Next Steps For Dems

New leadership is critical!

The mid-term elections handed Democrats a good start to getting the country back on track. It remains to be seen what they will make of the opportunity. Perhaps their biggest challenge? The formal leadership of the party is either way over age or way out of new ideas and thinking. While Election Day was kinder to more moderate Democrats, overall, than the liberal firebrands who enjoyed much media attention in the run-up to November 6, 2018 was, more than anything else, a coming out party for the power of youth.

At 87 years, I have nothing against being over age. But I know from experience that even if I wanted to be a real leader at my age the idea is not remotely credible!

That said, I think Joe Biden remains a viable politician but more as a shepherd than as a leading sheep. Hillary Clinton may still have ambitions. But we have been down her road once too often. Our current crop of Congressional leaders is both over-age and over-ambitious.

What can we do?

We must get a message to Pelosi – who is the least popular Democratic politician in Congress but also highly respected by her peers for her leadership abilities.

That message should be “Agree to continue as Speaker for at most two more years on the ironclad condition that you will IMMEDIATELY replace all your senior co-leaders with the best of a new generation of leaders to lead both the country and the Congress to 2020 and beyond”.

We already should see and anticipate that new leadership, but they have been stifled and held back. It takes time to reveal and get to know new leaders.

We have to start NOW!!!!!!

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What Is A Wave and How?

And not only with fingers and hands!

Last week’s election has evidently left a lot of people somewhat confused. The results appear in some ways to be distorted and less decisive than many had hoped.

That suggests a bit of analysis and discussion to help clarify the subject for the world at large.

The overall popular vote at this point in all the House elections was 54% Democrat and 46% Republican. And, the Democrats have flipped 35 seats so far.

The overall popular vote in the Democrat/Republican Senate races in 35 States was 54% Democrat, 46% Republican – and the Republicans gained 2 seats???

That has to take us back to the almost unbelievable reality that one half of all States (25), with only 15% of our overall population, elect 50 Senators – one half the total!

AND as luck and randomness ALONE are responsible, this year, of the 35 Senate seats in contention, 16 of those seats were from those less densely populated 25 States. (Thus the disproportionately of Senate seats to population was again magnified in a further distortion of the Senate result in which the Democrats had an overall 10% margin of the population in all the votes for all Senate seats in contention all over the country.)

Then, when you look further and overall at the races for Governor in 36 States and for the States legislatures, you see even greater blue Democratic results than in the Federal elections.

Overall, whatever a wave may be, at minimum a very strong current appears to have occurred and has already set the stage for 2020, IF the Democratic leadership can avoid its own traditional scramble and confusion and start again to lead the country where, it has indicated this year, it wants us to head.

A wave can indicate ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, or ‘have a good trip’.

We cannot know yet what all this portends, but it sure looks most likely to mean ‘have a good trip’.

Infrastructure

Tangible and Intangible

Tangible infrastructure enables a society to come, get and stay together. Think back on the last couple of hundred of years. Around 1850, the railroads began to spread everywhere. It took about 50 years until they began to go underground as well. Along with that, there was telegraph and then telephones followed by radio and TV, followed by cable TV, the Internet and WIFI. After WWII the interstate highway system began and continues today. Bridges, tunnels and aqueducts also were built everywhere.

Note that in today’s dollars all that construction would amount to many trillions of dollars. And also note that it was paid for by combinations of public and private dollars over many years.

Almost all of that construction by definition would need in due course some combination of updating, renewal and replacement.

With very few exceptions, virtually no provision was made for keeping these systems modern and up to date.

If that was not SIMPLY nationwide stupidity, it is hard to give it a name. But, that is where we are now!

Intangible infrastructure is how our population related to one another and worked together or not.

We had ups and downs in the first half of the 19th Century over State’s rights, national banking and commerce – and slavery which had been finessed in 1800, then simmered until we fought our bloodiest war ever, which still today reminds us occasionally that we have not always gotten along as one nation undivided.

Then came wide public use of telegraph, telephone; then radio; then TV. AND THEN the biggest revolution of all, the Internet and social media with its echo chambers, etc.  That has rendered a lot of the earlier intangible infrastructures both obsolete and even counterproductive.

And, that is where we are NOW.

So, we find ourselves with twin infrastructure problems. Our roads, bridges, tunnels, subways and more – which once brought the country closer together – are rotting in place due to neglect (and lack of funds), while the Internet, social media and other modern marvels seem to be driving us further apart, and giving our enemies the ability to undermine us.

Both will take a long time to fix; they both took a long time coming.

They can only be fixed slowly and incrementally, which is originally how they came to be.

Neither will be fixed IF we cannot first agree that they really are problems that MUST be fixed.

Neither can be fixed if we simply decide to throw an exciting snowball in their direction.

We need a new big and basic national strategy built on fixing these two problems over time slowly and steadily.

If I were 30 years younger, I would be tempted to seek public office with that goal as my program.

It would address all our historic needs as well, jobs and peace and good will at home and abroad.

Let’s call it “Manage the Future” or it will shrink us.

‘Youth’

Young and Old Usually Think Happily

As the days and hours to next Tuesday’s election drag by, most of us are in agony over the uncertainty. There can be no doubt that this really is the most important election of all our lifetimes – all hyperbole aside.

If Trump’s ability to divide and conquer prevails, to his credit he will have been successful as one man versus 317 odd million people who never could have dreamt his wild dream, any more than 60 million people in Germany in 1932 could have dreamt Hitler’s comparable dream – leaving all guns aside.

We grumble about our Constitutional system having gone awry. We worry that too many of Hillary’s ‘deplorable’ enemies have bonded against a significant majority of Americans in what it really is to be an American.

Anticipating this election with all the distortions of our current election system – voter suppression, gerrymandering, and ongoing efforts to use social media as a weapon, to name a few – there are legitimate reasons to be fearful.

But, there is one BIG glimmer of hope peeking over the obscure horizon.

Obviously the future means more to the young; they will have to live with it longer than us oldies. But we do share a bond with them in protecting our so-called golden years.

The news happily may be that we will help each other.

Young people under 29 have traditionally been weak voters particularly in non-presidential years. Fewer than 20 percent of eligible voters under 30 cast ballots in the 2014 mid-term election, and historically runs about 38 points below the participation of those 60 and older, according to the U.S. Elections Project.  At the moment a very recent poll suggests that they are planning to come out in droves way larger than ever before, with 51% saying they will “definitely” vote. And while far fewer ultimately do cast ballots, the increase in enthusiasm has a direct increase on turnout.

And a similar movement appears to be underway for people over 70, with even more seniors saying they “definitely” plan to vote than made similar claims in the 2016 Presidential election. The combination of the two groups strongly suggests in close races that they may produce 3-5% additional democratic votes, which could result in a young/old undertow that might be a big surprise for Trump next Tuesday.

The angst between now and then will persist – hopefully productively before midnight.

Pin Drop

Once upon a time when our politicians did not tend to apologize for our country’s prior actions, here’s a refresher on how some of our former patriots handled negative comments about our great country.

These are good…

Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early 60’s when De Gaulle decided to pull out of NATO.

De Gaulle said he wanted all US military out of France as soon as possible.

Rusk responded, “Does that include those who are buried here?”

De Gaulle did not respond.

You could have heard a pin drop.


When in England, at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of ’empire building’ by George Bush.

He answered by saying, “Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.”

You could have heard a pin drop.


There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American.

During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying, “Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intend to do, bomb them?”

A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly:

“Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?”

You could have heard a pin drop.


A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S., English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies.

At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of officers that included personnel from most of those countries.

Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks, but a French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, “Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?”

Without hesitating the American Admiral replied, “Maybe it’s because the Brit’s, Canadians, Aussie’s and Americans arranged it so you wouldn’t have to speak German.”

You could have heard a pin drop.


AND THIS STORY FITS RIGHT IN WITH THE ABOVE.

Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane.

At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on.

“You have been to France before, monsieur?” the customs officer asked sarcastically.

Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously.

“Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.”

The American said, “The last time I was here, I didn’t have to show it.”

“Impossible. Americans always have to show their passports on arrival in France!”

The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look.

Then, he quietly explained, ”Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on, D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn’t find a single Frenchman to show a passport to.”

You could have heard a pin drop.

A Perverse But Interesting Idea

Let’s encourage a continuation of Trump until 2020

One of the surprisingly ‘good’ things that Trump has managed to accomplish is that not much of any significance really gets done while he is writhing and tweeting his way into history.

He seems to have neither a staff capable of putting into practice any program, nor any consistent plan that he or his disjointed staff can consistently drive forward.

As Woodward explains, Trump apparently believes that fear and surprise are the way to get things done. Indeed, they do work at times. But the broad swath of Executive responsibility and power come from steady, well thought out and executed plans by careful, responsible people.

Yes, he has been appointing a lot of too conservative judges to the Federal court system. But there are limits to what they can do to our basic principles like women’s rights and freedom of the press, which the Supreme Court can affect for decades.

Yes, he can fiddle with taxes to benefit himself and other very rich people. But that can be reversed quite easily and quickly.

Yes, he can deregulate more than is desirable, but that too can be reversed reasonably quickly.

Even though he reads little and listens less than most Presidents ever, he has less time to focus on strategy and policy and the process of the Presidency.

So let’s keep it that way for as long as he is in office.

Pence could prove to be far worse?

McConnell May Be Right After All?

If you want to turn the clock back 100 years

Politically-oriented people with outstanding foresight (obviously not including me!) apparently have been playing ‘the long game’ in tinkering with one of the biggest threats to representative democracy: population trends that are eroding the fair and equitable representational dimension of the democratic formula.

The constitutional dictate of two Senators from every state, regardless of population, today gives 16% of the population half the country’s Senate seats, and thus NOW effective control of five of nine Supreme Court seats. [By the way remember that there were far fewer States when that rule was adopted. And, when new States were added this issue was not yet fully visible.]

The likely effect will be further radical changes in the ‘law’ as it applies to women’s rights over their bodies, the independence of a President from interference by the Congress and broadly giving the President more singular authority and power than was ever envisioned by the founding fathers.

What is happening – and will continue unless soon checked at the ballot box – is that a minority of the voters in America are gaining effective control over a significant majority by using the Senate’s very different election process (designed at that time to protect the less populous states from the “mob rule” in the House of Representatives and get them to support the Constitution.).

Because the Senate also has the singular power to confirm the Federal judiciary, that dichotomy in representation extends to the Supreme Court which, as a result, is moving backwards in time to a very different world with regard to powers of the Presidency and rights of individuals.

Moreover, it threatens to thwart the careful balance of power the Constitution envisioned between the three branches. Instead of truly co-equal partners in a democracy, we now face an authoritarian-inclined President enabled by a lapdog Senate, which is itself impeding the Constitutional functions the Founders envisioned for the judiciary. Disproportionate representation of the overall population in the Senate makes this distortion possible – even potentially calamitous.

The ability to foresee this radical shift from majority rule to minority rule was a genius stroke by the Republicans [from their point of view] and largely ignored by the Democrats who blithely proceeded in the belief that control of any one chamber of Congress –such as the House which has the singular power of the purse–was sufficient to protect overall national interests.

Then came the completely unexpected election of a rogue President who only collected some 3 million fewer votes than his opponent – demonstrating also that the Electoral College is infected by the same disease as the Senate issue in undermining/under-counting representative democracy.

What this boils down to is that the Constitutional formula and model, designed with the politics of 1800 in mind, is simply now  working in reverse today and is undercutting the basic cornerstone of democracy which is overall majority rule. Instead of a check on a tyrannical majority, the two-Senators per state rule now enable a tyrannical minority to control not only its own actions, but those of the judiciary.

It also should come as no surprise that slavery, which still lies at the roots of our Constitutional distortions, continues to haunt us in unexpected ways. For example, the classic racism perversely aroused by Obama’s successful election to the Presidency also is no doubt contributing to today’s new dysfunctions.

Just as the compromises of 1787 merely forestalled the horrors of the Civil War, if we as a nation do not firmly address this basic problem at the ballot box, and soon, we may once again soon face a nation perilously divided and risking a very angry population.

The very roots of our democracy are at stake!