STAYING MOTIVATED – BY ELLIN CURLEY

There’s an interesting strain in Jewish history. When Jews are persecuted, killed, locked in Ghettos or severely discriminated against, as in most of our history, we stick together. We stay strong and united. We cling to our traditions and our religion. We stay proud and unbowed as we fight to survive, as individuals and as a culture.

From: Miami-Herald

During periods in our history when persecution was lifted, we are more openly accepted into the larger societies in which we lived. When that happens, Jews rapidly assimilate. In the process, we lose some of our Jewishness. We adopt the culture of our homeland. Intermarry and raise our children less Jewish. This has happened in America since the 1960’s. Without an external enemy, we lose our motivation to maintain our cultural and religious identity. We become complacent. We lose some of our unique spirit as a people.

I believe that Democrats/Progressives are, in some ways, like the Jews. When things are going well for us, we lose our identity and our will to fight. We don’t vote in off-year elections and we don’t participate in local and statewide politics as much. We don’t stay organized, motivated and active without an external crisis to propel us into action.

We were motivated by George W. Bush. We became a vocal anti-Bush, anti-Republican, anti-Iraq war force. We voted, we protested, we became a presence on late night TV. Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” became the most trusted man in America. “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” became some of the left’s major sources of news and sustenance.

Then Obama came along and we went back to our daily lives, leaving politics far behind. We stayed home for the mid-term elections and a large majority of states were totally taken over by Republicans. In the 2016 election, many Democrats were not ‘excited’ about Hillary Clinton. No one believed that Trump could win. So too many of us stayed home on election day or voted for third-party candidates. Now we have Trump to motivate us again.

These days, we sure are motivated! We are marching and organizing with a vengeance. We are running local candidates against Republicans, even in deep Red states. We are pulling in record vote tallies in special elections all over the country. Progressive organizations are raising money like crazy, with small donations as well as large ones. Now there are many more late night shows to take up the Democratic/Progressive banner. Facebook, Twitter and other internet platforms have been a big factor in this Progressive explosion. The outrage is everywhere.

Hopefully we can maintain this level of activism and enthusiasm into the mid-term elections in 2018. That may not be enough to win over one, let alone both houses in Congress. So we may not be able to get the major change in Washington that we want through the ballot box before 2020.

But we can also maintain pressure on Congress, the intelligence agencies and the media. That eventually might result in someone being able to link Trump to the Russian hacking of the 2016 election. Or to money laundering, or something else that’s clearly illegal, even to Republicans. That could result in a resignation or impeachment, if something else, like egregious conflicts of interest, haven’t already.

There shouldn’t be a problem keeping Democrats active as long as Trump or Pence are in the White House. Let’s just hope we’ve finally learned our lesson and don’t crawl back into our apolitical holes once we get rid of the current Republican scourge on our country.

I SAID I WOULDN’T BUT I DID IT ANYWAY – Marilyn Armstrong

I said I wouldn’t donate money to anyway, but I sent $6 to Elizabeth Warren. I couldn’t help myself. I have so little money to give to anyone, it’s always a hard choice. Despite having no money, I try to donate something to Durrell on the Isle of Jersey where they try to keep vanishing species alive.

I give a few dollars to Wikipedia because I use it and I figure if I use it, they deserve at least a couple of dollars from me as a thank you. And, every four years, if I feel there is someone worth donating to, I give a few dollars to someone I think is worthy of being my President.

I sent a few dollars during both elections to Obama. I sent a few dollars to Elizabeth Warren when she was running for Senate in Massachusetts, and now, a few dollars more. I’m sure they’ll dump thousands of additional begging letters into my email, but I think she is the one. I think she’s a good one and I want to see her win.

I admitted to Garry that I’d done it again and he patted me and said “I like her too. It’s okay. If you hadn’t, I would have.” Because in the end, you have to make a commitment … even if it’s only $6.00 and very unlikely to change the election. At least I feel that I’m part of it. A small part, but I’ve made the best commitment I can manage — and that’s something. For us.

Because we really do care and I needed to show it.

And yes, okay, I bought a tee-shirt for me and an apron for Garry. Garry wears aprons all the time. He has a “thing” about getting food on his clothing. Also, I really loved the logo.

A SUDDEN JOLT OF OPTIMISM – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Overjoyed

I know last night’s debate was a mess in a lot of ways. Too many potential (and unrealistic) candidates and a really annoying and abrasive set of television hosts who refused to ever let anyone actually SAY something that might be important. I think it was Colbert who said it was just as well these guys weren’t moderating Lincoln-Douglas because no one would have gotten a word in, edgewise or otherwise.

Round two of four – Detroit

I also agree with Garry that they need to sit down in a big, comfortable room with plenty of coffee and other drinks, pizza, sandwiches, and dessert. Then, point out to the people who are not going to really run for president (because they don’t have the money, backing, or support to do it) that there are other important jobs to do.

A classic moment

Senators. Governors. Mayors. Judges, who run for offices in many areas. The people who aren’t going to make the final cut need to make their moves on other Democratic platforms.

Marianne Williamson had a positive response. Good ideas. I don’t think she has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning, but some good points made

They all had something to say — and some of it was reasonably intelligent, too — but they have to find another place to say it. There’s only one president, but we need a lot of senators.

As far as the actual debate went, there were too many people. The moderators were intrusive, mindlessly controlling and apparently not listening — and I was ready to whack them. I understand they were trying to maintain control, but some commonsense in letting people make a point before cutting them off would not have gone amiss. Thirty seconds is NOT enough time for anyone to say something sensible.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – You could actually see the friendship behind the political push to win

All this being said, I was overjoyed with a sense of optimism this morning and it was the first in a long time.

Optimism? Yes. Really. Because mostly, they agreed with each other and didn’t spend all their time trying to chop each other down. They talked about what needed doing. The didn’t agree with exactly how, but they agreed on what was important. It was the first positive feeling I’ve felt to date.

I needed that. Maybe I wasn’t overjoyed … but I felt better. A little less glum. A little less angry and depressed.

TERM LIMITS ARE A REALLY BAD IDEA – Marilyn Armstrong

So you believe term-limits will solve our political problems.

Interesting.

Why would you think that? Are “old timers” in Congress the problem as opposed to the bloated egos and narrow minds of Tea Partyites and Trumpets? How about those right-wing religious nutters? Most of them were just recently elected, have no understanding of how government works, and to top it off, care nothing for America.

 

Exactly what problem do you think you solve by making terms shorter? Is that likely to attract better quality candidates? Will it convince people to vote for better candidates? Doesn’t our most recent presidential election prove that people will vote for a bad candidate even when all logic and reason should tell them he or she will not serve their interests?

So you believe we will get better government if no one in congress gets to stay for a long time. Why would inexperience result in better government? Would you choose an inexperienced surgeon? A lawyer fresh out of law school? A barber who has never cut any hair? In what field do we prefer raw recruits to proven veterans?

Oh, right, the presidency. How’s that working for you?

Why do you want amateurs making your laws?


Our founding fathers specifically excluded term limits. Their experience under the Articles of Confederation (the document that preceded the Constitution) proved to them that good people are not interested in temporary jobs for lousy pay in a distant city. The people elected to office under the Articles walked away from their positions — or never took them up in the first place.

There saw no future in it.

When the Constitution was drawn, its authors wanted to tempt the best and the brightest to government service. They wanted candidates who would make it a career. They weren’t interested in amateurs and parvenus. The business of governing a nation has a learning curve. It takes years to get the hang of how things work, how a law gets written. How to reach across the aisle and get the opposition to participate.

The Articles of Confederation contained exactly the ideas people are promulgating today. They failed. Miserably. Do we need to learn the same lesson again?

The absence of term limits in the Constitution is not an oversight. The writers of the Constitution thought long and hard about this problem.

A little more history


Under the Articles of Confederation, our country fell apart. Elected representatives came to the capital (New York), hung around awhile, then went home. Why stay? The job had no future. Their salaries didn’t pay enough to cover their costs while serving and nor pay enough to keep their families alive.

Term limits were soundly rejected at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. They were right. The Constitution aims to get professionals into government. Term limits remove any hope of building a career in government. It becomes a hard temp job without a future.

Myth Busting 101: Congress isn’t overpaid


Maybe they are paid more than you and me but compared to what they could be earning elsewhere, they are paid poorly. What you cry? How can that be?

Most members of Congress are lawyers. The 2011-2012 salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate was $174,000 per year. A third-year associate at a good law firm will do that well and after six to twelve years (1 – 2 senate terms), a competent attorney in a good market makes much more.

Senators and representatives have to maintain two residences, one in their native state, the other in DC. If you think $174,000 will support two houses and send the kids to college, you are living in a fantasy world. Which is why many members of Congress have other income streams.

Curiously, our Founding Fathers expected congressmen, especially senators, to be men of means. They felt only wealthy people would be able to afford government service. And they would be less susceptible to bribery. On the whole, they were right. What they didn’t foresee was how many kinds of corruption would be available. Bribery is the least of our problems.

Skill and experience count


Writing a law that can stand up to scrutiny by the courts and other members of Congress takes years. You don’t waltz in from Anywhere, USA and start writing laws. Moreover, great legislators are rare in any generation. A sane electorate doesn’t throw them away.

We are not suffering from an entrenched group of old-time pols stopping the legislative process. We are suffering a dearth of the old guard, the folks who understood how to work with the opposition. It’s the newly elected who are stopping progress.

Sadly, our savvy, experienced Senators and Congressional professionals got old and retired. Or died. They have been replaced by imbeciles.

Above and beyond the skill it takes to write legislation, it takes even longer to gain seniority and peer respect. Frank Capra notwithstanding, Mr. Smith doesn’t go to Washington and accomplish miracles. Newly elected congresspeople hope to build a career in politics. With luck, one or two of them will become a great legislator, a Tip O’Neill, John McCain, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Bob DoleTed Kennedy or any of the giants. Anyone you name connected to important legislation was a multi-term representative or senator.

Term limits eliminate great legislators


Term limits guarantee a bunch of amateurs — or worse — fumbling their way around Congress. As soon as they figure out where the toilets are and get reasonably good at their jobs, they’ll be gone. Does that make sense? Really?

Garry and Tip O’Neill

If you think your congressman or senator is doing a crappy job, replace him or her with someone you believe will do better. That’s a fine example of term limits.

Don’t elect them if you don’t believe in them


We have term limits. They are called elections.

Throw the bums out. Vote for the other guy. Term limits were disastrous in 1788 and they haven’t improved with the years. Watch the news to see how our wonderful, inexperienced government is doing. If that doesn’t argue against the treasured (but stupid) belief that what Washington DC needs are outsiders, I don’t know what will convince you.

We have outsiders.

Assuming we survive 45s reign and are still a democracy, we will need intelligent, knowledgeable people to set America back on course.

We don’t need term limits. We need better candidates, better representatives. We need men and women willing to learn the craft, who have ideas and can work with each other and other nations to get America’s business done. Our government does not rest on the Presidency. It rests on 435 congressmen and 100 senators.

The President isn’t supposed to run the country


Congress writes legislation and votes it into law. Ultimately, it’s you, me, our friends and neighbors who choose the people to make laws, pass budgets, approve cabinet members and Supreme Court justices.

Whatever is wrong with Congress, it’s OUR fault


The 435 members of Congress are chosen by us and if you don’t like yours, don’t vote for him or her. If someone gets re-elected over and over, you have to figure a lot of people voted for him or her. You may not like him, but other people do.

That’s what elections are about. It doesn’t necessarily work out the way you want, but changing the rules won’t solve that problem. Make the job more — not less — attractive. Treat candidates better so qualified people will want to work in government. Otherwise, you’re creating a job no one wants.

Be careful what you wish for.

Ultimately, it’s all about America. Partisanship, special interests, regional issues, party politics, and personal agendas need to take a back seat to the good of the nation. We need to agree what that means, at least in broad strokes.

If we don’t know what we want from our government, we won’t get it. Term limits won’t fix the problem, because that’s not what’s broken.

Vote for people who believe the good of the country is more important than their personal agenda.

Vote for intelligent people who understand compromise, who have an understanding of law, justice, and believe in this country and what we supposedly stand for.

That will produce a change you will like.

DO WE WANT TO ELECT ANYONE? – Marilyn Armstrong

I was just glancing through another post on The New Yorker asking whether Joe Biden is electable.

I have read similar stories in the Washington Post and other newspaper, online and offline about every potential candidate. It’s almost as if we don’t want to find a viable candidate because there’s something wrong with everyone.


I have a hot flash for you:
NO ONE IS PERFECT.

There is no perfect candidate waiting to run for office. There may be perfect people — somewhere (though I’ve never met one) — but none of them are interested in politics. Personally, I doubt there is a perfect person anywhere and if there is, I’m sure he or she would run screaming in terror should someone suggest they run for office.

We have turned running for office into the worst job interview on Earth. We are dredging up everything and anything that anyone ever did, no matter how many years ago it happened. We are dredging this stuff up without any context, either. Without any attempt to understand what else was going on.

Let’s take Joe Biden. He was not perfect. He has been in office for 50 years and has done stuff about which I’m sure he is ashamed and embarrassed. On top of everything else, he is being picked on for being “too huggy.”

Too huggy?

Seriously?

We have a racist pig as president — and you want to disqualify a man who is too friendly in a non-sexual way?

Do you want to re-elect Trump?

Everyone has stuff in their past they would just as soon not make public. Me too. You too. My husband, my friends, my son. I’m sure even my dogs have something about which they would be embarrassed if they could remember that far back, but being dogs, they are more interested in right now and when is dinner?

At a time when we should be looking for reasons why a person might BE electable, we are doing that classic Democratic “let’s pick apart every possible candidate, disqualify all of them, then pick someone who offends nobody and also has nothing of value to offer anyone. Let’s run him or her for office and be shockedSHOCKED! … that he or she is not elected.

We’ve done it before and we seem to be ready to do it again.

Banning Kate Smith for a recording she made decades ago, probably because her record company told her to do it and in those days if your bosses said “Cut this record,” you cut that record.

Actors made movies they hated and about which they still can’t bear to speak. People said things they didn’t mean, or intended as jokes. Are bad jokes enough to keep you out of office? Meanwhile, no attempt is made to figure out what the context was that created what was done or said. We ask for perfection from candidates we never require of ourselves.

Are we going to hold every single thing that anyone has ever done or said against them?

I know if someone asked me to run for office, I would say “Not on your life.” Garry was actually asked to run — locally — and said “No way.”

No one wants to do it because they know they are going to be shredded. Torn to bits by their own party, the press, bloggers and for all I know, their own family. If we are going to turn all potential candidate into bad people for something that happened a long time ago, we aren’t going to have anyone worth electing. There needs to be a limit to anyone’s liability for things that weren’t even crimes.

Okay, if he turns out to have been a murderer or bank robber or treasonous … but that’s not what’s happening. We not looking to see if someone actually did something felonious. We’re just looking for anything, everything, even nothing.

Indiscretion is not a crime. Even bad jokes — 30-year-old bad jokes — are not a crime. If you look at some of our great presidents, they were far from perfect men. Both Roosevelts had plenty of lumps and bumps and a few shameful incidents to boot. It didn’t mean they weren’t great presidents.

Maybe some personal indiscretions should be left in the dusty closets where they have been lying all these years. Some of these folks have good ideas. Vision. They might be great if you give them half a chance.

If we are going to demand perfection, we will get the kids no one liked in school. Our candidates will all be losers. Not Trump’s version. I mean real losers.

If we cannot tolerate anything living people do in the course of life before we allow them to be a candidate for office, the only people who will run for office will be people no one wants.

The priggish. The voiceless. Those who have no opinions, no vision. The intellectual who doesn’t know how to talk to “real” people. The stupid and the unthinking.

We are approaching that stage now.

How else do you think we got Trump? And the rest of his party of bottom-feeders?

I’LL GIVE YOU MY REALITY IF YOU GIVE ME YOURS – By Tom Curley

I figured it out! The solution to reality! This reality! This reality TV reality!

The problem is not so much that we are living in a reality TV reality. The problem is that we’re living in a REALLY BAD reality TV reality. Face it, it’s not working. Each time something happens that we might think is positive, the next day — or the next hour — we discover we were deluded.

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Do you know what does work?

Fictional TV reality!

Think about it. There was a show called “Designated Survivor.” In it, the whole U.S. government was blown up during a State of the Union Address.  The Executive Branch, Congress, Supreme Court? Wiped off the earth.

The only cabinet member that had to stay home becomes the President. He has to rebuild the government from the ground up. While he’s doing that, there’s a mysterious cabal in which the ones responsible for blowing everybody up are also trying to take over the country.

In spite of that, their government and President are doing a lot better job than ours! They are noticeably more sane and coherent and sometimes, they make intelligent decisions. Imagine that!

tvguide.com

So here’s what we do.  We switch realities!

It’s a win-win for everybody. How? It’s simple — at least in theory.

First

The current administration leaves the government and instead, goes on real TV, 24/7. Every day. You like watching the news? You’ll never miss another show!

Second

On Fox News. They all go to work on sets that look just like Washington, D.C.  They do the exact same things they do now. It will be just like on  “Big Brother”. Only bigger.

And on Fox News.

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They can pass laws, write executive orders, cancel health insurance for the whole nation, eliminate “Meals On Wheels” or just kick puppies. Whatever they want! Trump supporters won’t be upset because they only watch Fox News.

As far as they’ll be concerned, everything is normal.

It just isn’t real.

“And it’s only on Fox.”

Third

OK, great you say. But what about real reality? Who’s going to be the real President? The real cabinet?

Here’s who. Honest to God fictional ones.

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The cool part is, we have a lot of options. We have lots of choices for President. And if we dig into the DNC pool, we’ve got dozens more. Hell, every billionaire is ready to declare!

We could have Jeb Bartlett. He was a great President. Don’t believe me? Watch “The West Wing.” Again. As a matter of fact, just keep watching it over and over until you feel better. It’s like a political tranquilizer.

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We’ve got Dennis Haysbert. I’m pretty sure he was President twice.

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We’ve got Morgan Freeman. Not only was the President, but he was (is currently, I believe) also God!

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The list goes on. Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Jack Nicholson, Peter Sellers … (Oh, for God’s sake, Google the rest.) You get my point.

Now, appointing a cabinet becomes fun!

Fourth

Secretary of State? How about Tia Leoni? She’s already a Secretary of State and seems to be doing a pretty decent job of it every Sunday. Let’s give her the job for the rest of the week.

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Attorney General? Julianna Margulies. She’s a lawyer, ran for State’s Attorney and by almost all accounts, is a good wife.

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Secretary of Defense? I admit, at first, I was leaning toward Schwarzenegger or Stallone. Then it hit me.

CHUCK NORRIS! Think about it. We could cut the military budget down to nothing. Nobody’s going to go to war with us. Nobody fucks with Chuck Norris!

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ISIS COMMANDER: We will destroy America!

ISIS GUY WATCHING THE NEWS: Sir, America just made Chuck Norris Secretary of Defense.

ISIS COMMANDER:  Shit.

(Insert favorite Chuck Norris joke here. My favorite? Chuck Norris once counted to infinity. Twice.)

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Department of Education? The cast of Sesame Street.

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Depart of Health and Human Services? Pick any of the stern but kindly Chiefs of Staff from any medical show you’ve enjoyed over the years. Any of them will do fine. (Except for Dr. Zorba. I’m pretty sure he’s dead.) (Extra points if you get that reference.)

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Department of Housing? Chris Rock. OK, he really doesn’t have any more qualifications for the job than Ben Carson does. But I just like the guy. He’s funny.

memegenerator.net

(If you get that reference, you get double extra points.) I could go on, but you get the point.

Five: The Election

How do we do this?

We have an election. Not the usual kind. What with voter suppression, low turnouts, gerrymandering, the Electoral College, and just candidates that don’t have the right scriptwriters, our elections are not working out well. That’s how we got into this mess, to begin with.

We have the election the same way reality TV shows do it. Everybody gets to vote from their smartphone, their computer, their tablet, or Android device. You can email or text your vote. You are only allowed to vote up to 20 times on any given device. You can vote up until 10 pm Eastern Standard Time.

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Granted, this will fire up the Millennials and confuse the hell out of old folks. Maybe it’s unfair, but it’s still better than the Electoral College.

We can set up March Madness-style brackets and have an election every week for maybe a month until we get a winner. Imagine how many office pools there will be. You might even win!

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And we, the people, elect everybody. The President doesn’t get to appoint his cabinet. We do.

This is absolute Democracy at work!

It could work!

As a cheese-faced person who somehow actually became President of the United States said to a bunch of totally incredulous Black people:

theoddeseyonline


“Give it a try. What have you got to lose?”


MIXED BLESSINGS

The Blue Ripple, by Rich Paschall

My mother used to refer to many things as mixed blessings. In part that was because she could always see the down side of anything good. Her mother was the same way so I guess it sort of runs in the family.

Visits from her aunt Harriet would probably fall into that category. (That named is changed although I am not sure any living relative would be offended).  The joyous greetings and fun visits would sooner or later degenerate into negative conversations regarding the hard life we all live.  This may have been fueled by too many adult beverages.

We might hear about the “good old days” but that was usually followed with stories of living through the Great Depressions.  Of course we could understand that the family struggled greatly after the market crash of 1929.  It seemed unfortunate to me that 50 years later so many conversations were brought down by this memory.

Visits to grandma were mixed blessings even though I liked her a lot.  There were always hard candies, marzipan and cookies from the German bakery. We were not allowed too many, but we were always given something.  The joy of our arrival seemed to be followed by the annoyance of our presence.  As children, we were always to be corrected so we tried to sit quietly and do nothing.  You can see how well that works on little ones.

Illness or accidents could be a mixed blessing in my mother’s mind or a “blessing in disguise.” Although the situation was bad, it was meant to teach you a good lesson.  Be careful.  Take care of yourself.  Avoid accidents.

When she was elderly, took a bad fall and was taken to the hospital, she noted that it was a good reminder of our blessings.  “Did you see that woman who was in the other bed?  Tomorrow she will have her leg amputated.  Someone else’s situation can be worse than yours.”  I guess I saw all of that as two negatives, so “mixed blessing” is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.

We have all had jobs that were mixed blessings.  I had one that paid well but was unpleasant to work at. Another did not pay well but was rather enjoyable most of the time I was there.  In our working lives, many of the things we encounter contain mixed emotions, mixed benefits, mixed results.  In some, the negative outweighed the good by so much, I had to walk away.

When I was young and needed a car, some people I knew made me an offer on an automobile that was rarely used. I could not refuse. It was a mixed blessing. I felt I had to spend more time with the people who sold me the car and I always felt indebted to my father who loaned me the money. I was grateful and in their debt.

If I thought long and hard I guess I could think of many examples of mixed blessings of people, places, and events.  We could often see local, national and international events in this way.  In Chicago, we could look at the tenure of certain politicians as mixed blessings.  While there was too much patronage and even corruption, they managed to achieve great results for us.  This is why we referred to Chicago as “The City That Works” for many decades.

Very recently, many have hailed the great success of what they called the “Blue Wave.”  Of course, it was not that at all.  It was more of a ripple as many political analysts have noted.  While the current political situation energized many people to vote, equally as many stayed home.  NPR reported an estimated 47 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.  That means democracy was the loser again as the majority of voters elected to have no voice in the elections.

Voter turnout

For Democrats, the results were a mixed blessing.  If they were energized to work harder, so were the followers of 45.  Dems took back the House and declared their “Blue Wave” was a success, but Republicans strengthened their hold on the Senate which gives POTUS more power in some areas.  While energizing more “blue” voters, Dems may also have alerted “red” voters of the importance of getting to the polls.

Photo Garry Armstrong

The House Dems will gain control of committees and have increased oversight of government next year, but Senate Republicans will have an easier time pushing through 45’s appointments to government posts and federal judgeships.  That could push the courts more to the right, helping protect POTUS and friends.  Many Dems will be praying for the good health of 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

When you wish to energize voters to get more people to the polls, you may end up with a mixed blessing. Your opponents might be energized too and get some extra victories.

There will never be a strong Blue Wave, Red Wave or any wave until there is a strong wave of voters.  That would be a great blessing.