Waiting for the Next POTUS

I can’t speak for all moderate Democrats, but I was sorely disappointed by the Nevada debate performance of all six candidates on stage last night.

I was hoping for more clarity on who would claim the moderate mantel. It wasn’t there by debate’s end.

If I wanted to watch people rip flesh off one another, I would have turned to one of the Bravo Housewives programs.

Okay, I get Elizabeth Warren was using Mike Bloomberg as a stand in for Donald Trump and the billionaire class in general. And she took a good bit of flesh in the process.

But for each bad thing you can say about Bloomberg as a businessman or politician, you can say something equally good about him as a philanthropist and donor. There is Everytown, the 2013 gun control group he created.

There is the fact that Democrats flipped the House in 2018 on Bloomberg’s dime. And his pledge to spend lots of those dimes supporting whomever is the eventual nominee if it turns out not to be him. 

When the enemy of your enemy has become your friend (even temporarily), you don’t publicly flay him as opposed to comparing your policy differences or settling for pointing out his flaws.

Especially when the real enemy is sitting on a campaign war chest that has barely been used yet.

Bernie was just Bernie to me.  He raged away, his face turning various shades of red depending on how loudly he was yelling at the time.  Even the palms of his hands turned red.  And when I watched this, and realized this guy just had a heart attack a few months ago, it made me wonder how far off the next one will be.

I just don’t see Bernie and his “my way or the highway” style as able to unify Democrats when all is said and done, let alone the country.  The fact he isn’t transparent about the price tag on his programs makes it hard to argue the case on his behalf to your friends.

A Medicare option that the general public or companies can buy is something I can support.  I think it is political malpractice by both parties that they haven’t figured out a way to do this before now, as well as adjust Medicaid requirements to ensure those who cannot afford healthcare have access to preventative, urgent care and hospitalization.

A healthy public is a productive public, to put it in terms you would THINK the Republicans could understand, if they can’t support healthcare as a human right.

(Along the same lines, so is a well-educated public…a horse of nearly the same color.)

Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar were all disappointing in their own ways.  Biden on a debate stage is not the same as Biden the retail politician whose genuine ability to connect with people in real life lights up a room.

Mayor Pete pulling on Klobuchar’s pigtails and making sure we all remember she couldn’t remember the name of the Mexican President seemed overdone, as did her exasperation that he held her to account for it.

(I admit at the time I was a little aghast by this, but her answer for it was reasonable.) 

I was into the Girl Power moment of Warren speaking up on Klobuchar’s behalf.  This is something I don’t think men would do for one another when competing for the same “prize.”

I had expected Bloomberg to be “dry” and “technocratic,” as he has been described.  But I didn’t expect him to be wooden, too.

His best moment was when he asked who else on the stage had ever started a business.  Because like billionaires or not, they create the jobs that the rest of us need, whether that business is privately or corporately held. 

Most disappointing, no one talked about the crumbling of our democracy all around us.  There was no outcry about Trump’s takeover of the Justice Department and decriminalization of white collar crime that is occurring because to Trump, white collar crime is just business as usual.  

There was also no discussion about immigration and DREAMERS, though kids in cages got a brief mention.  And they were debating in Las Vegas!!!

Coronavirus and how that, on top of Trump’s disastrous trade war with China, is going to affect us both medically and in consumer terms…not a whisper.

My preferred candidate…Beto O’Rourke…dropped out. My back-up candidate…Joe Biden…is not doing well.

If I am supposed to coalesce behind someone else, right now I don’t know who that is.

Perhaps Warren, whose foreign policy background is better than I knew, will end up being it.  I don’t know though.  She has been uneven in her presentation, and sometimes overly passionate about her “fight.”

Because to go back to the beginning, anyone close to moderate hasn’t even talked that much about foreign policy…or any other policy and how it will make my life better for me and my fellow citizens.

At least not last night.

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The Black Hole Named Trump

How do we live in community when so many people these days want to live in a world without compromise?

What’s going to be the animating force that unites us?

For Democratic, Democratic-leaning Independents and Never-Trumpers, I naively thought it was voting Trump out of office. But I may be wrong.

My Twitter feed has turned into a battleground recently where if you don’t subscribe to someone else’s complete ideological framework, you are suddenly no longer a member of the coalition. You have become an enemy…even if you are in agreement 99.9% of the time otherwise.

I am currently supporting Joe Biden after having first supported Beto O’Rourke. If Beto were still running, I would still be supporting him. I switched to Biden after Beto dropped out and after Donald Trump’s reckless strike against Iran by killing Soleimani. That this action didn’t get us into war with Iran throughout the Mid-East has more to do with Iran’s restraint than it does Trump’s.

Of all the candidates, I felt Biden could most quickly restore domestic government norms and get us more quickly back into vital international relationships that Trump has damaged or outright destroyed. I still feel this way.

But I am still required to consider the positives and negatives of all the other candidates if Biden isn’t ultimately the nominee. This includes Mike Bloomberg, given how he is currently polling. It includes Bernie Sanders, because he currently holds the lead in the popular vote. It includes Pete Buttigieg because he has the most delegates. It includes Amy Klobuchar, who is currently surging after New Hampshire. It includes Elizabeth Warren, who still has a significant campaign.

Do I have concerns about some of these candidates? Of course I do. I don’t particularly like the idea that the only way to beat Trump is by another billionaire self-funding his race. There are remarks Bloomberg has made about black youth during “stop and frisk,” his comments about “redlining” and now an article about comments he has made about women within his tech organization. I find all these highly dissatisfactory.

I have concerns about Sanders. I had them in 2016. I see no way of getting to his dream of government without becoming a different type of autocracy that isn’t much better than Trump’s in that it is antithetical to the idea of a democratic Republic on which we are Constitutionally based.

Warren seems desperate right now instead of confident and steady. Klobuchar is full of campaign statements about electability, but not a vision. Buttigieg has a Black voter and experience problem.

Even my currently preferred candidate – Biden – I question on his age and ability to handle Presidential rigors. I am just counting on him being smart enough to put highly energetic, get it done people around him. And self-limit himself to one term, though I don’t expect that announcement just now.

This is what I do know: Trump is evil. He is devoid of moral character. He is devoid of empathy and compassion. He is completely and clinically narcissistic, whether your idea of that is Lucifer defying God because he thought he was better than a Man-God who would bring salvation, or the myth of Narcissus, who fell so in love with his own image he became incapable of loving anyone but himself.

Trump is the darkness of an all-consuming black hole. Those of us who see that must be the light.

Turning on each other diminishes that light.

In the end, it will take not turning on each other, record voter turnout and “voting blue no matter who” to oust Trump and his GOP enablers.

Even if some of us would rather have a more ideologically pure nominee.

Even if we have to hold our nose while we vote. 

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“Don’t Agonize; Organize…”

That was Rep Zoe Lofgren’s (D-CA) advice in the fallout of the tabulation controversy that was the Iowa Caucus result that overshadowed by days the announced winner.

(For posterity, it was Mayor Pete Buttigieg in delegate count and Bernie Sanders in the popular vote. But as history in the Age of Trump has taught us, it is ultimately delegates and how they translate into electors in the Electoral College that matter; just ask Hillary).

Until this election, I have always been a passive voter, even when I was aghast that the Republican Party I had voted for since Reagan not only made Donald J. Trump it’s nominee, but twisted and contorted itself to resemble Trump rather than he lead the party according to the principles and the Constitution it claims to respect.

I recognized the danger of Trump from the beginning; I viewed him as completely unqualified by experience, temperament and character to be President. I wasn’t wrong, but I didn’t go far enough in my concern. Other than to vote for Clinton, I didn’t get off the couch, connect with an organized group and do everything I could to stop Trump from becoming President.

Yes, we are in the midst of a climate crisis that should have alarm bells ringing higher than the Dow climbs for billionaire tax breaks and corporate de-regulation. Yes, college grads are drowning in debt to qualify for entry level jobs that don’t allow them to live as comfortably as those who came before them. Yes, we need to remodel our educational, healthcare and infrastructure systems.

But as critical as all that is, it is not the most immediate threat we face: Trump is. If we do not vote in large enough numbers to grant us the greater number of Electoral College votes, we may not have time in future to correct all the current challenges that could overwhelm us and the world in which we live.

If you don’t get off the couch to do anything else, please go vote on Election Day for whomever the Democratic nominee may be.

As for me, I will be busy helping to organize that voter turnout in November by joining with local groups here in GA and hopefully for the eventual nominee.

At 66, I am lacing up my sneakers and getting politically active for the first time in my life.

The Power of Prayer

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

At today’s National Prayer Breakfast, President Donald J. Trump refused to accept that Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) made a faith-based decision when he voted “guilty” on the First Article of Impeachment against Trump for abusing his Presidential power in furtherance of his own re-election campaign.

He refused to believe devout Catholic and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would pray for him. And he made sure to do it in front of an audience that included the Speaker herself.

It is one thing to disagree with someone on matters of policy.  To pretend you know someone’s heart for their faith and basically call them a liar is another matter altogether.

Everyone’s faith journey is uniquely their own, even when you sit through something as liturgical as a Catholic Mass.

Each person sits in their house of faith carrying their own personal hopes, dreams, burdens and worries. This is the uniquely personal relationship we have (if we are believers) with a God who seems at times remote, inscrutable – even contrarian – to us.

But for Christians, if Christ is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and represents the new Ark of the Covenant, the new Temple, then it is on his Gospel that we should base our actions.

I am far from perfect in doing this. A former GOP voter who has been against Trump’s presidency since he announced his candidacy, I have tweeted things that in any other situation I would never have done.

But I have done so with the conviction that I am speaking out for democracy, the preservation of the Constitution and the Republic, and trying to point out the dangers of the slide into fascist autocracy we seemingly are headed.

I have done so with the conviction Trump was never qualified – by experience, temperament, or character – to lead this country.

I wish I were as good a Christian as Speaker Pelosi and could say I have prayed for Trump personally, although recently I have become genuinely concerned about the state of his health. He seems unwell to me, sometimes beyond animated, other times as if he is drugged.

This is more than “Trump being Trump.”  If he is facing a mental and physical decline of some sort, and his Cabinet, staff and family are covering for this, it not only goes to being against the interests of the nation, but also against his personal interest.

You don’t feed delusion with fantasy.

I do pray for the nation, for good governance, for wisdom of leadership.

Following the path of Christ -the Way of the Cross- is not easy to tread. As he stumbled, fell, and rose again throughout his march down the Via Dolorosa, so do we who call ourselves Christians in our own daily lives.

But it is clear in Christ’s words that we don’t judge one another’s faith as we make our individual walk.

Perhaps if we better accepted this, we might better tolerate each other even within our political divides.

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In The Midst Of The Storm

First, I must give credit to historian Jon Meacham for the title of this day’s blog.

It was his answer on an MSNBC show where he was asked where the country is “at” following the GOP acquittal of President Donald J. Trump.

It also seems like a great title for the last year of my life.

I have endured the deaths of a sister and a friend of 46-years standing; a feeling of not knowing my place within my immediate family structure; a deep depressive cycle and a recent surgery.

It feels very much like the storm has been raging, and, like the Disciples in the boat, I have clung to the boat’s timber instead of my Lord’s presence.

So the hearings, trial and the acquittal of Trump added a layer of oppression on top of everything else; the outcome seemed to be a given, but there was always a faint hope that GOP Senators would see how dangerous what Trump did was and vote conscience over party.

Only one among them did; for this Mitt Romney has cemented his place in the history books beyond a footnote.

I watched the majority of the proceedings of Trump’s impeachment. I viewed 11 days of hearings with 17 witnesses.  I watched opening and closing arguments from both sides in the impeachment trial. I watched the roll call votes of the Senate regarding the introduction of witnesses like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, as well as documents Trump would tweet brazenly that Democrats didn’t have, because they were in White House possession in defiance of Congressionally issued subpoenas.

I watched the Senate cast votes of guilty or not guilty to both Articles of Impeachment.

I listened as Chief Justice Roberts announced Trump’s acquittal because a 2/3 vote of the Senate could not be had, was never going to be had, was gleefully, defiantly announced in advance would not be had by people like Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Senator Ted Cruz ( R-TX).

I had heard McConnell talk of coordinating with Trump on impeachment strategy.

I read about Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) defiance of the Chief Justice in going on the Senate floor to read a question the Justice deemed inappropriate because it named the whistleblower of Trump’s Ukraine quid pro quo scheme.

And I wondered what would become of my country.

I did not watch the State of the Union address, because I knew it would be filled with the usual Trump grandiosity and deliberately false information designed to mislead.  All the post SOTU analysis I heard and read confirmed the wisdom of watching a movie rather than another episode of The Trump Show.

Now that impeachment is over, I am starting to feel renewed. Now there is a clarity for what comes next:

Do all that I can to help turn out the Democratic vote.

The storm is still raging, but I know whose hand to grasp as I attempt to be a disciple for democracy.

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