Friday night we received the devastating news that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or as she had come to be known, “The Notorious RBG”, had died.  A young 87, she had overcome sexual discrimination, religious bigotry, and numerous bouts of cancer with persistence, strength, and intelligence.  Despite having graduated at the top of her class, she couldn’t get a job after graduating until she finally broke through, rising to become not just a legal giant but an icon.  She will be terribly missed.

Of course this means that Trump and McConnell, not even waiting until her body is cold, have announced that they will fill the seat this year.  The obvious hypocrisy after refusing to hold a vote on Merrick Garland, President Obama’s appointee in 2016, despite this being 45 days before an election rather than 9 months, apparently means nothing to the Republicans.
We have plenty of reasons to vote this year; the list includes having a leader who will appropriately handle the deadliest pandemic in a century, breaking deadlock in Congress, making sure we have local leaders who will be actual conduits to their communities and so on.  We now have one more, and perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to date.
Trump took advantage of McConnell’s gambit in 2016 and chose Gorsuch.  Then he took Kennedy’s resignation and gave us Kavanaugh.  If the Democrats and reasonable Republicans can delay McConnell’s intentions, do we really want to give Trump the chance to put a third Supreme Court judge on the bench?  If he does get another justice appointed do we want to have a lop-sided conservatice Supreme Court AND the White House?
One of the most over-used phrases in politics is that the upcoming election is the most critical in our lifetimes.  This is one of those moments when the words match the hype.  Our lives are literally in the balance here.  Race relations, reproductive rights, children in cages or separated from their parents perhaps forever, LGBTQ rights, self-indulgent trade wars, and a man who has been proven to play politics with a deadly virus that has already claimed over 200,000 American lives.
Biden was not everyone’s first choice, but in this race he is our best choice.  It isn’t even close.  When it comes to swinging the pendulum it takes steps, more slowly than many of us would like, but steps in the right direction that end with a journey arriving at the intended destination.  We are living the nightmare now, in Trump’s America.  It is time for us all to get past the remaining hinderances we have put between ourselves and what we know we need to do and act, if nothing else, in our collective self-interest.
As of Saturday we have 45 days.  That’s it.  What happens in these 45 days will determine the course of the country for decades to come.  A few days ago, when Justice Ginsburg knew the end was near, spoke to her granddaughter Clara saying “It is my most fervent wish that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”  While we hope stalwart senators in Washington will try to honor her wishes and maintain the precedent Republicans themselves set just four years ago, we must do our part in rebuilding our country, our state, and our communities by doing what is in our power to do in these 46 days.

We are right, they are wrong

A common political tactic when under siege is to muddy the waters and throw confusion on everything.  This is a tactic that is being employed now in Washington, D.C.; there are two major situations brewing and both need our action and attention.

While Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein managed to not get fired on Monday, the meeting he has on Thursday with Trump could be when his luck runs out.  The reason why we should care what happens with Rosenstein, who remains an avowed Republican, is he is Robert Mueller’s boss and if Rosenstein goes, Trump will probably replace him with Noel Francisco.  Francisco should scare us all; he is a hardline conservative who is a strong proponent of executive power who has already made statements supporting the president’s ability to remove Mueller and end the probe into Trump’s activities.

There is currently legislation ready to be brought to the floor of the Senate which has language that would protect Robert Mueller’s investigation, but has not been introduced for a vote because of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  Regardless of how Rosenstein’s meeting with Trump goes, we should all be calling our Senators asking them to put pressure on McConnell to allow a vote on the legislation protecting the investigation of Robert Mueller and his team which has already led to indictments against several of Trump’s surrogates.

Another situation is the status of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation for the U.S. Supreme Court.  There is a hearing also scheduled for Thursday to hear Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while in high school.  Since the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are all men, they have chosen to avoid the optics of having men question Ford by hiring a “female assistant” (McConnell’s words) to handle the questioning of Ford.  More alarming is the Republicans are scheduling a vote on Kavanaugh in the Senate early Friday morning; apparently the Republicans don’t feel they need much time to reflect on what comes out at the hearing, or perhaps they are afraid yet more accusers will come forward (so far it’s three known accusers).  To date, the Republicans in the Senate and the White House have resisted allowing the F.B.I. to investigate the allegations.

The action item here is to contact all of your elected officials but particularly our Senators asking them to pressure McConnell for a delay in the vote until the F.B.I. has been allowed to do their job and provide an investigation of a candidate up for a lifetime appointment.  Considering the Republicans’ successful stonewalling of Merrick Garland in the last year of President Obama’s term where the Republican Senate Judiciary members refused to even meet with Garland let alone hold hearings to consent, it seems incredibly hypocritical for them now to blame Democrats who are asking for a normal investigation of a candidate.  Kavanaugh worked in the George W. Bush White House and had several thousand pages of documents withheld from scrutiny of the Senate panel.  Kavanaugh also worked with Kenneth Starr during the Clinton impeachment process and said, “The idea of going easy on him at the questioning is thus abhorrent to me.”  If this is the standard he holds others to, is it not right that he is subjected to normal levels of investigation and refusing to answer questions because they are too personal; interesting considering it was Kavanaugh who added questions to be put to President Clinton that allowed everyone to know how he used a cigar.

The fact that both of these events are scheduled to overlap is not an accident; while we as Democrats should not abandon the principles that we feel put us above the tactics used by the Republicans in Washington, we should not waver from demanding a just process and equal disclosure on a consistent basis from the people who are supposed to be representing our best interests.  When the Republican Senate leadership heard there were more accusers of Kavanaugh, their initial reactions were focused on political expediency and trying to rush the vote, not on what those allegations might say about the candidate they were trying push through or whether that candidate was suited for the position.  We are right, they are wrong, and we need to make the American people see that.

Reflecting on 9/11

Today is a day of reflection; it is a day when we mourn lives lost, family and friends who were taken from us in horrible ways.  Beyond that, it is a time to look at how that day changed our country and ourselves.
Our nation’s reaction to 9/11 changed the world.  It carries on in our military deployment around the globe, which has ripple effects of its own.  It changed the way we travel.  Most importantly in my opinion, it changed the way we look at each other.
We were already a fearful country; we had racial issues and an increasingly polarized political dialogue going back to the 1994 Contract with America days.  The days of compromise and cooperation had been replaced with a stark us vs them mentality.  Yet, the country had been prospering for the most part and regardless of how people felt about the 2000 election, the general sense was “we can survive the W presidency”.  Then four planes happened, and our perspective was forever altered.
Looking back now on 17 years of politicizing the tragedy, the lives lost since that day in wars that didn’t need to be fought, creating enemies that didn’t exist until we made them, and war profiteering at our soldiers’ and taxpayers’ expense on a scale that would have made the robber barons of the early 20th century blush, the biggest loss I believe we have yet to recover is our sense of hope and belief in the better angels of human nature.
The good news is I have begun to see the tide turn.  Good people who had been content to go through life leaving the decisions to others are standing up and saying that they are going to take an active role in shaping their world.
We are seeing candidates from groups that used to be the unempowered rising to the top with the support of those who say, “enough”.
We have a new generation of participants in the process who raise the questions previous generations had been unwilling or unable to take on saying, “not on my watch”.
We have legions of people who either had dropped out or never were involved picking an issue and changing things.
And we have an opponent in leadership who casts into sharp relief what we are fighting against; a person who represents our basest instincts, our lizard brain, and the vilest caricature of what Americans are like.  This man, and those that protect and enable him, are now finding the spotlight turned on them.  They are having to explain and defend themselves as they haven’t had to for a long time.  Given the chance to govern at every level, it is clear they have neither the vision or the will to do anything beyond appeasing their masters who linger in the shadows.
It has been said this is a crossroads in American history, when the people of this country will either allow the cynical version currently in place to continue or will instead say that we are going to return to the values we say America stands for.  A country that lets the best thrive without being at the expense of the many.  Where opportunity is given to all and freedom is denied to none who truly appreciate it.  Where we celebrate our strengths while acknowledging there are areas for improvement and working on that.
The remaining question now that we are in the home stretch prior to the definitive election approaching in less than two months is what are you doing to make sure these goals are realized.  It is not enough to simply view history as it passes by; that is allowing others to speak for you.  Each of us must take stock in ourselves and dig deep to do everything possible within our means to ensure the outcome is the one we strive for.  That is my ask to all of you; doorknock, phone bank, lit drop, talk to your neighbors, friends, and relatives.
Democracy is a participation sport, and every one of us are players.  It’s time for all of us to get out there and make the blue wave happen.  Change does not happen on its own, it needs all of us.  Take the emotions and passion a day like this calls up, and put it to its best possible use; to make sure this country is everything we know it can be.

Here we are again…

Here we are again; another deadline and another possible government shutdown.  The common factor clearly is the lack of coherent leadership in the Republican majority coupled with the changing goalposts courtesy of the current occupant in the White House.

House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, is standing firm on her insistence the budget deal includes resolution for the Dreamers, the DACA recipients who have become a political football thanks to the maneuverings of House Speaker, Paul Ryan.  Because of this there are now three distinct Republican positions on immigration, outlined below:

  • Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has promised to have debate on immigration as part of the deal he struck with Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader.  Supposedly, this is scheduled to take place next week.
  • President Trump has a different position which has changed several times, but the most recent iteration is he is only willing to discuss DACA recipients if there is also a large curtailing of family reunification (he calls it chain immigration) and doing away with the immigration lottery system.  This system was set up to increase the diversity of countries the United States takes in and has largely benefited immigrants from Africa.  Generally it is a 10-year process with close vetting, but Trump described it as if that wasn’t the case.
  • Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, has a position that falls between these two and is predicated moment-by-moment by what will keep him Speaker of the House.

The impact of this indecision and the right hand not knowing what the right-right hand is doing has led to the predicament we are in tonight.  As of this writing the House is scrambling to secure votes which will allow it to pass, a process complicated by having opponents on the far right and the left.  The Freedom Caucus (conservatives in the House) resent the increase in spending on anything other than the military, and the left opposes the Senate agreement unless it addresses the DACA issue with assurances similar to those in the Senate.

For the average reader, the impact will be felt in the tumbling stock market, anxiety on the part of the DACA recipients who may be forced to leave the only country they have really known to go “back” to a country they don’t, and the continuing belief that the Republicans who hold the majority in both chambers of Congress and the presidency are still more interested in party politics than the interests of the constituents they were sent to Washington, D.C. to represent.

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