Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due.

In thinking about the many problems that we face as a nation, it has become clear that the vast majority can be traced to policies enacted and supported by the Republican Party, a political party that has evolved from the party of growth and controlled spending (Eisenhower and Nixon) to the party of small government (Reagan and Bush I) to the party spreading global democracy (Bush II and Cheney) to a party intent on undermining our own democracy (Trump).

The GOP has coalesced around white supremacists and religious zealots to claim the title of “Faith and Flag” party. Yet few have any concept of ethics or patriotism. 147 Republican lawmakers assisted in the attempted coup of January 6, 2021, with the intent of helping a wannabe autocrat remain in the White House. Indeed, the party’s love affair for autocrats and kleptocrats has been made clear by its many connections to Putin’s Russia (see the Muller Report) and its invitation to Viktor Oban as the keynote speaker of CPAC.

Moreover, the party’s thirst for power and its desire to court the favor of billionaires and multinational corporations seem to be the cause of many of our nation’s most enduring problems.

Wealth inequity? By any measure the growing disparity between the ultra-rich and most working Americans has been caused by the GOP’s longtime commitment to Trickle-Down economics. Rather than money trickling down to the working class, it has created a gusher of wealth flowing upward to the wealthy and large corporations.

Gun deaths and mass shootings? They’re a direct result of the gun lobby’s influence on the GOP and a fraudulent interpretation of the Second Amendment. Because of liberal gun laws, we now have more guns in this country than people. And the number grows by a million or two every year. Moreover, a growing number of crimes involve the use of unregistered ghost guns – many with inexpensive “Glock switches” that convert semiautomatics into fully automatics. But any attempt to restrict such lethal weapons is met with GOP obstruction.

Violence against people of color, ethnic groups, and LGBTQ people? Many GOP candidates have successfully campaigned with ads and rhetoric demonizing these communities and unfairly blaming them for our societal failings. And since words have consequences, hate crimes continue to rise.

Misogyny? The GOP and its evangelical supporters have long tried to relegate women to a secondary social status. And now the GOP majority Supreme Court has gotten into the act. By overturning Roe v Wade, it has put the economic, mental, and physical wellbeing of women at risk.

Climate crisis? The GOP and its oily supporters have long denied that humans have contributed to climate change through our addiction to fossil fuels. For decades, they sponsored fraudulent climate studies to support their denial. And though we are now suffering through the resulting consequences, the GOP is still fighting any attempts to address the problem. It is now almost inevitable that, in our lifetimes, we will see a massive rise in sea levels and the extinction of more than a million species – maybe our own.

Inflation? Though the GOP has blamed rising prices on an overheated economy, rising labor costs, and attempts to mitigate the climate crisis, in reality, inflation has been caused by corporate greed and supply chain issues following the GOP’s failed response to the pandemic.

Corporate consolidation and the export of jobs? The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reports that GOP policies have actually rewarded multinational corporations for sending jobs overseas. Other GOP policies such as “repatriating” offshore profits at bargain tax rates have led to corporate stock buybacks that reward shareholders, instead of creating jobs. They have also encouraged consolidation by creating incentives for corporations to buy out competitors rather than to compete with them.

Border invasion? There are many causes for the wave of asylum-seekers, refugees, and immigrants at our southern border. So-called Democratic “open border” policies are not among them. The “invasion” has overlapped both Democratic and Republican administrations. Not even the fence and the GOP cruelty of separating children from parents could stop it. And despite repeated calls for a comprehensive immigration policy, the GOP has blocked it.

Failing education? In public education funding, the GOP sees a large pool of taxpayer funds that could be used to create profits. That’s why it is so determined to direct those funds to charter schools and private schools that are not subject to the same fiscal transparency as public schools. It also sees a well-educated public as a threat to its own survival – hence its current attempts to ban books along with those who would dare to teach an accurate account of slavery and genocide as part of American history.

Inequities in IRS audits? In its long-standing efforts to starve the federal government of revenue, the GOP has made draconian cuts to IRS funding and staff. As a result, the IRS does not have the resources to ensure that large corporations and the wealthy are paying their fair share of taxes. So, it has focused attention on ordinary citizens who don’t have the benefit of high-priced tax accountants and tax lawyers.

Political division? For the cause of our conflicts look no further than the GOP and its propaganda outlets. Fox News pundits, rightwing radio hosts, social media, websites, and online podcasts all spew a steady stream of hate, misinformation and outright lies. All of this means that Americans no longer share the same set of “facts.” As evidenced by the former president and George Santos, it’s increasingly rare when the truth escapes a GOP mouth.

How Political Extremism Becomes Self-Sustaining.

When economic and societal problems go unaddressed, dissatisfaction with government grows. Far right extremists use that dissatisfaction to get elected. Then, when they’re in the office, they ignore the problems to pursue their own ideological agendas. After all, it’s not in their self-interest to solve issues they can use in their campaigns for re-election. Indeed, they may even pass legislation to make the problems worse. (Remember the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations that exploded the federal deficit? Or how about their cuts to the IRS which made it virtually impossible to audit the tax returns of the wealthy?).

To cover their deceit, the extremists blame others for the problems. They distract voters and create fear by vilifying minorities, such as people of color, immigrants, non-Christians, and the LGBTQ community. Meanwhile, real world problems such as the climate crisis, immigration reform, corporate consolidation, and wealth disparity worsen.

It’s a cycle that has inspired some voters to embrace autocrats in the hope that a strong man unencumbered by democracy can make the desired changes. Indeed, that pattern has led reasonable people to embrace the world’s worst dictators: Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Mao Zedong, and others.

Once the autocrats are in power, they attack and dismantle the institutions of democracy. They vilify the free press by calling it the enemy of the people and they replace it with propaganda outlets. To protect themselves, they undermine the judicial system by packing it with loyalists. They appoint loyalists in positions of authority throughout the government giving it the veneer of respectability while, in effect, turning it into a useful tool against any opposition. And they create doubt in the electoral process by claiming interference by the opposition and limiting those who are allowed to vote.

If all this seems a bit familiar, it is exactly how Donald J. Trump and his Republican allies operated. When enough voters recognized the attempt to destroy our democracy, Trump and his allies attempted a coup by challenging electors and encouraging violence resulting in the January 6 insurrection.

When the insurrection failed, they turned to propaganda to accuse Biden of inflationary policies and used the courts to drag out investigations long enough to gain a slim majority in the House. Given control of the federal purse strings and oversight committees, they are now in a position to investigate the investigators. Moreover, they can use their positions of power to create a flurry of propaganda and misinformation to further their cause – to replace democracy with the form of white Christian autocracy envisioned by their sponsors.

That much should be obvious to even the most casual political observers. The question is: Will ordinary Americans care enough to prevent it?

Fox News Has Gone Full Goebbels.

During a recent Laura Ingraham show in which she questioned Mike Pompeo about his interview with the Jan 6 committee, a headline appeared at the bottom of the screen reading “Dems prop up phony democracies abroad, shred ours.” In other words, the radical conservatives are angry that we are supporting Ukraine and investigating the January 6th insurrection.

And the Ingraham show is not even the worst thing on Fox. Tucker Carlson, the multi-millionaire heir to the Swanson Foods fortune, takes partisanship to a new level in his show by blatantly promoting autocrats and white supremacists, by excusing Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and by fawning over our deposed president and crime boss, Donald J. Trump.

Despite Fox calling its content “news”, it has long been little more than a propaganda network for Republicans and Libertarians. Its schedule is packed full of hate, fearmongering, and falsehoods. So much so that it is increasingly difficult to distinguish it from the pre-World War II work of Joseph Goebbels. (Goebbels, of course, was famously known as the chief propagandist who helped Adolf Hitler rise to power.) In fact, it could seriously be argued that many of the Fox hosts, Newsmax, and other MAGA propagandists are more extreme.

This pattern of radical anti-Democratic (and anti-democratic) rhetoric has been going on since the end of the Fairness Doctrine in the late eighties. A number of TV, radio and podcast hosts (Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, Mark Levin, et al) are deeply involved in Trump’s seditious conspiracy. And their rhetoric is getting worse.

It is abundantly clear that such propaganda is the primary reason for our nation’s divisions. As Trump and his MAGA followers have labeled the legitimate press as “enemies of the people” for reporting the truth, Fox and the other propaganda outlets have promised to tell you the real story. And what a story it is – full of partisan distortions and lies which blame immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and people of color for many of our nation’s problems.

They portray immigrants as criminals and “illegals.” They raise fears that same-sex marriage will somehow undermine the marriages of heterosexuals. They portray people of color as “lazy thugs” who have destroyed the rule of law in our cities. Like Trump, they describe our nation as a democracy in decay with carnage in our streets.

Yet, in truth, it is the Trump supporters – the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, white supremacists, and violent militias – who have taken to the streets with guns and body armor. It is these MAGAts who tried to bully governors, legislators, and judges from instituting policies to mitigate the pandemic. It is the MAGATs who invaded our Capitol to threaten Congress with the apparent intent to murder individuals and overthrow an election. And it is their NRA’s greed that has made Americans feel unsafe in theaters, in shopping centers, in churches, at concerts, even at schools.

There are other striking similarities between the Republican MAGAts and Nazis. They both intended to seize power based on bullying and armed insurrection. And they both aimed their hatred at minorities.

And even though the insurrection of January 6th was stopped, the Republican Party’s attempts to destroy our democracy continue. The propagandists are unbowed, and their falsehoods are unabated. Moreover, recognizing that knowledge is a threat and a counter to propaganda, the GOP continues its attacks on education and the educated. For decades, the GOP has dismissed and ridiculed expertise. It has dismissed economists who proclaimed trickle-down economics an abject failure. It has ignored the negative impact of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. And it has ridiculed the vast majority of the world’s scientists who warned about the devastating impacts of climate change.

Republicans have undermined public schools by slashing their budgets and channeling tax dollars into private schools through vouchers. They have threatened teachers for schooling their students in our nation’s history of slavery and the genocide of natives. They have sought to marginalize LGBTQ students. And their push for private schools allows conservatives to prioritize Christianity in classrooms over science.

Republicans have also exposed the flaws of mainstream television networks. By trying to appear nonpartisan, the networks too often offer airtime to Republicans intent on spreading falsehoods and hatred. Moreover, by presenting news in soundbites without context, the networks offer a distorted and incomplete version of the truth which makes it more difficult to counter the Republican narrative.

Of course, social media plays a part in the conservatives’ attack on democracy by creating information (more accurately, disinformation) silos where many people go for their news. It is in those silos, hidden from the public eye, where extremists, seditionists, and insurrectionists can go to reinforce their twisted ideas and plot their attacks on civil society. And despite the claims of those who profit from social media, little has been done to enforce decorum on their sites and to block disinformation.

Unfortunately, there is little government can do to counter all of this. Certainly, it can prosecute crimes as they happen. And we can vote out those who would destroy public education. But given our constitutional rights to free speech and a free press, we can’t stop the propaganda. We can only make a real effort to inform ourselves and seek the truth. Let’s hope that’s enough.

Blame It On Biden?

If you were to listen to Republicans, their propaganda networks and the corporate media, you would almost certainly believe that President Biden’s administration has been a disaster for America – worse even than that of his treasonous predecessor who used the White House as his own personal ATM and tried to violently overthrow the will of the people. But let’s take a closer look at the nation’s many problems and their actual causes. For example:

Afghanistan – Biden was blamed for our ugly exit from Afghanistan. He was accused of abandoning Afghanistan’s women and allies who worked with U.S. troops during that 20-year war. But examine the events leading up to our withdrawal, and you’ll discover that the terms and timing of our departure were negotiated by the Trump administration. So, when Biden took office, he was faced with an impossible choice – either pull our troops out of Afghanistan by the negotiated deadline. Or risk escalating the war and possibly cause it to continue for decades more.

Pandemic – Biden inherited a raging pandemic that had killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and savaged our economy. True, three vaccines were created during the previous administration. But many of Trump’s supporters steadfastly refused to take them. And by angrily refusing to wear masks, they helped spread the virus. Nevertheless, by relying on science and increasing the availability of vaccines, Biden’s administration has been able to mitigate the pandemic and to quickly restart the economy causing unemployment to drop to near historic lows.

Inflation – Biden’s stimulus plans have been blamed for overheating the economy and leading to the highest inflation in 40 years. But, when you realize that corporate profits have simultaneously reached 50-year highs, another picture emerges. The primary cause of inflation is corporate profiteering, plain and simple. Other factors include disrupted supply chains, overwhelmed seaports, understaffed trucking companies, exhausted front-line workers, and pent-up consumer demand – all the result of the Biden-inherited pandemic. It’s a basic tenet of economics that reduced supply plus increased demand equals higher prices. The administration has few tools to address that reality. It must rely on the independent Federal Reserve, and its only tool to address inflation is to increase interest rates.

Fuel Prices – Perhaps the greatest driver of inflation is soaring fuel prices. Certainly, that must be Biden’s fault. Right? Wrong! Fuel is subject to the same economic principle that affects all pricing. During the pandemic as most people worked from home, oil producers and refiners cut supply in order to reduce costs. When the country reopened, suppliers say they were unprepared for the sudden increased demand. At the same time, Russia invaded Ukraine leading to sanctions on one of the world’s largest oil producers. The administration has reacted in the only ways it can – by releasing some of our nation’s oil reserves, calling on Saudi Arabia to increase production, and trying to shame the opportunistic oil companies into lowering prices.

Moreover, given the fact that the five largest oil companies are enjoying record profits, there are legitimate questions that they may be inflating prices in retaliation against Democrats who want to force them to pay their fair share of taxes.

Federal deficit – Having refused to admit that Covid-19 was a serious threat to the U.S. lest it interrupt Trump’s “beautiful” economy, the previous administration borrowed trillions to avoid an economic collapse. Unfortunately, government revenue had also been dramatically reduced by the Trump tax cuts. That led to massive deficits. Yet the Biden administration was not only able to restart the economy. Since taking office, it has cut the deficit by $1.5 trillion.

Immigration – Republicans would have you believe that Biden has pursued an open border policy. If that’s so, how do you explain the 1.6 million immigrants waiting on the other side of our border? While it is true that Biden wants to end Title 42, he has committed to maintaining border security. He simply wants to make our border policy more humane by making it easier for immigrants to apply for refugee status if their lives would be endangered by returning to their country of origin. And, given that most of our businesses are understaffed, an increase in immigration could only help our economy.

Baby Formula – Of course, Republicans jumped on the opportunity to blame Biden for the baby formula shortage. What they fail to acknowledge is the impact of the industry’s consolidation to just four suppliers. When the FDA forced the largest of those to close a plant after dangerous bacteria were found in its products, grocery shelves emptied. Transportation issues caused by the pandemic only added to the problem as they caused delays in importing formula from other countries. To overcome those delays, Biden did the one thing he could. He turned to the military to transport formula from Europe.

Child Tax Credit – Many parents are frustrated by the end of a program that lifted millions of children out of poverty. Yes, that did happen on Biden’s watch. But it was largely due to GOP obstruction.

War in Ukraine – Russia’s latest invasion of Ukrainian territory also happened on Biden’s watch. But, in reality, it is a continuation of Russia’s 2014 capture of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. There has been fighting along the border of the two nations ever since. Unlike the previous administration that withheld nearly $400 million of congressionally approved military aid in order to gain damaging information on his likely political opponent, Biden has led an international coalition to provide military aid and sanction Russia’s plutocrats.

Surprisingly, it’s not just Republicans who are unfairly heaping blame on the Biden administration. Many Democrats and independents are frustrated that Biden hasn’t yet dealt with their long wish list of wants and demands. Why hasn’t he instituted stricter gun safety measures? Climate change is worsening. Why hasn’t he done more to address that? Why can’t he lower the cost of pharmaceuticals? Why can’t he do more to protect abortion after the conservative majority in the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade? What is he doing to protect voting rights? Why hasn’t he forgiven all student loans? Why hasn’t he expanded the number of justices on the Supreme Court.

The answer to most of those questions and more is the recalcitrance of fifty Republican Senators, two Democratic Senators and the filibuster.

Biden certainly isn’t perfect. But his administration has been faced with an almost unimaginable number of challenges. And, unlike his twice-impeached predecessor, he didn’t encourage one of our nation’s greatest rivals to help him get elected. He didn’t receive campaign funds from foreign powers. He hasn’t stuffed his pockets with taxpayer money. He hasn’t bullied allies while playing footsie with dictators and enemies of our nation. He hasn’t ordered children to be ripped from their mothers’ arms. He hasn’t tried to extort favors from a foreign leader. He isn’t a pathological liar. And he hasn’t defiled Congress and our Constitution.

An Open Letter To The Once Supreme Court Of The United States

I know that I speak for many Americans when I say that I no longer respect the court that I once believed supreme in regard to the wisdom of its legal rulings and interpretation of the Constitution.

In recent years, the conservative majority has ruled that money equals free speech, that corporations have the rights of people (giving executives and boards of directors both individual and corporate rights), that free speech does not include the right to boycott, that the separation of church and state does not extend to taxpayer funding of religious schools and, as the leaked document indicates, that a woman no longer has the right to privacy concerning her medical treatment and conversations with a physician.

The court’s most recent ruling seems to be based on an originalist reading of the 2nd Amendment, noting that its wording gives citizens the right to “keep and bear arms.” But what about the rest of the Amendment’s wording: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State”?

If the majority so strongly believes in the Framers’ original intent, why not rule that all males of a certain age must provide their own arms and order them to muster at designated times for training as my colonial ancestors were required to do?

I can only assume that it is because that reading does not fit the political ideology of the conservative majority.

Therein lies the problem. Many of us can no longer hold the court supreme because it has become utterly and hopelessly political. Unlike every other court in the land, this once supreme court has no code of ethics. A number of the justices have taken speaking engagements with highly partisan groups. Some have refused to recuse themselves from decisions in which they have a conflict of interest. And the wife of one justice has deeply engaged in a seditious attempt to overturn the results of an election.

In virtually every nation that has become a failed democracy, it has done so with the complicity of its judicial system. I now fear, with this court’s aid, that will be the future of the United States.

Preaching Evil And Hate.

Preaching Evil is the title of a new Peacock documentary about FLDS leader, Warren Jeffs. But the title could well be applied to hundreds of televangelists and evangelical Christian pastors, as well as fundamentalist Imams, Rabbis, and leaders of various other religions and sects who use their platforms to preach hate against others. There are no better examples than the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, who has blessed Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and the white conservative “Christians” who encourage their followers to discriminate against people of differing faiths, races, and sexual preference.

Of course, none of this is new.

Most of the world’s violence has long been based on religious differences and misunderstandings. The Roman Catholic Church ordered the torture and murder of millions during the Inquisition. It ordered the slaughter of the Templars, the Cathars and the Huguenots. And its desire to conquer and convert “heathens” was behind the genocide of indigenous Americans.

Religious discrimination led European Christians to tolerate the imprisonment of Jews and the resulting death camps of the Holocaust. Southern Christians condoned the KKK with the Christian symbol of the cross integral to the terrorists’ gatherings and lynchings. More recently, religious differences are at the heart of the on-going conflicts in the Middle East, in India, Pakistan, and Myanmar.

Even when religions haven’t encouraged and committed genocide, they have dismissed others’ creation beliefs as myth. And they declared those they didn’t understand as infidels, witches, or demons.

To be clear, I believe that all people have a right to worship however, whatever, and whoever they please, as long as their worship does not encroach on the rights of others. As long as they respect the beliefs and customs of others.

And I do believe that organized religion can be positive.

I was raised in a small-town church where I was taught the Golden Rule and where most members tried to follow it. The church was a gathering place of joy for weddings, anniversaries, and other celebrations. It was a place where anyone could go to seek aid and guidance. It was also a place where locals gathered in support of those mourning a loss. Those kinds of churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques still exist. But they are being overwhelmed by the political and the crazies.

Surveys have shown that the number of people who attend church is declining in the US and elsewhere – likely the result of the crimes and excesses of religions: the violence, the sexual abuses of children, the hateful discrimination of the LGBTQ community, the misogyny which has led to attacks on a woman’s right to abortion, and the belief that you can still go to heaven despite your sins as long as you confess them and proclaim your faith in Christ.

Yet, somehow, evangelical Christians and megachurches are exerting more power than ever. They captured the Republican Party and celebrated one of history’s worst philanderers and conmen in order to force their beliefs onto others. In effect, many US churches have become little more than political clubs. And because they are tax exempt, we are all helping to pay for their clubhouses and their efforts to spread hate.

The Internal Revenue Service has a long-standing rule prohibiting churches and charities from engaging in politics by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one “which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” It’s long past time that the IRS enforced it. Indeed, it also should be applied to campaigning on behalf of the GOP’s continuous culture wars.

That won’t solve all of the problems with organized religions. But it would be a start.

The GQP’s Decades Long, Multi-Pronged Assault On Democracy.

If you think the insurrection ended on January 6th, I regret to inform you that it was only the tip of the proverbial autocratic iceberg. In fact, the billionaires have been working to undermine our democracy for more than 60 years. And they haven’t stopped now.

In one of history’s greatest ironies, Charles Koch, James McGill Buchanan, Jr. and the remnants of the John Birch Society used the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision to desegregate schools in Brown v. Board of Education to co-opt the Republican Party – the political party that had ended slavery. Since then, they have spent hundreds of millions to undermine our federal government and democracy itself.

Hiding under the cloak of the Republican Party, they have tried to starve the government of the funds it needs to serve the people. Through large donations, they corrupted law schools and university economics programs to teach their political views. Once they gained control of the Supreme Court, they pushed for legal opinions to equate money with free speech (Buckley v Valeo) and to equate corporate rights with those of individuals (Citizens United v FEC) to better fund their operations. That resulted in an avalanche of dark (aka dirty) campaign money to help elect like-minded candidates.

Shouting liberty and freedom, they eroded common sense regulations designed to protect Americans. They repealed the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine which unleashed their propagandists (Fox News, OANN, Newsmax, and rightwing radio hosts) to use mass media to deliver and repeat their many hateful lies. And recognizing that it’s more difficult to win elections when more people vote, they have implemented a decades long attack on voting rights with strict ID laws, reduced voting hours, reduced numbers of polling places, and restrictions for mail-in voting.

Believing it’s easier to control state governments than the federal government, they created ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) to provide conservative legislators with “model” bills that are written by and for large corporations. To spread fear of the federal government, they embraced the NRA to expand gun ownership and to create even more fear. When cities passed ordinances to regulate short-term rentals, to ban plastic bags, and to protect undocumented immigrants, they passed laws to pre-empt cities’ self-rule.

As they filled Congress with anti-government zealots and conspiracy theorists, they have continued to cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy causing the nation to descend into a plutocracy. They have used the filibuster to block most legislation that would benefit ordinary working people. Once they got a wannabe autocrat into the White House, they used him to further cut taxes, cut regulations, sell-off oil-drilling rights and mineral rights on protected lands, and to pack the courts with partisan judges.

To ensure Trump and their other candidates would maintain control of the government, they tried to extort a foreign government into opening a false investigation into the Bidens. They purged voter registrations and replaced the postmaster to slow the pandemic-created avalanche of mail-in ballots. When that didn’t work, they tried to get state election officials to find enough votes to change the election outcome. They continued to promote the idea of massive voter fraud which resulted in the January 6 insurrection in a violent attempt to block the certification of electoral votes. Even now they continue to contest the election results by claiming that China dumped thousands and thousands of ballots into the states Trump lost and that Italy had hacked electronic voting machines.

Even more concerning is that Trump’s disgraced National Security Advisor and Qanon conspiracy theorist, Michael Flynn, has called for a Myanmar-style military coup!

So, the choice is no longer between Republican and Democrat. It is now between autocracy and democracy.

Turning Point.

The threat of losing our democracy in the US did not end on January 6th. Republicans insist the 2020 election is not over. Not by a long shot.

Never mind that the Trump campaign lost more than 60 court cases to overturn 2020 election results, including in courts ruled by Trump appointees. Disregard the fact that Trump lost numerous recounts. Forget the fact that Biden accumulated over 7 million more votes than Trump. Ignore the fact that the few examples of voter fraud were committed by Republicans.

In a true democracy, that would be enough to force a political party to accept defeat. But Republicans no longer care about preserving our democracy. Having failed at their many attempts to overturn a free and fair election, including a violent insurrection aimed at murdering Democrats and holding congressional representatives hostage until they agreed to reinstall Trump in the Oval Office, it is abundantly clear that Republicans only care about winning. Winning at any cost.

So here we are on the precipice of becoming a failed democracy. A nation in which some citizens, based on the color of their skin and the size of their bank accounts, have long found it difficult to vote. A nation in which the vote of a resident of Wyoming counts nearly four times that of a California resident. A nation in which millions of residents of Washington, D.C. have no representation. A nation in which legislative and congressional districts are created to ensure that only Republicans can win them.

Yet, despite their advantages, neither of the last two Republican presidents won a majority of the popular vote.

As the Republican Party strayed further and further from reality, as its policies became increasingly unpopular, it resorted to fear tactics. Fear of the other. It created a propaganda network to constantly attack Democrats. It pandered to corporations, sponsoring legislation written by the secretive ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). It pandered to evangelical Christians by demonizing abortion and promoting discrimination. It pandered to millionaires and billionaires by promoting tax cuts and looking the other way as they exploited tax shelters to protect their wealth. And it embraced violent militias and white supremacists.

Now, having recognized that its structural advantages and dirty money are no longer enough to win, the party has decided to attack democracy itself. In 49 of our 50 states, Republicans have introduced legislation designed to make voting more difficult, especially for black and brown people and the working poor. And, in Arizona, the Republican-led legislature has engineered an audit of the 2020 vote, using a questionable company led by a conspiracy theorist. While denying access to the process by journalists and impartial observers, and by questionable procedures including ultraviolet lights and photographic scans of ballots, they hope to prove their previously announced claim: The election was stolen. If they do, Republicans are certain to conduct similar audits in other states with the goal of claiming that Biden is an illegitimate president.

Given Republican attempts to engineer elections and their results, it has become abundantly clear that Congress must pass bills to recognize the District of Columbia as a state and to create national standards for elections, improving voter registration and voting access while protecting election integrity.

Our democracy hangs in the balance.

Our Greatest Strengths May Also Be Our Greatest Weaknesses.

Since its inception, the US has been celebrated for its guaranteed freedoms: Most notably the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to own a gun, and the freedom to choose our leaders no matter how flawed and unqualified they may be. But those freedoms come with a cost.

Under our Constitution, profiteers and ideologues such as Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and the mysterious Q are free to distribute a torrent of half truths, mistruths, and outrageous lies intended to divide us and to weaken our nation. As a result, there are no shared truths. Not even the need to deal with the horrors of a pandemic has been able to pull us together. Far too many have been willing to take the word of pundits and politicians over that of caregivers and scientists. Even after nearly 350,000 deaths, they continue to believe the pandemic is a hoax. By refusing to wear a mask, they are making a political statement. And they are convinced that vaccines have been created as a way for the government to track them or, worse, poison them.

White supremacists, white nationalists, and other hatemongers hide behind our freedom of religion to discriminate against those of other religions, colors, cultures, and sexual preferences. They even use their religions to deny women the freedom to control their own bodies.

The gun lobby uses the 2nd Amendment and fear tactics to expand gun ownership. Not for hunting. But for “protection.” This is despite the fact that more gun owners are likely to be shot with their own gun than to use it for self-defense. And despite the overwhelming number of gun deaths enabled by easy access to guns. Further, as hate and division have grown, millions of Americans have assembled arsenals with the expectation of using them against their political “enemies” and their own government!

As for our “free” elections, consider the fact that many American citizens are routinely denied the freedom to vote. Especially those Americans of color and those living in poverty. They have not only been victimized by reduced polling places, reduced voting hours, and the purges of voter registrations. Many have been required to take time away from work and drive long distances in order to obtain necessary voter IDs. And one need look no further than the chaos created by Donald J. Trump to see the consequences of electing greedy, unethical, and unqualified government outsiders.

It’s not hyperbole to state that our freedoms may also lead to our nation’s demise.

The question is: How can we address the weaknesses of our system while maintaining our Constitutional freedoms? How can we prevent the liars, the unethical, the profiteers, and our enemies from using our own Constitution against us, especially now that our Supreme Court has been politicized?

We can end division by, once again, demanding that media report the truth. That could be accomplished by a return to some form of the Fairness Doctrine, which required radio and television channels to operate in the public interest by clearly labeling opinions and separating them from the news. The same rules could be applied to all other media.

We could also take the politics out of religion by enforcing current laws that take away tax exemptions for churches that routinely engage in political activities. We should also tax churches that collect millions in donations, permitting their pastors to live in mansions and travel in private jets.

We can address our gun problem by instituting national gun laws, including universal background checks and red flag laws. We should also end the sales of military-style weapons, such as AR-15s, AK-47s, 50 caliber sniper rifles, and large capacity ammunition clips which add to the killing power of mass shooters. And we should conduct buyback programs to recover those already in our citizens’ hands.

Finally, we should reform our electoral system by eliminating the Electoral College, by instituting universal voter registration, and by standardizing elections from state to state. In addition, we should demand that anyone running for national office submit to extensive background checks and release all financial information, including 10 years of tax returns.

Do I think any of this will happen? No. But if we don’t make any changes, it’s pointless to continue to spend trillions on national defense. Before any external enemy can destroy us, we will likely destroy ourselves.

Don’t Mourn For The GOP Of Old.

In the age of Trump, some long for the GOP of old. True, the party of Lincoln was truly admirable. But that GOP hasn’t existed for a very long time. The GOP of modern history bore little resemblance to the party of Lincoln. Yet some would have you believe that the party of Nixon, Reagan, and Bush was just as caring, just as patriotic and just as principled.

Don’t believe the myth.

Though it is true that the GOP of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 2000s was significantly better than the current hot mess, it was no friend of ordinary working people. It was a coalition of corporatists and industrialists. It included war mongers, bigots, anti-unionists, and those who felt it was their duty to interfere with democracies and governments around the globe on behalf of our corporations.

It was the GOP under Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers that overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran when it tried to nationalize Iranian oil, an act that led to a brutal dictatorship and, ultimately, the Islamist revolution. It was the GOP that undermined the Vietnam peace talks to help Nixon’s election chances, an act that resulted in thousands more deaths. It was the GOP that embraced southern racists after the civil rights movement.

In the old GOP, it was Nixon who founded a dirty tricks squad and tried to circumvent our democratic elections by breaking into the Democratic National headquarters. It was Nixon who ordered the overthrow of Chile’s democratically elected president who was replaced by a dictator.

In the old GOP, it was Reagan who fomented distrust in the government, who launched an attack on labor unions, who handed out large tax cuts to the wealthy under his bogus “trickle-down” economic theory, who imposed a range of hidden taxes on the middle class, and who ran up the national debt. It was Reagan who created a shadow government that illegally sold weapons to Iran in order to fund the Central American Contras.

It was George H.W. Bush who continued Reagan’s economic policy and launched a war in the Middle East. And it was George W. Bush who used his brother to corrupt Florida’s election in order to attain office. “W” also ignored warnings of the impending terrorist attack on 9/11 and launched a horrific war in Iraq based on false information.

It was the old GOP that spawned ultra-partisans such as Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan and Moscow Mitch McConnell – the people who placed party over country and made compromise a dirty word. It is members of the old GOP who, like Mitt Romney, Moscow Mitch, and Elaine Chow, have parked funds in offshore tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. It was members of the old GOP that showered trillions on the military-industrial complex. And it was the old GOP that has gone to great lengths to suppress and intimidate voters who are unlikely to vote for GOP candidates.

Yes, the GOP of Trump is significantly worse than what preceded it – led by a treasonous conman who has taken corruption, division, lies, and bigotry to new levels. But it was the old GOP that embraced Trumpism and made this horror show possible.