Saturday, February 29, 2020

I Am That Liberal You Think You Know

I’m a Liberal Democrat, capital L, capital D. I’ve been a Liberal Democrat my entire adult life. I’ve never been ashamed of being either one. Why would I be? We Liberal Democrats have a long history of public service in the best sense of the words. We’ve been the caretakers while the Republicans have traditionally fought against any thought of taking care of all citizens. Emphasis on ALL citizens.

We work at being inclusive while the Republicans pride themselves on their exclusivity. While we’re trying to build a country they’re building a club.

So here’s a radical thought: Let the Liberals do it. Give us a chance to show how it could be done.

 Liberals, you like to remind us, are the classic political nerds, not good for anything but maybe wedgies or noogies. Quaint na├»ve little do-gooders lost in a world of ruthless cruelty without weapons adequate enough to bruise a flea.

 In the 1980s, around about the time the actor Ronald Reagan, friendly Midwestern Liberal turned hard-hearted California conservative, was enshrined as The Teflon POTUS, the word went out that Liberals — those ridiculous “for the people” gadflies — were ruining the country by helping too many undeserving and impoverished leeches, by welcoming foreigners, by insisting that workers be represented by hard-nosed unions, by pushing the toxic notion that health care shouldn’t be for-profit, and by tightening, enforcing, or inventing regulations that were or would be anathema to the gold-plated entities they targeted.

It wasn’t hard to convince the many millions that health, wealth, and happiness could only come from a government without teeth, from the benevolence of ridiculously powerful corporations, and, if all else failed, from that venerable standby, Old Testament God.

 All that stood in the way were those insufferable Liberals.

 Liberals became such pariahs an entire bloc jumped ship and took on a new name: Progressives. (I would describe them for you here, but I admit I don’t know the difference. So far they’ve been relatively friendly. Don’t look to me to rock that boat.)

 But what we Liberals are known for are hearts that gush blood whenever injustice rears its massive, ugly head. We see a bleeding heart as a badge of honor. The same with tears. We cry when things move us, and we don’t hide from our emotions. Our anger stems from compassion, our outrage roars at cruelty. We wear our hearts on our sleeves and it’s not meant as a fashion statement.

 Liberals have a long history of getting things done. We pulled the entire country out of a great depression by hiring our citizens to do meaningful busy-work, by using our charitable might, by giving dignity and hope back to a country mired in poverty and hopelessness.

 We built the unions and gave workers a voice. We put an end to child labor. We fought to give every adult citizen the right to vote, no matter their gender or color. We helped the poor and the elderly by creating Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. We passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Clean Air act, and the Clean Water Act. We ended a recession that nearly destroyed the middle class.

 We did all that and more against the wishes — and the might — of fat cats and right wingers who sorely wanted what we’re heading for today: a country ruled by non-contributing despots whose only interests are power, greed, and self-preservation.

 We are not that country and we never will be. The Trump phenomenon is an anomaly, destined as a vivid warning in our history books, a long chapter on how close we came to letting our democracy die. We’re still a majority of the good and, thankfully, most of us aren’t ashamed to show it. It’s our time now and there’s much to do. They’re out there waiting for us and they have heavy weapons. 

The truth-tellers are under barrage and the liars appear to be winning. Not in any honest way — that’s not their MO — but they’ve built a formidable army with thugs in both the House and the Senate, corrupt judges with life-long positions and no former experience, rules and laws that favor the wealthy and crush the poor, shady dealings with foreign dictators, and, if all else fails, voting machines spewing out questionable tallies.

We can’t afford to get it wrong this time. We are a country on the brink and this is no time to dismiss anyone working to change this mess. Do we need labels to tell us apart? Not as much as we might think. It’s enough that we’re on the same team. Not everyone on the team comes from the same background, but everyone should have the same goal. To win.

Come November, 2020, we have to win. There is no other acceptable outcome. So I’ll be That Liberal and you be…you. But let’s work at winning together. It's only our entire country that's at stake.

(A version of this appears at Medium)

Friday, February 28, 2020

Bernie Lost This FDR Liberal and It's His Fault, Not MIne

Source: Forbes

I’m a liberal and Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist. Both of us have our roots in good old FDR blue collar pragmatism. I thought, way back in 2011, when I wrote glowingly about him, that if he ever decided to run for president I would be first in line to cheer him on.

I wrote:
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent from Vermont, held the senate floor for 90 minutes yesterday, talking directly to President Obama, pleading, cajoling, scolding — begging the president to take the lead on obvious things like lifting the poor and the downtrodden out of the depths, protecting them from any more grief, and demanding that the rich pay their fair share of U.S. taxes.

He was voicing everything I believed and he was one of the very few. I wanted to go on liking him. I wanted it so much, I went on pretending, long after I had grown squeamish about what I was seeing from him.

I wanted to believe his shouting and his finger-wagging were simply signs that he was immersed in wanting to do the right thing, but he smirked. He smirked a lot. And it was his haughty, knowing grin whenever his audience reacted to his many anti-Democrat accusations that convinced me this was not someone calling for solidarity.

In time it became clear that his idea of doing the right thing was to build himself up by attacking any Democrat who wasn’t willing to go along. He latched onto “establishment Democrats”, “corporate Democrats”, and encouraged the term “neo-libs”. He kept it up long after the 2016 primaries, when he should have been joining the Dems in supporting not only Hillary Clinton but every Democrat working to get elected in every city, county, state, or federal battleground.

He didn’t do that. He balked at everything, including handing the primary vote over to Hillary when it was clearly long past time. He talked up “revolution”, pushing his followers to stick with him long after the space between the primaries and the general election had closed behind him. He tolerated chaos from his own ranks when what we needed desperately was unity. His was a mission unto himself and the Democrats he refused to join up with had no place in it.

It comes down to this: Bernie is my first choice as revolutionary leader. As revolutionary leaders go, Bernie ranks right up there at the top. But if Bernie should win the presidency, his days as a radical revolutionary leader are over. He wouldn’t in a million years be able to accomplish as much as he might if he stays on the outside pressing for the goals he has outlined during his campaign…

 …A president has to be all things to all people. The leader of a revolution has to stay focused on the cause. Bernie, if he wins, won’t be able to do that and he’ll disappoint the people who are counting on him to make radical change. They’ll start a revolution without him, or in spite of him, or against him.
I haven’t changed my mind. Donald Trump may have shown us what the true Dark Side looks like when it gains ultimate power, but the Democratic presidential candidate can’t be a frothing revolutionary. Some would like to think we’ve moved that far to the left, but we haven’t. And we shouldn’t.

Bernie cemented it when he brought in known haters like Cenk Uyger, Michael Moore, David Sirota, Nina Turner, and Susan Sarandon. They went on the attack against Democrats, almost as if Donald Trump and the entire GOP were not the real threat.

I’ve never been convinced that Democrats shine as a party when they move away from wanting to be allies to all Americans, and not just some Americans. We’re not the party of dividers. We’re at our best when we’re lifting each other up, not dragging each other down.

I submit that Barack Obama’s popularity stayed constant mainly because he refused to get down in the mud. He refused to attack his allies or to get vicious when he was going after his enemies. He understood — and admired — the honor and the obligations of his office, and he’ll be remembered for that, long after Donald Trump disappears into the twilight.

I am a Democrat. I’ve been a Democrat for more than 60 years and, no matter how frustrated or disappointed I am in my political family, I’ll never be anything else. I will always vote the party.
I can say that, knowing there are entire factions out there still promoting a “hold your nose” policy when it comes to Democrats, or worse, a lean toward, “No other Democrat is good enough so it has to be fill in the blank, or else.

There are ways of doing battle without digging in the dirt. The Democrats must always take the high road. It doesn’t make us weak, it makes us right. We take the high road by showing what we’ve learned over the years — that we can and must help others while helping ourselves. We don’t see kindness as weakness. We can be revolutionaries without losing our way. Our eyes are on the prize and our prize is a country working toward the common good.

Bernie Sanders never became that Democrat. He relished the chaos in 2016 and did nothing to calm the waters. His talking points never became action. His talk of being a champion of women or people of color, for example, is still more fluff than substance.

His followers have built a long-lasting cult around him, and he’s using them again to rise to the top. I sincerely hoped he wouldn’t do that, but since he has, I’m out. I've already cast my vote for Elizabeth Warren, who shares many of the same visions, but without feeling the need to divide us into camps based on our loyalty to her causes. (If he wins the primaries, I’ll deal with it and support him. Because that’s what Democrats have to do.)

The defeat of Donald Trump is essential if we’re ever going to get those programs that both the left and the moderates agree need fixing. We can only defeat him if we work together. When Bernie shows signs of wanting to work together, I’ll come back and write a different story. But until then, this one will have to stand.

(A version of this appears in Medium)

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Let Democrats Be Democrats: It’s not chaos, it’s Democracy

We've just come away from the sham impeachment trial of Donald J.  Trump.  Everything we predicted about the trial once it got to the Senate has come true. All but one Republican (Mitt Romney) overlooked every crime, every attack on the constitution and the rule of law, and gave Trump yet another free pass.

The Democrats put up a good fight--often a brilliant fight--but it wasn't good enough. The fix was in even before they entered the room and, predictably, they lost. That will be the takeaway. The Democrats lost.

The Iowa Caucuses happened. Big screw-up and it took weeks to get the results. The takeaway: Who lost in Iowa? The Democrats. Of course. If they can't even get their act together in Iowa, blah blah blah.

The circus came to town at the House of Representatives as the Clown-in Charge performed Politics Porn before a captive audience in what was billed as a State of the Union speech. It was, as expected, a campaign speech, an "Impeachment, hell" speech, a pack of provable lies. Rush Limbaugh was awarded the Medal of Freedom during that hour and a half. RUSH LIMBAUGH. When it was over, Nancy Pelosi, the Mom-in-Charge whose House the clown had just trashed, tore up his speech in a display of total disgust. And who was attacked the next day? Nancy Pelosi. The Democrat.

The New Hampshire primary came and went and the press fell all over themselves deciding which of the Democrats no longer had a chance. (All of them except Sanders and Buttigieg. Show's over, folks. Exit at the rear.)  Never mind that actual party members might have other ideas.

The mainstream punditry has a nasty habit of talking down to Democrats, treating us like underdogs while openly admiring the bullies who hold all the power.The media narrative has to change and it's not on the Democrats to do that. It's on the media.

I am a Democrat, capital D. My loyalty goes way back, long before I could cast my first presidential vote — for JFK, when I was 23. I remember cheering in somebody’s living room when Truman won over Dewey in 1948. I remember crying in my classroom when the teacher announced the news that FDR, our beloved president, had died. I’ve lived my entire life as a Democrat.

I love my party, warts and all. Through thick and thin. Just as I love my country. Warts and all. Through thick and thin. My loyalty demands that I endorse and support both my party and my country. We’re in crisis now. What would it make me if, after all we’ve been through together, this was the moment I chose to abandon either one?

I can’t. And I won’t.

We Democrats have always prided ourselves on our diversity. We ought to think it’s funny that people think we should be anything but what we are. Instead, we’re guilty of the worst case of inferiority complex the world has ever seen.

I use that word “guilty” advisedly, since we tend to want to latch onto it every chance we get, but if we’re guilty of anything it’s that we tend to half-believe every rotten accusation against us, no matter how outlandish.

When Will Rogers said, “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”, it wasn’t an insult, it was a compliment. And when he said, “Democrats never agree on anything, that’s why they’re Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they’d be Republicans”, I took that to mean, “The Republicans are sheep.”

The Democrats are a Big Tent party, more inclined to accept our differences than to shun them. Democrats in public offices across the country are out there working for the disadvantaged, the disabled, the disenfranchised. We have to work harder to protect them now, because too many people have bought into the Republican/Right Wing lie that the simple act of pulling up imaginary bootstraps is the answer to everything.

It isn’t, of course. Everybody needs a helping hand, even those people who pretend they actually have bootstraps — or even know what they are.

We’re inclusive and we’re proud of it. Our very brand is inclusivity — we invented the damn Melting Pot — but we’re not fools. Try to imagine the Democratic Party embracing Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Mike Pompeo, Bill Barr, Steve Mnuchin, Brett Cavanaugh, Betsy DeVos, Mitch McConnell, Jared Kushner, Donald Jr., Eric, or Ivanka Trump, and putting any of them in positions of power over our people and our country. 

We’re in the fight for our lives this year and only the Democrats can save us. That’s a fact.

“The Democrats” are members of the Democratic Party. That’s a fact.

If you detest everything about the Democratic Party, that’s not just your problem, that’s our problem. You make it harder for the Democrats to win in November, and the Democrats have to win in November. That’s a fact.

So who are the candidates who have the best chance of helping the down-ballot Democratic candidates needing to win in the House, the Senate, and in state, county, city, and village races? They’re the candidates who already work to get the job done. The candidates with the best track records for working consistently to bring equality, equity, and good government to the people, and who do it from within the Democratic Party.

Of the party candidates left, only Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar have the experience, the know-how, and the willingness to keep the party strong enough to withstand the dirty fighting ahead. They can do it without mobs or popularity contests. They can do it by being healers and fixers — and their experience shows they can do it. (Yes, I'm aware that I left Bernie Sanders out. even though he has experience. I wish with  all my might that Bernie would stop trying to divide my party. Until he does I don't consider him a Democrat.)

The GOP will pull out all the stops to keep Trump in the White House — and themselves in the catbird seats. Their attacks are specifically against Democrats. And the Democrats have to win.
We lost some good fighters when Democrats like Kamala Harris, Julian Castro, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke and Eric Swalwell were forced to drop out. We could have had Sherrod Brown and Stacey Abrams in the race if we had given them the encouragement and the funding they needed. We should have worked harder for them. Every one of them deserved it.

But we still have a chance if we ignore the noise from within and without, if we remember who we were and who we are, and if we rise up as a party — as the Democratic Party — to take the enemy down.

Because the enemy isn’t us. It’s them.