Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Patriot Games: Loyal Opposition or Upside Down Flag Waver

What type of patriot should I be? Should Democrats be?

It is not an idle question in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president and what it would mean to the majesty and character of the United States as a beacon of freedom, tolerance and equal opportunity, no matter how imperfect our execution of those values are. 

Should I endorse the combative stance of Charles Blow who, writing in The New York Times, defiantly rejected Donald Trump’e election (, a position echoed by the following statement found on the Internet and sent to me by one of my best friends:

I listened as they called my President a Muslim.
I listened as they called him and his family a pack of monkeys.
I listened as they said he wasn’t born here.
I watched as they blocked every single path to progress that they could.
I saw the pictures of him as Hitler.
I watched them shut down the government and hurt the entire nation twice.
I watched them turn their backs on every opportunity to open worthwhile dialog.
I watched them say that they would not even listen to any choice for Supreme Court no matter who the nominee was.
I listened as they openly said that they will oppose him at every turn.
I watched as they did just that.
I listened.
I watched.
I paid attention.
Now, I’m being called on to be tolerant.
To move forward.
To denounce protesters.
To “Get over it.”
To accept this...
I will not.
I will do my part to make sure this great American mistake becomes the embarrassing footnote of our history that it deserves to be.
I will do this as quickly as possible every chance I get.
I will do my part to limit the damage that this man can do to my country.
I will watch his every move and point out every single mistake and misdeed in a loud and proud voice.
I will let you know in a loud voice every time this man backs away from a promise he made to them.
Them. The people who voted for him.
The ones who sold their souls and prayed for him to win.
I will do this so that they never forget.
And they will hear me.
They will see it in my eyes when I look at them.
They will hear it in my voice when I talk to them.
They will know that I know who they are.
They will know that I know what they are.
Do not call for my tolerance. I’ve tolerated all I can.
Now it’s their turn to tolerate ridicule.
Be aware, make no mistake about it, every single thing that goes wrong in our country from this day 
forward is now Trump’s fault just as much as they thought it was Obama’s.
I find it unreasonable for them to expect from me what they were entirely unwilling to give.

Or should I assume the attitude of “This too shall pass,” and take comfort that the nation survived eight years of Ronald Reagan plus another four years of George H.W. Bush, only to survive eight years of George W. Bush? Unfortunately, that trial balloon was burst by Jeff Greenfield’s article in Politico’s magazine that maintains a Trump administration tied to a Republican Congress and Supreme Court would be more destructive to progressive causes than Reagan (

Should the loyal opposition work with Trump to improve our infrastructure and get more domestic manufacturing jobs? Or should Democrats resist giving him any victories, for surely he would not waste a moment to claim them as his and his alone? 

Should they let Trump and his dark knights tear apart the social safety net and let the working class and middle class voters who abandoned the Democrats find out what it’s like to live in a country that doesn’t care if they’re insured, that reduces the certainty of retirement benefits, that provides huge tax cuts to the wealthy but little to them, that wants to privatize national parks, that doesn’t push for higher minimum wages, that doesn’t enforce or pass worker safety laws or regulations for clean air, and safe foods and drugs?

When Trump first proposed to loosen the libel laws it was thought to be a potential minefield for legitimate media. Upon reflection, I believe the most vulnerable media would be those websites and papers that print scurrilous lies and distortions, the type of media that aided and abetted the election of The Donald. 

With Stephen Bannon as one of his closest advisors, whose Breitbart News often treaded dangerously on the borderline of libel, it is no wonder Trump has refined and softened his stance on the mainstream media. 

Of course, satirical shows such as The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (who is really coming into his own), would not have to worry as their content is protected speech, but let’s not discount the damage and threat repeated denunciations from the commander-in-chief might precipitate, perhaps including physical retaliation by some of Trump’s supporters or pressure on advertisers to withdraw support of the “offending” telecasts.

It would be foolish to count on Trump to modulate his positions. Someone who spreads falsehoods and deals with unfounded accusations, such as his latest outcry that he lost the popular vote because millions of votes were cast illegally for Hillary Clinton, reinforces the notion that reacting to Trump is a no-win proposition.

Instead, Democrats must aggressively attack his expected actions and those of Congress. They need to be proactive, not reactive.

For instance, to preserve the benefits of Obamacare, they need to run ads that defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ads that would outline the type of people who would be vulnerable if it were repealed and how insurance companies would take advantage of them. Focus on examples of the 22 million who are covered by Obamacare and how it has changed their lives for the better. 

Republicans have been wanting to alter Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security since they were passed by Democrats. To fend off radical changes, ads must target those who would be most affected—working class families and the elderly, two groups that opted for Trump. They need to be shown how GOP policies would hurt them.

His nominee for Treasury secretary wants to gut the Dodd-Frank Act that was passed in response to the investment community shenanigans that caused the housing crisis and the great recession of 2008.

As he assembles his cabinet and key advisors it has become obvious that Trump’s inner circle will not be a cushion, softening his campaign rhetoric. Rather, it is shaping up as a more regressive force. His designated Health and Human Services secretary, for example, wants to gut the ACA and eliminate insurance mandates for pre-existing conditions and cut back Medicare coverage. So much for Trump’s 60 Minutes statement to the contrary. 

Indeed, Trump is a master at playing the American public, hinting at his openness and compassion but wielding a harsh scepter of benefits denial.

Why do I say this? Because it is becoming clearer that while he listens to several advisors, he tends to follow the advice of the last person who had his ear. Too often that will be Bannon or vice president-elect Mike Pence, a hard core conservative. 

This and previous elections have shown that national direction is decided at the state level. Progressives have been koched and kicked by the Koch brothers and their ilk who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars securing state houses and gubernatorial mansions across the country. 

The time to build a state by state ground game is long past. But it is doable, especially if the populist agenda Trump campaigned on does not come to fruition and he has to defend a record that was passed in conjunction with a Republican Congress. 

So to answer the question at the top of this blog, I’ll be a discerning patriot, not ready to turn the American flag on my porch upside down as a sign of distress, but not willing to give our president-elect a free pass. His actions and their consequences will determine the outcome.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Don't Let Steve Bannon Hide His Bigotry Behind Freedom of the Press

The mind works in mysterious ways. Or maybe not.

Last Thursday night I had an intense dream about the Diary of Anne Frank, the haunting story of a young Jewish girl, her family and friends who hid for years in an attic in Amsterdam from the Nazis who sought their annihilation and ultimately succeeded in the deaths of all but her father.

My dreams often are triggered by something I read or saw during the hours before sleep. I  can’t fall back to sleep until after I’ve written down my thoughts on my iPhone. I remember Thursday evening reading about the suggestion by one of president-elect Donald Trump’s clique that it would be all right to create a registry of Muslims who have entered the country, precedent for that coming from our history of interring Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Trump, himself, had called for a registry of Muslims during the campaign.

And I read how the Israeli ambassador to the United States declared Steve Bannon—a modern day Goebbels spewing racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, xenophobic venom through Breitbart News and just named chief strategist to the next president—kosher and acceptable to the Jewish state.

The moral ground once firmly beneath Israel cries out for solidity. Steve Bannon is no friend of Jews who should beware any person or group that advocates or condones discrimination. He is no friend of any of the ideals upon which Israel, or for that matter the United States, was founded. Sure, he has enjoyed freedom of the press, but he has used that cherished right to issue screeds of hate and division. He is an unworthy counselor for the next president and unworthy of the blessing of Israel.

As Trump’s cabinet and advisors coalesce with loyalists Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general and retired general Mike Flynn as national security advisor the latest to be tapped, it is intriguing to observe candidates who might be welcomed into the Trump orbit. Fascinating not so much because they would offer counterpoint to Trump’s public positions but rather because of what Trump and they said about each other during the primary campaign. 

But let’s be generous and realistic. Trump should not be held to a higher standard than, say, Barack Obama who chose rival Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state after each disparaged the other in 2008. As in love and war, all is fair in politics.

Under the guise of freedom of the press people are excusing Bannon, as well as Facebook and Twitter, for publishing racially offensive, sexist, misogynist, anti-Semitic screeds.

As a journalist all my adult life, from college newspaper through newspaper reporter and bureau chief, through business magazine editor and publisher to now a blogger, I deeply believe in the values of a free and unencumbered press.

But one should not be able to hide behind press freedom when it comes to the dissemination of intolerance and untruths. As an editor and publisher I read everything to be printed in my magazine. If I didn’t agree with the writer it was my job to change the article or kill it. Nothing, nothing would get printed if it didn’t agree with my viewpoint.

Bannon cannot claim articles or headlines in Breitbart News did not reflect his opinions. He was under no obligation to print bigotry or misinformation.

Breitbart News, like Facebook and Twitter, are not public trusts. They are private enterprises and can choose to print or reject any copy that its editor and publisher find objectionable. This is not censorship. It is the proper exercise of an editor or publisher’s red pencil. 

By his acquiescence, and perhaps even encouragement, Bannon has demonstrated he is not qualified to sit in an office two doors down from the Oval Office.

While in Germany last week President Obama called the spread of fake news a threat to democracy. We have elected as our next president a man who boasts he gets much of his news from the Internet, a domain that we somehow have allowed to be poisoned with falsehoods that, sadly, too many of our citizens lack the education and intelligence to know are untruths. 

Like many I am struggling to understand how the electorate chose a candidate who deliberately lied (more often than his foe) and who did not provide details of his plans for America. It was, many pundits now say, a protest vote against Washington.

The “Not My President” crowd, those who argue that Hillary Clinton should be the next commander-in-chief because she won the popular vote, are challenged by Trump’s claim that he would have garnered more votes if the campaigns were run as national popularity contests and not as a race to 270 Electoral College votes. 

Is he right? Impossible to tell, but there is evidence to support his claim. In the 14 battleground states where the candidates vigorously competed, Trump won 10 states; his total count exceeded Clinton’s by more than a million votes.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Post Election Blues: Notes From the Resistance

President Barack Obama said it. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W. VA) said it. Lots of Republicans said it.

“As difficult as it is for anyone to lose an election, the American people have spoken and Donald Trump is our President-elect,” was the way Manchin phrased it. 

It is hard for me to accept comments like that. 
Let’s be clear. The people did not elect Trump. The system did. 

More people in the United States preferred Hillary Clinton’s vision of America than Trump’s. Yet, I’m resigned to the fact he will become our 45th president January 20 because we don’t elect our commander-in-chief by popular vote. We follow the arcane rules set out in the Constitution which mandates election by the Electoral College.

So the recalibration of America has begun. Trumpsters are finding out that campaign pledges do not automatically turn into governing realities. Trump has begun the tectonic shift from promise-them-anything to here’s-what-I-can-do (assuming his Republican partners will go along with him, or maybe even they will dictate to him their vision of GOP rule). Already he is backpedaling on centerpieces of his campaign: the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, building a wall between Mexico and the United States, the deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants and the “draining of the swamp” in Washington of lobbyists and special interests. 

If Only Hillary Had Read The New York Times: While cleaning out some old newspapers Thursday, I came across an interview of political analyst Thomas Frank that ran earlier this year, on May 16, in the Sunday Times magazine section. 

In one paragraph, here’s a six-months-in-advance autopsy of what went wrong with Clinton’s campaign: “If Trump does have a chance, it resides with working-­class voters. The obvious Democratic move would be to reach out to those voters and tell them to come home to the Democratic Party, offer them all sorts of New Deal-­style benefits. I doubt she is going to do that.”

Voters in the battleground states of Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania did more than just award Trump the presidency. By returning incumbent Republicans from their states to the Senate, they handed the incoming president GOP control of both houses of Congress, thus depriving the American public of any real checks and balances in the executive and legislative branches of government, and, once a new Supreme Court justice is nominated and confirmed, control of the judicial branch as well. 

It is hard to follow Trump’s thinking. In his 60 Minutes interview on Sunday he endorsed the Supreme Court’s decision condoning same-sex marriage in all states. At the same time he maintained he would pick a new justice who would vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal in all states. Does he truly believe such a socially conservative justice would not also be inclined to vote to rescind LGBT rights? 

Trump was correct in saying overturning Roe V. Wade would not eliminate a woman’s right to choose as each state would be free to make its own determination. Does Trump not realize that tens of millions of economically challenged women would be burdened by costly, time-consuming travel to states that permit abortions, a trip and expense many of them would not be able to undertake? 

Moreover, once Roe v. Wade would be overturned, one may expect Republicans would ignore their long-held belief in states’ rights and seek a national ban on abortions. 

So pray for Trump’s continued good health, and, for that matter, the health of Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy. 

As revolting as Trump might be, his replacement by vice president Mike Pence would be disastrous for any semblance of progressive government. Pence is doctrinaire, a person who openly says he is first a Christian, second a conservative and third a Republican. As governor of Indiana and as a congressman he has shown a willingness to enact measures that put his faith above the Constitution and any compassion for the underprivileged. 

Roughly 42% of eligible voters—about 97 million—chose to stay home last Tuesday. One wonders how many of them enjoy the benefits of Obamacare which may be taken away from them now that Republicans will be in control.

Finally, some sound medical advice from Dr. Ben Carson:  He has indicated he would not welcome a cabinet position because he is unqualified to run a government department.  Ya think? 

How come this didn’t occur to him when he put himself forward as a candidate to run the whole government as president? What makes him think Trump is any more qualified? Running a diversified business is far from the same as running the U.S. government and being the leader of the free world. 

I fear for our democracy, not because of Trump alone and his zany ideas about climate control, freedom of the press,  the use of the Internet to obtain news, his fabrications of the truth, his bro-love of Russia, military planning, and immigration. My biggest fear is that Trump will surround himself with repressive-minded associates who will seek to erode voting rights that would severely impede our ability to replace his and subsequent Republican administrations.

During the campaign, The Times asked Aasif Mandvi, the comedian, actor and writer best known for his work on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, if he was frightened by the anti-Muslim rhetoric. 

He said, “I’m not afraid that Trump is going to kick out all of the Muslims. What makes me afraid is the trickle-down effect of that kind of rhetoric and that now, suddenly, it has become O.K. to be racist. We’re normalizing it, and therefore you see more violence against people of color and L.G.B.T. people. The culture has been given permission to exorcise all of its darkest fears and can now blame immigrants or minorities for whatever problems white people are facing. Whether or not Trump wins, we’ve already been infused with this. This camp has already shown itself.”

If you’re in the mood for it, click on the following clip from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. It’s a primer for how democracy can be easily eroded:

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Does Donald Trump Have an Ebenezer Scrooge Moment in Him?

His whole lifetime Donald Trump has channeled Ebenezer Scrooge in his quest for boundless riches, often at the expense of the everyman. He stiffed contractors. He wouldn’t rent to minorities to keep his property values high. He chiseled widows and other desperate souls yearning for a semblance of his wealth out of thousands of dollars spent on Trump University tuitions and affiliated expenses. He pandered to the wistful by opening casinos to exploit their get rich quick fantasies. He ran a campaign for the highest office in the land and didn’t pay many of his hired professionals.

I can’t imagine what Trump dreams as he lies next to Melania. If the nation is fortunate, perhaps he will be visited by specters of lives past, present and future. I’ll leave it to others to psychoanalyze exactly which personalities would enter his subconscious.

But if we’re lucky, just as Scrooge changed after visits from the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Trump’s nocturnal apparitions will channel a change from his scorched earth campaign rhetoric. Aides and friends, after all, are saying he will be “a softer, kinder” Trump as president.

Does that mean he will not deport “dreamers,” those illegal immigrants brought to the United States as infants who have not known any other country? Will he resist separating families, deporting illegal alien parents from children born the United States and therefore able to stay as citizens? If he tears up NAFTA and causes the loss of jobs in Mexico, is he ready to deal with an influx of more illegal immigrants, wall or no wall? Will he abandon his ideas to reinstitute torture and to kill the families of terrorists, actions that could prompt resignations from military and security officials? With his Mar-a-Lago home and resort on the beach in Florida, will he be ready to concede the effects of climate change? Will he fend off Evangelicals in their determination to roll back same-sex marriage and LGBTQ equality laws?

Now that he’s been elected, he’s officially a politician and the first job of any politician is to get re-elected. Keep in mind Trump did not win the popular vote. He secured more Electoral College votes than Hillary Clinton. The conventional wisdom espoused by many pundits, including yours truly, is that Trump was elected by racists, misogynists, neo Nazis, anti-Semites and xenophobes.

But that denies the reality that disaffected blue collar white voters in Michigan and Pennsylvania and Ohio and Wisconsin—men and women who twice had voted for Barack Obama—abandoned the Democratic Party in favor of Trump and Republican senatorial candidates. They didn’t overnight become racists, misogynists, neo Nazis, anti-Semites and xenophobes.

They chose populism over traditional Democratic memes. They swallowed his promise of radical change and revived manufacturing jobs.

So Trump must deliver within four years without reducing their health care benefits, regardless of what he does to Obamacare.

Which begs the question, would Bernie Sanders have prevailed over Trump? As a populist himself, would Bernie have negated Trump’s cross-party appeal? We will never know. What we are left with is the reality that we were thisclose to electing the first woman or the first Jewish president.

Trump is an enigma. We don’t really know what he stands for since he has walked back many of his earlier pronouncements, including a tweet from 2012 wherein he called the Electoral College “a disaster for a democracy.” Doubtful he thinks so today.

A most troubling potential aspect of a Trump presidency is who he will include in his inner circle. Ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Steven Bannon of Breitbart are divisive figures who would signal a hard right administration. The danger is that Trump would delegate policies to cronies with more reactionary thoughts than his. It’s especially apropos of vice president-elect Mike Pence, decidedly more radically conservative in voice and action than Trump ( or for another take read

Before Trump, Richard Nixon probably was the president-elect (and president) most reviled by Democrats. But Nixon took some decidedly progressive actions. He created the Office of Minority Business Enterprise in 1969; achieved voluntary desegregation of schools in seven Southern states; reoriented the Federal Native American policy, becoming the first president to encourage tribal self-determination; established the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and signed into law The Clean Air Act; abolished voter discriminatory tests by extending the Voting Rights Act in 1970; declared war on cancer; and signed Title IX, a civil rights law that prohibits gender bias at colleges and universities receiving Federal aid.

Nixon also changed U.S. relationships with China and the Soviet Union. He signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT 1) in 1972.

True, Nixon wasn’t always progressive. But his legacy offers clear evidence that the presidency can bring about goodness. 

So, over the next four years we will wait to see if Trump remains the Ebenezer Scrooge of the beginning of A Christmas Carol or if he emerges as the reformed Scrooge at its conclusion. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Waking Up The Morning After in a Different Country

I always knew I lived in a different America than the rest of the country, an America perhaps best illustrated by the iconic March 29, 1976, New Yorker magazine cover of how the country west of the Hudson River looks to Manhattanites.

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s stunning victory over Hillary Clinton, forged to the west of the Hudson, I am left to wonder if, in the words of his one-time Republican adversary, Ted Cruz, “Trump has New York values”?

Does he have compassion for the needy? Does he welcome the immigrant striving for a new, better, pluralistic life? Does he respect all religions? Does he value education? Does he recognize the benefits of diversity? Does he favor mass transit alternatives over the stranglehold of the automobile industry? Does he accept climate change and the need to combat its effects? 

The record from his campaign suggests he does not. But Trump’s persona has been shaped by living all his life in New York City. He’s brash, for sure, not afraid to display his emotions on his sleeve, or in his case, through his Twitter feed. As president he will have to learn to reign in his feelings lest he trigger a response that could have national or international repercussions. 

In his victory speech he promised to be the president of all the people. Let’s see if he can stem the violence in the Afro-American community without infringing on constitutional rights, and if he can reduce unemployment among Blacks. He’s promised to repeal and replace Obamacare. But can he do it without reducing the number of people enrolled, for less money, for at least the same level of coverage?

Voting patterns across the country revealed deep chasms. As the Associated Press noted, “Exit polls underscored the fractures: Women nationwide supported Clinton by a double-digit margin, while men were significantly more likely to back Trump. More than half of white voters backed the Republican, while nearly 9 in 10 blacks and two-thirds of Hispanics voted for the Democrat.”

The Trump campaign unleashed dark voices long subdued but never eradicated. Racists. Neo nazis. Anti-Semites. Misogynists. Xenophobes. All now have a president who will enter the White House largely because of their votes.

One wonders if Trump will be able to bridle his natural tendency to lash out at detractors. Nixon had his enemies’ list. Will Trump? Will he follow through on his campaign threat to name a special prosecutor with the ultimate aim of jailing his election opponent? Will he sue the women who asserted he physically invaded their privacy? Will he seek a softening of libel laws to punish the press? Will the voices of late night talk show hosts who lampooned him and editorial boards and columnists be muted?

Of course, not everyone in the country is apoplectic about the election. No doubt, couture designers are ecstatic they will have Melania to drape. She, after all, has more eye appeal than Bill Clinton would have had as first spouse or Hillary as president.

But comparing Melania to Michelle Obama in intellect is laughable. Consider her statement within the last week that she would like to work to eliminate bullying, especially cyber-bullying. Perhaps she might start with her bedmate who ran his whole campaign as a slur-a-thon on stage and on Twitter.

It was nectar to the masses who believe Trump can change market and global forces. Do they really believe, as he does, that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese? Do they believe he truly can revive Rust Belt industries when corporate chieftains shift jobs overseas because lower paid global workers no longer produce shoddy products? They chanted along with him “drain the swamp,” but do they truly want Washington to stop being the watchdog over food and drug safety, worker safety, and water and air quality, to name just a few vital tasks of government?

With Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House the country’s pivot to the right is a given. The Supreme Court will again have a conservative majority, as it has for decades.

Perhaps the most important person in the next four years will be Justice Anthony Kennedy. In several cases on personal freedoms, he has provided a decisive vote in decisions expanding gay rights to the rights of the accused. He’s by no means a sure vote for liberal causes, but he’s not doctrinaire conservative.

I woke up Wednesday morning after barely 90 minutes of stressful sleep to a changed world. During the night I avoided reading post-mortem articles, instead playing solitaire over and over again on my iPhone. Though I did read one article, from Politico, which enraged and convinced me not to read any other (for now).

Entitled “Inside the Loss Clinton Saw Coming,” the article described how her staff knew for weeks the campaign was in trouble (

I felt annoyed, annoyed they allowed complacency to set in as the public took for granted that an unqualified Trump would lose to a more seasoned Clinton. 

Trump won because he was perceived as real. Really angry. Really mean. Really for change. Really for the forgotten man and woman. 

Forget the reality. Voters opted for the perception.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Headline for Post-Election Wednesday

“Sanity Prevails”

“The Deplorable State(s) of America”