Republicans Are The Masters Of False Equivalency.

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

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

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

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

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

That should give everyone pause.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Democrats Lose Despite Having A Majority.

The 2016 presidential election again demonstrated that a majority of US voters align with Democrats. Hillary Clinton did, after all, win the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. Had she not lost 5 key battleground states by a total of approximately 100,000 votes, she would be president. And Combover Hitler would be relegated to an ugly footnote in American history.

In fact, in 2 of the last 3 elections won by a Republican, Democrats received a majority of the votes cast. That was made possible by a combination of voter suppression, Republican gerrymandering and the antiquated Electoral College (a vote in the sparsely populated state of Wyoming is worth many times that of a vote in California or New York).

Further, Republicans have a structural advantage when it comes to the news media, especially in rural areas. Since the end of the Fairness Doctrine, right wing conservatives have been able to spew their lies, conspiracy theories and anti-government hate with impunity on AM talk radio and Fox News Channel. They have also created numerous websites that cloak ideology in the guise of news.

Moreover, Republicans have unified while Democrats bicker among themselves. If elected Republican officials dare to vote their conscience against the wishes of the Party, they are labeled RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) and they are faced with well-financed candidates who are even more conservative during the primaries. Democrats, on the other hand, have difficulty keeping their members in line. Indeed, they have long taken pride in describing themselves with a line by Will Rogers – “I’m not a member of an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

In addition, when in office, Democrats have been unwilling to do anything that will cause substantial harm to the nation. Unlike Republicans, they have not used the filibuster to block every initiative of a presidential opponent. They have not shut down the government. And they have been far less likely to use parliamentary tricks in order to get their way.

Far too often, voters are left with the feeling that Democrats do not have the courage of their convictions.

Of course, Democratic voters are not blameless for the mess we now face. For decades, they have been willing to turn out in large numbers for presidential races. But many have failed to vote in local and state elections – a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by Republican leaders who for decades have focused their attention on such races with the knowledge that candidates who are successful at the local level eventually become successful in more important races.

It is this strategy that has allowed Republicans to control statehouses and governorships across the country. And, in turn, that allows Republicans to pass laws to gerrymander districts and to pass laws that suppress the votes of minority voters who traditionally vote against them. In these efforts, they are aided by greedy corporations that use ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) to pass one-sided legislation that undermines working class voters.

During such assaults on our democracy, the leaders of the Democratic Party have remained relatively silent, choosing to believe that the future is in their favor; that the growing numbers of people of color, especially Latinos will turn the tide.

Don’t count on it. Because of the structural imbalance in the media, far too few people understand what Democrats stand for. They can tell you that Republicans stand for “smaller government and lower taxes.” But if you ask 100 people, even 100 Democrats, what Democrats stand for, you’re likely to get 100 different answers. Worse, the most common answer will be the label created by Republicans – “tax and spend Democrats .”

Given these obstacles, what are Democrats to do?

First, quit apologizing for your beliefs whenever you are confronted by conservatives. You are on the side of working people – the largest group of American voters. You also have a great track record. After all, it was Democrats that passed Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. It was Democrats that rescued our economy from the Great Depression and the Great Recession. It is Democrats that have been the party of fiscal responsibility while Republicans have blithely rung up huge deficits and debts.

Second, show that you have the courage of your convictions. Show that you are willing to fight for the people who elect you.

Third, vote! Don’t sit out any election. And don’t let any Republican candidate go unchallenged. Don’t concede a single federal, state or local office to a Republican just because you think you might lose. History is filled with accounts of long shots who have won elections and gone on to accomplish great things.

Fourth, stop bickering among yourselves. Support those who will support the majority of your beliefs. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good. You may not think a particular Democratic leader or candidate is perfect. But they’re almost certainly better than the Republican alternative. (How many of those who voted for the Green Party now wish they would have voted for Clinton?)

Fifth, police the candidates who run under the Party banner. Don’t support a candidate who doesn’t, for the most part, toe the Party line. You don’t have to agree with everything a candidate says, but you should be able to agree with a majority of what the candidate says.

Sixth, and most important, communicate your beliefs. Make the label Democrat stand for something. Make your message succinct, clear and memorable. Then plaster that message everywhere. In other words, create a brand!

Then, and only then, will the Party that represents the majority of Americans control the majority of elected offices.

Let’s Not Over-Analyze Trump’s Victory.

Despite the blame being heaped onto the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party, I believe it was never a fair contest. Hillary was outgunned by a biased media; by a partisan FBI director; and by Russian interference. But even without those things, Hillary may have fallen victim, as did Trump’s primary opponents, to the cultural changes that have taken place over the past five decades.

Those who voted for Trump simply wanted to throw a live grenade into Washington without regard for the aftermath. They have been enticed by a right-wing ideology that has destroyed respect for America’s greatest institutions – the federal government, the court system, traditional news media, science, and public education.

Contrary to popular belief, Trump voters were not merely blue collar workers who are struggling as the result of globalization. In fact, many of Trump’s supporters are comfortably retired, or are quite wealthy. These people were driven to vote for Trump out of the fear that they will lose their power and wealth to immigrants and people of color. Indeed, for many, President Obama was the embodiment of that fear.

Certainly, there is also the rural-urban divide that has been much discussed. But that is based on economic conditions that no president or administration can easily solve. It has followed the demise of the family farmer. Since the 1960’s, the size of farms has grown by ten-fold. As a consequence, there are far fewer people to shop in small towns.

In addition, franchise organizations and large box stores like Walmart, which are subsidized by governments, have used predatory pricing to hollow out the retail centers of small and medium-sized towns. That means there are far fewer independent retailers, and far fewer small-town jobs that pay a living wage.

At the same time, robots have replaced human workers in auto plants and other manufacturing plants.

Those who once worked in rural communities and mid-size cities have been left with a choice: Either continue to struggle, or give up the only lifestyle they have known and move to the large urban centers. These people are angry…at their former employers, at their government, and at what they see as the urban “elites” who seem to be do doing much better than they are.

Obviously, their anger is misplaced. But they have fallen victim to the new GOP’s message of fear – fear of those they don’t know and don’t understand. And their fear is driven by Republican propaganda on Fox News; on right-wing radio; on Breitbart News; on social media. During this past election, they were also deluded by a plethora of fake news sites – many of them financed by Putin’s Russia.

Addressing their anger and their plight will not be easy. Jobs lost to corporate farms, big box stores and robots will not be coming back. And adding tariffs to goods from our international trading partners, as Trump suggests, will only make matters worse by increasing the cost of the goods they need.

No president can wave a wand and bring back family farms and restore small towns to their former glory. That would take an act of Congress to end subsidies for corporate farms; to make multinational corporations pay their fair share of taxes; to make the wealthy pay their share of income taxes. But those things are anathema to those who now control Congress and the White House. Instead, they are committed to trickle-down economics on steroids – an economic theory that has never worked.

Given that reality, it seems likely that the new government will have to distract their angry rural supporters by creating a diversion. It’s likely they will try to re-focus the anger toward immigrants; toward Muslims; toward Planned Parenthood.

Oh wait! They’ve already done that. That’s how they got elected to begin with!

Worse Than Watergate.

During the 1972 presidential race, Republican operatives known as the “plumbers” were caught breaking into the Democratic National Party (DNC) headquarters. Working on behalf of President Nixon, their intent was to rig the election. The break-in and ensuing cover-up led to the threatened impeachment of the president and, ultimately, his resignation.

Embarrassed and furious at losing the White House, Republicans have been looking for payback ever since.

More than anything else, the Republicans’ desire for payback was what drove the sweeping and nearly decade-long investigation into Whitewater, “Travelgate”, “Fostergate” and “Filegate”, which culminated in impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton for lying under oath about his relationship with a White House intern. And it didn’t end there. With each allegation against a Democratic official, Republicans are fond of saying that the actions are “worse than Watergate.”

That is especially true of any hint of scandal involving the Clintons.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Republican accusations regarding the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s use of a private email server have all resulted in the claim that the events are “worse than Watergate.”

Of course, those claims are entirely untrue. But there is one scandal that may, indeed, be worse than Watergate.

I’m referring to the hacks and subsequent release of emails from the DNC, from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair – John Podesta. The hacks accomplished what Nixon’s plumbers failed to do – by allowing the GOP to sort through thousands of stolen documents in search of embarrassing details and their opponents’ campaign strategies. Worse yet, the NSA and CIA have determined that the hacks were executed by a foreign government – Russia – seeking to affect the outcome of our election.

Ignoring Democratic outrage, journalists have written relatively little about it. Other than Donald Trump’s call for Russia to hack Hillary’s private emails, Republicans have remained eerily silent about the matter. And, unlike the Washington Post’s sustained investigation by Woodward and Bernstein, the media briefly reported the story then refocused their attention on Hillary’s use of a private email server.

It’s almost as if the hacks, and a foreign government’s meddling in our presidential election, never really happened. Perhaps it’s because the media don’t know how to pursue the story. Perhaps they don’t feel they have the time or resources to do so. Perhaps they don’t know how to find and cultivate their own version of “Deep Throat.”

If so, that’s particularly troubling. Because a comedian did.

Despite lacking the resources of a major news organization, Samantha Bee and her crew were able to find and interview two Russians who could provide insight into the matter. They stated that they, and hundreds of other Russian hackers, have been hired by the Russian government to meddle in the US election by disseminating false information and memes on social media in support of Donald Trump.

Take a moment to reflect on that – a foreign government which is one of our long-time adversaries is meddling in our presidential election on behalf of one candidate. For what reason? What does Russia hope to gain? What should we know about that candidate’s relationship with Russia and its leaders? What impact would Trump’s election have on our nation’s foreign policy? What impact would Trump’s election have on our national security? What, if any, connection does the meddling have to do with the previous hack of the State Department’s email server (the government server that was hacked while Secretary Clinton’s private server was not)?

Is not the theft of private documents from one of our two major political parties a bigger story than a former Secretary of State using private emails to communicate with her staffers as her predecessors had done?

Many things have changed since Watergate. And few of the changes are good.

The Politics Of Accusations, Conspiracy Theories And Propaganda.

When FBI Director James Comey announced last week that the FBI was reviewing emails that could be pertinent to the Hillary Clinton case, it was quickly publicized by GOP congressmen as the FBI “re-opening the investigation of the Clinton private email server.” That, in fact, was untrue. The new announcement was referring to the discovery of emails on former congressman Anthony Wiener’s laptop which was shared with his wife, assistant to Clinton, that MAY have a bearing on the Clinton case – emphasis on MAY. The FBI had not yet read the emails in question – indeed it had no warrant to do so – so it could not conclude that the emails provided any new insights into the original case.

There was nothing to indicate a change in the FBI’s original conclusion that there was no evidence that Clinton had committed a crime, and no reason to prosecute the former Secretary of State. Yet the media and Republicans quickly turned Comey’s vague announcement into yet another unsubstantiated accusation against the Democratic presidential candidate.

That’s what the GOP and Donald Trump do best – make accusations against Hillary based on supposition, innuendo and wild conspiracy theories. And the media did what they do best – seeing a story that could increase ratings and readership, they pounced on it. Reading the headlines alone, one would have concluded that the FBI had found a smoking gun showing that Hillary was guilty of a crime. There were even headlines suggesting that she would be impeached should she win the White House! Following the sensational reports, the media then tried to backtrack in order to give the impression that they were functioning as real journalists. But the damage had already been done.

Before we all jump to conclusions, we should all do what the media should have done…take a deep breath and look at the facts.

For context, you should know that most levels of the federal government are technically challenged. Case in point: When President Obama took office, he wanted to continue to use a Blackberry so that he could manage all of his communications on a single device. The NSA originally told the president that his request could not be met. But, after much discussion, the NSA found a way to make it possible while keeping the president’s communications secure.

Upon her appointment to Secretary of State, Clinton asked for the same kind of system. But the NSA refused. So Clinton did something similar to what her predecessors had done. She chose to use her own email server in order to keep all of her unclassified communications on a single device – a server that she shared with her husband, a former president of the United States. (It should be noted that the server had been approved by the Secret Service and though the official State Department email system was hacked during Hillary’s tenure, there is no evidence to indicate that Clinton server was hacked.)

It is also important to note that all official State Department business is conducted by secured phones, diplomatic pouches or by wire. Emails are simply used for correspondence between State Department employees. And Hillary’s email was only used by her closest associates.

Given that it was well-known that Hillary intended to run for president again in 2016, it’s easy to see why her emails were of such curiosity to the GOP. It is equally easy to understand why she would delete any personal emails that would reveal details of her impending political campaign.

Though she has stated that she regrets using a private server and has publicly apologized for it, there is absolutely no indication that she compromised national security or broke the law. But her actions and the subsequent refusal of the FBI to recommend charges, have made for a good conspiracy theory invented by the GOP and reported by the sensation-seeking press.

In fact, it’s like all of the other GOP-created accusations against Clinton: Whitewater, Travelgate, Fostergate and Benghazigate. They all consist of wild accusations with little substance. That’s why, though the accusations have been thoroughly investigated at the cost of hundreds of millions of taxpayer money, no charges have ever been filed.

Yet, based on the belief that where there’s smoke there’s fire, suspicion and innuendo fueled by Republicans and the media have hung over the Clintons like a cloud.

For some reason, the same kinds of suspicion are seldom applied to Republicans. For example, the four Republican congressmen who led the charge to impeach President Bill Clinton for lying under oath about his dalliance with a White House intern were, themselves, guilty of the very same kind of transgressions or worse. One, former Speaker Dennis Hastert, was found guilty of child molestation.

And during this presidential campaign, the very same people who yell “lock her up” at Trump rallies are more than willing to ignore even worse accusations about their own candidate. Donald Trump is facing multiple accusations of sexual assault, having even bragged about them in an off-camera recording. He is also accused of having highly questionable financial ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin. Worse, he is facing multiple legal cases against the Trump Foundation and Trump University. And, while Hillary is endorsed by virtually every major newspaper and media outlet in the US, Trump is endorsed by the KKK and the Alt-Right.

Further, Trump refuses to follow decades of precedence and release his tax returns. He has all but admitted that he used some highly questionable loopholes to avoid paying nearly a billion dollars in taxes. He has reported ties to the mob. Worst of all, he is being sued for raping a 13-year-old girl!

These aren’t mere accusations. These are charges of substance. And they make the accusations against Hillary pale in comparison. But, for some unexplained reason, instead of cringing in horror at the actions of the tangerine one, supposed Christians have circled the wagons around a candidate that violates every single value they claim to espouse.

Go figure.

Another Day. Another Police Shooting.

The current unrest in Charlotte as a result of yet another police shooting should come as no surprise to anyone, least of all metropolitan police departments. It’s only the latest in a long line of black men – many of them unarmed – who were shot and killed by police. The Charlotte shooting may well have been a justified shooting (it’s too early to make judgments). But that doesn’t mean that the unrest and rioting in Charlotte are unjustified.

After all, how many studies and investigations have uncovered disparities between the police treatment of whites and blacks? How many police departments have been exposed for racial profiling? How many studies have shown that the causes of crimes are economic rather than racial? How many studies have shown an enormous disparity in wealth and compensation between whites and blacks?

At least fifteen black people have been shot and killed by police – some of them with their hands raised – just since Colin Kaepernick called attention to the issue by refusing to stand for the National Anthem. Yet Kaepernick was vilified by some in the police, the military, and the media. And the Charlotte unrest, following the shootings in Dallas, the unrest in Ferguson and the formation of Black Lives Matter, has caused the clueless and the racist to believe that black people are lawless and get what they deserve.

So here’s my question to these people. Just how long should minorities put up with unequal treatment?

Blacks have already suffered through slavery, Jim Crow, voter suppression, segregation, redlining, discrimination, fewer educational opportunities, and lower wages. They were subjected to lynchings and bombings to gain their civil rights. They have put up with white flight leaving them to pay a disproportionate share of taxes while living in the hollowed out core of cities. They have been targeted for “stop & frisk”. Many of their families were torn apart as a result of disproportionate law enforcement for drug use. And almost all of them have been unlawfully detained for “driving while black”.

So I repeat the question: How much longer should minorities put up with inequality?

The unrest in Charlotte may not be justified by the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott. But it is nonetheless justified. Now, I’m certainly not advocating race riots – far from it. But it’s long past time for governments at all levels of our society to take action against racial inequities; to put some teeth into discrimination laws; to reform policing; to root out racist police officers. And it’s time for white people to stop blaming the messengers like Colin Kaepernick and to look at the message itself; to empathize with the people who are subjected to injustice. If demonstrating in the streets causes others to take notice, great!

Put into perspective, minorities in the US have been extraordinarily patient with the status quo. But their patience is obviously running out. It should.

We Cannot End Political Divisiveness Without First Changing Our Media.

Following the era of so-called “Yellow Journalism” from the early 1900s during which newspapers wrapped themselves in shame by focusing on sensationalism to the point of creating false stories, journalists found their better selves. After the Great Depression and World War II, journalists focused on exposing and reporting the truth. Not coincidentally, during that time period, our nation thrived. For the most part, our politicians and leaders served their constituents’ needs because the media held them accountable.

The truth was more important than readership, ratings and sensationalism.

More recently, especially following the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, our media chose a different path. They became obsessed with profits. That meant they intentionally sought out controversy and sensationalism. “If it bleeds, it leads” became their operating mantra. Real issues – those of politics and governance – were pushed to the background to be replaced by reports of crime and corruption, both real and perceived.

No longer interested in truth, the media instead focused on “balance.” Conflicting views were each handed a microphone and the “journalists” merely sat back to watch the ensuing arguments. This philosophy has now reached its zenith as demonstrated by NBC’s Matt Lauer’s performance at the “Commander-In-Chief” forum. During Hillary Clinton’s interview, he pushed her on already discredited accusations related to Benghazi, her private email server and the Clinton Foundation. Not because he thought he could find anything new of substance, but because they were sensational. On the other hand, when it was Donald Trump’s turn, Lauer asked softball questions refusing even to challenge or expose any of Trump’s many lies.

Lauer was offering viewers balance. What he was denying them was truth.

Such an approach does NOT qualify as journalism. It is mere entertainment, and not very good entertainment at that. It denies viewers the information they need to make informed decisions at the polls. It allows a liar and a bully who has done absolutely nothing to serve our nation to galvanize support. And Matt Lauer is certainly not alone. There are many other faux journalists who either hide behind “balance” or ignore the tenets of objectivity and real journalism to take sides. Worse, it encourages candidates and leaders to lie…to tell people what they want to hear without regard to reality or the facts.

To relate this to a sporting contest, it’s like a football or basketball team that has decided to commit as many fouls as possible in order to win knowing that the officials can’t, or won’t, call them all.

And things are only getting worse. Mainstream media ownership is in the hands of a very few. Thanks to Citizens United, the wealthy and powerful are able to spend virtually unlimited amounts of money to purchase elections. And on-line media has fragmented to such an extent, it is easy for voters to get one-sided “news” that panders to their ideologies.

All of this begs the question, “What can we do?”

The answer is for our citizens to exert some degree of control over the media. To demand that mainstream media replace pundits with journalists and to, once again, focus on the facts and the truth; to hold the media accountable; to demand that any organization that calls itself a news organization to operate in the public interest as judged by a bipartisan commission that includes real journalists; to acknowledge that falsehoods and partisanship do not help our nation. Indeed, they do it great harm. As was the case under the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine, those media outlets that do not meet the standards of the commission should be denied their ability to operate and to collect advertising dollars.

This is not about censorship. It’s about truthfulness. We should teach our children that truth matters then demonstrate it to them.

Fascism, American Style.

Let me begin by stating that I recognize that fascism is a loaded and almost universally misunderstood term. Indeed, it’s one of the F words used to end conversations. But, in most cases, the fascist label is wrongly applied. For example, if you are intolerant of other races and ethnic groups, you may be a bigot. But you are not necessarily a fascist. Or, if, like President Obama, you are a democratically-elected official attempting to act on an agenda you were elected to enact, you are almost certainly not a fascist.

On the other hand, if you believe in extreme nationalism (that your country is always right, regardless of its actions) and that large corporations should necessarily enjoy a special status above that of individuals then you are almost certainly a fascist.

That’s not just my opinion.

It’s based on the words of the man who has been widely recognized as the founder of fascism, Benito Mussolini, who once said, “The definition of fascism is the marriage of corporation and state” and “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism.” Mussolini also believed in an extreme form of nationalism. As the Italian Prime Minister, he demanded complete authority, believing that he was the only person capable of solving his nation’s problems. Yet he decried state ownership of institutions, writing, “It leads only to absurd and monstrous conclusions; state ownership means state monopoly…”

If these beliefs and statements remind you of the GOP vision for America – unfettered free markets, privatization of all public institutions, a belief in “American Exceptionalism”, the co-opting of the American flag as a show of nationalism and party affiliation, a determination to enforce “family values” and a powerful leader who promises to run the nation as a business – they should. By Mussolini’s definition, such views are the very embodiment of fascism.

In fact, thanks to the Republican Party, the US now leans heavily toward fascism. After all, the vast majority of our media are controlled by a very few large corporations. We have begun to privatize our schools, our prisons, even our roads. Large corporations have been allowed to hide their profits offshore to avoid taxes. Defense suppliers have been given no-bid contracts and are allowed to pass billions of dollars in cost overruns along to taxpayers. Our government is not permitted to negotiate the prices of pharmaceuticals on behalf of our citizens. And Republicans have called for the privatization of Social Security and Medicare.

So how did we get here?

First, it should be noted that among certain circles – primarily those including powerful industrialists and financiers – fascism was popular in the US before WWII. But, though it was defeated, the concepts of fascism began to reappear in the US with corporate lobbying and what former President Eisenhower termed “the military-industrial complex.”

The ideology gained traction when Reagan vilified government and attacked labor unions. It was aided by the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine which required media to act in the public interest. It was legalized when the conservative-dominated Supreme Court ruled that money equals free speech, that corporations are people, and that limits on political donations are unconstitutional. And it was institutionalized through the creation of ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) which brings large corporations and legislators together. As part of its charter, ALEC’s corporate lawyers write corporate-friendly bills dubbed “model legislation” then hand them to ALEC’s conservative legislative members who take them back to their respective states – often without reading them – and introduce the bills as if they are their own.

As a result of all this, large corporations and the very wealthy control most of Congress, many state legislatures and many other elected officials. And to ensure future control, the Koch brothers and their associates are using their wealth to meddle in many down-ballot races, including city councils, county boards of supervisors, even school boards.

All of this is bad enough. But what happens if we elect a nationalistic, authoritarian ideologue to the White House who believes government should be run like a business? I shudder to think of the possibility.

A Stark Contrast.

I truly appreciate the views of my conservative friends with regard to politics. After all, I was raised in a reliably Republican household. I believe in eliminating government waste. I believe that people should take responsibility for the own lives and their own actions. Even after the GOP was over-run with religious extremists, I shared many of the party’s beliefs. For most of my life, I was an independent voter.

The party lost me was when the Nixon-Agnew ticket used propaganda and lies to divide us; when Nixon intervened in the Paris peace talks with North Vietnam for political advantage; when the Nixon administration created the War on Drugs for the purpose of marginalizing and incarcerating minorities which were seen as political opponents; when Nixon tried to subvert our democracy by ordering the burglary of the DNC offices in the Watergate complex.

I was further alienated when Ronald Reagan reportedly sent envoys to meet with Iran’s Islamic leaders to delay the release of our embassy hostages until after his election; when the GOP tried to marginalize those who disagreed with its “Moral Majority” presuming that its opponents were immoral; when the Reagan administration eliminated the tax write-offs for interest on loans other than mortgages creating history’s largest tax increase on the middle class; when the Reagan administration trained Central American death squads and was caught selling weapons to Iran in order to meddle in Central American politics.

As someone with a journalism degree, I was horrified when President H.W. Bush engineered the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine – an action that turned our electronic news media into little more than megaphones for the propaganda spewed by Fox News Channel and the rantings of conservative radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and the dozens of other hate-mongers who dominate more than 90 percent of talk radio.

As a former business owner, I was infuriated when my larger competitors received a myriad of GOP-initiated tax breaks and subsidies that were unavailable to my company.

I was shocked when then Florida governor Jeb Bush corrupted the Florida elections that his brother might be awarded the White House – a fact later proven by a consortium of independent media. I was infuriated when, after reading Richard (the Dick) Cheney’s Plan for a New American Century which included a call for the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration acted on the plan based on false and misleading information. I became disgusted when the GOP co-opted the US flag and patriotism by denigrating anyone who opposed its ill-conceived wars.

I could go on to include the vast increases in our national debt caused by Reagan and Bush tax cuts that largely benefited the very rich, the attack on labor unions, the undermining of defined benefit pension plans, the housing crash and subsequent financial collapse of 2008, the utter disregard for the poor and the hungry, the attempts to privatize our public lands – including numerous national treasures – for development, the dismissal of science to maintain the profits of fossil fuel companies at the cost of the health of our planet, and the unfounded and racist attacks on our first black president.

Through all of that, I could still empathize with my conservative relatives and friends and their strongly-held principles of personal responsibility and cutting government waste. But now…now…the party has taken a step way too far.

It has nominated Donald J. Trump for president!

This is a bombastic billionaire who has said and done hundreds of despicable things – any one of which would have disqualified other candidates from pursuing the office. By any traditional measure, he is unfit for the office of dog catcher, let alone the highest office in the land. Following is an abbreviated list:

Family values? Trump is thrice-married and twice-divorced. (Former Senator Gary Hart was famously disqualified for seeking the nomination for a single affair and President Clinton faced impeachment by Republicans over a sexual incident with a White House intern.) He has been accused of a violent rape by one of his ex-wives. He has been accused of sexually assaulting other women, including minors. He has even publicly displayed lechery toward his own daughter, saying if she wasn’t his daughter he’d like to have sex with her!

Demeanor? Trump thrives on name-calling. He encouraged his supporters to assault those who demonstrate against him. And he has talked about physically assaulting those who spoke out against him at the Democratic National Convention.

Patriotism? Trump successfully sought a draft deferment for bone spurs in his foot – an injury that did not prevent him from competing in college athletics. When asked, he said that he couldn’t even remember which foot was injured. He also lied about donating the proceeds of a rally to charity.

Business acumen? Trump inherited much of his wealth yet, even by his own estimation of his wealth, he has earned less than if he had simply invested his inheritance in a stock index fund. He is also one of a very few casino owners who has declared bankruptcy – something previously considered impossible. And he is hated by many in Scotland and Florida for his golf course developments.

Business ethics? He has been involved in thousands of lawsuits – many of them from contractors he refused to pay for their services. He is currently being sued by a girl scout troop that he refused to pay after they performed at a rally. His bankruptcies allowed him to walk away with millions while leaving his creditors – most of them small business owners – in the lurch. And he is currently being sued for fraud over his Trump “University.”

Charity? When it comes to donations to charities, Trump has long been known as a cheapskate and, according to The Washington Post, he has donated precious little to his own Trump Foundation.

Honesty? His acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention contained no fewer than 21 lies! And, according to fact-checking organizations such as Politifact.com, throughout the campaign, he has been the least honest of all of the major party candidates. And it’s not even close.

Empathy? Some have called him a “Blue Collar Billionaire.” Seriously? Is there really such a thing? Trump conducts many of his media interviews while sitting in a gold chair in a gold-decorated penthouse that has more in common with a dictator’s palace than a blue collar family’s home. In addition, he has made numerous racist statements. He is guilty of race-baiting at his rallies. And he famously demeaned a reporter for a physical disability.

Understanding of foreign policy? Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace recently stated that Trump has less knowledge of foreign policy than Sarah Palin! She went on to say that while Palin wanted to learn, but couldn’t, Trump is completely disinterested in the subject. Further, Trump said that the US should exit the WTO (World Trade Organization), a move that would be devastating to US businesses.

Preparedness to lead? Trump has never held office, except in his own corporation. He has no understanding of the workings of our government and no commitment to public service. One has to question if he has even read our Constitution. After all, many of his promises would be blatantly unconstitutional. Maybe that’s why 4 of the last 5 people to receive the GOP nomination for president refused to attend his coronation…er…nomination at the RNC convention. Maybe that’s why the Republican governor of the host state refused to attend. And maybe that’s why none of the living presidents has endorsed him.

Understanding of national security? Trump has stated that he wouldn’t necessarily support our NATO allies against an invasion (presumably by Russia). Worse, he called for Russia to hack the emails of a former cabinet secretary and political opponent! As a result, many in our intelligence community do not want to include him in the customary briefings on national security.

Okay, I know many of my conservative friends and relatives dislike and distrust Hillary. Yes, I know you’ve probably heard accusations that Hillary stole investors’ money in Whitewater; that she unconstitutionally fired those who worked in the White House Travel Office; that she ordered the murder of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster; that she put the US consulate in Benghazi at risk and ordered the military to stand down when it was attacked; that she “illegally” used a private email server for State Department business then, when caught, erased thousands of incriminating emails.

Certainly, Hillary has made mistakes, but they are mistakes made while serving others. Though she misread the commitment of moderate rebels in Libya and Syria, so did most of the world leaders. Though she was horrified at the attack on the consulate, there was no opportunity to save the ambassador and, contrary to right wing claims, she had no authority to tell the military to stand down. Though she admits to making a mistake by using a private email server like her Republican predecessor as Secretary of State, there was no apparent harm done, except to her reputation. And though she has made statements that were later proven false, she is a beacon of honesty compared to her opponent.

Those are not the excuses of an apologist. Those are facts.

Few talk about the many things she has done right during a lifetime of service. Moreover, few people on our planet have undergone such scrutiny as the Clintons. The investigations into the so-called “scandals” have cost roughly $100 million over a quarter century. They have garnered billions of dollars of media coverage in a constant drip, drip, drip that has been orchestrated by her political opponents. Yet, after all of the investigations led by Republicans and government agencies, little of substance has been found – certainly nothing that would disqualify her from seeking the presidency.

Her opponent, on the other hand, constantly demonstrates – with his mouth and his actions – that he is completely unfit for office.

We May Be Living In America’s Golden Age.

Contrary to what some politicians would have you believe, things in the world – and the US in particular – are not bleak. Indeed, a case can be made that things have never been better!

Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square on CNN pointed to statistics compiled by two Harvard professors. They show that, despite the events unfolding in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Syria, worldwide, mass killings and genocides are near all-time lows. Violent crimes in the US have steadily declined since the 1990s. Incarceration is dropping. Victimization of children has dropped dramatically. Reported rape and sexual assaults in the US are near all-time lows. And, despite recent events, deaths of police are near an all-time low.

At the same time, Zakaria notes that the US economy is growing. The US emerged from the Great Recession better than any of the world’s other major economies. The US has produced more than 14 million jobs since 2009 – more than the 35 other advanced economies combined. US auto sales have climbed from 9.6 million in 2009 to 16.6 million last year. The US has surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. US unemployment is now below 5 percent nationwide – a figure that is historically considered near full employment. Wages are gradually improving. Our tax burden is low compared to other advanced nations. Despite claims to the contrary, the overall tax burden of US corporations is among the lowest in the OCED (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development). Inflation is low while stock markets are at record highs. And, contrary to the beliefs of some, since 2009, more Mexican migrants have left the US than have entered it.

That’s right, the net rate of immigration from Mexico is below ZERO!

Those are the facts. If you doubt them, ask yourself: In which time period would you rather be living? The 1700s when the country was being founded on the backs of slaves? The 1800s when the nation was torn apart by slavery and white immigrants were committing genocide of Native Americans? The early 1900s when many of our citizens, including children, were forced to work seven days a week in sweat shops? When women and blacks were denied the right to vote? When we were embroiled in WWI?

How about the 1930s during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression? Or the 1940s when our men and women were dying on the battlefields of Africa, Asia and Europe? Would you rather be living in the 1950s when the top tax rate was 91 percent; when women were relegated to menial jobs and blacks were fighting (and dying) for the right to vote and to attend the same schools as whites; and when Americans were dying in Korea? Would you rather be living in the 1960s when we were fighting in Vietnam and at home over an ill-conceived war? Would you rather be living in the 1970s when both inflation and gas prices soared; when mortgage rates were as high as 25 percent, if you could qualify; and when women were routinely victimized in the workplace?

Would you rather be living in the 1980s when we were still engaged in the Cold War; when the national GDP fell; and when crime rates, incarceration rates and the national debt soared? Would you rather be living in the 1990s when incarceration rates continued to climb; when the economy rose out of the doldrums and when the federal government ran surpluses? Okay, I admit that might be a toss-up.

Would you rather be living in the early 2000s when we suffered the largest terrorist attack on our soil in history; when we invaded Afghanistan; when we invaded Iraq on false pretenses; when the government accumulated massive deficits and debt; and when the housing market caused the economy to implode?

Or would you rather be living now?

If you’re a white Christian male who has grown up believing that you are entitled to a life of privilege and power; if your media choices are Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and the like; or if you believe some of the lies told by politicians, you may want to return to a previous decade, or even a previous century. But, if you believe in science and facts; if you truly believe that all people are created equal regardless of race, religion or gender, you might just realize how lucky we are.

Certainly, there are many problems. Global climate change is a real and gathering threat. Our wilderness and oceans are being destroyed. Many species are being slaughtered. We must honestly face the problems of the past with regard to black slavery and the genocide of Native Americans. We must work to improve our policing and to lower incarceration rates. We must continue to improve Americans’ access to affordable health care. We must improve mental health care. We must find a way to get guns off of our streets. We must improve education and make it more affordable. We must rebuild our outdated and crumbling infrastructure. We must control greed and provide living wages to any who are willing to work full-time. We must find ways to create jobs to replace those that are being lost to robots and technology. We must strengthen our safety net programs for those less fortunate than ourselves. And we must rededicate ourselves to treat all people equally.

Nevertheless, all things considered, I choose to disregard the lies of politicians who portray our nation in crisis and the media who gleefully repeat their claims in search of higher ratings and profits. If not for the political divisiveness created by such people, we might all recognize how good we have it and that, if we choose to work together, things can be even better.

This is a golden age.