“If You’re Explaining, You’re Losing.”

That is the “wisdom” voiced by a number of political reporters when discussing the latest GOP accusations that Social Democracy and Socialism are one in the same…a perfect example of the flaws with today’s headline-driven, sensation-seeking journalism. Those reporters and their editors seem to believe that the American people are incapable of understanding complexity and context. But how would they know? They have seldom tried.

Certainly, local radio and TV newsrooms lack the time, resources and will to analyze complex issues and report them objectively. But the same can’t be said of cable TV networks.

Cable TV networks like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News have both the resources and the time to provide insight and details for complex issues – to help viewers understand social democracy, climate change, immigration, federal deficits, racial disparity and most other issues of our time. Instead, it seems they would rather focus on headlines and details. (One notable exception is Rachel Maddow who often uses her entire hour-long show to accurately explore the details of a single story. At the other extreme is Fox News, which like many talk radio shows, prefers to serve as a cheerleader and propagandist for the Republican Party.)

Want to know the difference between social democracy and socialism? You’d have better success asking a political science professor than watching a newscast. In reality, the only people who are likely to be asked to define social democracy on television or radio are its Republican opponents who will confuse it with communism. They will want to scare the bejeezus out of you to prevent you from voting for programs that might actually benefit you as opposed to their tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations. For the record, most of the nations in the advanced world are successful social democracies. They have universal health care, free education, free daycare and pensions, all paid for by taxes. Instead, the US has gone in another direction. Thanks to sustained GOP tax cuts, the US is now recognized as an oligarchy – a government dominated by the very rich and powerful. But have you seen or heard any broadcast news organization question that? Have you seen GOP politicians and strategists asked to explain and defend the policies that led to oligarchy?

That should tell you everything you need to know about cable TV’s journalistic bias.

Want to know the details and consequences of the two parties’ budget proposals? You’ll have to sort through dozens and dozens of newspaper, magazine and online articles in order to piece together a scant understanding. Want to know the true consequences of unabated carbon emissions on our planet? You’ll need to read detailed reports and studies from the world’s climate scientists. Want to really understand the Green New Deal? You’ll have to wait for an interview with its sponsor. And you’re more likely to find that on a late night TV talk show than in a newscast.

What passes for fairness in television journalism these days is this: The news host presents a news headline or encapsulated story. Then the host brings on pundits or officials from each party to provide their viewpoints on the story. The viewer is then expected to reach their own conclusions. There is no attempt to drill down to the truth. The hosts are more interested in providing equal time.

That’s not journalism! It’s infotainment.

When I attended journalism school, we were taught to search for the facts and truth. Opinions needed to be labeled as such. Equal time was only considered in terms of political campaigns. We were taught that there are not two sides to the truth. There is only the truth. That’s why network news reporters were once ranked as some of the most credible people in the world. They reported the truth without concern for providing time for opposing viewpoints. As Walter Cronkite famously said, “My job is not to tell you what you want to know. My job is to tell you what you need to know.”

No one understands the reality of today’s journalism standards better than reality TV star, Donald J. Trump. During the 2016 election, as Hillary and other Democrats proposed detailed solutions for our nation’s most pressing problems, Trump offered simplistic proposals (“Mexico will pay for the wall”) and sensational attacks against his opponent (“Lock her up”). Not surprisingly, the television news shows ignored substance and, instead, fawned over Trump, giving him endless hours of coverage. Even when he was exposed as a sexual assaulter, racist, fraud and liar, the media continued to host him at every opportunity. In industry parlance, Trump was “good copy.”

Even today, Trump dominates the airwaves. Whether it’s news of the Russia investigation, the corruption of his administration, the criminality of his family and his associates, or his avalanche of lies, the cable TV news channels are virtually all Trump all the time. As a result, the reality of his crimes and corruption are diminished – lost in a sea of stories and commentary by politicians and pundits on both sides.

Of course, there are still many diligent, hardworking reporters writing in newspapers, magazines and online outlets. And, in fairness, there are also many working for television news organizations. But their work is often overshadowed by the TV hosts, the pundits, the political strategists, the fear-mongers and the conspiracy theorists.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” We all need to work at educating ourselves. We can’t rely on TV news hosts, radio instigators, and social media platforms populated by Russian trolls to do the job for us. We need to do our own research; to seek out serious journalists; to read academic and scientific studies; to find the purveyors of truth.

It requires effort. But that’s what the nation’s founders would have expected of us.

“Patriotism Is The Last Refuge Of A Scoundrel.”

Samuel Johnson’s statement from the 18th century is just as true now as it was then.

When exposed, scoundrels will often claim patriotic intentions while questioning the patriotism of their accusers. For example, in order to hide their true beliefs, anti-government conservatives decorate their homes, their cars and their persons with the stars and stripes of the American flag. To disguise their racism, white nationalists also hide behind the flag. In an attempt to hide the treasonous complicity of his presidential campaign with Russians, Donald J. Trump questioned Hillary Clinton’s patriotism by alleging that she sold 20 percent of US uranium to Russia. And at this year’s CPAC, the traitor-in-chief waddled onto stage and made a show out of embracing the flag.

Now facing the pressure of a Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee determined to fulfill its constitutional duty, Trump has built his re-election campaign around the same strategy by labeling his tormenters and potential opponents “un-American socialists.”

There are two distinct problems with that claim: One is that Trump doesn’t know the meaning of patriotism, and he doesn’t give a hoot about the majority of Americans. He has never tried to govern from the center in order to represent all Americans. He has done nothing to reach out to those who voted for his political opponents. Instead, he continually tries to pit his angry, loyal base against others – Democrats, people of color, Muslims and the LGBTQ population. He continues to call for investigations of Hillary by leading his followers in chants of “Lock her up.” He has refused to denounce neo-Nazis and white supremacists. In fact, he has embraced them. And he still maintains that President Obama was born in Kenya.

Second, he is mischaracterizing social democracy by calling it socialism in order to equate Democratic proposals with those of the failed Soviet Union and Venezuela. But, in fact, the “socialist” policies being proposed by Democrats are similar to those of Britain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Sweden and much of the developed world – policies such as universal health care, free or affordable education, the Green New Deal, higher marginal tax rates for the extremely wealthy, and higher rates for estate taxes. These are all necessary if we are to rebuild our infrastructure, our middle class and the American dream. Without such policies, we may soon find ourselves lagging behind other global powers.

At the same time, in the name of patriotism, Trump and his administration have gone to extremes to destroy or diminish our nation’s most important institutions. If successful, his declaration of a national emergency to build his wall will diminish the power of purse given to the House of Representatives by our Constitution. He has damaged the power of the press by convincing his followers that any news critical of his actions is “fake news.” He has convinced his followers that the FBI, the DOJ and most other government agencies are controlled by the “deep state” which is determined to undermine his decisions. He dismisses the findings of our intelligence agencies and takes the word of our nation’s greatest enemies, instead. He and the GOP-controlled Senate have filled our court system with ideologues with neither the experience, the objectivity nor the temperament to act as judges. In addition, he has undermined our relationships with our most loyal allies.

And, according to many of those who have known him longest, if impeached or defeated in the 2020 election, Trump will not relinquish his office quietly. Indeed, they fear a second civil war. If those people are correct, Trump and his followers will no doubt claim that they are declaring martial law out of a sense of patriotism.

Should Climate Change Be Declared A National Emergency?

In order to prevent Trump from declaring border security a national emergency in order to fund his idiotic border wall, Sen. Marco Rubio noted that it would set a precedent that could wind up hurting Republicans saying, “If today, the national emergency is border security…tomorrow the national emergency might be climate change.”

He’s right about the political implications. But he fails to recognize the real dangers of climate change and the fact that it will hurt everyone, even Republicans. And he fails to understand that climate change is a true emergency.

According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have until 2030 to reduce carbon emissions in order to avoid a catastrophic increase in global temperatures of 3 degrees Centigrade (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit). As of today, that’s 11 years! The study warns that we must make dramatic changes to limit the global temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

The consequences for failing to act? In a word, disaster. Melting ice caps will raise sea levels displacing millions and causing mass migrations worldwide. Tundra and permafrost will thaw releasing millions of tons of methane and further accelerating climate change. Ancient organisms frozen in the ice and permafrost will be released perhaps leading to a resurgence of disease. Coral reefs will die creating famine for millions who rely on the oceans for food. Many of the world’s species of wildlife will become extinct. Much of the world’s farmland will become arid adding to the famine. And the changing weather patterns will create more numerous and severe storms.

Even if the human species manages to survive such conditions, the costs will be overwhelming. Mass migration and famine will lead to wars. And the financial costs will be unfathomable. The world’s 10 worst climate-driven events of 2018 killed thousands. And last year, in the US alone, there were 14 climate-related events – hurricanes, storms, floods and wildfires – costing 247 lives and nearly $100 billion.

Yet, despite the warnings, which become more dire by the month, the Trump administration has ignored them, even reversing much of the progress made in previous years and conducting a sell-off of oil leases on previously protected public lands. Indeed, we are now the only nation on Earth that is not part of the Paris Climate Accords. This is devastating for the planet, since the US ranks second only behind China in total carbon emissions. Per person, our carbon emissions are nearly eight times those of the Chinese! Yet China and much of the rest of the world are aggressively trying to reduce emissions, while only 20 states and a handful of US cities are doing so.

And, because the GOP has politicized climate science, in the US there is now a virtual media blackout of climate news. Many in the media consider it too controversial to report on environmental damage and, when they do, they try to present opposing viewpoints even though the science community is largely united that climate change is a real danger. As a result, only 45 percent of Americans say that global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetimes. Seriously? How many of you don’t expect to live another 11 years?

Despite all of this, there is a bit of good news, the most promising of which is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. Unlike many of her colleagues, she is not only speaking out about climate change. She is offering solutions that can improve our infrastructure, lead to a cleaner environment and create millions of high-paying jobs.

Her Green New Deal consists of the following:
• Government-led investment in energy and resource efficiency, as well as reusable energies and micro-generation
• Low-carbon infrastructure redevelopment in order to create jobs
• A directed tax on the profits of oil and gas companies with proceeds being invested in renewable energy and energy efficiency
• Financial incentives for green investment and reduced energy usage, including low interest rates for green investment
• Re-regulation of international finance, including capital controls, and increased scrutiny of financial derivatives
• Curbing corporate tax evasion through compulsory financial reporting and by clamping down on tax havens
• A Global Marshall Plan Initiative using “green quantitative easing” to create money to fund the “great transition” to a society free of fossil fuels and other measures that aim to preserve the biosphere

Several of these measures have already been implemented in Norway, South Korea, the UK, Germany, even parts of the US. Progressive environmental groups like 350.org, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have also signed on. And the movement is gaining support. A recent poll found 81 percent of US voters support the Green New Deal ― including 64 percent of Republican voters and 57 percent of self-described conservative Republicans. In addition, more than 300 state and local officials voiced support for the Green New Deal. Numerous Democrats in the new Congress have also backed the resolution, along with a number of Democratic presidential candidates. However, the support from congressional Republicans and the Trump administration amounts to crickets.

But we can fix that. By voting for Democrats in 2020, we can make them scream.

The Shutdown Is Not A Negotiating Tactic. It’s The Goal.

It seems that most Americans and much of the media believe that the shutdown is the result of a failed negotiation between Trump and Congressional Democrats. But, in reality, the great dealmaker has not been negotiating in good faith all along. Indeed, his latest “proposal” was to offer Democrats things that he has previously taken away – DACA protections, immigration judges, etc.

Prior to this January, if Trump wanted $5.7 billion to fund his wall, all he had to do was ask. The Trump sycophants in the Republican-controlled House and Senate have given him everything he wanted. As evidenced by the Trump tax cuts, which have resulted in nearly $2 trillion in additional debt, they certainly weren’t worried about fiscal constraint. And, if Trump and the GOP really wanted to end the shutdown, they could do it today by voting on the budget bill that has already been passed by the House and was previously passed in the Senate by a unanimous voice vote. Or they could accede to the Democrats’ wishes and negotiate funding for increased border security where it would do the most good – at legal ports of entry. That, after all, is where the majority of illicit drugs enter our country in trucks, shipping crates and private vehicles. And they could use the funds to step up the monitoring of the people who enter our country legally and simply overstay their visas. Those people represent approximately half of undocumented immigrants. The Republicans’ failure to do so shows that the shutdown isn’t really interested in border security.

I believe the government shutdown is what Trump and his minions wanted all along.

For Republicans and this outlaw administration, the shutdown serves a variety of purposes. First, it is a distraction from the Russia investigation that is nearing completion. Second, it deprives the incoming Democratic House members the necessary funds to staff their offices, thus potentially impeding their investigations into Trump world. Third, it offers the bully in the White House an opportunity to frustrate and blame Speaker Pelosi. Fourth, in the twisted mind of Trump, the majority of government workers are Democrats, so it’s mostly Democrats who are suffering the consequences. Fifth, if as I believe, Trump really is beholden to Putin, a shutdown throws Russia’s greatest adversary into chaos.

Finally, and most important, Republicans despise government. So the shutdown allows them to call back only those workers that are necessary to their cause. For example, while many in the EPA and Interior are furloughed, Republicans have called back only those Interior employees who are responsible for issuing drilling and mining permits for public lands.

We must all face the reality that the shutdown is a right-winger’s wet dream. The most extreme among them believe the federal government should only be responsible for law and order, the protection of private property and national defense. Anything else – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, HUD, the EPA, public education – is, in their minds, a waste of money and an unwelcome intrusion into their ability to plunder the national resources and squeeze money out of the populace.

Suborning Perjury? That’s Where You Finally Draw The Line?

After learning that Trump ordered his personal attorney to lie to Congress about his continued attempts to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow, members of Congress are suddenly willing to speak of impeachment.

Seriously, that’s what finally caused you to grow a spine?

It wasn’t enough that Trump, his entire administration and his congressional supporters have lied to the American public on a daily basis? It wasn’t enough that he stole the election with the help of Russia? It wasn’t enough that Trump embraced dictators and thugs around the world? It wasn’t enough that leaders of his campaign had more than 101 known contacts with Russians during the campaign and accepted illegal campaign contributions from Russians? It wasn’t enough that members of his campaign have been convicted and pleaded guilty of illegal activities?

It wasn’t enough that he appointed a man operating as an unregistered foreign agent as his director of national security?!!!

It wasn’t enough that Trump bragged on tape that he has committed sexual assault? And that it is known that he paid hush money to cover up illicit affairs with a porn star and a centerfold model? It wasn’t enough that Trump has damaged all of our most reliable and necessary institutions, such as the FBI, the CIA and the EPA? It wasn’t enough that he regularly refers to the news media as enemies of the people? It wasn’t enough that Trump appointed a group of sycophants and unqualified toadies to positions of authority? It wasn’t enough that Trump and his cabinet squandered tens of millions on vacations and private interests? It wasn’t enough that his administration sold public and tribal lands to the highest bidders?

It wasn’t enough that Trump undermined NATO and our international relationships with our strongest and most loyal allies – that his administration has broken international laws and treaties? It wasn’t enough that he manufactured an international crisis at our southern border – that he separated thousands of refugee children from their families? It wasn’t enough that his administration’s actions resulted in the deaths of two young children who had survived a thousand mile trek from Central America?

It wasn’t enough that Trump and his supporters have supported racists and Nazis – that they excused racist violence and the death of an innocent young woman? It wasn’t enough that they gave billions in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy while denying the basic needs of the poor as an extreme act of cruelty? It wasn’t enough that those unnecessary tax cuts ran up approximately $2 trillion in additional debt?

It wasn’t enough that his administration pandered to the victims of disasters in Texas and the southeastern US, while turning their backs on the American citizens of Puerto Rico? It wasn’t enough that Trump blamed the victims of California wildfires for losing their homes and their lives as a result of the climate change he denies? It wasn’t enough that he created trade wars causing Americans to lose markets for their products? It wasn’t enough that he shut down the federal government in a childish temper tantrum?

It isn’t enough that there is abundant evidence that he engaged in treason in plain sight?!!!

But ordering his attorney to lie to you? THAT? That’s where you draw the line?

What Would A Russian Operative Do If He Ran For President Of The United States?

He would appoint a pro-Russian lobbyist as his campaign manager.
He would change the platform of his political party to make it more friendly toward Russia.
He would invite the Russian ambassador to his party’s national convention.
He would request and accept Russian help with his election campaign.
He would have his campaign manager provide polling data to his Russian handlers so that Russia could more accurately target US voters with its disinformation campaign.
He would have members of his campaign staff and transition committee try to open secret back channels with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
He would accept millions in donations from pro-Russian Ukrainians for his inauguration.
He would appoint a retired general who was acting as a foreign agent as Director of National Security.
He would appoint unqualified sycophants to key positions in his administration with the express purpose of dismantling the agencies they control.
He would refuse to fully staff most government departments, especially those in leadership positions.
He would refuse to fully staff the State Department.
He would refuse to appoint ambassadors to many US allies.
He would try to undermine American’s trust in all government institutions.
He would encourage and sign a bill to cut taxes that would result in unprecedented national debt.
He would fire the leadership of the FBI and diminish its standing among millions of his supporters.
He would dismiss the findings of all five US intelligence agencies and accept the word of Vladimir Putin, instead.
He would repeatedly deny that he received election help from Russian interference. “No collusion!”
He would try to block and derail any investigations into his connections with Russia.
He would constantly attack the opposing party with the intent of dividing our nation as never before.
He would promote and pursue racist policies to further divide our nation.
He would lie so often that citizens would have difficulty telling falsehoods from the truth.
He would call the media “enemies of the people” and blame our problems on them.
He would undermine the relationships and standing with America’s closest and most loyal allies.
He would undermine NATO.
He would attempt to delay and block economic sanctions on Russia that were passed by Congress.
He would welcome Russian diplomats into the Oval Office and provide them classified information obtained by a US ally. He would allow only Russian media to attend the meeting.
He would create chaos with the nation’s trading partners by imposing unwarranted tariffs that would cause damage to many of our key industries.
He would have secret meetings with his handlers and destroy any record of them.
He would suddenly, with no military reason, announce the withdrawal of US troops from Syria relinquishing control of the region to a dictator and Russia.
He would attempt to rewrite history by promoting Vladimir Putin’s version of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
He would shutdown the US government on a whim and refuse to negotiate in good faith to reopen it.

As you can see, it doesn’t matter if Donald J. Trump was actually recruited to be a Russian spy. He is acting as one.

Trump Is A Case Study In The Failings Of News Media.

No, I’m not referring to the right-wing accusations of “Fake News.” As a journalist, I have great faith in the accuracy and integrity of most news reporters. I’m referring to the extraordinary amount of news coverage afforded to Trump from the time he was a two-bit developer and hustler in the early eighties; from the time he used undocumented Polish immigrants to demolish New York’s treasured Art Deco Bonwit Teller building to make way for his garish Trump Tower.

Reviled by many New Yorkers, Trump was embraced by the news and entertainment media because, in journalistic terms, he was good copy. He served as his own publicist using his inherited millions to gain publicity for his gaudy buildings, which all bear his name in gigantic, oversized letters. And, if he believed the coverage to be unflattering, he used his father’s mob-connected lawyer to bully the writers and producers.

If the media chose to ignore him, he called reporters while disguising his voice and using one of many aliases to heap praise on himself and his projects. He portrayed himself as a self-made billionaire claiming that he received a very small loan from his father, which he quickly repaid. He claimed that he was far richer than he really was. He lied…a lot…to make himself seem important.

In reality, his approach had all the class and sophistication of a street pimp. Only, instead of gold rings, chains and a custom Cadillac, his bling consisted of gold-plated lobbies, golden faucets, and gold-plated toilets. And, like the pimp, Trump almost always had some eye-candy hanging on to his arm.

More than anything else, Trump adhered to the age-old prescription for fame: The belief that there is no bad publicity as long as your name is spelled correctly.

His efforts paid off. The real estate and gossip pages were soon filled with his lies about his wealth, his development plans and the names of women he claimed were obsessed with him. He gained even more coverage when he placed a full-page ad calling for the execution of the Central Park 5 – five young men who were ultimately proven innocent for the assault and rape of a female jogger.

Still considered a minor player in New York’s real estate market, in 1987 he hired a ghost writer to author The Art of the Deal to promote his business acumen, which he, of course, believed to be extraordinary (it’s not).

Eventually, the national news media took notice and, in 2004, he was cast as the business mogul for NBC’s Apprentice. Though the TV show made him out to be a business genius, in fact, he had very little to do with it. He simply read the scripts (badly) and delivered one memorable line: “You’re fired.”

When his fame began to wane, he embraced the “Birther” conspiracy along with some of the nation’s most questionable, and arguably, most despicable political operatives, such as Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi. When his right-wing toadies encouraged him to run for office, the notion appealed to his massive ego. Unfortunately, it also appealed to TV networks and newspapers desperate for ratings and readership.

As a result, beginning in mid-2015, he was on cable television news shows almost 24/7. When he appeared at a rally in Phoenix that same year, his speech dominated the news cycle. The media dutifully reported his claims that his followers filled the convention center despite the fact that the local fire marshal reported a much smaller number. By comparison, when Sen. Bernie Sanders appeared at a rally in the same building in front of an overflow crowd of several thousand more people, the news media hardly took notice.

The Trump coverage only grew from there. The airwaves were filled with his speeches and interviews. They feigned outrage as he taunted his GOP primary opponents, while making wild, undeliverable promises and threatening Hillary. Indeed, the lies, the self-aggrandizement, the threats and the publicity continue unabated to this day.

It’s not that the majority of the news media ever really supported Trump or that they ever believed his unbelievable claims. In fact, they’re now doing the job they’re expected to do by exposing his prolific lies and holding him accountable.

Make no mistake – he’s still good for ratings and readership. He’s still good copy. But because of the media’s fascination with a sensational story, our democracy is paying a horrific price.

Addressing Rural Decline And Our Political Divide.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I visited my hometown in rural Iowa. Once a thriving community with a variety of cafes, grocery stores, a five-and-dime, a clothing store, 3 farm implement dealers, 3 car dealers, a couple of hotels and more, it now features more empty storefronts and museums than active businesses…casualties of interstate highways that bypass all but the largest cities, corporate farms that have reduced the farm population by roughly 90 percent, big box stores and online retail.

Is it any wonder that many of the few remaining residents of such towns are frustrated?

As they have watched their town fade away, they have seen job opportunities fade along with it. Their home values have declined. And the decreasing tax base forces them to choose between larger property tax assessments or declining infrastructure.

They mistakenly believe that their income taxes disproportionately benefit large cities (however an Indiana study found that taxpayers in 46 metropolitan counties paid 82.5% of the taxes but received only 76.7% of the expenditures). They feel that their economic futures are no longer in their own control, but in the hands of a group of greedy corporations and politicians. Many believe urban “elites” are the source of all their problems. After all, it was the millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street who used their money to gamble on derivatives leading to the Great Recession.

It’s largely because of their circumstances that they have become susceptible to fake news. They believe (rightfully so) that the mainstream media ignore those living in “flyover land” so they tune to rightwing blowhards who skillfully pander to them by channeling their frustrations and outrage against liberals, immigrants and urban welfare recipients. They have been led to believe that the sensational crimes reported on evening newscasts show that city dwellers are a violent and lawless bunch. Many believe the cities are filled only with criminals and people with advanced degrees who lack common sense. And far too many believe the fear-mongering politicians who tell them that our nation is being over-run by criminals and terrorists.

Instead of finding common ground with the millions of similarly underpaid, overworked and overstressed people who work in large cities, they have been led to believe that they are rivals…indeed, enemies.

I am convinced that, more than anything else, this is what has led to our political divide.

The people living in rural communities similar to my hometown – those that have been persuaded that big city elites are conspiring against them – have an outsized influence on our national politics. Though only 14% of the US population lives in rural areas, the rural population has a disproportionate representation in the US Senate and, therefore, the Electoral College. Indeed, it is primarily because of their frustrations that Donald Trump now sits in the Oval Office despite receiving nearly 3 million fewer votes.

Given this, how can we bridge the rural/urban divide? How can we improve the economic opportunities for rural Americans and help the struggling rural communities?

We can start by telling them the truth – that their cherished lifestyle isn’t coming back until they make some difficult choices and accept monumental change. Despite the promises of some politicians, it’s unlikely that manufacturing plants are going to return to many of these towns and, even if they do, most of the work will be done by robots. And small, independent retail stores are unlikely to return as long as most Americans prefer to shop online and in big box stores.

Ironically, the most likely scenario for rebuilding our rural communities and for bridging our political divide is to commit to an aggressive (and necessary) response to climate change. Decreasing carbon emissions will require less dependence on imports and more demand for local production. It will require that fossil fuels be replaced with sustainable energy sources. Finally, it will require a reduction in the amount of cropland devoted to corn, soybeans and cattle. Instead, much of the land will necessarily be used for locally-grown produce.

In other words, the side effect of heading off climate disaster is to stop arguing and improve the circumstances of all Americans, rural and urban alike.

Some Political Conspiracies Are More Than Theory.

It seems that every week conservative politicians, media pundits and, especially, President Trump come up with another unfounded conspiracy theory. On a regular basis, they have attacked the press, the Department of Justice, the FBI, the CIA, and others as operatives of the “Deep State” intent on undermining the Trump administration.

In order to foment fear before the midterm elections, they trotted out the wild conspiracy that George Soros and the HIAS (Hebrew Immigration Aid Society) organized a caravan of “terrorists” to “invade” the United States. And, following the midterms, they have claimed that Democrats are committing election “fraud” by counting all of the votes, including mail-in votes from military personnel serving oversees.

Such crazy claims are not new. Nixon and Agnew claimed that they were victims of the “liberal” press even as they ordered the break-in of the Democratic National Committee and organized dirty tricks to frustrate and damage their Democratic rivals. But they really took root during the Clinton administration when, after the end of the Fairness Doctrine regulating broadcast media, Rush Limbaugh and others took to the airwaves to claim the Clintons defrauded investors in a real estate development named Whitewater. They claimed that Hillary Clinton ordered a contract killing of Vince Foster (he committed suicide) to cover up another fake conspiracy labeled Travelgate.

And the conspiracy theorists worked overtime during the administration of our nation’s first black president. They famously claimed that President Obama was born in Kenya making him ineligible to hold the office. They claimed he “palled around with terrorists.” They claimed he was only elected as the result of massive voter fraud aided by ACORN. They claimed the New Black Panthers intimidated GOP voters at the polls. They claimed he was working with the UN to take away Americans guns. They said that Agenda 21, the UN plan to prevent climate change and feed the planet, was a “black helicopter” operation to sell out the US. They claimed that Jade Helm 15, military exercises in the southwestern US, were an Obama plot to institute Sharia law, jail dissenters and to take over the US (never mind that it would be unnecessary since Obama, as president, already controlled the US government).

Then, of course, there was Benghazi, the supposed betrayal of a US ambassador by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the belief that Hillary’s use of a private email server for unclassified communications compromised US security. (Interestingly, the GOP is silent on President Trump’s use of an unsecured mobile phone for his Tweets and private conversations.) There was Pizzagate, the theory that Hillary was trafficking children out of the non-existent basement of a DC pizza parlor. And, perhaps, the most dangerous theory is the ongoing belief in QAnon, the fictitious anonymous operative (or operatives) within the Deep State who releases supposed classified information revealing the conspiracy against Trump.

All of these theories are not only wholly unfounded. They defy logic. Moreover, they may indicate a serious mental health crisis in the US.

On the other hand, there are GOP actions once believed to be conspiracy theories that have since been proven true beyond doubt. The most famous of these is Watergate. But there is also then GOP-candidate Nixon’s treasonous interference in the Vietnam Peace Talks that resulted in his election, but cost thousands more lives. (Nixon’s actions are documented in the upcoming program “Betrayal” on MSNBC. Similarly, the Reagan campaign is known to have interfered in the Carter administrations negotiations with Iran for the release of US diplomatic hostages.

There is the Iran-Contra affair, which consisted of the Reagan administration illegally selling arms to Iran, despite sanctions, in order to fund the anti-socialist Contra rebels in Central America. There is George W. Bush’s 2000 election “victory” in Florida that has been proven the result of voter suppression and outright election fraud orchestrated by his brother. There are the false claims of Iraqi WMD that led to the Iraq War. There is 2016 theft of emails from the DNC, the DCCC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager that were used by GOP candidates to gain power. There are the proven connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. There are the multi-million dollar donations to the NRA by a Russian oligarch to help fund GOP candidates in 2016. And there is the Russian interference in the 2016 elections for the benefit of Trump.

There are the ties between Trump administration officials and white supremacist groups revealed by Trump’s comments following Charlottesville. There is the obvious violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause by Trump and his family. And, of course, there is the cover-up of Trump’s affair with Stormy Daniels culminating in a Trump-ordered payoff in exchange for her silence.

The point is, when you hear a conspiracy theory, consider the source – especially if it comes from the Trump administration, Fox News Channel, InfoWars or any other conservative pundit. More likely than not, it will be nothing more than an attempt to deceive or GOP wishful thinking.

The True Enemies Of Democracy.

Many Republicans, led by Donald J. Trump, have labeled the press “enemies of the people.” In addition, they have called the Democratic Party an “angry mob.” But the facts are abundantly clear that Republicans are the true enemies of the people. Indeed, today’s Republican Party represents a greater threat to our democracy than any other enemy, foreign or domestic.

That is not a claim that I make lightly.

Take, for example, the 5-4 decision by the conservative majority of the US Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder which gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Immediately following the decision, 846 polling places closed or were moved, especially in areas with large minority populations. And, by 2016, more than 2,000 polling places had closed. Most of these were within states that previously had been under federal oversight.

The attack on the Voting Rights Act was quickly compounded by an onslaught of strict voter ID laws that have disenfranchised thousands of voters – mostly minorities and the elderly who are unable to travel to faraway Motor Vehicle offices to obtain proper IDs. Some are too poor to pay for copies of their birth certificates in order to obtain the new IDs. Some are unable to take time away from work. And some do not have access to transportation.

To more fully understand the impact of these laws, in North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer reported that, at the time the state’s new voter ID law was passed, as many as 800,000 registered voters lacked the necessary ID to allow them to vote! And with similar laws in at least 19 states, imagine how many American citizens can be denied their right to vote!

Another decision by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority allowed states to purge their voter rolls of citizens who have not voted in two consecutive elections. Not surprisingly, the purges have mostly occurred in Republican-controlled states.

More recently, the US Supreme Court ruled that North Dakota (another Republican-controlled state) could deny citizens the right to vote if they did not have a voter ID with a current street address. Since Native Americans living on reservations do not have street addresses, the result is to disenfranchise most of the state’s Native American population. And, in Georgia, the Republican Secretary of State who is running for governor, has put on hold 53,000 voter registrations for inconsistencies with IDs such as differences in abbreviations (Ave vs. Av) and even differences in punctuation. 70 percent of those registrations are for minorities who are most likely to vote for the Republican’s opponent.

In many states, the Republican snakes who control legislatures have drawn serpentine congressional and legislative districts in their own image with the intent of marginalizing Democrats and minorities. In North Carolina, when a Democrat won the governor’s race, the GOP-controlled legislature even passed laws to minimize the governor’s power before he took office.

During the Obama administration, Republicans in the Senate blocked dozens of nominees for judgeships, including Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Most, including Garland, never even received a hearing. As a result, the then-Democratic-controlled Senate changed the rules to end filibusters of judicial nominees. And now that Republicans are in control, they have stacked the courts with two conservative Supreme Court nominees and 84 federal court nominees who will decide cases based on the Republican ideology.

In addition to these threats to civility and majority rule, we must consider the fact that 2 out of the past 5 presidential elections were won by Republicans despite losing the popular vote. The first was stolen with the help of George W. Bush’s brother and the last one with the help of Vladimir Putin.

As evidenced by Trump’s response to Leslie Stahl’s questions about cruelly mocking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: “Who cares? We won,” it’s clear that Republicans will do anything to win. Even destroy our democracy.