Level the Field

Amoral: a) having or showing no concern about whether behavior is morally right or wrong: b) being outside or beyond the moral order or a particular code of morals

Immoral: conflicting with generally or traditionally held moral principles

soapboxpileAre the members of the GOP both of the above? It is a fair question in light of their actions and active participation in the attempted coup by Donald J. Trump, outgoing President of the United States and his team of legal geniuses. What is there to say about those who took the following Oath:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

It is such a simple thing; just pick the very first line thing in the Oath; support and defend the Constitution. Not a person, not a party but the Constitution of the United States. The interesting thing about this is that the incoming President and Vice President swear similar oaths of office to protect and defend the United States’ Constitution.

So what we have is a conundrum.

Is the GOP’s entire elected membership, with very few exceptions nationwide, seditious, oath-breaking, villains?  Or are they simply brainwashed cult members ready to die on Trump’s bonfire of vanity?

That is the question we have to ask ourselves as we watch the nation tear itself apart on falsehood and conspiracy theories so farfetched even those telling the stories cannot maintain their equilibrium. There is a pervasive sickness infecting not just those at the bottom but also those at the top. Elected officials willing to turn a blind eye to the erosion of traditional norms, ready to break the rules bound by centuries of standards simply to appease a single man, his temper and his apparent hold on the perceived base of voters easily swayed. I have watched Congress members say without blinking an eye what has been done in the past is not relevant today; time and again, norms are no longer valid.

“The courts will decide disputes; that’s the way we do it in this country. mcconnell_2Having close disputed elections is not unusual.” Mitch McConnell

Senator McConnell is not wrong; close votes are not unusual where he goes off the rails is the pandering nonsense that these require courts to decide. What is staggering is we suddenly must wait for states to certify elections before the GOP leadership will acknowledge Joe Biden as the President-Elect.  It should be noted, Donald J. Trump had already declared himself the winner on November 3. Laying the groundwork for what was to come, weeks of nonsensical legal filings in various states that went nowhere fast. Weeks of news conferences from washed-up has-been sycophants spewing unsupported claims of voter fraud, with guarantees their master would be king come January.

What have we learned from all of this? What can we take forward into the future?

One thing we should learn is what comes around goes around, always. If you don’t like the polarization of Washington, D.C and the partisanship of politics today, blame Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats of 2013. The Nuclear Option eliminated the Senate filibuster for all nominations to Article III Federal Judiciary except for the Supreme Court and the President’s picks for his Cabinet. This led the way for Mitch McConnel to pack the federal judiciary with 300 unqualified lifetime appointments and three Supreme Court Justices. Additionally, it allowed the Trump administration to select uniquely unqualified members for his Cabinet, including his own children, without a single protest in the Senate. Finally, as we look at Joe Biden taking office next year and the Cabinet he is putting together, the GOP Senate members are already raising their hands and saying that they will not be approved despite their qualifications.

What else should we learn? What we have relied upon as traditional norms must become hard and fast rules with consequences. That we must demand more of those who sit in the oval office or walk the halls of Congress as elected leaders. We must look closely at our minimum standards; we must raise the bar and codify some of what we have considered ‘norms’ into Trump-visits-St-Johns-Churchbasic job requirements. Our future must never see another person so utterly unprepared and ill-equipped as Donald J. Trump sworn into the Presidency. We can never again allow the last four years to be repeated; honestly, we can never again allow the previous twelve years to be repeated.  Make no mistake, the polarization and partisanship began when Mitch McConnell uttered this famous phrase, signally the top GOP priority under the Obama administration:

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” October 23, 2010

How do we address these issues? What can we do to turn the tide for a future that looks more like the one intended by the original Constitution and in the Federalist Papers?  Despite the entire Biden presidency is a lame-duck administration, there is much that can be done. Even with a pandemic looming and an economy failing, both at home and globally, some steps can be taken that I believe could gain bipartisan support. Despite all the evidence, I remain hopeful that Republicans remain in Congress who want a better tomorrow and save America. I think what comes next is in the hands of the people, not the government. What we demand will become the priorities in Congress.

  1. Term Limits on Congress, maximum of 3 terms for both House and Senate.
  2. Change in Lifetime appointments to a maximum of 25-year for all Federal Bench. All appointments must pass a minimum of Qualified by the ABA to be considered.
  3. Change in use of Executive Orders. All Executive Orders should be subject to review by Congress.
  4. New laws enshrining ‘norms’ (e.g., the release of 10 years of taxes, health records including a phycological test, requirement to quit all business interest before taking office, strengthening emoluments clause, strengthening nepotism clauses). These new rules must include the President, Vice President and all members of Congress. These must not be a wish list but instead requirements for the office.
  5. Reversal of Citizen United. Congress to pass legislation to include all campaigns limited in fund raising activities. A gentle reminder, money is the root of most evil and there should be limits.
  6. Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine with teeth. Let’s start holding the media, including social media, accountable.

biden_HarrisThat is it for me as a starting position. I know there is plenty to keep them busy in the first 100 days. There is more to keep them busy bickering and backbiting going forward after that. Yet, we the people have the power and we the people must demand a better nation. If we want the big stuff to get done, we must demand that they start changing the rules in our favor.

Next Up, Heal or Revenge

Soapbox LogoWe have a long history of partisanship within our state and federal legislatures’, power begets power. Those with power want to hold on and those without power snivel, whine and plan their next move. This is the way of the world since history began to be recorded; it is undoubtedly the way of the Divided States of America. The one thing missing from the above? We the people, we seem to be the silent and all too frequently forgotten victims of the one-upmanship and gameplaying that takes place in the halls of power.

Donald J. Trump is the consummation of fifty years of GOP scheming and planning. He is the payoff of Right-Wing backroom deal-making. He is everything they hoped for and more because he is ignorant of their manipulation and takes credit for each disaster as if it were a success. The Federalist Society has all they could wish for, a Judiciary that leans right from top to bottom. In the final two years of his Presidency, Mitch McConnel blocked Obama’s nominations, resulting in over 100 open seats to fill when Trump entered office. What did Trump have to say?  He found his predecessor must have been complacent (lazy) in nominating despite McConnel’s very public obstructionism. We focus on the Merrick Garland Supreme Court nomination, but in truth, the Republican majority under McConnel had created a contentious do-nothing process long before this; in fact, it started from the moment they took control of the Senate.

With our national election today and the potential of Joe Biden winning, the question must be asked, what will we do if we win it all? What is in store for America and its citizens if we pull off a complete annihilation of the Republicans and what they have stood for? What will happen if there is a full power shift, the White House and both houses of Congress belong to the Democrats in January. If recent days events are any indication, violence will escalate, and this President has no intention of going quietly. We should not expect a peaceful transition of power. Truthfully, I do not expect this President to accept a loss. I expect there to be multiple challenges between now and December, if not beyond.

Nevertheless, this is about what we will do and what we expect those we elected to power to do? Will we become crazed in our victory? Will we revenge-destruction-health-life-symbolized-word-revenge-hammer-to-show-negative-aspect-revenge-d-revenge-173790748demand revenge? Will we escalate the cancel culture and just like the current administration demand, all our political enemies be ‘locked up’ for real and perceived crimes.

Will we punish our rivals and gloat in our victory? Will we become what we have despised? Demanding the Democrats in power ‘grow’ backbones?

I ask these questions in both curiosity and fear. As cities board up in preparation for election night violence, walls are built to surround Layfette Square and the White House; this isn’t the country I know, even during previous times of deep unrest.  As this President spends his time complaining about how unfair it all is, he would be winning if it weren’t for COVID, he says. As he abandons his supporters freezing in dark fields after his events, this isn’t the behavior of a true leader. This truly isn’t the nation I knew once upon a time.

Our history of protest is long and storied. From the Germantown Quakers of 1688 and their written protest against slavery to today and the Black Lives Matter protests in every major city of this nation. Some have ended in violence, some have continued for years before moving us toward a more perfect union. Each though had a purpose; each had supporters and naysayers as well. Never in our history has there been a President who has actively called for violence against protestors as this one has done. Don’t mistake me. Many protests have ended in violence. Much of that violence was sanctioned by the state and done by police and National Guard. This President, though, encourages violence by those who are simply citizens with guns and MAGA hats.

So I ask again, should we win it all, what will we do? Who will we be after that euphoria wears off and we are done dancing in the streets from joy; who will we be in our victory? We will have a choice. We will only have four years with Joe Biden at the helm of the Presidency and then we will go dancinginstreetthrough this again. Perhaps Kamala Harris will run, maybe not. If the Democrats get the next two years right, they will hold onto both houses of Congress and there will be no divided government during Biden’s tenure in the White House. If they get it really right, come 2025, we will have a shoo-in for the next 8 years.

What should we be? In my mind, we should play the long-game, and we should be focused on the American people and healing the nation. We should ignore the petty revenge scenarios. We should forget the nonsense of who did what to whom. We should be focused on fixing what is broken for all of America and what can be done now. Here would be my plan for America if I could sit with Joe and Kamala for just a few hours:

  1. Focus on the pandemic, get the resources to the states first and work with the Governors on practical test, track and trace plans. Pull all the Federal Emergency Response levers to make available to state and local governments all necessary resources. Finally, work with Congress to shape the right Bill and pass it through both Houses to get the necessary resources into the hands of individuals, state and local governments to keep everyone whole while we get the virus under control.
  2. Form a bipartisan committee to look at the entire Article III Judiciary branch, including currently seated judges, the nomination process, qualifications, confirmation process. I want everything looked at. I also want to assess current acts, behaviors and actions of current seated Judges and Justices where there is anything questionable. This committee has 120 days to return their initial review and recommendations; if there are specific issues that require additional assessment, they must include these in their initial report. This report will be entirely transparent and made public.
  3. No Senators from either party to be named to Cabinet seats; Joe Biden cannot afford to name any Democrat to a Cabinet seat even if he wins, and the Senate returns to Blue, it will be by a small margin. Rather than ‘play’ favorites, simply put a moratorium on the entire Senate and leave all elected members in place.
  4. Form a bipartisan committee of Black Lives Matter Community Restoration and place VP Kamala Harris in charge. Give them 120 days to produce an initial plan of actionable priorities that can be taken to Congress. This should be a citizen committee but should also have sponsorship from both House and Senate so Bills can be produced quickly from the actionable priorities.
  5. Form a bipartisan committee of Police and Justice Reform. This group will need to include citizens, police, educators in the field, and others with specific knowledge in the area. Were it me, I would put Jeh Johnson at the head of this one; he is clear-eyed and clear-headed. This one would have 150 days for the initial analysis and report. I give them a bit longer because they must look at two separate and very unequal parts of our system. Policing and Justice, while intertwined, remain separated by layers of implementation. Ultimately we have to consider all the individual layers of Federal, State, Local and overall Justice Reform if we are to truly ‘fix’ what is broken today.

Those would be my first day in office; those committees are formed and off to the races. Are there other pressing issues? Certainly, there are and they would have to be taken on post-haste. This nation needs so many things, Joe Biden Accepts Presidential Nomination At Democratic National Conventionso much healing. Each item seems to be a priority. But if we could at least seem to be moving toward action, that is something. Gloating and revenge doesn’t heal us; it might give us a momentary thrill, it might make us feel good for a minute or two, but it does not heal us as a nation and healing the nation is what we most need now.

So I ask one more time, who will we be, should we win it all? Will we emulate the Administration of the past four years? Will we be monsters? Or will we be something finer, something more generous, and begin the hard work of healing.

What do you have to Lose

Barack Obama said in his keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in April 2004:

There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

Barack Obama was a Senator from Illinois when he said these words, I think he might have still been idealistic and hopeful. It is a very different world today than it was in 2004. I hate to think just how different it really is.

Several years ago, on a stump speech in Dimondale, Michigan, Donald J. Trump stood in front of a crowd and appealed to Black voters specifically with these words, “What the hell do you have to lose?”

Well, now we know, everything.

Justice, Peace, Equality start there though these are more ideals than truth, we have to start somewhere.

The Constitution, The Republic, Voting Rights, The Right to Gather Peacefully in Protest. These are real and necessary if we have even one single hope or prayer in the world of rebuilding a tattered nation.

Finally, let’s add the simple things that we have taken for granted, even if they were at times spotty for some of us; economic security, health security, freedom of movement.

Everything, and if all that isn’t enough, let’s add some things that many of us never thought about until we realized they mattered: human kindness, manners, compassion, morality, ethics, values.

What did we have to lose? Every single thing that made us a great nation and sometimes great people has been stripped from us and we have left a smoldering wasteland. We are exposed to our very core. We are stripped bare for who and what we are. Now we have a choice, at once terrible and perhaps telling. Is this who we truly are? Is this what we truly are? Or instead, do we desire something more, something better? Do we finally demand what was promised to us in the Declaration of Independence in 1776;

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Scholars have long debated the source of Thomas Jefferson’s philosophical roots. Many believe them to be found within the writing of John Locke, specifically Two Treatises of Government and Essay Concerning Human Understanding. When reading the original text of the Declaration, it is easy to see Locke’s influence on Jefferson, both philosophically and later, in how he governed.

“We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness.” 

This, though, gets us back to our dilemma of the here and now, the dilemma of 2020 and Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America; con man, shyster, dilettante, liar and thief. The Founders of this nation, imperfect though they were, attempted to place safeguards into the Constitution to prevent a Donald Trump from ever rising up to the position of President. They created the two houses of Congress and gave them specific powers, the check and balance against Administrative overreach. They created The Judiciary, with powers of their own and not beholden to any other branch of government with power extending over all controversies, whether between branches of government, states or persons.

Finally, in 1804 they created the Electoral College. Love it or hate it; this was an attempt to create a more balanced means of electing the President and Vice President separately, ensuring those in more rural parts of this new country had a voice. It wasn’t until the Civil War under Lincoln that it became common practice to run a single-party ticket, thus preventing the President and Vice President from being from different parties, creating divided administrative branches.

Yet, despite all the safeguards, here we are today with Donald J. Trump as the 45th POTUS and a Senate so firmly in his pocket it is hard to tell where he ends and they begin. With an Attorney General so deeply corrupted, those of us with any sense of history or love of country are so profoundly outraged we are finally and wholly at a loss for words. With a Federal Judiciary overrun with lifetime far-right appointments carefully chosen by the unholy partnership of Mitch McConnel and Don McGahn. With a Congress at a bi-partisan standstill, doing no business for the people and close to another government shutdown.

What do we have to lose he asked, do we know now? Everything, we have the soul of a nation to lose. This election isn’t just about whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden wins; it is about whether we remain a Free Democratic Republic or a Fascist state under a Dictator and his sycophantic minions. The issue we have today? It is the same one we had in 2016, understanding how the system works and how to win. For four long years, I have heard the same whine from those on the left, Hilary Clinton won the popular vote she should be our President. My answer is always the same; that isn’t how it works. She isn’t our President because she and the DNC failed and they did so miserably. Nothing is guaranteed, but one thing is damned near certain in Presidential elections and that is whoever wins the swing states wins the Presidency. Kellyanne Conway, in her role campaign manager, knew this and focused all her attention on those states; it is how she drove Trump into the White House. The fact of the matter is Clinton lost the election on her own, Clinton lost Michigan along with several other Battleground states and thus she lost the election.

We do not have the luxury of arrogance in 2020. We don’t have the luxury of ignoring the battlegrounds, nor do we have the luxury of believing the polls. This is war and if we are not careful, it will be bloody and long, not just a war of words shouted in the streets but a genuine conflict with lines drawn and innocents lost to ideology, classism and American against American once again. This America we are living in today, this is Trump’s America.

So what do we have to lose? Everything.

What do we have to gain? Not everything, but a start toward something new. Just like when you or I find ourselves cleaning out our garage, electing the Democratic ticket and the Blue down-ballot, we are saying to our government, we want a new start. We need a new conversation and a change to the old ways. Is Biden the perfect candidate? No, absolutely not, but we all know he is a transition candidate. He will be President for four years and then retire. Will Harris be the next President, maybe if she proves herself in her role as Vice President. Then perhaps this nation is still not ready; we will have to see. What I do know, the Biden/Harris ticket gives us the best opportunity to start having much needed and long overdue conversations about the things that have simmered under the surface and corrupted our national progress for four hundred years. It is time to rip that scab off and let it all out, time to begin to truly address what is going to burn us to the ground if Trump wins four more years.

What are you going to do? Stay home because Biden isn’t your guy, wasn’t your pick? Maybe you will throw your vote away on the Green candidate in a protest vote. Here is my only word for you in 2020:

Not Voting or throwing your vote away this year is not an act of Protest; it is an act of Surrender.

Political Purity Tests

Soapbox LogoWill there ever be a perfect candidate? Is it possible we will have some glowing Deity float down from the heavens on a fluffy white cloud surrounded by angels flinging gold coins and smelling of roses and whispering ‘FREE’. Someone we could all get behind, someone with no history, someone with no skeletons, someone with DNA to match this diverse nation who did not offend any of our sensibilities.

The Perfect Candidate, who we can fall all over ourselves in our rush to the polls. The Perfect Candidate who would pass all of our Purity tests. The Candidate with the most beautiful wife, two and half children, a dog and zero sins to their name.

The Perfect Candidate does not exist. There is not a human being alive today, nor will there ever be one who hasn’t collected some bumps and bruises and an imperfect track record. There will never be a candidate, especially one seeking the Presidency that will pass the unreasonable Purity Tests of the Democrats who align to their individual candidates to the detriment of all others. Let us consider the real issues and real outcomes for 2020. What do we really want?

  • Beat current occupant of White House, Donald J. Trump
  • Take back Senate2020_Election_1
  • Retain House

As an Independent Centrist who usually votes Democrat I am committed to voting a Blue ticket this year. Not just on a federal level but at the state and local level as well. I want to see the nation brought back together. I want to see us working together again as a single people, it has been too long that we have been divided. I want to see our government work. I want to see Justice began to work. I want to see our courts work. I want to see real work done for and by the people. Do I think this will happen overnight? No, of course not. What I believe is if we elect the right president and a Senate and House to back that President we can begin to make the nation whole by passing legislation and undoing a dysfunctional federal Courts filled with under qualified and unqualified judges.

I do not do Purity Tests. What I do is listen, I look at history but not just soundbites the full history. I look at everything, what a person has done and hasn’t done. What they have said and haven’t said. When they said it, what context they said it in. What have they written? Many candidates today have a written history, many have books and an on-line presence they cannot escape from either. Some of the candidates today have had decades of public presence, not just one or two, but three to five or even more. It is impossible not to build a portfolio of missteps and misjudgments during the course of a nakedkinglong life and those who wish to serve behind the Resolute Desk must be prepared to walk naked before the citizens of this land, we have no remorse and no shame in exposing our would be Presidents.

It wasn’t always this way, the Presidency of William Jefferson Clinton seems to have opened the door and now we have no shame in peering through the window of Presidents private lives, judging their personal predilections. We, as a nation seem to think it is our calling to judge whether a President is ‘Pure’ enough for us even while we ourselves would never meet this very same test. Just to bring this full circle, the party of family values and moral righteousness elected a President who is an anathema to all they stood for and yet claim he is God’s chosen.

So we stand at the abyss and stare down into the darkness and still instead of listening with open minds, we apply Purity Tests. We allow members of this broken party and non-members who have the audacity to run under the banner to tear down others in the name of their own desire to WIN. We watch idolaters and ideologues tear at others in base terms disallowing any view but their own from being heard, any question being asked, any challenge being made.

Does anyone remember 2016? I do.

Does anyone know how Donald J. Trump got elected? I do.

Don’t answer those questions with baseless bullshit about White Woman, Electoral College, Hillary won the popular vote or other nonsense. Let me give you the real answer.

Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States of America because Bernie Sanders was allowed to run on the Democratic Ticket and many of those who idolized him, followed him did one of three things:

  1. Stayed home
  2. Voted third party
  3. Voted for Trump

Why did they do this? Because they were convinced they were cheated, because Trump was the most like Bernie in his rhetoric and demeanor and because they were revengeful snots.

Purity Tests. Why they don’t work and how to overcome them.

First and foremost, participate. This means vote in the Primaries in your state and vote for the candidate that you believe best represents your interests and the interests in the nation. Vote for the candidate that you believe will put the nation back together. Vote for govote3the candidate that will best influence the down ticket. Vote for the candidate that will put our alliances back together. Vote for the candidate that will represent the largest majority of the people in America, not just a small minority but all of us, keeping in mind there is not a single candidate standing before you without something to explain, without history, without skeletons.

My question to each of the candidates isn’t ever going to be are you Pure, it is going to be how are you going to remedy the sickness in this nation. What will you do to fix what is broken. Do you acknowledge that you might have contributed, what did you learn and what are you doing today based on what you learned?

People learn, people are not the same today they were yesterday, five years ago or a decade ago. Unless a person is a complete and utter moron with the emotional and intellectual capacity of a snake, they grow. I want to know how a person has grown in knowledge, compassion and emotional empathy. I will not hold yesterday against you if today your actions show you have made true changes. If the words you say and the actions you take are in accord, I am going to take you at your word and listen with the openness you deserve from me as a citizen.

snakeTrumpPurity Tests are abhorrent and we need to stop, today. If we do not we can look forward to another four years of Donald J. Trump in the White House and this is something the nation will not survive.

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