Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thanks, Obama

The Ironic Cherry reads...

Thanks, Obama:
My Hopey, Changey
White House Years
by David Litt
(A SPEECHWRITER'S MEMOIR)


This is a hopey, changey kind of book.  It comes out just when we need the smiles, the chuckles, and yes, the hope.

David Litt began campaigning for Barack Obama in 2008.  From there he moved on to speechwriting for the President.  He began at the bottom, and takes us along on his wild, bumpy, sometimes scary, sometimes hilarious ride.  It is partly about his growing up, partly about the maturing of Obama's presidency, and partly about the transformation of America.

The personal anecdotes are hysterically funny; he is brutally honest about the workings of the West Wing and also about himself.  He doesn't let himself get too carried away with his own importance, but he doesn't mind telling us when he feels damn good about his accomplishments.  His periodic meetings with President Obama are priceless, and tell us as much about the President as about Litt.

It turns out that it is a wonderful review of Obama's eight years, just as we are sometimes feeling as if they didn't actually happen.  He takes us from the campaigns to the fights over Obamacare and the budget.  We witness presidential approval ratings sink as he struggles to first work with and then hold back a Congress determined to do damage to his promises to the American people, and then we watch them skyrocket when, in 2015, he decides it is time to do his work with or without Congress.

We also get behind the scenes of the amazing Correspondents' Dinner speeches, and the moods of the writers and the President as they are developed, including the critical edit the day before the Bin Laden raid.  And the "bucket" list.  And of course, the development of the skit with "Luther, Obama's Anger Translator."



And then there was that week in June of 2015, with two great Supreme Court victories and the horrific shooting at the Mother Emanuel Church here in Charleston.  And Barack Obama gave a moving and eloquent speech, ending with him singing Amazing Grace.


Litt says, "In less than two days, Barack Obama had secured his place in history....  I now lived in a country where health care was a right and not a privilege; where you could marry who you loved; where a black president could go to the heart of the old Confederacy and take all of us, every color and creed, to church."

And around about that time in Litt's book, he brought me back around from despair to hope.  Because, as we saw in last week's election, when women, African Americans, Hispanics, Muslim and transgender Americans ran for office against hate and bigotry and won, Obama's legacy can't be erased.  The American people have come together to prove that we stand for liberty and justice.  We will continue to fight for the gun legislation that Obama was unable to see in his terms in office, and for the women and minorities that are being victimized by the current administration.

Or, as POTUS says, "We haven't won every battle.  We've still got a lot more work to do.  But when the cynics told us we couldn't change our country for the better, they were wrong."

Thanks, David Litt, for reminding us of that.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Taking a Deep (Cleansing) Breath

I was a bit depressed last night, after having checked in on the three local newscasts to see what they had to say about Bannon's creep into South Carolina last night.  It is not so much what they said, but the fact that he was here, infecting our air and our youth, that had me down.  There was a great peaceful protest, and it was well-covered by the media.  But still.

And then I woke up.  The sun was shining bright and the air was crisper than I like it, and clear.  And I realized what had been wrong about my assessment of last night's events.

Bannon wasn't talking about taking back the country anymore, so much as taking back the republican party.  It was young, naive republicans that had invited him to speak.  In light of the Women's Movement, Indivisible, and Tuesday's election results, they are worried.  They are worried about their identity and their place.  They are so worried that they are turning to the loudest voice in the room for the answer.  We should be glad about that.

Remember Karl Rove?  Otherwise known as "Bush's Brain?"  Wasn't so long ago that he had us cowering in fear of his power.  True, they did horrible things to our democracy while in power, but these days we are seeing Bush as a softer, gentler version of Trump, someone who could be stupid but laugh at himself as well.  And Rove?  Rove is one of the vocal anti-Trumpers.  And Bush junior and senior supported Hillary.  Who could have seen that coming?

So we all need to calm down.  If one of Bannon's goals is to scare the shit out of his -- and I do mean "his" -- opponents, he is doing it in an attempt to ward off failure, not merely to assure success.  More than Rove to Bush, Bannon is Trump's alter ego, the guy in control that has a brain.  But, as did Rove, he has become so entangled in the need for his own victory that he is going to fail to see what will turn Americans against him.  He is going to make faulty assumptions about his infallibility, and he is going to assume that Americans care more about him than about ourselves, our families, and the future of our democracy.

He is going to assume that we are all stupid, and willing to be led.  But he is wrong.

In the light of day, it is indeed comical to reflect on the republican patsies who are running for governor showing up last night for the purpose of seeking his favor.  It was sad to see our young republicans looking to him for solutions.  But make no mistake:  if they do buy Bannon's sales pitch, they may in fact take back the republican party, but Americans will walk away, in droves.

Tuesdays victories across the country proved that the majority of Americans reject hate.  We are not so terrified of change that we will sign on to harm innocents because they are different than us.

The Women's March said it all.  We are all in this together, and united we do not need to be afraid.  We come together for each of us, and coming together we will defend American values.

The counter-protesters in Charlottesville tell that story as well.  There are more of us than there are of Bannon's paranoid haters.  We will show up.  And our power will be in our numbers, and our message.  Eight weeks after the initial rally, there was a second rally.  Forty white nationalists showed up, stayed for ten minutes, and went home.

So let us all be proud of our power, and our purpose.  Keep showing up.  And continue to stand together.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Women Hauling Off

At my tennis clinic, the instructor told a relatively new player to just haul off, hit the ball as hard as you can.  Then she explained that men and boys had no problem doing that; she never had to tell them to let go and hit it as hard as they can.  Women and girls were more tentative, so she would tell us not to worry about getting it right, but to just wallop it.  It worked.  The young woman hit some amazing shots after that advice.

I recently went to the Charleston launch party for Emerge America, a wonderful group created to encourage and assist women to step up and run for office.  I was told that whereas men will get involved confident that they can do a better job than others, extremely competent women all too often hold back because they don't feel competent enough to run for office.

I admire women who have great confidence.  I grew up in a blue collar family with an immigrant father.  As the oldest, even as a girl, my parents had high hopes for me.  They thought, as smart as I was, I should become a teacher.  They didn't tell me about it, but I heard that they were proud of me for going to college, but it was rough going.  And yet, I did make it through, and ended up getting all the way through to a Ph.D.  My father's reaction when I told him I was going back to school for a doctorate could best be described as confused derision.  "You already went to school.  Why do you have to go back?"

In a nutshell, my relationship with my father began with him telling me, as a child, how smart I was.  And then, when I began to have opinions that were different from his, I became someone who "thought I was so smart."  So, no confidence building there.

Hillary Rodham Clinton had a father who could not imagine her not being able to do anything a man could do, and do it better.  Same for Elizabeth Warren.  Women who grew up with fathers who saw them as equal to men, and able to compete and excel tend to do that.  Here in my later years, when I catch myself criticizing myself or worrying over some social anxiety or other nonsense, I mutter, "Thanks, Dad," and then get on with it.

But those insecurities that most women incorporate from childhood are reinforced in society:  lower pay, sexual stereotypes and harassment, lower expectations despite greater responsibility, and so many more subtle social forces.  The attack on reproductive rights is one of the more critical fronts intended to keep women from having the same control over their lives as have men.

The good news is, the backlash is here.

I am thrilled at the generation of younger women who are moving women forward today.  They have been, over the years, more visible in the arts, in the media, in finance and in politics.  But the Women's March on January 21 was the explosion that caused us to look around and see that we were the ones that would change the sad course that history had been taking.  We were the ones that weren't getting tangled up in questionable arguments and slippery slopes.  United, we stood for everyone.

So, as the 2018 midterms approach, thousands of women across the country are stepping up.  And groups like Emerge America and WREN -- Women's Rights and Empowerment Network -- are there to help.  Because we know what the country needs, but may not have the tools to get through the man-made maze of red tape to get there.

You won't be surprised to hear that women attempting to run for office experience a bias that excludes, ignores or minimizes their candidacy.  In a South Carolina special election primary a few short months ago, an older white businessman ran against a young black woman.  People from in and out of state eagerly signed up to help in his campaign, some fairly big names with the national party, bombarding Facebook and email in-boxes.  The State ran an article headlined:  "In SC Congress Race, Goldman Sachs Executive Faces Student."  The "student" was a woman who had spent six years in the military, working as a paralegal in an Army JAG legal affairs office.  Hard to imagine a headline written for a man that did not include "military veteran."

And yet, with little to no help from state or national party, she ended the primary with 22 percent of the vote.

I am also discerning a subtle and dangerous pattern as people enter 2018 races.  A woman enters a race.  Then, seeing no great risk, a man jumps in.  And then more well-known men jump in to support him.  And then the woman gets ignored or minimized.

Gods, I hope I am wrong.  But I am writing today to alert all you women and the men who are strong and confident enough to support us, because we will need to be aware of the biases and fight harder to be heard as we run for office.  When we see something like that ridiculous headline in The State, or a primary being held as though the male candidate's win was a given, we need to not just speak up, but yell.  We need to support the great and talented women that have stepped up with all we've got.

We need to "haul off." 

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Fear and Trashing of Hillary Rodham Clinton

The Ironic Cherry reads...

What Happened
by
Hillary Rodham Clinton


A few years ago, as I began to listen to the audiobook of Hillary's years as Secretary of State, Hard Choices, I became aware that I was listening for signs of duplicity.  I have been an admirer of Clinton's since It Takes a Village way back in 1996, and actually from the time she became First Lady.  But sad as this may be, the doubts creep back whenever I have lost touch with her.  As I read, I found not any trace of duplicity.  Rather, she spoke as she always does, from her heart, and with a great deal of knowledge.  She spoke with self-awareness and even a touch of self-deprecation.  Her words were measured and intelligent.  She is, was, and will continue to be, a masterful writer, and one with a lot to say.

So I was discouraged, but not entirely surprised, when the reaction I heard to her new book from way too many women was: the election is over, and Hillary should just go away.  That is the tragedy of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

She has been trashed mercilessly, and quite stupidly, for decades.  Politicians and the media were tickled to put her in the headlights over Bill's sexual indiscretions.  Men were more than happy to attack her victimhood, and saddest of all, women joined in to critique her behavior during this most personal of difficult times.

And so it goes.  We have heard about her hair and her pantsuits ad nauseum.  Before she was First Lady, she had had to deal with Bill's inability to get re-elected in Arkansas with a wife who practiced law and went by her given name.  And then, when she reached the White House, there was the national incident over her comment that she chose not to stay home and have teas and bake cookies.  If you recall, that was such a focus of our attention that she ended up sharing her mother's chocolate chip cookie recipe with the world, to prove she actually could bake.

Then things got serious, as republicans decided that the Clintons were too popular.  The road to the Clintons' demise, began with Bill's womanizing; those headlines were such a hit, that the mudslingers at the republican party turned over every damn leaf to find dirt to aim at them.  They hit the mother lode with investigations over the business venture Whitewater.  Those of you who wheel and deal in business know that there are way too many grey lines in big deals.  And even though Bill and Hillary were never found guilty of misconduct, some were, and that, my friend, is all you need to fuel the fires of suspicion.

Headlines.  That is all most of us have time for.  And when there was no proof, allegations and innuendo were enough.  And since Bill and Hillary ended up with a fair amount of wealth, it is even easier to stoke the fires.

Add to that the internet, and we have gone from rumors that Bill had murdered his friend Vince Foster, which keeps popping up like rats in sludge, to the absurd near tragedy of last year's Pizzagate.  Fact is, when there are no facts to denigrate Hillary Clinton, a lie will always do.

And add to that the absolute cruelty of those who hate Hillary, armed with Facebook and Twitter.  And the sad, sad fact that the news media can NOT turn away from potential scandal, the uglier the better, but if ugly isn't available, stupid will do, as proven by video loops of her falling.

There we were, then, in 2016, with smart women shaking their heads and saying, "I just don't trust her."

Why don't you trust her?  Either we don't know enough about her or we know too much about her.  She shows too much emotion or not enough.

Fact is, we probably know more about Hillary than we do of any candidate who has ever run for president.  We know more personal stuff about her than we have any right to know.  We know more about her finances than any other president (I don't even need to mention the secretive crook that is skulking around the White House these days).  For all the millions of dollars that have been spent to try to dig up financial irregularities about Hillary and Bill, you might think there would be something to show for it.

The republicans may not be able to get the dollar signs out of their eyes in order to see how their financial fantasies erode our economy, but they do know how to spread contention and distrust.  Let us not give Trump all the credit; the republican party spread manure over the soil to make it fertile ground in which to grow all of Trump's hate.

We liberals like to talk with disdain about the uninformed American, but there are levels of being uninformed.  As I said earlier, most of us don't have time for more than headlines.  Some of us, who work too hard and struggle to raise families, don't even have time for that.  But if you are going to make an informed decision about a candidate, you just have to go underneath the headlines.  To the source.  And the source is out there.

From the time that reality show host rode down the escalator, the media was a captive audience.  Every ugly word was captured in prime time, every day.

But Hillary's campaign wasn't about invective.  It was about policies.  And she had plans, lots of them.  That is what Hillary does.  She looks at a problem and figures out how to make it better.  And she doesn't let anything slip by.

We don't know that because while we were watching the republican car wreck, Hillary was making speeches about the economy and women's rights, education and technology.  I watched a couple of her speeches, so few because I had to actually remember to take the time to find them on C-Span or the internet.  But let me tell you, they were wonderful.  Those of you who think she neglected the middle class, the white middle class, didn't focus enough on jobs, focused too much on "identity politics," you weren't there.  You were listening to her campaign through pundits, who were obediently repeating rumors about emails.

And we women, myself very much included, have the quality which makes our daughters strong and smart and determined:  we are incredibly hard on women, ourselves, our friends, our daughters.  We had criticisms for Hillary that were ridiculous in comparison to all the others who ran for president in 2016.  And we also had the cloud that had been polluting her space for thirty years.

As with all things Hillary, in talking about her book pre-publication, the media highlighted two of the most tantalizing tidbits:  1) James Comey's part in her defeat; and 2) Trump stalking her at the town hall debate.  Which led us to believe that the book would be an obsessive rant about her defeat.

I would not have blamed her if that was what it had been.  After having to take more crap than any other politician ever, she certainly would have been entitled.  But that is not at all what this memoir is about.

The content of What Happened is much like the title, which is much like Hillary herself.  In the book she explores the state of women in politics, her relationship with Putin as Secretary of State and the involvement of Russia in derailing an already dysfunctional political system, and yes, the email nonsense.  She does it in a down-to-earth and objective way, while also honestly acknowledging her feelings and perceptions throughout and since.  She also tells us about a day on the trail, because she gets asked about it a lot.  She tells us about her grandchildren and her friends, and how they have helped her heal and given her hope.

Except she has always had hope.  The thing that I love about Hillary, besides her intelligence and morality, is that she always has hope.  She is always going to get up and fight again, and it infuriates her enemies.  I believe her willingness to look at herself critically and admit mistakes also drives her enemies crazy, because you have got to be tough to admit to your faults and come away better.

Since publication, Hillary has given some great interviews, the latest with Fareed Zakaria on Sunday.



What Happened provides so much more important and fascinating detail about, yes, what happened.  Most important, as Hillary has said in the book and in interviews, we need to truly understand what went on so that it won't happen again.  In this book, she talks about it as though she were sitting in the room with us, sharing her ideas and experience.

After all these years, we owe it to ourselves to get to know Hillary Rodham Clinton, who I believe will go down as one of the greatest and most influential women in American history.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Dems in Alabama

Yes, there are crazy people in Alabama.  But I have lived in Charleston for nearly eighteen years now and I can tell you I am tired of the South getting short shrift politically.  Democrats -- and yes, liberal Democrats -- here in Charleston are passionate about individual rights, about education, about the environment.  Who knew?

Of course, you say, that is Charleston, the little blue dot in the red state.  But a few short months ago, when national Democrats dismissed the special election in SC's fifth, with little but local effort, the Democrat Archie Parnell lost by a mere four points.  Imagine if the world outside SC gave us credit for being civilized Americans instead of right-wing cretins.

There is a special election happening in December in Alabama.  And from what I have seen so far, it has been deja vu all over again.  The media just can't take their eyes, or their cameras, off Roy Moore.  Moore being the Donald Trump of Alabama, stupid and full of rage.  Unlike Trump, he made his name from religious hypocrisy and he isn't a robber baron, but they share a proud heritage of anger and ignorance.  And he has the loud mouth and the capacity to spew bile with which Donald Trump kept the media hypnotized until November 9, when reality came home to roost.  After which there were months of mea culpas and vows, with some honest attempts, to report the news in a more responsible manner.

If the past week has been any indication of how that is going, Alabama, you are on your own.  To be fair, it is hard to take your eyes away from a shitstorm.  I've seen the image of Trump's mini-me pulling a tiny gun out and waving it around far too many times this week.  And in my mind, composing this blog, I found it hard not to keep wanting to rant about what is awful about Moore, and which has already been reported ad nauseum.

So let us talk about the Democratic candidate.  Didn't know there was one?  That is not a surprise.  The assumption has been that this race ended on primary night -- even Colbert said Moore is pretty much the next senator from Alabama.  I beg to differ.

The Democratic candidate for US Senate is Doug Jones.  He is not a politician, but has an incredible resume.  In 2001, as a US attorney, Jones successfully prosecuted Thomas Edwin Blanton, Jr., for the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham which resulted in the deaths of four girls.  He has also been a defense attorney.  Jones has seen injustice and worked to fight it all his professional life.

He grew up in a blue collar, union household, in Alabama.  He knows about fighting for fair wages and good working conditions.  He understands that education is the key to raising the standard of living.  He knows coal jobs aren't coming back, but is determined to provide a safety net and job training to those who lose those jobs.  And he knows there are better jobs to come with rebuilding outdated infrastructure and improving our environment.

He believes that women have the right to make their own reproductive choices without government intervention.  He doesn't waffle when he says that.  He knows that women in Alabama need someone who will fight for their right to contraception and abortion more than those in states that haven't had knuckle draggers like Jeff Sessions and Roy Moore pretending that religion gives them the right to control women's lives.

Doug Jones' website does a comprehensive job of describing a strong and moral position on individual rights, civil rights, criminal justice reform, environment, healthcare and more.  

Whenever I have been exposed to yet another breathlessly obsessive tirade about Roy Moore, I have gone on Twitter and told @CNN and @MSNBC to get their eyes off the car wreck and spend time talking to Doug Jones and Alabama Democrats about the real issues of the campaign.  I was happy to see that Chuck Todd had actually interviewed Jones and asked him about just that.



And here are some numbers:

In the republican primary, there were 480,882 votes cast.  In the state of Alabama, there are 3,330,802 registered voters.  That leaves 2,849,920 who did not vote in the primary.  It seems to me that easily a majority of those voters would like to see better wages and working conditions, an end to racial injustice, better healthcare, a safer and cleaner environment, and an end to the republican attacks on individual rights.

Jones points out that Lilly Ledbetter fought her fight for equal pay in Gadsden, Alabama.  It is personal in Alabama, y'all.  So don't let the wild eyed media ignore the Democrat in this race.

And let's not let the national Democratic Party wimp out either.  Apparently, Joe Biden is planning on stumping for Jones, but some are squeamish about him maybe making waves, that some of those folks in Alabama might get upset if them northern Democrats get involved in their politics.

Nonsense.

And Keith Ellison has a real dog in this race, too.  Jones' opponent, in his rants against anyone who isn't a white 'murican has said that Ellison should be banned from Congress by virtue of his being Muslim.  Ellison needs to get down to Alabama and fight for Doug, for all those who aren't of the white supremacist persuasion.

Fun fact:  when interviewed on September 1, Moore couldn't answer the question about DACA -- or Dreamers --because he had no idea what they were.  Of course, after he did his homework he jumped on the anti-immigration bus.  Who says the man can't learn?

Enough about that jackass, and back to the real story.

We need to spread the word.  Doug Jones is a great candidate.  He doesn't just know the constitution, he has worked his life to defend the rights granted under it.  He has worked to prosecute those who have committed crimes against the innocent, and to protect us from a criminal justice system run amok.

Don't let the media or the Democratic Party dismiss this race.  This is a critical fight, and it can be won.  Right now, even with all the cameras on the infamous criminal Roy Moore, Doug Jones is a mere six points behind.  Give him the microphone so he can tell the people of Alabama what he stands for, and what he plans on doing to make their lives better.

I believe in you, Alabama.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Trump Fatigue

Fewer people are reading my blog these days.  And I am signing fewer online petitions, and sending more political appeals to trash without opening them.  After all, how many $3 donations can one person make?

We have been overwhelmed since the day Donald Trump paid people to watch him ride down an escalator and begin to spew his bigotry and ignorance with an aim to becoming president.  We laughed at his ignorance, but we were also appalled, and like a car crash, the media couldn't stop filming and we couldn't take our eyes off him.

I can't watch him speak anymore.  I now assume it is totally unnecessary and a waste of whatever hours I have left of my life.  I safely assume that there will be far too much coverage of what he says, hours and hours of rerunning the same quotes and then analyzing those bon mots -- whose thoughts David Brooks has notably said amount to "six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar."  It is beyond disturbing that overnight we went from a president of strong values and intelligence as well as a great orator to a president with no moral compass, who is unable to face the nation without a teleprompter, whose words can be so obviously categorized as being ghost written or spewing from his own small and petty mind.  A president who chooses to communicate with the world through the safety of 140 characters.  A president who for-gods-sake "tweets."

His stupid phrases echo throughout our lives.  He faces world leaders who are intelligent and thoughtful with the same inane compliments, and shouts the same lame and angry promises -- and threats -- at his rallies.  A president who lives for his rallies, because his staunch supporters haven't noticed that it is not Mexico that will pay for his wall, but they themselves.

I was happy to hear that he is using the funds from his 2020 campaign to pay for his lawyers, lawyers who appear to be as stupid as he is, or maybe are just taking his money while not putting a lot of energy into a losing battle.  On the other hand, we seem to have tired of getting angry at the theft of America by the Trump family business; for the moment we are shocked that his cabinet members are following his lead by literally and figuratively flying first class on America's dime.  Eventually there will be a new horror uncovered and the excesses will continue.  Meanwhile, the ironically named "Department of Justice" and the excitable Attorney General Jefferson Sessions goes about the business of dismantling our individual rights.  Too many distractions, 24/7.

And then there is Congress.  We are tired of having to yell at republicans for their slimy attempts to placate their wealthy donors with bills that will take away the safety nets of most Americans.  They keep saying that their truly ugly bills to repeal Obamacare are really a need to fill campaign promises; what has become clear is that those promises were to their wealthy donors who are threatening to throw them out of office if they don't repeal.  Which explains why town halls and ground level approval ratings have been ignored.

And I am exhausted whenever I hear a Democrat or someone in the media refer to the latest planned heist as "tax reform."  There is nothing reformative about tearing down our social institutions in order to add more billions to the billionaire class.  Maybe we need to put David Brooks on the job to find a more fitting phrase, one that would alert Americans to what is really behind the tax cut plan that has Mick Mulvaney and Paul Ryan salivating.

I worry that we are so tired of fighting this unfair fight that we have turned back to the day-to-day things that really matter:  our families and our homes.  We made time to march, and to call out legislators at town halls, but we have jobs to go to.  And this is what Paul Ryan and Lindsey Graham count on.  This is why they continue to try to pass the noxious bill that would destroy health care for millions.  Donald Trump is not a brilliant thinker, but he has wealth and a lifetime of being a successful con artist.  He knows that government can be manipulated, and he has a cabinet that has spent their careers doing it with great success.

Will we be able to bring forth the energy and outrage we had in January to fill our statehouses and Congress with people who represent us and not the wealthy and powerful?  Will we be able to spread the word to those who barely have time to care for their children and get to work on time?  Will we get out to vote and be able to convince those even more exhausted than we are to do the same?

I call it PTTD:  Post Traumatic Trump Disorder.  The trauma was the election, but the effects are the aftershocks that never stop.  Trump fatigue, Trump anxiety.  We feel discouraged; we don't believe we can win against the tsunami of hate and corruption.

But we have won an amazing number of victories.  We have won local elections across the country in once red districts.  We have stopped, and stopped again, the repeal of Obamacare.  We have turned the tide on the repeal of DACA and the Muslim ban.  We have, by our numbers of peaceful counter-protesters, halted the march of the white supremacists.

We are allowed our exhaustion.  We need our time with our families and we need our time to laugh as well as to cry.  We need to keep talking to each other.

We can't make all the phone calls or fight all the battles, but when we feel that spark of outrage we can use it to fight, and we can support those who are fighting other battles.  If we do this, we can reach inside and find the energy to drain the swamp -- no, the sewer -- that Donald Trump has brought to our government.  More important, we can clean out the Congress that since the election of Barack Obama has eroded the integrity of the legislature and the trust of the American people.  It took a dirty Congress to create the atmosphere that spewed forth a Donald Trump, but we the people can clean it out.  We have done it before.

Yes, our country has survived ugly times before.  We will do it again.  I believe that Trump fatigue is a treatable disease.

George W. Bush didn't last forever.  Even Hitler didn't last forever.  And our democracy is strong, with millions fighting all in our own way.  When we come back from this, we will come back stronger still. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Success: Democrats' Best-Kept Secret

Once, not too long ago, CNN and MSNBC carried news about Russia, all day every day.  Then hurricane season hit, and now we have Russia and Harvey, Russia and Irma, Russia and Maria.  And every now and then we hear about confederate general wannabe Jefferson Sessions and the human rights he is working to rid us of, and the republican Congress' umpteenth bill proposing to take health care away from Americans, and Kim Jong Un's latest missile test with subsequent threats and insults by our bully-in-chief.

Discouraging as that may be, there has been good news.  It may be the best kept secret in America but for Donald Trump's taxes, but there have been special elections across the country, and it looks like our protests and demonstrations are paying off.  If only someone would tell the Democratic Party.

Back in the spring, we actually had a special election that made national news.  In a solidly republican district in Georgia, apparently where IQ's are higher than most, Hillary had lost to Trump by only one percent.  Encouraged by that fact, a young man named Jon Ossoff garnered so much excitement that people who had once been afraid to put out lawn signs for Democrats were now campaigning door-to-door.  When republicans got wind of this excitement -- and while they suck at governing, republicans are really, really good at sniffing out the political winds -- they went all in against Ossoff.  Oppo research went into high gear, ads that were so nasty Mitch McConnell could only look on in envy.  Trump did a robocall telling republican voters to protect their right to not have Democrats be part of the electoral process in Georgia's 6th.

And despite Karen Handel's relative unpopularity, she won.  But despite all the dirty attacks against Ossoff in a staunchly republican district, he only lost by four percent.

And even more significant, in a race in South Carolina that went pretty much under the radar, Archie Parnell lost to his republican opponent by just about the same margin.  Here!  In South Carolina!  With little acknowledgement or help from the national party.

Well, if the situation had been reversed and these were republican losses in Democratic districts, the republican party would be celebrating a huge win.  We would have heard for days, maybe weeks, about what an upset had just occurred.  But what happened?  Democrats wondered if Ossoff was too young.  They worried that they hadn't done enough in SC's 5th.  In a masterly irony-free comment, the ever invisible state hero, Jim Clyburn, said,

"I don’t think we had the campaign that was designed to win," said Clyburn. "If we had gotten the resources, I think we would have won."

Ya think?

A week or so ago, I got an email from Ryan Grim who writes at The Intercept.  It had some amazing news...

A Democrat stunned in a special election in Oklahoma last night. In November, Trump won this state legislative district by 11 points, and Jacob Rosecrants, the Democratic candidate, lost his election by 20 points. Last night, Rosecrants -- the very same guy -- ran again in the special, and upset his opponnent by 20I'll do the math for you: that's a 40-point swing.
It's the third special election Democrats have flipped in Oklahoma (!) since November -- and in a fourth, in May, they lost a race by two points in a district that Trump had carried by 50. (That’s not a typo; it was a 48-point swing.)
And in New Hampshire, in a 29-point swing, Democrats flipped another district. (There are like five gazillion members of the New Hampshire legislature, so I wasn’t paying close attention to that one.)
In the race I was watching closest, in Mississippi, there were reports of people -- many students -- showing up to the polls and being told they were no longer registered. The Democrat, Kathryn Rehner, finished second, but forced a runoff election in October. If you know anybody who lives in Hattiesburg, Miss., forward them this email and tell them to get in touch with me if they were turned away at the polls. (And tell them to sign up while they're at it.)
El-Yateem, the democratic socialist running for city council in New York, lost by 7 points.

Apparently, the Democratic Party has decided to keep the good news under their hats.  Now, some of you who do more serious news watching than I do may have heard of these victories somewhere, but please keep in mind that most voters just don't go beyond the headlines.  And these victories were not headlines.

Be aware that these are state and local elections, not national.  What is important about this is what we have been learning since November:  that we need to fight on the state and local level; that when we change the fight on the local level, it moves up to the national level.  Keep in mind that the abhorrent attack on redistricting could only have happened in states where republicans controlled the drawing of the maps.  And 2020 will be the election that determines who will draw the next census districts.

If the Democratic Party celebrated the narrow losses in once-republican districts as well as all those local victories, eventually the voters who don't have time to read the fine print will start to recognize that something important is going on, and the republican party is on the wrong side of it.

And believe me, it will convey to national elections, which is something republicans have known all along, or at least since the Kochs, Art Pope and ALEC recognized it and started throwing their money at local elections.

Our SC state party has begun to send out informative emails about upcoming candidates as well as those who are already in the Statehouse fighting for us.  If you aren't on their email list, go to their website and sign up.  I've been very excited to see them move away from their "Give $3" fund-raising emails to actually informing us about issues and individuals.

On the other hand, the national party continues to hide out, which I suppose is preferable to all that public hand-wringing.  My philosophy has become throw all my support and enthusiasm behind all those great candidates, and don't expect much from the party.  They may figure it out someday, but the excitement comes before the money.

There are a couple of national campaigns I've recently heard about.

In Texas, besides having a really great name, Beto O'Rourke has decided to take on the evil Ted Cruz.  A friend alerted me to him via a link describing what is becoming a famous road trip.  O'Rourke took a congressional seat away from a long-time republican incumbent, and looks like he could actually do it again against Cruz.  He has a strong personality and a strong progressive message.  What he doesn't have is Ted Cruz' wealthy donors.

Two things about that.  Social media has been proving to be more powerful than big bucks.  And Jon Ossoff proved that when the message is right, we will find the money.

And maybe it is better these days to not be controlled by a twitchy party.  I read an article a few weeks ago talking about all the great people who are stepping up to run for office in 2018.  The article talked about how they made the pilgrimage to the national party office to ask for support, which the party made clear was contingent upon their fund-raising ability.

Pardon my French, but fuck that.

While they obsess about why Democratic voters have stopped responding to the deluge of fund-raising emails, they seem to have no clue as to why Democratic voters have stopped going out to vote.  So, candidates first.  First, last and in the middle. Candidates with a message that puts the 99 percent ahead of the one percent should not have to make raising funds for the big dogs part of all the hard work they are having to do to be heard.

Candidates need to be fearless.  They need to know that the closer they come to being heard, the dirtier their opponents will stoop.  They need to incorporate that into their campaign, as in, "The reason my opponent's party is attacking me is because he knows I can win.  They know I am going to fight for you, and that you know I am going to fight for you.  Their special interests have lots more money than me, and they will do anything to keep us from talking about the issues.  I am not going to let that happen."

And our candidates need to resist the party message of cautiousness.  That is how republicans divide us.  They have used abortion and gay rights to throw shade on the real issues of individual rights and income disparity.  In January, Indivisible led the way to a movement in which our unity gave us power.  We have let that unity work for us in our fight for health care and against the Muslim ban, for transgender and reproductive rights, for DACA and voting rights and environmental rights.  We can get the candidates who reflect that unity elected.  We just have to show up and be heard.

We can help by letting everyone via email, on Facebook, Twitter and all those other social media outlets that I haven't yet gotten to, know right now about those great people who are considering running.  We need to show up at their debates and rallies, and we need to get them in the news on local TV and the newspaper.

I would like to end by talking about the other potential candidate, one who has me pretty excited.

Annabelle Robertson is an employment discrimination attorney.  She is also founder of Indivisible South Carolina.  Today she is contemplating a 2018 run against US House Representative Joe Wilson.  You may recall that he made it to national fame by yelling "You lie!" during Barack Obama's speech to Congress in 2009.  What was less well-known is that it was Wilson who was lying, and that he later apologized to Obama for his crude outburst.  He may have been wrong, and he may have apologized, but he has done lots of fund-raising on that undignified act.  Not only did those two words reflect a new low in respect for the office of the president, but once again made South Carolina a laughingstock on the national stage.

Robertson represents everything the Democratic Party should stand for, as reflected in Indivisible.  And the icing on the cake is that she is a really smart woman.  So we need to a) encourage her to run, b) support her any and every way we can, c) get the word out.

The naysayers may be out there, but you know what I say to them.