Monday, March 19, 2018

Deciding Who to Throw Under the Bus

We know who republicans are fighting for:  the wealthy and the Christian right-wing.  That unholy alliance was formed to help Reagan get elected and was such a resounding success that despite seeming to be totally at odds, the two groups have gone on to be famous lovers.

On the Democratic side, we try to do the right thing, but we get so damned confused.  We want to win -- not for our own gratification of course, but because that's the only way we can do good.  It is easy to manipulate us by accusing us of, gee, almost anything; just toss out an attack and watch us scurry around in confused agitation, like a disturbed ant hill.

It is with some amusement that I have been observing David Brooks, who of late has determined to advise Dems on how to best succeed.  In a recent column he suggests that on gun control we blue people should be more empathetic towards those red folks, and let them take the lead.  In another special piece of mansplaining entitled "The Abortion Memo", he tells us that if we don't do some compromising on abortion restrictions, then we are letting Donald Trump win.  And, after all, going along with something like the twenty week abortion ban doesn't affect all that many women.

Democrat Conor Lamb just won a special election in a district that had belonged to Trump not too long ago.  In the wake of which, as described in a brilliant article by Charlie Pierce, David Brooks obfuscates into a win as a result of a move toward the center.  Pierce says, "This attempt to drag Conor Lamb into David Brooks' Cloud Cuckoo Land of Responsible Centrism is simply a load."

From the White House we have the brute-in-chief, who is always happy to tell "Schumer and Pelosi" what they need to do to make their party happy.

Enough from the republican chorus.  It takes second guessing from our own party and candidates' advisors to really put a damper on that whole liberty and justice for all thing.  If you plan on running for office on a truly progressive agenda, you are going to be facing a whole lot of squishy Democratic opinions about why you can't do that and win.  You are just going to have to hide those lefty beliefs, embrace those on the other side, and make some compromises.

What it all comes down to, this compromise business, is who we Democrats agree to throw under the bus in our race to the finish line.  And there are so very many Americans and issues to choose from.

For example, we might support Dreamers.  In fact, Dreamers are very popular.  But we might just want to be a little more agreeable about closing that Mexican border.  We could beef up security, spend more money on patrol agents and build just a little bit of a wall.  (And let's not make a big deal out of all those families being deported, and especially about the children being separated from their parents.  Oh, and let's not get into defending sanctuary cities; that's just too messy.) 

How about that Muslim ban?  We know it's a bad idea to close our borders, and it's not just the melting pot, "give me your tired, your poor" thing.  It's bad for business.  But the courts are fighting it out.  (And if our candidates make too big a deal out of it, it is just going to scare those Christians on the other side.)

Teachers.  We have heard our democratic candidates say all the same safe words about teachers.  It is so important that we praise teachers for their important hard work that there is even a website with "Words to Thank a Teacher."  (But we don't want to get into what it would cost to pay a teacher what they are worth, or provide them the environment and supplies and support that they need to do their jobs better and with less stress.)  In fact, one of our own SC Democratic candidates for governor is these days saying we should get rid of 1/3 of our teachers.

Which brings us to an even more explosive four-letter-word:  Unions.  (Oh, please don't let anyone ask about unions, please, please, please, please.  Because then I'll have to say I support unions, but people who don't "believe in them" shouldn't have to pay for them, and then union members will get angry at me and then...)

Taxes.  The republicans have long ago taken ownership of the phrase "lower taxes and better government services."  The fact that republicans that lower taxes invariably cut needed services doesn't seem to dispel the magic of the promise.  But does it?  Maybe candidates that fearlessly talk about the cost of inadequate taxation... (If I talk about taxes, I'll be called a tax and spend Democrat, so maybe I just won't say anything.)

Women's health care.  Health care.  Abortion.  If you recall, back during the Obamacare "debate," big republican donors paid for a huge astroturf campaign, much like the Russian trolls spurred in 2016, revving up the American people with fears that the government was going to kill their grandmas with their death panels, and the government was going to spy on their doctor appointments.  They even gave them bag lunches and put them on buses en route to protests.   Well, women are dying from inadequate access to health care, and our government wants to tell our doctors what they can say to us about our reproductive health and dictate and monitor our care.  Texas has closed so many clinics that over recent years the maternal mortality rate has been likened to that of a third world country.  The highest in the nation, they had no recourse but to... re-interpret the data.  Still the highest mortality rate in the country, but not as high as they thought.  (But I'll be very careful not to sound as though I'm "pro-abortion."  And make sure that I agree with the sanctity of life, and just get back to saying mothers and babies need better health care.  And hope nobody notices.) 

AND guns.  Maybe our Democratic politicians could stop prefacing every statement on gun control with, "I believe in the Second Amendment" or by telling us how old they were when they first went hunting with their daddy.  The numbers of  shootings in this country, mass and otherwise,  is obscene.  We can all agree that we have to do something about it.  We can take a tough stand against the NRA when it comes to bump stocks and AR-15's and background checks, because poll after poll has shown that this is supported by the vast majority of Americans.  (But stay away from registering guns, or making laws about safe use; we sure don't want anyone to think we are planning on restricting their God-given -- I mean constitutional -- right to carry a gun.) 

Oh, I could go on.  There are so many minefields, and so much opportunity for republican opponents to attack us Democrats for taking a stand.  And so much potential for in-fighting.  But there are minority rights and individual rights and constitutional rights being eroded, and we are the ones who must turn that tide.

If we don't stand up for every single one who is affected by those issues, if we are willing to sell out one woman who may at some future time need a third-trimester abortion, or ignore one immigrant whose family is being torn apart, if we allow our unions to be undermined and our workers underpaid and unprotected, we are not who we claim to be.

A smart candidate in Trump's failed America should be able to explain why it is good for us all to welcome immigrants, support women's reproductive rights, and restrict access to guns.  We should also be able to explain the difference between responsible taxation and burdening the middle class.

Yes, voters are often tempted to follow the shiny object:  the biggest mouth, the most brazen promises.  But we have had special elections this year where fearless candidates fought against the lies and the fearmongering, and they have won.

Don't let anyone convince you that the way to victory is through caution.  Let us not throw anyone or any group under the bus in the cause of victory.  Not this year. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018


I turned on the TV last night, and there was that crazed, ugly man screeching.  "And more people like me now than they did before the election."  Or some such bullshit.  I turned him off.  But I knew that, even though all the polls say otherwise, his lie about his popularity had its impact.  The ugly crowd loved it.  And because of that, it chilled the rest of us.

Oh, yes, we have laughed at the stupidity of those who believed his lies.  But they voted for him, and there he is.  Which makes us feel really vulnerable.  And when Dems feel vulnerable, we just might do some dumb things.

Yes, the Trump base is easily manipulated; his right-wing fans, led by their fear and envy will follow child molesters and indeed, continue to love Trump if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue.  But we liberals are also easily manipulated, by using our values and our guilt against us.  We don't have to look farther than the Clintons to see the truth to that.

Way back when Bill was governor and running for president, the right wing tried to nail him on his obfuscations and infidelities.  When that didn't work, they shifted just a tad to his wife.  And they hit the jackpot.  Not because she was guilty of a damned thing, but because she was a woman, and a strong one who fought for the ideals the right wing hated.  They couldn't win on the sex stuff, or the not-inhaling business, but they scored with Hillary's legal career and business dealings.  And they took down as many people close to her as they could.

Again, not because she was found guilty of anything.  The attacks and innuendos worked every time, for thirty years.  Was she the smartest crook for getting away with the crimes they had been accusing her of all these years?  Or was she just the nerviest criminal, getting away with dirty dealings in plain sight?  The result of thirty years of accusations is that we Dems forgot who Hillary actually is and felt uneasy about her; we couldn't tell you why, but we just didn't trust her.  Or we remembered that we heard something about something she did that was shady.

Instead of remembering her lifelong battle for children's health and her fight to bring independence to women in third world countries, we remember that we laughed at her pantsuits and changing hairstyles.  We criticized her for staying with Bill, and you know we would have criticized her for leaving him.  But the fact that she had financial dealings made it so much easier to accuse her of crimes, to question her honesty in every sphere of her life.  To walk away feeling that there was just... something... we didn't trust about her.

And during the 2016 election season, instead of listening to her speeches, we listened to every damn pundit talk about how she was as unpopular as Donald Trump, and we watched as the media flooded us with Trump's campaign rants and Hillary's email investigation.  Remember when CNN and MSNBC carried Hillary's stump speech live?  No, you don't, because it didn't happen.  It didn't take a bot or a troll to turn our heads; whatever possessed James Comey to publicly carry water for the republican email witch hunt (and we have yet to find out what exactly motivated him to go so far against his principles and the law), the media was happy to spread the bad news. 

A few years ago, there was a guy who was beginning a campaign to run against Lindsey Graham.  He was smart, he was funny, he was unafraid.  And you know that he had to go.  It didn't take much.  Rumor had it that he wasn't even from here, and that he had had some shady financial dealings, and -- oh my god -- he had pranked some republican or other.

In the same circumstances, republicans would have ignored the "accusations," or laughed at them, or defended them.  But we Dems wouldn't let our guy run.  We couldn't stop him, but we damned sure wouldn't help him.  To the point, I am still embarrassed to say, that he was not allowed to come and introduce himself to a group where candidates had always been invited to stop by.

A few days ago, I was talking to a friend about the candidate who is running against Joe Wilson.  You remember Joe Wilson, the ignorant piece of work that shouted "You lie!" at president Obama during a speech to Congress.  He is being opposed by the most wonderful woman you could imagine:  smart, strong, activist, and someone who stands up for our values and our lives.  My friend's problem was that she had heard that she was once a republican.

If that is all it takes to back off from supporting a Democratic candidate, we can honestly say that we are doing the work of our opponents for them.

I can't get very excited about the bots and trolls crawling around Facebook.  The Russians aren't doing any more to us than actual republicans have been doing to us since Reagan's handlers brought together big business and the moral majority, the latter of which was neither moral nor a majority of anything other than bigots.

We could use a good dash of cynicism, and a lot more intelligence as we approach the 2018 election.

We have so much information at our fingertips, there is no reason we should be spreading rumors.  And when we run across something that sounds suspect, it takes seconds to go to Google and look for confirmation.  We know the major media outlets and, yes they have biases and make mistakes, but they are the fastest way to discount a blatant lie.  And when media gets a detail wrong, let them know it.

Candidates have Facebook pages and websites.  They are often on Youtube.  If you hear something about a candidate that makes you wonder, check it out, don't just spread it around.

And most important, we need to remind ourselves what we are doing here.  We are voting for candidates that will work to promote issues we believe are important.  We are not voting for the candidate with the least controversial college years, or the one who has never made a mistake.  We are voting for people who will go to county council or the statehouse or congress and fight for all of us.  And should our candidate lose the primary, we need to fight just as hard for second best, because second best is going to be a whole lot better than what the other party is offering.

The republicans know they could lose their power in November.  What republicans do when they are afraid they are going to lose is, they double down.  They fight with more viciousness and greater lies.  And because we are a country being ruled by billionaires, there is lots of money being funneled into the coffers of anyone willing to do their bidding.

We need look no further than the ridiculous and ugly ads that were run against Jon Ossof last year, when republicans realized the seat wasn't going to be easily won.  And, for those of us who weren't so easily manipulated by videos of college parties, they horrified us by pointing out that Ossof lived just outside the district in which he was running!

Archie Parnell's special election campaign ran pretty much under the radar, and to our delight, he lost by only 3 points.  He is running again in November, and now he has the attention of the republican party.  And they will throw everything they've got at him.  I imagine they will start with attacking him for being a Goldman Sachs elite.  Oh, the irony, but it works every time.  Just like accusing someone of having been a republican works just as well as accusing someone of being a liberal.

Much as the right wing has promoted the fiction that Hillary is crooked, they have spent years frightening republican voters with the image of Nancy Pelosi and her liberal -- read, evil -- agenda.  Mark Sanford did it when he had to run against a smart woman a few years ago.  Couldn't have possibly beaten her on the issues, so he ran against Pelosi.  And NOT the issues Pelosi represents.  He ran against a woman that the republican party had invented over the years as a symbol of the devil.  You know, like they do with Hillary and Elizabeth Warren.

I recently watched supporters of accused pedophile Roy Moore state proudly that they would support him over a Democrat, the word spoken in a tone that clearly implied sins far worse that pedophilia.  I see that we have tried to move away from the word "liberal" and we on the left are preferring to call ourselves progressives.  Until the right-wing focuses their laser linguistic experts on it at least. 

We have let the right wing control our message through their  attacks and innuendos.  Yes, those repeated attacks make their supporters more unthinkingly and rabidly loyal.  And they make us on the receiving end defensive and queasy.  We find ourselves backing away from Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi, two of the strongest defenders of Democratic values.  We also lost Congress because candidates backed off from Obama, believing the hype that the Affordable Care Act fight had rendered him toxic.

We don't need to convert Trump supporters to win in 2018.  We need to find candidates that will fight for all of us and throw our support behind them.  That means we need to know where they stand on the issues, and not be manipulated by the rumor mills, whether they come from Russian trolls or republican trolls.

We need to encourage debate throughout the primary season, because here in South Carolina, that is the way we Dems will be heard.  We need to cheer on the candidates who have the courage to step up to run knowing that they will have to fight rumors and lies, and knowing how hard it will be to even be heard.  And after the primaries, dammit, we need to get together and fight for the winner.

Hone your instincts.  If you hear something that doesn't sound right, check it out.  And keep going back to the reason we are doing this.  We aren't voting for best looking or best personality.  This is about our values.  This is about rights that have been decimated, and about taking them back.  This is too important for us to allow ourselves to be manipulated.  And we are better than that.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Being Pro-Life

Last week I read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood for the first time.  It was published in 1985, and found itself suddenly on the best seller list after the election of Donald Trump.  In this dystopian future, corporate greed and science run amok have caused massive infertility.  Religious extremists have banned pornography and forced those women who are capable to breed for the higher class of women who are infertile.  Ironically, Mary McCarthy reviewed it in the Times in 1986 and found it "powerless to scare."  I imagine if I had read it in '85 it would have made me angry.  Now that I am older and have an adult daughter, in the era of Trump when every day results in another horrific attack on liberties, it made me enormously sad.

At the same time, I happened upon an essay by Gloria Steinem from 1980 entitled, "If Hitler Were Alive, Whose Side Would He Be On?"  Gains by women in the Weimar Republic, increased freedom to work and access to abortion, were immediately eradicated by Hitler.  In the U.S. in 1973,  Roe v. Wade produced an immediate backlash, with the first anti-abortion law, attacking the poor by denying Medicaid funding for abortion.  We have seen that the anti-abortion movement, which never goes away, becomes more fervent whenever women's rights grow.  During the Obama presidency, we saw gains in access to contraception along with victories in the fight for employment equality.  The Trump backlash, led by old white men like Lindsey Graham, grows in fervor as the women's rights movement has taken on renewed energy, and the #MeToo movement seeks to hold men responsible for sexual assault and harassment.

So here we are in 2018 with minorities and the poor being attacked by the federal government, from DACA to Muslim immigrants, to attempts to do away with the minimum wage.  And front and center are the legislative assaults on women's reproductive rights.  Right-wing states' rights advocates are pushing federal twenty-week abortion bans, falsely named "pain-capable."  Personhood bills are cropping up like kudzu, along with new and improved twisted bills like "dismemberment abortion ban," which would prohibit second trimester abortions.  Be horrified but don't be surprised to learn that Trump appointee Scott Lloyd proposed something called an "abortion reversal" in order to stop a teenage detainee from completing an abortion already in progress.

And conservative darling David Brooks weighed in last week, offering his unsolicited advice to Democrats, suggesting that we go along with the twenty-week abortion ban because it affects so few women and we could trade them for something else we wanted to get done, I assume something more important than those few women wrestling with the tragedy of fetal abnormalities.  

Under the heading, With Friends Like These...: Bernie Sanders campaigns for an anti-abortion candidate.  And in 2018, we in South Carolina have a Democratic candidate for governor who proposes registering pregnant women "so the state can track their offspring and offer services if their children are not thriving."  This in a state that refused Medicaid expansion and wants to enforce work rules for anyone seeking public assistance.  I shudder to imagine what "services" would be offered.

I have talked ad nauseum about the twenty-week abortion ban, and its basis in false science.  I have ranted about a movement that calls itself "pro-life" but opposes health care for all and gun regulation.  A movement that claims to be for the family but cheers on the separation and deportation of immigrants.

How did we EVER allow this movement to get away with calling itself "pro-life" anyway?  The evil wordsmiths of the right wing have created fabrications of language that would make George Orwell blush.  Paul Ryan's "American Health Care Act" was designed to take health care away from millions of Americans.  Whenever you hear a republican talk about "gun safety" you can bet they are going to get behind whatever jackass bill the NRA hands them, and that bill will allow (or require) more guns in public places, across state lines, on college campuses, in elementary schools.

And you can bet that they all call themselves "pro-life."

It is time to take back the label "pro-life."

I am pro-life.  I believe women and children -- and men for that matter -- should all have good health care.  We live in a country of great wealth, that few of us see.  Without leaving the Koch brothers homeless we could increase their taxes and provide health care for all.

I am pro-life.  I believe that guns and gun owners should be registered, that background checks should be required.  I believe that guns do not belong on the streets, and assault weapons do not belong anywhere outside of a licensed shooting range.  I believe that police officers as well as children playing in their front yards or attending school as well as someone drinking in a bar deserve the right to be safe from an unstable individual with a gun.

I am pro-life.  I believe that women have the right to decide how to care for their bodies, privately and with the advice of a licensed physician.  Period.  In a country where "a man's home is his castle" and George Zimmerman was allowed to "stand his ground" and shoot an unarmed teenager and collect his gun on the way out of the courtroom, you are NOT allowed to legislate a woman's contraception or pregnancy.  There is not an abortion epidemic; there is an epidemic of violence against women, and attacks on reproductive freedom are part of that assault.  There is nothing "Christian" about the "Christian right."  They more resemble the Taliban than Christianity.

I am pro-life.  I respect the right of women to choose to give birth.  I completely respect and admire women who choose to give birth despite fetal abnormalities, or other hardship.  It takes a strength I don't have, and nobody has the right to make that decision for the pregnant woman.  I do not respect those few who have said that they made a mistake by having an abortion, so they choose to prevent other women from making their mistake.  Likewise, if there is a God, she/he made it so that if you choose to have an abortion, you get to do it again when you're ready, so stop talking about all the babies we could have had in the world.  If I had not had an abortion in 1973, I would not have my two wonderful children today. 

There are a lot of different rationales for being anti-abortion.  Those billionaires who fund our right-wing legislators mostly don't really care about abortion; they mostly like the distraction it causes while they pillage and plunder workers and the environment.  Lindsey Graham knows it is a dog whistle that will keep his right-wing base from championing a more extreme primary opponent and keep the big donors happy.

Right-wing Christians entertain so many twisted rationales for their beliefs that it would be impossible to generalize.  Fact free and projected from their own needs and fears, you can find the Rapture Ready, those that believe pregnancy is God's punishment for sex, and those that believe that the fetus is a little tiny baby with an erection that can pleasure itself and feel pain and that is going to be cut up into pieces with full awareness during an abortion.  If that latter image horrifies you, that is exactly its intent.

The anti-abortion movement is mostly powered by those who will keep poor and minority women -- and girls -- from being able to determine their own lives.  This is why, despite all the moaning about killing babies, these same people oppose free contraception, accurate sexual and reproductive health education in the schools, and health clinics like Planned Parenthood that provide reproductive care apart from abortion.  It is the 21st century rendition of keeping them (us) barefoot and in the kitchen.

And this is not just about women.  Smart men know that preventing women from controlling their own reproductive lives can throw an entire family into turmoil.  Not able to work to their potential.  Inadequate time or finances for the rest of the family.  The stress of having to live with a pregnancy; the stress of knowing there are options out there, but you have been prohibited from taking them.

In America, we are prohibiting women from options that are available to the rest of the developed world.  In Canada, Justin Trudeau has recently reaffirmed his commitment to reproductive rights, despite conservative protest.  When we take part in the phony dialogue about when abortion is acceptable, we are agreeing that women are incapable of determining their own paths.

When I was young, Catholics were taking a lot of crap for their large families, and Prescott Bush worked to support Planned Parenthood; later, George H.W. Bush crusaded in Congress for family planning funding.  Back then, they knew that unwanted pregnancies were a drain on resources, but now we have a government that believes it is worth the waste to keep the poor struggling.  With government assistance cut down to bare bones, a poor woman won't get contraceptive care, and when she gets pregnant, can't get an abortion, so she -- and her child -- will spend their lives living hand to mouth.  They won't be able to hold a job much less keep their children well fed and healthy.

Pro-life?  Bullshit.  It is time to take it back.  Time to say:  I am pro-choice because I am pro-life.

It is time to stop drawing lines in the sand for pregnant women to struggle with.  It is none of your damned business.  Embryos and fetuses are not cute little miniature babies.  Viability is the false argument that began it all.  It doesn't matter if it is viable if it is inside a woman's body.  Late term abortions are rare and occur when there are severe fetal anomalies.  Only a woman should make that decision.  Using science or religion to create legislation to control a woman is unacceptable.  We are not incubators.

If you want to save lives, make gun safety laws, provide health care and good education, make sure the poor all have a roof over their heads.  Don't invent an epidemic that doesn't exist so that you can win elections.

For those of you who would like to learn more -- and I hope you do -- here are two excellent books:

Pro:  Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt

Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice by Dr. Willie Parker

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Ironic Cherry Reads... about the Nightmare at the DNC

The Inside Story of the Break-Ins
and Breakdowns that Put
Donald Trump in the White House
by Donna Brazile

I never trust the advance PR for a new political read.  Somebody takes a couple of fiery quotes and distorts the entire message of the book, invariably.  With the possible exception of Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury, which I have not yet read but imagine to be full of exactly the stuff the media ran away with.

So, despite never having been enamored with Donna Brazile, I picked up Hacks.  It is a solid reporting of the experience of running the Democratic National Committee during the Trump-created havoc of 2016.  She does begin by talking about the financial mess partially created by Obama and further entangled by Clinton's attempt to help (with benefits).  And she strains in trying to be fair in her narrative of Debbie Wasserman Schultz's chairing of the DNC.

She then goes on to talk about the young men who were running Hillary's campaign, and especially young guns like Robby Mook, who refused to work with Brazile to get funding for state campaigns.  My own knowledge of Mook was his heavy handed involvement in the Democratic primary for South Carolina's 5th Congressional District before the 2017 primary for the special election, so it was not hard to believe that he would consider his own opinion in higher regard than others with different views or greater experience.

With the financial mess and the appearance that Wasserman Schultz made decisions favoring Hillary over Bernie, and the ugly attacks that Trump made whenever he opened his mouth, the hacking of the DNC was the rot that Brazile had to fight throughout the remainder of the campaign.

The story of the Russian hacks and how she fought off the invasions is gripping.  She describes the innumerable and unimaginable ways the hacks affected the campaign:  the staff, the candidate, the American people.  Demoralizing and frightening, the hacks created a pervasive sense of fear in volunteers and paid staff; worse, Trump's verbal abuse opened the door to vicious attacks at home and in the office.  The murder of a young staffer in what appeared to be a botched robbery became fuel for the Fox News conspiracy machine.  This made it not just a tragedy but another outrage to endure during a nightmare campaign season.

Brazile provides a thorough accounting of the hacks as they were orchestrated throughout the campaign.  She notes that the email dumps were well-coordinated with Trump's invective, including his "Russia, if you're listening" remark.  Along with email hacks and strategic dumps, there was concern about wiretaps and bugs.  Threats by phone and online required increased security.

Brazile became the focus of hateful calls and threats after a questionable email purportedly from Brazile to the Hillary campaign was leaked.  The email provided a question that would be used at the upcoming town hall debate.  Brazile believes that the email was a fake, as she has no recollection of sending it and said she would never leak such information.  This faked email may have been cooked up after a false news story appeared accusing Brazile of giving Hillary questions before the first debate.  Though she searched each of her email accounts, Brazile never found the suspect email, but it profoundly affected her career; she was fired from CNN after a long career there as a political commentator.  She suffered enormously throughout the professional slander and following threats.

When I began the book, I thought that Donna Brazile's tendency to personalize the story of the DNC and the 2016 election would get in the way.  Rather, it was her emotional involvement throughout this excruciating and unprecedented assault that gives this narrative passion and meaning.  It was not the lies, the hacks, the bugs, the distortions that is the point:  it is the effect that these had on the lives of the people on the campaign.  And it is the effect that they had, in the end, on the voters.

Brazile's heartfelt message throughout is that we must stop this assault.  Our democracy cannot survive if we do not work together to prevent this from happening again.  She had no help from the RNC in attempting to stand up to the Russians, or to communicate that this was happening to the American people.  Today the republican Congress is doing all in their power to fight an investigation that seems to surely lead to Donald Trump and collusion with Russia to affect the outcome of the 2016 election.  Rather, today they continue to try to obfuscate and blame anyone who might uncover the truth.

With 2018 elections coming fast, we are made vulnerable, once again, by the failure of republican leaders to put country before themselves, and a president who has nothing to gain from an honest and thorough investigation.  If you want to gain an understanding of the intricate ways in which cyberwarfare can influence future elections, this is a good book to get you started.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Our Dysfunctional Family

A good friend and Democrat called me to account for myself yesterday.  She wanted to know, given the complaints I've made about the Democratic Party, why I didn't become more involved.  A fair question, but one that I have mulled over quite a bit, so I was happy to try to give her a good answer.

First of all, I am not a gregarious, or even terribly sociable, person.  I am content at home, working in the yard or curled up with a good book.  A few years ago, I began to attend Democratic functions.  In my fairly long life, I have done that from time to time, but never among such a group of committed, smart and strong women friends as I have here in Charleston.

For awhile it felt good.  I got to meet people that were running the Democratic Party, some candidates, and some who were in government.  But after a time, it became just something I had to do.  That's not on anybody but me.  It is who I am.

But I am also a retired psychologist and an avid reader.  I am committed to learning and observing, trying to make sense of the insanity that is politics, and writing to try to convey what I see in an effort to help turn the tide of corruption and deceit.  I stand somewhere between the typical voter and someone a bit more knowledgeable, so if I don't know that something is happening, chances are the typical voter doesn't know.  And as a life long Democrat, I would like to see a strong Party help us all move forward.

The "election" of Donald Trump was the last straw for women who have been used and abused by male politics.  From wages to reproductive rights to child health care, women have been the dog whistle of the right that nobody talks about.  And too often because of that, it is women that are thrown under the bus by Democrats.  There is no better proof of this than the fact that Bernie Sanders stumped for a candidate that, otherwise progressive, said he could not support a woman's right to an abortion.  Imagine a progressive supporting a candidate who admitted that he believed African-Americans should send their children to different schools, or that gay men and lesbians should not have the right to marry.

On January 20, the County Party held its organizational meeting.  You may recall that it was also the one-year anniversary of Trump's reign, and that on that Saturday a year ago, women marched in protest.  Maybe County Dems scheduled their meeting unaware of the conflict.  But wouldn't it have been something if they announced very publicly that they were changing the date so that we could all get to Brittlebank Park and support the women's movement?

It was the movement that began with the Women's March one year ago that has given voice to #MeToo.  I am neither surprised at those voices, nor am I surprised at the backlash.  The hashtag allowed women to speak up without fear of reprisal, but the next step is debate.  And the one after that is action -- consequences that protect the woman and send a message that a behavior is unacceptable.  Yes indeed, Roy Moore is a whole different can of worms (literally) than Al Franken, but our political stage acts out what is happening at fast food restaurants, high schools and homes throughout the country.  If the Congressional Ethics Committee really did its job, a hearing would have been the way to go, but for Franken to have gone through the charade and been given a slap on the wrist so that members of the Senate could continue to protect their own, it would have been wrong.

Women need to keep speaking up and speaking loudly, or this movement will never get past Hollywood and Washington, to the women without power who need it most.

There are an awful lot of more subtle ways that women are getting pushed aside, and if we are unwilling to look at our own state politics, we are not going to move forward.  Thanks to groups like Emerge America in South Carolina, women are being not just encouraged but assisted in their decision to run for office.  Women are leading, but if men ignore or minimize the candidates in South Carolina, our voters will select the man in the primary, and general election voters will choose "R."  That's on the state Democratic Party.  The one that, to my knowledge, has never been led by a woman.

Republicans know how to message their sick policies, and they know how to unite behind that message.  The other thing they really know how to do is choose their tokens.  Nikki Haley, both a minority and a woman, killed two birds with one stone.  She is smart and attractive, and knows how to toe the Party line, with style.  The republican party knew that putting up a woman would defuse criticism of sexism in the party, just as parading Tim Scott neutralizes accusations of racism and eases any feelings of guilt by white republican voters.

Lately, in fact just over a week ago, Nancy Mace won the race for state house representative for District 99 against Cindy Boatwright.  Nancy is Nikki in the making.  A woman who made a name for herself at the Citadel and has been polishing her conservative image ever since.  When she was unable to defeat Lindsey Graham as a challenge from the right, she settled for moving down to state politics.  Before she moves up again.  And the republican party is going to groom and support her any way they can, because she is going to do their bidding, happily, when she wins.

Could the State Democratic Party have done more (anything) to help Boatwright?  They think not.  And yet we Dems know we are on the right side of the issues.  And we know that far too many voters stay home, too many don't even know there is an election, and surely don't believe it matters.  Where there was a solid get-out-the-vote grassroots movement, here in Charleston, Boatwright won the votes.  Did the County Democratic Party help make the difference in Charleston?

Republicans don't back off when the evidence shows they can't win.  They double down.  And sometimes they win.  If they don't win, they make sure we all know it was some sort of victory anyway.

Brian Hicks wrote a brilliant and hysterical opinion piece yesterday about the republican race for governor here in South Carolina.  You may not be surprised to hear that the primary contestants promise to provide a clown show.  The issues for us should be clear, the republican positions ridiculous.  On the other hand, every-damn-one in South Carolina will know who they are.  As we should have learned from Donald Trump, the only bad publicity is no publicity.

For Democrats in South Carolina, unless the Party steps up with TV ads, billboards, and well publicized events, our candidates will be the best kept secret of 2018.  And that will be a shame.  Great candidates -- and we are fortunate to have lots of them this year -- still need help making headlines.  It would be a shame if, when states like Alabama are able to send a Democrat to the Senate, we are unable to change the color of our local, state and federal government.

We need leaders who are unafraid to shout out the issues and point out the hypocrisies of their republican opponents.  We need the ugly antics in the State House and in Congress made public, daily.  Fund raising emails might work better if they are linked to a candidate; otherwise we are going to donate directly -- if at all.  Issues and republican Newspeak need to be explained -- for example, republicans should not be allowed to do the damage to small businesses they get away with while claiming they are the party of small business.

Boeing and Mark Sanford understand that voters still watch TV.  Even as I fast-forward through commercials on the DVR'd local news I can't miss the polished anti-union or pro-candidate messaging from the right.  Debates -- primary and general -- get the name and the message out.  It was shameful that in 2014, PBS refused to air a debate between Brad Hutto and Lindsey Graham; the forum that was aired instead of a debate allowed Graham the upper hand and was so polite as to be ineffectual.  I truly hope that does not happen this year.  We need our party to push for debates anywhere and everywhere they can put our candidates' faces and ideas in front of the public.

Mark Sanford and Tim Scott know when to show up.  And how to get publicity.  And when to stay quiet.  And they have republican staff that knows how to get their names in headlines in the Post & Courier, and in the local Beaufort and Myrtle Beach newspapers.  They have buffed their down-home images so that every white haired lady except me and my friends believes there isn't a day that they don't do a good work for the people of South Carolina.

I may be wrong.  If candidates believe they are getting what they need from our Democratic Party, I would like to know.  I would also like to know what candidates believe the Party could do for them in 2018.  This, like #MeToo, is a talk we need to have.  Because, more than anything, dysfunctional families need to talk.   

Friday, January 12, 2018

Make a Difference on January 16!

Last year we marched.  This year we vote.

And we can start to turn the tide in our state legislature on Tuesday, January 16.  Cindy Boatwright is running for South Carolina House District 99.

District 99: From Hanahan and Goose Creek to Mount Pleasant

You can find out if you are in District 99, and where you should go to vote here.

This is a great opportunity to start to move our legislature, and our state, forward.  2018 is going to be a year that Democrats can go from almost winning to moving from red to blue.

And why is this important?

2020 will be the next census year.  Republicans knew in 2010 that control of state legislatures was critical to controlling Congress, because that is typically who determines district lines after the census.  By turning a few key races red, republicans were able to create district maps to favor their own party.  This is done by packing a few districts with Democrats, and spreading out republicans across more districts.

This is how my own District 1 became District 6, so that my vote would be cast for the overwhelmingly elected Jim Clyburn, and I would not be able to vote in a potentially more contested District 1 (against Mark Sanford).  Here is how the 2012 gerrymandering in South Carolina is explained by Daily Kos:

  Proposed South Carolina non-partisan congressional map.
Interactive version • District summary stats
Drawn by: Republican governor and legislature
Intended to Favor: Republicans
Delegation: 1 Democrat, 6 Republicans
2012 Vote: Obama 44, Romney 55
Summary: Republicans effectively maximized their seats
Net Change: Democrats gain one seat
There is no need for the VRA 6th District to contain parts of both Charleston and Columbia, as this was solely done to pack Democrats. By dropping Columbia from the 6th, the metro area fits neatly into the 2nd District. It is possible to draw the 6th without any part of Charleston in it, but this causes the 7th District to become quite ugly. Furthermore, the 1st would still lean Republican even with all of Charleston.
The impact of this map is that the 6th remains strongly Democratic, while the party gains the 2nd District. Republican Rep. Joe Wilson had a relatively poor performance even in 2010 in his gerrymandered district after the incident where he shouted "You lie!" at the president during a speech before Congress. It is highly unlikely that Wilson would have been able to win a seat Obama carried by 3.2 percent. All five of the other seats would remain strongly Republican.

(from Daily Kos, June 17, 2015) 

But that is only one reason to get out and vote on Tuesday.  The other important reason is the candidate and where she stands on the issues.

Cindy Boatwright has specific plans to correct the problems in our state.  From fighting corruption in state government to taking on the opioid epidemic, from improving education to making our streets, homes and schools safe from gun violence, from protecting our environment while creating incentives for small businesses, Cindy knows what will work and what will improve our lives in South Carolina.

By comparison, Nancy Mace, who unsuccessfully primaried Lindsey Graham in 2014, actually ran against President Obama.  In other words, she is a right-wing republican who will say whatever it takes to win.  On actual issues, she really doesn't have any new ideas.  Scratch the surface of her concerns about issues from environment to education and you will find Donald Trump and the republican party:  deregulation and low taxes, while cutting protections for workers and safety nets for seniors and the poor.

While her statements on the issues remain vague, one thing is certain:  Nancy Mace will work hard to get ahead in the republican party.

If you are thinking about not going out to vote, let me assure you, your vote counts.  In Virginia, a house seat was lost by one vote, resulting in continued control of the House by republicans.

Let us not be shaking out heads and saying to one another on Wednesday, "So close...."

There will be lots of people who you know who have no idea there is an important election on Tuesday.  There will be others who don't know the candidates or the issues.  This is your chance to make a difference here in South Carolina, and in your community.  Spread the word, and get out and vote.



SC House District 99

Tuesday, January 16

Last Year We Marched.  This Year We Vote!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Bigger Than Yours

Yesterday and today the twitter world, as well as major media like The New York Times, is all abuzz with the words of a really stupid, sexually inadequate bully.  The fact that those words have the power of the presidency of the United States behind it is shameful.

Despite the media's vows after the 2016 election to be more responsible in their reporting, it is impossible to tune into any media outlet, social or otherwise, without be overwhelmed with the obsession with Donald Trump.  And it's not that they are uncovering anything new.  It is the same crap with different names, the same strutting with different symbols for the same miniscule body part.

Yesterday he was demanding an investigation of Huma Abedin.  He continues to insist on investigating James Comey and Hillary Clinton, just as shortly after being sworn in he insisted that Barack Obama be investigated for wiretapping White House phones.  These insane accusations are not just the rants of an insane world leader -- which they are.  They are also the kind of attacks a bully makes when he is most afraid of being caught.

Sadly, this bullshit has had the effect of capturing headlines and focusing editorials and panels on the absurd tweets and ruminations on what this all means.  We have spent hours going over whether Donald Trump has deep motives and intentions, whether there is something going on in the big head that houses that tiny reptilian brain other than diverting attention away from his own crimes and the fear of being caught.

Donald Trump did not start attacking innocent people with ridiculous accusations when he took that escalator on June 16, 2015.  He has spent his entire life deflecting questions about his own adequacy by attacking others, at times seemingly at random.  This year we have seen it in all its absurdity as he has flattered, then attacked allies like Michael Flynn and Jefferson Sessions, and attacked, then flattered opponents like Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney.  People like James Comey and Robert Mueller have been in and out the swinging door of Donald Trump's good graces so many times they must have to check the headlines on a daily basis to see where they stand.

Anyone who has the power to come close to exposing him gets the full force of his abuse of presidential power, beginning with Sally Yates and currently with Robert Mueller.  He has used the legal system in this country to threaten lawsuits to keep at bay prosecution of his own illegal activity, from dirty business dealings to sexual harassment. 

I am feeling like I have already fed into his narcissism by going on about what we have been witnessing for far too long.  The fact is that people like Steve Bannon and Paul Ryan have been steering this presidency and the course of our country while we have been watching Trump have tantrums.  We have a judiciary that is being taken over by radical right-wing extremists.  We have environmental safeguards and worker rights being dismantled by deregulation.  And we have the rich getting richer on the backs of the rest of us, who were already struggling as health care and education deteriorated.

The man who is incapable of telling the truth has led us to a state of exhaustion.  The kind of exhaustion that leads us to want to escape or to attack.  Where the leader lies non-stop by indiscriminately calling others liars, we may wonder why we should be so concerned with facts.  In 2018, election season may see us attacking each other rather than those who are truly the enemies of our democracy.  Where emails and Facebook posts may come from white nationalists or Russian trolls, where republicans determined to push through their long dreamed of right wing agenda send sincerely deceptive messages, we may end up slugging each other and spreading misinformation.

My hope for 2018 is that those of us who hunger for a return to democratic government stay true to our values.  That we think before we tweet.  That we debate our opponents with passion, but also with facts and that we argue issues rather than fire off attacks on personality or innuendo.  That we don't hide behind safe positions that in the end will hurt the weaker among us.

Let us not pit those of us with democratic values one against the other with cruel and meaningless argument.  Let us support candidates who will fight for us all.  The fascism of the Trump administration has brought us together in ways we did not think possible a year ago.  We have seen it happen with elections in Alabama and Virginia.  If we can continue to fight together against greed and tyranny, we can win back our democracy.