Point of View Columns

When Nightmares Become Real

The gubernatorial recall election circus in California is coming to a close. Very shortly (some of) the voters in the Golden State will decide whether Gavin Newsome should remain as governor of the state. If the decision is that he should not continue in office, the second part of the ballot has a couple of dozen Republican candidates from which voters could choose.


In that case the new governor of California will have been elected with far less than half of the votes cast. This is minority rule in living, breathing color and it could happen.


This nightmare scenario could happen because even though a small minority of voters could arrange for a recall, an even smaller minority could elect the next governor. This could take place even though the overwhelming majority of the people of California wouldn’t touch most of the Republican Dirty Dozens with a ten foot pole.


It is more important than ever that the American people realize that we have been living in an approximation of minority rule in this country for decades. Consider that the successful Republican presidential candidates have won the popular vote only once since 1988. Consider that the 50 Republicans in the Senate represent less than 40% of the American population. And it is certainly fair to say that with Republican presidents and senators putting their thumb on the scale of justice, the 6-3 protoconservative majority on the Supreme Court isn’t even close to giving full consideration to the prevailing concerns of the majority of the American people.


This has happened in large part because the protoconservatives – the right wing of the right wing – have had laser like focus on the real levers of power in the American governmental system. The Constitution vests a tremendous amount of power in the states (try taking a brief look at the 10th Amendment when you get a chance). With this bit of knowledge firmly in hand Republicans have managed to gain a stranglehold on the legislative process in over thirty states even though every credible poll indicates that less than 40% of Americans self-identify as Republicans.


Republican legislatures gerrymander districts to reduce the power of voters who don’t share their vision. Further, they redistrict electoral boundaries to literally reduce the number of non-Republicans who can win elections.


This in turn translates into significant power every four years when the rules of the Electoral College require state legislatures to validate the election of the president. And one would be right to be concerned about this particular fact after the refusal of many Republicans to accept the 2020 election results. This could easily result in the overturning of the election results in their favor as a certain ex-president wanted not too long ago.


Minority rule is further enabled by the tendency of moderate and progressive Democrats to look the other way while the Republicans the foundations of democracy. Usually its because too many people “don’t want to be bothered with politics” or seriously believe that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans.


And when that happens you get California on the precipice of a public policy debacle of epic proportions. Whether it is Kaitlyn Jenner or Larry Elder or The Man With The Bear, if Gavin Newsome is recalled the people of California are in for a rude and cruel awakening. There will be too many people who will find out much too late that they needed “to be bothered with politics”.


The countdown begins.

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Point of View Columns

Failure is an Orphan

It has been said that success has many parents but failure is an orphan, Said another way, it is pretty clear that when things go right everyone is will to take credit. However, when matters go off script, virtually everyone finds that they have the natural ability to moonwalk away from the smoking wreckage.

Historians tell us that the true test of presidencies is during times of stress – Think Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs, or Roosevelt in 1936 when the economy had hardly begun to turn around…and then, of course there was Pearl Harbor. Think Lincoln and the Civil War or Washington in his second term when a lot of Americans weren’t so sanguine about even the concept of a truly United States. All of these presidents have come to be known by historians as having been successful at their job by overcoming what seemed to existential challenges at the time.

And now it is the turn of Joe Biden to demonstrate that he is closer to being a Roosevelt than to a Hoover. The fall of Afghanistan has turned out to be a poorly choreographed catastrophe that didn’t have to be a catastrophe.

Somehow the Taliban was able to conquer and control the entire country of Afghanistan in just few weeks. And now over 15,000 Americans are now trapped, along with over 50,000 Afghans who supported Americans, in what could turn out to be Taliban Hell. We have been witness to Afghans literally holding onto the wings of departing Air Force transport jets and then falling to their deaths from a thousand feet in the air rather than face the certain wrath of the Taliban. The horrors seem to continue unabated.

Afghan women have already been beaten and berated by the Taliban. Afghan girls have been forced into marriage with Taliban fighters-which are actually rapes. And through all of this the United States seems to be helpless and hapless.

And President Biden has to own this. Of that there should be no question.

So the issue is whether the Biden Administration can accept its mistake in planning the American exit from Afghanistan and now do something about it. It is not about damage control – it is now time to find a better way to save the lives of men, women and children as the time bomb left by Trump continues to wreak damage on Afghan men, women and children and the Americans who are still in that country.

To date, and understandably, President Biden has been defensive and steadfast in his belief that this situation could not be avoided. That is a stunning admission by the Commander in Chief of the most advanced military in the history of the planet. And it is not a credible response.

Obviously this disaster could have been avoided with better planning. An honest assessment of the capabilities of the Afghan military and the history of this place called Afghanistan, not based on press releases,

Just because there is a place called “Afghanistan” on the map, that doesn’t mean that most of the people in that part of the world owe their allegiance to the nation before their tribal origins. And when push came to shove, as it did over the past few weeks, the members of the military either went tribal or went missing.

Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, it is now time for the Biden administration to admit parentage of this debacle and then be as smart as the American people expect it to be.

Every problem has a solution. Denying that there is a problem, or that a problem was inevitable is not a solution.

It is now time for Team Biden to find that solution.

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Point of View Columns

Reflections During August 2021

August 4, 2021

It remains to be seen whether the Democratic Party can serve as the last institutional obstacle to the clear intent of the Republican Party to collapse the voting process into a ritual installation of that party as the permanent government of the United States. And the only reason that this sentence sounds a bit alarmist is that, as true as it is, it is also hard to believe that after 232 years the government of the United States could become a model of 21st century authoritarian minority rule.

August 10, 2021

Speaking of recent events over the past several days –

  1. The Vaccine Mask War – Where Does It End?

We probably don’t know where all this vaccine-mask battle can end. We know that over 600.000 American men, women and children have died from the dreaded COVID-19 and its growing gang of variants. We also know that infection and death rates are rising inexorably.

Given these undeniable facts, why would anyone be against mask wearing if it would save even one life? And why would anyone who can be vaccinated refuse to be vaccinated knowing that not only will they putting their own lives in danger, they also run the very real risk of infecting a killing other people?

Yet, this is the America in which we live. In Alabama they are celebrating the fact that this state has the lowest vaccination rate in the country. The governors of Texas and Florida are threatening to withhold state funds to school districts that mandate mask wearing by students in school.

It would be correct to say that this is madness. It would also be correct to say that this is America.

  • The Olympics – What They Weren’t – What They Were

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were delayed by a year. At the time of the opening ceremonies less 20% of the population of Tokyo had been vaccinated. Athletes were testing positive in the weeks prior to lighting of the Olympic torch.

Clearly these Olympics were going to be a disaster. But they weren’t. Indeed, more than a few people thought that these may have been one of the best Olympics ever because a lot of the showbiz special effects were not present. There were no teeming, cheering crowds but there was the personal interaction between the athletes which was very special.

The competition was somehow purer and more personal. The athletes represented their countries, but they competed as athletes who respected the sport – regardless of the event. And in those moments we grew to appreciate the dedication and true love for sport and competition that motivates these very special men and women – before the endorsements and social media accounts and, of course, the money, it was that love that was evident in almost every event.

And that is what these Olympics were.

  • Voting Rights – The Canary in the Mine

During the early days of the Industrial Revolution the demand for coal expanded exponentially. So the coal mining industry expanded exponentially. And as the mines become larger and deeper the dangers of odorless but lethal gas was a real problem.

The answer was —- the miners brought a canary in a cage into the mines. The idea being that if the canary keeled over and died, the air was dangerous and it was time to evacuate or die.

When it comes to the full formal assault on voting rights – especially the voting rights of anyone who is not white – there is no canary in the mine available. Indeed, we will not know the true damage to the franchise until November 2022, and by that time it will be too late.

Of course we know that in over thirty states the plan is to not only restrict access to voting, but also to empower partisan legislators with the power to decided which votes count – at all. The damage will be awesome.

But that damage is so incomprehensible and so far off – and there is no equivalent of a canary in the mine to warn the intended victims of this crime on democracy itself, that it may be too late before democracy asphyxiates.

  • Words Matter – Why “Defunding the Police” Has Become a Toxic Term

In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in 2020, “Defund the Police” became the battle cry of all those who saw the need for profound and systemic reform of the criminal justice system. In parsing that phrase, it was clear that most supporters of this movement wanted to see mental health and social services become critical components of the criminal justice system, not just adjuncts to arrest and incarceration.

Very few people truly have advocated for the abolition of the police. Certainly, the men, women and children in Black communities would not look forward to life without polices. The aspiration has been for life with police who are fair, unbiased and who do not see arrest and violence as default behaviors in virtually every situation.

Unfortunately, the term Defund the Police, has taken a life of its own. And the right wing of the right wing has seized upon this term to debunk and attack the movement demanding criminal justice reform. Which is exactly why progressives who support criminal justice reform need to stop using the term because words matter.

August 11, 2021

There is a line in the movie “White Heat” when Cody, the character played by James Cagney, shouts “Top of the world Ma!” just before he immolates and is no more.

Andrew Cuomo had his “top of the world” moment last year when he was seen as delivering a daily master class on governmental leadership, enhanced by the comparison to the bumbling, nonsensical idiocy of Trump and his team of enablers. He was on national television every day of the week. He had a book deal. He was seriously considered to be the Democratic presidential candidate most likely to beat Trump if the septuagenarian Joe Biden somehow stumbled or literally fell. He had a multimillion dollar book deal. His reelection in 2022 was as certain as sunrise.

And we all know how that worked out. Joe Biden did not stumble or fall. The year 2021 turned out to be the worst year of Cuomo’s life as a veritable a tsunami of sexual harassment and sexual assault accusations, along with serious questions regarding his handling of nursing home deaths during the height of the pandemic along with serious questions regarding his use of state resources in the writing of his book manuscript.

And then the Attorney General issued a scalding report that detailed Cuomo’s transgressions regarding sexual matters.

Finally, on 8.10.21 Andrew Cuomo announced that he would resign and leave office on 8.24.21.

How the mighty have fallen.

Never to rise again.

Who knows?

But for now the mighty have definitely fallen.

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Point of View Columns

What is Happening in South Africa and America? Democracy is Messy

Recently a Guest Essay entitled “South Africa is Falling Apart” by the South African journalist William Shoki appeared in the New York Times. The turmoil that currently exists in South Africa is real and undeniable. What also is real and undeniable is that the basis for that turmoil is due largely to political and governance disputes. And what is also real and undeniable is that in the history of virtually all democracies there are many instances of turmoil. In other words – democracy is messy.

Coincidentally, in that same issue of the New York Times an Opinion piece by Jamelle Bouie appeared describing the history of the messy democracy of the United States in historical detail. It is probably a surprise to many that during the early decades of the American republic that there were multiple disputes, schisms and rebellions that threatened the very existence of the nascent United States.

In the first seventy years of the United States the Whiskey Rebellion and Shay’s Rebellion were only two instances of civilian unrest that had to be met with federal armed forces. George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were viciously attacked and vilified to the extreme while serving as president. A vice president, Aaron Burr, conspired with foreign forces to establish his own empire in North America.

And, of course, there was the Civil War, still the bloodiest war in American history. And let us not forget the American insurrection and the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Clearly democracy is messy. Clearly the United States endures and no one is seriously suggesting that the United States is falling apart – at least not yet.

The South African democracy is only 27 years old – born at the ending of the monstrosity called apartheid. And that new democracy had to address serious sabotage by the white South Africans who, on their way out of office, removed the files, telephones and other elements of the governmental infrastructure in its earliest days. Further, while many white South Africans have accepted the end of apartheid and the establishment of Black majority rule, there are still too many white South Africans who have sought to destabilize the new South Africa through political and economic means.

Nevertheless, democracy in South Africa endures and is one of the most robust democracies on the African continent. And while some Black South Africans have seen true change in their lives, there are many more Black South Africans who have yet to see systemic and substantive change. Indeed, democracy is messy.

Throughout the current turmoil in South Africa the democracy has remained stable as disputes continue about how that democracy can work better, and not whether or not the democracy should be replaced. It may be true that the eradication of all of the debris and decay and dysfunction that is the legacy of apartheid could be removed more effectively by an authoritarian regime but that would be at the cost of rights and protection of freedoms that were attained through decades of true struggle.

We have seen a trend towards authoritarian governments throughout the world, including in these United States. History tells us that in the long term the authoritarian governments always erode and eventually remove human rights until they become more myth than memory.

It is true that South Africa has its challenges and they are very real. To say that South Africa is falling apart is untrue – but it can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy if it is repeated often enough.

Which is why it is always important to remember that the Republic of South Africa is a democracy and democracy is always messy. But then it is always better than the authoritarian alternative.

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