Being Optimistic About America’s Future Gets Easier

Photo by Gabriella Borter-Reuters

Numerous commentators and writers have been conjuring up dark scenarios for the United States this year, causing demoralizing fears about civil wars and impending threats to American democracy.  I agree that U.S. politics have been depressing since the 2020 election, particularly after former president Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021.  I have been trying to write more positive blogs to counter these horrific opinions, however, and events of the past two months are beginning to make that easier.   

Why?  Well, there has been a fair amount of good news recently that I find uplifting.  In June, the January 6 committee began telling a compelling tale of criminality by former president Trump and all those who attempted to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election.  Then we learned that the Department of Justice has empaneled a grand jury that is focusing on wrongdoing by top officials in the Trump administration on January 6.  The best chance to indict Trump, however, may be in Fulton County, Georgia where a grand jury is zeroing in on Trump and those who attempted to reverse President Biden’s win in that state.

These investigations have prompted dozens of pundits to question if Trump’s 2020 voters will support him in 2024.  Absolutely, is the answer that I have heard or read from most of them.  Several have opined that what Trump did on January 6 hasn’t even damaged him.  A July article in The Atlantic, however, published the results from dozens of focus groups of Trump’s 2020 voters that have met since January 6, 2021.  The changing attitudes they reveal are insightful.

Most participants in focus group meetings that occurred prior to the start of the January 6 committee hearings in June, still wanted Trump in 2024.  Those in the nine groups since then weren’t so sure. Some found Trump to be “exhausting.”  One said, “I don’t want four more years of [bad tweets].”  Others thought the GOP could potentially get eight years of control with another candidate instead of only four with Trump.  In four of the final nine groups, not one person wanted Trump to run again.  Among various alternative candidates, these Republicans expressed the most interest in Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

As I have stated in previous blogs, in my opinion, Donald Trump will not be on the ballot in 2024.  That alone would be very positive, even if the Republican nominee becomes president.  Trump is surrounded by truly antidemocracy, sycophantic criminals who would attempt to keep him, and them, in power beyond four years, literally creating an autocracy.  I believe that any of the other Republicans who are vying to be the GOP nominee in 2024 would be much more likely to follow the rule of law and the Constitution than Trump, which would help preserve U.S. democracy.

Progressives were encouraged on Tuesday when the Republican effort to eliminate abortion protections from the Kansas state constitution was overwhelmingly defeated.  They now believe that abortion rights will be a significant issue in the midterm elections.  That combined with the radical candidates that Republican voters are nominating give Democrats a better chance of retaining control of Congress, according to a growing number of analysts.  They may also do better in critical governor’s races like Texas where Republican Greg Abbott may be vulnerable because he signed one of the strictest abortion restrictions in the nation.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is one radical candidate this year who is certainly not helping GOP efforts to retake the Senate.  It’s no secret that Republicans would cut Social Security and Medicare benefits if they thought they could get away with it.  Well, Johnson confirmed that recently during a right-wing radio show when he proposed making mandatory (automatic) spending programs like these two popular entitlements subject to yearly discretionary spending appropriations bills.  CNN anchor Brianna Keilar played a clip of Johnson’s remarks for analyst Chris Wallace, after which she said, “Sounds like cutting Medicare and Social Security.”  Wallace agreed and said it was a terrible policy.  He called it “suicide politics.”

On the plus side, Democrats have scored, or are teeing up, some significant legislative wins in Congress.  President Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in June, the first gun control legislation in decades, the CHIPS bill in July, which appropriates $280 billion to speed up the manufacture of critically needed semiconductors in the U.S. and the PACT Act in August, which expands health care benefits for veterans who were sickened by exposure to toxic burn pits during military service.  Congress also passed the accession treaty in August, which approves adding Sweden and Finland to NATO, thus helping counter Russia in Europe.  

An even bigger win for Democrats is nearing passage in Congress, the Inflation Reduction Act.  This bill would raise taxes on corporations and wealthy hedge fund managers, make the largest ever U.S. investment toward fighting climate change and reduce the cost of pharmaceutical drugs.  It would also further reduce the number of Americans without health insurance, which in 2022 is at a record low.  Economists agree that this legislation will lower prices for all Americans and even slightly decrease budget deficits.

Yes, I believe recent events are making it easier to be optimistic about America’s future.  Remember, Republican autocrats will only prevail if pessimism causes democracy-loving Americans to give up and do nothing to stop them.

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Things Are Rarely as Bad as We Fear

Proud Boys by Nathan Howard-Getty Images

Feeling helpless?  Many are!  Worried about the current state of affairs and the future?  Join the crowd!  But you know, when I think back on the situations that filled me with dread, particularly those that might significantly affect me or my family, I can’t remember even one that turned out as horrible as I had imagined it could.  And most weren’t bad at all.  It’s uncertainty that really frightens us, I suppose, and we are facing a lot of unknowns these days.

One that’s deeply worrying many Americans is a possible Republican takeover of Congress in 2022 and an election rigged by GOP-controlled states in 2024 that returns former president Donald Trump to the White House.  Many left-leaning pundits and Democratic politicians have conjured up fears about a Republican autocracy and the resulting loss of democratic processes in America.  I’m not saying their anxiety is unwarranted, but I don’t believe this scenario at all inevitable.

Right now, Trump is running scared for a number of reasons.  Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has bested him in several straw polls and is appealing to the hard-core Republican base that has been the former president’s greatest political asset.  Influential conservative Rich Lowry, editor in chief of National Review, wrote a guest essay for the New York Times in May titled, “Republicans Need a New Leader. They’re Looking to Florida.”  In it he stated “The governor is a leader in a new, Trump-inflected party, but without the character flaws and baggage of the former president.”  Lowry believes DeSantis represents “the new Republican Party.”

It appears that Trump may soon announce his candidacy for the 2024 GOP nomination in order to discourage potential competitors – and hold off federal and state prosecutors.  Some believe the latter objective has the highest priority.  Regardless, there are over 100 Republican primary winners who promote Trump’s big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, according to a recent Washington Post article.  An announcement before the fall midterms would really put Trump and his election fraud claims on the ballot then too, which is something the GOP leadership fears.

Whatever Trump does though probably won’t stop DeSantis, who I believe is preparing to challenge him.  One competitor, of course, would undoubtedly draw in a few others, including former VP Mike Pence and several ambitious GOP Senators.  Once emboldened, one or more of these ruthless politicians would likely go on the attack against Trump, just like he did against the primary candidates in 2016.

Oh, and let’s not forget the January 6 committee in the U.S. House.  Although, most Republicans in Congress and their right-wing supporters have dismissed this oversight effort as a politically motivated witch hunt, it is building a strong case against Trump, which appears to be both substantial and credible.  Even though unprecedented, I believe there is a significant possibility that the former president will be indicted for one or more crimes before 2024, either by the U.S. Justice Department or by Fani Willis, the Fulton County, Georgia district attorney.  In my opinion, Donald Trump will not be the GOP standard bearer two years hence.

Will Republicans win control of the House and/or the Senate in 2022?  Well, it’s certainly possible they could take either or both but I don’t believe it will be like 2010, when then-President Obama admitted that the Democrats got a “shellacking,” not only in the House but in states across the nation.   

The House is probably more problematic for Democrats.  Over in the Senate, however, they have a better chance of holding a majority.  First, there are only 14 Democratic Senators up for reelection compared to 21 for the Republicans.  At least three of these who won their GOP primaries, J. D. Vance in Ohio, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Hershel Walker in Georgia are struggling.  They remind me of 2012 when the Republicans ran some – shall we say – wacko candidates who lost big time.  Democratic control of the Senate would allow the president to appoint more federal judges, which is a really big deal, even if no significant legislation is passed in 2023 and 2024. 

Many say the major factor influencing the midterms is the economy.  Well, the June jobs report was surprisingly strong, as the unemployment rate stayed at a record low 3.6%.  The price of oil is trending down, which should mean a cheaper gallon of gas and the supply chain crisis is easing, which would help moderate inflation.  If the Federal Reserve can avoid creating a recession with interest rate hikes before November, that should improve the sour mood of voters who seem to be more focused on their pocketbooks than Republican threats to democracy.  

Also on the positive side, Democrats can tout the bipartisan infrastructure package they engineered, the first gun safety legislation passed in decades and the significant increases in wages that accompanied the great jobs numbers.  They and their supporters need to begin accentuating the positive and shake off the gloom and doom.

The political situation is nowhere near hopeless.  We the people have the power – perhaps the only power – to prevent Republican autocrats from taking over and the first thing is to financially support and vote for qualified candidates who share our concerns and beliefs.  Each and every one of us matters and is a valuable asset in the democracy-saving process. 

So, let’s get with the program.

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Whatever the Problem, Voting Republican Won’t Fix It

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Getting emotional and upset about the price of gas, the economy, inflation, etc. and voting for Republicans in 2022 is like getting angry over a broken dish or something and smashing your fist into the wall.  It won’t accomplish a damned thing and it’s certain to result in extreme pain.  I would caution those who might be favoring the GOP this year to think long and hard about what will result from their choices.

Republican policies should be one of their first considerations.  That is, what are Republicans currently supporting and what do they oppose.  Unfortunately, that has gotten much harder to discern recently.  The national party didn’t draft an updated platform at its 2020 convention.  Instead, delegates produced a one-page resolution that incorporated the 2016 platform and basically stated that the party would support whatever then-President Trump wanted.

The Republican policy dearth continued into 2021.  At a private dinner with donors and GOP Senate candidates last November, according to an Axios source, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told his colleagues that he didn’t intend to introduce a legislative agenda before the 2022 midterms.  McConnell wants Republicans to wait for an updated GOP platform to be adopted in 2024 and be 100% focused this year on lambasting Democrats for their failures. 

Donors typically want to know what their money is buying, however, so one of them at this meeting asked what GOP candidates would be proposing to help them win.  McConnell simply replied that the party wouldn’t be doing that.  Better to have no agenda than one that can be attacked by opponents, right?

Well, it doesn’t appear to me that Mitch is eager to help Democrats accomplish anything.

Yet, not all Republican politicians agree with the minority leader.  I’ve written previously about an 11-Point Plan to Rescue America rolled out by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) last February.  Scott is the current leader of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and it appears he wants the party’s Senate candidates to run on his plan.  While many of them would probably be happy to do that, McConnell publicly rebuked Scott for this effort and aggressively shut it down.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also wanted to draft a legislative agenda leading to the 2022 midterms, according to Axios.  He announced the appointment of seven issue-specific taskforces in June 2021 that are “designed to identify and develop policy solutions to the issues facing the American people.”  Last November he announced the first issue specific proposal House Republicans will promote, the Parents Bill of Rights. GOP House members have not produced a second proposal since then, to my knowledge, and I doubt if they will.  McConnell will see to that.

Okay, I think we can stop right here.  Why should any voter believe that Republicans will work with Democrats to help solve any of our current problems before the 2024 election, or thereafter, for that matter?  It’s obvious that they have a totally different agenda. 

Just consider the platform that delegates concocted last week at the Texas GOP convention.  I believe it proposes some of the most radical ideas that a Republican assemblage has ever produced in a single document.

Here are just some of its bombshells, many of which I believe grassroots Republicans all over the country would likely support. 

The Texas Republican platform:

  • Rejects the certified results of the 2020 Presidential election, and holds that acting President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was not legitimately elected.
  • Supports repeal of the 16th Amendment (Federal Income Tax)
  • Supports the privatization of the Social Security system.
  • Rejects the “bipartisan gun agreement” and rebukes Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), etc.
  • Holds that homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice that shouldn’t be protected under the law.
  • Urges legislation to abolish abortion from the moment of fertilization.
  • Urges repeal of all limits on candidate and campaign contributions by U.S. citizens.
  • Supports defunding and abolishing virtually all federal government departments and agencies that are not authorized by the Constitution, including the Federal Reserve.
  • Supports withdrawal from the United Nations and removal of the UN from U.S. soil.
  • States that all gun control is a violation of the Second Amendment.
  • Urges that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 be repealed, and
  • Suggests that Texans vote on seceding from the United States.

Voters need to read this seditious, 40-page, 273 proposal document (Access it here.) to understand how strongly it promotes returning America to the 19th Century. 

They should also watch a video of the delegates at this convention soundly booing Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn when he attempted to speak about the bipartisan gun safety bill he is negotiating.  And they need to watch and hear some convention attendees harassing Texas Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw – a conservative former Navy Seal who lost one eye fighting in Afghanistan – calling him “eye-patch McCain” because he supported Ukraine in its war with Russia and suggesting he be hung for treason. 

These hard right Texas convention delegates are a classic example of the inmates taking over the asylum.

I’m confident, however, that the more the Trumpian Republicans put their anti-democracy proposals under the media microscope, the more likely that voters will reject the candidates that support them.  That’s why McConnell has been adamant against drafting a legislative agenda this year.  He knows that it will show how Republicans have no interest in fixing today’s problems – and he’s right.

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Not One More Child Will Be Born in 2021

Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Okay, in other words, the U. S. birth numbers last year will never change, nor will their composition of race, gender and ethnicity.  That fact, although obvious, is very significant.  For example, along with immigration estimates and other factors, critically important projections can be made for new kindergarten students in 2026, college enrollments around 2038 and future available labor pools.   

These yearly statistics also help demographers advise politicians about how many individuals of which races and ethnic groups will become newly eligible to vote in future election years.  Republicans have been focused on these numbers lately; it drives much of their racist, replacement conspiracy theory and paranoia over immigrants.

The phrase “Demographics are destiny.” has been attributed to the 19th Century French philosopher Auguste Comte.  It suggests that much of the future is predetermined by trends in current populations, i.e., which groups are growing and where and which are receding.  Population growth for the year is determined by adding the number of births, minus the number of deaths plus the number of immigrants.  So, what’s going on with the birth rate in the United States?

Like almost every other well-developed country, U.S. women are having fewer babies.  To some extent, this can be chalked up to women being better educated and employed, which gives them more power over their bodies and their lives.  Another very significant reason, however, is the high cost of having and caring for children. 

When we moved from North Carolina to Washington state, I immediately noticed many more young families with three or even four children compared to North Carolina where one or two was more typical.  A study by the financial website wallethub.com suggests a reason for this, Washington was rated the 8th best state to raise a family in 2022; North Carolina was rated 37th.  One of the factors influencing the rating in this study was median income.  WA was rated 3rd in terms of affordability; NC was 37th, the same as its overall rating. 

There can be no doubt that Biden’s Build Back Better Act would have stimulated U.S. birth rates by giving working mothers help with child care and schooling for pre-K children.  It would have provided for paid family and medical leave and significant child tax credits to make having children much more affordable.  Republican opposition in the Senate is the main reason this legislation failed, but West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D) prevented Democrats from passing it using the narrow budget reconciliation process.  Ironically, his state desperately needed this legislation.  West Virginia was rated dead last in a wallethub.com study, 2022’s Best and Worst State Economies

The low birth rates in 2021 combined with a shocking number of Americans who died.  According to the census data, 2,297 U.S. counties, or over 73%, experienced more deaths than births in 2021; that’s up from 45.5% in 2019.  No doubt, hundreds of thousands of coronavirus deaths caused part of this increase, but Americans also die of gun violence and drug overdoses at higher rates than citizens of other wealthy countries. 

The U.S. population grew by 2 million every year from 2011 to 2017, which was still low by historical standards, and only by 1.1 million in 2020.  Then, the U.S. population grew at the slowest pace in history in 2021, according to census data, adding a mere 393,000 people.  Yet, even if the coronavirus deaths had not occurred, U.S. population growth in 2021 would have been historically low.

Okay, what about immigration?  The number of immigrants tends to increase in good economic times.  After the U.S. added almost 1.2 million lawful permanent immigrant residents in 2016, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics, the number of immigrants steadily decreased through 2019.  Last year, only 245,000 immigrants were added.

The reason for this decreasing immigration is clear.  Former president Trump and his administration waged open warfare on immigrants during his four years.  Unfortunately, President Biden has not yet revitalized pro-immigration policies, according to a March article in The Atlantic

I think Caleb Watney, a co-founder of the Washington, D.C. think tank, Institute for Progress, correctly summed up the tremendous value of immigrants for a recent article in The Atlantic.  He stated that immigrants bring patents and Nobel Prizes in droves, help America stay ahead of China by driving progress in semiconductors, artificial intelligence and quantum computing and launch nearly 50 percent of U.S. billion-dollar start-ups.  Watney lamented, however, that while the rest of the world is begging international talent to come to their shores, the U.S. has been slamming the door in their face.

Watney makes a great point.  Elon Musk, a U.S. citizen and the world’s richest person, was born in Pretoria, South Africa.  Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, and Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, are both U.S. citizens who were born in India.  Foreign-born executives like these and millions of other immigrants have been enriching our society and supercharging the U.S. economy for over two centuries.

My fascination with demographics grew after I realized how they show that the future is now.  Yes, our population is aging because the U.S. has too few births, too many deaths and not nearly enough incoming immigrants.  Clearly, Democrats strongly support legislation to correct these disturbing population trends.  Still, I believe corporate America’s need for abundant, skilled labor, including women with children, will force even a Republican-controlled government to take action.

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It Won’t Be Easy but We’ll Get Through This

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One thing that strikes me as I review events of the past few weeks is how Republican politicians just keep shifting further to the right, becoming more authoritarian and even fascist.  This has been happening for years, of course, and the upcoming midterm elections are probably exacerbating the trend.  But I believe this will come back to haunt the GOP long term.

What surprises me about this phenomenon, however, is how Republicans are targeting corporations that challenge them.  They love the corporate campaign contributions but they don’t want any push back on their frequently unpopular policies. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose star is rapidly rising in the GOP, is a prime example.  He rushed through a bill in April, without debate, that would repeal the complex 1967 law that gives the Walt Disney Company government-like legal authority over almost 40 square miles surrounding its huge theme park near Orlando, Florida.  Why would DeSantis take such harsh action against the company that employs almost 80,000 people in his state and adds $75 billion to the state’s economy?  Well, Disney’s CEO, Bob Chapek, was critical of DeSantis’ so-called, Don’t Say Gay law and called for its repeal. 

Observers are beginning to compare DeSantis to Hungary’s illiberal leader, Viktor Orban, who has taken control of both the courts and the press in that small nation.  As I have written before, I believe DeSantis is more dangerous than former president Trump.

Another possible presidential candidate and would be authoritarian, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley (R), actually introduced legislation to strip Disney of some of its copyrights – including for its signature Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse – because the company exercised its free speech rights in Florida.  A statement released by Hawley about this bill lambasted, “woke corporations like Disney” for “pandering to woke activists,” clearly casting it as retaliatory. It has no chance of passing but it sends a signal from Republicans to corporations: It’s okay to give us your money but keep your mouth shut about what we’re doing.  What does this say about GOP support of free-market principles?

Ohio Republican Senate candidate J. D. Vance’s rhetoric, however, goes much further and is even more ominous.  In an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News, Vance stated that the assets of the Ford Foundation should be seized or taxed and he called the Ford Foundation, the Gates Foundation and the Harvard endowment, “cancers on society” for allegedly supporting left-wing causes. 

Vance gave a speech at the November 2021 National Conservative Conference titled, “The Universities Are the Enemy.”  In it he denounced elite colleges – which he has long believed should lose federal funding and have their endowments seized – as enemies of the American people, according to a Vanity Fair article by James Pouge. 

This article also revealed Vance’s advice for Trump if he’s elected in 2024, “Fire every single midlevel bureaucrat, every civil servant in the administrative state, replace them with our people.”  “And when the courts stop you, stand before the country, and say, the chief justice has made his ruling, now let him enforce it.”  

These are words former president Andrew Jackson used in 1832 when he challenged constitutional order and they are chilling.

I believe these examples put America’s corporations and other institutions on notice of what happens if Republican authoritarians gain power and I don’t think they’re willing to accept that fate.  Neither will voters accept the results of long-held GOP policies if they become law, including restricting abortions.

Republican politicians have claimed to be pro-life for decades and demanded that Roe v. Wade and its constitutional right for an abortion be overturned.  Well, the recently leaked preliminary opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicates that conservative Supreme Court justices are going to grant their wish.  Thereafter, abortion rights will be subject to state laws, which will restrict or ban the procedure in at least 23 Republican-controlled states.  

As numerous columnists have observed, the GOP dog has finally caught the abortion rights car it has been chasing but isn’t sure what to do with it.  Problem is, 63% of voters believe Roe should remain the law, according to a recent national NBC News poll, and only 30% say it should go.  You know what they say, be careful of what you ask for, you just might get it.

Likewise, how will voters react when a Republican-controlled government attempts to privatize Medicare and convert Medicaid to a block grant program, as Republicans have long advocated?  Will Americans be eager to vote GOP when the Social Security trust fund is no longer able to fulfill its full obligations to beneficiaries and Republicans refuse to correct the short falls?  Not likely.

I know, the future of our democratic republic seems rather dark right now.  Still, I’m confident that we’re going to get through this assault on our democratic processes by GOP authoritarians.  There are just too many good people in this nation who will never be willing to sacrifice 237 years of government for the people and give power to a stupid and terribly flawed man like Donald Trump – or DeSantis or any other like Republican.  I don’t think it will be smooth or quick and it damn sure won’t be easy, but as long as a majority of we democracy-loving citizens stay rock solid in our resolve to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, we shall prevail.

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GOP’s America First Agenda Portends America Alone

Photo courtesy of Markus Winkler – Pexels.com

Most Americans want the United States to be number one, right?  We cheer the USA in the Olympics and feel proud about having the world’s largest economy and the strongest military.  Well, I don’t think that’s what former president Donald Trump and many Republicans are thinking about when they tout “America First.”  I believe that they have a type of zero-sum game in mind where the U.S. always wins no matter who loses.  I also think they implicitly mean straight, white, Christian America First.

Hillbilly Eulogy author J. D. Vance, who Trump supports for the Ohio Republican nomination for the Senate, displayed this attitude when he said, “I think it’s ridiculous that we’re focused on this border in Ukraine. I gotta be honest with you, I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or the other.”  According to Vance, Americans should be more concerned about what’s happening at our southern border than one in far off Europe. 

It appears to me that Vance and the many Republicans who support Trump’s nationalistic policies have an outdated view of American hegemony and an arrogant approach to this nation’s 21st Century foreign policy.

Unquestionably, the United States was first in just about every category at the end of World War II.  The only significant rival the U.S. had at the time was the Soviet Union, particularly after Premier Joseph Stalin acquired nuclear weapons.  Still, the communist/socialist economic system was never a significant challenge to America’s democratic capitalism in the post war era and the USSR totally collapsed in 1991.

The communist People’s Republic of China, which was controlled by Chairman Mao Zedong after 1949, wasn’t much of a threat to U.S. economic dominance either.  When President Nixon made his historic trip to China in 1972, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) was almost $1.5 trillion, according to statistics from the World Bank, by far the world’s largest.  China’s economic output that year was less than $114 billion.  By 1990, U.S. GDP had more than quadrupled to almost $6 trillion; China’s had only increased to $361 billion.  

My wife and I were vacationing at a hotel in Beijing, PRC in 1994.  CNN was on the television in our room but I was studying a map of the city, anticipating our next day’s activities.  Suddenly, a familiar voice on the TV caused me to look up.  To my surprise, an old friend and conservative Republican congressman was speaking on the floor of the U.S. House and railing against granting China a most favored nation’s trade status. 

His efforts failed, however, and by 2010, China’s GDP had increased to just over $6 trillion, leapfrogging Japan to become the world’s second largest economy.  In another 10 years, China’s economy increased to almost $15 trillion and it surpassed that of the European Union in 2021.  Many economists believe that China’s GDP will surpass that of the U.S by 2030.  Reports indicate that China is also beefing up its military, including its nuclear capabilities, which analysts believe presents the greatest threat to U.S. global leadership since World War II.

In order to counter China’s growing influence, President Obama negotiated the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement with 11 other Pacific rim nations in 2016.  He recognized that the U.S. needed significant international support for this effort.  The TPP was never ratified, however, because Trump withdrew the U.S. from it on his first day in office in 2017. 

But this was just the first of Trump’s many actions to promote his America First agenda; he withdrew from the Paris climate agreement in June 2017 and backed out of the Iran nuclear deal in July 2018.  Trump also continuously criticized virtually all U.S. multilateral trade agreements and frequently denigrated the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  Trump’s former national security advisor, John Bolton, recently speculated that Trump would have abandoned NATO had he won a second term.

The 2022 yearly report on Freedom in the World by Freedom House, a Washington-based thinktank, shows that for each of the past 16 years, democracy has declined in more countries than it has improved.  Democracy decliner countries exceeded improvers by 45 in 2020, the worst year during that span.  In 2021 there were 35 more decliner countries than improvers and one of the decliners was the United States.  I believe this disturbing trend was exacerbated by Trump’s rejection of democratic norms during his presidency and his America First folly.

Touting America First may appeal to the Republican base but I am convinced that it would lead to an increasing number of nations where democracy declines and autocracy prospers.  In time, I believe that these newly minted autocrats – and even some leaders in weak democracies – would bend to China’s will and the United States could end up being increasingly alone on the world stage. 

Fortunately, however, President Biden is diligently working to reverse Trump’s damaging nationalistic foreign policy.  His leadership rallied the European Union and NATO into a cohesive force to counter Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.  As a result, U.S. Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin was able to organize defense officials from 40 nations for an unprecedented meeting in Germany to discuss Ukrainian defense needs for repelling Russian forces.  I believe this assemblage displayed strong international solidarity with the United States against both Putin’s aggression and the China/Russia Eurasian partnership.

Trump arrogantly tried to put America First; Biden is making America First – again.

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Do Republicans Finally Have a Policies Agenda?

Rick Scott photo by Dave Decker

You probably know that Republicans didn’t draft a party platform in 2020.  Instead, they produced a short memo that incorporated the 2016 platform and basically stated they will support anything then-President Trump wants going forward.

In keeping with this policy void, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to produce a Republican agenda prior to the 2022 midterm elections.  McConnell is a very shrewd politician who prefers attacking President Biden and the Democrats to defending GOP policy positions that aren’t very popular with the voters.  I suspect McConnell believes that it’s better for the party to be accused of not having good policies than to publish a document that removes all doubt.

Aw, but presidential aspirant Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) wasn’t satisfied with his leader’s strategy; so, he released his 11-Point Plan to Rescue America on February 22.  This document contains copious quantities of red meat for the Republican base about socialism, wokeness and critical race theory.  There’s way too much to unpack in the 11-Points for one blog but here are some of the more revealing highlights:

Scott wants to:

  • Close the federal Department of Education; he says education is a state function.   
  • Move many other government agencies out of Washington or shutter them entirely. 
  • Reduce the federal government work force by 25% in 5 years and sell government buildings and other assets. 
  • Immediately cut the IRS funding and workforce by 50%. 
  • Stop funding non-essential state and local projects until the federal budget is balanced. 
  • Prohibit debt ceiling increases absent a declaration of war. 
  • Require all Americans to pay some income tax “to have skin in the game,” even if a small amount.  
  • Sunset all federal legislation after 5 years, presumably, including Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare and other social programs.  If a law is worth keeping, Scott claims, Congress can pass it again.
  • Require that Congress issue a report each year to tell the public what legislators plan to do when Social Security and Medicare go bankrupt.

Scott would also defend 2nd Amendment gun rights “at all costs,” have zero-tolerance for “mostly peaceful [Black Lives Matter?] protests,” oppose abortion and LGBTQ rights, gradually end all imports from China until basic human rights there are honored and promote strong America First policies. 

Lastly, Scott wants to finish building the border wall, and “name it after President Donald Trump.”  Well, I agree that it’s certainly fitting to name an obscene and ineffective structure to honor a man with like qualities.

But here’s the thing.  Since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the GOP has touted the same old tired conservative agenda over and over again.  Funny thing though, they never draft serious legislation to get much of it accomplished when they control the government.  You know why?   They would be voted out of office in the next election for even making the effort.  Like, could any politician who proposed sunsetting Social Security and Medicare in five years get reelected?  Hell no!

Scott isn’t up for reelection this year so most of his 11-Points are to curry favor with the right-wing, which he hopes will support him if he decides to run for president in 2024.  I suppose his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) a few days later had the same purpose, but it was even more radical. 

It was shortly after Russia had invaded Ukraine that Scott was reflecting on the greatest threats to the United States at CPAC, according to Microsoft News.  This current leader of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, however, apparently wasn’t concerned about Russia’s aggression and its thousands of nuclear tipped missiles.  Nor did he speak about China’s expansionist objectives in Asia, Islamic terrorists or any other foreign threat.  Oh no!  After listing all the wars that America has survived from 1812 through the Cold War, Scott told the ultra-conservative audience, “Today, we face the greatest danger we have ever faced: The militant left-wing in our country has become the enemy within.”

“The woke left now controls the Democrat [sic] Party, the entire federal government, the news media, academia, big tech, Hollywood, most corporate boardrooms, and now even some of our top military leaders,” Scott added.  Obviously, he wasn’t talking about antifa or some wild-eyed group of left-wing radicals; he wants to pin an “enemies” label on millions of ordinary Americans who simply don’t agree with his far-right philosophy or agenda.

Scott made similar assertions during a speech at the Heritage Foundation in March when he claimed that the “woke left” wants to, “end the American experiment” and “replace freedom with control.”

Dangerous, false rhetoric like Scott’s has become the norm among members of the GOP.  I see the vicious grilling of Black Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson by Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans as a classic example of the GOP’s ongoing modus operandi.  Consequently, I believe the main thing Republicans want to accomplish if they take power in 2023 is to destroy Democratic politicians and the Democratic Party.

So, I don’t believe Scott’s 11-Points will be adopted as GOP policies, even though most Republicans would probably support them.  McConnell made that clear last month when he mocked Scott’s proposals by informing reporters, “Let me tell you what would not be a part of our agenda: We will not have — a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years.”

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GOP Plans for 2023 and Beyond Are Chilling

U.S. House of Representatives

You don’t need any more bad news to worry about right now.  I get that; it’s part of my thinking every time I start a new blog.  Recent polls indicate, however, that voters are too complacent regarding the threats posed by far-right Republicans, perhaps believing the GOP establishment will somehow neutralize the white nationalist, Russian-loving extremists.  Well, I believe this is dangerous, wishful thinking; Trump has elevated these outliers to the Republican mainstream.  That’s why it’s important to focus on the damage a GOP-controlled Congress would do beginning in 2023. 

So, let’s start with the U.S. House where Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is the current minority leader.  In my opinion, McCarthy is a weak, not very intelligent, unethical man.  He desperately wants to be Speaker and has protected and coddled the most radical members of his caucus in hopes of reaching that goal.  If you remember how the Freedom Caucus savaged former speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in 2015, McCarthy will experience that on steroids.  

If McCarthy doesn’t get his wish, however, the Speaker will be someone even more dangerous, like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).  Either way, the lower chamber will operate like nothing this nation has ever experienced, even worse than when the Tea Party radicals controlled it during former president Obama’s administration.  As a result, Congress will be nonfunctional and so chaotic that there will likely be physical altercations among members.

The Jan. 6 committee report and all supporting documentation will be buried, of course, and no congressional action will be taken based on its recommendations.  The Department of Justice will be our only hope to hold those responsible for the attack on the Capitol accountable. 

Remember though, the House Judiciary Committee has oversight responsibility for the DOJ.  Its ranks include some of the most far-right members of the House, including Jordan, its current ranking member.  When he or one of the other right-wing fanatics becomes committee chairperson, I believe they will initiate investigations and hearings directed at Attorney General Merrick Garland and the DOJ.  The objective will be to discourage further investigations of the Jan. 6 insurrection participants and prevent indictments of the high-level masterminds of the attack on the Capitol, specifically former president Trump.

McCarthy has repeatedly promised to remove Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) from the Intelligence Committee, along with Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.).  He has also vowed to kick Rep. Ihan Omar (D-Minn.) off the Foreign Affairs Committee and it’s likely that other high-level Democrats will be ejected from committees.  These will be paybacks for like actions taken by Democrats against wacko conspiracy theorists Reps. Margorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Az.), who McCarthy has vowed to reappoint to their committee assignments. 

Republican chairs of one or more House committees will commence lengthy investigations of the president’s son, Hunter Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci and the president’s actions in withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan.  These will be vicious, Benghazi-like probes, total political witch hunts.  

Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of subpoenas will be directed at the executive branch, covering a multitude of subjects. This will tie the administration in knots and weaken national security.  And guaranteed, House Republicans will begin impeachment proceedings against President Biden well before the 2024 election campaign begins and maybe even against Vice President Kamala Harris.   

It goes without saying, that no part of Biden’s agenda will be enacted into law after the GOP takes control of either chamber.  Battles to fund the government will probably result in government shut downs and I believe there’s a very good chance that Republicans will do what Trump urged last December and force a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt.  

In the Senate, it’s likely that several Trump-supported candidates will be elected in 2023 to fill vacant seats now held by more reasonable Republicans in North Carolina, Alabama, Missouri and Ohio.  Consequently, it’s possible that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who Trump has unmercifully trashed, will not be elected majority leader by his caucus.  Bad as he is though, McConnell’s replacement will be worse.  Whoever is the leader, however, Senate committees will also commence politically motivated inquisitions of the Afghanistan withdrawal, Hunter Biden, Fauci and others.

Almost certainly, the added Trump acolytes will make the Senate even more dysfunctional in 2023.  So, I doubt if any Biden appointed federal judges will be confirmed.  In fact, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), likely chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reportedly told CNN, that since 1886, justices to the Supreme Court have not been confirmed when the Senate is of one party and the president is of another party.  His new “rule” is total BS, but that won’t stop Republicans from refusing to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.

Make no mistake, every action taken by a GOP-controlled Congress will focus on obstructing Biden and electing a Republican president in 2024, possibly Trump.  Republican-dominated legislatures in key swing states have rigged the system so that they can control elections.  Consequently, it will be extremely difficult for a Democratic presidential candidate to prevail in the Electoral College unless they achieve an overwhelming, landslide victory in the popular vote.

I strongly believe that Steve Bannon precisely articulated what Republican politicians plan for 2023 and beyond during his recent podcast.  Trump’s former chief advisor said, “We have a chance, once in our lifetime, to destroy the Democratic Party as an institution. We cannot let this slip from our grasp.”

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These Wakeup Calls Are Ominous – Heads Up Voters

Injured Ukrainian Woman–Anadolu Agency-Getty Images

Millions of migrants are being driven northward by the horrible conditions in countries south and east of the Mediterranean Sea and south of the U.S. border.  Most of these asylum seekers simply want a better life, free from fear.  Still, they have become a huge political issue in the United States.  Their plight is also a wakeup call regarding a growing humanitarian crisis.  It’s not possible to erect barriers along our southern border that are impenetrable and that wouldn’t stem the tide or eliminate the problem anyway.  Congress needs to help solve the problems of crime, hunger and political oppression that pressure migrants to leave their home countries and to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  Republicans have blocked this legislation.

The coronavirus pandemic is a more urgent call, at least in the short term.  Over 6 million people have died worldwide and U.S. deaths this year will exceed one million.  Although it’s not over yet, this virus could have been much worse and it certainly won’t be the last that infects global populations.  But have we learned anything from this experience?

Well, it’s clear to me that former president Donald Trump’s initial efforts to politicize this public health crisis, particularly the wearing of masks, greatly exacerbated the problems.  His posturing motivated millions of his followers and numerous Republican politicians to thwart federal government efforts to get control of this disease.  They spread conspiracy theories about the efficacy of vaccines, promoted ineffective treatments and attempted to sow distrust, not only of the government but of health care workers trying to save their lives.  As a result, the U.S. has a higher coronavirus death rate than any other developed nation, according to a recent New York Times article, and is falling behind other large, high-income nations in administering lifesaving booster shots.

The pandemic has also shed a bright light on supply chain weaknesses, apparently caused by globalization.  This subject deserves a lot more analysis, but suffice to say, if the United States doesn’t produce or control its supply of protective equipment, medicines and necessary medical devices before the next global health care crisis occurs, serious national security issues will result.  Republicans have been reluctant to approve funding to solve these problems.

To make matters worse, right in the middle of the pandemic, the phone rang loudly last year on January 6, as a mob that was spurred on by Trump and his lie about a stolen election attacked the U.S. Capitol building.  This could have been a successful coup but for a few, mostly Republican, officials who this time refused to go along with his scheme.  Yet, despite overwhelming evidence that Joe Biden was the clear winner in 2020, polls indicate that the majority of Republicans continue to believe the Democrats sole the election from Trump. 

The January 6 insurrection was not a one-off event; it was a prelude.  If all those responsible for this heinous attack are not held accountable, including Trump, this type of violence will proliferate.  And if federal voting rights acts are not passed to nullify attempts by Republican-controlled state legislatures to control the outcome of future presidential elections, they will result in chaos.  All but a few Republicans oppose holding Trump accountable and the GOP strongly opposes federal voting rights legislation.

The most recent wakeup call is ongoing as ruthless Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin flattens Ukrainian cities and slaughters civilians.  This crisis is a global game changer that forces the West to totally reevaluate its strategic plans on dealing with Russia and also China, which is supporting Russian objectives in Ukraine.     

Fortunately, President Biden has skillfully rebuilt the U.S. relationship with the European Union and NATO that Trump virtually destroyed during his presidency.  Biden was also able to coax our allies to impose massive sanctions against Russia, which was not simple or easy.  Yet, some Republicans are actually supporting Putin and most attack Biden as “weak,” “incompetent” or worse as they attempt to score political points during this crisis.  Whose side are they on?

Regardless, Putin’s aggression also raises serious supply chain issues, including with oil, natural gas and wheat.  Russia is derisively called nothing but a massive gas station but it supplies a substantial percentage of Europe’s energy needs and both Russia and Ukraine are significant producers of wheat.  Consequently, prices of many goods and services will skyrocket and American pocketbooks will suffer.

Also, significant and perhaps dramatic effects on the world order will occur depending on how this situation in Ukraine plays out, including how food supplies are secured and how global warming is addressed.  

That introduces my concluding concern, the rapid warming of the planet.  I believe the wakeup call we are receiving from rising global temperatures, burning forests and melting glaciers rings louder than all the others.  A significant rise in ocean levels and/or unbearably hot temperatures around the planet would force a mass migration that will make today’s problem with asylum seeking migrants seem trivial.  The resulting struggle to maintain food and clean water supplies alone will create horrific national security issues for the United States.  Still, most Republicans discount climate change or call it a “hoax.”

Make no mistake, the liberal democratic order that America championed following World War II is being threatened, including by Trump, his supporters and the Republican party.  Hopefully, voters will figure this out before the elections in 2022 and 2024.

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Washington Foresaw the GOP Threat in 1796

Washington Crossing the Delaware – Painting by Emanuel Leutze

The democratic republic of the United States was truly unique when its Constitution was ratified and amended in the late 1700s, as was the concept of an elected president. Most countries in the global political landscape had some form of an autocracy, ruled by an emperor, a king, queen or czar.  None had a U.S.-styled constitution and no other citizens in the world had the protections of a Bill of Rights.  I fear that too many Americans today aren’t aware of this glorious history or the wisdom of our first president, George Washington.

After having served his country for several decades, including eight as its president, Washington decided not to seek a third term in 1796.  He was worn out by the pressures of the presidency and the attacks of his opponents.  Before he retired to his Mt. Vernon Virginia plantation, however, he composed a “Farewell Address.”  It was not delivered publicly, as many politicians might do; the 32-page Address first appeared in a newspaper in Philadelphia – where Washington resided as president – on September 19, 1796, and then in papers around the country.

According to the U.S. Senate Historical Office, Washington wanted to inspire and guide future generations of Americans, but he also “believed that the stability of the Republic was threatened by the forces of geographical sectionalism, political factionalism, and interference by foreign powers in the nation’s domestic affairs.”  “Washington’s principal concern was for the safety of the eight-year-old Constitution.”  And he feared that political parties “carried the seeds of the nation’s destruction through petty factionalism,” as noted in the Historical Office backgrounder.

Each year on or around Washington’s birthday (February 22) his Farewell Address is read by a Senator from the well of the Senate – either a Republican or a Democrat on an alternating basis.  This year the task falls to Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy (D) next Monday, the 28th.  I wonder how many of his colleagues will be paying attention, particularly on the other side of the aisle. 

After the reading, Mr. Leahy will record his name and brief remarks in a leatherbound book, which will be maintained by the secretary of the Senate.  I have a feeling they will echo Washington’s concerns about partisan politics.

Remember that political parties didn’t really exist in 1796 as they do today and writing styles were quite different.  One sentence that I discovered in Washington’s Address was 88 words long, which may not be the longest.  Still, he made his points quite well regarding the evils of “parties,” so I will simply provide a few quotes that convey his deep concerns, with highlighting by me.

“In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations – Northern and Southern – Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views.”

“However combinations or associations [parties] —- may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely —- to become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations.  Let me now take a more comprehensive view and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.”

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension —- is itself a frightful despotism.  The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction —- turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.”

“It [spirit of party] serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.”

Obviously, Washington’s Address was prescient:

  • Republican politicians from top to bottom have promoted former president Donald Trump’s utterly baseless “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
  • This resulted in Trump supporters viciously attacking the Capitol building on January 6, 2021, in an effort to keep him in office. 
  • Thereafter, Republican members of U.S. House (139) and eight GOP Senators voted against certifying Joe Biden as the lawfully elected president. 
  • Republican-controlled states, mainly in the South and West, used the Big Lie as a pretext to enact radical voter suppression laws that make voting harder for minorities and others who typically support Democrats.    

To make matters worse, while Russian President Vladimir Putin is directing an invasion of Ukraine, Trump and numerous Republicans are aiding and comforting this despot by exalting him and disparaging President Biden.  This is beyond outrageous.

With these attacks on our democratic processes – and in so many other ways – I believe the Republican Party is causing the realization of Washington’s worse fears of the geographical sectionalism and political factionalism that threaten our Constitution and this republic.

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