Point of View Columns

King Had More Than a Dream

The recent national celebration of the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. illustrated the caution with which the lens of history should be used. Obviously history depends upon who is telling the story and what are the motives of the historian. In the case of Martin Luther King there are competing motives.

Many of the celebrants who extol Dr. King’s virtues as a peacemaker and an advocate of universal harmony conveniently forget (or neglect) the broader of the story of this man. Seen through the lens of the times in which he lived he was a radical. Dr. King fought against a system of American institutionalized racism that was so vicious that a man could be killed for seeking the vote for Black Americans (e.g. Medgar Evers shot to death in his driveway in Mississippi in 1963 or for going to church on Sunday to worship God (four Black girls murdered by Ku Klux Klan bombers at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, also in 1963)

Only a radical Black man would stand up against the system of American racism that had countenanced, indeed accepted, the lynching of thousands of Black men and women in the 100 years prior to the Montgomery bus boycott that brought Dr. King to national attention. And only a radical Black man would seek to inspire Black people to shed the cloak of subtle resistance and instead to take up the armor of confronting the hatred and racism that flowed unchecked through the American bloodstream.

Much has been made about Dr. King’s commitment to non-violence without taking into account that he understood the very radical strategy employed successfully by Mahatma Gandhi. Both Gandhi and Dr. King understood that their enemy – the British in India and white American racists (and their enablers) in America, would meet resistance and protest with unimaginably vicious violence and hatred.

They both understood that strategically, exposing the imperialists in India and the racists in America for who they were would ultimately induce such shame and disgust that change would have to come. Certainly the imperfect results in India and America should not diminish the understanding that true victories were won against odds that would have been insuperable in violent conflict.

Dr. King espoused nonviolence as a strategy. He did not advocate complacency or the peaceful and timid acceptance of the status quo. Dr. King sought to uproot the status quo and for proof we need to go no further than to remember that Dr. King identified income equality and poverty as evils that also had to be confronted. He also understood the error of American imperialism so tragically exposed in the Vietnam War. And for taking those positions he was criticized and shunned by many in a country that now seeks to honor a sanitized version of a man who sought to change the world.

Even the so-called “I Have a Dream” speech has been misinterpreted and miscast as an expression of hope for a better day in some vague day in the by and by. But a more truthful understanding of his radical call for change on that August day in 1963 is revealed in his words before his reference to the “dream”. Consider some of these excerpts, clearly spoken and just as clearly, conveniently ignored:

“One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”

“Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

“It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.”

“There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”

“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

These were the words of a man who had a clear-eyed vision of the vile and hateful nature of institutionalized racism and these were the words of a man who fought against it literally to his dying day. Those who wish to praise Dr. King without acknowledging his radical stance in the face of what were (and are) overwhelming odds, do not do justice to his memory.

Those who wish sugarcoat the memory of Dr. King through mythical hagiography dishonor everything that he stood for and died for.

It is right to remember Dr. King. It is also right to remember that he had a lot more than a dream.

 

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Point of View Columns

21st Century Circular Firing Squad

Read it in the papers,

And you’ll see,

Just exactly what is worrying me,

The world is in an uproar,

The danger zone is everywhere

                           ………..Ray Charles

The fact that Trump did not precipitate the immediate start of World War III with the assassination of the Iranian Major General Qasim Suleimani (does anyone remember Sarajevo in 1914?) passes for a cause for celebration in this first year of the third decade of the twenty first century. Which is just one indication of how madness has become as normalized as having a pathological compulsive liar as President of the United States.

And it just may be that the most profound impact of the Trump presidency may be the normalization of fraud, lying, misogyny, xenophobia and racism – in no particular order. And it is this normalization that may be the reason why on November 4, 2020 we may be appalled at Trump’s re-election with a very clear understanding that this country will truly be slipping into darkness.

Reference is made to the normalization of the bizarre and the awful and the dangerous, because it must be the only explanation for why the Democratic Party is going through a “normal” process selecting its presidential candidate while Australia-like wildfires of confusion and chaos threaten the present and future of this nation.

While the “process” has finally begun to whittle the number of announced and active candidates from twenty to a dozen – which on the Planet DNC must be viewed as a reasonable number with less than six months to go before the Milwaukee convention – the damage may have already been done. And there may not be enough time to repair the leaks on the sinking Democratic ship prior to November 3rd.

With a dozen candidates come a dozen sets of constituents and zealots who have already contributed huge amounts of their time, emotional energy, personal commitment and many millions of dollars. It defies logic that these multiple constituencies will somehow magically coalesce behind someone other than their candidate with the same level of enthusiasm that they currently possess.

And let there be no doubt, come November 3rd the Democrats are going to need every bit of enthusiasm to overcome the Trump tidal waves of lies, falsehoods, dog whistles and lunatic rhetoric amplified by Russian bots, Iranian trolls and Chinese hackers. Indeed the greatest obstacle to a Democratic victory may be the voter suppression minefields planted by the Republicans since the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision of 2013 which gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

What we now see is outright hostility between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The clear distaste between these two leading candidates was palpable at the last debate. Even if Warren and Sanders kiss and make up, what about their supporters? We know from 2016 that many Sanders supporters stay cranky when their man doesn’t win (one more reason why we now have President Donald Trump instead of President Hilary Clinton).

We know that by spending $100 million dollars or more, Michael Bloomberg will be a force to be reckoned with after the first round of primaries. How many voters will be reluctant to vote for the Democratic nominee who is perceived to have “bought” the nomination? And, by the way, how many slings and arrows need to be aimed at Joe Biden before he becomes irreparably damaged goods after Milwaukee?

The normalization of the gross, of the stupid and of illogic seems to have afflicted the leadership of the DNC. If anyone believes that this is a “normal” election year, they should go to an opioid rehabilitation center immediately. There has been nothing “normal” in this country’s politics or policies since Trump was elected and traditional strategies and echo chamber group-think among the Democrats and their supporters have resulted in the very real possibility of a Trump re-election.

While it already may be too late, as the great New York Yankees philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “It’s not over until it’s over.”

Let’s hope (and pray) that it’s not over yet.

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Point of View Columns

When Nightmares Come True

First, will someone please tell Trump and Mike Pompeo that the one million Iranians gathered in the streets of Tehran are not “dancing in the streets” after the U.S. assassinated Iranian Major General Qasim Suleimani. We should remember that Pompeo opined that the people of Iran would be “dancing in the streets” after the rogue president flexed his ego and proved yet again that he is a disaster waiting to happen.

Prior to November of 2016 one of the worst nightmare was that the pompous blowhard named Trump might come close to being elected president and that his disgruntled constituency would have to be reintroduced to sanity. Of course, the undreamable nightmare of Trump being elected did come true and has been the source of countless sleepless nights for countless men, women and children who care about……………….just about anything.

Some observers took solace in the belief that the sheer gravity of the office of the presidency would ease Trump towards a path that at least resembled sanity and that wise advisors would do their best to make sure that this orange-hued bull in the American china shop would not destroy the planet. And we see now how that worked out.

Impeachment may have unleashed the very few emotions over which Trump had any control. It is clear that he is not concerned about his legacy or the consequences of his actions. The fact is that Trump’s immediate predecessors – George W. Bush (who will never be found on anybody’s Mensa membership list) and Barack Obama (a Nobel Peace Prize winner) both understood that  while assassinating Suleimani provided no long term advantage to the United States it would almost certainly be viewed as an act of war by Iran. And there was one other fact, despite the overwhelming military power of the United States, the vulnerability of the United States – and its citizens – was also overwhelming.

There is no reason to believe that Trump ever thought about the consequences of his actions which is why we now live in the nightmare scenario avoided by two presidents when they walked up to this potentially disastrous precipice. We know that Iran has already walked away from the nuclear treaty which had curtailed its production of nuclear weapons. We know that Iraq now wants all U.S. troops out of Iraq. We know that the U.S. military has put its pursuit of ISIS on hold. And we know that we should worry about what we don’t know – and given the viciously mendacious nature of the Trump administration we can be sure that there is more bad news coming.

And because it should be beyond clear that elections matter, it is beyond baffling that there are Democratic operatives who think that it is a good thing that multiple candidates are spending millions of dollars attacking each other for the honor of being the bloody but unbowed winner in Milwaukee in June, somehow believing that this Training Camp episode will end up with a Democratic victor in November.

Someone please tell the Democratic Party leadership that nightmares really do come true….sometimes more than once.

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Point of View Columns

America at the Crossroads or the Dead End?

As America’s second decade of the 21st century staggers and stumbles to a close there are a few things that can be considered accepted knowledge….a few things that we all know. The Congress of the United States is hopeless divided along partisan lines with allegiance to a narcissistic megalomaniac being the key partisan issue. We also know that the President of the United States will be impeached but will not be removed from office in the first month of the third decade. And finally, we know that the Democratic Party is seemingly implacably dedicated to finding a way to re-elect Donald Trump even as that disaster threatens to morph into reality every day.

As far as Congress is concerned, ever since the first Black president was inaugurated and the Tea Party emerged as the voice of endangered conservatism and white supremacy, it has become a forum for vitriol, opposition, interposition and nullification. Democrats keep searching for a coherent articulation of their motivating philosophy.

Meanwhile the Republicans are comfortably settled into the realm of the reimagining the Constitution so that it suits the needs of the wealthy, the zealots, the xenophobes, the destroyers of the planet and the needs of those who are in need of the affirmation of their privilege as whites, as males and as the dominant voice of America.

And Donald Trump has become their avatar, their savior, their Chosen One to whom they have sworn allegiance and fealty No Matter What. And even as this country careens towards a dystopian future, the Republicans feign blindness even though they can see what we all see – there is a bleak future for this country if five more years of Trump ensue.

And while there has never been a President more deserving of impeachment – with the possible exception of Andrew Jackson – Trump has created this victimhood/martyrdom scenario that satisfies his base and confounds his enemies. Even those determined to be ignorant of history must admit that the Constitution was written in the aftermath of a revolution against a supreme monarch. And as flawed and more than occasionally awful as many of the so-called Founding Fathers were, they were in agreement that that a return to monarchical reign was to be avoided at all costs.

And yet, some 230 years later, the Republicans are arguing that Trump can attire himself with all of the operational garments of monarchy without consequence. They somehow approve of him using the office of the presidency in an attempt to conspire with a foreign government to subvert the 2020 presidential election. And the Democrats seem to be baffled at what to do when Trump simply refuses to observe the basic principles of the Constitution and ignore any summons from Congress.

So we know that Trump will be impeached shortly. And we know that the Republican Senate will be united in their defense of the indefensible. And yet, national polls tell us that at least 50% of all Americans are okay with this outcome. And indeed, this may be how democracies die.

And finally, in the midst of this historic institutional dumpster fire, the Democratic Party is going about the selection of a candidate to oppose Trump as if this were a normal election year. There are still over fifteen men and women running for the Democratic nomination even though most of them would stand less than a snowball’s chance of defeating Trump.

Yet we are supposed to believe that a Sanders or Buttigieg or Klobuchar or Booker or Steyer candidacy is a real thing. Perhaps in a “normal” political environment that might be true. But there is nothing normal about the times in which we live and the Democrats are truly fiddling while the American Rome burns and all of us will suffer for a very long time if this pitiful process results in the re-election of Donald Trump.

And so, the question becomes, is America at the crossroads or is it at a dead end? And we can only hope that we won’t have to wait until November 3, 2020 to find out.

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Point of View Columns

Thelma and Louise Continued

The definition of insanity has been said to be illustrated by someone doing the same thing over and over again, getting the same negative result, and still doing it over and over again. The best current illustration of insanity is the Democratic Party presidential primary process which seems to be premised on the notion that whoever is the actual nominee will defeat Donald Trump because there is no way that the American electorate will give him a second term.

And it is that “no way” line of thinking that is the perfect illustration of political insanity. The idea that the virtually atomic dispersal of the Democratic core constituency among 18 candidates could be a recipe for disaster on November 3, 2020, has simply not crossed the minds of the candidates or the leadership of the Democratic National Committee.

And it would seem, that they are clinging to the clearly fallacious assumption that was held by the Democratic cognoscenti in 2016 that there was “no way” that the American people would elect a lying, misogynistic, ignorant, bullying, racist, ignorant, fact challenged, ignorant, xenophobe event if Hillary Clinton was a (more than) slightly flawed candidate. And we see how that turned out.

It is now December, in less than sixty days the primary campaign process will begin in earnest with the Iowa caucus event and then it is on to New Hampshire, South Carolina and everywhere else. At every step along the way, as possibility/probability of defeat/victory becomes clearer, these 18 candidates will begin attacking each other with vigor and venom that will be noted by the Republican National Committee.

The campaigns of Sanders, Harris, Bloomberg, Warren, Buttigieg ET. Al. will be writing the scripts for the Trump Reelection Campaign so that with some basic editing, the Republicans will begin attacking the eventual Democratic candidate as soon as he/she leaves Milwaukee in April. And there is also the very real probability that the 17 constituencies of the 17 losing candidates will be less than fully motivated to battle The Behemoth That is Trump having seen their favorite crushed into the dust.

And for those who would point out that there are always losers in the primary process and that this will be just the normal political process at work – it should be pointed out that these are not normal times, Donald Trump is not a normal president and that as these words are being read there is a very real chance that Donald Trump will be reelected unless the Democrats stop putting on a show and instead demonstrate an understanding that we are on the precipice of desperate times for the people of this country and for this country itself if this man is somehow reelected.

How these 18 candidates and their enablers within the DNC do not see the real and present danger facing this country will be the subject for historians to ponder no matter the results in 2020. If Trump wins the story of the Democratic primary process 2019-2020 will be the preface to the story of the true decline of the United States. If the Democrats win historians will wonder why on earth the DNC would play with the fire that came close to burning down the institutions of this country.

The disarray surrounding the DNC primary process might entertainment for political junkies during normal times. But, to reiterate, these are not normal times and the stakes are too high to presume normalcy when the possibility of a potentially disastrous Trump second term is in plain view.

The 18 men and women who are running for president as Democrats presume themselves and pronounce themselves to be leaders. It is time for at least one of them to show true leadership and convene the other 17 and determine a consensus candidate who will be champion of the only cause that counts right now – the defeat of Donald Trump.

If none of the 18 can do this, then perhaps none of them really deserve to be president and we should begin right now to prepare for the desolation that will be the hallmark of an eight year Trump presidency.

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Point of View Columns

Thelma and Louise All Over Again

Last week already seems like such a long time ago. But it was only last week that it seemed that a zephyr of common sense and common purpose had visited the Democratic Candidate Carnival. And that was when the sainted Beto O’Rourke demonstrated some real common sense, and hopefully some sense of purpose, by withdrawing as a candidate. And it was certainly the hope of many that another 10-12 of the remaining twenty candidates might take the hint and gracefully withdraw and pursue their dreams of sitting behind the Resolution desk in the Oval Office some other day.

But those hopes were dashed upon the jagged rocks of disappointment and despair when later in that same long ago last week, former New York City Mayor and billionaire and Stop and Frisk Super Fan announced that he was seriously entertaining a plan to run for president as……..a Democrat, of course.

And in the following few days we began to hear that former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick are now, less than 100 days before the Iowa primary, making a decision as to whether to make the Democratic Candidate Carnival a metastasizing monster that will swallow the hopes and dreams of the many who believe that the re-election of Donald Trump will create a real opportunity for autocracy to replace democracy in America.

According to Forbes Magazine there are only six or seven people in the world wealthier than Michael Bloomberg. And so it isn’t possible that someone is paying him to enter the most bizarre presidential candidate selection process since the Teapublican Clown Car in 2012.

While you will not find the names of Eric Holder and Deval Patrick on any Forbes list of the wealthiest individuals, they are both known to be honorable men with stellar reputations for public service and probity. But eliminating nefarious motives does not provide the hint of a clue as to the reasoning that does motivate these men.

What has to be clear to all who would see, is that this Democratic internecine battle on steroids is a recipe for the disaster that would be a second Trump term. What has to be clear to all who would see is that fractionating the Democratic constituency into twenty pieces and then hoping to glue them all together in Milwaukee next July is a fool’s errand.

What we know is that somewhere the right wing of the right wing billionaire backers of Trump – Adelson, the Mercer family, the Koch family, ET. Al. – are chortling and rubbing their hands with glee as they watch the Democrats hurtle down this road to perdition and inevitable defeat. And all of this is happening without them having to spend any of their own virtually infinite coffers of cash.

There is something to be said for the advocacy of principle over comfort and convenience. And there is also something to be said for employing real world vision in a real world where the advocacy of principle over comfort and convenience can lead to catastrophic results for millions of men, women and children for whom the political process is their last best hope for some gossamer glimmer of hope for a better future.

It should be all who care to watch this self-inflicted carnage in the Democratic Party that, as the actual primary voting and caucuses begin all of the candidates will be using live campaign rhetorical ammunition as all of the candidates seek to be the last one standing. But in such a scenario, the last one standing in Milwaukee next year will be bruised and bloodied and battered, surrounded by disgruntled and grumpy supporters of their opponents. These supporters will say the right things in front of the cameras and then sulk their way back home to half-heartedly support the so-called “winner”.

And meanwhile, Trump and his supporters will be sitting fat and happy, waiting to take on whomever this wounded warrior might be…..and it won’t be a fair fight.

Maybe Tom Perez can send a short video clip to all of the Democratic candidates – the clip can contain the last scene from the movie “Thelma and Louise” as they drive their car off the cliff in one last glorious gesture of defiance and independence. Which, of course, is just before they crash, burn and die.

Maybe, just maybe, some of the participants in the Democratic Candidate Carnival will get the hint —–before it gets too late……and it is getting late early.

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Point of View Columns

Diogenes – Meet Beto O’Rourke

It is said that in Ancient Greece the philosopher Diogenes walked the streets of Athens with a lantern during the day looking, he said, for an honest man. Well, if Diogenes were alive today he would have to look no further than El Paso, Texas, where Beto O’Rourke resides. For it appears that Beto O’Rourke is honest enough to realize that he was never going to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020 and that therefore, it made since to exit gracefully and find other ways to contribute something positive to the less than positive political universe in which we find ourselves today.

The hope is that at least another 8-12 current candidates will have a “Beto Moment” and realize that they are not going to be the victorious candidate. And further (and we can only hope that this was part of Beto’s thought process), we can hope that these other 8-12 candidates that every day that this latter day ideological civil war is waged in the Democratic Party, is another day that isn’t being spent in explaining why a second Trump presidential term is an existential threat to this country.

There is too much magical thinking to the effect that when the dust clears in Milwaukee on July 16, 2020, that there will be this surge of unification that will bring together the disparate factions of the Democratic Party and that the self-inflicted wounds will somehow heal overnight. And the magical thinking goes further so as to imagine that the eventual nominee, as bruised and battered as he/she might be, will be ready to take on a fat and happy Donald Trump who will be getting to attend his coronation as the nominee of a Republican Party that will be united by fear and adoration of “their President”.

If there is some mastermind in the Democratic Party hierarchy who truly believes that any candidate of this Party can beat Trump, they should seriously consider another profession – like astrology or alchemy. Because the latest polls indicate that in six so-called battleground states – North Carolina, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin – Trump is leading or is virtually tied with several of the presumptive winners of the Democratic nomination.

While in a very sad and depressing way these poll results are not surprising, it is also terrifying. Because if after all of the slime and graft and obscenity and corruption and incompetence and incoherence displayed by Trump he is still in a position to win a second, totally unfettered term, then the Democrats are playing with existential fire by continuing the travesty of this traveling circular firing squad called the Democratic Party presidential nomination process.

We can be glad that Beto O’Rourke was honest enough to realize that he was not going to be the Democratic nominee. We can guess as to what was his analysis. What we do know if that there are still too many men and women who are wannabees and are never bees still in the Democratic nomination process. And what we do know is that underestimating Donald Trump’s electability is a loser’s game.

We can continue to hope that Tom Perez and the other leaders of the Democratic Party step up and become the adults in the room. And we can continue to pray that 8-12 remaining Democratic Party candidates will have their own “Beto Moment” and be honest with themselves.

We know that it would certainly make Diogenes happy.

 

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