Category: Immigration

Deomocrats and the “Forgotten” Heartland

George S LedyardMuch of the conventional wisdom since the disastrous electoral loss in Nov 2016 is that the Democratic Party lost because it had become too focused on identity politics and the educated liberal urban bastions on the two coasts. Bernie Sanders has maintained that a lack of an economic agenda that clearly benefits the working and middle classes was what turned voters away from the Democrats.
But a recent article in Vox provides a very different take on this issue. It points out that populism is on the rise all over the world in democracies which have far more socialized economic systems than what we have.

This had occurred to me a while ago. I had been trying to envision what possible Democratic / Progressive platform would have brought any significant number of Donald Trump’s supporters to our fold. My answer was, there isn’t one.
diversityThe whole basis of the Democratic / Progressive liberal agenda is diversity. It is about championing the rights of minorities and vulnerable populations. It is about LGBT rights, It is about a woman’s right to choose.  It is fundamentally about ensuring that all Americans have a level playing field when it comes to economic opportunity.
Of course, as Bernie Sanders has so aptly demonstrated, liberals have fallen far short of achieving this level playing field. But the Vox article is fairly convincing in maintaining that this wasn’t actually the reason we lost the election.
The fact is that I cannot envision what agenda would both preserve the fundamental focus on civil rights, minority rights, women’s rights, maintaining the social safety net, and be based on the philosophy of mixed public / private management of the country’s economy. It is fundamental to Liberal and Progressive philosophy that the government has a crucial role in managing those things which we determine to be “public goods” on behalf on the American people.
These include clean air, clean water, the environment in general, our rivers, the ocean, endangered species, fish runs, and the social safety net (sometimes called the welfare system). Health care has, since its inception, been a mixed bag. The government has policies which heavily “regulate” the industry, and via medicare, medicaid, and the veteran’s administration covers some financing, but the majority of our system is private. It is an “employer based” system and insurance is provided by private insurers.
Trump SupportersSo, what do we see on the right? It certainly is not a monolithic group. The GOP base is made up of a disparate groups and philosophies. But one unifying element is an almost visceral dislike of the Federal Government. The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, which has hijacked the Party’s agenda, wants to see smaller government, less regulation, a strong focus on property rights (as opposed to the public good), and far less Federal civil rights interference in state and local matters.
It is impossible to separate our current “populism” from “nativism”. The core demographic supporting Donald Trump and the farther right politicians is non-college educated whites. And they are Christians. This group is adamantly opposed to immigration. It wants to see deportation of undocumented residents. It wants to see a Wall built on the Mexican border. It wants to see an almost total ban on immigration from Islamic countries.
This group has gradually been influenced over a period of decades to become an anti-diversity, increasingly white supremacist group. They are convinced that diversity is a war against our Eurocentric values and heritage. They are xenophobic and more isolationist than we have seen for many years.

The Alt Right
The Alt Right Movement

My point here is that these people are rabidly opposed on a very fundamental level to almost EVERYTHING we liberals and progressives stand for. They do not believe that the government should have much of a role in anything beyond defense and law enforcement. They believe that the social safety net is a giveaway of public money to undeserving minority moochers. They are made uncomfortable by cultural values different than their own, especially when they are introduced into their previously homogeneous communities.
So, I would ask, would an vehemently anti-abortion person be persuaded by an economic program designed to benefit their demographic to vote for a Party that is firmly committed to “choice”? I would say nothing would do that.

I would ask what would persuade a voter who hates the Federal Government, is convinced that all politicians are corrupt, and feels that just about everything the government does that he sees is bad, to vote for a candidate that believes in a single payer, national health system administered by the government? I would say nothing.
Black Lives MatterI would ask what would persuade a voter who is fundamentally frightened by minorities and immigrants, who wishes to see the clock turned back to when white exceptionalism was the rule in our country and minorities just had to go along, to vote for a candidate from a party that is fundamentally associated with equal opportunity and rights for all… that has made “inclusion” the basis of its philosophy? I would say nothing.
I think it is time to understand that the country is polarized between extremes that really are not going to be reconciled. One side is not going to be persuaded to join the other side. This is a conflict that is going to have winners and losers. The losers will not be happy. And nothing we can do as liberals and progressives will change that fact.
Diversity PictureSo, no, the Democratic Party does not have to abandon its focus on diversity and identity politics. What it needs to do is incorporate a more progressive agenda into a plan that targets it liberal / progressive base. It isn’t about winning over the Tea Party folks in the heartland, or the uneducated workers on the rust belt. It is about finally coming up with a program that actually does improve the lot of the folks that have been Democratic supporters all along.

ACLU Civil Rights

Let’s make it clear to our minority populations that we have a real commitment to ending the war on drugs, shifting decriminalization to support via education, rehabilitation, mental health services, business development in the urban centers, etc. Let’s have a comprehensive plan to provide economic incentives and create educational / vocational alternatives for our workers who will be increasingly replaced by the robotics revolution.
To take back the country we need to motivate the folks that have traditionally been our base of supporters, not try to win over a group of folks that isn’t going to be won over no matter what we do. Instead, we need to maintain the focus we have had but actually start to deliver the goods. It was disinterest in our base this election that gave us Donald Trump, not a huge mandate.
Check out the article on Vox
No easy answers: why left-wing economics is not the answer to right-wing populism

“Merit Based Immigration” Ignores the Needs of Regular Americans

George S LedyardMerit based immigration” is a disguised “class-ist” system. Right now the US is allowing highly skilled workers to come from overseas and take positions in American companies. We benefit from their expertise and that seems like a good thing.

But the fact is that we need to bring in high level expertise from overseas because our own schools are not turning out sufficient numbers of skilled workers to fill the openings we have. Importation of foreign expertise removes market pressures to fix our education system. If we didn’t allow H1B workers to satisfy the demand for skilled workers, our corporations would be pressuring Federal and State government to fix our educational system to produce the educated work force they require.

 H1B visas, merit based immigration
We have a massive income divide in the US and a middle class that is under pressure. Current debates about jobs, bringing manufacturing back to the US, etc largely ignore that robotics / automation is a revolution on the scale of our industrial revolution. It will not be too long before most of the jobs performed at the low income level of the economy will be performed by machines. Even now, the jobs being created via economic growth are jobs that require higher education or at the very least, extensive vocational training.

Who are the H1B Visa recipients? More often than not, these people represent the elite of the countries from which they come. They come from the top strata of society that could afford to send their children to the very best lite schools. They can then come to the United States and gain valuable work experience. Some choose to stay here and other return home, taking that valuable experience with them and many end up in businesses that directly compete with our own companies.

But that isn’t the real issue. The real issue is that the American middle class has been in decline for decades. It is increasingly difficult for the average American worker to find jobs that actually pay enough to maintain that middle class status. The opportunities for movement up the economic ladder for most of our middle class folks is decreasing all the time.
We have a country in which the average citizen reads at around an 8th grade level. These people simply do not have the education or the skills needed to fill the new economy jobs which are opening up. Even if Donald Trump succeeds in bringing back manufacturing to the US, these people will not be getting those jobs that return.
A merit based immigration program allows American business to get the expertise it needs without the country making the investment in its own citizens required to meet these corporate requirements. It is a system in which we let someone else shoulder the burden of creating an educational system that produces these highly trained people and then we bring them in and put them to work. All the while, our own citizens are struggling. We are not investing in getting them ready for the jobs of the future.
H1B, merit based immigrationWe have allowed an income divide to develop over time that simply leaves most Americans behind. A huge percentage of our citizens are underemployed, which means that they are working very hard at one, often two jobs, but are still barely able to survive. This income divide exists all over the world. Now the children of the economic elite of one country can come to the US and be a part of the economic elite of our country while no effort is made to better the lot of the folks already here who exist at the bottom.
So, while I am at pains to say that I am not at all anti-immigrant, the so-called “merit based” immigration system obviates the need to do something about our school system’s failure to produce enough skilled workers to ensure decent wage paying jobs for our own citizens. The jobs may be there but our own people aren’t prepared for them. It produces an upper middle class of technical elites that actually makes upward mobility for the rest of our citizens more difficult.

Steven Miller – We Should All Be Afraid, If We Weren’t Before

George S LedyardWe keep being told that bringing out the term “Fascist” is inappropriate and inaccurate when talking about the Trump administration.

Steven Miller as Brown ShirtI am sorry but it would be impossible to find a person who sends up more red flags than Steven Miller? Don’t let the suit and tie fool you… this is a contemporary version of a Brown Shirt.

Steven Miller and Joseph GoebbelsWhen you hear that Trump’s executive power shouldn’t be subject to judicial review… when we are being told that Trump’s decisions are not open to question… then you are looking at a Fascist, a totalitarian, or a supporter of autocracy, a proponent of despotism, however you wish to describe it. The fact that Trump publicly thanked this man for how he represented the President on all the talk shows should tell you everything you need to know.Trump Tweet - Steven Miller

This guy is one step from telling us that we should make Trump Emperor for Life. He is easily the scariest man to have appeared in the administration since Steve Bannon. Another Joseph Goebbels point man for the Great Leader.
We are a Constitutional Democratic Republic. A nation of laws. When you have a spokesperson trying to maintain that a President’s actions cannot be subject to judicial oversight, you are hearing the verbal justification for a totalitarian takeover of the government. This is the beginning of a Cult of the Personality, the justification for dictatorship. No one must question the absolute power of the leader.
If there are any genuine Conservatives left in our government, they should be quaking in fear. They should be asking at what point do they step up and start resisting this threat to the democracy they say they care about so much?

These are not just people who have a different political agenda from us. It isn’t just their ideas and policies. These people are a type that is seen throughout history. The fanatical, true believer. This is precisely the kind of person who would send a family off to the camps and not think twice about it.

white supremacists, Fascists, Trump, Steven Miller
We cannot allow these people to prevail. Resist.

Outrage Fatigue – We Can Handle It

George S LedyardA great article by Ariana Huffington on outrage fatigue titled How to Get Out of the Cycle of Outrage in a Trump World

Really worth reading and its points are quite valid. But it did get me thinking about the issue of outrage fatigue. I asked myself, aren’t we stronger than that?

This is a war. It is a political war, but it is also a culture war. As much as we find Trump repulsive, it is a fact that the GOP as a political party is backing him 100%. We cannot separate Trump from the Tea Party hi-jacked GOP itself. Every time they vote to support a Trump nominee, every time they overlook the conflicts of interest, every time they allow him to not release his tax returns, when they overlook the outrageous way he is conducting what could only generously be described as foreign policy. they are “enablers”. They must take equal responsibility for this atrocious man.
But we are also forced to admit that not a one of these people would be in office… not the President, not the Senators and Congressmen, none of them, without having been voted into office. It is simply the case that a really significant section of the American public has a very different vision of America that is in many ways diametrically opposed to the Liberal / Progressive vision. In other words, this is a fight that has existed since the start of our country and continues to this day.  It isn’t going away. It will still be going on long after Donald Trump is disgraced and leaves office.
Organized LaborSo, I find myself thinking about outrage fatigue and the issue of “staying power”. I think about the battle that the Labor Unions fought for decade upon decade in the face of black balling, assassination, strike breaking, state sanctioned violence… Most of us are currently facing nothing like that.
The women warriors who fought for suffrage faced social ridicule, isolation, arrest and imprisonment had to sustain that effort for years and years. For many it was a life long battle. Most of us are not even close to putting ourselves on the line to that extent.
Women's rights, suffragettesThe Civil Rights Movement literally lasted generations. It accelerated after WWII and seemed to peak in the 1960s with the successful fight to end segregation. The movement activists faced beatings, even death at the hands of the reactionaries. People were lynched, shot, simply disappeared. Marchers were fire hosed, had the dogs turned on them, were attacked by the white crowds. This happened over and over for years. Are we as Liberal / Progressive citizens facing anything like that … Yet?
What I am saying here is that if we are in this for the long run, it is certainly true that we need to pave ourselves. We also need to perform concrete actions along with being outraged to give that energy an outlet. All true. But at the same time, when I look at our nation’s history of activism and resistance, at what a monumental effort it has taken to get where we are, the sacrifices made by the culture warriors who have fought the battle to make this country a better place for all, I think that holding onto to my outrage is a small price to pay.
Are we not strong enough to sit with our outrage every day? Are we REALLY allowing ourselves to be “fatigued” after a few months of the political wars? I think we should think about the strength required to sustain this battle until we can turn this country around. The folks who went before us faced far greater challenges. The folks out there at Standing Rock, the Black Lives Matter protesters, the Occupy movement folks, the environmental activists,  all the other fighters on the front lines are  really putting themselves out there for all of us. I think maybe the least we can do is maintain our outrage and not shy away from it.
If it is too much for some, I understand that. You do what you can. But I think that the vast majority of us are strong enough to hold that outrage, to wake up every day and feel it, to express it publicly, loud and strong. Because that is what is required to not allow what is happening to be “normalized”. I think this is how we honor the generations of labor leaders, women’s rights activists, civil rights fighters, and so on who have gone before us. We have to maintain and feed the outrage. It is the motive energy that feeds concrete action. It is required to get marchers on the streets, not just once but over and over.  It is what is required to get us writing our Congressional leaders, not just on one issue, but continuously until they can’t ignore us. It is what is required to produce record turnout at the mid-term elections rather than the dismal 50% of the Presidential election that is typical.
Seattle Women's marchSo, don’t do yourselves harm. Take care of yourselves. But if you can hold your outrage, if you can feed it, communicate it, keep it steady, then by all means do so. I think we can be tough enough to do that at least. The war is going to demand much more from some. A few will find themselves out in front for the rest of us. It has always been thus. But we can stay strong and outraged at a minimum, acting in the various ways that we each find for ourselves. Personally, I think my outrage is making me stronger. As my wife, who was a nation champion fencer used to say to herself when competing, “Be tired later.”

Our Recent History of Anti Immigrant Sentiment

George S LedyardI know we are all in shock about what is happening in our country at the moment and with good reason. But on another level, we shouldn’t be shocked. This is a failure of our educational system. Most of us never learned the history of how white America repeatedly used anti-immigration regulations and mass deportations to maintain a white supremacist vision of what the country should be.
Mexican repatriationJust looking at my parents generation, the 1930s, we can see an America which was unapologetic-ally racist. An unspecified number of residents of Mexican decent were arbitrarily rounded up in the late 20s and early 30s and “repatriated” to Mexico. A million or more were rounded up in a completely indiscriminate effort and estimates range as high as 60% of these people were US citizens. But it wasn’t just the 30s… in 1954 “Operation Wetback” did much the same thing, albeit on a slightly smaller scale… maybe half a million deported.
In the 1920s and 30s even Italians and other Southern Europeans were the target of an immigration policy that restricted their immigration to the US while favoring that of Northern Europeans. Efforts were made using the criminal justice system to deport as many as possible back to Italy.
America was virulently anti-Semitic in the 1930s. Jews were routinely denied membership in clubs and associations. The KKKs efforts at the same were actually more targeted at the Jews than Blacks since they didn’t feel that Blacks were any real threat. More than sixty years of terror had seen to that. But the Jews were threatening to white America. There had been a huge influx from central Europe and white folks were upset. So, legislation was enacted that strictly restricted Jewish immigration just at a time when Jews in the hundreds of thousands were trying to flee the rise of anti-Semitic Fascism across Europe and, in particular Germany.
Voyahe of the St LouisThe most famous instance was the VOYAGE OF THE ST. LOUIS in 1939. A ship full of Jews fleeing Germany after Kristallnacht (literally the “Night of Crystal” pogrom was turned away and denied entry to the US. Eventually, the ship was sent back to Germany where at least half of those refugees eventually were exterminated.
Anti Japanese racismAlmost nothing is taught in our schools about the anti Asian riots and roundups of the late 1800s and early 1900s which took place in the Pacific NW and the West Coast but most students have at least heard of the mass round up of our Japanese American citizens, the suspension of the civil rights, and the wholesale theft of their property when they were sent to what we would now call “concentration” camps.
What we are seeing today is just a resurgence of what has been a part of America since its inception. The success of the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s lulled us into a false feeling of security. Our successes in moving forward on women’s rights, minority and LGBT rights, deceived many of us into thinking that bigotry and racism was largely a piece of history. You even had Republican politicians seriously maintaining that we were in a post-racial America.
Well, the ridiculousness of that belief has been glaringly obvious in this past election. reactionary, “nativist” sentiment is alive and well in the US, and through a quirk of historical circumstance, has manged to gain control of our government. There is almost no difference between the position of the Jews fleeing Fascism in the 30s and the refugees fleeing the war torn middle east today. Syrian refugees And one again, our country is taking the hard-hearted approach of excluding them from entry. They can return home and be killed, or they can stay in camps in which the conditions are terrible, we don’t care. Just as long as they don’t move here.
The focus on illegal immigration from South of the border is just a continuation of social and racial bias that has always been there and which has periodically exploded into anti-Hispanic round ups and deportations. Only the Wall as a response seems to be a truly new approach. Keeping them out is now a priority on which we are willing to spend many  billions of dollars at a time when we do not seem to have enough money for basic health care or education

The Wall - Donald Trump
Like the Statue of Liberty, our Wall will make a permanent statement for the world to see.

Perhaps of more people were aware of our history of racism, bigotry, roundups of immigrants, and ethnic cleansing, people might have spotted just how dangerous Donald Trump and company actually are. Perhaps we would not have seen such a blase attitude toward this last election with the lowest voter turnout since 1920. But it is what it is and now we have no choice but to fight  a rear guard action while we try to regroup.