A Message Loud & Clear

Alright, so Philly’s toast. What did we get?

We got documented proof of collusion between Hillary Clinton and Little Debbie. We got treated like shit in the person of Nina Turner, who was denied her opportunity to nominate Bernie Sanders for president; don’t miss that for what it was: a shot across our bow. Berners (nearly half the delegates) got shunned and humiliated. We got an admission from Terry McAuliffe that Hillary Clinton will flip on TPP if/when she is elected, just like her husband flipped on NAFTA after he vowed a veto. Most of all, we got the DNC’s clear and singular message: Hillary Clinton won the nomination and we’re expected to fall in line. Yeah, well, fuck that.

In response to our treatment, I’m reading a lot of idealistic but unworkable plans on Twitter. One series admonishes us to vote for Jill Stein, and I get that. The Green message is Bernie’s message, and how can you not love that? The other series of posts implore us to start a brand new political party, a “people’s party.” Honestly, I get this, too. But the Greens are already there, so why reinvent the wheel?

I’ve been an idealist before, too. I guess I still am. The poor aren’t our enemies. Nor is brown skin. Nor are scared people who need a place to hide. (And, really, is believing these things idealistic or just being human?) But forward progress demands the marriage of idealism with pragmatism. What is the most pragmatic way to achieve social justice, economic justice, environmental common sense? It isn’t splitting the progressive presidential vote by voting Green. It isn’t splitting it further by starting yet another party. That leaves us with one option: a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party. It’s a plan that puts a bunch of upstarts (and a few old pros) up against the mouthpiece of the oligarchy, and that sounds ludicrous, until you realize that out of nowhere a little old Jewish man from Vermont and a bunch of young(er) idealists almost brought down The Queen. I think we can do this.

I’ve admitted in a previous post that I’m a nobody from Texas. But a group of nobodies is what every army is made of. And armies take shit out. But first they need a plan.

Some Basics

Hillary Clinton chose Tim Kaine as her VP. He wants less Wall Street regulation. He wants more trade deals like TPP. He’s anti-choice. And you get the real sense that he says what she thinks. If there was any doubt that she is at heart that Goldwater girl from the 1960s, Tim Kaine is your proof that those doubts should be vanquished.

Hillary is angling away from liberals toward disaffected GOP voters. Yeah, she’ll say the things Berners want to hear, but look at her convention. Look at her VP choice. Listen to what Terry McAuliffe said about her stance on TPP. (Terry is shrewd and one of the Clinton’s closest friends. His statement wasn’t a slip but a signal to free trade Republicans.) Hillary Clinton is gunning for Republican voters who have nowhere else to go. With mainstream Democrats and a few Berners, that will give her the numbers she needs.

But Hillary’s chance of winning the 2020 election will drop significantly when she goes up against a traditional GOP candidate. She will retain few Republican voters when she’s challenged by a John Kasich or Paul Ryan; and those conservative voters who lay out during this cycle will be back in the game — voting against her. She will take a double hit.

Hillary will need fresh voters for the 2020 race. She will be forced to appeal to independents and the liberal base of the Democratic Party. She knows that. We know that. We need to use that to our advantage during her first term in office.


I have no freaking clue. But my hunch is that wiser and experienced minds have already assembled the spreadsheets. Still, I love this shit, and so this is what I would like to see:

  1. I would like to see Berners in solid red and solid blue state vote for every Democrat on the ticket except the one at the top. I want y’all to send a message with your vote — that you are involved and you are liberal — by voting Green.
  2. I would like Berners in swing states to vote a straight Democratic ticket. No matter how much it stings, no matter how much you may feel like you’re voting for Satan (which, let’s be honest, you probably are), I want you to vote for Hillary Clinton. Make it your job to get her into office while your red and blue state compatriots send the message you’re dying to send yourself.
  3. Finally, I would like all of us on the left to send Hillary Clinton an email on Wednesday, November 9th, the day after the election:

    Liberals in swing states voted you in while those of us in red and blue states sent you a message. If you do not push through our agenda, we will remember, and we will allow you to return to Chappaqua on January 21st, 2021.

Hillary Clinton needs us. But we have to flex our muscle now. She needs to know we grasp our power and that we are willing to use it.

** While we use our power to drive the new president’s agenda, we need to aggressively take positions of power in the Democratic Party. Ours is the party of FDR and LBJ. We have a proud rich socialist history that was stolen from us thirty years ago by Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council. It’s time to return the Democrats to their/our roots. But I’ll save that for another post. 

Hillary Clinton : The Last of Her Species

Bernie Sanders spoke the truth. The other candidates only framed it.

How do good people surrender themselves to half-truths after they have heard the unvarnished truth? How do you embrace a lie once you know it’s a lie? You cannot. And so there is unrest at the DNC.

Those of us who supported Bernie Sanders because of his character will at best vote for Hillary Clinton in November. We will vote for her not support her. And our vote will only come to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.

Despite our vote, Hillary is a dinosaur. She is the last of her kind. Bernie put a target on her back and on the back of every one of her species.

Will you, Democrat, ever trust another traditionally-funded candidate? Will you listen to and love them like you might have loved Obama in 2008 or will you question their loyalty?

That is why Hillary is a dinosaur. She is the last candidate we will accept who is bought and paid for by Wall Street. Citizens United can stand. But it is a relic. Bernie Sanders made it a relic, you made it a relic, at $27 a pop.

That is the power of truth. That’s the power of us.

Quick! Dead Bird!

Hillary Clinton, like her husband before her, positions herself to the right of her Democratic opposition and to the left of the GOP. But how does that work when your Republican opponent is a certifiable lunatic? We found out Sunday.

Twenty-four hours before the Democratic National Convention was to kick into gear, WikiLeaks dumped DNC emails showing — surprise! — Debbie Wasserman-Schultz worked a political ponzi scheme for her old bud, Hill. Working in crisis control, the Clinton rapid response team pulled a solution from the right, the lunatic right, the one-step-to-the-left-of-Donald-J-Trump right: The Russians did it!

I like a good gag as much as anybody, but the Ruskies went after Little Debbie? Vladimir Putin got off his horse and did that? The president of Russia prefers a war hawk to a pacifist from Vermont? Really?

Enter. Stage Right.

This is one more unsettling reminder that we’re in the dress rehearsal for POTUS #45. This is a preview of the Hillary Clinton administration, a White House which will share Richard Nixon’s conservative principles, his temperament and paranoia, his willingness to lie like a blanket to save his own hide. Yep, this is going to be the kind of administration that, when cornered, will point straight up at the sky and scream, “Dead bird!” (Sadly for her, just like Dick — and nothing like Bill — Hillary’s deception is just so damned transparent!)

You’ve been given your heads-up, America: Prepare yourself for four cringe-worthy years, because that’s where we’re headed. Unsecured Top Secret emails? Financial irregularities at The Clinton Foundation? The Secretary of State signing-off on foreign arms sales in exchange for contributions to her family’s charity? No matter how much proof may come to light, we will be told to look away, that nothing happened here, that she never had sexual relations with that woman. (Wait! Wrong Clinton.)

Welcome to 1972. I mean 1992. I mean hell.

Bigger Than November

I’m starting with an admission. It’s my own but I think I speak for a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters: I don’t give a shit about the Democratic Party.

With that out of the way…

The pundits have been correct for months, maybe since the day Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for president — or, more accurately, since the day Hillary Clinton announced hers. He is not going to get the nomination. Nobody is but Hillary. Just ask Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and the superdelegates. The fix was in from the start. We were sheep to them not voters.

But I refuse to be a sheep. And I’m damned sure not inclined to follow the Democratic establishment, any more than I’ve been inclined to follow Bernie Sanders.

It’s been an amazing year watching the Senator from Vermont. Somebody with bonafides and a megaphone has finally given voice to what so many of us have felt for years. So it was that when the Democratic establishment attempted to silence him, they attempted to silence me. And when they did that, they lost me.

Bernie Sanders isn’t my leader. Nor is he the father of this liberal uprising. He is, instead, as he accurately stated must be the case, a manifestation of a grass roots movement. That movement was Occupy. And now it is us. 

Occupy was an echo; it repeated in the public square the conversations we had been having for years in our living rooms, our dorms, at the bar, with God alone as we uttered our fears to heaven. Occupy pared those conversations to their core: The 1% is plundering the 99%. It is them against us. It’s “Class Warfare,” a term conservatives have for good reason mocked; because a war was indeed waged. And it proved to be an easy battle to win, as the 99% were unaware they were even in the crosshairs.

Occupy spoke the truth. It removed our blinders. And presented with the truth, our ire rose. Then did we.

You and I — not Occupy or Bernie Sanders — are the wave. And this primary was the sound of that wave crashing to shore.

Occupy found its oxygen in our evaporated jobs, our unaffordable education, our underfunded bank accounts, our collapsing environment, our corrupt government, and the once-populist-now-money-hungry Democrats who have since Bill Clinton’s first term ignored our cries for economic salvation.

A Yellow Dog, I refused to acknowledge the Democrat’s apathy toward people like me, clung to the hope that they still gave a damn. Until this winter. When a candidate who had fought for us for twenty-five years challenged a corporate sycophant; and the party establishment, en masse, sided with the sycophant.

I’m a nobody from the middle of Texas. I vote. I donate small amounts to campaigns when I can. I blog. I tweet. That’s it. But I think it’s time to fight. I think we have to take our country back.

Alone I can’t do squat. Neither can you. But together we almost won the nomination. That’s a remarkable achievement when you consider who we were running against: A former first lady, former senator, former Secretary of State, a multimillionaire with deep Wall Street connections and even deeper Democratic Party connections. She was the chosen one, and we almost knocked her off her throne.

We accomplished that feat because we had the people, the skills, the policies, the passion and convictions, and the money. Now we have in-the-trenches experience.

It is from alchemies like this that Revolutions are born.

In their infancy is when revolutions are most vulnerable. Ours is vulnerable, too. So it will be challenged. By people we know. By party leaders we’ve long considered our advocates. We already hear their gentle coo, “Bernie has brought new people into the Democratic fold. We welcome them with open arms.” We have become a commodity, you and I. The Democratic Party wants to harvest us for our enthusiasm, our money, our votes. It wants to rebrand us The Party Faithful. In that pursuit, we’re told American politics is about compromise. The party and media use words like “moderation” and “reality” to separate us from our convictions. They deride us for seeking political “Purity.” They then define purity as a dangerous thing. But dangerous for whom?

I don’t choose to be mined for the benefit of the 1%. I prefer to be part of that one thing which frightens the 1%: Us, the people, united.

The Democrats are right to want us and the 1% is right to fear us. We have become a force. And unbridled forces threaten status quos.

Since the Democratic Leadership Council overtook the Democratic Party in the late 1980s, the DNC has proved remarkably adept at co-opting grassroots movements and smothering them within their embrace. It would, therefore, be suicidal for us to cozy up to the Democratic establishment. We need instead to become an independent broker, a resource which supports candidates based on their principles not their party. And as that broker our mission is to fight like hell, contribute like hell and crank out the vote like hell to get liberals (true liberals –  Green, Democrat, Independent, Socialist) elected everywhere, from school boards to mayoral offices, city councils to governorships, state houses to federal houses. We’ve proven we can do this; we nearly defeated the queen, her media, her political machine.

As this race winds down, every one of us must vote our convictions. We must show our resolve even when a nomination defeat is imminent — especially when a nomination defeat is imminent.

The 1% cannot be allowed to crush the 99%. We must win. For us and for the next generations.

We can do this. But we have to start. Now.

The End is Near

We’re misogynists. We’re racists. We secretly support Donald Trump. We’re mindless Berniebots.

So say Hillary Clinton supporters and the Democratic establishment.

But the truth is far less sinister. The truth is that Bernie Sanders is not our leader. Bernie is our megaphone. He states what we have felt for a long time, that the system is weighted toward the rich, that we have no say in our government, that even our votes are not our own, that they are nothing more than a choice between two people whom Wall Street has chosen. And until this year, we were without a champion. We had no voice. Then Bernie showed up. And apart from some questionable votes regarding gun control, his record (hell, his life) is that of a public servant. He is what those of us fed up with the system had thought was a unicorn: An honest politician.

So let’s make this simple. We are not following Bernie Sanders. We are not his bots. Nor racists. Nor misogynists. No, we are people who want integrity (and yes, a servant to the working class) in the White House. That is all. The End.

…except this isn’t the end. This is just getting started.


The Long Road

Bernie lost New York State tonight. Or was it stolen? We’ll never know which it was. But either way, what now? Do Bernie Sanders supporters concede what appears to be the inevitable and get behind Hillary? Do we fight on while we hope for a Clinton Foundation scandal or an FBI indictment? Or maybe we simply work harder and push forward and pray that the Far West takes us home?

I’ve been in Bernie’s corner since I first learned what he stands for. But I’m going to be honest with you cowboys and cowgirls, I’m not sure his nomination is key to the longterm health of our movement. In fact, his loss might just be the jet fuel we need to take back the Democratic Party. Let me explain:

  1. Since World War 2, no political party has held the White House for more than eight years. (There are two exceptions to this. The first was George Bush the Senior, who followed the mythic presidency of Ronald Reagan. The second was Al Gore, who followed the mythic presidency of Bill Clinton — Gore clearly never held office but he did win the popular vote.) If history assures us of anything, it’s that the Democrats will lose the White House to the Republicans in 2020, if they win in November. That brings us to my second point.
  2. If Bernie won the White House this year and lost it in 2020 (or lost the general this year), the conservative Democratic power base would blame that loss on his progressive policies, and that would lock liberals out of power for at least another half generation. (At best, a win would net us four years to accomplish our goals before our exile. A terrible plan.) There’s a third reason a Bernie loss could be a plus.
  3. In 2010, the GOP ran the table in the midterms. They took control of state houses across the nation. That control allowed them to redraw district lines with unrighteous precision, which resulted in our current situation, in which Democrats have to earn 54% of the national vote just to break even in the House of Representatives. (That doesn’t address the massive damage the GOP has done at the state level, where issues ranging from voting rights to a woman’s right to choose have been decimated.) The next redistricting takes place in 2020, and Jesus himself couldn’t generate during a second term election the kind of excitement that creates wave elections; that’s not what second term elections are about. And Democrats need a wave election if we’re going to take back the states and redraw those lines.

I began 2008 a Joe Biden supporter. I loved the guy. I still do. But when he fell out and Obama ascended, it was easy to migrate to the senator from Illinois. Losing and shifting allegiance is part of politics, as all of us who love this blood sport know. But this year will be different for me. I won’t shift my allegiance to Hillary. (You can read my reasoning here.) I will, instead, as far as it depends on me, stand my ground to prevent the Clintons from returning their peculiar form of unprincipled money laundering politics to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I will do this because their loss will deny the conservative wing of the Democratic Party even more power and will buy those of us on the left four years to invigorate and grow a new liberal movement. The GOP offers a prime example of how insurgent movements like ours can succeed.

When Barry Goldwater lost his presidential bid in 1964, conservative Republicans dug in and methodically gathered the reigns of power while they waited for the right candidate. That candidate rose through the ranks in 1976. His name was Ronald Reagan, and four years later he was elected to the White House. (His bat shit crazy wing of the GOP still controls their party forty years later.) We find ourselves now in the same position in which Goldwater supporters (of which Hillary was one) found themselves in 1964: Insurrectionists striving to overthrow the base of the party that abandoned us.

It has been twenty-three years since Bill Clinton was sworn into office as the forty-second President of the United States, twenty-three years since the poor and working classes were robbed of their voice, twenty-three years since the poor and working classes were robbed. It’s time to reassert our power and return to our party the ethical, socially just and effective principles with which Franklin Roosevelt energized the Democrats with his own form of democratic socialism. We have four years to grow this Revolution from the seedling it is today to the powerhouse it can become. Let’s get to work!


Now read more:

The Zephyr Teachout Congressional campaign. She is taking Bernie’s message to Congress:  http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/04/zephyr-teachout-bernie-sanders-new-york

The Delicate Flower?

Clinton Spin: Sunday’s Democratic debate, the last before the Michigan primary, was about “tone.” Was about “disrespect.” Was about “sexism.”

But it wasn’t.

For those of you who’ve watched political debates through the years, you know how the game is played. And you know that whenever a candidate or their campaign complains about “tone” or “disrespect” or “sexism,” you can rest assured that the issue at hand is none of those things. Instead it’s about strategic advantage. It’s about setting the narrative.

And this is the story behind Clinton’s current narrative:

Hillary Clinton needs the female vote. The problem for her is that Bernie Sanders has been getting it in far larger numbers than she anticipated. And so to lock up this nomination, she needs to get her numbers up. She needs a game changer. Enter “sexism.”

Sexism is something every woman in the business world — hell, some in their own home — has to deal with. It’s being treated like you don’t have a brain. Or like your opinion doesn’t matter. Or like you’re not an equal. “Sexism” is a powerful issue that almost all women can connect on.

But what exactly is non-sexist behavior during a presidential campaign? Is it politeness? Is it deference? It is listening calmly while the other person speaks?

Politics is the opposite of everything your parents taught you was right: “Put others first,” “Don’t brag on yourself,” “Be respectful.” Politics turns all that on its head.

During the 1980 Republican primary, when his mic was about to be cut, Ronald Reagan barked, “I paid for this microphone!” In 1988, vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen said to Dan Quayle when he invoked JFK, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” These things get ugly. And because she has played on the presidential field before, Hillary Clinton knows that it’s going to get ugly for her, too. (To that point, Bernie interrupting her during the debate was not ugly. It was an opponent vying for leverage. True ugly won’t come until November if she makes it that far. So she might want to keep her hyperbole pocketed until the real battle ahead.)

Hillary Clinton is not a waifish wallflower. She is a former Senator and Secretary of State who testified for eleven hours during a mockery of a Congressional hearing. So while one can reasonably question her pro-free trade policies (that will further decimate blue collar workers), and while it’s fair to ask her what concessions high-powered CEOs expect for their tens of millions of dollars in contributions, it is ludicrous for her to act like she doesn’t grasp what presidential level politics entail. It is likewise ludicrous for her to imply that Bernie Sanders with his 20+ years in the tank for women’s rights is sexist.

No, the person most cynical and condescending to women tonight was not Bernie Sanders but Hillary Clinton, who mocked a woman’s desire for fair treatment in the work place by equating it with hardball politics. Now the question: Are you going to fall for that?

Aiming Low

Hillary Clinton is coming on strong. Behind her are the political winds. (The establishment: Democrats in the Senate, Congress, state houses, even the White House — if rumors are to be believed.) These are folks who loved the 1990s so much that they want to return. And why not? What wasn’t to love about the first Clinton presidency with its soaring economy and that smart vibrant twosome in the White House? And its pretty blue dress.

Life was great when I was a kid. I spent summers in the lake and on my Schwinn Stingray. But I got sick when I was nine. Soon I couldn’t balance my bike beneath me. I was in a wheelchair by the time I was ten.

The illness I had was rare. Wasn’t under control. Multiple times, I almost died. I spent the next four years in and out of hospitals.

By the time middle school rolled around, my hospital stays were done, but I was unable to attend school (pre-ADA). So I stayed home. Days were long, boring, spent with an aged couple who “babysat” me while Mother and Daddy were at work. There was lots of TV.

At the age of sixteen, my parents bought a van with a lift. I could go places without them and started attending a youth group. Soon I was in college, had friends, enjoyed parties. I got to live. I had a life.

It’s been twenty-five years since college. And when I look back, I realize what a good life I’ve had. Swimming, biking, parents who loved me. Then came a world class university, incredible friends, experiences in the bigger world. Because of that, I rarely think about those long years I sat home alone. Or the four years in hospitals that preceded them. I recall very little of that. Like it never even happened.

It’s easy to remember the good to the exclusion of the bad. I think that’s how we survive, our species, because life is hard, often painful. And so I doubt we could make it without selective retention — nature’s benzodiazepine. But selective retention is a double-edged sword. Take, for example, the Clinton years.

It began with rumors of infidelity. Then came Ginnifer Flowers. Yet more rumors. Then Monica. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” Bill said. Kenneth Starr. A blue dress with the president’s semen on it.  What the meaning of “is” is. And then impeachment.

In the end, William Jefferson Clinton won. His favorables remained high for years after. They’re still high.  But we — you and I — we paid a price for that.

For those of you not old enough to appreciate the battles of the 1990s, I can tell you that they possessed every ounce of vitriol you’ve witnessed between the GOP Congress and President Obama. The fire was just as hot. But unlike Obama, Bill Clinton brought those battles on himself. His recklessness, his insatiable desire for pussy, his hubris, his manipulation of the facts and his threading of the needle of legality fueled division that costs us all. Yet he showed zero regret. The definition of narcissism.

Hillary was the facilitator of Bill’s conceit. From the start. On 60 Minutes, two days before the New Hampshire primary, she stared into the camera and lied for him. He hadn’t cheated, she said.

Someone once said that anyone who has the arrogance to think they can run the world will believe they can get away with anything. That stayed with me. Because it’s true. Bill Clinton was the poster child for that arrogance.

Most of us who witnessed Hillary handle her husband’s cheating with Monica respected her skill and her grace. Some women condemned her for not brushing him aside, for not standing up for young women by showing them they had more value than to be cheated on by a man, repeatedly, in public, with no remorse. But Hillary implied through secondary channels (if she didn’t out right say it) that her faith got her through. And while she had said before Bill’s election that she wasn’t a “stand by her man” woman, mocking an old country song that was well-worth mocking, that was exactly who she was. For better or worse. From devotion or ambition.

Hillary ran for Senate in 2000. It was suspected at the time that the Clintons bought their house in New York for the sole purpose of her running, that their move was arranged to coincide with the Senate seat being vacated by Daniel Moynihan. Few disputed that, even among her supporters, as Hillary was young and had goals of her own. Some even speculated that her devotion to Bill had been political expediency directed toward those goals. That it wasn’t love at all. Or not only love. With her run for the Senate came talk of her return to the White House. As president. And we all wondered if she would take philandering Bill with her or leave him in a ditch along the way. Heated speculation: Would his above par political skills make up for his subpar character?

Hillary was described during her time in the Senate as a team player. Her Republican colleagues liked her. Respected her. Worked beside her. Yet she accomplished little: Renamed a US Post Office and renamed a highway. No legislation otherwise bears her name. But she did place one high profile vote. For the Iraq War.

To this day, no one knows if Hillary’s Iraq War vote reflected her true sentiment, or if it was merely to frame her with the necessary toughness a woman would need if she ran for president. Either way, the Iraq War was in part hers. She gave Bush that permission. And she was wise enough to have known that he would use it to invade; if we knew, and we did, then it by no means got past her. So that war is on her shoulders. It was her move.

Hillary Clinton is now running for the nation’s top job. Odds are, she will get the Democratic nomination. She stands a decent shot of becoming the next President of the United States.

From the start, I have been leery of Hillary. I’m male, and have been told online — where I tweet often — that I’m a misogynist, afraid of powerful women, don’t see the need for a woman to break through the glass ceiling. Untrue. I was raised by a strong woman, an independent woman, a woman who believes women can do anything a man can do. It’s a belief she passed on to me. (And if Hillary’s disapproval was based merely on misogyny, then college-aged women would have risen up first for Hillary not Bernie Sanders.) Still, like I said, I’m leery of Hillary. I was in 2008, as well. So this go round I’ve been for Bernie.

I differentiate Hillary and Bernie this way: Listen to Bernie, you hear conviction; listen to Hillary, you hear ambition. Ambition concerns me. It has always concerned me. Ambition is about “me” while conviction is about things greater than “me.” That’s why I enthusiastically support Bernie Sanders. And that’s why I will continue to support him despite what appears to be an inevitable loss.

As my candidate struggles against his opponent’s powerful political machine, I will conclude with this:

What we remember of the 1990s is not what happened in the 1990s. It is a memory. Nothing more. And memory, for our very survival, glosses over some very bad things. In this case, for many who support Hillary, it has whitewashed scandals that ate at us for almost eight years and the laws that were slipped by us with Bill Clinton’s calm cool reassurance (the same smooth demeanor he used on Ginnifer, Monica and the others before and since, no doubt) when he told us that what we were doing was right and good, while it was neither. Those laws instead:

  1. Incarcerated hundreds of thousands of non-violent men;
  2. Threw the poor, the weakest of the weak, onto the streets;
  3. Redirected the Democratic Party’s focus from working men and women toward Wall Street and major financial contributors, the same powers that bankroll the GOP;
  4. Through NAFTA closed tens of thousands of American factories and left millions of hard working blue collar men and women unemployed;
  5. Gave bankers the power they needed to consolidate despite warnings from history and much wiser people that it could bring down the economy, which it did in 2008.

Hillary Clinton comes from a dark spot in American history, one she helped create. No matter how much she denies the bad from that time, or embraces the good, from that forgotten place has returned a deeply flawed couple whom together — “you get two for the price of one,” Bill told us — enacted laws that destroyed the lives of millions of Americans in order to advance one family’s legacy.

Do we really want to go back there?

Half White All Black

Humans acclimate quickly, come to take things for granted. And so it feels normal now. After slavery, after Jim Crow, after the lynchings and the beatings and the murders of innumerable black men by bad men and bad cops, we have for seven years had a black president. Do you remember when that seemed impossible?

This black president was given birth by a white mother and raised within a white family in a white culture. Strange how rarely we think of that, how we think of him only as our black president, how we still see things through old eyes. The one drop rule.

But that we’ve viewed this president as black has revealed an amazing thing about us. For even though we saw him as black — and only black, not white — we ignored all the negative connotations that we’ve been conditioned to believe about brown skin, and we voted for this man. Twice.

And he garnered our vote both times despite the wedges his opposition used to frame him as an other: Dismissed as an African not born here, accused of “palling around with terrorists,” denied of his Christian faith with innuendo that he was the same religion as the 9-11 attackers, accused of “hating white people,” charged with wanting to destroy America, damned as unpatriotic because he dared to tell us that we could do better.

Still we voted him in.

But among Republicans, his elections have never been finalized. He has never been their president. It’s as if they believe his election was a lie, a dream of the far left that the GOP is waiting for us to wake from. In their delusion they have denied him victories and even respect. They have treated him, as they used to say of men subjugated to white will, “like their nigger.”

And that behavior by a recalcitrant Republican congress wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to his election nor in principled opposition to his policies. It was a methodical plan laid out by the Republican leadership on the day Barack Obama was sworn-in, and its set goal was to block every piece of legislation the president proposed, to obstruct him at every turn. It was an action that was nothing short of treason if treason is setting aside one’s sworn service to the American people in exchange for personal ambition.

It’s now been seven years since the Republicans set their plan into motion, and their agenda has remained the same, as witnessed after the death of Antonin Scalia, when the Senate leader stated that no Supreme Court appointment would be permitted until the American people were given a chance to speak in the 2016 election. In other words, the people’s voice in 2012 was an inaccurate measure of the public will. And it must have been. As for the second time they elected a black man to the White House, and surely that kind of irony was a mistake.

Ironic, too, has been the hard-to-comprehend reality that the same people who voted for our first black president voted for this congress. And while we may never know why they split their vote, their will can be seen through the fog of their contradiction: The president’s personal and job approval numbers are through the roof while those of Congress have plummeted to the floor. The people are stating their will, if to an obstinate legislature.

Yet stomp their feet all they might, this GOP will soon have no choice but to listen, as they are a diminishing minority — their numbers shrinking for a reason: Their beliefs are rooted in old fears, old science, old beliefs, old everything. And the old withers away.

Then comes the new.

Barack Hussein Obama is a stark reminder that the homogeneous white nation that was once an island of prosperity in a much smaller world is no more. It has died — has been dying for decades. And it won’t come back, no matter how tightly Republicans hold onto their guns or narrow-minded religions. That old America has breathed its last and the new has been born, sealed with the election of our first black president.

It was a violent birth.

The past eight years have opened up scars long thought closed as the president’s skin — not his policies, demeanor, actions — blinded a majority of far right voters to the absurdity of what they were being told. It was painful to watch up close: Old friends, good friends, fine people behaving like those respectable white men and well-groomed white women on the newsreels from Selma. These good people who work hard and love their families and their country have believed the most despicable lies of their day. And their gullibility is easy to judge, to mock, to look down upon, until you realize we are no different: Black and white, liberal and conservative, young and old, residents of Little Rock and citizens of Berlin. The sin of my friends reveals all our sin. That poison courses through all of us, we are all filled with hate. Those of us not acting out are merely waiting for the messenger.

And this president could have acted in kind. He could have called out our generation’s racism. He had that right, he was its target. But he didn’t. He instead took it like a man and taught us by his good grace and example how we overcome our sin. And because of his dignity, the president’s tormentors grew small while he grew large, and he will only grow larger as history judges him as the steady captain who singlehandedly guided our ship out of the Great Recession while the unruly crew was mutinous.

Be proud, America. We elected this man — the right man — into the White House, and we did that twice. So even if we make the same mistakes in the future that we have in the past, Obama is our proof that we are maturing, that we’re slowly getting it right.

Commies and Fascists

Middle East: We’re in battle with a twenty-first century Vietcong. Middle Class: Our jobs have left for overseas. Middle Ground: There is none.

Middle is a problem.

America’s foundation is crumbling. That means infrastructure, yes. But our problem is deeper than concrete. It’s us. We’re pulling apart.

Read social media. Listen to the radio. Watch cable news. Remember “mutual respect?” No, I don’t either. It’s been a long time.

Republican friends, the vehement type, the ones who are hard right, believe government is out to get us, believe it’s killing our jobs, believe Democrats hate America just like their president hates America. In that respect, they’re fools, and yet my buddies. They think the same of me.

We’ve known each other forever, my buddies and me, shared laughs over beers, checked out women in short skirts at the bars, amped up each other’s courage when we were too afraid to go talk to the cute one, “Quit being a pussy and ask her!” But that was college. Been years. Now we’re older. Wives, kids, house payments. Life is more complicated. Blame easier to hurl.

Yet we’ve got to fix this, get the country under control before it’s too late. But we can’t, because we’re fighting over the wheel. “Let go of that goddamned steering wheel!” we scream. At each other. As we careen toward the ditch. But no one lets go. “Those fools,” we all yell, “are gonna kill us!” And about that the odds are stacking. It’s not looking good.

People don’t suffer fools. And the other ones are fools. So we’re fracturing. As a nation. As friends. For some, even as family. And we have been for a while.

  • Obama? His election exacerbated our division, exploded us into factions not seen since the civil war — or at least since the Edmund Pettus Bridge — even before his oath of office.
  • Bush 43?  His Supreme Court coronation and the wars that followed surely widened the rift between us. But they weren’t what opened the fissure.
  • Clinton? Disliked by Republicans and some Dems, relentlessly investigated, wrongly impeached, certainly immoral and self-serving. But this didn’t start with him, either.
  • Bush 41? Too banal to have caused anything.
  • Reagan? Worshipped and demonized, without question responsible for the deaths of both the middle class and the USSR. But our anger was birthed before him.

Our split was a long time coming. Before Fox News. Before Rush Limbaugh. Before William F. Buckley. Before Nixon. Before Goldwater. Before the John Birch Society. Before the hippies and the yippies and the beatniks and the Vietnam War. Truth be told, I think it has always been here. I think this is who we are. Divided, right brain-left brain, both, the cautious and the aspirational. The “yes we cans” and the “but maybe we should nots.” The dogmatic and the free thinkers. The lovers of science and the prayers to God. This is who we were and who we will always be.

But together?

It feels like we’re at our end. The red lights are flashing. The crossing guard has dropped down in front of the tracks. A train. But no one’s at the wheel while everyone’s at the wheel. And no one’s hitting the brakes. I write about this incessantly because it feels imminent. Like at any moment we’re going to crash and burn. And maybe it’s always been that way. Maybe we’ve always felt like we’re on the verge of our demise because maybe we are. Maybe that’s how democracy works.

Yet as different as we’ve been, we have somehow survived — because we’ve met in the middle, at that center yellow line, sometimes in the left lane, sometimes the right, but always on the road.

But things seem different now. It’s harder to steer, the middle harder to find. And so we’ve angled toward the ditch.

And still we’re accelerating.

Mr. Smith Screams at Washington

The death rattle of the American dream. That’s what we’re witnessing.

Do you know anyone who thinks their vote matters? Anyone who believes Washington hears their voice? Do you know one person whom you respect who believes the nation is headed in the right direction? Who believes the next generation will be better off than this one? Than the generation before?

Of course, you don’t.

The contraction of a democracy brings with it the kind of men who come before an end, the John the Baptists and the AntiChrists, the ones that warn you of your demise and offer the promise of resurrection. (Which of those fates you experience, of course, depends on you. It always depends on you.)

When the voices first rose in late 2008, what would become the Tea Party wasn’t conservative. It wasn’t liberal. It was men and women from across the spectrum enraged at Washington for giving our money (yours, mine) to Wall Street bankers — and then hanging us out to dry. It was grassroots. It wanted justice. It demanded that our government act on our behalf. Then it was coopted by the far right.

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are surging because we the people want to be heard. No more platitudes. No more hedging. We want candidates standing where we stand. And no matter which side you’re on, one of these two men echo back your cries: Put us at the front of the line — before Wall Street, before non-Americans, before those who are buying our politicians and robbing us of our voice.

Hear us!

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are our clarion call to Washington that we’re fed up with its narcissism, a message to the powers that be that the people who rose up seven years ago with the Tea Party, the real Tea Party that breathed fire before the Kochs and Fox News harnessed it, are alive and well and still raging at the injustice that’s been leveled at our feet.

But we are not satiated by our anger.

We want good paying jobs. We want to own our own homes again. We want to know what it’s like to have a savings account and what forty-hour work weeks and two week vacations feel like. We want to see our kids walk across the stage after their college education and know they aren’t shackled to student debt but about to embark on a fantastic new adventure. And we want to know our elderly parents won’t die in poverty.

To put it simply: We want our country back.

And through our votes for these two disparate men we are asserting that we expect those whom we’ve elected to turn from the bribery they’re engaging in to the service of three hundred twenty million American futures — and not merely their own.

We are living in a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington moment. We, right and left, have created that moment. And if Washington listens, the Republican and Democratic parties and America itself might just be revived. But if Washington does not listen…

Slaves’s Revolt

2016. We’re in full swing. I’m a Bernie supporter, will not vote for Hillary in the primary, will not support her if she’s the nominee. I’m catching flack for that. “The Republicans will win,” I’m told. And truth is, if enough people feel like I do, that prediction may be right. But Hillary Clinton is a large cog in a larger machine that has systematically robbed every one but the wealthiest of us of our voice in our government. And as a Democrat, a member of the political party that once stood for persons not corporations, I feel compelled to take a stand before its destruction is complete. Even now, it is no more liberal than the Republican Party in 1972. (I know this. I was there to see the world then.)

The Democratic Party used to belong to working men and women, minorities, the poor, unions. It was us against them, oppressed against oppressor, working class against monied class, Democrat against Republican. It was a frustrating balancing act, a constant tension. And yet it worked. It always seemed to work. Then Bill Clinton stepped into the White House.

Bill was smooth. Ask any woman he shagged. He got into their heads. He knew what they wanted. He had his way. He got into our heads.

Democrats had suffered through eight years of Reagan, four of Bush, and all we wanted was to win.  Bill showed us we could win, and we could win big, could win the hearts and minds of the public like Reagan had. We just had to trust him. He would take care of everything.  Now, Shhh, he said, the lion to the lamb.

And then he brought in some friends.

For over twenty years, since 1992, those of us in the middle and the poor have willingly given the fruits of our labor to the Democratic Party’s new benefactors (AKA Bill’s friends). What once belonged to us — the envy of the world, the great middle class — has been transferred into the swelling bank accounts of the wealthy. Working class families who could send their kids to college, could buy a boat, some even buy a weekend cabin, now struggle to get by. Their jobs, once plenty, reside today in Mexico, in China, in India. The result of Clinton’s push for free trade, we are told those jobs can never come back. We’re told they’re beneath us. We’re told we have to educate ourselves to become those workers’ masters. But, of course, college is unaffordable. Nor is everybody cut out for it. And so hard working men and women, people who built things, now work for minimum wage or maybe, if they’re lucky, twenty bucks an hour. Republicans didn’t do this to us. They alone didn’t have that power. No, our party did this to us — the Democratic Party — and we let it.

Then eight years ago we were offered change. We were told this new guy could bring us back. He would fix things, they said. And we believed like we believed before. Our candidate’s name was Barack Obama. He won the White House because of us.

I heard an old black man say about Obama before the 2008 election that he had seen men like him in the neighborhood before: Handsome suit, creased pants, shiny shoes, a smooth talker who assured people he would take care of them. The man said you should never trust a man like that. But I didn’t believe him. And to be honest, even now, I like Obama. I think — no, I know — he wants to do the right thing. For us. But a slave can only do what he’s allowed to do. (Yeah, I know, that’s an improper analogy, all things considered. But is it wrong? Is Obama not a slave to the system? You know he is, his race irrelevant.)

The severity of our situation is clear. In the months that followed the crash of 2008, when our popular new president could have prosecuted and likely convicted Wall Street for its crimes against us, when he could have shifted some of those trillions used to bail out the banks to Main Street, he did not. What he did instead was first serve our predators. And today their companies are bigger than they’ve ever been, their CEO’s are earning more than they’ve ever earned, while millions of us have lost our homes and may never own one again. Sound like a fair trade?

So will a Republican win the White House if I and Democrats like me refuse to vote for another Wall Street sycophant? Yeah, that’s possible, maybe even likely. But it’s time we take a stand against our party for our party. It’s time we go on strike until the Democratic Party, the one that once belonged to us, represents us again, and turns its back on the slave traders to whom Bill Clinton sold us.