Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Waste of Time Presidency

You could probably see this coming from several miles away. I mean, why would the president put his presidency (shudder) on the line for a wall that he would have likely had if he pushed it harder when the Republicans controlled Congress? Why wait until a master politician like Nancy Pelosi is your adversary rather than trying to push the Human Marshmallow, Paul Ryan, when he's already oozing out the Congressional door?

Looks like the art of the deal is a crayon drawing that's mostly outside the lines. And the great negotiator most of us knew we never had turned out to be the feckless blowhard that he really and truly is. And as is usual in these types of standoffs, the deal that came first, in December, was the deal that the two sides finally agreed to, and the collateral damage was the 800,000 public workers who have families and bills and lives and dreams that the modern GOP sees as taxpayer-teat-suckers who do nothing useful. Like inspect our food. Or ensure our safety in the airports and the skies. Or gather key data for public use and the private sector. And keep our country beautiful. And secure.

The Republicans have been running against government for so long that they've forgotten that they benefit from it too, and that most Americans do not share their reactionary ideology that says the private sector and laissez-faire economics are the only systems worth protecting. Can you feel the air and water getting dirtier? No?

Just wait.

This short term deal is good for the country because the Democrats did not give anything back in return for the president agreeing to reopen the government. If they had, then Trump would have been emboldened to use it as a matter of Republican policy with the expectation that he could get what he wanted.

Let's be clear: Both parties should pledge here and now that they will never, ever shut the government down. Both parties have their spending priorities and they should make them known in enough time for serious debate and public scrutiny. For the president to try and add money for a wall in response to right wing media condemnation is not governing.

It's blackmail.

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Sunday, January 20, 2019

This Is Not What Dr. King Had in Mind

I suppose if you really want to bury a less-than-serious proposal that would attempt to solve the most vexing issue of the day, then you should announce it on the Saturday afternoon of a long holiday weekend. And you should make sure to propose something that gives you everything you want, but only three years and not cover everyone that the other side wants.

Such is what the president (shudder) proposed on Saturday. Perhaps it's just an opening gambit, but history has shown that Donald Trump doesn't favor protracted negotiations that don't end with him getting his way. I suppose that Nancy Pelosi leaving town is the Democrats' answer.

Education is also roaring back into the country's news feed, what with the Los Angeles teachers on strike over working conditions, yes, but mostly about...Charter Schools. You know, those lovely places that are publicly funded, but privately run. It's a setup that drains resources from public schools and aims to suppress union activism from teachers, and the research we have is that charters are really no better that public schools when it comes to student achievement and educational effectiveness.

Couple this with the walkouts in West Virginia, Oklahoma and other states last year, and you have a trend that will only get stronger. Plus, the new congress includes liberal members who not only support public education and teachers, but are also willing to point out that President Obama and Arne Duncan were both wrong to support the testing movement and faux teacher evaluation systems that did more harm than good. Most public school teachers are effective, and that has been substantiated by the fact that teachers have not been fired in large numbers, as proponents of the new system said would happen. And now, at least in New Jersey, the standardized tests that wrecked the curriculum are gone.

But just in case you thought that the purpose of education was to prepare students to live, think, and work in the modern world, we have the story of Karen Pence, wife of the Vice President, who went back to her teaching career this year at a school that, well, you have to read it.

And you thought that the right wing's denial of science was limited to the climate.

Here we have an instance where the denial of human rights, human intelligence, human compassion, and human acceptance is the curriculum. I understand the right of religious people to live a religious life, but I do not understand, nor can I countenance, a school where children are taught that their neighbors should be disrespected, hated, marginalized, and emotionally harmed in the name of an ideology that blames rather than accepts.

Democrats need to be very careful about what they wish for when they want president Trump to go away. We have worse waiting in the wings.

Might I suggest that you take a moment and read/listen to or view some Martin Luther King this weekend. His words are everything we need now: uplifting, resonant, powerful, positive, human, moral, thrilling, emotionally-charged, and truthful.

We used to have that.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Wall Meets the Wall

President Trump made his case for building a wall on the Mexican border on Tuesday night, but there was just one problem: there is no case for building a big wall on the Mexican border. After all, illegal border crossings have been dropping for more than two decades and most illegal substances cross the border into the United States at legal ports such as airports. Plus, there is no verifiable crisis at the border save for the one the Trump Administration created by separating children from their parents. And to top it off, the president seems to have lost the argument.

In political terms, the president's best chance for wall funding ended as soon as the Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives in November. Prior to that, the Republicans controlled the government, and if they couldn't cobble together funding for the wall, then it's not going to happen now. Plus, prior to November was the optimal time to be able to blame Democrats for the lack of funding, since a filibuster would be the only way to stop it. Trump could have gone twitter-crazy blaming Chuck Schumer for foiling the popular will.

But instead, we have...this. The president proudly shut down the government thinking that he could bully Nancy Pelosi (bully Nancy Pelosi!) into giving up her power because, well, I'm not sure why he thought he could do that. After all, most Americans do not support the president's agenda and voted against it in 2016 and 2018. He's tried a number of different strategies to discredit the Democrats and blame the shutdown on them, but that's not working well.

In the end, the president's negotiating position seems to be that he wants the Democrats to fund the wall, then he will sign spending bills to reopen the government. That doesn't seem like a great deal to the Democrats because they really get nothing in return except the status quo when it comes to their agenda. President Trump's threat to declare an emergency to fund the wall also shows him to be a less committed deal-maker than he pretends to be because, in the end, he might just do whatever he thinks he can get away with rather than to negotiate seriously.

For now, though, the more important wall is the one the Democrats are constructing as a barrier to the president's wishes.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Democrats: The Message Is the Medium

It only took three days, so if you chose January 3 in your office pool as the date when the first idiot Democrat brought up impeachment, then congratulations are in order. That she also sprinkled her comment with impolitic language only makes it worse. I'm thinking that Nancy Peloisi had a chat with Representative Tlaib about staying on message.

I just want to be clear on this first post of the year that I have no patience with any Democrat who calls for any legal action against the president unless there is enough legitimate evidence that the president had committed an impeachable or indictable offense. Let Robert Mueller's investigation do its job and let him release his report when it's ready. The same is true about the other current investigations into the Trump Administration and the ones that the Democrats in the House will inevitably begin. Giving the Republicans any further reason to marginalize any opposition only takes time and energy away from what must be the Democrats' central message, which is that they will address and attempt to solve the basic problems that face Americans on a day-to-day basis.

I understand that a new and younger group of much more liberal legislators are now in Congress and statehouses across the country. I understand that they are filled with passion and fury and that they were elected to move the country in a different direction. But the best way to do this is to stay on message and not to waver. If the new Democrats can learn anything from the almost 40 year reign of the conservatives, it's that you need to frame your arguments in ways that people can digest and repeat them effortlessly, and you need everybody on your team to say the same things in the same way using the same language no matter what medium you're on.

Democrats need to focus on health care that covers everyone, livable wages, family leave and a climate message that appeals to Americans on the local level. I know this might be heresy, but what do those Americans living in the middle of the country care about the tides and floods in Miami? Craft a message that educates people on the changes they've already seen in their communities, which might be about crop yields or water supplies or the increase/decrease in wildlife. You get the idea.

Or do you? Because if you still believe that angrily posting about the minute-to-minute foolishness of the president's messages is the way to win hearts and minds, then I am here to tell you that you are wrong. President Trump's base will follow him no matter what he says. The voters that will win the 2020 election are the ones who voted Democratic last year, even if they supported Trump in 2016. Most of them care only about how their lives and the country's future will be secured. If they voted against the GOP despite a tax cut and an improving employment environment, then they will vote Democratic again if the Democrats continue to remind them about what Democrats will do for them.

That's a winning message. And that's the only winning message. So if you're angry and frustrated and appalled, my suggestion is that you go analog: Find a field, a prairie, a noisy subway station or an insulated basement and scream about whatever will heal your heart.

Then let's get back to work.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest