band the face of the Democratic party.
“The fact that the party had just run a field experiment between two factions, and the moderate faction prevailed conclusively, was forgotten.”
Chait emphasizes that:
“Trump has serious weaknesses on issues like health care, corruption, taxes, and the environment, and a majority of the public disapproves of Trump’s performance, but he does enjoy broad approval of his economic management.
“Therefore, his reelection strategy revolves around painting his opponents as radical and dangerous. You may not like me, he will argue, but my opponents are going to turn over the apple cart. A Sanders campaign seems almost designed to play directly into Trump’s message.”
How do we address the electorate, then? Are there lessons we can learn from Bernie that will help elect a more broadly acceptable nominee?
Frum has some important points for the Democrats to consider. The issues that matter most to “highly online and very well-informed anti-Trump voters”—such as preserving our democracy, cleaning out corruption, applying the law to those in power—are easier to focus on when you have good health insurance, a solid middle class job, and the potential that your kids will get a college education.
But millions of Americans lack those things, and they may well decide the election. That’s something that Sanders has recognized and to which he’s given voice. Thus, says Frum:
“If the Oval Office is to be cleansed of Donald Trump, it will not suffice to defeat Sanders’s candidacy.
“The ultimate winner will have to plagiarize from his campaign, copying not Sanders’s literal ideas, but his themes: the practical over the theoretical, the universal over the particular.”
In a nutshell, I think that means stop fighting over whether the key health care issue is improving Obamacare or Medicare for All. Focus instead on how many people who had health insurance have lost it under Trump, and that he wants to take away your protection for pre-existing conditions.
Emphasize that his promises not to cut Medicare and Social Security are now being revealed as questionable. Stress that he never built those roads and improved those bridges. The needs are great; the list is long.
So maybe this time around the operative slogan is not “It’s the economy, stupid.” Rather, it’s “How well are YOU doing, you who are not among the 1 Percent?”
I really, really, wanted to take a break from politics this week. I’d rather be writing about flowers and butterflies and HeroRATs and inspirational people. But I’m writing with a sense of urgency.
After watching the Democrats, led by the brilliant Adam Schiff, weave a compelling case for the President’s guilt—and knowing the impeachment trial will probably result in acquittal—I feel even more strongly that the Democrats must present a unified front if they have any chance of defeating Trump and saving our democracy.
In that regard, Bernie is really, really getting on my nerves and making me worry that he’s increasing the likelihood of a Trump victory. And I hope that the press, which did a poor job of focusing on Hillary’s “damn emails” while giving Trump and his background a pass, will start looking into Bernie’s past.
A lot of it ain’t pretty. In fact, I fear that if he’s the nominee, we’re in for a disaster that could even help the Republicans retake the House.
As I try to practice lovingkindness, I don’t wish Bernie ill. I wish him a long, healthy, productive life—back in Vermont. To me, he has forfeited his right to be the Democratic nominee by once again slashing and burning his competition.
I acknowledge that he’s attracted young people to politics with the Democratic Socialist ideas he has consistently espoused. He probably has the most devoted core of followers of any of the Democratic nominees.
Unfortunately, a portion of the “Bernie Bros” are vindictive, misogynistic young men with so much anger that they have been compared to Trump’s adoring fans.
And though they seem willing to follow Bernie anywhere, they didn’t listen to him when he called for them to vote for Hillary in 2016 (after he did what may have been permanent damage to her electability during the primaries). Instead, many of them voted for the totally unqualified Jill Stein, thereby helping Trump win.
Why am I so upset with Bernie? Because at a time when we need all the Democratic nominees united against Trump, he’s attacking them one by one. While the kerfuffle over whether he told Elizabeth Warren that a woman couldn’t be elected got a lot of play, the fact that his canvassers were badmouthing her door-to-door as an “elitist” received little attention.
“While the news media has been focused on the ‘spat’ between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, something much more serious has been taking place between the Sanders campaign and Joe Biden.
“Not to sugarcoat it: The Sanders campaign has flat-out lied about things Biden said in 2018 about Social Security, and it has refused to admit the falsehood.
“This is bad; it is, indeed, almost Trumpian. The last thing we need is another president who demonizes and lies about anyone who disagrees with him, and can’t admit ever being wrong. Biden deserves an apology, now, and Sanders probably needs to find better aides.” (Emphases mine throughout.)
He’s also attacking Biden on his racial record, telling South Carolina voters, where Biden has a strong lead among African-Americans, that Biden has betrayed them.
I know, I know. Politics ain’t beanbag. And before I go more deeply into Bernie’s past, I agree that we have to give people credit for changing their positions.
Bernie has changed some of his, but he doesn’t give such leeway to others; he’s still castigating those who voted for the Iraq War, insisting his opposition alone makes him the candidate with the best judgment.
As I note subsequently, he’s taken some highly questionable positions on international affairs in the past.
And when Trump has the megaphone, Bernie’s record, I believe, would make him more vulnerable than any other nominee. That’s a risk I don’t think our country can bear.
Writing in The Guardian, Geoffrey Kabaservice begins by saying that although his own politics are center-right, he has a “strange liking” for Bernie—for his authenticity, among other things.
Kabaservice points out that the Democratic Socialism that would have been unthinkable not long ago is now as popular as capitalism among those ages 18-39, which explains Bernie’s popularity with young people. (If you’re struggling financially, free college tuition and college loan forgiveness sound quite attractive.)
But, the author also points out about Sanders:
“The gentle treatment he received in 2016 from the media and the Hillary Clinton campaign (which ran few negative television or media ads against him) means that many Democratic voters haven’t yet learned about the distinctly non-progressive positions he has taken on certain issues throughout his senatorial career.”
What are some of those positions? To appeal to the social conservatives in his home state of Vermont, a largely white, older, pro-hunting population, Bernie has…
—Long opposed gun safety legislation, voting against the Brady bill and legislation to make gun manufacturers accountable for their products’ destructiveness;
—Voted for the “Charleston loophole” by which the killer of nine African Americans in a South Carolina church obtained his weapon;
—Opposed gay marriage until at least 2006;
—Supported the 1994 crime bill that led to mass incarcerations of African Americans;
—Opposed various reforms to assist immigrants on the grounds that they would negatively affect American workers.
And his legislative accomplishments are thin at best, in large part because of his “go-it-alone approach.” In 2018, he got the least number of bills out of committee and to the floor (1 bill).
Similarly, only 1 of his 31 bills and resolutions had a cosponsor from a different party. The Lugar Center’s Bipartisanship Index placed him last among all Senators for the past two Congresses.
So the man sets forth an incredibly ambitious agenda, and tells us that he’ll be able to pass it because of the “political revolution” he’s inspiring.
But his track record doesn’t indicate he’s got the temperament or relationships to do the hard work of enacting such transformative legislation.
Kabaservice calls Bernie’s chances of actually becoming President “close to nil.” He elaborates:
“I say this because in 2016 I got a glimpse of the Republican party’s opposition research book on Sanders, which was so massive it had to be transported on a cart. The Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald, who got to see some of its contents, declared that ‘it was brutal…’”
Of course, I had to check Eichenwald’s 2016 article to see what was so damning.
Myth 1 is that the Democratic National Committee was all-powerful and engineered Hillary’s nomination by being unfair to Bernie. Eichenwald factually demolishes this premise and its implications.
Myth 2: That Sanders Would Have Won Against Trump
“I have seen the opposition book assembled by Republicans [against Sanders] and it was brutal. The Republicans would have torn him apart. And while Sanders supporters might delude themselves into believing that they could have defended him against all of this, there is a name for politicians who play defense all the time: losers.”
That comment hit me hard, as we know that one thing Trump and his minions are very good at is going on the attack. I could just picture him at his rallies, dropping one after another of the morsels that Eichenwald described.
“Here are a few tastes of what was in store for Sanders, straight out of the Republican playbook: He thinks rape is A-OK. In 1972, when he was 31, Sanders wrote a fictitious essay in which he described a woman enjoying being raped by three men.
“Yes, there is an explanation for it—a long, complicated one, just like the one that would make clear why the Clinton emails story was nonsense. And we all know how well that worked out.
“Then there’s the fact that Sanders was on unemployment until his mid-30s, and that he stole electricity from a neighbor after failing to pay his bills, and that he co-sponsored a bill to ship Vermont’s nuclear waste to a poor Hispanic community in Texas, where it could be dumped.
“You can just see the words ‘environmental racist’ on Republican billboards. And if you can’t, I already did. They were in the Republican opposition research book as a proposal on how to frame the nuclear waste issue.
“Also on the list: Sanders violated campaign finance laws, criticized Clinton for supporting the 1994 crime bill that he voted for, and he voted against the Amber Alert system” [to alert the public to help when a child has been abducted].
Eichenwald states that Sanders is also vulnerable for his advocacy of universal health care (now “Medicare for All”) because it was tried in Vermont and failed due to excessive costs.
“Worst of all, the Republicans also had video of Sanders at a 1985 rally thrown by the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua where half a million people chanted, ‘Here, there, everywhere/the Yankee will die,’ while President Daniel Ortega condemned ‘state terrorism’ by America. Sanders said, on camera, supporting the Sandinistas was ‘patriotic.’
Eichenwald reported that he knew there were at least four other “damning” videos but didn’t know their content. The folder holding the “oppo“ research was nearly two feet thick.
One piece called Bernie a communist who had ties to Castro, which Eichenwald says would automatically have resulted in the loss of Florida if he were the nominee.
“In other words, the belief that Sanders would have walked into the White House based on polls taken before anyone really attacked him is a delusion built on a scaffolding of political ignorance.”
And this stuff doesn’t even take into account all that the Trump crowd will make up about Bernie out of whole cloth. Fake news, doctored videos. None of it’s fair, none of it’s the way we want our politics to work, but we know it will happen.
Sure, the Republicans will dig up dirt and make up stories about whoever is the Democratic nominee. I have my worries that if it’s Biden, the fake corruption involving Ukraine and his son will dominate the campaign.
But I find it telling that even as Trump is pushing those Biden conspiracy theories, he’s also encouraging the “Bernie as victim of the Democratic establishment” motif. He’d love to run against Bernie. If Bernie isn’t the nominee, Trump’s faux sympathy may win points, and votes, from disgruntled Bernie Bros in 2020, just as it did in 2016.
In the meantime, I think every thoughtful person trying to decide who can best beat Trump—and be as effective a President as anyone can be in these polarized times—needs to consider what we really know about these candidates.