The Choice

[Note from Annie: I feel the post below, written by my fellow blogger Infidel753, is so thoughtful and persuasive that I’m featuring it here. Infidel’s highly informative, provocative, and often entertaining blog may be accessed at infidel753.blogspot.com.]

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This November, one of two things will happen.  Either Biden will be elected president, or Trump will be re-elected.  Many people fervently believe there should be some third option.  There isn’t.  It’s going to be one of those two.

This post is addressed to those who, for whatever reason, don’t like Biden.  Maybe you consider him too centrist or too old or too old-fashioned or “Republican-lite” or whatever.  Maybe you think the Tara Reade accusation has credibility (though there are good reasons to believe otherwise).  Maybe you think the process by which millions of rank-and-file Democrats chose the nominee (from among a remarkably large and varied group of candidates) was tainted in some way.  Maybe you hold that your vote has to be earned and Biden hasn’t done this or that thing that qualifies him as having done so.

None of that is a good enough reason to let Trump be re-elected.

None of that is a good enough reason to let him saddle the whole country with a 7-2 majority of reactionaries and theocrats on the Supreme Court for decades to come.

None of that is a good enough reason to risk four more years of migrant family separation and kids in cages, or of rhetoric which blatantly scapegoats Latinos, Muslims, and whatever other minority makes a convenient target.

None of that is a good enough reason to leave this vicious and hateful man in a position where he could block laws to help the unemployed and the uninsured, laws to end gerrymandering and vote suppression, laws to protect gay equality and the right to abortion nationally, that a Democratic House and Senate might pass.

None of that is a good enough reason to tolerate four more years of the massive and flagrant banana-republic corruption we’ve seen.

None of that is a good enough reason to risk four more years of budget-wrecking giant tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and efforts to sabotage Social Security, the Postal Service, and the Devil knows what else.

None of that is a good enough reason to facilitate four more years of bungling the response to covid-19 (yes, it will still be around long after January 2021).

None of that is a good enough reason to accept four more years of posturing brats like Kushner, malignancies like Barr, and the rest of Trump’s crew of grifting toadies, keeping their hands on various levers of power.

None of that is a good enough reason to submit to four more years of undermining the separation of church and state.

None of that is a good enough reason to allow four more years of trashing our country’s relationships with other democracies, and enabling and legitimizing murderous gangster regimes around the planet.

None of that is a good enough reason to risk four more years of the federal government actively sabotaging all efforts to fight climate change.

Perhaps you want to vote third party to “send a message” of some sort.  But look at history.  Nobody knows or cares what “message” Nader voters in 2000 or Stein voters in 2016 thought they were sending.  What mattered was who became president.  Do you think you’ll be punishing Biden or the DNC by withholding your vote?  They won’t suffer if Trump is re-elected.  It’s the kids in cages, the unemployed and uninsured, the gay people and minorities, the countless additional people who will lose their lives or health to covid-19 — they’re the ones who will suffer.

Or maybe you think your vote isn’t needed because Biden’s victory is inevitable or you don’t live in a swing state.  Yes, Hillary’s victory was also “inevitable” in 2016, and look how that worked out.  And even if you live in a safe state for one candidate or the other, the popular vote matters, psychologically even if not legally.  If Trump loses, the wingnut noise machine will immediately go into overdrive attacking the legitimacy of the result.  The bigger the popular-vote margin, the less effective their sabotage will be upon the mass public mind.  The bigger the popular-vote margin, the more clearly our country will be seen by the rest of the world to repudiate the contemptible cruelty and madness of the last four years.

And it’s not only the presidency.  We need to win it, yes, but we need to hold the House and win the Senate as well.  Leaving any one of those three under the Republicans’ control would enable them to block almost all progress on expanding health coverage, protecting the right to vote, restoring abortion rights, saving the climate, or anything else.  And again, in the real world, the only way to end Republican control of those institutions is to achieve Democratic control.  There’s no third option.

It’s not only about Biden or the Democratic party.  It’s about saving the country.

Posted by Infidel753 May 5, 2020

Continue reading “The Choice”

Think Trump’s Not Moving Toward Total Autocracy? This International Analyst Knows the Signs Too Well…

Michael McFaul, Stanford University

[Note from Annie: I’ve extracted from Twitter a series of observations made by Michael McFaul last week after viewing the Republican National Convention that I think form a compelling picture of the dangers we’ll face if we don’t remove President Trump from office in November. (The emphases are mine.)

McFaul served as Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House from 2009 to 2012, and then as the United States Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. The author of several books and an academic at Stanford, he cites his research interests as American foreign policy, great power relations, and the relationship between democracy and development.]

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For those of us who study autocracies, including elections in autocracies, there were a lot of familiar messages, symbols,  and methods on display this week at the Republican National Convention.

1. Cult of the Personality.  This show was all about Trump. (3 years after the death of Stalin, Khrushchev gave his secret speech in 1956, titled “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences.” I wonder if a future GOP leader will give a similar speech someday?)

2. Administrative resources.  Autocrats and semi-autocrats frequently use government resources for personal electoral gain.  We have the Hatch Act to prevent such behavior in the U.S. It’s obviously not working. [McFaul is speaking here of Trump’s illegal use of the White House, its gardens, and its personnel to stage his convention. We all paid for that picture of opulence, folks.]

3. Blatant disregard for the law.  That Trump’s team dared anyone to charge them with violating the Hatch Act is exactly what Putin and other autocrats do all the time. Laws don’t apply to the king & his court, only to the subjects.

4. Blatant disregard for facts.  As U.S. ambassador to Russia, I found this Putin regime trait most frustrating. We—the U.S. government—were constrained by facts. They were not. Trump obviously was not constrained by facts last night. He usually isn’t.

5. Us versus Them populism. “Elites” versus “the people” nationalism. Autocratic populists use polarizing identity politics to divide societies all the time. Many populist leaders actually have little in common with the “masses.”  (Putin is very rich.)

6. The opposition is the “enemy of the people.” Putin & other autocratic populists cast their opponents as radicals & revolutionaries. They don’t focus on their own records – often there is little to celebrate – but the horrors that will happen if they lose power. Sound familiar?

6b. There is one difference between Putin and Trump so far. Putin also claims falsely that his political opponents are supported by foreign enemies, the U.S. & the West. Trump has not gone there full-throated yet.  But my guess is it’s coming. “Beijing Biden” is a hint.

7. Law and Order.  Autocratic populists all shout about it, even when the opposite is happening on their watch.

8. The good tsar versus the bad boyars.  Kings and tsars always blamed bad provincial leaders for national ills. Putin blames the governors all the time… just like Trump.

9.  Individual acts of royal kindness.  Putin, like the tsars he emulates, does this all the time. Trump offering a pardon or “granting” citizenship (which of course he didn’t & doesn’t have the power to do) are typical, faux gestures of royal kindness toward his subjects.

10. Homage and fealty. Vassals must signal their complete loyalty and absolute devotion to kings and autocrats. Those that don’t are banished from the royal court or the party. (Where were the Bushes last night?)

11. The royal family.  In this dimension, Trump acts more like a monarch than even Putin. (But watch Lukashenko and his gun-toting teenage son in Belarus) The many Trump family members who performed this week–even a girlfriend got a slot–went beyond even what Putin does.

12. There’s still one big difference. We still don’t know who will win the November election. That uncertainty is a crucial difference between electoral democracies & electoral autocracies. It’s also a difference that has no guarantee of lasting, depending on the outcome this year.

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The Bottom Line:

FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE–AND THEN VOTE!

Annie

Continue reading “Think Trump’s Not Moving Toward Total Autocracy? This International Analyst Knows the Signs Too Well…”

First, Let Me Apologize for My Lunkheadedness…

The Roll Call of the States Reaches Rhode Island

I realize that lots of people avoid talking about politics in these dreadfully polarized times.

But, political junkie that I am, I failed to realize that some of you don’t even want to read about politics—not in the newspapers, not on the Internet, and not on this blog. (Oh, my!)

So it will be hard for you to understand how elated I was after watching the full four days of the Democratic Convention. And how disappointed I was to learn that even committed voters didn’t watch most of it.

I’ll take a wild leap and state that I think many of the 70% of us who say we think our country is going in the wrong direction would feel much more optimistic about our future if you’d heard some of the truly inspiring speakers and watched the roll call of the states that showed slices of Americana many of us never see (including Rhode Island’s famous calamari, pictured above—who knew?). 

You may well have been impressed, as I was, by viewing the plethora of non-political people making the case that this country needs to end its chaos and hate mongering, stop the rising deaths from coronavirus by a national plan to control the virus, and begin rebuilding the economy by electing Biden-Harris.

Know who nominated Biden? Not some hotshot politician, but New York Times security guard Jacquelyn Brittany, who had escorted him to an editorial board meeting at the Times during the campaign and blurted out “I love you!” (He didn’t gain the Times’s endorsement, but he sure had hers.) Sorry for my sappiness, but I thought that was just a delightful touch.

And you’ve probably heard about 13-year-old Brayden Harrington, whom Biden had met during the primaries on a rope line in New Hampshire. Brayden, a stutterer, said Biden’s pep talk with him changed his life. (Biden has spoken openly about the childhood affliction that still affects him on occasion.)

The speech this courageous young man made, while stuttering here and there, was an uplifting tribute both to him and to the compassionate leader who took a few minutes to talk with him and asked his father if it was OK to get his phone number. (Biden said he’s in touch with about 20 kids who stutter.)

That’s just a flavor of the heartwarming, distinctly real, distinctly American, and–ironically–distinctly apolitical feel of this convention. And it’s mind-stretching to think that the people who created it all and meshed and paced diverse people and videos so well had to put something together that had never been done before. Their success bodes well, I felt, for the smoothness and professionalism that the Biden team would bring to the White House.

I had concluded quite a while ago that although Biden wasn’t my first choice, his experience as VP, successfully handling two pandemics (H1N1 and Ebola) and the near economic meltdown that Obama and he had to address as soon as they took office, made him uniquely qualified for the major problems our country now faces. 

When I researched my post about the women heads of state who’d had the greatest success in curbing the pandemic, it all came down to leadership. And leadership meant listening carefully to the scientists, acting promptly, speaking truthfully to their people, and expressing compassion for their plight.

I strongly believe the US would have been one of the world’s leaders, rather than among its worst failures, if Biden had been President when the virus struck.

So even if you hate politics, I fervently hope you won’t sit this one out. Voting should be a piece of cake; in the US today it’s more like a triathlon of mazes, hurdles, and stamina-defying long lines. The deliberate sabotage of postal service will require more workarounds. But part of the Trump effort is to persuade you that your vote won’t count. Many thousands of people are now at work to ensure that’s not the case. But we must do our part.

In other words, we’ll need every citizen who thinks this country is on the wrong track to make the determination to vote and stick to it. Right now, of course, you must check to see that you’re registered before your state’s deadline.

More than 550,000 mail-in ballots were not counted during the primaries. The reasons were lack of a signature, signature different from what was on record, or late arrival. Make sure if you vote by mail that none of those problems negates your vote—and talk to everyone you know who’s voting by mail to ensure they also do so properly. 

Here’s an NPR interview and article about those problems; it includes a state-by-state listing of the numbers of uncounted ballots. 

And here’s New York Times columnist Frank Bruni explaining that with all the structural and human-made problems, we’ll need a landslide just to ensure Biden wins.

My fellow blogger Joseph Urban, aka The Old Liberal, who taught government/civics for many years, has put together a valuable voters guide in the blog post below. It’s relatively brief, but full of useful information.

https://josephurban.wordpress.com/2020/08/16/how-to-vote/

Here’s a piece of it, including two important resources:

“The two links below are very helpful for locating information for this election. They can link you to info specific to your state. Keep in mind that a few states have different rules for each county. Find out well in advance. No excuses.

Don’t let them steal another one.”

https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/state-elections/state-voting-laws-requirements.htm

https://www.vote.org/early-voting-calendar/
 
NBC News also has a site, Plan Your Vote, with info about mail-in and early voting, answering such questions as whether COVID is a valid reason for mail-in ballots in states that didn’t originally allow them. And it tells you how to track your ballot to make sure it’s been accepted; that’s extremely important.

Your single vote has never been more essential than it is this year. Please do everything you can to make certain that it’s received and counted. Our democracy, indeed, our very lives, depend upon it.

Annie

These Are the Election Watchers Watching Us (Maybe)!

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OSCE Members and Partners. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.commons.org.

Remember the good old days—say, 2015—when the World looked toward the US as a beacon of democracy?

Well, it seems that an international group designed to monitor elections is so troubled by what we’re doing in the good old USA that they’re sending people to keep an eye on us.

The Guardian reports that these designated poll watchers are from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—specifically, its democracy and human rights arm.

It seems American exceptionalism has been redefined…

OSCE, with 57 member states, actually began scrutinizing us in 2000, when Bush v Gore was settled by the Supreme Court. But they really sprang into action in 2016.

And this year, after spending one week on a needs assessment, the organization’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) reported great concern about the problems US election officials will face in November and their ability to overcome them.

Now here’s the strange part: The ODIHR needs assessment  states that it was undertaken at the invitation of the US Mission to the OSCE (!).

I think this bit of information should remain in the strictest confidence between you and me. I strongly suspect that if the word gets out to the Trump administration that some of its officials think a close look at the integrity of our elections is necessary by Europeans, no less (not, say Russians or other reliably friendly folk), heads will (figuratively) roll.

(In fact, to my amazement, the “Annex” to the report includes  names of US individuals from the Departments of State, Justice, Defense, Homeland Security, the FBI, Federal Elections Commission, Federal Communications Commission, House of Representatives, both the Democratic and Republican National Committees, and a slew of other representatives of diverse organizations. Nobody from the White House, however. Shhhhh!)

The NAM (Needs Assessment Mission) members spoke with these US officials and experts, and apparently enough of them expressed their fear that problems with voting might affect trust in the administration of the election, which could translate into harm for the proceedings and create doubt about the outcome.

As a result, the ODIHR wrote:

“Most ODIHR NAM interlocutors opined that, in an atmosphere of increased polarization, accusations from all political sides on potential voter fraud and  mistrust in the election process and results, the presence of external observers to assess the process will be highly valuable, adding an important layer of transparency.”

And that was before mailboxes were being removed from street corners and carried away on trucks. Hmmmmm….

Most of the American officials and experts welcomed the presence of the foreign observers. The plan is to have member states send 100 long-term observers “to follow the election countrywide,” and 400 short-term observers for election day.

But will they be permitted to enter the US in the midst of the pandemic?

Knowing about this potential international presence is both comforting and terribly sad, don’t you think? Unfortunately, there’s no way to ensure the observers will even be allowed in the polling places. The states have discretion.

For some time, this group has been making recommendations to improve our elections, which have mostly been ignored, especially on the federal level. There’s that big gap in the Voting Rights Act due to the 2017 Supreme Court ruling; legislation passed in the House to correct it and end discriminatory practices against minority voters has been stalled since 2019.

There’s also attention to ensuring the vote for former felons, an issue that’s seen some improvement in several states. But in another area, gerrymandering, change has been minimal, as have calls for independent entities to draw district boundaries according to voter equity.

And, of course, there’s major concern that the pandemic will mean a shortage of poll watchers, and that the post office won’t be able to handle the additional mail-in ballots.

That was even before President Trump announced his determination to deliberately hamper the mail-in voting that he fears will oust him from office, assisted by his big-donor appointee, ironically named DeJoy,  who knows nothing about running a post office or the post office’s Constitutionally protected role. He also had (and may still have) competing financial interests when he was appointed.

I’d say that’s now Concern #1: a clear Constitutional threat to the bedrock of our democracy, a clearly impeachable act for which the President will not be impeached.

But it’s nice to know our allies are still with us, trying to make us live up to the ideals for which they used to admire us—and which we seem in danger of losing with each passing day.

I read this report, which holds up the mirror to us even though our descent has been so terribly obvious to most Americans, too soon after the euphoria of the Biden-Harris appearances and the hope they inspire.

As I don’t want to end this post on a sour note, I’ve inserted a short, happy video that just happens to have come from across the pond.

Here is a totally non-election look at a Zoom professional meeting in which British sportscaster Andrew Cotter holds a brief evaluation with two of his “employees.” Make sure your sound is up high enough to hear Cotter’s concluding words.

And thanks, once again, to my dear friend Fran, for bringing me this bit of fun. I hope you’ll enjoy it—even if you’ve seen it before.

Annie

Continue reading “These Are the Election Watchers Watching Us (Maybe)!”

Why I See Kamala’s Racial Attack on Joe as a Positive Seminal Moment for Our Country

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VP Biden swears Harris into office as Senator. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org.

Joe Biden has just selected California Senator Kamala Harris as his Vice Presidential running mate. Some call it an easy, obvious decision. I see it differently.

I think this was just the right choice at this time. But it couldn’t have been easy for Biden.

I was one of many who was put off by Harris in the first debate for her attack on Biden about his support of busing when she was a child integrating her neighborhood school.

It seemed unfair because it was ancient history, and he has clearly moved far from that kind of thinking. Though I didn’t support Biden then, I was moved by the shocked, hurt look on his face. He appeared wounded. He and Harris were friends. She was a close friend of his beloved late son Beau.

Evidently, Biden’s wife’s Jill was similarly offended: she reportedly questioned early on whether Harris should be his running mate. Even more tellingly, Chris Dodd, an old trusted friend who was leading Biden’s search committee, accused Harris of disloyalty and an excess of ambition.

Harris recently dismissed that tense exchange as being “just a debate,” fueling those who saw her as callous and opportunistic. But I think that moment has turned out to be one of the most important for our country today.

Here’s why:

First, it says a huge amount about Biden’s own strength and courage–aligning himself with a strong woman who will speak her mind on important issues. It shows the character of the man. His remark that “I don’t hold grudges” should be a model for us all these days.

Second, Biden has made it clear that racial justice and erasing inequality are central to his campaign for the “soul of America.”  His willingness to see Harris as his ally shows that he wants someone willing to tell him when he’s wrong–and to provide him with perspectives that he knows he can’t gain from his own lived experiences.

That is both extremely impressive and necessary. And he demonstrated true independence of judgment. He dismissed the warnings of his old guard friends like Chris Dodd–warnings that were clearly sexist and not relevant to today.

Thus, his decision tells me that Joe Biden will be his own person. He has shown that he has no fear of being overshadowed by his Vice President. He has decided that Kamala Harris and he are “simpatico”–a word he used as one of the most compelling factors for him.

I’ve been feeling for a while that Biden, having been through so much as Vice President, was the right person to lead us. All this has enhanced my opinion of him as a strong leader.

It has also been noted that through the careful selection process he conducted in seeking his partner, he has shone the light on other talented women who were under consideration but might not otherwise have gained such notice, eg, Val Demings as a possible gubernatorial candidate in Florida; Karen Bass as a possible successor to Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House when she retires.

So his deliberative approach became much more than simply a vetting: it has opened our eyes to the leadership potential of women who’d previously been overlooked.

At the same time, although Harris has dismissed her remark, I no longer see it as a cheap shot. As the killing of George Floyd led to huge and racially diverse protests and widespread societal acceptance of the grievous wrongs and unfulfilled promises in our society, Harris’s insertion of that bit of history may be seen as the opening bell for our great awakening.

Indeed, schools are more segregated today than they have been in years. And Harris was most convincing in helping us envision what it was like for that little girl on her lonely journey years ago. We are now more aware that parallels of that isolation are still plentiful in our nation.

Thus, on one of the most important issues of our time, Biden-Harris are uniquely positioned to move us forward.

In some ways, Harris parallels President Obama. Both grew up in largely white environments and sought their identities elsewhere: he went to Africa in search of his father; she attended Howard University, a predominantly black institution. Thus, they are both comfortable with all types of people in varying settings.

Both are also highly intelligent, accomplished, witty, fast on their feet, and charismatic. Harris drew 20,000 screaming Californians to her presidential campaign announcement–even more than Obama did to his.

Both are more pragmatic than ideological–despite what you’ll hear from the Trump administration about the raving leftists who want to destroy America.

And both have an uncommon ability to demonstrate compassion toward the individuals they engage and the societal problems people face. (With Biden, who also has an abundance of compassion, and Harris, the compassionate responses will flow freely. Due to the pandemic and accompanying financial distress, our suffering nation now needs this quality in our leaders as never before.)

Kamala actually has more executive experience than Obama did: as California’s attorney general, she ran the second largest attorney general office in the country–with the exception of the federal government’s.

It was in that position that she became close friends with Biden’s son Beau, and Biden has said that knowing how highly Beau thought of her was a large influence on his decision to choose her.

One of her many accomplishments during her tenure in that position was to walk away from a 2011 offer by the country’s biggest mortgage firms that she felt was a paltry response to the needs of Californians and others facing illicit foreclosures. Beau Biden and other state AGs sided with her, but she took heat as she stood her ground. Dismissing the $2-$4 billion original offer, she eventually gained $20 billion for Californians.

That, President Trump, is truly The Art of the Deal!

There will be much media digging into Harris’s imperfections, many phony attacks by the Trump Administration, depicting them both as captives of the far left–Communists, anarchists, religion defilers. Nonsense!

But Joe Biden has pronounced himself a transitional figure. In selecting Kamala Harris as his running mate, he has demonstrated his understanding and belief in the direction America is moving.

Yes, race and gender are major components. We are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment–but when women won the right to vote, the Black women who’ve done so much to build our nation were not included in that move. They have increasingly made up for  lost time.

So just as Black women (and Congressman James Clyburn) were the powerful force that brought Joe Biden’s candidacy back from the brink, so will they protect Kamala Harris from undue attacks and use their sororities and networks to turn out a vote that I believe will be massive enough to overcome the Republican efforts to suppress voting and prevent valid ballots from being counted.

It’s about time, for sure. I teared up when I saw one after another Black woman interviewee express her delight at finally seeing a candidate “who looks like me.”

I hope the media and the grumblers won’t get carried away with focusing on race and gender to the exclusion of everything else.

Make no mistake. In Biden-Harris, we have two pragmatic and compassionate souls who will consider all ideas–some more progressive than might have been the case before conditions in this country became so dire–to dig us out of the worst hole America has been in due to failed leadership in its history.

I expect Biden and Harris will be concentrating on workable, equitable solutions to help us get back on our feet and begin moving toward greater economic and social justice.

The historian Jon Meacham pointed out earlier that our America today dates from Kamala Harris’s birth 55 years ago, when the Voting Rights Act became law, and changes in our immigration laws made the nation more inclusive and diverse. “Our America is 55 years old,” he said.

I believe this is a great day for the America most of us long for.

I welcome your thoughts.

Annie

Continue reading “Why I See Kamala’s Racial Attack on Joe as a Positive Seminal Moment for Our Country”