Can Democrats Win With Identity Politics?

Since the 2016 election, Mark Lilla and others have been decrying Democrats’ efforts to address the needs of individual groups, such as women, African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, atheists, the LGBTQ community, minimum wage workers, labor unions, teachers, senior citizens, immigrants, environmentalists and others. Such efforts have been decried as “identity politics,” as if that is something negative.

Let’s stop and think about that for a moment.

The aforementioned groups represent some of the most vulnerable parts of our society. Yet, combined, they make up a significant majority of the nation’s population. And all of these groups are constantly under attack by Republican policies.

Republicans want to deny contraception and abortion to women, taking away their rights to control their own bodies and their lives. In addition, the GOP has used a variety of tricks – including gerrymandering, voter ID laws, reducing the number of polling places and early voting hours to suppress black votes. They have passed “show us your papers” laws to harass Latinos. They have passed laws to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people and non-Christians. They have fought increases to the minimum wage. They have fought collective bargaining. They have fought against raises and pensions for teachers. They’ve tried to take away health care from tens of millions of citizens. And they threaten to reduce or eliminate safety nets for the poor and the elderly.

Protecting these groups does NOT mean the Democrats are engaging in identity politics to show preference for some groups over others. It merely shows that they care for others.

Meanwhile, the GOP has engaged in its own brand of identity politics – focusing on protecting the interests of large, greedy corporations, the wealthy, intolerant evangelical “Christians” and white supremacists. Republicans pander to those who view others as commodities to be exploited or as threats to their dominance. In doing so, they foment fear and hate. Yet few political pundits question their strategy because they believe that is why Republicans have won the Oval Office and the majority of seats in Congress, as well as numerous gubernatorial seats and state legislatures.

However, the pundits tend to ignore the structural advantages that have led to those wins. Republicans control more than 90 percent of talk radio shows and numerous Internet “news” sites that shamelessly create false news stories and narratives.

Republicans benefit from a popular cable network that, under the cloak of a news organization, serves as a megaphone for the Republican National Committee. Through Sinclair Broadcast Group, they will soon control the majority of local TV news programming. They control an organization (ALEC) sponsored by large corporations that writes legislation for conservative legislators. They benefit from the Kochtopus, a maze of non-profit organizations that funnel billions into political races to support right-wing candidates. They even benefit from the sensational supermarket tabloids that specialize in stories attacking celebrities and glamorizing Trump.

All of this makes it easy for Republicans to engage in hateful politics that divide us.

Yet, despite these disadvantages, I believe that Democrats can still win, but not by abandoning the vulnerable. To win, the Democratic Party needs to improve its leadership and unify behind the party’s long-held principles of supporting the majority of Americans, especially those who cash paychecks rather than stock dividend checks. Democrats must continue to reach out to Americans who face discrimination, those who struggle to make ends meet, those who have retired, and those who need a helping hand.

The Democratic Party needs to better communicate its principles. It needs to create a brand; a brand that will make it crystal clear that it is unapologetically committed to improving lives and protecting the dignity of ALL Americans regardless of gender, race, religion, age or economic status.

The Democratic Party needs to hold Republicans accountable for trying to turn Americans against one another. It needs to offer hope for a kinder, more prosperous future.

In other words, it needs to explain that it represents “We the People.”

It’s Time For White People To Face Facts.

Given that our Racist-in-Chief excused and encouraged the worst elements of our society – white supremacists and neo-Nazis – this might be a good time to share a chapter from my book Antidote to Fact-Free Politics: Debunking the Falsehoods, Fabrications and Distortions Told by Conservatives and Perpetuated by the Media.

LIE #1: “America is a post-racial society.”

One has to wonder, which America are they talking about? They most certainly cannot be referring to the United States of America. Try telling the families of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and other unarmed African-Americans who have been murdered that they live in a post-racial America. Try explaining why their killers have not faced consequences for their actions. Try telling the people of Ferguson, Missouri that it was not just African-Americans who were subjected to unjust traffic tickets and escalating fines in order to finance the city’s services. Try telling the members of Black Lives Matter that America is no longer divided by race, and that people of color are no longer singled out for police brutality. Try telling people of color that they are treated fairly in the media.

For example, faced with the Black Lives Matter movement, the pundits on Fox News Channel and other networks quickly pointed to black-on-black crime, implying that ordinary black people don’t deserve protection from police and the courts until they end violence in their neighborhoods. Producers for TV entertainment shows and commercials deny all but a small percentage of leading roles to black actors. And police “reality” shows focus almost exclusively on crimes committed by blacks while ignoring crimes committed by whites. When asked why one show ignored white collar crime, the producer said something like, “Because no one wants to see old white men in cuffs with their shirts off.”

The fact is that white Americans ignore racism because it seldom negatively impacts them. After all, it’s not white Americans who have their job applications ignored because they don’t have the right kind of names. It’s not white Americans who have to tell their children not to wear hoodies for fear they will be shot. It’s not white Americans who are racially profiled and their cars routinely pulled over. It’s not white people who were singled out as part of New York City’s ill-conceived “stop and frisk” policy.

Today, African-Americans face discrimination in ways that are not all that different from the days of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for the 4th quarter of 2015, the unemployment rate for whites was 4.1 percent, while the unemployment rate for African-Americans was 10.5 percent.

The discrimination starts early in life as shown by a report from the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

After compiling data from all of the nation’s 97,000 public schools representing 49 million students, the OCR released a comprehensive report on the promise of equal education.

Among the report’s key findings:

Students of color are “…disproportionately affected by suspensions and zero-tolerance policies in schools.” In fact, black students represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment but 42 percent of the students who are suspended once and 48 percent of the students suspended more than once. The report also concluded, “Suspended students are less likely to graduate on time and more likely to be suspended again. They are also more likely to repeat a grade, drop out, and become involved in the juvenile justice system.”

In addition, the report found that students of color are more likely to have teachers with less experience. The students also have significantly less access to a full range of math and science courses in high school.

According to the Frontline documentary on PBS, A Return to School Segregation in America?, 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education – the landmark Supreme Court decision that ruled segregated schools are unconstitutional – gains in desegregation have been lost. The documentary cited a report by UCLA’s The Project on Civil Rights, which found that the nation has suffered a gradual re-segregation fueled by court rulings that have allowed states to set aside integration orders.

By 1988, the percentage of black children in white schools across the South began to rise steadily from zero to nearly 44 percent. But that’s where it peaked as Republican administrations began pushing “school choice” – code for re-segregation. By 2011, the percentage of black students in white schools was just 23.2 percent – lower than it was at the end of the civil rights movement in 1968! This is despite studies which have found that students who attend integrated schools perform better socially and psychologically, and that being exposed to different viewpoints in schools helps students better develop critical thinking skills.

Following the election of the nation’s first president of African-American descent, it may be understandable for white Americans to think racism is behind us. But very few of our nation’s leaders are black. Congress is still disproportionately controlled by white men. The vast majority of state governments are controlled by white men. And the leaders of US corporations are still disproportionately white men.

Fact is, our nation is only 3-4 generations removed from black slavery; only 50 years removed from Jim Crow laws; less than 50 years removed from “red-lining” – the practice of banks refusing to write mortgages for black people trying to purchase a home outside of a black area.

When African-American slaves were freed, they had nothing of their own…no land, no jobs, no homes, no education, no vote and few personal possessions. Indeed, many former slaves had no families, as their family members had often been sold away from their plantations. And the concept of slaves having been given 40 acres and a mule following the Civil War is largely fiction.

It takes generations for people to recover from such a plight – a plight made all the more difficult by prejudice and segregation.

Our Racist-In-Chief.

Unfortunately, the hatred and bigotry that claimed the national spotlight on Saturday was highly revealing.

President Trump’s tepid condemnation and initial refusal to call out the hateful groups responsible for the violence in Charlottesville called attention to the White House’s deep ties to the “alt-right.” Indeed, Trump has a long history of racism. His parents were members of the KKK. His father taught him the importance of breeding, likening humans to race horses. Early in his business career, Trump Management Corporation was sued by the Department of Justice for refusing to rent to non-whites in violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Later, he ran a full-page ad that many saw as racist. In it, he called for the return of the death penalty for five non-whites accused of raping a woman who was jogging in Central Park. (The men were later cleared of the charges.) And, of course, he was the most prominent leader of the racist “birther” movement, calling Obama an illegitimate president.

Trump began his campaign for president by making racist claims about Mexicans and promising to build a border wall that would be paid for by Mexico. For a campaign slogan, he chose Make America Great Again, which in itself was a clarion call to racists. And the racists responded. The KKK endorsed Trump for president. Numerous other racist groups, such as Vanguard America, were formed as a result of Trump’s campaign. (The alleged driver of the car which killed one and injured at least 19 others in Charlottesville was photographed wearing a Vanguard America uniform and holding a Vanguard America shield.)

An examination of Trump’s voters is more telling. 62 percent of non-college educated white women voted for Trump. 56 percent of college-educated white women voted for Trump. And 63 percent of white men voted for the Donald. As a result, for the first time in generations, we have a white supremacist in the White House. And Trump is not the only one.

His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is largely responsible for making Breitbart News “the platform for the alt-right” – a virtual megaphone for bigots and neo-Nazis. The White House is also the workplace for at least two other racists. Steven Miller is Trump’s senior adviser for policy and Sebastian Gorka serves as a deputy assistant to Trump. Not coincidentally, both have gone on record denying the threat of domestic terrorist groups.

Want more proof of Trump’s connections to the alt-right?

He appointed Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General, who in 1986 was denied a federal judgeship when his former colleagues testified that Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought its members were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”

In almost every conceivable way, not the least of which is color, Trump is the polar opposite of his predecessor. He is clueless and classless with no discernible redeeming traits. Indeed, he is the anti-Obama. Obama entered office saying, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America – there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America – there’s the United States of America.” President Obama reached across the political divide to appoint 18 Republicans to his administration. He repeatedly called for unity. By contrast, Trump has done nothing to reach across the divide. In fact, he has deepened the chasm and widened it. He verbally attacks anyone who disagrees with him. And his furor isn’t limited to Democrats and liberals. He has repeatedly assaulted the media and virtually everything his opponents hold dear. He has continued his assault on immigrants, on the environment, on regulations designed to protect citizens, on health care…he has even attacked the law and the Constitution.

Yet Trump has been reluctant to say anything negative about Nazis and racists.

Only when he was backed into a corner did he tepidly denounce the support for his campaign by David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the KKK. And only when there was a near universal outcry following the violence in Charlottesville did he finally, and hesitantly, call out the alt-right groups that fomented the violence. Even the Nazis and white supremacists didn’t believe he was sincere in his denunciation. Indeed, David Duke was quoted as saying, “He has our back.”

By failing to wholeheartedly condemn Nazis and racists, there is reason to wonder if Trump is trying to give the alt-right what it wants – a race war. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to realize that increased violence would give Trump the opportunity to do what the dictators he seems to idolize (Putin, Duterte, Erdogan, et al) have done and declare martial law.

Yet, as Trump has willingly become a symbol of racism in America, a bigger problem is the racists next door who enable him. They are your neighbors and your family members. They are students, laborers, truck drivers, farmers, realtors, lawyers, business executives, police officers, sheriffs, border patrol and many others. Their racism is seldom obvious. They don’t bother to wear sheets and hoods. They rarely gather to burn crosses.

Instead, they gather on websites like Breitbart, the Drudge Report, Fox News, and the Daily Stormer. They listen to hate-filled radio programs hosted by Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham and dozens of others. Like the man in the White House, they choose to bully and threaten from afar. They troll social media like Facebook and Twitter.

More worryingly, they hoard high-powered weaponry and ammunition. Many are members of the NRA. Many belong to militias such as the Oath Keepers and the Border Guard. Others are sovereign citizens who refuse to follow laws or to pay taxes. And they have been placed on alert by Trump with his warnings that his “enemies” are trying to steal his office.

It is the people who support Trump despite his overt bigotry, his birtherism and his dismissal of all Latinos as rapists and “bad hombres” who allow the alt-right to exist. It is the people who cheer Trump’s bluster and verbal attacks against the media and his political opponents who are responsible for the extreme divisiveness we face. It is the people who politely laugh when they hear racist jokes; who are willing to look the other way when they see examples of bigotry who are just as responsible for racial violence.

If we are ever to heal the divisions – racial and political – in this nation, we must be willing to call out violence and bigotry whenever we see it or hear it. We must put humanity, compassion and kindness above self. We must elect politicians who will put an end to policies that have resulted in economic inequities based on color, gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. We must encourage everyone to vote and remove from office those who try to suppress minority votes. We must put nation above tribal politics. And we must call out all those who refuse to do so.

What Is The Real Goal Of Trump’s Rallies?

Almost immediately after his inauguration, Donald Trump filed the paperwork for his 2020 campaign. And with the election barely over, he has continued to campaign. For what reason?

Some believe that he is simply addicted to the adulation of crowds. But every president draws crowds. And every president benefits from Americans’ respect for the office. (At least every president until now.) I believe the real reason for the rallies is more sinister than mere narcissism. I believe he is trying to further divide the nation; to destroy any remaining credibility for the mass media; to create a personal army of supporters that is immune to the facts; to create an army that is loyal to him, and him alone.

One need only listen to his rhetoric and read his tweets to see his plan in action. He continues to call any news stories that are not complementary to him “fake news.” He calls the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt.” And he continues to foment fear and violence. At his latest rally in front of an adoring West Virginia crowd, he accused his “enemies” of trying to steal his office, asking if they are just going to stand by and watch. That leads me to wonder what he suggests as an alternative to watching. Violence?

Those around him certainly think so.

Trump’s supporters continue to chant “lock her up” in reference to his former election rival. If you dumpster dive (or should I say, Trumpster dive) into the posts of his followers on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere on the Web, you will see numerous threats of violence toward Trump’s political opponents, especially from the so-called “Alt-Right” trolls. White House subordinates like Stephen Miller verbally berate anyone who dares to question or challenge Trump’s political pronouncements. Often they go further.

For example, Trump ally, Roger Stone, recently tweeted: “Robert Mueller plans a takedown of @realDonaldTrump based on trumped up charges but sadly will only begat extreme violence and his own take-down…”

Mueller, Congress, Democrats and the media should take such threats with some seriousness. Many of Trump’s supporters are, after all, heavily armed – many of them are members of the NRA. They are the same kind of bullies who stood behind Cliven Bundy just itching for an excuse to fire on federal officers who were in the process of executing a lawful court order.

If they’re willing to do that for a deadbeat rancher like Bundy, imagine how they’ll react to the sight of the fear-monger-in-chief being led out of the Oval office in handcuffs.

They’ll almost certainly be ready for war, which is likely what his orangeness is counting on. In fact, he is acting exactly like hundreds of despots before him – creating enemies both external and internal; turning citizens against one another; raising doubts about the Constitution; creating distrust of our institutions including the media, the courts and Congress; telling his followers that the “elites” are against them and only he can be trusted to fix things.

I believe Trump presents a very real threat to the future of our nation and the planet.

Now, I expect that many of you will consider this to be hyperbolic. But we’ve never had a president like this before. Yes, we’ve had candidates like George Wallace, David Duke and other equally despicable people. But, though virulently racist, even they seemed more principled than Trump. (They weren’t serial liars and they didn’t look to use the government for personal financial gain.) More to the point, they were soundly defeated. Yet just because our nation has survived other serious challenges is no reason to take this threat lightly. You need only look at the alarm sounded by the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect which draws parallels between Trump and Hitler, noting that Trump has created his own media, exploited youth at a rally, endorses police brutality, demonizes people who believe, look or love differently, stripped vulnerable people of their families, jobs and ability to live, and believes Congress should change its rules to give him more power.

And, if that’s not compelling enough, consider the current sorry status of Venezuela, a nation that modeled its constitution and government after ours. In Venezuela everything changed as the result of a financial crisis and a constitutional convention. (By the way, a Koch brothers’ effort is nearing the number of states required to call for a constitutional convention in the US.)

If dictators can take control in democratic countries such as Venezuela, Philippines and Turkey, a prospective dictator – even one as stupid and outrageous as Donald Trump – could take control here.

An Open Letter To Congress.

Dear Senators and Congressional Representatives:

We understand that it’s hard work to win an election. There’s the fundraising, the canvassing, the fundraising, the travel, the fundraising, the public appearances, the fundraising, the baby-kissing and the butt-kissing, the fundraising, the debates, the fundraising, the media interviews, and, of course, the fundraising.

We also believe that, by electing you, we afford you a great honor – the honor of representing us in our seat of government. Given that, we should expect you to appreciate that honor and to do what you can to live up to your campaign promises. We expect you to follow in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers – people like Franklin, Hamilton, Jay, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Washington – to do what’s best for us and our nation.

Unfortunately, that seems to be an increasingly quaint and naive notion as evidenced by an exhaustive study by Professor Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Professor Benjamin Page of Northwestern University.

Gilens and Page collected data on your policy decisions from 1981 to 2002. Their report, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens,” concluded that economic elites (the top 1%) and business groups (lobbyists) have substantial impact on your decisions while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little to no influence on your decisions.

In short, the professors found that our democratic republic has become an oligarchy, defined as a small group of people having control of a country or organization. But the Gilens-Page study only confirms what many of us already suspected.

For example, we have seen how members of Congress have prioritized the profits of defense contractors over the needs of our military and over reason itself. We’ve noticed how you repeatedly vote to increase weapons spending despite the fact that the Pentagon cannot account for its spending of more than $7.3 trillion, and despite the fact that our defense budget is greater than that of the next 7 countries combined (5 of which are close allies). And we suppressed our frustration as we watched you vote to require the US Army to purchase tanks and other weapons systems it no longer uses or needs.

We’re all too aware that you seem far more concerned with the profits of pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies than with the economic and physical health of your constituents. We aren’t blind to the fact that 40 of the lawmakers in your midst held $23 million in shares of health insurance companies as they voted to take health care coverage away from millions of Americans.

We’ve seen how you passed laws prioritizing the desires of Wall Street over the needs of Main Street. For example, in 1999, you voted to deregulate banks, clearing the way for them to gamble with our deposits and pension funds. That decision led to the financial crash and Great Recession of 2008. And yet your GOP members are intent on repealing the regulations enacted to prevent such an event from ever happening again.

We’ve also observed that the majority in Congress is working to eliminate regulations designed to keep our air, water and food clean in order to improve the bottom lines for their large corporate sponsors.

Of course, we have noted that such decisions also improve your campaigns’ bottom lines. Those large corporations reward you with large amounts of money for your re-election campaigns. They pay for junkets to exotic places. They give you tickets to concerts and other galas…the kinds of gifts few ordinary voters can afford.

And though you readily do the oligarchs’ bidding, you hide from your constituents. You avoid town halls. You send letters to constituents that are based on lies. And you have the unmitigated gall to ask your constituents for their money and their support!

Here’s an idea: Instead of beginning fundraising for your re-election campaign the minute you get into office, why not just do the right thing? Why not vote for policies that will help the vast majority of your constituents? Why not vote for better schools, better health care, better roads, safer bridges, better mass transportation and cleaner energy? Why not balance the budget by raising taxes on the fortunate few and cutting taxes for those who are struggling? Why not crack down on those who avoid paying their fair share through the use of offshore tax havens? Why not open your doors to all of your constituents? Not just those with the most money to offer.

Why don’t you treat the office as though you’re in it to serve? Why not prioritize country over party and people over money?

If you do that, believe us, we’ll notice. We’ll ignore your opponents’ attack ads. We’ll contribute to your campaigns. And we will almost certainly vote for you again. And, if you lose to someone better, you can leave office with your head held high knowing that you’ve done everything you can to represent us. You can take solace in the fact that our Founders never intended for public office to become a permanent position. (They sure as hell didn’t expect our nation to become an oligarchy in the mold of Putin’s Russia!)

As reported in John Avlon’s book, Washington’s Farewell, when the father of our nation, George Washington bade farewell to public service, he warned of three things: Hyper-partisanship, excessive debt and foreign wars.

Unfortunately, our nation is now burdened with all three. You may not be personally responsible for creating those burdens. But you can be responsible for ridding us of them…if you just do the right thing.

America First? Not From My Perspective.

In the past week, my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting the Alps of Bavaria. Not only were we treated to the splendor of one of the most beautiful places on Earth. We were able to observe a country that works.

Though Germany may not be a military super-power, it is an economic power. More important, it is extremely successful in delivering to its citizens a high quality of life. As you fly across Germany, you notice a relatively pristine landscape with cities and farmland surrounded by large forests. Instead of clear-cutting those forests for timber, the Germans appear to use selective harvesting methods which preserves the beauty of the forests and limits the potential of wildfires while still providing timber for construction.

Virtually all of the homes are well-kept and many feature solar panels on their roofs. Indeed, solar generation accounts for nearly 7 percent of Germany’s power needs as compared to just 1.5 percent in the US. This is despite the fact that large portions of the US have many more days of sunshine than Germany. (For comparison, one of our sunniest states – Arizona – generates just 3.4 percent of its needs with solar.)

There is little visible trash. The rivers, even the roadsides, are clean, likely the result of an aggressive recycling program. Recycling and trash receptacles are everywhere. And many supermarkets have efficient programs that provide refunds for returning plastic bottles. Further, most Germans use recyclable shopping bags without complaint.

Though often narrow, all of Germany’s roads and bridges seem in good repair, especially in comparison to our crumbling infrastructure. And many German commuters have the option of traveling to and from work in electric trains.

All German citizens enjoy access to quality health care, the cost of which is split between the government and private insurers much like our Medicare. In addition, German workers enjoy considerable time off for their families and for travel. They have the right to be represented by labor unions. Many workers even enjoy representation on the boards of directors of their companies.

There is no visible poverty – at least not in comparison to large portions of the US. Germany not only grows most of its food, its produce is untainted by GMO. The nation is also phasing out the use of pesticides. As a result, German produce tastes as though you just picked it from your own garden.

Despite stereotypes, the German people are active, many of them regularly hiking in the mountains. Indeed, on a mountain trail, we encountered everyone from families with young children to a woman in her nineties. Though obviously suffering from osteoporosis and using a cane, she seemed to be not even breathing deeply as she climbed past us on a steep trail. Perhaps that’s why Germany’s life expectancy is longer than that of the US.

Gun violence in Germany is virtually non-existent, especially compared to the US. Per capita, German gun deaths are less than a tenth of those in the US.

America first? American exceptionalism?

Yes, the United States is the world’s most powerful nation militarily and economically. But, in the things that really matter, such as quality of life, we are falling behind…far behind.

Give Me That Old Time Religion.

It’s easy to look back on our lives and glorify earlier years as something special. But our memories are fallible. And, in reality, those days were seldom as good as we remember. There are, however, exceptions. One prime example is religion.

I remember growing up at a time when churches and synagogues were the pillars of communities. They were gathering places for life’s most important moments…places of joy for baptisms and weddings. They served as support groups in times of sorrow when family members were lost. They also collected money for those less fortunate. And in many communities, traditional churches continue these are traditions.

Even more important, traditional religions taught good behavior based on principles such as the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

In my small Midwestern town, I cannot recall anyone proselytizing. One’s religious beliefs were considered private and personal. Indeed, the subject of religion seldom came up in gatherings, except at church. Everyone seemed to respect everyone else’s faith. There were no attempts to insert prayers before the Pledge of Allegiance in school; no attempts to install religious memorials on government property. There were, however, Christmas and Easter decorations in schools and in government buildings until they were, in my opinion, rightfully banned by the Supreme Court.

Fast forward to today when evangelicals proselytize at every opportunity. When they ignore the unethical, antisocial behavior of a president because they are convinced that he will give them the power they crave.

Today we have practitioners of the so-called “prosperity gospel” – the corrupted notion that God rewards true believers by making them wealthy. There are those who wish to hasten the “rapture” by unifying all of Jerusalem under Israeli rule, believing that only then will the next prophet appear. There are others who believe in the dominion principle, that only true believers are qualified to govern the United States. There are still others who believe one’s behavior is immaterial, that you can do whatever you wish as long as you declare your faith in Jesus.

For most of these, the Golden Rule has been relegated to the dust bins of history; a quaint notion that interferes with the business at hand. That business is raising money to provide a new mansion or jet for the pastor. Or to raise money and votes for representatives that believe as they do so they can make the US a Christian nation. Never mind that doing so would be blatantly unconstitutional and very much in contrast to the beliefs of our nation’s Founders.

Such a plan is antithetical to democracy. It would create a theocracy hostile to non-Christians…even to Christians who do not share the majority’s narrow religious view. In short, it would create a theocracy little different from the Taliban or ISIS.

If we are ever to make the US great again; if we are ever to regain our world leadership in matters other than military, we must stop focusing on the things that divide us. We must find a way to share the American experience. We must learn to care for one another; to respect one another; to talk with one another. We must commit to true equality.

That means rejecting faiths that proclaim their superiority over others; that try to dictate the behavior of others (that’s what the courts are for). And it means committing to the words and the intentions of the Declaration of Independence: “…that all men [and women] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The Root Of Our Political Divide.

While the mainstream media and political pundits are still debating the circumstances that led to the election of Donald Trump, a recent study published in the Columbia Journalism Review appears to have revealed the real reason for the surprising results.

Between April 1, 2015 and election day, scholars at the Berkman Klenin Center for Internet & Society, Harvard Law School and MIT Center for Civic Media examined more than 1.25 million articles pertaining to the election. They found that Clinton supporters shared stories from across a relatively broad political spectrum, including center-right news sources.

Trump supporters, on the other hand, mostly shared articles from Breitbart and a few like-minded websites such as The Daily Caller, Infowars, and the Gateway Pundit. Trump supporters even abandoned the far-right leaning Fox News Channel during the primaries as a result of its criticism of Trump.

The CJR study concluded that we are seeing “asymmetrical polarization” with the right moving ever further to the right while Democrats’ opinions remain relatively unchanged. The conclusions are further supported by a Harvard-Harris Poll that found 80% of Republicans believe there is a lot of fake news in the mainstream media. The Republican’s belief that only their sources can be trusted to tell the truth makes the political right particularly susceptible to propaganda.

This became painfully apparent in 2016 when long-time Republicans willingly abandoned their traditional ideals to fall in line behind the Trump candidacy. And it explains why, despite the fact that more than 70% of Trump’s claims have been exposed as lies, Trump supporters either don’t believe the media and fact-checking organizations, or they simply don’t care. It also explains why a 2016 NBC News/Survey Monkey found that 72% of Republicans still doubt President Obama’s citizenship.

Combined with results of other studies and polls, the scope of problem becomes even more clear.

For example, The Washington Post found that 25% of Republicans think the country has gone too far in expanding the right to vote – the most cherished aspect of American democracy. Additionally, WaPo found that 40% of Republicans believe the US has too greatly expanded freedom of the press despite it being guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Likewise, Pew Research found that just 49% of Republicans believe the freedom of the press to criticize politicians is very important, and that only 68% believe the right to nonviolent protest is very important (another right that is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights). Pew also found that, despite the Founders’ commitment to education as part of their Age of Enlightenment (several of the nation’s Founders also founded universities), 58% of Republicans and right-leaning people believe that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the nation.

Most disturbing of all are the results of a 2015 YouGov Survey that found 43% of Republicans could see themselves supporting a military coup!

Imagine how the Founders would react to the willingness of American citizens to abandon their “more perfect union” and a democratically-elected government for a military junta; or how the Founding Fathers would react to the indifference of a large percentage of Americans to the interference in our electoral process by a hostile foreign government; or how they would react to Congress’s refusal to act upon the president’s violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

Given all of this, it’s time to ignore those who say our political chasm has been created by both parties – that both are equally at fault. It’s not Democrats who have abandoned the center. The fault lies almost entirely with Republicans and those who support Donald Trump despite his obvious unsuitability for the office of President.

In fact, if these people do not support the Constitution, one may legitimately question if they believe in democracy and the American ideals.

Republicans Are The Masters Of False Equivalency.

Following the shooting of Republican Congressman Steve Scalise, there were calls from both sides of the aisle to calm the extreme rhetoric. The House even made a great show of bipartisanship by kneeling together on the field prior to the annual Republican/Democrat baseball game. Senator Bernie Sanders made a forceful speech denouncing the shooter’s past support for his candidacy. Many others followed suit.

Yet, in a matter of hours following the Scalise shooting, the hateful rhetoric had returned.

A mere four days after the shooting, former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh tweeted, “Screw bipartisanship. This country is at war with itself. Choose your side and choose it now. Grab your musket and get ready.” That’s a great way to calm the anger. Don’t you think?

And Walsh was not alone. Others, including right-wing pundits Alex Jones and Newt Gingrich have also talked about a coming civil war. Of course, this comes on the heels of last year’s GOP convention during which the rabble chanted “Lock her [Hillary] up.” And it comes after then-candidate Trump speculated what might happen if he lost by saying, “…if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” Others also suggested that, if Trump lost, there might be violence.

The US is more divided, and more angry, than any point in my lifetime. Indeed, the only other times we have seen such division were during the Revolution (when the Revolutionists fought against the Loyalists) and during the Civil War.

That should give everyone pause.

Of course, the fallback for Republicans is that both sides are equally guilty. But that’s simply not true. Let’s start by noting that there have been many fewer threats of violence by liberals against conservatives. I must also point out that the majority of gun owners in the US are conservatives. Indeed, a recent NPR article stated that right-wing extremists are responsible for about 74 percent of murders committed by domestic extremists. Not coincidentally, a recent Gallup study found that 55 percent of gun owners are Republican versus 32 percent Democrat. A Pew Research poll showed an even greater disparity with numbers of 49 percent for Republicans and just 22 percent for Democrats. In addition, the Southern Poverty Law Center currently lists 917 hate groups in the US. These include the KKK, neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, anti-government militias, and Christian identity groups. They are almost exclusively right-wing.

Now let’s consider the media. Certainly, The NY Times and a few other newspapers lean to the left. But the Wall Street Journal, the Arizona Republic and many others lean to the right. That said, though their editorial columns may be partisan, most try to be impartial in reporting the actual news. Talk radio is almost exclusively right-wing…Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin…angry, screaming right-wing. Indeed, within a few years of the end of the Fairness Doctrine, talk radio was already more than 90 percent conservative.

With regard to television, the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group is one of the nation’s largest media owners. It recently ordered its local news broadcasts to advance the conservative agenda. On satellite and cable, Fox News Channel has long acted as a megaphone for the Republican party. The lower-rated MSNBC was somewhat split. It’s prime-time devoted to liberals and the morning to conservatives. In between, it was impartial. And it’s moving farther right. ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and PBS try to maintain neutrality, although their Sunday morning news programs are dominated by conservative guests.

That leaves the Internet, aka social media. There are so many Internet “news” sites, it is very difficult to make a comparison. But, if you use fake news as a determining criteria, the Internet is decidedly right-wing. The best way for me to explain is to use anecdotal evidence from Paul Horner the “King of Fake News” who appeared on a radio show I occasionally help moderate. Horner is a comedian and satirist. As such, he began writing satirical news stories during the past presidential election. He began by creating stories that would appeal to both sides. But he quickly discovered that stories aimed at liberals garnered few clicks and little money. The problem is that they would fact check his stories. Conservatives, on the other hand, bought his nonsense hook, line and sinker. As a result, almost all of his fake news was conservative. (You can listen to the interview by following this link.)

Want more evidence? Visit Breitbart “News” or any other right-wing website. Then do some fact checks.

That is not to say there aren’t some highly partisan, disgustingly angry websites, tweets and Facebook posts from the left. But there are fewer of them and even fewer of them promote violence.

A Tsunami Of Coincidences.

As more connections between Russia and the Trump camp are exposed, Republicans would have you believe that they are mere coincidence, the product of successful people who operate multinational businesses. That’s an explanation only the chronically naive and the willfully ignorant could accept.

Following is a list of just those connections that have been identified. Even if no further relationships are uncovered, you have to be extraordinarily suspicious of this administration.

For example, President Trump met with Russia’s UN ambassador in 1986 and began pursuing business deals in Russia shortly afterward. The head of Russian-American Chamber of Commerce is a Trump associate. Trump has numerous connections with Russian oligarchs who have rented office space at the Trump Tower and purchased a Florida estate from Trump at nearly three times its value. Trump’s business was rescued during the Great Recession as the result of huge loans from Deutsche Bank after every US bank and other European banks refused to loan him money. (Deutsche Bank was under investigation for allegedly participating in a Russian money-laundering scheme until the Department of Justice suddenly ended the investigation after Jeff Sessions became the Attorney General.)

One of Trump’s former business partners is a Russian Mixed Martial Arts fighter who is also a friend of Putin’s. Trump held the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow hosted by a Russian oligarch who is friends with Vladimir Putin. At that time, it was reported that he met with Putin.

During the campaign, US intelligence agencies were alerted to the existence of a Russian dossier on Trump by British agent who feared it would allow the Russians to compromise the candidate. Trump’s campaign financier, Robert Mercer, has reported business ties to a Russian oligarch. (It must be noted that virtually all Russian oligarchs are friends with Putin.) Also, during the campaign, it was discovered that there was a mysterious Internet connection between members of the Trump campaign and Alfa Bank, the largest private commercial bank in Russia.

Following his inauguration, it was reported that Trump tried to lift the sanctions on Russia. He also called the Preet Bharara, the US attorney who was in the midst of prosecuting a case involving money-laundering. When Bharara refused Trump’s phone call, he was fired by Trump and, following his firing, the case was settled out of court.

President Trump took the extraordinary step to meet with the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador in the Oval Office. During that meeting, he leaked classified information about Israeli surveillance of ISIS and told Russians that, having fired that “nutjob” Comey, he was under less pressure.

Further, Trump’s name appeared in the Panama Papers more than 3,500 times. These papers were the result of a long-time investigation into tax evasion through offshore shell corporations, many of them involving Russian oligarchs.

And those are just Trump’s connections to Russia. There are many more involving his cabinet and political associates.

We all know about the investigations into Trump’s former National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn. He had numerous meetings with the Russian ambassador before and after the election. He was paid to appear on Russian TV and for several speaking engagements in Russia.

Vice-president Pence, who led the Trump transition team following the election, recommended Flynn as the National Security Adviser despite being alerted by the Justice Department that Flynn may have been compromised.

Attorney General Jeff Session failed to disclose multiple meetings with the Russian ambassador during his confirmation hearing, which resulted in him recusing himself from the Flynn-Russian investigation. Nevertheless, Sessions advised Trump to fire FBI Director James Comey.

As a CEO, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson negotiated a deal between Gazprom, the Russian government-owned gas company, and ExxonMobil which would go into effect if sanctions were lifted. In recognition of his efforts, Tillerson received the Order of Friendship Award from Putin. Tillerson also has a personal relationship with the president of Rosneft, the government-controlled oil company.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is a one-third owner of a Cypress bank known to hide money for Russian oligarchs. The other two bank owners are known allies of Putin’s.

The brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, a friend and confidant of Putin’s. And it was her husband’s company (Spectrum Health) that was linked to the mysterious Internet connection between the Trump campaign and Alfa Bank.

It was recently revealed that Trump son-in-law and very special White House adviser, Jared Kushner is a “person of interest” in the Trump-Russian investigation for having numerous undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador before and after the inauguration. Purportedly one of those meetings involved an attempt to set up back-channel communications with the Russian government.

Former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is a former business partner with Ukrainian oligarchs who received sweetheart deals from Putin. He is also a former business associate with a former Russian intelligence agent who is a friend of Putin’s. Manafort was a campaign adviser to a Ukrainian presidential candidate with ties to Putin. And he was a paid lobbyist for Turkey, which is run by a dictator tied to Putin.

Carter Page, who served as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, met with the Russian ambassador in 2016. He has had multiple contacts with a Russian spy. His business partner is a Russian oligarch. He also owns shares in Gazprom and has met with leaders of Rosneft.

It has been reported that J.D. Gordon, who served as a national security adviser to the Trump campaign, also met with Russian ambassador and then-Senator Jeff Sessions at the Mayflower Hotel during the Republican national convention.

Longtime Trump associate and former campaign adviser, Roger Stone, has received money for numerous appearances on Russian television. More disturbing is the fact that Stone admitted to meeting with Wikileaks and the Russian hackers known as Gucifer over the release of emails from the Clinton campaign and Democratic organizations.

Felix Sater, a Trump business associate pleaded guilty in a stock fraud scheme with ties to the Russian mafia. He was also indicted in a stock fraud scheme with a convicted felon who brokered a $150 million deal with a hedge fund tied to Putin. That same hedge fund invested in the Trump Soho hotel.

Michael Cohen, the longtime lawyer for Trump’s businesses and Trump’s personal attorney, is associated with two Russian-leaning Ukrainians who are now under investigation by the Ukraine for treason.

Last, but not least, Donald Trump, Jr. has business ties to numerous people with Russian connections.

As I wrote at the beginning of this article, you might dismiss one or even a dozen such connections between Trump and Russia as coincidence; the result of operating a multinational company. But I now count more than 50. To dismiss that many as mere coincidence defies logic.