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 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.

How Low Can He Go?

Every few days, we are given a new reminder of the character of the man who now occupies the White House (at least when he’s not taking a government-paid golf vacation at one of his own resorts).

Before the 2016 election, we knew that Donald Trump was a womanizer – thrice married and involved in more extramarital affairs than we could count. From the Access Hollywood “grab ’em by the pussy” tapes and his appearances on Howard Stern’s radio show, we knew he was a misogynist. And from the Panama Papers where his name appeared in tax haven documents more than 3,500 times, we knew he was a tax evader.

We knew that he was a racist who had been taught to hate people of color from an early age by his KKK member parents. We knew he viewed those less fortunate than he with contempt – “it’s a matter of breeding.” We knew that he considered brown people from south of our border as rapists and thugs. We knew about his racist “birtherism.” And we knew that he attacked a federal judge for his Mexican heritage.

From reports by investigative journalists, we knew that the Donald had a long history of connections with organized crime. From hundreds of court cases, we knew that he had built his empire on the backs of small businesses that he refused to pay for their services. We knew that he was no business genius for having failed to make money with casinos – casinos for God’s sake! And his pathological narcissism was obvious thanks to the enormous letters spelling out his name on each of his gaudy resorts and office buildings.

We knew that Trump was a bully who used his lawyers to threaten anyone who refused to go along with his plans or raised questions about his numerous failures. We knew that he was a con man, having defrauded hundreds of people through scams such as Trump “University.” We knew that he funneled monies intended for charity into his own pockets through his Trump Foundation.

As a political candidate, we knew that he disrespected and attacked the very institutions our nation was built on. We knew that he bullied and threatened the news media, calling them “enemies of the people.” We knew that he verbally attacked a Gold Star family. We knew that he encouraged violence against peaceful demonstrators. We knew that he threatened to “lock up” his political opponent. And we knew that he had little understanding of the issues of governance.

But, despite all this, a minority of Americans voted for him anyway.

And what has happened in the year since Trump took office? He has continued to reveal even more of his character – or, more precisely, his lack of character. He has lied at an astonishing rate, beginning with the size of his inaugural crowd. He defended white supremacists as “nice people” while demeaning those who stood against them. He has expressed great admiration for leaders who are dictators and fascists. He has appointed unqualified ideologues to lead government agencies with the express purpose of undermining the agencies and ultimately destroying them.

Trump has engaged in a Twitter war with the leader of a nation that poses a nuclear threat to us by claiming that his nuclear button is bigger. Never mind the millions who will certainly die if the two actually get into a dick-measuring contest.

He has dragged down America’s standing with virtually every nation on the planet. He has offended a large portion of the world population by openly asking why the US takes so many immigrants from “shithole” countries like Haiti and those in Africa instead of those from countries like Norway. And he has threatened the very existence of our planet with his ignorance about climate change.

Despite promises to help working Americans and to “drain the swamp,” Trump led the Wall Street-backed charge to pass a tax cut for billionaires and large, multinational corporations paid for by the poor and future generations.

The most recent example of the new standard of behavior Trump has set for the office is the revelation that Trump’s lawyer paid off a porn star to buy her silence regarding his extramarital affair with her. Nevertheless, details of him chasing her around the room in his tightie whities came out anyway. And, in a particularly telling testament to Trump’s character, the porn industry has expressed concern that the association with Trump might tarnish its image and negatively impact its finances!

None of this should come as a surprise to any of us. As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them; the first time.” And Trump clearly showed us who he is – a liar, a misogynist, a philanderer, a con artist, a bully, a grifter and a racist who is uniquely unqualified to lead the world’s most powerful nation…or even a banana republic.

His actions should cause us all to ask, “How low can he go?” But since 39 percent of those who voted for Trump still support him, perhaps a better question to ask is, “How low can they go?” Was Trump correct when he bragged “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”?

Why A Third Party Is Unlikely To Win.

I have long wished for a third US political party. Although I mostly agree with the Democratic Party on issues, in my view, the party’s unelected leadership is largely incompetent and strategically clueless. On the other hand, I believe the Republican Party is just flat-out crazy!

With a third party in Congress, it’s unlikely that a single party could hold a majority. That means that, in order to govern, the majority party would have to rely on votes from the other parties. It could permanently end ideological stand-offs. Congressional representatives might have to actually do what they were elected to do…to represent their constituents.

Unfortunately, I believe the chances of a viable third party are slim and none.

It’s not enough for a third party to field candidates for president and Congress. To be truly viable, a third party would need to field candidates for governors, legislators, county commissioners, sheriffs and even school boards. Even more important, it would take organization at every level. It would take volunteers to help get the candidates’ names on the ballots and volunteers to help turn out the votes. It would take extensive, and expensive, media campaigns. And it would take donations – not just from activists – from lobbyists, organizations, corporations, PACs, and billionaires.

It’s impossible to imagine that a third party can accomplish all of that over one or two voting cycles. Or even over a period of one or two decades.
Until a third party can claw its way up to an equal footing with the two major parties, votes for third party presidential candidates tend to benefit those candidates who are most ideologically opposed to the beliefs of third-party voters.

For example, the votes recorded for the Green Party (environmental) candidate in 2016, Jill Stein, likely came from voters more aligned with the beliefs of Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. In reality, by withholding their votes from Clinton, the Stein voters helped elect an administration that is methodically destroying environmental protections of all kinds.

Another obstacle for a third party is the difficulty in creating a policy platform broad enough to appeal to a large group of voters. Too many voters are focused on a single issue – the environment, education, immigration, taxes, abortion, limited government, etc. Even the two major parties have struggled with that.

For many years, the GOP was merely the opposition party until the billionaires and multinational corporations who benefit from the party’s economic policies were able to coalesce voters (primarily Southern and rural voters) around social issues such as abortion and fear of the “other” (blacks, immigrants, and Muslims).

Likewise, the Democrats have struggled to maintain and inspire their diverse base of voters fighting for civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, education, health care, and economic fairness. Depending upon the candidate, the party has a difficult time turning out its supporters for many elections – in effect, handing those elections to Republicans.

In reality, it is more likely that we can enact real change by dropping the dream of a third party and work to change the existing parties from within. That means getting involved and making our voices heard. It means speaking up for the issues that are important to you. It means donating to a party and its candidates. It means holding the party accountable. It means voting – not just in the general elections, but in the primary elections, too. And, most of all, it means a willingness to compromise – to not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Without the involvement of a large majority of eligible voters, it’s all too likely that we’ll continue to be governed by oligarchs, ideologues, the unqualified and the unprepared.

An Open Letter To Democratic Party Leaders.

For most of my life, I was registered as an independent. Nevertheless, I faithfully voted for Democrats, and even helped create advertising for a few Democratic candidates. Then, in 2006, recognizing that I could never vote for a Republican, I registered as a Democrat.

I threw myself into politics. I contributed to and campaigned for Democratic candidates. For many years, I served as president of a local Democratic organization. I served on the board of two other Democratic groups. I participated in state Democratic meetings. Even though we received no help from the state or national Democratic Party, I donated time and money to help produce Democratic Perspective, a liberal radio show that is available on podcast. And I published two books at my own cost to debunk accepted Republican lies.

However, following the party’s abandonment of due process in forcing the resignation of Senator Franken, I AM DONE! I WILL NO LONGER CONTRIBUTE TO THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY.

Though it has been blessed with many good candidates, for years, the party has shown no strategy, no leadership, no message and, most of all, no spine! Although it has been accused of being a party of identity politics, it more accurately has become an incoherent party of victimhood. It seems to be comprised of disparate groups who have experienced some form of injustice, but otherwise share little in common. And, when they feel wronged, they lash out at everyone, including those in the party who support them. This was made clear when Democratic women lashed out at Franken based on spurious allegations by women – most of them anonymous – who had an apparent ax to grind. This is despite the fact that Franken has been a reliable champion of women’s rights!

This attitude of victimhood is perpetuated by the party’s messaging, which mostly consists of “Republicans said/did something stupid, send us money.” Even worse, the party continues to take pride in describing itself with the words of Will Rogers: “I am not a member of an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” And, at a time when people in the center of the nation complain about “coastal elites,” look at those who are the most powerful Democratic representatives – a New York senator who quite literally looks down his nose at others through his glasses and an extremely wealthy California congresswoman who reeks of entitlement.

Meanwhile, Republicans have created a clear brand message of “limited government, lower taxes.” Like it or not, it’s a brand that most voters can repeat. But when you ask a hundred Democrats about their party’s message, you get a hundred different answers.

The Democratic Party has been outmaneuvered in every conceivable way! Conservatives now control virtually all of talk radio. They have taken corporate control of most other media. They control most of the nation’s statehouses. They control most of the PACs that fund campaigns. They have successfully gerrymandered and suppressed Democratic votes. When Democrats were in power, Republicans successfully blocked judicial appointments. And now that they control the White House, the US House of Representatives, the US Senate and the US Supreme Court, as well as many federal courts, Republicans are executing their long-time strategy to cut funding to any government program that doesn’t benefit the oligarchs.

And how has the Democratic Party leadership responded? They have buckled under pressure. They have formed circular firing squads that assign blame to their own members. And they have split the party into two distinct wings that may result in a third party that will hand perpetual control to Republicans.

Though I am personally done with Democratic Party politics, you still have an opportunity to enact change. But, given the many structural issues you now face, it will take a concerted and cohesive effort that is monumental in scope. Without that, not even the impeachment of Trump, Pence, Ryan and McConnell and the changing demographics of America can save the party.

Good luck. You will need it!

This Should Explain A Lot.

As the GOP Congress continues to push a tax plan that is based on the lie that it will create jobs by cutting taxes on large corporations and the very wealthy, I think it’s important to understand how the tax “reform” plan came about. In reality, it was spawned decades ago by the libertarian billionaires who now fund Republican candidates. And it was released on an unsuspecting public by the conservative-controlled Supreme Court with its rulings in the Buckley v Valeo and Citizens United v FEC.

In the first of these decisions, the Court ruled that money = free speech. In effect, that gave the wealthy the ability to choose political candidates. In the second case, the Court ruled that corporations = people. And, since large corporations are controlled by wealthy executives and shareholders, the decision gave them even more power to choose candidates and to sway election results.

Not surprisingly, the Koch brothers and a few other billionaires seized the opportunity.

Until those Supreme Court decisions, the Kochs, Sheldon Adelson, the Mercer family, the Prince family, the DeVos family, and others had, for the most part, been unable to buy elections. Even when David Koch ran for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980, he could not use his billions to gather votes. So he chose a different strategy. He vowed to use his money to place candidates in state and local offices then bide his time until those people could work their way into higher offices.

The Supreme Court decisions gave him the opportunity to accomplish in a few years what might have taken decades.

Billionaires and corporations now control more than 30 state legislatures through the American Legislative Exchange Council, which writes most of their legislation. Billionaire-sponsored candidates now control the US Senate and the House of Representatives. Billionaire-backed candidates have proliferated in the court system. And with the help of the Russians, a billionaire-backed candidate now sits behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. (At least when he’s not golfing or spending his time – and taxpayer money – at one of his resorts.)

Given all of this, it seems that a look at David Koch’s Libertarian Party platform from 1980 might shed further light onto the GOP tax plan and the GOP vision for the future of the United States. Here are some excerpts from that platform:

• “We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.”
• “We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
• “We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.”
• “We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.”
• “We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.”
• “We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages governmental surveillance of private correspondence. Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service.”
• “We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”
• “We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”
• “As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”
• “We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.”
• “We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”
• “We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.”
• “We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.”
• “We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”
• “We support abolition of the Department of Energy.”
• “We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.”
• “We demand the return of America’s railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”
• “We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called “self-protection” equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.”
• “We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
• “We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.”
• “We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.”
• “We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.”
• “We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.”
• “We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”
• “We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
• “We support the repeal of all state usury laws.”

The Putin-led meddling in the 2016 elections by the Russians represents a very real threat to our democracy. But no greater threat than that of our billionaire-controlled GOP government.

Manafort = Trump’s Mini-Me.

Former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his business partner, Rick Gates, have been indicted with 12 counts including conspiracy against the US, conspiracy to launder money, false statements and failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. These are serious charges and, likely, they would not have been filed if the special counsel was not certain that he could obtain convictions.

As serious as those charges are, it’s important to note that Trump could well be guilty of many of the same things.

With regard to money laundering. Trump mysteriously received multi-million-dollar loans from Deutsche Bank – a bank fine $10 billion for Russian money laundering – after failing to obtain business loans from every large bank in the US. In addition, Trump sold multiple properties to Russian oligarchs at prices dramatically higher than market value.

As for failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, Trump’s name appeared 3,450 times in the Panama Papers – leaked documents that exposed financial accounts associated with offshore tax havens. It’s possible that his name appears simply because of the wide range of his international business activities. But why else would his name be listed if he was not involved in tax evasion?

Though Manafort’s indictment doesn’t include criminal activity with criminal mob figures, it has been reported that Manafort has ties to Russian mobsters. Likewise, it has been long reported that Trump has ties to mobsters. Indeed, given the fact that he is a developer in New York City and in New Jersey, it would be surprising if he didn’t.

Both Trump and Manafort have enjoyed lavish lifestyles. And both men have faced financial setbacks – failures that made them desperate enough to engage in illegal activity.

And though Manafort is charged with conspiracy against the US based on his failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, serving as an unregistered agent of the pro-Russian government of Ukraine, and false and misleading statements regarding the foreign agent registration act, it pales by comparison to potential charges against Trump.

Trump’s conspiracy likely involves working with a US rival to undermine our democracy and to steal the highest office in the land. So far, much of the evidence is circumstantial, but that evidence is overwhelming.

Consider the number of Trump associates who reportedly have ties to Russia: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn Sr, Michael Flynn Jr, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Carter Page, Roger Stone, Felix Sater, Michael Cohen, Erik Prince, and Donald J. Trump himself.

America first? More like Russia first.

Keeping Track Of The Trump/GOP Agenda.

Voters and the media are all too aware of The Donald’s Twitter rants and the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in last year’s election. But while we’ve been distracted by the noise, here’s what Trump and the GOP have been doing in the shadows and away from the spotlight:

They passed and signed a bill overturning an Obama initiative to prevent the mentally ill from purchasing guns.

Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the United States from the Paris accords on climate change. We are now one of only 3 nations in the world – the others are Syria and Nicaragua – who are not part of the effort. And Nicaragua only refused to sign because they didn’t think the effort went far enough.

The administration has empowered ICE to arrest and deport thousands of undocumented workers, which has resulted in the separation of families and made it difficult for fruit and vegetable growers to find enough help for harvest.

Trump announced the end of DACA for the “Dreamers” who were brought to the US as children. Now the White House is making funding of a border wall a condition for signing a new bill that would allow Dreamers to stay in the US – the only country they know.

Trump pardoned former sheriff Joe Arpaio who was convicted for criminal contempt of court after refusing to stop racial profiling of Latinos. Arpaio also boasted of running a “concentration camp” for prisoners. Some even died while in custody.

Trump praised the actions of extreme dictators in Russia, Turkey and the Philippines.

Trump refused to denounce Nazis and white supremacists for the violence in Charlottesville while, at the same time, giving them a voice in the administration.

The DOJ announced that it is ending a program to track domestic terrorists.

They dramatically increased defense spending despite audits that have shown extensive waste and a lack of DOD oversight.

They attempted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with parliamentary tricks and no debate – an action that would have drastically cut Medicaid, defunded Planned Parenthood, and denied health care access to tens of millions of Americans.

They cut payments to insurance companies that compensate them for losses created by the pent-up demand for health care of new ACA enrollees.

After Congress failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the administration defunded publicity campaigns for ACA enrollment and shortened the enrollment period in an attempt to reduce participation in the ACA marketplaces.

Trump signed an executive order to further undercut the ACA by allowing insurance companies to offer bare bones plans that will effectively encourage the youngest and healthiest people to leave the program and make it financially impossible for insurance companies to offer affordable coverage to those who most need it, especially those with pre-existing conditions.

Trump cut subsidies to help pay the cost of health insurance for low income Americans.

Trump is also considering incentives for employers to set aside money to help employees pay insurance premiums, a move designed to allow them to end traditional employee insurance benefits.

Congress has thus far failed to extend CHIP, which provides health care to millions of poor children who are not eligible for public assistance.

The House passed a bill which would cut $39 billion from SNAP, the food stamp program for the poor.

The House passed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks and making doctors vulnerable to prison.

They have packed the court system with young, extreme right-wing, anti-choice judges and justices.

Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution by profiting from foreign guests staying in his Washington, DC hotel.

Trump signed an executive order which allows employers to deny contraceptive coverage to employees forcing tens of thousands of women to pay for contraceptives themselves.

The EPA announced it is ending the Obama era clean energy rules which is designed to replace dirty fuels that contribute to climate change.

The EPA and NASA removed all references to climate change from their websites.

The administration increased the number of mining and oil drilling leases on federal lands, which will allow uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed.

The administration has refused to protect Walruses under the Endangered Species Act. At the same time, the administration is considering delisting Gray Wolves, Grizzly Bears and other species.

Trump has waged a name-calling war against the leader of North Korea, putting us on the precipice of nuclear war. Even if only conventional weapons are involved, millions of people would die on the Korean peninsula.

Trump restored many of the Cold War era restrictions on Cuba.

Trump’s proposed budget would make deep cuts to most government agencies, including Health & Human Services, the EPA, the State Department, the Agriculture Department, the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Institutes of Health, the Commerce Department, the Education Department, HUD, the Department of Transportation, the Department of the Interior and FEMA.

Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate numerous programs, including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants and programs that support coastal and marine management. It would cut funding for new transit programs, Amtrak, the UN’s Green Climate Fund, and the Clean Power Plan.

Trump’s proposed budget would make deep cuts to the popular Meals on Wheels program for shut-ins.

Trump has decided to “decertify” the treaty with Iran – an action that will almost certainly accelerate Iran’s nuclear program.

The Interior Department has proposed cutting the number and size of our national monuments.

The administration has proposed opening the Arctic, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to oil drilling.

Congress and the administration have proposed a tax “reform” bill that will give massive cuts to multinational corporations and the wealthy, provide a tax “holiday” for corporations that have stashed billions offshore to evade taxes, and eliminate the Estate Tax which only affects the very wealthy.

If you don’t think all of that is bad enough, consider the fact that the Trump-led GOP also hopes to replace public education with for-profit private schools, to replace our efficient Medicare program with vouchers and to privatize Social Security, effectively ending safety nets for the elderly and the poor. Or consider the millions spent on Trump’s weekly golf outings at his own properties. Or the millions spent on personal trips in private jets by his cabinet members.

This administration and this Congress are quietly doing everything in their power to undermine the health of our nation, our planet and the well-being of its citizens, except the most wealthy and the most powerful. My advice to voters and the media alike: Stop being outraged by Trump’s Twitter rages and start paying attention to the actions that he and his government are taking behind the scenes.

Dear Democrats:

I am writing this open letter to the Democratic Party’s leadership in hopes that they might better understand the obstacles they face.

Every day, I receive a series of emails, tweets and Facebook posts asking me to sign the petition du jour. I don’t mean to demean the issues the petitions are intended to address. They are real. And they are important. But I must question their intent. Because, after I sign them, I immediately receive a request for money. Such requests make me question the party’s intentions. Are you serious about the issues? Or are you merely using the issues to raise campaign funds for the next election?

I suspect the answer is both. I also expect that the priority is money.

Whatever your answer, the mere fact that anyone has to ask the question points to the weakness of your communications (or, as political insiders refer to it, “messaging”). To be blunt, your messaging sucks. (“A Republican said or did something stupid, send us money” is not a winning communications strategy.) Compared to Republicans – even during the Trump era – your messaging is intermittent and incoherent. That’s because there is no cohesive leadership. And that’s because there is no single entity that can be called the Democratic Party.

There are many.

There is the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren wing that passionately fights for the little guy. There is the Barack Obama wing that is more thoughtful and sees national politics through the lens of international issues. And there is the Bill Clinton wing that is so centrist it would strike a bargain with the devil (i.e. right-wing Republicans) if it led to another “win.”

In reality, there are dozens of factions within the Democratic Party – each focused on specific issues which include civil rights, LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, veteran’s rights, environment, economic equality, labor unions, education…the list is very, very long. Each of these factions wants to make its issue the party’s priority. And, too often, if the members of a particular faction don’t get their way, they effectively boycott the election.

That’s why, for as long as I have been a registered Democrat, I have heard others quote Will Rogers: “I am not a member of an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” If it’s not already obvious to you, this is a significant problem.

It’s why, even though she won 3 million more votes, Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election. And it’s why despite the fact that a significant majority of Americans support Democratic positions on most of the issues, Republicans now control the House of Representatives, the Senate and a majority of statehouses.

Yes, it’s true that Republican control is also the result of a number of other factors such as gerrymandering, voter suppression, right-wing radio, Fox News Channel, the Kochtopus of dark money organizations, and voter turnout – especially during mid-term elections. This latter issue is a direct result of the Democratic Party’s fractionalization and lack of coherent messaging.

Your own registered voters aren’t motivated enough to vote!

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.

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.”