Category: Election 2016

Trump Goes on the Offense – Here Comes the Witch Hunt

George S LedyardBy now. anyone who pays even the least attention to politics, knows about the issues with potentially inappropriate ties to Russia on the part of Donald Trump and associates. The number of campaign workers, even family members, who had meetings with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, also known to be Russia’s top spymaster in the US, during and after the campaign seems to grow almost daily.

Sergey Kislyak with Vladimir Putin
Sergey Kislyak at the center

The timing of many of these meetings seems suspicious as various events took place around the same times, such as the change in the language of the GOP platform regarding the Ukraine (a softening of the position vis a vis Russia) and the release of the hacked emails which are seen by members of the intelligence community as almost certainly coming out of a state sponsored Russian hacker effort.

Russian influence scandal, Sessions, Flynn, Kisyiyak

Mike Flynn met with the Russians and said he didn’t and has resigned. Now Jeff Sessions is in the spotlight for precisely the same thing. Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner is also known to have met with Kislyak, a fact kept quiet until just recently,  and the question remains about all of these meetings, what was being discussed? Why were members of a camping team having multiple contacts with the Russian Ambassador?
Suffice it to say that this whole affair has occasioned something of a crisis within the new Trump administration. Try as he might, Trump has failed to shake this widening scandal and comparisons with Watergate and Richard Nixon abound.
So, what is Donald Trump’s response to these perceived attacks on his new regime? What it has always been throughout his career, go on full counter attack. In a series of tweets is has accused Barrack Obama of having Trump Tower wire tapped during the campaign. Today, he is calling for an all out Congressional investigation into these supposed wire taps, while calling them a form of McCarthyism.
Well, the GOP has closed ranks behind their leader and so far, steadfastly refused to initiate investigations into the Russian hacker activity and whether it improperly influenced the election. Now, the President wishes to turn the tables and loose his GOP controlled Congress on the former Obama administration.
This is clearly, transparently, a standard Trump response to any attack he can’t make go away or from which he can’t distract attention with outrageous behavior, and that is attack. Trump learned this tactic as a young man from his friend and mentor, Roy Cohn, the vicious lawyer behind Joe McCarty and a New York mob lawyer and ruthless litigator.

Roy Cohn and Donald TrumpThe attacks against the previous President serve multiple purposes for Trump. First, they fit his on-going narrative that Obama administration holdovers are waging a guerrilla war from with the various government agencies via leaks that embarrass the administration. This has been an only partially effective tactic given the fact that Trump would probably not be President if it weren’t for the infamous email leaks which targeted the Clinton campaign.
Also, these accusations now dominate the news cycle, giving the Trump team some time to regroup. They also put the GOP members of Congress in a position where they have to start choosing sides. While it is clear that virtually all of the Republicans members of Congress are perfectly happy to stone wall any possible investigation into the Trump campaign’s involvement in Russian interference in the election, they have been able to sit back on the sidelines so far.
Bannon and Miller, Donald Trump advisers, Russian scandalBut now, Trump’s strategy, no doubt worked out with his closest advisers, is to attempt to turn Congress into a weapon to be used against the enemy. Because Trump has been in full control of the government, having won the election and with a GOP controlled House and Senate, Trump hasn’t had anyone to act as a foil for his inherently aggressive instincts. Obama and Clinton are gone, former Obama administration officials are being purged, and the Democratic Congress is powerless to do much at all. So, the Trump tactic of finding an external enemy to go after has not been helping him.

Trump tweet Obama wire tapNow, completely out of the blue, he is trying to turn his Russian problem into a Congressional witch hunt focused on the previous Obama administration.  Of course, as usual, his diatribe against Obama has no basis in fact. The President of the United States has no power to order such wire taps. It requires a court order to do so. This begs the question, if there were wire taps, what was the probable cause that justified them? This may actually be Trump’s attempt to expose and discredit a classified investigation into his own campaign by the intelligence service and the FBI. Either that or this is another one of his completely fictitious creations which are so hard to refute because there’s no factual information involved at all.

This also serves to force the media into devoting their limited resources to another investigation. Hours spent digging to verify a potentially unverifiable accusation translates into hours not spent looking more deeply into Russian penetration of the Trump administration.
But, this whole thing may backfire on the Trump regime if it serves to make public the reasons a court would grant a surveillance order involving Trump and his associates. The Russian influence / hacking scandal when combined with so many of Trump’s associates having extremely close ties to Russian government and business figures takes one very close to the line past which we start talking about espionage or spying. Trump may not like what comes out now that he’s opened another can of worms.
Joe McCarty, Roy Cohn, Trump Russian scandal, wire taps, ObamaIn any case, Trump is ready to take us back to the McCarthy era. He wants to initiate a Congressional investigation into his perceived enemies. If he can get this started, one can rest assured its scope will expand from wire taps during the campaign to searching for anti-Trump “leakers” within the various government agencies, especially the FBI and the intelligence services. If he can get this started, it will turn into a witch hunt. I believe this is Trump’s excuse to go on the offensive and identify and purge the government of any resistance to his administration.
We have not seen a vicious, attack dog, like this in the white house since Richard Nixon. Trump and his minions are every bit as ruthless about consolidating power as anyone who has ever been in the office. This is not a man who plays “defense”. After a couple weeks of taking hits, he has rallied himself and his minions and the have gone into full attack mode. Expect to see this played out today (Sunday) on all the talk shows.

Trump and Putin, Russian influence scandalWe cannot let this counter offensive succeed. Our representatives must keep on pushing for a special prosecutor to investigate the Russian hacking scandal and possible related improper relationships with Russian officials / spies. We must encourage the media to stay focused on the real story and not let Trump get away with distracting them. And we have to keep our representatives focused on the continuous effort to get Trump to release his tax returns. All of his outrageous behavior is designed to protect him from what could be politically lethal revelations and we should not allow that effort to succeed.

The Resistance Needs Leadership – Now!

George S LedyardI think that our Democratic leadership has lost its way. They seem to be in shock. They act like they are not quite aware of just what a disaster they have presided over.
They need to understand what our expectations are. Yes, there were a couple of Trump’s picks that weren’t insane. Ok, have a damned meeting, agree which ones you won’t oppose, and then vote as a block to against confirmation for the others. Pick the most odious ones and boycott the confirmation hearings and the subsequent vote. Let the GOP confirm these people with no Democrats participating.
Right now what I see is crazy, left wing, pseudo-anarchists and other hard-core fringe groups grabbing the headlines, and not in a positive way. Where is inspiring, moderate resistance leadership? Who is going to step up.
Listen folks… a small group of motivated women that nobody ever heard of before put 3 million people in the streets marching against what is happening. Where is the political leadership needed to keep that momentum going? Maybe we should appoint Evvie Harmon, Fontaine Pearson, or Breanne Butler to run the DNC. (The organizers of the Women’s March on Washington). We need a Mother Jones right now, not some nice liberal folks who don’t know how to fight in the trenches.

This election was the GOP’s Blitz Kreig. Our nice, moderate, intelligent, fact based, inclusive Maginot Line failed completely. We are in retreat on all fronts. Our leaders can either step up and lead the resistance or look like a bunch of Vichy collaborators.

Senate DemocratsWhat the Hell Is Wrong With Senate Democrats?

 

Donald Trump and the “Arrogant” Liberal Elites

George S Ledyard

Hillary Clinton recently was quoted as saying

I think you could put half of Trump supporters into what I call a basket of deplorables. Right; their racist, sexist homophobic xenophobic islamophobic you name it, unfortunately there are people like that and he’s lifted them up.

This touched off a firestorm in which the Trump campaign depicted Clinton as arrogant, as a member of the Liberal Elite that has lost touch with the common people. But the fact is that much of the country, and in fact, the world,  looks at the Trump supporters with fear and loathing. To understand what is really going on here one needs to take the larger view.

It is difficult for the GOP to talk about this issue as they are constantly harping about “class war” whenever the Dems talk about the fact that we have an entire under class of people who do not participate in the economic benefits of living in the US. It is a knee jerk response to yell class war any time the issue of wealth inequality is brought up.

Because when they try to talk about the “contempt” of the so-called liberal elites for the working class, that is EXACTLY what they are talking about… CLASS WAR. And in one sense they are correct that this is a class issue.

The so-called liberal elites are in fact a segment of the society that has directly benefited from our country’s affluence. They represent a good portion of the most educated citizenry. So, they do tend to believe that they have better solutions to our nation’s issues than the less educated among us. I can’t disagree with that. The GOP and it’s Tea Party wing has tried to imbue what in Victorian times would have been called “the great unwashed” with a sort of Rousseau-ian nobility. They are somehow the “noble savages” of our time.

But the fact is that traditionally, these folks have been called “the mob” and only periodically have political parties like the “No Nothing Party” or particular populist politicians like Huey Long focused their efforts at mobilizing this group because all members of the establishment, regardless of liberal / conservative leanings are scared to death of these folks.

It has historically been a tight rope walk because there are far more of these folks than there are of the folks in the establishment. All the way back to the Revolutionary War our leaders have been terrified of the mob. Now, for the first time in our history we have that “mob” taking over one of our major political parties. They bought the propaganda put out by the GOP leadership but then decided that leadership was part of the problem. And in that, they would be correct.

Donald Trump has shown a genius for expressing the fear, anger, bigotry, xenophobia, etc that these folks feel. All at once the traditional GOP has lost control of its membership. The result is what we see.

The traditional way that the establishment has kept these folks under control is to get them to blame their problems on the wrong people. It’s the Indians, it’s the Blacks, it’s the Irish and Italians, the Chinese, the Mexicans, the Japanese, the Muslims. We have a long history of ethnic cleansing in this country when the anger of these folks has boiled over. Karl Marx , Class Warfare, Clas war, Social JusticeThe most terrifying event in history for our economic elites was the Russian Revolution because Marxism and the International Labor Movement threatened to refocus the discontent of this under class on the real source of their problems. But modern liberalism and the birth of the social safety met under FDR and the New Deal took the life out of the far Left.

So, rather than Donald Trump representing a solution for these people, he is actually a manifestation of the traditional way that the elite establishment has sought to control them. He has them focused on Mexicans, on Muslims, on Liberals, on everyone except the folks who actually have the ability to change things for these folks. How they can be gullible enough to believe that a billionaire son of a millionaire is the messiah for a bunch of folks who won’t in their entire lives make as much money as Trump has in petty cash is beyond me. But he talks the talk beautifully even if he doesn’t even try to walk the walk. 

So, America is in shock because here is a member of the elite establishment giving voice to the mob, to the great unwashed. America is used to ignoring these folks. The liberals have always understood they are there, and their basic economic program has been to make sure the social safety net is just enough to keep these folks in line so they don’t get out of control. The GOP traditionally (since the sixties anyway) has advocated policies that totally ignore these folks. They use wedge issues to get them to vote against their own economic self interest and this has worked for them until this election.

eda73-trump2bmussoliniWe are simply unused to see a member of the elite establishment talking like what the economic elite in the South would have been called “poor white trash”. So, while I do not believe that these folks represent anything but the darker side of our America, I don’t dispute that these folks have reason to be angry. They have been among the marginalized since the founding of the country and still are. They are simply not smart enough to understand who is responsible for their plight and they are ready made for a demagogue like Trump to control.

 

How Your Government Works

George S LedyardThe recent flap over the relationship between the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton State Department has created an appearance of influence peddling and pay per play government. The reality is that the uproar demonstrates that most Americans simply do not know how the government works.

In a country which is governed by laws and in which government regulations effect almost every area of economic life, a virtually constant need for rulings and decisions about how the laws and regulations apply exists. While so-called “normal” channels exist for getting the various permits, permissions, and decisions required to do business both domestically and internationally, to deal with immigration issues, foreign investment in US businesses, export of US technologies, and so on, it is also a constant effort on the part of businesses and individuals to get these decisions made as expeditiously as possible.

In every area of life, relationships are important and nowhere are relationships more important than in government. Every citizen has Congressmen and Senators in Congress that they elect to represent their interests. In theory, we all have the same access. But the reality is, and this has been true since the nation was founded, that the richest individuals and the most successful corporations go to the head of the line when they need access.

Your Senators and Congressmen spend a huge amount of their time helping their constituents navigate the maze of government regulation. They can contact an agency and help you make your case for a favorable decisions, they can contact another agency to find out the status of an immigration visa in process. Within certain ethical limits, they are there to represent the interests of their constituents. But it is a simple fact that big supporters of the party, companies that employ their constituents, even personal friends, will have “access” that ordinary people do not have.

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, not a right / left issue, it is how things work and have always worked. One could certainly make a case for doing various things that would reduce the influence of wealth on our politics. We can make campaign finance reform a priority. We can repeal Citizens United and make the whole process more transparent. But nothing we will do will make relationships less of a central factor in getting anything done in our society.

clinton-foundationThe whole reason that Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation have come under fire has to do with the window into how relationships are formed and access is achieved in our society. The only difference between what happened during the Clinton years at the State Department and what has gone on in every administration, whether Republican or Democrat, is that the hacked emails let us see how the process works. We simply did not get the same kind of window on the relationships under under government officials.

The inference that foreign governments were making donations to the Clinton Foundation in order to get access and favorable decisions at the State Department is backwards thinking. The kinds of people making large donations to an international charity are doing so BECAUSE they already have these relationships. After her years as First Lady, her years as a Senator, and then in her years as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who is famous for her ability as a “connector”, built a huge network of friends, colleagues, professional and government acquaintances. She is one of those people who seems to “know everyone”. So, many of these folks donated to the Clinton Foundation because they knew both Hillary and, obviously, the former President, Bill Clinton. In other words, these relationships existed BEFORE donations were made to the Foundation. These were all influential people, government figures, etc who could expect to have access without doing anything at all regarding the Foundation.

Influence peddling involves benefiting personally from using ones position in government to influence government decisions improperly on behalf of some person or entity. But this is and has always been a gray area. Is a big campaign donor or wealthy constituent having his or her representative go to bat on their behalf some sort of ethical issue? It might be, depending on how it’s done, but it might just be the elected representative taking care of a constituent. Now, if some benefit accrues directly to the government official from doing this,. it is clearly an ethical violation.

So, people need to be clear about the relationship of the Clinton Foundation to the Clintons themselves. The Foundation is a not for profit charity that operates world wide. Unlike a charity like the United Way, which collects donations and then dispenses them to other charities that are actually engaged on doing various projects, the Clinton Foundation does most of its work directly. So, when right wing critics try to say that most of its donations are not dispensed to other charities, it is precisely because it is doing its own charitable work.

As a not for profit charity, the IRS looks closely at the Foundation finances. The Clinton family does not financially benefit financially from the money donated to the Foundation. They do not have access to those funds. The Foundation is regularly audited to ensure that its funds are used primarily for the charitable purposes intended.

So, to the extent that people who donated to the Foundation had access to Hillary Clinton and her staff, it was the same kind of access that one would expect any wealthy contributor, influential leader, or even just a celebrity might have. This is how the government works. Influential people have more access than regular people. This is in no way shape or form unique to Hillary Clinton and it would be difficult to see how any system would exist in which this wouldn’t be true.

So far, in reviewing the meetings set up on behalf of the see figures by Clinton’s staff, there is ZERO evidence of improper pressure being applied to any of the decision makers involved. In most instances, meetings took place with no positive result for the person requesting the meeting. In those instances in which there might have been a positive result, it appears to have been an outcome that one would normally have expected.

So, to sum up. we have a suggestion of scandal that actually involves no direct benefit to the Clintons, demonstrates no improper pressure on officials to sway their decisions, which amounts to little more than using ones relationships to get a hearing from an agency empowered to make that decision. This is exactly what every Congressman, Senator, and other government official that represents the interests of the voters will do. The fact that wealthy elites, big corporations, leaders of other nations get more access than regular citizens is just a fact of life and is absolutely no different under any party, any administration. It was this way under the Bushes and it was this way under Bill Clinton or Obama. I won’t be different under a Clinton or a Trump Presidency.

The one thing that can be said with certainty, is that this is another non-scandal. The only reason that people think that Hillary Clinton has acted differently is that we didn’t get an inside view of any other official’s emails via some hacker.

capitolio-washington-dc

Progressive Movement and Collective Hara Kiri

George S LedyardThe way I see the 2016 election  shaping up, it’s going to be determined by which party has the fewest defectors. If the number of Republicans who have some decency and sense of honor and either do not vote, or choose to reluctantly vote for Clinton, outweighs the number of fanatical, uncompromising, Lefties who want to commit progressive suicide by hopping on the #NeverHilary movement, then we will be OK.

It is bad enough that I am looking at a country in which the members of one major political party seem to have gone mad, running a nouveau-Fascist, racist, sexist, bigot for President… but now I get to watch my beloved progressive movement commit elective hara kiri out of a rabid and irrational hatred for an establishment Democrat.
I feel as if the whole country is going mad. It’s like I went down the rabbit hole and am now in some alternative world in which rationality is nowhere to be seen and anger, hatred, vitriol, and polemics have replaced any kind of normal behavior.

I see myself as a progressive. I have supported Bernie Sanders from the start. The legislative agenda I favor would be considered radical compared to the incremental approach, which I feel has largely failed. But I am also a realist. Politics is the art of the possible. Substantive change normally requires a long term commitment, moving the ball forward in any way you can. Sometimes that requires compromise with people or groups with whom you do not agree but can find enough common ground to accomplish some particular goal. Fanaticism is always a destructive force. It creates divisions, it is exclusionary, it wrecks things without replacing them with anything positive.

I simply cannot comprehend what is happening with the folks on the Left that I had thought were my “peeps”. Many are revealing a fanatical side that I had not seen and do not share. Their inability to deal with the fact that the “founding fathers” intentionally built in a certain amount of inertia into our system is going to destroy our movement.
The people in our society who have made positive change happen are not the radicals on the street, the activists, the demonstrators, the ones out on the barricades. The radicals, virtually by definition, do not have the power to change things. It is the “establishment” that has the power. To crate change, one has to win over enough of the establishment to accomplish that change.

The New Deal wasn’t created by the Labor Unions or the Bonus Marchers. It wasn’t created by the radicals out fighting with the security forces. It was created by a President and Congress many of whose establishment members had been won over to the belief that something had to be done to radically change the direction of the country. A fear of revolution may have been the impetus, but it required members of the establishment to be converted to the cause. Civil Rights Act The Civil Rights Act was passed by a bunch of establishment white folks. The impetus may have been Dr King’s “Movement” but it was the folks that held power who had to be won over. Dr. King understood this completely. He viewed his job as acting as the conscience of the nation, pushing and prodding the establishment to act out of a sense of national embarrassment concerning inequality and repression of his people. But Dr. King understood he needed those establishment types in Washington to see that their interests coincided with those of the movement.

The vilification of the establishment that I see from both the far right and the far left may be based on legitimate concerns over the various serious issues which the country faces. But people are acting like what needs to happen is to scrap the system and start over. With what, no one can actually say. How positive change is going to happen when the methodology is largely negative and destructive doesn’t seem to be a consideration. It’s all throw the bums out, break it all down. The total disdain for 300 years of our institutional development seems equal on both the left and the right.

Bernie Sanders will not be the Democratic nominee for President. I am sad, I am disappointed. But, to my mind, that fact means that it is time to keep my eyes on the prize. The greatest threat to the country that I would like to live in is Donald Trump. A Trump Presidency could be the biggest disaster for our nation since its founding. He embodies virtually every single negative trait our body politic possesses. He is fearful, angry, aggressive, bigoted, insensitive, merciless,  and cruel. He has absolutely no experience relative to the job. His entire personality points to an admiration for dictatorship and “strong man” style leadership.
Hillary Clinton is the quintessential establishment Democrat. She is also the most accomplished female politician in the history of the country. In a society in which women cannot get ahead unless they understand how to play the game with the boys, she has prevailed. Toe to toe with some of the most vicious, unprincipled politicians in our history and she is still standing. This is a woman who knows how to get things done.
At this very moment, Hillary Clinton needs our progressive support to win. This is exactly the time when the interest of the establishment coincide with our interests. This is the moment when the establishment Democrats can actually be pushed towards the left. Right now, when they need us. And this is precisely when so many of my fellow progressives have decided to make themselves TOTALLY irrelevant to the process by refusing to work with the establishment Democrats. By adopting the #NeverHillary position progressives force the establishment Dems to focus more on trying to win over disaffected Republican voters than try to woo progressives. This irrational and uncompromising position guarantees that the party focus move towards center-right rather than towards any progressive agenda which we have said we supposedly felt so strongly about.
This is the best chance we are likely to get for many years to move our progressive agenda forward. Right now the collective interests of the establishment Dems and the Progressive Dems coincide. This is when we can get a more progressive platform for the party, this is when we can get commitments from Clinton to appoint more progressives to her administration, this is when, by uniting the party, we can get more progressives elected down ticket and possibly take back Congress. Right now, this instant, when the GOP is running a crypto-Fascist, racist, misogynist, narcissist. This is our chance.

#NeverHillary
TM Karla Enriquez Anti-Hillary Clinton protesters(left) lined up and questioned Clinton supporters (right) as she walked by the gym area of East Los Angeles College. Clinton held a rally at ELAC on Thursday, May 5. Photo by Karla Enriquez/TM.

The #NeverHillary position is a form of collective suicide for the progressive movement. A kind of electoral Masada in which we jump off the cliff rather than be captured by the “establishment”. I simply cannot comprehend why any thinking progressive would believe that this is a good idea. The result will absolutely not move the progressive ball forward and it could easily lead to a Donald Trump victory.

Progressive movement commits suicide

Progressives OK with Trump Rather than Clinton? I Don’t Believe It!

91.4% of Bernie’s Progressives Won’t Vote for Clinton

Read the  above article – this is my response

George S LedyardI think this is a totally bogus number. It might be accurate if you are talking about first time voters who only got involved because Bernie was running. But I know lots of Bernie supporters and we are all voting, somewhat reluctantly, for Clinton. What is the point in turning this election entirely into a Clinton vs Sanders election with absolutely no reference to Donald Trump? This anti-Clinton vitriol is irrational. It suggests the same kind of irrationality that the vicious anti-Obama folks exhibit. I have to say, I don’t get it. People are acting like it’s some kind of huge conspiracy that an “establishment” candidate has gotten the nomination. Establishment candidates almost always get the nomination, on both sides. Trump has only been able to pull it off because he was largely self financed at the beginning and was able to say all those offensive remarks without losing his financial base.

OK It won’t be this election in which we rapidly change the direction of the country. OK We will have to actually work to build the movement until it “becomes” the establishment. OK We were a bit disappointed that Obama couldn’t change things more (which might tell us something about how hard it is to do so). We need to understand that this is a long term effort. It needs to be pursued at the state and local level. It needs to be aggressively focused at the Congressional level.

Clinton is in no way shape or form the horrible disaster that some people are picturing. She is simply business as usual. Get over it. We’ll do even better next time. But with Clinton, we get to start our efforts at least at our current baseline, and I actually think she will move the ball forward in many ways. I question the rationality of any progressive who thinks that Clinton will not be better than Trump. On what planet our you living? There is absolutely no way that, based simply on the stated proposals of both candidates, it can’t be abundantly clear that Trump will not just oppose any progressive movement but will actually do his level best to take us backwards. His racial bigotry alone should be enough to decide you.

I simply cannot believe that this type of fanaticism, even when it is a fanatical belief in principles that I support, is representative of the new progressive movement. If I really thought that this is what progressiveness is about, I would have to disown it as a movement. Idealism when combined with fanaticism gives you the Cheka, the Gulag, the Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot. There should be no place for this type of fanatical behavior in our movement.

We need to build on our victories so far, which have been substantial. Find our next Bernie Sanders and groom them for the job just as Clinton has been groomed. If we really do represent the majority of the country, as we consistently maintain, then in our democracy, we should be able to make this happen.

#NeverTrump
from http://blog.kulturtod.net/

But in the mean time. we ABSOLUTELY have to keep Donald Trump out of the Presidency. This is a dangerous man. He is capable of anything he deems to be in his own self interest. I truly believe that this must be readily evident to my fellow progressives. I cannot believe that the kind of numbers that this article puts forth are anything other than a complete fiction, bordering on propaganda. If I thought that Donald Trump was this sophisticated, I would suspect that it was actually a piece of Trump developed dis-information because this type of attitude only benefits Trump, not the movement, not the Dems, not anyone else.

#NeverHillary, Progressives against Hillary, election 2016, the Progressive movement

Polarization and Conflict in America

George S LedyardWe talk a lot about polarization in American society today as if it is something new. But in fact polarization has existed since the founding of the country. Historically the social tensions involved tend to build over time until some cataclysmic event erupts and serves to temporarily relieve the pressure.
The American Revolution wasn’t just a war for independence from Britain. It was essentially a civil war between the Loyalists that wished to stay with the Crown and the colonists that wished to go their own way. Some even call it the first American Civil War. The colonial population was polarized in the extreme at the time and when war broke out, it was as much a civil conflict of neighbor against neighbor as it was a conflict of armies. When Cornwallis surrendered and it was clear that the English had truly lost the war, a period of what we might call ethnic cleansing took place but it was political rather than ethnic in nature. The colonists that had stayed loyal to the crown mostly lost everything. Their lands were stolen, they lost their livelihoods, and most were forced to flee and leave the newly formed country. So, via the war and the “cleansing” that took place in its aftermath, the social tensions around the issue of loyalism or revolt were resolved by force.

American revolution
The Loyalist properties were confiscated and the families largely fled.

Once the United States were formed, attempts to write a Constitution revealed that the next major fault line that existed, on either side of which we began to increasingly polarize was slavery. Polarization became so severe that pro and anti slavery militias terrorized the disputed territories in the West and a member of Congress was literally beaten with a cane on the floor of the Senate by another member of the Senate during a debate.Caning on the Senate Floor
Eventually this polarization became so severe that the slave states seceded and our Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression) resulted. While the victory of the North did not at all remove the tensions that had caused the rift in the first place, the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the total devastation of the Southern economy made large scale resistance to the Federal Government impossible. Instead, from the moment the war ended, another war, fought as a virtual terrorist resistance to Reconstruction was waged. Assassination of Northern officials, lynchings of freed Blacks attempting to enter leadership roles, burning of churches, and the growth of the Ku Klux Klan as a powerful underground resistance showed a South defeated in war but collectively unwilling to submit to the kind of social change demanded by the North. With the Presidency of Andrew Johnson, a Southerner, the occupation of the South was ended and any real attempt to enforce the reforms of the Reconstruction Era were over.

Ku Klux Klan - KKK
In the post Civil War period, we have continued polarization along racial lines. Klan membership peaked in the late 1920’s declining only after scandals among the leadership lost them support, not because racial tensions were any less. Additionally, the rapid industrialization that took place after the Civil War coupled with the huge growth in our urban areas began to make the polarization between rich and poor more obvious and increasingly erupted into violence. The Robber Barons and the corporations they owned had their own private armies to break strikes and violently oppose Union organizing. The government functioned almost as an arm of these private interests with local and state law enforcement and even Federal military personnel being called in to break strikes and arrest and sometimes even kill Union strike organizers.
Throughout the late 1800’s and early 1900’s repeated financial collapses created untold hardships for the unemployed and working poor. By the post WWI period there was real fear that this economic social polarization would erupt into outright revolution. With the total collapse of the international economic structure that began the Great Depression, it was only radical action by the Federal Government and FDR, the President, that saved the country from outright revolution.
Once again, it took a cataclysmic set of violent events to temporarily relieve the pressures of both racial and economic polarization pulling the country apart. WWII was a hugely unifying event. Perhaps the greatest on in US history. It was really the only truly democratic war our country has fought, with the sons of the rich fighting alongside the sons of the poor. The unifying effect of the war combined with the GI Bill and tremendous economic growth after the war pushed economic injustice temporarily to the back burner but Black GIs returning to the South encountered a concerted effort to put them back in their place and the Civil Rights Movement was the result of their unwillingness to do so.
Civil Rights Movement - Martin Luther KingFor a time, “the Movement” lead by Dr Martin Luther King allowed these racial tensions to express themselves non-violently. But progressively he moved towards a more radicalized position in which he viewed the Vietnam War, the class based economic injustice inherent in the system, and issues of racial equality as being completely intertwined. J Edgar Hoover called King the most dangerous man in America.
DC BurningRacial tensions and a growing awareness that  they could not be considered separately from issues of economic injustice combined with raised expectations on the part of minority veterans who had served in Vietnam radicalized many minority young men and women leading them to feel that Dr. King’s non-violence was too incremental, too slow, to deliver real equality and  social justice. With the assassination of Dr King, a seismic eruption took place. Every major city in the US was burning, you had barbed wire and machine guns on the Capitol building steps. Within a couple of years, the leaders of the major radical groups like the Black Panthers, American Indian Movement, etc were all underground, dead, or in jail.

The end of the Vietnam War signaled the end of mass protest in the US. The pressures for social upheaval were diminished for a time once again.  Nothing like the scale of the old civil rights and anti-war protests was seen until the WTO protests in 1999 and the Occupy Movement protests of 2011 and 2012. Now the Black Lives Matter Movement is growing and seem to be the latest iteration of a movement geared towards civil rights and social justice for our minority community.
One can see the social and economic tensions of all of these unsolved issues creating polarization and a movement away from the political center on both the Left and the Right. The pressure for another seismic social upheaval  are mounting. The 2016 election has revealed the fault lines in both political parties and no one can really tell what the outcome will be. The campaign will inevitably escalate the the tensions and the polarization.
Trump RallyWhat is certain is that the forces of wealth inequality, institutionalized racism, religious intolerance, bias against LGBT persons, fear of terror, and nativist anti-immigration are forming a reactionary movement fighting to undo virtually all of the social progress the country has made since the 1930’s. Donald Trump has managed to make himself into the spokesman and Presidential candidate for these forces.

The Progressive wing of the Democratic Party has proven to be such an unexpected powerhouse of a movement that only its carefully engineered primary system with its control of the super delegates  has given them the ability to place the candidate of their choice, in this case Hillary Clinton, in the nominee spot at the upcoming convention.
While liberals are largely focused on having a Democrat win the election. It is important to realize that the social tension, the increasing polarization that has created our political climate of the moment will not go away; that regardless of which candidate wins, the culture war continues and will most likely escalate. In American history, the kind of polarization that we see has always resulted at some point in some sort of cataclysmic event that once again dissipates that pressure. The normal political process doesn’t do so, incremental change never does so. It is almost always some sort of massive eruption like war, or riots, some sort of violent upheaval, or perhaps the fear thereof, that dissipates these tensions and restores some measure of balance to the system.
So, no one should think that this election is a solution of any kind, that it is the end of some effort to create change. Instead, I believe it should be viewed as spark that will produce some wild fire of violent upheaval between the polarized forces of Right and Left. The tensions have been building for some time. We are overdue. The American Revolution and our Civil War both represented cataclysms that dissipated our tensions for a time. The New Deal and WWII both served to dissipate these tensions as well. But the unresolved social and economic issues that have existed since the founding of the nation are still unresolved. The Red State Map (of the Red / Blue State geography)  still closely resembles the map of the Confederate States and the disputed territories from before the Civil War.
While we see developing activist movements on the Left like the Occupy Movement, Black Lives Matter, etc we also see membership in white supremacist organization on the rise. Participation in right wing militia groups, the so-called Patriot Movement, is also at a peak. It looks as if we are headed for some new cataclysm of conflict that will once again restore some balance. This election, which ever candidate wins, will not do so.

We Are Better Than This

George S LedyardRecently, as the primary season has really heated up I have been seeing more and more posts and memes on social media that qualify as serious Hillary bashing. Of course I have grown used to that coming from the Republicans. Their ability to take an event, twist the facts and change reality a la “Willie Horton”, or the “swift boating” of John Kerry, is unmatched.
The trouble is, these scurrilous attacks are coming from my “peeps”, fellow Progressives who support Bernie Sanders. I look at the distortions, the vitriol, and I wonder “Do I even know you people? Because you sound just like the folks I thought we were all fighting against.

First of all I would say, if you aren’t sure how to behave, take your cue from the man we are supporting for President. Throughout this campaign he has manged to be forceful, passionate, powerfully motivating without getting down in the mud. He has tried to stick to the issues, has highlighted the differences between himself and Secretary Clinton, and acted like a leader who believes that the issues speak for themselves.

There is no way that Bernie Sanders would approve of this. He has asked his supporters to desist from disrupting Clinton’s campaign events while supporting their right to demonstrate. While the GOP stooped to name calling, humiliating each other’s spouses, and talking about how big their manhood was, Bernie has attacked Clinton on the issues and stayed clear of making it personal or stooping to sensationalist fictionalizing of Clinton’s record.
We are better than this. If you want to convince people to understand why Bernie is the better candidate you don’t do it by character assassination but by cogent argument. Talk about the fact that she voted for the Iraq War powers. Talk about the fact that she advocated the overthrow of the Libyan regime and how well that has turned out. There is plenty here to criticize. Talk about her past opposition to raising the minimum wage, her previous support for big international trade deals and her recent change of heart (thanks Bernie).
I am sick to death of how civil discourse has deteriorated in this country. The ultra right talk shows, the conservative bloggers, and now even their political candidates have dragged us down. We cannot and should not stoop to that same level of behavior or we just become thuggish, as they are.
An inability to unite, to create strong alliances, to compromise when required, has crippled progressive social movements for years. The present moment is a perhaps once in a lifetime concurrence of opportunities to move things forward in a big way. Let’s treat each other respectfully. By all means fight the good fight. But the folks who are supporters of Hillary Clinton will not be persuaded to change that support by childish tantrums and dishonest, alienating, and at times bullying behavior. Let’s clean up our act or we’ll have a truly disastrous election.

The New Progressives – After the Nomination, Strategy for Going Forward

I read this article which was shared by a friend on my Facebook timeline. I think it highlights some real issues concerning the future of the movement and how it proceed in the face of increasing likelihood that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee.

Once again, the age old argument about whether it is better to work within the system or in opposition to the system comes to the fore. The 2016 election presents a particular problem for progressive activists and making the right choice about how to proceed. If their candidate of choice can’t win the nomination, and they try to mount a third party challenge, write in a different candidate, or simply not participate in the voting, we could easily have a repeat of the Bush / Gore election when Ralph Nadar broke ranks and ran as a third party candidate. That decision gave the election to Bush and the result was eight years of, not just not progressive administration and policies, but eight years of undoing years of progress.

The tone of this article is that the “establishment” Democratic Party is the enemy. It describes how the “centrists” co-opt the agenda of the Left and then somehow hold the Left hostage (hence the Stockholm Syndrome illusion). Personally, I believe this is the source of the ineffectiveness of the Left in moving its agenda forward. The activist movements, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, etc are important. But what drives change is the movement of the center.

It is a fact that the majority of our citizens exist at just Left and just Right of the center of our political spectrum. Now that center moves over time depending on circumstance. In recent years, it has definitely moved Right. But it is still the case that the majority of voters are moderate and will normally support the establishment of their chosen political Party.
What is perhaps unique in 2016 is just how polarized things have become. Both political Parties have found themselves dealing with serious insurrection within the ranks. The GOP has completely lost control of its membership. None of the establishment picks for the GOP nomination received more than token support. The two candidates left standing are both outsiders who are far to the Right of what the establishment party leadership is comfortable with. The fact that it was their 8 year barrage of extreme anti-government, anti-Obama propaganda that caused this situation is neither here nor there. They are now stuck with resorting to trying for a contested convention to try to stop Donald Trump.

The Democrats are in marginally better control of their membership and it looks almost certain that Hillary Clinton will prevail and be the nominee. But far from being the automatic nominee that was predicted, she has struggled, barely staying ahead of Bernie Sanders in the delegate lead and showing huge weaknesses in voting blocks that she will need in the general election. While Hillary Clinton’s great strength exists with African American voters and, not surprisingly female voters, Bernie Sanders has destroyed her with younger voters and the independents that will be crucial to win against the Republican nominee.

This situation has provided leverage for the progressives that we haven’t seen for years. It represents an opportunity to move the progressive agenda forward and get buy in from the establishment “centrists”. But it remains unclear whether the activist Left will take advantage of this situation or, in a pique of righteous outrage refuse to support the Party nominee. In my opinion this would be a disaster and would almost certainly result in a victory for the GOP. It would, in my opinion, be an example of “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”.
The only way things are really going to change in the country is to move the center. Yes, activism is important, but the Civil Rights Movement did not prevail until Lyndon Johnson threw the weight of the Federal government behind it. The Anti-Vietnam War movement didn’t really accomplish much until it put a million people on the mall in DC. Those weren’t the hard core activists, those were the very centrists that the activists disdained as “limousine liberals” etc.
There has been a movement away from the center towards the extremes by a large number of people on each side of the political spectrum. This fact is the direct result of a government that, for many years has failed to deliver to its people. The Left and Right activists have basically driven the discussion for a number of years leaving the majority centrists feeling like the whole political discussion isn’t addressing their concerns and isn’t being conducted as they would wish.

With the GOP looking like it will certainly nominate a candidate with abysmal national approval ratings, a unified Democratic Party looks to win and win big. But can it and will it unify? Hillary Clinton is a tested and experienced candidate. Yet, she is as unpopular with the extremists on the Left as she is with the folks on the Right. Many committed Progressives have actually said that they will not vote for her or support her, no matter what.
I find this attitude appalling. It smacks of hubris. It says that for the sake of being “right”, for the sake of feeling “righteous”, they would be willing to sink the whole ship rather than have a captain they didn’t like. This despite the fact that this political ship is the only hope of moving the ball forward towards a progressive future. It is a fact that, if this ship sinks, the ship captained by the other guys wins the race and it is also a fact that that they are absolutely committed to, not only preventing moving that progressive ball forward, but actually undoing decades of progress.

Activists always have the dilemma of pushing a society in ways that are uncomfortable. But often they are out of sync and push harder or faster than the society will move. That can even create a backlash that can be counter productive. This is a unique time. The establishment Democrats absolutely need the support of the progressives who are at the Left side of the Party. Because of the tremendous showing by the Sanders supporters, the Sanders Progressives have a tremendous leverage to get Hillary Clinton to commit to progressive policies that she might other wise not champion. But, if these folks refuse to unify with the Party, they lose all chance of effecting the outcome in anything but a disastrous way. We could find ourselves with the Anti-Christ (from a progressive / liberal standpoint) as President and a bunch of self righteous activists bitching about how corrupt the “system” was. This just strikes me as a sort of suicide wish among people who purport to be acting for the benefit of all the people. It certainly will not benefit anyone if this happens except the very people who are the real enemy.

Read the article below and see what you think…

The Democratic Stockholm Syndrome | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

After weeks of hard and increasingly heated campaigning, Hillary Clinton scored a decisive victory over Bernie Sanders in last night’s New York Democratic primary. Despite losing a majority of the state’s counties, she won in huge margins in New York City and the popular vote overall.

Source: The Democratic Stockholm Syndrome | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Clinton and Sanders: The big difference (Opinion) – CNN.com

Dr. Jeffrey Sachs wrote this piece about the difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. It does a lot to explain how the Democratic Party under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, while they may have championed progressive social issues, have avoided dealing with our wealth inequality issues in order to keep the support of the big money Wall Street interests. In return, Wall Street interests have provided the financial support they needed to get and stay in office. Hillary Clinton would be a continuation of this very same policy.

To the great surprise of the Party establishment, Bernie Sanders has managed to mount a serious challenge to the Clinton campaign and has done so via massive participation of small contributors rather than the Super Pacs on which Clinton largely relies. This signals a serious revolt occurring in the Democratic Party. Large numbers of Democratic grassroots supporters are demanding real change. Large numbers of first time participants and independents are also flocking to the Sanders Camp, all supporters that Hillary Clinton will require to win against any Republican candidate.

While the Party establishment has engineered the primary process to favor their favored candidate, their dilemma is how to bring the Sanders supporters into the fold in their battle against the GOP in the general election. It is not by any means a given that Bernie’s supporters, motivated by a strong desire to see social and economic change in our country will turn out for Clinton.

Tuesday night’s primary results underscore that Americans want more than a continuation of the game that Bill Clinton played 25 years ago, says Jeffrey Sachs.

Source: Clinton and Sanders: The big difference (Opinion) – CNN.com