Why I Won’t Be Celebrating This July 4th.

In the US, the 4th of July is recognized as Independence Day – a day to celebrate our independence from the British empire. A hard-won independence that required the blood sweat and tears of our ancestors to defeat the most powerful military forces on earth. Indeed, a least eight of my ancestors fought for the Continental Army, one suffering through a devastating winter at Valley Forge. As a result, Independence Day has been an important holiday for my family for generations. And though I have long been bothered by the extreme militarization of our nation and the accompanying politicization of patriotism – an unprincipled “our country right or wrong” kind of patriotism – I have proudly celebrated the holiday along with everyone else.

But this year is different. This year, I fear that our independence is in danger as never before.

We have reached a point where the founding principles of our nation are being compromised by a winner-takes-all, pay-to-play political party that ignores the majority of its constituents to serve the interests of a few. A political party that has turned our democratic republic into an oligarchy. A party that is now led by an unethical and immoral bully who gained office with the help of our nation’s most dangerous rival and support from evangelical “Christians” – religious zealots who have sold their souls to the man based on the belief that controlling women’s bodies to “save” fetuses is more important than preserving our nation’s core values.

Our first president, George Washington, was guided by 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. But if the man who now occupies the White House has a guide, it’s likely to be titled The Art of the Insult. Indeed, he takes a perverse pride in putting down others in order to feed his all-too-fragile ego.

So I cannot, in good conscience, stuff my cheeks with hot dogs and watch the “bombs bursting in air” when I know that our government has greeted refugees fleeing violence, repression and abject poverty – conditions every bit as severe as those that brought our ancestors to these shores – by arresting them and even wrenching their children from their arms.

I cannot celebrate a nation that takes pride in feeding our bloated defense department with hundreds of billions of dollars while, at the same time, denying food stamps and medical care to the poor.

I cannot proudly wave the flag when our Congress and state legislatures are constructing new barriers to deny minorities their right to vote.

I cannot sing the Star-Spangled Banner knowing that it was written by a racist and that those who are not white or heterosexual are still treated as second-class citizens.

I cannot celebrate when our government refuses to lift a finger to stop gun violence and the mass shootings of school children.

I cannot celebrate freedom when so many of our citizens have none – imprisoned for victimless, non-violent crimes.

I cannot celebrate when the president continues to call the independent press – one of our most precious institutions – the “enemy of the people.”

I cannot celebrate when the president describes his political opponents as un-American and calls for them to be locked up.

I cannot celebrate when the president attacks long-time allies while embracing enemies and brutal dictators.

I cannot celebrate after watching Trump appoint a group of corrupt and unqualified sycophants to government agencies with the express purpose to undermine and damage the agencies they control.

I cannot celebrate a nation governed by people who view the environment as a mere supermarket of resources with no concern for the impact of their extraction on our ecosystem.

I cannot celebrate knowing that our narcissistic president is filling his bank accounts with taxpayers’ hard-earned money in defiance of the Constitution’s emoluments clause; that he refuses to release his tax returns; that he refuses to divest himself of his businesses; and that the Trump name appeared in the Panama Papers (a list of those using off-shore tax havens) 3,540 times!

I cannot celebrate independence knowing that the man was placed in office with the help of Russia; knowing that at least 11 members of his presidential campaign had suspicious contacts with Russians; knowing that Russian oligarchs have invested nearly $100 million in Trump buildings; knowing that the NRA spent more than $30 million on behalf of Trump’s campaign after accepting donations from 23 Russians; knowing that Trump is willing to take Vladimir Putin’s word over that of our own intelligence agencies.

And I cannot sleep knowing that the actions of a man who is, quite likely, illegally occupying the world’s most powerful office cannot be overturned even if, as I suspect, he will be impeached and removed from that office.

So call me un-American if you want. But the America I celebrate is almost completely at odds with that of the president and his followers. I believe in an America that embraces the words on our Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” I believe in an America that cherishes equality, fairness and opportunity for all.

Until we become that nation again; until we value human rights over the rights of corporations; until we take more pride in our treatment of the poor than in our latest military technology; until the Oval Office occupant and his administration have been sent packing; until we, once again, strive to live up to the hopes of our Founding Fathers, I’ll sit out the 4th of July celebration. I will be flying the flag. But I will be flying it upside down. Because our nation is most certainly in distress.

Where Is Our Compassion?

This past week, the Bully-In-Chief further divided Americans by ordering Homeland Security to wrench children from the arms of refugees seeking asylum. That such behavior is in violation of international laws and the US Constitution is less important than the fact it is in violation of the norms of human kindness and moral behavior.

It is stunning to me that the administration’s actions are considered controversial. Yet some people I know, some of whom I grew up with – people I know to be loving, caring individuals – support traumatizing children in order to deter immigration. I can only assume they don’t understand what led to the refugees seeking asylum and our nation’s role in helping to create their misery.

So, here’s a primer in the geopolitics of US immigration.

First, nearly half of the undocumented immigrants in our country did not cross our borders illegally. They came to the US on visas and overstayed their visas. No wall would have blocked them.

Second, most of the immigrants crossing our southern border are from three Central American nations – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – not, as Trump suggests, Mexico. To understand why, you need to look back to the 1800s when three US corporations controlled the land, transportation, and banana production in these countries. They also controlled their governments, installing puppets to ensure control of cheap labor.

Such arrangements were good for the corporations and the US. Not so good for the people of these so-called Banana Republics.

US political meddling continued through the 1980s when the Reagan administration offered arms and training to the Central American governments in order to put down rebellion. The Reagan support included the sale of arms to Iran in order to surreptitiously obtain funds to support government death squads (see Iran-Contra scandal). That led to a wave of refugees into the US. In Los Angeles, the Salvadoran refugees were bullied by gangs leading some Salvadorans to create the MS-13 gang. When MS-13 gang members were inevitably arrested and imprisoned, they became more violent. And, when we eventually released and deported them, we effectively exported their violence.

It is the violence created by MS-13 gang members in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, that has displaced Central Americans – mostly women and children – forcing them to seek asylum in the US.

Third, US policies have created crushing poverty in Central America. Corn production was an important part of their economies. But, after the implementation of CAFTA, US grain companies dumped large quantities of corn into Central America at prices that made it impossible for small, Central American farmers to compete. That inevitably forced them into bankruptcy and into the cities looking for jobs. The resulting poverty has been crushing.

Fourth, when the refugees arrived at our ports of entry to apply for asylum, they were forced to wait in long lines for days all the while trying to tend to their children. Some, having grown impatient, crossed the border elsewhere and turned themselves in to authorities. These are the people who were detained and had their children – some only a few months old – ripped from their arms.

They are not criminals, murders and rapists. They are not MS-13 gang members. They are desperate people – mothers, fathers and children. They are not just seeking a better life. They have left behind what little they had and came here hoping to survive. And, if we send them back, they are very likely to die.

Such treatment is not Republican, Democrat, American or Christian. It’s not even human.

The Real State Of Our Union.

Last night, Donald Trump basked in the light of his predecessor, taking credit for declining unemployment, a rising stock market and low African-American unemployment…all things that began under President Obama and have continued as a result of their own momentum combined with improved economies throughout the world.

So what is the real state of our union under Trump?

Since Trump took office, we have seen unparalleled corruption in the executive branch. We’ve seen the president and his cabinet squander hundreds of millions of dollars on trips and vacations using private jets. We’ve seen a growth in the influence of corporate lobbyists, which culminated in a massive tax cut for corporations and the wealthy that was pushed through Congress with such haste most representatives and senators had no time to read it. And, of course, the Congressional Budget Office had no time to fully score its impact.

We’ve seen America’s international standing and its “soft power” precipitously decline. We’ve seen the GOP try to take away access to health care from millions of Americans. We’ve seen consumer and environmental protections diminished. We’ve seen GOP attempts to destroy the world’s greatest public education system and replace it with private schools that prioritize religion and myths over science and facts.

We’ve seen and heard an astounding number of lies emanating from the White House. We’ve seen an unprecedented attack on the free press, accusing the news media of being “enemies of the state.” We’ve seen multiple attacks on free elections by the GOP and Russia. We’ve seen the proliferation of guns continue unabated resulting in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Americans each year. We’ve seen White House-led attacks on women; on gays; on transgender citizens; on Muslims; on immigrants; on refugees; on the impoverished; on diplomatic norms; on decency itself.

We’ve seen threats of nuclear war tweeted from the White House bed while the “president” consumes Fox News and cheeseburgers. We’ve seen the administration open public lands…even national monuments and parks…to extraction industries with little regard to the long-term environmental impact. We’ve heard Trump’s racist comments about “shithole” countries. We’ve seen Trump ignore the plight of tens of thousands of American citizens in Puerto Rico trying to survive without electricity and clean water. And we’ve seen the administration take giant steps backward on the environment and technology by raising tariffs on solar panels and encouraging more mining of coal.

At the same time, Trump and the GOP have ignored many of the most pressing problems facing the nation and the planet. Trump announced that he would pull the US out of the Paris accords designed to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. There is no plan to deal with the inevitable rising sea levels; no plan to offset the coming tsunami of workplace layoffs created by robotics and artificial intelligence; no plan to modernize our transportation systems.

The state of our union is that we are now living in an oligarchy where the 1 percent control our politics, our government and an astonishing amount of wealth. Indeed, Oxfam stated that the world’s 100 richest people (many of them living in the US) gain enough money each year to end the world’s extreme poverty several times over. Instead, many of these greedy bastards spend their money on lobbyists and political campaign contributions in order to elect a compliant Congress that will help them further increase their power and wealth!

The state of our union is that we have the world’s most inefficient health care system that costs many times more than those of other advanced nations yet leaves millions without access to medical care. The state of our union is that there is little control of the cost or the amount of pharmaceuticals available…where the opioid prescriptions in some counties and states exceed their populations. But we have made a non-addictive alternative – marijuana – illegal. The state of our union is that we have incarcerated a higher percentage of our population than any other nation on Earth. The state of our union is such that the Department of Defense cannot account for trillions in spending that, by some accounts, equals our entire federal debt. Yet we continue to increase its budget.

The state of our union is that, under GOP control, our democracy is crumbling as fast as our infrastructure.

The Inequities Of Our Political System.

We’ve heard a lot about wealth inequality and how it’s destroying the United States. But it’s merely a symptom – a symptom caused by the growing disparity between the parties in our two-party system. Consider the following:

• Since the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, more than 90 percent of talk radio has been controlled by right-wing conservatives.
• The conservative Sinclair corporation now controls the largest number of local TV stations, forcing its stations to air conservative talking points within local newscasts.
• The guests on network Sunday morning news shows are disproportionately Republican.
• Republican-controlled states have instituted repressive voter ID laws, reduced voting hours in minority districts, reduced polling places in Democratic districts, purged voter rolls, and gerrymandered districts to minimize Democratic votes.
• The majority of Americans now live in large cities, which mostly vote Democratic. But, thanks to the Electoral College, Republican-controlled rural areas have disproportionate representation. For example, based on population, an Electoral College vote from Wyoming counts 4 times as much as an Electoral College vote from California.
• The structure of the US Senate also disproportionately benefits red states. And the disparity is growing worse. By 2040, about 70 percent of Americans will live in the 15 largest states. Yet they will be represented by only 30 senators while 70 senators will represent 30 percent of the population.
• The Supreme Court decisions in Buckley v Valeo and Citizens United v FEC have unleashed billions in dark money for election campaigns which mostly benefits Republican candidates.

The GOP has used all of these advantages to divide our nation and to redistribute wealth upward to corporations and billionaires – taking money from the poorest among us and funneling it upward. This point was made all too clear by the GOP’s latest tax scam.

The greed and cynicism of the GOP is only made worse by the continuing failures of Democratic Party leadership.

For many years, the Democratic Party could count on two things: Its voter turnout operation and its superior data operation designed to target those voters most inclined to support its candidates. Though a majority of Americans have long supported Democratic policies or, at very least, leaned toward those policies, the party has lost its previous political advantages. And it has failed to effectively energize voters to turn out to the polls, especially during mid-term elections. It has failed to create a “brand” – a coherent message that concisely explains why people should vote for Democratic candidates.

The party’s failures were on full display this week when Sen. Chuck Schumer appeared on Late Show with Stephen Colbert. When asked what the Democratic Party stands for, Schumer sidestepped the question and simply referred to the failures of the Trump administration. No one should settle for that answer. Schumer’s dodge was made even more painful when Schumer’s interview was followed by a performance by the Black Eyed Peas with their new song, Street Livin’, which details many of the problems faced by black communities – one of the largest groups of Democratic constituents.

Seriously, Democratic leaders, it’s long past time to tell voters what you’re for. Not just what you’re against.

My Trump Obsession.

Many of my friends and acquaintances have raised questions regarding my near constant blog posts, Facebook posts and Tweets about Trump. I’ve been told, “Hillary lost. Get over it.” That they had to “put up” with Obama for 8 years so “Why can’t I just shut up and give Trump a chance?” I’ve been asked, “Don’t you have something else to worry about?” I’ve been called a “libtard,” a “snowflake” and a “loser.”

Some have questioned my patriotism. Others have even questioned my sanity. Many would prefer that I ignore the current state of our democracy and go back to posting family and travel photos on Facebook.

Here’s my response: Trump and his followers are unlike anything seen in our country since the end of the Civil War. Their hatred has further divided an already broken political system. They have not only turned Democrat against Republican. They have turned Republican against Republican, state against state, friend against friend, man against woman, brother against brother, Christian against Muslim, Christian against Christian, heterosexual against homosexual…and the world against the US.

In order for others to truly understand my obsession, I need to delve into a bit of history – some of which you probably already know.

When I first became aware of “The Donald” in the eighties, he was considered a small-time developer in New York City. His few properties made a statement only in regard to their gaudy decor and the many lawsuits against his company for racial discrimination and failure to pay suppliers. It soon became known, at least in Manhattan, that he had ties to organized crime. Those rumors were soon confirmed when he dived into the gambling industry…an industry long connected to organized crime. Yet, in a telling display of his business acumen, he was one of the few casino owners to ever go bankrupt.

His only success was his ability to call attention to himself and his “glamorous” lifestyle. That led to his role as a business mogul on “The Apprentice” in which he reveled in the opportunity to unleash his inner bully. Had it not been for that reality show (more precisely, an un-reality show) and an accomplished ghost writer who wrote “The Art of The Deal,” Trump likely would have faded into obscurity long ago, especially when the real estate crash of 2008 made him financially toxic to virtually every lender – except to the Russians and a German bank involved in Russian money-laundering.

How did he rise from those ashes to the White House? That is a question that will be debated for generations.

The reality is that, in an attempt to become relevant, he led the “birther” movement, claiming Obama was an illegitimate president. When Obama responded at the White House Correspondents Dinner, Trump was humiliated and infuriated. As a longtime racist and bully, he felt the need to strike back. So he began his presidential campaign based on racist attacks on Mexicans, refugees, Muslims, and women.

The heart of his campaign was to push aside political correctness, encouraging like-minded racists and misogynists to say and do what they had long felt, but were afraid to say. This quickly became apparent at all of his political rallies with chants of “lock her up” as well as verbal and physical attacks on protesters who were Latino or black. Of course, there were also relentless verbal attacks on the news media.

At any other time in our nation’s history, his fomenting of violence, his bullying tactics and his name-calling of other candidates, would have repulsed the majority of Americans and permanently ended his political aspirations. Instead, the more despicable his words and actions became, the more his popularity grew among white people who somehow felt oppressed by their white privilege and majority religion.

Not even a video of him bragging about grabbing women by the pussy harmed his popularity. Many even applauded his verbal attack of a Gold Star family – likely because of their skin color and their religion.

In a move that far exceeded Nixon’s Watergate transgressions, he unethically and illegally encouraged Russia to hack his political opponent’s emails. And it is now abundantly clear that his election night win was illegitimate. He obviously took office as the result of the interference of our nation’s greatest rival. Worse, given the dozens of connections between Trump’s campaign and Russia, it appears increasingly likely that his campaign colluded with Russia in order to win.

There has been no greater assault on our democracy since WWII.

If his lack of character and the illegitimacy of his position weren’t enough, Trump has made no effort to bridge the political divide. Instead, he has gone out of his way to further divide us. And his nomination of unqualified and lunatic fringe people to his cabinet and heads of federal agencies has turned our nation into a Kakistocracy – a government run by the worst, least qualified and most unscrupulous citizens – people like Betsy Devos, Ben Carson, Scott Pruitt, Tom Price, and Jeff Sessions.

Trump and his administration have taken every opportunity to enrich themselves and their families. He has emboldened the worst among us – racists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. His administration has not only tried to cut access to healthcare and withdrawn from the Paris accords on climate change. It has rolled back regulations protecting clean air, clean water and endangered species. It has plans to reduce the size of national monuments in order to sell drilling and mining rights to extraction industries. It has plans to cut funding for Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, even food programs for needy children in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy and large corporations.

Most problematic of all is the fact that Trump has essentially replaced our State Department and traditional diplomacy with his Twitter rants. His name-calling and cyber-bullying have led our nation to the brink of war with a nation led by a similar man-child – a war that would lead to the deaths of millions.

Am I obsessed with Trump? Damn right I am! As should be anyone in their right mind.

How Russia Stole Our Conscience.

Though the Robert Mueller investigation has not yet been completed, it’s clear that Russia meddled with our election. Disregarding possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, and the many meetings between Trump associates and Russian operatives, we’re already certain that Russia controlled the election outcome using a variety of techniques for the benefit of Trump and other Republican candidates.

Here’s what we know so far:

Russian hackers stole information from the email servers of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – information that was used by the Trump campaign and other Republican candidates. These crimes alone were far more serious than Watergate (the break-in and cover-up that resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon).

And the computer break-ins were just the beginning of Russian interference on behalf of Trump and other Republicans.

Russian oligarchs donated millions to Republican PACs and Super PACS to help the re-election of Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican candidates. Hundreds of Russian operatives secretly set up fake social media accounts designed to circulate anti-Clinton propaganda. Russians bought advertising on Facebook and Twitter to attack Clinton. Russia created dozens of “news” websites to publish false and misleading stories designed to undermine Clinton’s campaign. And Russia’s RT Television Network and Sputnik News Agency ran hundreds, if not thousands, of anti-Clinton “news” stories.

In addition, Russia hacked into voter data in several swing states, changing addresses and other information to cause registered Democrats to be turned away from the polls. There are even indications that Russia actually changed votes from Clinton to Trump in at least three swing states. (As Bill Palmer pointed out in his Palmer Report, it is statistically impossible that election results in those three swing states would all three go to Trump by the exact same one percent margin after all of the polls showed Clinton with substantial margins just days before.)

Russia’s actions not only prevented Clinton from winning. Their result was to install an occupant in the White House committed to the deconstruction of the government of Russia’s greatest adversary. Whatever you think of Der Gropenfuhrer himself, you must admit that his appointments have resulted in a kakistocracy – a government run by the worst, least qualified, and most unscrupulous citizens.

For example, the Department of Justice is led by a known racist. The Department of Energy, which controls our nuclear arsenal, is led by someone who previously called for dismantling the department without even knowing what it does. The Department of Education is led by a woman who never attended a public school and has spent millions to replace public schools with religious schools and for-profit private schools. The EPA is led by someone who prioritizes religion over science and who has repeatedly sued the agency he now heads on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. Most recently, Trump appointed a climate change denier with no background in science to lead the nation’s cutting-edge science agency – NASA.

The list of such appointees is quite lengthy.

In an act of extreme cruelty and hubris, the administration and the Republican-controlled Congress tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would cause more than 22 million Americans to lose access to affordable health care. Failing that, they sabotaged the health care law by cutting its funding.

They have withdrawn from the Paris climate accords, which puts our entire planet at risk. Trump has dropped protections for the LGBTQ community, women, minorities and immigrants who were brought to the US as children. He has vilified Muslims and banned refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations. He refused to hold Nazis and White Supremacists accountable for the violence in Charlottesville. And he ordered the deportation of women and children who are refugees from widespread violence in several Central American nations, placing their lives in serious jeopardy.

Further, Congress is poised to vote on tax reform that will give huge tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy. At the same time, the proposed budget is expected to cut funding for numerous safety net programs, such as those designed to provide food for poor children, the elderly and the disabled.

Considering the impact of all these actions, one has to conclude that Russia not only stole our election. They stole our collective conscience.

Yet most Republicans still refuse to acknowledge Russia’s role in the election results, likely because doing so would undermine the legitimacy of their gains in 2016. Likewise, they refuse to implement changes in order to prevent foreign interests from dictating election results again. As a result, we can’t be certain that the same type of meddling won’t take place in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

One wonders how those same Republicans would react if such interference stole an election from them.

Is There A Difference Between The Right And The Alt-Right?

Last year, with the help of Breitbart editor Steve Bannon, white supremacists rebranded themselves as the “alt-right” – an attempt to portray themselves as part of the mainstream. In many ways, the effort succeeded, since most of the media now use the term in referring to Nazis, the KKK and other white supremacists. I’ve even found myself using the term.

But despite the name change, they are the same ugly racists as before.

In reality, the only thing that has changed is that they now have the son of KKK parents in the White House who has appointed like-minded people to his cabinet, including a well-known racist who serves as the US Attorney General.

He was put there by a Republican Party that, with the help of Russia, cobbled together just enough electoral votes to allow him to take office. Trump’s supporters could not have been surprised by his racist leanings. After all, he was the de facto leader of the “birther” movement. And he began his campaign with the promise to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. His voters had to know full well that Trump intended to target minorities, such as Latinos, Muslims, African-Americans and the LGBTQ community.

Republican voters also had to know that Trump’s positions were shared by many, if not most, of the Republican congressional and senate candidates. That fact was made clear by their hateful political campaigns and the legislation they supported.

For example, throughout the country, Republicans passed restrictive voter ID laws to suppress minority votes. In minority areas, they shortened early voting periods and reduced the number of polling sites. They used Gerrymandering to reduce the number and power of minorities in Congress and state legislatures. They passed so-called religious freedom laws making it legal for employers to discriminate against non-Christians and others. They blocked increases in the minimum wage that would disproportionately help minorities. And they refused to provide funding to clean up water in Flint, Michigan and on Native American lands.

Since 1986, Republicans in Congress have refused to vote on a comprehensive immigration bill. They refused to protect the Dreamers, forcing President Obama to create DACA via presidential order. Worse, they turned their backs on refugees whose only crime is to attempt to escape violence and poverty in their own countries…conditions that are often the result of US policies.

Just this year, the Trump administration has banned travel from several Muslim nations. It has begun breaking up families and harming employers by deporting undocumented immigrants. It has returned mothers and children to Central America where they are almost certain to become victims of widespread violence. The administration has banned transgender people from serving in the military. It has announced the end of DAPA and DACA. And it has targeted affirmative action programs that help high-achieving minority students gain entrance to universities.

All of this has happened with the support, or acquiescence, of the Republican-controlled Congress. Even when Trump refused to hold white supremacists accountable for the violence in Charlottesville, few Republicans were willing to speak up and denounce their party’s leader.

So tell me: What is the difference between the alt-right and the right? What is the difference between rank-and-file Republicans and white supremacists?

Looking at their actions, it seems clear that they all support racist policies. The only real difference is that one group waves Nazi and Confederate flags while the others hide behind their desks or their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

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.