September 2021 Archives

Dear America,

I have been a Democrat all of my adult life, though that affiliation isn't rigid.  For example, I have voted for Republicans, like when I lived in Boston in the '70's when I voted for a Senator named Ed Brooke and a governor named Francis Sargent, though in both cases party affiliation had nothing to do with their political creeds.  I am an unabashed liberal, and party affiliation has been at most incidental to my voting decisions as I have seen it as nothing but a convenient way of identifying my political kindred spirits.  But now I see party affiliation in the cases of both parties as obstacles to American political action everywhere across the political spectrum.  The parties have facilitated the institution of arcane and personally self-serving house and senate rules and legislative practices, partly in the service of reelection and thus personal ambition, but part in service of the parties themselves--both parties--at the cost of service to the nation.  As a Democrat, I perceive that decline in what I think of as our "political morality" as rendering us no better than the Republicans, who made political morality an oxymoron.  Democratic machinations over President Biden's economic legislative packages make my point.

First is the fact that the two bills now floating about in the two houses of our congress are mammoth measures, hundreds, if not thousands of pages long comprising countless provisions that cannot be supported by any legislator except by casting a single wholesale vote for all.   Such bills used to be called "omnibus bills," but as such bills are now de rigueur,  no one even bothers with the designation.  The concept behind them is what used to be called "log rolling," more popularly known today as "quid pro quo."  It comes to this: forcing others to vote for your provision by tying it to their provisions--you can't get yours if I don't get mine.  I don't mind it so much in the cases of individual bills that serve specific constituencies.  It's still somewhat unsavory, but it is at least small scale as the lack of scruples is measured.  But these omnibus bills are of an entirely different consequence.  They don't just relate to parochial concerns; they interfere with the progress of our nation and our collective weal...and now my party is using the practice in internecine fashion.  One bill--a true infrastructure bill intended to do all kinds of indisputably, near-universal benefit for our people--has been passed by The Senate in what is today a uniquely, dare I say profoundly, bipartisan vote, 69 to 30.  It's good for everyone, so it passed overwhelmingly, and now it goes to The House, where Nancy Pelosi and the other members of her Democratic caucus refuse to vote on it until a second bill that you might call a human infrastructure bill is passed...by Democrats who have an albeit slim majority in their house.  The problem is that Pelosi won't call a vote to make everyone go on record, some for doing what their constituents will see as a bad thing that may even be dispositive of their next bids for reelection.  And so we, America, get nothing instead of what we need to change the direction of our society from downward to upward by uplifting those who have been unfairly deprived of much of what they need to prosper by what has become the American economic caste system.  I propose two solutions to this present legislative problem.

First, abandon the omnibus strategy and break the human infrastructure bill into smaller parts: one for provision of day care to families that can't earn enough to prosper because someone has to stay home with the children; one for universal higher education--community college--for all so that the education people need to qualify for jobs in our ever-evolving tech economy will be available to everyone; universal pre-school; climate mitigation and several more.  Then, schedule votes on all of the bills, including the bipartisan bill that The Senate just passed on physical infrastructure.  Let each of the intransigent political hacks cast his or her own fate with the voters instead of hiding behind a group of the like minded.  The alternative to getting everything shouldn't be getting nothing.  As the saying goes, half a loaf is better than none.  The Democrats should let the Republicans shoot themselves in the foot instead of firing their own foot-shooting pistol, which they have already drawn and cocked.

To put it all concisely, our political system has declined in its integrity and effectiveness profoundly over the past forty years since the days of Tip O'Neill's and Ronald Reagan's deal to refinance Social Security.  It's time for someone to stand for the principle that used to be behind aspiring to public office: public service.  Are you listening Nancy and Chuck?

Your friend,

Mike

Dear America,

In one sense, it is quite remarkable how little things change, and on the other, it is profound how much they have changed and continue to do so.  As to what hasn't changed much, there is the Republican Party for example.  Certainly, the withdrawal from Afghanistan could have been done better.  Our government has had since last October, when Donald Trump committed to the Taliban that we would withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 to sort out the status of those we have used during our tenure there and to be sure to get them to safety before the last of our troops withdrew, albeit there were over 100,000 people in various statuses who wanted to leave.  And we did get the vast majority of them--over 100,000--out, but apparently a few hundred were left behind.  Some of them have gotten out already and others are on the verge of doing so, but there are still some others who don't know what will happen to them.  Of course, the Republican Party has jumped on those few who are still there as an indictment of the Biden administration, never mentioning that from last October until near the end of this past January when Biden was inaugurated, they did virtually nothing about the problem even though their president created it and they had the power to push him to make some plans.  There are some Democrats who have been participating in the Republican dog-and-pony show, mostly pusillanimous hacks who are afraid of the Trump constituencies in their jurisdictions, but they are still Democrats.  And then there are the hyper-righteous Republicans who have rebuffed Trumpist bullies but still wear sanctimony like their Sunday best.  I'm thinking of Mitt Romney in particular.  He sat in his committee seat and castigated Secretary of State Blinken for withdrawing the troops but never mentioning that a member of his own party promised that we would do so in the name of the nation.  Blinken did point that out briefly, but you never hear it in the news; all you hear is Republican whining as if their ox is the one that has been gored.  You can claim to have the interests of the nation foremost in your heart, but actions speak louder than words, and hypocrisy is not a substitute for patriotism or commitment to our nation and its people.  The Republicans never change, and their continuing fealty to a lunatic like Donald Trump, just in consequence of the rabid mass of  voters he controls, is craven self-interest no matter what you call it.

Speaking of Trump, though he is a Republican, perpetually the party of political opportunism and personal ambition, and he is thus predictably possessed of those Republican appalling cardinal traits, his overt conduct in his own interest has gained a kind of support that surprises me even in the Republican population.  That's new.  Trump is so transparently aspiring to be a Putinesque autocrat--in fact, his regard for Putin seems like more of a crush than a political eventuality--that to stay in character, the Republican Party should be rejecting him rather than storming our legislative house in his support, which many of them did.  Someone please explain to me how Donald Trump is a champion of the kind of liberty to which this country is committed, and in the name of which it was created.  Actually, I have an idea of how the thinking goes; they want to preserve their freedom at the expense of everyone else's, and for that--precipitation of racial purity, which is at the sub-rosa heart of Trumpism along with the right to wave a gun around as you proclaim that freedom--Donald Trump has become the go-to designated hypocrite.  All of this lunacy masquerades as something else...something to which we are all supposed to be committed: civil liberty.  But it is no such thing, any more than Nazism was.  Freedom for some is not freedom at all, but try to explain that to a Trump supporter.  That is a profound change in party politics, though the pious flag waving persists.  Then add Mitch McConnell's co-dependent relationship with Trump, which he maintained throughout the Trump administration, that is, service to the tyrant while protecting his fellow Republicans from having to cast unpopular votes at his behest on measures that the Democrats introduced and the American people favored, and you have an anomaly in American politics: anti-democratic practice.  The Republicans have followed McConnell in lock-step, who follows Trump that way, all the while claiming the democratic moral high ground, and Republican voters have fallen into lock-step behind them.  I never agreed with William F. Buckley, but at least he thought about his ideas and analyzed the problems they addressed, rightly or wrongly.  Republicans today don't seem to think.  They just vote in accord with their un-contemplated ideas regarding their own nation, which they don't seem to understand either.

It's all very dispiriting, and frankly, my wife and I just applied to renew our passports because we don't know what will eventuate from what we construe to be a menace to American democracy.  I certainly hope I won't have to use mine, but I'll make sure it is current from now on.

Your friend,

Mike 

Dear America,

All of a sudden, there is plenty of news to talk about, and some of it is good.  President Biden has put his federal foot down with regard to vaccination refusers in all sorts of quarters: federal employees, federal contractors, every business subject to OSHA regulation, healthcare workers and so on.  Maybe now we can get on with overcoming COVID-19 and get our collective life back.  But on other issues, the news is not good at all.  The zealot governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, has now shepherded through the state's legislature what amounts to a state repeal of the common law doctrine the decision in Roe v. Wade comprises.  I read the contents of the set of statutes involved today, and I have to admit, I am not certain how this will all turn out.  The U.S. Justice Department has filed suit against Texas as a state arguing that the statutes are unconstitutional within the meaning of at least one abortion rights case other than Roe, though I believe that case to be derivative of Roe, and that may be a successful argument, but I believe that the statute will ultimately fail on other, technical grounds.  It allows people without injury to collect damages from total strangers, which implicates procedural law relating to "standing."  For someone to be a plaintiff in a law suit, he or she has to claim to have suffered an injury that is "judiciable" in some way, and with regard to someone else's abortion, it is hard to see how such an injury can be successfully claimed.  We'll see what happens, but this is discomfiting at the very least, though not an ineluctable blow to the rights of women.

Then there's Afghanistan.  To this point, it appears that no one is dieing in that country over the American involvement there, and people with appropriate documents--passports, visas and the like--are being allowed to board private flights and leave the country, presumably in what the Taliban construe to be the regular course of business...a sort of normalization of travel.  And in light of that development, a semblance of d├ętente with the rest of the world might now be incipient.  This is just my surmise based on the news that we all have seen lately, but I think it possible that the Taliban has in the end acknowledged that they exist not in a vacuum born of medieval fervor, but in the secular 21st century, and that living in it could be conducive to their goals and facilitative of their agenda if they will just tolerate the rest of us.  A populace that is healthy and well-fed will be easier to control and coax toward the fundamentalism that I suspect is actually desired by, if not the majority of Afghans, at least a substantial constituency there.  

There's also the economy, which has taken a step or two back from the heady days of early summer when President Biden pronounced us...prematurely, obviously...back to some semblance of normalcy.  The regression of the American effort to put the pandemic behind us hasn't done him any political good, which reminds many of us that the malicious, narcissistic, megalomaniacal, nefarious (need I even mention his name?) Donald Trump is still conniving and contriving, motivated by what we all presume is an intention to return to power.  Finally the news media have stopped accommodating him in his "there's no such thing as bad publicity" strategy and recognized that they were unwittingly complicit in his rise to power and near usurpation of its continuation.  He's still out there holding rallies for who knows what, and his supporters still attend, staunchly defending him and refusing to admit the real reasons for their support: adherence to his abominable philosophy.  The fact that they do not see that Trump is just another tin-horn autocrat-in-waiting mystifies me.  In Brazil, the incumbent president,  Jair Bolsonaro, is spouting the same provocative and blatantly self-serving and false claim that Trump did in 2020 and before; the only way he could lose the election is through fraud.  Any one with even a tiny capacity for critical thinking would see through that tautology and repudiate the man.  The peremptory claim that he cannot lose is just like Trump's strategy during the years of his election: just call defeat a victory and the faithful and fanatical will subscribe to the myth as if it were gospel.   

So overall, how do we think things look.  For my part, I dread the worst, but I suspect that something between that and the restoration of American democratic ideals will be the outcome of the next year and a half until the next congress takes control.  In the end, it is congress that will determine our destiny, but that doesn't mean that the tin-horns won't try to hijack it.

Your friend,

Mike

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2021 listed from newest to oldest.

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