02.04.17 I’m a Democrat

Posted February 4, 2017 by Keith Berner
Categories: Politics

Tags: , , ,

I have worked on more Democratic political campaigns than I can count (starting with George McGovern in 1972 – that’s a picture of me at age 12 in Time Magazine, 9/25/72*). I even served as a precinct captain for four years here in Takoma Park, MD. I quit that post in 2006 out of disgust with Maryland’s machine politics and the pro-corporate Dems on the national scene. Notwithstanding my anger at the party, I continued to vote almost exclusively for Democratic candidates, because what choice did I have? (The exceptions are when I have written in “Mickey Mouse” in races where the GOP had no chance.)

kb72mcgovern

Since 2006, I have called myself “anti-Republican,” rather than “Democrat.”

It’s 2017, that luxury is gone. All the fantasizing by Greens about a third-party’s route to salvation are out of touch with the reality of our rigid two-party system. Lefty calls for a political revolution to overthrow Wall Street Democrats may be noble, but may also be distracting us from our one and only task at hand: winning!

For those new to this blog, let me specify: I’m from the Bernie end of the spectrum. If I could, I’d kick the private sector out of all public services (starting with health care!), ban all guns, remove religion from the public square, confiscate excess wealth, and oppose US hypocrisy in foreign policy.

But, to insist on purity is to condemn the left (all of it) to minority status, on school boards, city councils, and statehouses across the country. I will henceforth call myself a Democrat and do whatever I can to help beat the GOP everywhere.  This will mean sometimes prioritizing a big tent over trying to topple elected officials who don’t always vote the way I want.

Yes, we should have internal debates in the party. Yes, we should support primary challenges to “bad” Democrats, but only when such challenges are not going to bite us in the ass that November.

It is the job of all people even moderately left of center in this country — just as it is the job of the most embittered Bernie (and Hillary) supporters – to elevate victory as a principle over purity.

The one thing Democrats can no longer tolerate: an incompetent party that rests on laurels, comforts itself in its own moral rectitude, and cedes the entire political system to the far right (which is now the only right in this country).

The Democratic Party, love it or not, is the only vehicle to take our country back. Get on board or get out of the way!

*That issue featured All in the Family and Sanford & Sons on the cover, under the headline “Toppling Old Taboos.” The bumper sticker I was holding at the rally in the old Cleveland Arena read “Nixon Bugs Me, Too!”

©2017 Keith Berner

02.01.17 Trump/Bannon or Pence?

Posted February 1, 2017 by Keith Berner
Categories: Bigotry, International Affairs, Politics

Tags: , , , , ,

For the first few days of this regime, I was rather celebrating the utter insanity (meant literally) and incompetence in the White House. I saw a ray of hope in its great potential for immobilizing dysfuntionality, not to mention the potential to alienate even the GOP Forces of Evil in Congress (who have thus far thrown aside their own stated policies in deference to the new Führer).

(See this outstanding piece by David Brooks in yesterday’s New York Times: The Republican Fausts. I often disagree with Brooks and don’t agree with everything in this piece, it is a powerful read and he is mostly, alarmingly spot on.)

Mike Pence as an alternative seemed worse. A competent, not crazy certified Thirteenth-Century Theocrat with strong ties to GOP elites would certainly get more done and hurt our society and culture even worse, right?

The news that Trump had elevated Steve Bannon to the National Security Council — over the Joint Chiefs of Staff — turned my outrage to terror. Brooks is not the only one in recent days to observe that Bannon is quickly consolidating control over all levers of power and government. His virulent racism, coupled with Trump’s nonstop temper tantrums are making me rethink a Pence presidency. Yes, Pence would gut necessary government spending, work tirelessly to enrich the wealthy, destroy the environment, and outlaw reproductive freedom (wherever he can). But so will Trump/Bannon!

What Pence seems unlikely to do would be to actively undermine world stability, start trade or military wars, empower foreign autocrats (Putin!), and actively undermine the US Constitution (further than the GOP already does through voter suppression, etc).

My mind is just about made up in favor of a 25th-Amendment (or impeachment) solution to this global crisis. My remaining hesitation is mostly about expecting a greater aggressiveness by Pence against LBGT rights than Trump and the idea that Trump/Bannon’s explicit racism is easer to counter than the GOP’s pervasive, implicit racism.

Twenty-Fifth Amendment, Section 4

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

What do you think, Dear Readers?

PS. I will no longer refer to well-known autocrats with their first names; hence, “Trump” (without Donald) and “Putin” (without Vladimir). These are monsters, not human beings and should not be personalized in any way.

©2017

01.29.17 Watch your words

Posted January 29, 2017 by Keith Berner
Categories: International Affairs

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What we call things makes a difference (note the Tea Party use of “Death Panels” — this was no accident). Here are two vocabulary changes I am now adopting:

  • I will not refer to the cabal that temporarily rules our country as an “administration” or “government.” Rather it will always be “Trump regime,” “GOP regime,” and (when I think even that is too gentle), “fascist regime.” Regime conveys the illegitimacy of the racist authoritarians in power and their contempt for the norms of democracy and rule of law.
  • I will make few, if any, further references to Great Britain or the United Kingdom. It is the racists of England who produced Brexit, just as the racists of the United States brought us our regime. The other nations that make up the UK had nothing to do with it. And as England carries this noxious policy through (led by PM Theresa May, who has appointed herself Trump’s lapdog, making even the ever- docile Tony Blair’s relationship with W look well adjusted), Scotland will certainly leave. So, “Little England” will be left (perhaps with its own lapdog, Wales, and perhaps with Northern Ireland in order to keep the Troubles from erupting again). Little England is a contemptuous moniker for a once-great nation that will deserve the international isolation it ends up with.

I maintain a “boycott list”: countries I will never set foot in because their people have chosen a path of racism, authoritarianism, and/or aggression. I am hereby adding Little England to that list, which now includes Austria, Hungary, Israel, Poland, and Russia. (Elections in Russia are hardly free and fair, but with Putin’s astronomical approval ratings, we know where the Russian people stand.) If I weren’t a US citizen, this country would certainly be on my boycott list, at least until the current regime were replaced.

©2017 Keith Berner

01.29.17 To Chris Van Hollen: You voted for Ben Carson?!

Posted January 29, 2017 by Keith Berner
Categories: Politics

Tags: , ,

This is what I just sent to our supposedly progressive senator:

Dear Chris:

I’m outraged to discover that you voted for Ben Carson to serve as HUD secretary. I don’t care if you think he is less bad than other potential nominees (the excuse Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown have given). Every single time a Democrat votes for a Trump appointee, the Democratic Party takes partial ownership for resulting policy. (I’m also disappointed by your votes for Sec. Def. and UN ambassador.) If the people of Maryland cannot trust you to do the right thing, whom can we trust? And if you will not stand firm against all GOP appointments and legislation, we have no hope of taking back our country.

—Keith

I note that even the more moderate Benjamin Cardin did not vote for Carson.

©2017 Keith Berner

01.29.17 Silence = Evil

Posted January 29, 2017 by Keith Berner
Categories: Bigotry, Civil Liberties

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Here’s link to a google spreadsheet showing where every US senator stands on the Trump Regime’s Muslim Ban, which was announced on Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Trump’s statement re the Holocaust failed to make any mention of Jews.)

Of 51 Republicans, 47 have been silent (with some even spending the day tweeting about sports). The Righteous Three who have spoken out against the ban are Susan Collins (ME), Jeff Flake (AZ), and Benjamin Sasse (NE). Orrin Hatch (UT) has criticized the principle, but is neutral on the policy.

Of 49 Democrats, the Silent Hall of Shame is Joe Manchin (WV – most racist state in the country* – does he get a pass?), Ben Nelson (NE), Jon Tester (MT), and Tom Udall (NM). It’s interesting to note the reversal of NE’s two senators on this.

It has been widely noted that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke out against a Muslim ban last year. They opposed a significant number of other Trump policies, as well. Now they are 100% on board with Trump in pursuit of their one overarching goal: wealth transfer to the wealthy.

Thanks to Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Erlich for posting this.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1hSGjyWJZIQJpGz4V2ftX_qioCgBtL59oJkkhx146nFE/htmlview?sle=true#gid=0

*My measure of WV as most racist is based on the fact that every state on the country voted bluer in 2008 than in 2004, except WV, which went dramatically the other way.

01.22.17 The false dichotomy between economic and social justice (+ thumbs up for transgender rights)

Posted January 22, 2017 by Keith Berner
Categories: Bigotry, Politics

Tags: ,

This is a follow-up to my recent post about the self-flaggelating lie the left is absorbing and touting, that all those poor white men have a legitimate reason for choosing Trump. There is nothing wrong, of course, with Democrats’ working harder for economic justice and doing a better job of communicating this goal. But the real problem with the argument, as it has been presented in the media, is the either-or choice it embodies. For no apparent reason, the New York Times among other false-equivalence purveyors is saying that in order to help the poor, the left needs to stop giving a shit about people of color, women, gays, immigrants, and (yes) trangender people. They call this drive for social justice “identity politics.” The Racist Right already turned “political correctness” into a dirty term, when all it means is compassion and respect. So now we’re told (and self-haters on the left are believing) that caring about identity is wrong and self-defeating.

This is utter and dangerous bullshit. There is absolutely no reason why economic and social justice cannot go hand in hand. As I wrote in my last post, if angry white men choose to eschew economic advancement in their obsession to make sure no African Americans or immigrants qualify, fuck ’em.

How far this ethos has already penetrated the left was on display the other evening over dinner with friends, as we were preparing for the Women’s March.* A couple of people declared that the Democrats and the media have been paying far too much attention to transgender rights, “given how few of these people there actually are.” Let them wait their turn, they said.

So, instead of fighting for justice for all, we are to rank everyone by how much they deserve it and jettison those whose cost to us is greater than their ROI (return on investment). How reminiscent this is of the early suffragettes, who banned black women from participating. How much this reminds me of the African Americans in my integrated neighborhood growing up, who fought to stop any affordable housing from being built nearby (I’ve got mine — they don’t deserve any). So easy for cis-gender people to downplay the horrific injustice delivered daily to our transgender brothers and sisters.

I’m also reminded of an incident last year, when I hosted a community meeting between  mostly white neighbors and a mostly black prisoner-reform program that was seeking to rent a storefront near us. Though I supported the concerns of my neighbors (the planning for opening the program office had utterly neglected security), I wrote afterwards about the racial tensions inherent in the meeting. One neighbor then publicly attacked me for being “politically correct.” This white Anglo woman is married to a Mexican and has probably never voted for a Republican in her life. But she had fully taken aboard the racist ethos and vocabulary of the right.

I don’t want to march, unless it is arm-in-arm with my transsexual friends and neighbors. I don’t want to organize unless it is with African Americans, women, gays and lesbians, and immigrants. I don’t want to fight for economic justice, unless it is for everyone.

Democrats and other lefties would be fools to allow the right to set another yet another trap for us and to march right in. We must shout from treetops: there is no dichotomy and we will not allow bigots to define vocabulary and set agendas. The left has failed over and over again for nearly 50 years through cowardice, incompetence, and inarticulateness. That era must end.

*To my friends who were there (and, whom I assume will read this): please know I love you and acknowledge our mutual agreement on almost everything. But you also know me well enough to know I couldn’t give this a pass (I didn’t at the dinner table either). I hope you know  that this is not an attack on youbut rather a missive to persuade you).

©2017 Keith Berner

 

01.19.17 Shame on America. Shame on Americans.

Posted January 19, 2017 by Keith Berner
Categories: Bigotry, Politics, Presidential Campaign 2016

Tags: , ,

Any critical thinker will find that the United States has more often than not behaved in direct opposition to its proclaimed values. From the Indian genocides, to slavery, to Jim Crow, to the overthrow of elected governments around the world, this country has put its hypocrisy on display over and over again.

The election of a racist, misogynist, xenophobic, Putin-loving, authoritarian, is – as I’m hardly the first to note – a new nadir of horrific depth. Yes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. But there is no denying that the overwhelming land area of the country and about half of the population are getting in Trump exactly what they wanted.

On both right and left, there is a popular trope afoot that a neglected, impoverished sector of the American populace — the white working class — had good cause to rise up for change.

On the right, this is self-serving bullshit, because the GOP has never given a hoot about those people. Sure, some of the rednecks were too dumb to realize they being duped. But the above-the-national-income average of Trump voters reveals the falsehood in the claim. Trump voters were not primarily driven by hope for a better life or by stupidity. No, they voted the way they did because they are racist pigs. These people don’t care if they lose their health insurance, as long as they are certain that African Americans, Latinos, and all those other “outsiders” aren’t getting any. (Oh yeah, and as long as women and gays know their place.)

On the left, this lie is just another round of way-too-common self-flagellation. Again, it’s utter bullshit to believe that the Democratic Party platform and the Clinton campaign forgot about people in need. Hundreds of pages of policy were devoted to improving the lives of the poor and middle class.  Could there have been more emphasis on those policies in the campaign’s public communications? Maybe. But it’s ridiculous to think that racists would have voted any differently with more information. It is the very fact that Democrats are proud to be diverse that resulted in our loss.

The reality is that this is a deeply racist country without any deep commitment to democracy and justice. Unless we face this fact, we on the left are going to keep shooting at each other and avoiding reality. There is no other side – whether among elected officials or their near-fascist followers – that is worth negotiating with, nonetheless catering to.

The only way to overcome American Shame is to beat those who perpetrate it. There should be no talks with Republicans, no visits to Appalachia to feel poor white men’s pain. No, we must find and organize righteous voters. We should be recruiting righteous candidates. We should be forcing the hard right (the only right remaining in the US) to own its failures and alienate at least some of its racist supporters (those who decide that they need to eat, even if that means black people get to eat, too).

So, no votes for Trump nominees from Democrats. An unbreakable filibuster for every Trump court appointment. No cooperation in Congressional committees or Democratic votes for GOP bills in the House and Senate.

Barack Obama tried turning his cheek for his first five years in office. We must not repeat that mistake. And we can start by rejecting the claim that there was any blame on our side (apart from party incompetence and Clintonian misjudgment) for the beatings we have taken everywhere.

None of this means that the Democratic Party and the left in general have nothing to learn or change. But it does mean that we must focus on victory and call the bigots what they are, today and from now on.

©2017 Keith Berner