WHEN THE SYSTEM WORKS

A couple of nights ago, Garry and I watched an episode of “The American Experience.” It was part two of two and it focused on Lyndon Baines Johnson, Selma, Alabama … and the passage of the Civil and Voting Rights acts.

This is American history, but it’s also part of our personal histories. Those were titanic times. Garry was already a working reporter. I was finished with college and out in the real world.

We remember. It was a very big deal. It was a massive shift in our culture and the reality in which we lived. It was the consummation of centuries of racism and oppression plus decades of the ongoing battle for equal rights — still a work in progress. Of wondering, doubting, if change was even possible.

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Selma, Alabama, March 1965

After John Kennedy was assassinated, Johnson, a traditional Southern politician who had never shown any special liberal or progressive leanings, came forward and decided enough was enough. Of all the presidents I would never have expected to be the one who would make it happen, LBJ did it. He decided it was time, that this unfairness had gone on long enough.

Against all odds and current political wisdom, he succeeded. Not because he was the most honest politician. Not because he was the most popular guy on Capitol Hill. Possibly the reason he could get it done was because he was a practical, pragmatic, politician who did whatever he needed to do to get an enormously important task accomplished. A freshman senator or any of those idealistic pie-in-the-sky guys couldn’t have done it. A newbie wouldn’t even know where to start.

Later, after he’d gotten mired in Vietnam — huge mistake — he knew that his running again would blow up the party, so he did the unthinkable. He stepped aside.

Who in the modern political pantheon would do that? Is there anyone concerned more with America than with his or her own career? Do I hear any names?

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We don’t just theorize the possibility that it could work. We know it can. We’ve seen change happen. We’ve been part of that change.

We know politicians don’t have to be the most honest or idealistic to do great things. In fact, often the most effective people are the ones who’ve been around a long time — and know where the bodies are buried.

The system can work. It does work. It has worked. We’ve seen it at its best. Right now, I think we are seeing it at its worst.

That things are ugly is not a reason to give up. Exactly the opposite. Now is the when we need to put shoulders to the wheel and exert some effort to make things better. To elect responsible, intelligent, sensible, practical people who know how to get stuff done and have a grasp of what the issues are. And who believe their first loyalty is to the country and its people.

It’s not “outsiders” who accomplish great things. It’s insiders who care enough to do it.

TRUTH WON’T BEAT TRUMP

Democrats keep thinking — erroneously — that you can counter Trump with truth. By presenting accurate information. By countering his wild, unsupported claims with facts. Surely if we show up his lies and deceptions, his followers will realize he is a blowhard demagogue with no actual accomplishments or ideas?

Problem is, people don’t follow Trump because they believe what he says. They neither know nor care whether or not he is telling the truth.


Trump supporters do not care about facts, truth, right, or wrong.

They don’t care if he’s making it up or talking out of his ass. They do not even care whether or not he has any intention of keeping his promises. Nor do they care when he changes what he says whenever it’s politically expedient. They don’t care if he has no platform or proposed plans. And quite probably is completely amoral or immoral … and possibly, a traitor.

Trump followers need someone to affirm their fears and hates. They crave validation. Trump says what they want to hear. He authenticates their fears and validates their sense of betrayed entitlement. He tells them it’s okay to hate, to be a racist. He tells them they should be afraid of becoming marginal people in this changing world.

When Trump said “I love stupid people” it may have been one of the rare times he was telling the truth.

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And then Donald J. Trump tells them that only he can fix things. Only he. He is the man, the only person who can make the world right.

We call such people dictators. Donald Trump does not want to be President. He wants to be king.

And because ‘his people’ do not care if he can or will fix anything, having someone powerful agree with them and tell them they are right is enough. They will vote for him because he validates and affirms them. He makes them feel good. Empowered.

This is how Hitler took over Germany. This is the demagogue’s playbook.

He could win. All he needs is for you and you and you to keep saying there’s no difference between Hillary Clinton, a woman who has spent her entire life in public service, and Donald Trump, a man who has spent his entire life ripping off other people to enrich himself.

Donald Trump won’t make America great again. America is great. What he will do is tear this country to pieces, set neighbor against neighbor, race against race. He will eliminate centuries of diplomacy and relations with other countries and make us the laughing-stock outcast nation of the world.

Oh, and we’re going to hand him the nuclear codes. That’s a swell idea.

CLINTON V TRUMP, ANYTHING BUT CONVENTIONAL by LARRY JOSEPHSON

election-2016 head butt

INTRODUCTION by Marilyn Armstrong

Let me begin by saying I am not the author of this article, but it’s a good one and I’m happy to publish it. Not only is it unusual for me to publish an article by someone who isn’t “on the staff” so to speak of Serendipity, I’ve actually never done it before.

This election has me worried at a deep level. Donald Trump is a dangerous demagogue with all the symptoms of a nascent Adolf Hitler. There. I’ve said it. What so many people I know are thinking, but we don’t want to say it out loud lest we somehow jinx ourselves.

Our silence is a jinx. All by itself. Our lack of involvement has consequences.

For those who still believe their vote does not count, you’re wrong. It counts. Bush got to be president in 2000 by a “margin” (arguably, he actually lost the election) of 547 votes out of millions. If 700 Democrats who didn’t bother to vote had instead gone to the polls in Florida, history would be different.

Do not sit this one out.

These racists and haters — even while they are spouting words that may ring sort of true in an angular way — are wrong. The problems of this country are not because of the non-white or immigrant population, nor because everyone isn’t a white Christian. These people feel disenfranchised because they cannot believe that merely being white and Christian isn’t enough to make them superior and powerful. They are racists, bigots, and a lot of them are, to put it in very simple terms, incredibly stupid.

Don’t be one of them. You can read the full article at by clicking this LINK. Following this section, there’s jump link to the second part of the article on the actual odds of who is going to win what in the upcoming general election. These numbers scare the pants off me and if you aren’t scared, maybe you haven’t given it enough thought.


GOP convention 2016 hall-2

CLINTON V TRUMP, ANYTHING BUT CONVENTIONAL – BY ERIN C. YOUNG


It’s a shotgun marriage, this odd relationship between Donald Trump and the Republican Party that he now calls his own. Can it hold together for another four months, long enough to reach the November finish line and accomplish the only real goal that the party has, namely, defeat Hillary Clinton?

Trump’s new significant others (Republicans) have signed on, and they don’t really seem all that interested in exactly what Trump would do as president, or how he would do it. Details, they have been told, are for losers. Policy, in some form or another, will come later, as soon as the Evil Beast has been vanquished. No one wants to talk about the nuts and bolts of raising the minimum wage, how to grow the economy, pay down the debt, or even be told how ISIS would be defeated. They already know that Donald Trump will do the right thing, because — well, because Hillary Clinton would do the wrong thing.

Besides, when Trump does talk specifics, he doesn’t feel the need to hold his line.

  • He won primaries by promising to keep Muslims out of the country, but has modified that stance three times since then.
  • He said he would force the military to torture and kill the families of suspected terrorists, then changed his mind less than 24 hours later.
  • He said he would self-fund his campaign, but has accepted donations via his website and, in an apparent violation of U.S. law, has solicited help from government officials abroad.
  • He has had four different positions on whether the federal minimum wage should be raised and changed his mind three times in the same day when asked about abortion.

Yet Trump still has a puncher’s chance at becoming the next president of the United States and leader of the free world. After all, much of what he’s doing is an embodiment of Richard Nixon’s famous advice to Republicans: run hard to the right in the primaries, then steer back to the center for the general election.

Bush 41 and Bush 43 both took the advice to heart and won. However, Mitt Romney twisted himself into a pretzel doing it, and was soundly defeated. Now it’s Trump’s turn to explain to the American public why he might not do the ultra-conservative things he’s heretofore promised.

“Everything is negotiable,” Trump recently said in an interview with the New York Times. That explanation will be good enough for people already leaning to the right, but what about the truly undecided?

For independents, this general election is a nightmare, forced to decide between the caricature that is Donald Trump and the seemingly robotic duplicity of Hillary Clinton. But it’s a choice that must be made. After all, it’s a two-party system, right? No third-party candidate could garner enough votes to impact the outcome.

Or could they?

As the Republican National Convention draws to a close and the Democrats get ready for their quadrennial coronation, I look at the odds for all the meaty questions leading up to the general election.
Let’s start with the big one …

Presidential Election Odds (and more)

ABOUT THAT SUPREME COURT APPOINTMENT …

People have been joking about it, as if it couldn’t happen. Appointing Barack Obama to the Supreme Court when he’s no longer president. What most of the people who say this don’t know is that it wouldn’t be the first time. Not only could it happen, it already has happened.

William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States, was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court following his term as President. He is the only U.S. President to have served on the Supreme Court.  I have quite a fondness for Mr. Taft as he was a local kid, from … you guessed it … little Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

william howard Taft

It’s true. The Taft family is our primary claim to fame, if indeed Uxbridge has a claim to fame. But I digress.

There is no reason why a former president cannot be a judge, Supreme Court or otherwise. Or for that matter, anything else he might choose. Most presidents are well beyond retirement age at the conclusion of their terms in office. Many former presidents are happy to spend their remaining years writing their memoirs and donating time and energies to worthy causes. Those that are young and healthy enough to do more, often go into private corporate work to make some of the big bucks they don’t make as president.

POTUS earns $400,000 per year while in office. Compared to the CEO of any major company, this is chicken feed — even though it sounds like a lot of money to you and me. It represent slightly less than half his annual income. Obama, like most American presidents, has other sources of income, including investments and book royalties. He is not one of the wealthier presidents we’ve had through the years, but he’s doing okay — especially compared to the average working stiff.

That being said, there isn’t enough money in the treasury to make me want that job. There’s a reason why presidents go into office looking young and vibrant … and leave office looking old. Not older. Really old. You couldn’t pay me enough.

The First Lady gets a measly $10,000, which isn’t sufficient to cover a couple of nice gowns, much less shoes to match.

So if POTUS and FLOTUS were not rich when they took office, they may want to make up for lost income in subsequent working years.

William Howard Taft’s heart belonged to the law. He was an unhappy, unpopular president following the larger-than-life footsteps of Theodore Roosevelt. Getting appointed to the Supreme Court made up for much of what had gone wrong in his life. He served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1921 to 1930.

Official portrait of President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Official portrait of President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

So … for all those who’ve thought the idea was humorous that Mr. Obama might yet play a major role in American history, it may be humorous. It would certainly for many people be ironic as well. It’s also a good idea. Assuming Barack Obama would accept the job.

Regardless, I doubt he’ll have a hard time finding work. He looks pretty employable to me.

ELECTING A PRESIDENT THE AMERICAN WAY

It’s here! The Republican Convention — the big show we’ve been waiting for. I’m sure it’s the hottest thing to hit Cleveland since 1997 when they won the American League Pennant but lost the Series.

This first day wasn’t quite the thrilling event pundits have been touting, though it had its moments, at least a few of which will become sound bites on the late news.

No shootings, no riots worth noting, in or outside the convention hall. Trump didn’t say anything wildly outrageous, or at least nothing I remember. Frankly, after last night, when Trump declared Obama as personally responsible for the shootings in Baton Rouge while his so-called running mate said Hillary Clinton invented ISIS, he’d be hard put to top that.

GOP convention 2016 hall-2

This is about how our electoral system does — and doesn’t — work. It’s a rewrite of a post from last March when we were in the early stages of political self-destruction. We are much further down that road now.


The United States isn’t a democracy. We are a constitutional republic. Over all, the system is pretty good and usually works. Eventually. Except when it comes to election law and picking a president.

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The first time this became apparent, it was 1800. The U.S. was a mere 24-years old. It was only our second real national election because George Washington was selected, not elected.

Due to a glitch in the architecture of the electoral college, the Democratic-Republican candidates — Thomas Jefferson, for President and Aaron Burr for Vice President — won the same number of electoral votes.

According to History Central: 

… no one had the majority of votes, and the election was turned over to the House of Representatives. The House deliberated from February 11th to February 17th and voted 36 times. The Federalists had decided to support Burr … (and) would have won since they were the majority of the outgoing House. However, the constitution called for the election of a President by the House on a state-by-state basis. The Federalists could not carry enough states. On the 36th ballot Jefferson was selected.

That glitch got fixed in time for the next election in 1804, but twenty years later, there was a four-way election starring John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, William H Crawford, and Andrew Jackson. The electoral vote was Jackson – 99, Adams – 84, Crawford – 41, Clay – 37. The three leading candidates went to the House of Representatives for a final decision. With a little help from media-fueled scandal, J.Q. Adams won on the first ballot of the House. After taking office, he appointed Henry Clay Secretary of State. Hmm. Nothing suspicious there.

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This was the last time the House made the pick, but it wasn’t the last race to be decided outside the ballot box.

In 1876 the Democrats nominated Samuel Tilden while the Republicans nominated Rutherford B. Hayes. Tilden won the popular vote by 250,000 votes (out of approximately 2 million), but the vote was tight in South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana. Exactly how this got resolved is complicated. Suffice to say, it was a cooperative bag job by Congress and the SJC. The final decision landed Hayes in the Oval Office and brought an end to Reconstruction. Which, coincidentally, is what the south wanted all along.

cleveland-tilden campaign poster

In the election of 1888 Grover Cleveland (incumbent Democratic President) faced Republican Benjamin Harrison. Cleveland won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote. Harrison became President, but lost to Cleveland in a rematch four years later, making Cleveland the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. It’s also the only “disputed” election settled by an election.

The first memorable election of my life was the tight race between Kennedy and Nixon in 1960. It was the first election I watched on TV. It went on through the night and was still undecided as the sun rose.

kennedy election posterI was 13. I liked Kennedy. He made great speeches and was cute. The electoral vote was extremely close, but Kennedy held a lead in the popular vote for the entire race. This was the first time I remember hearing everyone say (after Nixon conceded) “We should overhaul the electoral college.” I’m still waiting.

Forty years later, the Supreme Court stepped in and stopped the recount of the tightest election in our history. Just over 537 votes out of more than 6 million separated Gore and Bush. Evidence strongly suggests Gore was the true winner, but the Supreme Court called the play. Which they had — have — no authority to do. The problem is, no one else had (has) the authority to decide a disputed presidential election. What’s a country to do?

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There are precedents, but each is a one-off, a solution cobbled together to patch up the crack in the liberty bell. If it happens again — we can safely assume it will — a new quickie solution will be thrown together.

When the Supreme Court stopped the recount in 2000 — a vote which was entirely along party lines (party lines don’t officially exist in the Supreme Court) — nothing in the Constitution gave the SJC the right to do it. But in the U.S., the Supreme Court is “the final word.” You can’t argue with the Supreme Court, can you? With no precedent for disputing the authority of the SJC, we accept it. The buck stops there. We grumble, complain, rail, and rant. But no one refuses to obey a Supreme Court ruling.

It’s something to ponder while we watch a terrifying election. Maybe it’s not the most terrifying election ever. As Stephen Colbert noted, “Trump might not actually be the worst ever president. We’ve had some really bad presidents …”

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Indeed we have had some terrible chief executives. The constitutional requirements to become president are that he or she be 35 years old, a resident of the United States for 14 years, and a natural-born Citizen (a term not defined in the Constitution). No requirement for education or experience. We are free to pick nominees from the bottom of the barrel. We are also free to pick the best and brightest — but apparently, we don’t want smart, capable people running things.

You wouldn’t hire someone to mow your lawn without knowing if they can use a lawn mower, yet we are nominating a guy to run for president because he has a lot of money and wants the job. Otherwise, he has no experience that would lead anyone to believe he can or should do the job.

That’s the thing about freedom. We are free to trade our freedom for a bag of baseballs or a puff of hot air. We won’t be the first or last country to choose a terrible leader. I hope we survive our choices.

NOW WE ARE FRAIL

To say this political year in the U.S. has been upsetting hardly begins to cover the range of emotions it has engendered. Beyond these borders, the world has gone from its usual level of whacked to incomprehensible, at least to me.

I’m personally suffering from “mad bomber overload” among many other maladies that as yet don’t have a name, but the one that pains me the most is watching the American political system blow itself up.

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To say I’m not a Trump supporter doesn’t come close to how I feel. There’s a curious silence too about Trump, this clown and poseur. Most of what’s been said has been by late night comedians. Where’s the rest of the commentary?

Where are the editorials? The political analysis? Historians, and college professors. Where are the scholars taking up cudgels in defense of our integrity? Why are they silent in the face of this assault on our constitutional republican government?

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TV networks are obviously afraid … but of who and why? Have they been threatened? Blackmailed? I’m not sure what they are afraid of, but they are obviously scared. What good is a free press that’s got its collective jaws wired shut?

Newspapers? I know they don’t have the clout they once did, but wouldn’t this be a good time to show us how important they can be? Why we need them?

What happened to Hillary? For an intelligent, well-educated, long-term political animal, she has so flunked this campaign, it stopped being humorous months ago. I like Hillary, but at every turn, she’s made awful choices. Her campaign has been a disaster.

tyranny and oppression - madisonAll politicians lie all the time. If you don’t think they do, then you’re suffering from a lethal case of naiveté. You have the excuse of being a civilian … but what’s Hillary’s excuse? She’s been in politics since she got out of Wellesley. She’s seen them rise, seen them fall, been there from the early days in Arkansas through 8 years in DC with Bill. In the senate and as Secretary of State. That’s a lot of politics.

And hey there, Bill? Are you trying to finish Hillary off? What was that “runway meeting”? You mean to say you didn’t know how that was going to look? No one could accuse you of being politically naïve.

I’m going to vote for Hillary despite everything because I could not vote for Donald Trump even with a gun to my head.

As for Trump: we have a candidate who tells the world the police shootings in Louisiana are the fault of President Obama (I can’t even figure out how you can make that connection … ) and whose “running mate” is an anti-woman moron who tells the world Hillary Clinton invented ISIS. I know he said it because we watched him say it on network television last night. I wanted to barf. This is not a choice.

I thought our government was tough. We’ve had dreadful presidents in the past and survived. Obviously we’re going to have at least one more coming right up. I thought we could survive the stupidity of our electorate … but now I’m unsure.

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Some of our worst presidents have been good people and some of our most effective presidents have been complicated people who did not bear close examination. Being a great leader and being a good person are not the same thing. Jimmy Carter, as an example, was a bad president, but he’s a great guy. Lyndon Johnson was a great president, but a flawed human being. Me, I’d always prefer Lyndon because he got stuff done. Vital stuff. He moved the country forward.

How fragile are we? The Republican convention starts today. Let the games begin. Thrills and chills and just the future of the world on the line, so no worries, mate.

THE DAILY POST | FRAIL