How Can We Ever Hope To Bring Americans Together?

Regardless of which candidate wins this year’s presidential election, it’s all but certain that Americans will be more divided than ever. We’re divided by far more than politics. We’re divided by ideology; by media choices; by attitudes toward guns and violence; by attitudes toward the environment; by a woman’s right to decide what is right for her own body; by energy policy; by foreign policy and military intervention; by acceptance and tolerance for those who are different than ourselves; by faith.

As the US, like many other nations, lurches farther to the right, it seems that we cannot agree on anything. One side accepts science while the other relies almost exclusively on faith. One side believes in evolution while the other side believes in creationism. One side works to abate climate change while the other side calls it a hoax. One side embraces other cultures and ethnic groups while the other side chooses to discriminate against them. One side accepts authority and bullying while the other fights against it. One side supports corporatism (aka fascism) while the other supports individuals. One side celebrates wealth and power while the other side celebrates the working class. One side worships individualism while the other side worships community and collectivism. One side demands status quo while the other side demands expanded civil rights.

No matter which candidate wins in November, roughly half of the population will vehemently oppose the winner’s policies.

It would seem that the only thing that can possibly pull our nation together is a disaster – a military or terrorist strike against our nation or a financial calamity on the order of the Great Depression. Ironically, the burst of the housing bubble and the ensuing Great Recession were not enough to create unanimity. Ignoring the facts, each side simply blamed the other for their hardships.

In order to seek more palatable solutions, we must first look at how we arrived at this point. It began with the Nixon-Agnew strategy of divide and conquer. It continued with the GOP’s embrace of southern bigots and evangelicals along with Paul Wyerich’s strategy of voter suppression. It accelerated with the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine which allowed electronic media to choose up sides and lie at will. And it was cemented by Newt Gingrich’s embrace of parliamentary-style politics which disdained any form of compromise.

So what can we do?

1. To begin, we should all demand more of our media by reinstating a Fairness Doctrine that would require all media, both electronic and print, to operate in the public interest. That means to tell the truth and hold politicians accountable.
2. We should overturn voter suppression laws and make voting easy, maybe even mandatory, for all American citizens.
3. We should bring transparency to campaign finance and overturn Citizens United.
4. We should, once again, make it illegal for corporations to contribute to political campaigns.
5. We should break the lobbyists’ hold on Congress by passing laws to end the revolving door from Congress to lobbying groups, and to limit lobbyist access to Congress.
6. We should end all forms of gerrymandering by passing laws to put control of congressional redistricting into the hands of independent commissions.
7. We should demand that the IRS reinstate restrictions that prevent non-profits from disguising their political focus, thus doing away with PACs and Super PACs.
8. We should institute term limits on all Senators and Congressional Representatives. If it makes sense to limit the president to two terms, it should make sense to do the same for Congress.
9. We should hold the individuals who manage political campaigns liable for lies and disinformation. That would prevent them from avoiding election fraud by simply dissolving the campaign entities following an election,
10. We should demand more of ourselves. We should each seek to inform ourselves about the candidates and the issues in order to meet the expectations of our Founding Fathers by becoming an enlightened and informed voting public.

Even if you don’t agree with these proposals, we must do something. And we must do it now. It may be our only hope for unifying our nation and moving it forward. Indeed, at the risk of being seen as hyperbolic, it may be the only way to avoid another Civil War.

Despicable GOP.

No, I’m not just referring to the Republican Party’s current slate of presidential candidates – although they, alone, should be cause for derision. I’m referring to the Party’s ongoing disregard for ethics, human kindness and the Constitution.

Witness former Nixon administration staffer John Ehrlichman’s recent admission during an interview with Dan Baum for Harper’s about the war on drugs. As reported by Jezebel.com, Ehrlichman stated, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Disgusting as that is, the Nixon campaign’s actions regarding the Vietnam War were worse. It is now known that the campaign intentionally undermined the Paris peace talks to prevent the end of the war before the 1968 election. Of course, the Nixon campaign was also guilty of breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee to steal information that would help it win the campaign.

In other words, the GOP candidate was willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of US soldiers and subvert the electoral process in order to gain office.

The Nixon campaign’s actions lend credence to those who have charged that the Reagan campaign undermined President Carter’s negotiations with Iran for the release of our embassy hostages until after the 1980 election. They also add credibility to charges that, during the Reagan administration, the CIA ran an operation to sell drugs in black neighborhoods in order to finance the Contras in Central America. And those actions neatly align with what has been proven – that the Reagan administration illegally sold weapons to Iran in order to finance the Contras.

There’s more.

In response to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was signed into law by a Democratic president, it is known that the Republican Party embraced southern racists to improve its ability to win elections. The Party created a war of “social values” (anti-abortion and anti-gay rights) in order to appeal to “Christian” evangelicals. It attacked labor unions to benefit its large corporate donors, and to deny campaign funds to Democratic candidates. It prioritized partisan ideology over respect for the law in its Supreme Court nominations ultimately resulting in a series of court decisions that led to a torrent of money to sway campaigns. And, as I’ve shown in my new book Antidote to Fact-Free Politics, the GOP used those ideological justices on the Supreme Court to quite literally steal the 2000 election from Al Gore.

Since that time, the GOP pursued an ill-advised and unnecessary war. It has resorted to unprecedented obstruction to thwart many of the objectives of the Obama administration. It has used its majorities in red states to gerrymander congressional districts in order to prevent them from ever electing Democrats. It has aligned with the Koch brothers, their billionaire allies, and large corporations to re-write state laws through the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in order to enact long-term change on behalf of corporate interests. And, despite no evidence of in-person voter fraud, it has imposed voter ID laws to disenfranchise poor and minority voters.

Yet, as the result of the propaganda originated by the RNC and broadcast by Fox News, rightwing radio and the ratings-driven mainstream media, many poor and middle class voters are convinced to vote Republican against their own self-interests.

Is it any wonder that our nation has officially become an oligarchy?

Will Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee Be “Borked?”

In case you aren’t familiar with the history of Supreme Court nominations, the threat refers to President Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork, which was blocked by a Democratic-controlled Senate. But though you may think that turnabout is fair play, the Senate’s refusal to confirm the nominee involved a much different set of circumstances than what we are seeing today.

First, unlike the current Senate’s blanket threat to filibuster any Obama nominee, Democrats warned Reagan that Bork could not be confirmed if he was nominated. They hoped he would nominate someone less controversial. The reason was Bork’s firing of Archibald Cox, the first Watergate Special Prosecutor, as part of the Nixon cover-up of Watergate. Though Bork later claimed that, as the newly-appointed Attorney General, he was acting under orders of President Nixon, it was believed that he understood the implications of the firing and was trying to prevent the impeachment of Nixon. Bork was also considered an ideologue and a divisive figure in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia. Even the ACLU opposed his nomination.

So it was clear that the Senate was not blocking any Reagan nomination to the Court. They were singularly focused on blocking the nomination of a candidate they vehemently opposed.

Nevertheless, Republicans were furious, and they vowed to repay Democrats by blocking nominations of Democratic presidents. Of course, they forget that, before Bork, they successfully filibustered Lyndon Johnson’s nomination of Associate Justice Abe Fortas to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. And later, they forced Fortas to resign from the Court over the fact that he had accepted a lifelong annual retainer for agreeing to provide legal advice to a friend and former client for a family foundation. Yet Fortas’ actions would seem to pale in comparison to those of current Justice Clarence Thomas. Not only has Thomas long been dogged by claims of sexual harassment of Anita Hill. Thomas failed to make legally-required financial disclosures for 13 years. He also refused to recuse himself from cases in which there were obvious conflicts of interest.

If the Republican-led Senate follows through with its threats to filibuster any Obama nominee, what will happen when the tables are turned? Will we see another tit for tat? Will Democrats seek payback? For more than 7 years, Republicans have blocked President Obama’s nominees. In fact, in 2010, they blocked a whopping 97 presidential appointments in a single day! Even today, there are 81 vacancies on federal courts with 39 judges waiting confirmation.

If Republicans continue on this path, Democrats will be faced with the choice of allowing the Republican dirty tricks to succeed. Or returning the favor.

Neither option benefits our nation.

The Attempted Destruction Of A Candidate.

Since she was Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has been the presumptive Democratic nominee for the office of president. And, of course, that has made her the prime target for Teapublican attacks. There is simply no other explanation for the continued investigation into the attack on our Benghazi consulate. In fact, few other incidents in US history have received such scrutiny. Not the attack on a Marine base in Lebanon during the Reagan administration. Not the sale of weapons to Iran during the Iran-Contra scandal under Reagan. Not the attacks on 9/11 during the Bush administration. Not even the run-up to our invasion of Iraq on false pretenses.

For nearly 3 years, there has been a near constant drumbeat of rumors and accusations by Teapublicans over the Benghazi attack. Only Obamacare has been the subject of more Teapublican rants than Benghazi. We even have a select congressional committee on Benghazi. Yet, despite no evidence of wrongdoing by Hillary or anyone in the Obama administration, the “scandal” persists. Indeed, it has grown into “e-mailgate” over Clinton’s decision to use her own e-mail and her husband’s computer server, instead of the one provided for her by the State Department.

Was she trying to hide something? Did she illegally use her husband’s server to receive and send classified information? Could the server have been hacked? More to the point, was she trying to hide what really happened at Benghazi from Teapublican congressmen?

Multiple investigations have proven that the answer to all of those questions is an emphatic no!

Clinton provided all of her e-mails from the server regarding State Department business – more than 30,000 – which have been poured over by the FBI and still there is no evidence of wrongdoing. But the purported scandal will not go away. It continues to expand. Each and every day, the so-called “liberal” media publish yet another story of a new Teapublican allegation. Now the FBI has been given access to all of Clinton’s personal e-mails. Of course, this is exactly what Teapublicans have been fishing for.

Be prepared for her private e-mails to be leaked to Teapublicans and then to the Press. Anything that can possibly be portrayed as negative, deceitful or unethical will show up in the media. And, if there happens to be one e-mail that can be construed as a “bombshell,” it will be released next summer during the peak of the presidential campaign.

We’ve seen this act before.

In 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president, there were numerous allegations and investigations into Whitewater, an ill-fated investment in which Republicans claimed that the Clintons had defrauded other investors, but, in fact, the Clintons lost money themselves. That “scandal” was followed by Troopergate, Fostergate, Billarygate and numerous other “gates.” All of them were simply fishing expeditions to find dirt on the Clintons. Only after expending 6-7 years and more than $70 million, did Republicans finally strike paydirt when Monica Lewinsky’s friend outed her relationship with Clinton leading to a congressionally-appointed Special Prosecutor who was freed to dig into every corner and crevice of the Clintons’ lives.

In fact, the Republican obsession had little to do with the Clintons themselves. Like the elephant that serves as the Republican logo, Republicans have long memories. They are still looking for payback over the threatened impeachment and resignation of Richard Nixon. They first tried to pin a scandal on Jimmy Carter and settled for the Iran hostage crisis which was extended by Reagan’s treasonous agreement with the Iranians to hold the hostages until after the presidential elections. They tried to pin anything and everything on Bill Clinton. And they failed at painting Barack Obama as a radical Muslim Kenyan unqualified to hold the office.

Now they’ve turned their attention to Hillary.

Of course, the Teapublicans could not have any success with such manufactured scandals if not for a compliant, corrupt and lazy Press; a Press that is all too happy to fawn over every bombastic word that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth; a Press that happily publishes accusations leveled at Hillary without any attempt to research the accusations and to put them into context.

For example, did you know that Hillary was not legally bound to use a government e-mail server? Did you know that the State Department’s server was hacked while Clinton’s remained secure? (It is, after all, a server shared with a former president of the United States.) Did you know that the previous two Secretaries of State, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, also used private e-mail accounts while in office? And did you know that Karl Rove and the Bush administration funneled millions of e-mails regarding government business through a server owned by the Republican National Committee and, when asked to produce those e-mails, erased them?

Where was the outrage then? Where were the congressional investigations? Where was the Press?

The US Is No Longer A Democracy. Here’s How It Happened.

Last year, a study from Princeton and Northwestern universities, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens,” concluded that the US government no longer represents the interests of the majority of the nation’s citizens. Instead, it panders to the rich and powerful.

In other words, the US has become an oligarchy defined as a government by the few, a small group that exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.

More recently, President Jimmy Carter, commenting on how big money has subverted our elections, said, “It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations.”

The US didn’t become an oligarchy by accident. We got here as the result of a long list of political decisions designed to pander to the wealthy and the powerful. Here’s how:

During the 1800s, the US went from a largely agrarian society to a society based on the industrial revolution. This created some extremely wealthy individuals often referred to as the “Robber Barons,” who took advantage of cheap labor created by the influx of immigrants. They paid little and subjected their employees to horrific working conditions. During this so-called Gilded Age, the wealthy chose the candidates and ran the nation until the masses began to rebel.

In the early 1900s, the Gilded Age ended when workers began to unionize. The wealthy responded by hiring the police and ex-military (the American Legion) to break the labor strikes by bashing some heads. In reality, it was America’s second civil war.

When the Great Depression struck, the nation moved even further toward socialism which caused the wealthy to try to arrange the assassination of President Franklin Roosevelt. In fact, many of the industrialists wanted the nation’s government to reflect the fascist governments of Italy and Germany. Their agenda was interrupted with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, World War II and the revelations of the Nazi death camps. And they were forced to accept the will of the masses until the 1970s when President Richard Nixon and Vice-President Spiro Agnew attacked the new media in order to deflect criticism of their policies.

By raising questions about the objectivity of the media which were embraced by conservatives, it set the stage (intentionally or not) for the Reagan administration and its economic policy of “Trickle Down” theory. This was nothing more than a return to the “Horse and Sparrow” economics of the gilded age, during which government policies were carefully crafted to benefit the wealthy under the theory that if you feed enough oats (money) to the horses (the wealthy) enough will fall on the road to feed the sparrows (the masses).

Reagan portrayed the government and its regulation of industry as the enemy. He attacked labor unions. He lowered taxes for the wealthy. He increased the amount of money exempted from estate taxes. He deregulated the media by eliminating the Fairness Doctrine which held media accountable to serve in the public interest. And he lowered capital gains taxes, which allowed the wealthy to keep more of their primary sources of income – interest and dividends from investments.

With the wealthy allowed to accumulate more money, labor unions on the defensive and an emasculated press, the table was set for the oligarchs. All of this was made worse by Grover Norquist, Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed who showed the Republican National Committee that it could thrive by eliminating compromises from our political discussions and treating politics as war – a blood sport. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took congressional dysfunction a step further by transforming the GOP into a parliamentary-style party in which the entire Party is unified on every vote. If you dare to break ranks with Party, you are punished in the next primary and election.

Add to all of this the more than $28 billion lobbying industry, which is financed almost exclusively by the rich and the powerful, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which writes laws on behalf of its corporate sponsors then hands them to its conservative members to sponsor in their state legislatures where the bills are often passed with little discussion or examination, and the George W. Bush administration which cut income taxes for the rich by 4.6 percent and all but eliminated the estate tax.

The last major player is the conservative majority on the US Supreme Court, which by 3 decisions (Buckley v Valeo, Citizens United v FEC and McCutcheon v FEC) unleashed a torrent of money in campaign donations from the oligarchs. So much so, that candidates should have to wear NASCAR-style uniforms with labels of their sponsors. Indeed, of the nearly $400 million donated to presidential candidates so far this year, nearly half has come from fewer than 400 families!

Given all of this, no election in our history has been as critical as next year’s. We can either continue further down the road of oligarchy by electing candidates who try to divide us over social issues while pandering to the wealthy. Or we can elect candidates of change – real change. Candidates who will put the power of the government back in the hands of the people.

That’s why I support Bernie Sanders.

Tricky Dicky Lives On!

In the 1972 presidential campaign, President Nixon was overwhelmingly re-elected thanks to his “Plumbers,” Nixon’s infamous dirty tricks team that was exposed at Watergate. The team, which was tied directly to the White House, consisted of E. Howard Hunt, G. Gordon Liddy, CIA liason John Paisley, James McCord, Donald Segretti, and who one knows how many others. It broke into Daniel Ellsburg’s office. It broke into the Democratic Headquarters offices in Watergate to search for strategy documents and anything that might give Nixon’s campaign an advantage. It even engaged in a program of disinformation to confuse and mislead supporters of Democratic rivals. As one example, it stole letterhead from the Edmund Muskie campaign and used it to create a letter falsely maligning other leading Democrats. It announced Muskie campaign rallies unknown to the Democratic candidate in order to anger the supporters who showed up. It sent out phony press releases announcing changes in the start times of campaign events and more.

All of this gave credence to Nixon’s long-standing moniker “Tricky Dick.” The dirty tricks and their cover-up are what eventually forced Nixon from office under threat of impeachment.

Apparently, the success of Nixon’s Plumbers has had an indelible influence on the party. At very least, the Nixonian mentality lives on through a never-ending stream of lies and political paybacks. Indeed, it seems the motto of the GOP has become WWND (What Would Nixon Do). The Nixonian approach manifested itself in the Southern Strategy masterminded by Lee Atwater…a strategy designed to capitalize on the anger of racist Southerners outraged by the Voting Rights Act of 1964. It was honed in the 1980s by the “Three Amigos” of Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff using Nixon’s “take no prisoners” approach to politics as leaders of the Young Republicans and, later, as leaders of the GOP.

During the George W. Bush administration, Richard “The Dick” Cheney displayed his mastery of Nixon tactics through a campaign of lies and threats in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. In 2008, Sen. McCain and Sarah Palin based their bid for the White House on a substantial portfolio of lies and deception. So, too, did Gov. Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan in 2012.

So when Governor Chris Christie’s political team and top aides closed access to the world’s busiest bridge, they were not only engaging in political payback. They were paying homage to the master…Tricky Dicky.

For the GOP and its Tea Party Parasites, this attack style of politics permeates every level and virtually every action. You could see it on the NRC website during the 2000 election cycle when the party published stupid quotes from Dan Quayle but reattributed them to Al Gore as “Gore Gaffes.” You can see it in the vile bumper stickers and Tea Party signs demeaning President Obama. You can see it in the vicious lies circulated from one conservative numbskull to another through seemingly endless chain emails. You can even see it in relatively innocuous, but demeaning dirty tricks such as the one I received the other day. I was emailed a 1950s-era photo of “Miss Lube Rack,” a pretty young woman in a bathing suit surrounded by gas station servicemen. The caption proclaimed the photo to be one Nancy D’Alesandro (Pelosi) although it wasn’t. The email served no other purpose than to demean the Congresswoman and former Speaker of the House.

You can say that this sort of thing happens both ways. But it doesn’t. Yes, there are isolated incidents of lies and missteps by Democratic candidates. But those don’t remotely compare to the pervasive, concerted efforts to trick and decieve by the GOP. And you can be sure that they will continue as long as the party believes they work.

“RNC Needs To Be Closed For Repairs.”

That’s what former Senator and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole said about today’s Republican National Committee. Asked if he would fit into the GOP today, he said, “I doubt it…Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have made it. Certainly Nixon wouldn’t have made it, because he had ideas.”

Now Former Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) has reiterated Dole’s comments. “The Republican Party is undergoing some, you know, significant and serious changes, and they are going to have to rethink their approach as a political party and how they are going to regroup and become a governing majority party that appeals to a broader group of Americans than they do today,” she said.

Dole and Snowe are the latest in a long line of moderate Republicans to decry their own party…or, more accurately, what’s left of their party.

But don’t expect Dole’s and Snowe’s comments to make much of an impact on the party. Today’s Republicans, especially their Tea Party parasites, simply don’t listen to reason. They live in an imaginary world where faith prevails over science; ideology over mathematics; anger over compromise; fantasy over history.

According to today’s Republicans, Ronald Reagan never raised taxes, Reagan and Bush never presided over deficits, and neither contributed to the national debt. They believe Watergate was merely a second-rate burglary, Reagan never sold weapons to Iran, and Bush never lied about WMD in Iraq.

In Republican World, only liberals and socialists rely on government while Republicans rely on their investments and hard work. On their own Red Planet, Republicans believe that government is unnecessary because free markets are self-correcting and self-policing; if corporations cheat or lie, they simply won’t survive…never mind the impact on consumers.

In Republican World, all scientists are wrong about climate change; all economists are wrong about the negative effects of austerity; and evolution is just a theory.

Most important, in the new Republican Party, all real Republicans toe the party line; independent thought is heresy; and former Republican officials who criticize the party are just that…former Republicans .