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.

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