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?

THEY’RE NOT YOUR FATHER’S GOP – THE SHINBONE STAR – REBLOG

Remarkably, I miss our honorable opponents. I didn’t agree with them, but they were Americans and the believed in this country. I don’t think these sleazeballs believe in anything except their bank accounts.

THE SHINBONE STAR

The Andy Thomas print “The Republican Club” hangs in Trump’s White House office.

After the results of Tuesday’s elections were pretty much tied up tight, I couldn’t sleep. In part, I was wondering how to get the Republican Party’s picture affixed to the side of milk carton.

They haven’t been seen in a while, and while I’m pretty sure that they’re dead, we cannot be certain until we’ve seen the body.

If you’re old enough, then you can remember when the Grand Old Party was the party of patriotism. Republicans preached that Democrats had a plan to hand over the United States to the Soviets. It was an accusation that was flogged by right-wing evangelical preachers, and well, we all know that preachers wouldn’t lie about that.

The Dems never gave us up, and the Soviets eventually fell apart, but the Republican dream never died.

Years later, the GOP would…

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WHY YOUR VOTE REALLY DOES MATTER – Marilyn Armstrong

I hear a lot from many people, including in my own family, that “my vote doesn’t matter.” The reasons given range from “I live in the country and it’s just the votes in the cities that make the difference.” There’s some truth in that and it is frustrating, particularly on a local level.

Then I hear “None of this has anything to do with me.” That’s pretty hard to accept from a kid living in HUD-managed reduced cost housing and who survives on Social Security Disability. And a woman.

Others include “This state is so blue, my vote won’t matter.” That’s how we elected Trump.

The thing is, the vote isn’t just YOUR vote. Your vote is one of the millions of votes never given.

In the last election, more people didn’t vote than did.

One person doesn’t vote? No big deal. A dozen people don’t vote? Still no big deal.

When millions of people don’t vote? That’s a very big problem not in a single election, but in all elections. For years, we have had more non-voters than voters in national elections and in mid-terms, the voting is even worse.

If everyone like you and me will vote, we fix the problem. Voting means millions of people will get their ballots counted. I know my vote doesn’t count because not only do I live in a hugely blue state but because Boston has so many more votes than the rest of the state combined. However, Boston goes, so Massachusetts also goes.

This is true in every state that has one or two major cities which hold the concentration of voters. New York, for example, sets the votes of the state. As New York city votes, so goes the rest of the state — even though New York is a large state and is primarily rural.

You’d never know it from the vote count. Those of us who live in the country don’t have much impact. But if everyone who can vote actually votes, it would change the country’s demographics.

Because the truth is, we don’t know how those non-votes would vote. There are so many of them, they could create a third-party that could change our entire political system.

Collectively, we matter. Unless you are planning to run for office, you will always be one of many. Or as we say “E Pluribus Unum.”

It’s our national motto and it means “One From Many.”

Be one. Be part of the many.

Many things need changing, but we need people in office willing to change the status quo. To create an amendment that eliminates or massively alters the Electoral College. A serious rewrite of the second amendment. We need some legal requirements about who can hold office, especially the presidency.

We have a great constitution, but it is hundreds of years old and needs an upgrade.

WHO IS RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR IN MASSACHUSETTS? – Marilyn Armstrong

I had to look it up. I actually didn’t know who else was running for governor. Shame on me.

Shame on us!

We were watching the millionth advertisement for Charlie Baker, our current governor. He’s a Republican, but not the kind you find in Washington D.C. Massachusetts’ spawns very liberal Republicans. They are so liberal, it’s can be hard to figure out to what party they belong.

Our Republican governors run on everybody’s money — Democrat and Republican — because he manages to be nice to everyone, or at least nice enough to keep them on his side, more or less.

Charlie Baker is not a bad governor or a bad guy. He has basically followed the path of previous governors, except he has been more parsimonious. He hasn’t done anything very different from other governors or “Republicanized” our laws. He briefly waved at supporting Trump and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts came down on him like a mountain.

He backed off faster than a speeding bullet. This is the bluest state in the U.S. and a really red Republican was not going to do well here.

Since then, he has streamlined the budget until we now have a billion dollar surplus in the state treasury. Golly! That’s a fair bit of change. I have nothing against dealing wisely with finances. But where is the money coming from?

On the surface, a billion buck surplus sounds great, right?

Except in order to accumulate that billion dollars, he simply stopped doing stuff which urgently needs doing. The roads have gone unpaved. The rails are downright unsafe. Bridges are crumbling.

We are short 13,000 nurses statewide and many hospitals have closed. There are large areas without any local hospitals and barely any doctors.

Fall at UMass Amherst

The University of Massachusetts is as expensive as many private universities — and that is for people who are Massachusetts residents. The curriculum has been cut, too.

Meanwhile, our public schools are not improving. In another effort to financially cut back, MassHealth, our state’s version Medicaid has been slashed. A lot of people who have no other medical insurance now are forced to pay some dollar amount monthly.

It usually isn’t a lot in gross amounts but it can seem an awful lot to a family who depends on it. Still, compared to other American states, it’s about as good as American medical care gets. It even includes some care for eyes and teeth! It used to have more, but each year there’s less.

So then, I asked Garry which Democrat is running against Charlie Baker? He said “Someone with a Spanish last name,” but he couldn’t remember the actual name. Jay Gonzalez hasn’t had any television ads — or at least we haven’t seen them. None.

Basically, we have a choice of voting for Charlie Baker or someone about whom we know nothing because he apparently has no war chest for getting out the vote.

This bothers me.

I should at least know who else is running. It shouldn’t be that one guy has all the money, all the advertisements, all the endorsements, so naturally, we all vote for him. That’s not how it’s supposed to be.

The thing is, with all the advertisements about the great things Charlie Baker has done, he hasn’t done anything in this part of the state. The bridges are as bad as ever. The roads are worse. The schools are mediocre, ranging to pathetic.

BOSTON, MA. – SEPTEMBER 26: Gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez speaks to media at The Massachusetts Statehouse on September 26, 2018, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Patrick Whittemore/Boston Herald)

All public schools teach is how to pass required tests. Students learn nothing. They memorize what teachers expect to find on the exams. Good memorizers get good grades. Not such good memorizers do poorly.

Bad teachers, not enough teachers, huge classes. A lot of kids fall by the wayside.

When money goes to “help” schools, it always goes to some “charter school” in Boston or suburban Boston where the leaves are green and so is the money. And, because the population in Worcester county doesn’t come close to Boston or any of the areas near it, we can vote our hearts out, but unless it’s a local representative, we don’t have much effect on the election. Essentially, unless it’s a very local representative, our votes don’t count. Not nationally or regionally.

Areas with very with small populations don’t get much say in American politics.

So I’m voting for the other guy.

Because when I look at Charlie Baker’s slick advertising? What I I see is Boston. I see him cutting the bottom out of our upper and lower educational systems, failing to help improve our medical facilities, not helping the nursing schools engage students or helping hospitals pay for more nurses. I’m sure we can get him to pass a law about it, but that won’t solve the problem and will probably make it worse because the rest of the issue is that we need nurses and the money to pay them. And a law isn’t going to make that happen. Laws need funding and enforcement and some concept of the potential side effects of the law.

We have a habit in this state and this country of passing laws and then trying to figure out how to make it work. On a national level, sometimes this works, but mostly, it doesn’t work anywhere. Passing laws is not a single-layer job.

Even though I’m voting “no” on mandatory nursing ratios, it’s not because I don’t believe our nurses deserve a better deal but because I live in an area where there are very few decent hospitals. If mandatory nursing ratios force another 200 hospitals to close and any of them is in Worcester County,  it’s going to be hard to get into a hospital. I’d rather have overworked nurses than no place able to care for me.

For some of us, this is a life or death set of issues in this election and I’ve decided I want to live.

EXTRA TOPICAL

What About Obama?  Huh? by Rich Paschall

You may have heard of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, aka the Great Debates of 1858.  Yes, this is history and there may be a quiz at the end so pay attention.

Abraham Lincoln and the incumbent Senator from Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas, held a series of debates around the state trying to sway voters on the important issues of the day.  Each hoped their party would control the state legislature, as US Senators were chosen by the legislature, not by popular vote.  Lincoln was well-received at the debates, but Douglas was elected Senator.

We know how it turned out for Lincoln two years later.

Abraham Lincoln, Stephen A . Douglas

Now Lincoln-Douglas debates are mostly a high school competition.  They are “values” debates where students often argue the greater good.

“Solvency” is not an issue.  A debater does not have to know how to implement a solution, just should be better for society.  Of course, he/she will attempt to bring into evidence material from authoritative sources to bolster his/her position.

One of the suggested topics for the coming year is Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.  There is no need to say how this should be applied, but that there are situations when it should or could be.  Historical examples would provide support.  Law and order arguments may be common on the negative.

These debates, like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, are one-on-one.  The first speaker has a set time. The second speaker a slightly longer period, then the first speaker gets a rebuttal interval.  Total speaking times end up the same.  The first speaker may have a plan. The second speaker may have a counter-plan or could argue that no plan is reasonable under the resolution.

Shouting, name calling, unsupported positions all result in a ballot for the opposition by the judge. Contestants must research, write, think, and propose.  Obviously, acting like modern-day politicians would not produce a winner.

So-called debate

Two man team debate, also known as Policy Debate, will propose a resolution where the tactic not only includes interpreting the resolution but also implementing a solution.  Some debaters may have so many points to make that they speak quickly.  The judge will usually take notes to be sure that the speakers arguments flow logically from point-to-point.  Both speakers on each side of the debate topic make a presentation, both are cross-examined.  Then each speaks in rebuttal.  In many leagues, constructives are 8 -minutes, cross-examinations are 3-minutes, and rebuttals are 5-minutes long.

You’d better come prepared!

A topic for next season’s two-man debate will be Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its restrictions on legal immigration to the United States

The topics for the debate season are often timely and include something prominently in the news.

Debaters must research both sides of the issue as they will be called upon to be on the affirmative or negative, depending on the debate or round within a debate.  In mid-summer, debaters are already starting to study the issues and gather evidence pro and con.  There will be no flippant remarks, insults of opponents, or made up evidence.  General and stereotypical comments mean nothing without support.  Judges will dismiss these comments. and opponents are wise to challenge them.

Because there are obvious “stock issues” implied with any current events topic, it is incumbent upon the debaters to deal with these intelligently.  Bombast and supposition will not do.  Instead, they must deal with the significance of the issue, solvency of the plan they present, the harms of the status quo or the affirmative plan, and the advantages of one side along with disadvantages of the other.

A key part of any debate is “Topicality.” With time to fill in rebuttals and possibly cross examinations too, it becomes important to stay on topic.  With an audience of debaters and judges taking notes, you can not stray into areas that are “Extra Topical.”  There are no random viewers waiting for a debater to pull out stock arguments on other topics or to launch into inane attacks on the opponent.  It’s just critical thinkers judging the merits of the debate.

Why do we bring you this small lesson in the fine art of debate? Perhaps you have noticed that debate is a lost art in the political arena, television news shows, and especially social media.  In the last election, you saw one party presenting something other than primary debates.  Even as an entertainment show, it was generally lacking in substance.  The other side had two candidates who actually seemed to study the topics, but they also found time to present “extra-topical” discussion points.

The presidential “debates” that followed frequently strayed off topic.  One candidate spent time talking about other administrations rather than what he would do as president.  The attempt to belittle your opponent through insults to family and associates may influence some viewers, but it would not work well with debate judges.

On my Facebook news feed, I see “discussions” of a social or political nature often degenerate into a series of personal attacks and Extra-Topical points.  One friend often posts news articles on current social issues.  A person I am acquainted with will usually make a comment on sanctuary cities.

If I point out the topic has nothing to do with these cities, he tells me to wake up!  For him, that is the only topic which really matters.

Another friend likes to engage me in a debate.  I try not to fall for it anymore.  If he says something about 45, I might respond (on topic), “As a former military man, how do you feel about Trump sharing military secrets with the North Koreans or Russians?”

The response is likely to be “What about Obama?  Huh?  You never said anything against him when he was president.”

“Yes, I did.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“You weren’t listening.”

“Well, what about Obama? Huh?”

There is no staying on topic sometimes.  It is particularly frustrating if you are a debate coach or judge.

CORPORATE VERSUS POLITICAL AMERICA – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I read an interesting article about the difference between corporate America and political America. In a nutshell, corporations’ bottom line is with the public. Politicians’ bottom line is with their donors.

Today, ironically, it seems that corporate America is more beholden to and therefore more sensitive to public opinion than politicians are. This makes sense. Corporations deal directly with the public. They function in more of a true democracy than politicians do.

Politicians have a huge and powerful layer of lobbyists, special interests and large donors that shield them from the will of the people. Or at least the vagaries of public opinion.

The result of this is dramatic. For example, Roseanne Barr makes some egregious racist and conspiracy theory tweets. Within 24 hours, her show is canceled by the ABC Network. That was done in response to and in fear of the outcry by an outraged public. The network has to placate their viewers or risk losing them.

On the other hand, Trump has frequently tweeted awful, racist and conspiracy theory comments. Each one worse than the last. Yet there have been no consequences for him. Despite great public outrage. He is protected from the effects of public opinion by his loyal Republican base and his congressional supporters. In turn, the Republican congressmen are bolstered by their large donors, including lobbyists and special interest groups. They don’t have to pay attention to the negative reactions of over 60% of the general public.

So, our political system is, in some ways, less democratic than our corporate system. Starbucks closed their stores across the country to hold a nationwide racial sensitivity training session. This was done in response to public pressure after some racist incidents at a few of their stores. Again, public opinion had a direct and immediate effect on the company’s policies and actions. In contrast, there are layers of buffer between politicians and their constituents. At least between elections.

Elections bring politicians a bit closer to their constituents, at least temporarily. But it’s still not the direct connection that corporations enjoy. You either buy the corporation’s product or shop in their store or you don’t. There is nothing between your checkbook and the company you are buying from. Even at election time, special interest and donor money can shield a politician from his voters. And can have disproportionate influence on the politician.

Take the NRA. The NRA has only five million members. Public opinion is over 80% in favor of reasonable gun control. That’s over 200 million Americans who support gun control legislation. But somehow those meager five million people wield huge sway over a majority of politicians. That’s because the NRA throws an outrageous amount of money at politicians. No matter what a politician’s constituents think or want, the NRA will get the politician’s vote if the price is right.

The Electoral College is another buffer zone between Presidential candidates and the American voter. The popular vote does not determine the president. That would be the pure democracy that corporations have to deal with.

Local politics in certain ‘swing’ states have a disproportionate influence on presidential election results. And the voters in those states have a disproportionate influence on elections. That leaves the rest of the country out in the cold.

Lately, it seems like we’re getting even farther away from the concept of democracy. Now, we have never been a pure democracy. But it seemed that the ‘will of the people’, at some points in our recent history, had more sway. Maybe I’m being idealistic. Maybe public opinion never had a major influence on elections or on politicians once in office.

But I would love to live in a country where public opinion could have a direct effect on our country’s policies. Like Roseanne losing her show within 24 hours – I would love to see meaningful gun control regulations enacted 24 hours after public opinion goes nuts over yet another fatal school mass shooting.

I don’t believe that that will happen anytime soon. But maybe if Democrats can motivate people to vote who usually don’t vote, public opinion might be able to overwhelm the ‘money talks’ bias of the political system. At least I can nurture that dream for the next five months!

MOTIVATING DEMOCRATS – 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.

However, there have been periods in our history when the persecution was lifted and Jews are more openly accepted into the larger societies. When that happens, Jews tend to rapidly assimilate. In the process, we lose some of our Jewishness. We adopt the culture of our homeland. We intermarry. We 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 and lose some of our unique spirit as a people.

I believe that Democrats and  progressives are, in some ways, similar. When things are going well for us, we lose our identity and our will to fight. We don’t vote in off-year elections. We don’t participate in local and statewide politics nearly 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.

And 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. We are winning local and national elections in deep red areas. 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. Hopefully that will be enough to win over one, or maybe even both houses in Congress. If not, we may not be able to get the major change in Washington that we want through the ballot box before 2020.

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.