Point of View Columns

Reparations -America’s Past Due Bill

Reparations from the United States to the descendants of black slaves has been alternatively treated by mainstream media as a pipe dream or as a concept with no basis in reality. But the reality is that every year since 1989 House Representatives John Conyers and Sheila Jackson Lee have introduced the HR40 Reparations Bill which would establish a federal commission to study the issue of reparations for American descendants of slaves and to recommend viable strategies for moving forward.

But times do change and HR40 has been given new life. The progressive candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination are supporting the modest, but important step, of having Congress (which is seated in the Capitol building which was built with slave labor) seriously consider a means of finally recognizing the horror of slavery and the need to establish a mode of reparations as a first step towards true reconciliation on the issue of race in America.

From the earliest record of Africans and people of African descent in this country racially based sanctions have existed. Black Codes, slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, lynching along with malign and benign neglect have always circumscribed the existence of black Americans in this country. And it was on the anvil of slavery that the principle of white supremacy was forged and embedded in the soul of America. So profound was the enslavement of black Americans that even a century after the shackles were broken by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, there were laws, proscriptions and sanctions which clearly and indelibly marked black people as “the other”.

And that is why the issue of reparations to black Americans by the United States of America is so important. For two reasons – no matter the dollar figure, monetary damages paid to every black person descended from slaves would not be enough. Just as the billions of dollars paid to the state of Israel by Germany will never be enough, the centuries of pain, suffering and inhuman degradation can never be adequately reduced to dollars and cents.

But dollars were paid to Israel by Germany as a way of acknowledging the unspeakable horror of the Holocaust as well as a way of recognizing the humanity of its victims and survivors and their descendants. Certainly the unspeakable horror of slavery and the need to finally recognize the humanity of the victims of slavery as well as their descendants warrant similar treatment by the only means possible – reparations.

The second reason is perhaps even more compelling. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in January of 1863 and the 13th Amendment was ratified in December of 1865, the degradation and ill treatment of black Americans did not stop. It did not stop with the termination of the protection of black people by federal troops in 1876. It certainly did not stop throughout the domestic terrorist campaign waged against black people by the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Magnolia, the White Citizens Councils and virtually all of the local and state governments in the South and throughout much of these United States.

The mistreatment and denial of the humanity of black Americans continued through almost a century of lynching and the infernal bounds and barriers imposed by Jim Crow and the legalized dehumanization of men, women and children who were descended from slaves. And the current race- related disparities in education, housing, mortality rates, incarceration rates and various indicia of standards of living that still leave black people on the lesser side of the national ledger are facts that compel a serious discussion of how reparations should be structured.

Simply put, to dismiss reparations is to ignore history and dismiss the humanity of black Americans. It is past time to put reparations in the center of the national discussion. Proclamation of the legal rights of black Americans without reparations is to intentionally fail to recognize the humanity of black Americans alive today as well as to somehow turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering of millions of black men, women and children who may be nameless to the United States government but are well known and remembered by a Power greater than this country.

There has never been a convenient time to discuss reparations in this country. There will never be a convenient time to discuss reparations in this country. And that is all the more reason that now is the time to move forward on the issue of reparations for black Americans.

The stain of slavery, racial discrimination and white supremacy will never be removed from the fabric of this country’s history. Reparations would be an important step in restoring its soul by finally and definitively recognizing the colossal mortal sins committed against men, women and children of African descent.

Point of View Columns

Beware of Bright Shiny Objects

The release of the Mueller Report last week produced two very predictable results. Trump and his supporters and his supporters and his minions and his sycophants were always going to claim total and complete exoneration no matter what was actually contained in the report. And they did.

Democrats and believers in some salvageable aspect of American democracy already knew that Trump is mendacious, vicious, delusional and totally devoid of any moral compass. From Stormy Daniels to the “Hollywood Access” tapes to his takedown of James Comey (and bragging about it to the Russian ambassador the United States), there is no way that Trump should not at least have to answer to the accusation of “high crimes and misdemeanors”. So the Mueller Report in large part told the Democrats what most of the planet already knows –Donald J. Trump is unfit to be President of the United States.

So if the Democrats in Congress were looking for a reason to impeach Trump, the Mueller Report simply told them what they already know. The Mueller Report even concluded with a bright shiny neon sign that says everything but “This Way to Impeachment”. The question for the Democrats in Congress as well as those crisscrossing America in search of the Holy Grail of the Democratic nomination for president is quite simply – what are they going to do about it?

Ironically, pursuing impeachment would be the answer to Trump’s prayers. Aside from lying and insulting and cheating, Trump is not the master of much. But he is the master of distraction. The Tweeter in Chief has proven that he can get the Democrats, and most of America, to follow the bright shiny object of his outrage de jour, thereby changing the national dialogue to a debate over how outrageous, racist, disgusting, misogynistic, xenophobic, ridiculous or ignorant he is or isn’t.

Meanwhile, the horror show that is the Trump administration oozes across the country slashing funding for food stamps, health care and education. While the nation wonders “what will Trump do/say next?” he is seeding the federal judiciary with lifetime appointments for Federalist Society zombies who are pledged to turning back the clock to a time when civil rights, gender equality, environmental protection and a woman’s right to choose simply did not exist. And even though these outrages are taking place in plain sight, the Democrats are tempted to focus their outrage on Trump the man instead of the Trump presidency.

The clear and present danger is that the Democrats will end up dancing with the Tar Baby of Impeachment. The Democrats, if they go down Impeachment Boulevard, will find themselves mired in a process that can only lead to a Senate vote not to convict Trump, even if were impeached.

Meanwhile affirmative action, safety for workers, regulatory protection of food and drugs are being compromised by the moment. Meanwhile, Trump is raising millions of dollars for the 2020 campaign and he would love nothing more than to have the totally partisan Democratic impeachment proceedings as his campaign theme.

The Democrats in Congress would do better to allow various committees to investigate Trump’s tax returns, his business dealings in the U.S. and abroad along with his seeming infatuation with avoiding Congressional confirmation of his cabinet-level appointments. None of these investigations will change Trump’s behavior, but the results will certainly be useful talking points for the 2020 campaign. These are talking points that will be a lot more useful than the result of pursuing (and explaining) an ill-fated impeachment strategy.

And speaking of 2020, if there is anyone in the Democratic National Committee who thinks that having 20+ candidates exhausting the attention span of American voters is a brilliant strategic move, they should probably go back to Trump University for a post-graduate course. And a sure sign that this is the wrong strategy is that Trump barely takes time to send out a perfunctory tweet attacking any one of the Terrific Twenty. Even Trump knows that he need do nothing but let this circular firing squad go at it so that he can pick off the wounded survivors at his leisure.

Indeed, the Democrats have a lot to worry about other that the quixotic crusade to impeach Trump. Right now, they need to ignore the bright shiny object called impeachment and focus on winning in 2020.

Literally, nothing else matters.


Point of View Columns

Herding Democratic Cats – Continued

As has been noted, Donald Trump has lowered the bar for qualifications for President of the United States so far, that it is underground. The American myth to the effect that “anyone can be president” has become a reality during the Age of Trump. And that can be the only rational explanation for why there are now nineteen people running for the Democratic nomination for president, and none of them are named Biden. And with or without Uncle Joe, the number of Democratic wannabees will exceed twenty in the blink of an eye.

Clearly there is a need for some adult supervision for this herd of Democratic cats. There is no way that twenty men and women running for president is a sustainable model for ending the Trump presidency in November of 2020. Consider that Donald Trump will have at least $1 billion to spend on his campaign next year. Consider that many right wing of the right wing conservatives love their faux billionaire president that $1 billion is just a number and they can go higher they need to do so. And that doesn’t include his fervent and fevered base that will give until it hurts, and then give some more.

And then realize that the Democrats do not have that kind of billionaire bank roll, and certainly the Democratic billionaires (with a few exceptions – George Soros comes to mind) are not as numerous as their Republican counterparts. And even the robust small donor base will be spread too wide and too thin to give any presumptive nominee the wherewithal to go up against the Trump Machine in the fall of 2020.

We know that Trump can seem unhinged and a distant relative of reality from time to time if not all the time, but the lemming-like surge of Democratic candidates raises the question as to what these people are thinking. Most of the Talented Twenty are sufficiently well-versed in politics to know that this herd mentality is going to distract/bore/dismay the Democratic base until there is only a glimmer of hope left in the party by the time the exhausted delegates and their favorite sons and daughters depart Milwaukee in July of next year.

Tom Perez, Chair of the Democratic National Committee has been too silent on this matter. At least the captain of the Titanic didn’t see the iceberg until it was too late. Captain Perez can see this disaster materializing a full year away and he has to take action.

This is no ordinary presidential election. The re-election of Donald Trump will be a true disaster for the United States and most of the world – Russia excluded (not colluded), of course. And in exigent times, bold action must be taken. To put the matter bluntly, it is already time to thin the herd.

Giving any semblance of legitimacy to the presidential campaigns that are doomed to defeat is to risk the dilution, if not extinction, of enthusiasm and energy in the Democratic Party, and that is a risk that Tom Perez and his fellow Democrats cannot afford to take. In no more than ninety days Perez needs to establish some further parameters (not just the number of individual donors – a low qualifier in this age of social media and GoFundMe)so that there are no more than a half dozen credible candidates by the middle of summer.

Tom Perez needs to put an end to these vanity campaigns as well as the fantasy campaigns. Donald Trump is a real threat to the present and future of the United States, and the Democrats need to start acting as if they understand the true scope of this dire emergency.

It is past time to thin the herd of Democratic cats.

Point of View Columns

Herding Democratic Cats

Donald Trump has taken the expression “anybody can be president” and turned it into a caricature of his own presidency. He has set the bar so low that now literally anybody believes that they can be president. Look at the gaggle of candidates that have encountered their conversion into a presidential candidate as they encountered their transformation much as Saul of Tarsus became Paul on the road to Damascus. A coffee salesman, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana (seriously???), a spiritual advisor and many more are deluging the media in a way that would cause a Russian hacker to blush. And then there are the Democrats.

It is an article of political faith that a third party candidate would almost ensure Trumps reelection and that is why the Democratic nomination appears to be the most likely way to win three free debates with Donald Trump as well as the presidency of the United States as a bonus. And there are enough people who believe that they could/should be president and see the Democratic nomination as the vehicle to realize that dream. And so, by the end of the month of April 2019 there may be as many as twenty (20) (XX) men and women running for the Democratic nomination.

There is such a thing as an embarrassment of riches and then there is such a thing as too much. The surfeit of wannabe presidential candidates is turning into a circular firing squad of epic proportions. There is simply no way that all of the candidates for the Democratic nomination, announced and going-to-announce can be successful, but there is a way that this highly ambitious group of overachievers can exhaust the attention span of the American voters so that by the time the Democrats convene in Milwaukee in July of 2020, only the very close relatives of the candidates and miscellaneous media masochists will care.

Anyone and everyone can understand the collective dismay at the thought of a Trump second term. As bad as this man has been as president, he has provided clear evidence that there is no bottom to the swamp of discord, lies, racism, white supremacy and neonationalism in which he resides. Nevertheless, there is no way that 15-20 eager Democrats can define and craft a coherent message that will stop the impending disaster of Trump’s reelection.

Perhaps Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, can make one of his increasingly rare appearances and bring his party to order. He is a veteran of electoral politics and he must know that this candidate cattle call will not end well for the Democratic Party. If the former governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper can raise $1 million in a day, and if South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg can raise $7 million in a month, a fundraising criteria may not thin the herd. But if he can get this herd of hounds who want to catch the fox called Trump to agree that anyone not polling over 5% by Labor Day 2019 will graciously withdraw from the race, the Democrats stand a chance of avoiding the Republican errors of 2016 when the sixteen candidates striving to succeed Barack Obama were distilled into the toxic Trump candidacy.

While there may not be a Trump in hiding in the Democratic candidates corral, there is no way that the best candidate will necessarily come out of the process at this point in time. And there is a real danger that in a 20 person field, the winner will stagger into combat with 19 arrows in his/her back and then have to do battle with a fat and sleek and rested Trump. That will not be a fair fight.

This no longer a partisan issue. There is a national crisis besetting this country and it goes by the name Donald J. Trump. Right now the Democratic Party offers the best chance for this country to avoid true disaster.

The Democrats need to figure this out and get it right. Now.