Sunday, November 11, 2018

After the Elections: Moving Forward

Not bad. Could have been a little better, and will be if Florida and/or Georgia recounts change those races, but overall, a good result on Tuesday.

And yet, when all is counted, it looks like maybe 48% of eligible voters went to the polls. That's terrible. Here we are, the world's greatest democracy and we can't even muster a majority of voters exercising their precious right. I honestly have no patience for people who complain or say they want to make this country better, or are seriously upset at the people who are already serving in office, yet do not bother to register, vote and make their voices heard. It's our duty and our responsibility as citizens.

Moving on.

Democrats garnered more overall votes for both the House and Senate races nationally, which is good news for the party and the country. Midterm elections have traditionally been excuses for the left to be ignorant and stay home while the angry right takes over the Congress and statehouses. I hope this happens no more. And I also hope that, especially in New Jersey, these same voters come out next year when we elect the state legislature and senate, offices that have far more power over our day-to-day existence than federal representatives and senators. Traditionally, only about 25% of voters turn out for those elections. Then they have the temerity to complain about property taxes, school funding, the state of the beaches, and transportation. Again; no patience.

There was a great deal of discussion about what this past election means. There were a number of Democratic Socialists and other far left candidates who won elections, but the real story is that the party is (and must) moving towards the center. This is how the process usually works. The American people are not ready to support Medicare for all or free college tuition or a more liberal immigration policy.

Yet.

These ideas will eventually become part of mainstream discussion in the same way that far right policies that seemed fringe 30 years ago have now become mainstream, such as anti-environmental and pro-business deregulation, and tax cuts that funneled billion of dollars to those who were already wealthy.

But for now, Democrats have to return to the issues that they have traditionally championed; a fairer tax system, being more responsive to the middle and working classes, affordable health care and housing, protecting the rights of all people to vote, to gain a livable wage, and to protect children from exploitation and poverty, not to mention a fairer immigration system. If the Democrats focus on these issues, which most exit polls said were voters' key concerns, then the party can regain voters who defected to the Republicans in 2016 and build a base of support for future national and state elections.

The party also needs to stay away from talk of impeachment or appearing to be burying the administration under a blizzard of subpoenas in order to satisfy the far left flank that sees the president as illegitimate. Make sure that any actions are defensible, reasonable, pointed, and specific. Fight fire with fire, not a flamethrower. Present an argument for people who should be voting for Democrats to do so. Getting caught up in the minute-to-minute rantings of the president will not show the broader population that it is a party that will get things they want done.

Even with Congressional majorities and the White House, the Republicans were still only able to pass one major piece of legislation, which was a tax cut that didn't help them a bit on election day, and neither did an economy that continues to create jobs. That's extraordinary and it demonstrates the extent to which the president's rantings have muddied, diluted, and just plain blocked what should have been a winning issue. Democrats can build a better tax cut and an economic program that helps the majority of Americans who earn a paycheck but are still struggling.

Let's rebuild the trust with the American people, fight the groups that espouse hatred and bile, and show that we can truly be a model for the rest of the world.

It starts now.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Change Is In Our Hands: Vote!

Rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules.

Political rules?

My choice in the New Jersey Senate race is either the incumbent, Democrat Bob Menendez, or the Republican challenger, Bob Hugin.

Senator Menendez was charged with all sorts of nasty political-insider-corruption-fraud-bad-bad-things, when through the process, and it all resulted in a mistrial. Meanwhile, he's been an effective Senator and has been a terrific friend to teachers and public education in general. He's also fought hard to get the current administration in Washington to commit some money to rebuild the transportation infrastructure in New Jersey, which has been in terrible shape for years.

Bob Hugin is a businessman and a Republican. If he wins, whatever centrism that exists in his agenda will be swallowed Jonah-like by Mitch McConnell and the ultra-right-wing Know-Nothings who currently run the Senate. And that's not to mention that he will be obligated to support the most odious, malodorous politician in, well, ever, that being the president of the country who never met a fact he could ignore or turn into a falsehood.

Politics has always attracted people with, shall we say, malleable ethics, but under President Trump, the rules are gone. He has no moral standing, and neither does the Republican Party that supports him while he attempts to trash the constitution and make a mockery of the inclusive values that we've tried to practice as a nation. He has nothing but fear and the now-scary title of Commander-In-Chief, which means that he can order soldiers to the border to possibly shoot women and children if they make the mistake of...throwing a rock.

At this point, it is imperative that we as a country put the brakes on Republican one-party rule, as the Republicans did to Democrats in 2010. The House presents the best opportunity for that, because I think the Senate will remain Republican, which has to make the right very happy since they can continue to pack the courts with young judges who think that meaningful constitutional interpretation means living in 1789. In fact, I think the main Republican strategy since the beginning for October is to save the Senate, which explains the president's continued screeds against immigrants and the media, even when he should be taking a more measured tone in the aftermath of pipe bombs and antisemitic attacks.

And don't forget that the only meaningful legislation the Republicans have passed is a giant, whopping tax break for the wealthy that has exploded the deficit so completely, it makes the Reagan deficit seem like a rounding error.

Make sure you vote on Tuesday, and in the interests of returning some balance to the country, please vote Democratic. Just think of what two more years of Republican rule will mean for this country.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, October 28, 2018

I Love America. Trumpian Nationalism Scares Me

This was a bad week.

Saudi Arabia

Megyn Kelly

Pipe Bombs

Murder at a Pittsburgh synagogue

The Stock Market

We have these kinds of weeks occasionally and they serve to remind us that we have deep and serious problems both at home and in the world that require our thoughtful, serious, sober attention. The bigger problem, though, is that we do not have a thoughtful, serious, sober president who has the skills to lead us effectively through this rough patch. In fact, the president is in some ways is creating the atmosphere in which these events can flourish.

Please don't misunderstand me: I'm not saying that President Trump is the cause of these terrible events. What I am saying is that he has a hand in setting the tone under which they can develop and grow.

It's time to retire "politically correct" from our lexicon because all it does is give cover to those people who blame it for repressing free speech, when what they want to say are vile, hateful things to anyone they want, and it's usually used by whites who don't quite understand that what they might want to say shows that they have no sense of decorum or justice. Blackface is, and always has been, racist. So has dressing up like a cartoon of someone's ethnic background.

The president has not helped with this because he ran on a firm rejection of respectful speech, using racial, ethnic and sexist slurs against anyone, even military personnel, members of congress, judges and foreign dignitaries who opposed him or questioned his questionable judgement. Is it any wonder that we have people like Megyn Kelly uttering spectacularly racist statements? Or that we have a company such as Google protecting male executives who committed heinous acts of sexism and harassment at work?

Which of course brings us to our latest example of violence and hate, American style. The president has said, repeatedly, that the media is the enemy of the people. It looks like some people have received that message loud and clear. And what's worse is that after a few comforting words, the president went right back on the campaign rally trail and continued to vilify the media after more pipe bombs were discovered. The mainstream media is not the problem; continuing to blame and create scapegoats is the problem.

But what made this week even worse when the president referred to himself as a nationalist, and then taunted those who really understand what his brand of nationalism means.

It's not inclusive.

It's not positive.

It's not helpful.

It creates victims.

And you'll please excuse me for bringing up the past, but as  Jewish American, I cannot ignore what historical nationalism has meant to my people. It's been used to define us as not: not part of the country, not part of the group, not part of the culture, not part of society. That the president apologized for using nationalism as he does says to me that he understands, albeit in a limited way, what nationalism has meant to minorities and those people who have traditionally been excluded from the nation. At the same time, though, he has excused the actions and words of the very right wing hate groups that promote antisemitism, racism and xenophobia.

All you have to do is listen as he and his followers describe the women and children trying to make a better life for themselves in this country as an invasion force worthy of evoking a military response on our southern border to know that this is the language of hatred, fear and loathing. Presidents are role models and they have traditionally been careful about what they say. This president has discarded that, to the detriment of the nation.

At the same time, without investigating, he nurtured the theory that the Saudi government had little to do with the death of Jamil Khashoggi, even going so far as asking the Saudi Crown Prince if his government was involved. Trump took the Prince at his word. That word was a lie.

I have all but given up on the president changing his tone to one that includes all Americans and exhorts us to use our common wisdom, our vitality and our common sense to solve our problems. As long as he sees this country as one in which there are people for him and people against him, then he will continue to divide us.

It's up to us to change that. Make sure you vote on November 6 for candidates that will form a bulwark against policies that will enrich the few, blame the other and venerate the narrow at the expense of the many.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest