The Morning After

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I had a dream the other night. It was the day after Election Day.

The sun rose in the East as it always had.

The American flag was still proudly flying over government buildings, schools, and on flag poles of ordinary citizens across this great land.

But on this day after the election, America was a changed nation. We had just elected the first woman to be President of the United States. There was great relief that disaster had been averted. It was hardly the start of a political revolution, but there was a sense of pride at America electing its first woman President. Her election, however, was made inevitable the moment the GOP nominated the only candidate who could not beat her – a complete ignoramus, a sociopath, a pathological liar, and a clown – Donald J. Trump. Hilary Clinton won because Trump was unelectable.

There is a good chance that even if Hillary Clinton is a political opportunist, she is likely to govern less from the center than Bill Clinton. If she does not, the Sanders political revolution will be there to protest and to try to keep her honest. Bernie Sanders and other progressive senators such as Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown will be there to object to corporatist policies.

So, in my dream here is what a Clinton presidency will look like – or perhaps I should say, what it will not look like.

Clinton will not nominate Supreme Court justices in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia who would double down on Citizens United, thus giving billionaires the ability to buy elections; block voting rights; side with corporate rights against citizens’ rights and possibly overturn Roe v. Wade, sending thousands of women to back alley abortionists. Hillary Clinton will more than likely appoint liberal justices such as those appointed by Bill Clinton (Stephen Breyer and “The Notorious RBG” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg). With the help of a Democrat-controlled Senate and two or three choice picks, Hillary Clinton will reshape the court in a generally progressive direction for at least a generation.

Further, there will be no deportation force to quickly banish eleven million undocumented immigrants. There will be no special force of tens of thousands of armed agents to invade workplaces, homes, and schools, and to stop cars and pedestrians to check papers and round up those without proper documentation. Such actions would make America look like a police state!

There will be no expulsion of Dreamers, immigrants who were brought by their parents to America at a young age and have spent most of their lives in this country going to school and working. Dreamers will not be forced to hide in the shadows instead of contributing to American society.

People of the Muslim faith, and/or everyone from countries that have experienced terrorism, will not be banned from entering the United States. Such a ban would also include people from friendly Muslim countries, such as Indonesia, Turkey (a member of NATO), and the United Arab Emirates, as well as people from countries that have experienced terrorism, such as France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Considerable damage to the economy will be averted because travel, tourism, and commerce will not be harmed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be drinking champagne in celebration of a Donald Trump election. America’s NATO allies, particularly those close to Russia, will not have to worry or be uncertain if the United States will help defend them, regardless of whether they have paid their fair share as an ally. And Putin will feel less liberated to engage in dangerous foreign adventures.

The Iran nuclear arms treaty will not be torn up. Without such restraints, Iran would have the ability to develop a nuclear weapon in about a year, thereby threatening the stability of the Middle East and the security of Israel. And there is a good chance that Israel would pre-emptively bomb Iranian nuclear sites, setting off a regional war.

There will be no trade wars with China, Mexico and other countries, which would likely lead to a severe recession or depression.

The Affordable Care Act will not be repealed and millions of people will not be thrown off their health insurance. The Affordable Care Act needs fixing and Hillary Clinton has promised to fix it.

The wealthy will not have their taxes cut, an action that would have had the effect of ballooning the deficit.

Social Security and Medicare will not be privatized.

And, finally, for at least the next four to eight years, something will be done by the United States to combat climate change. Our commitments under the Paris Agreement will not be abrogated and the goal of reducing global warming  will be taken seriously.

What might all of this mean?

During the campaign, Hillary Clinton said: “Despite what you hear, we don’t need to make America great again. America has never stopped being great. But we do need to make America whole again. Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers.”

Americans are richer than ever, more powerful than ever, our people live longer than ever, and they are healthier and better educated than ever. We are still the Number One destination for immigrants from around the world and for students seeking higher education. We still produce more patents than anyone, are home to more capital than anyone, foster creativity and entrepreneurship better than anyone. Those facts are American Exceptionalism at its best.

But this election reveals not only the greatness of American democracy, but also the greatness of the American people. American Democracy – messy, ugly, coaxing out of the shadows our inner demons – actually works. This dispiriting election has been dominated, thanks to Donald Trump and his supporters, by mean-spirited, even vile, rhetoric. But the American people have risen up to repudiate it, and that is encouraging and profoundly reassuring.

But there is more that is encouraging than either the objective facts of American vitality or the soundness and solidity of United States democracy: What is best in our leaders complements that which is best in our people. And there is the promise of our collective future – especially if we find a place for America that better recognizes our strengths, our place in a global community, and what still needs to be fixed.

What is broken in America requires that we do what we are supposed to after even this most divisive campaigns – and that is to reach out to one another.

Hillary Clinton must therefore do the thing that true leaders do: She must listen even to those who offer only criticism. She must find compromises, and she must rise above or work around those who seek only to impede. And in this promising moment, that is precisely what Clinton is promising to do.

What makes this a great moment to be an American is that our prospects are so good. At home, that means we enter this next chapter in our history having made extraordinary progress at healing old divisions. Our incoming president will for the first time in history be a member of our majority population – women! This fact should be profoundly moving to all who love the central idea of democracy or simply the best values of humanity. President Barack Obama was the first African-American chief executive in the nation’s history. Under his watch, among other things, the nation fully embraced the idea of marriage equality – the policy that the government would no longer seek to regulate love between people. And we are at the threshold of powerful changes that will build on this breakthrough. For the first time in United States history, children who once were thought of as members of minority groups – African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians – now make up the majority in our schools. Within roughly a quarter of a century, that fact will be true for the United States as a whole. We will be living the promise of being an open, diverse society, culturally richer than any other in the world, which provides benefits in our lives in countless ways, from offering a multitude of experiences and traditions to helping our workforce better compete in the global era.

We also are entering an era in which Hillary Clinton offers the promise of a different kind of American leadership – neither the rightwing neo-isolationistic policies of George W. Bush, nor even the political hesitancy of Barack Obama – but one that is both engaged and committed to strengthening alliances. Indeed, that type of leadership might be best characterized by her campaign slogan: “Stronger Together.” That should be our motto both at home and overseas, with allies and even with rivals.

The genius of the American system is that it is designed to reinvent itself. It is a system whose architects had great aspirations and realistic expectations, who had audacity and humility, and who had flaws but a desire to overcome them. In other words, it is a system that looks like the people it serves.

So, on November 9, the sun will rise in the East as it always has.

And, on November 9, the American flag will be proudly flying over government buildings, schools, and on flag poles of ordinary citizens across this great land.

But, on November 9, we will be a changed nation. When we awake, it will be the dawn of a new and better morning in America.

Or am I still dreaming?

 

 

 

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Reasons to Elect Hillary Clinton

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Recently, my wife said to me, “All you ever write about is Donald Trump and it’s depressing me. Why don’t you write something positive, like why Hillary Clinton should be president?”

You know, she was right.

I will admit it is depressing writing about Donald Trump and contemplating the possibility of his becoming the “Leader of the Free World.” I believe that it is clear from my writings that I am not voting to elect Donald J. Trump.

But why am I voting for Hillary Clinton?

So with this post I will be positive. I will mention Donald Trump as little as possible so as to keep this writing positive. I found as I began to do some research that it was not difficult at all to write positive things about Clinton.

In September, political commentator Keith Olbermann wrote a piece listing 176 reasons Donald Trump should not be elected president. While my list is not as extensive as Olbermann’s, I believe that quality trumps quantity. I have tried to avoid duplications, so if you find any, I ask your forgiveness in advance.

That being said, here are my reasons to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton for President of the United States:

She is qualified. To say that Hillary Clinton is qualified is like saying that apple pie is delicious. Here is a short list of her qualifications:

  • Elected Senior Class President of Wellesley College
  • Graduated with honors from Yale Law School before completing another year of graduate studies
  • Worked on Presidential campaigns of Barry Goldwater (1964), George McGovern (1972), and Jimmy Carter (1976)
  • Took a “summer job” on Senator Walter Mondale’s committee for migrant workers in 1971
  • Chaired the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee while husband Bill Clinton was Governor
  • Co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
  • Named one of the 100 most powerful lawyers in America by the National Law Journal in 1988 and 1991
  • Served 8 years as First Lady of the United States
  • Served 2-terms as United States Senator from New York
  • She served on Senatorial committees, including Budget; Armed Services; Environment and Public Works; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; and a special Committee on Aging
  • Served as United States  Secretary of State

She has championed some amazing causes.

  • One of Secretary Clinton’s greatest achievements is the Global Health Initiative (GHI), introduced in 2010. Designed to put a focus on maternal and infant health, the GHI has implemented strategy to improve medical facilities, reduce the spread of HIV, and lower infant and maternal mortality  rates.
  • Beyond individual achievements, Clinton has made it her life’s mission to ensure the world knows one simple thing: that “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” In every position she has held, the former First Lady has fought to bring women closer to equality. Bringing issues like women’s health, equal pay, and domestic violence to the forefront, she has never stopped making cracks in the glass ceiling.

Her stance on the issues. One of the most important reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton (or any candidate) is that her views line up with yours. If you agree with her on the subjects below, you may have just found your candidate.

  • Is pro equal rights for LGBT Americans
  • Opposes using “religious freedom” to justify cutting access to healthcare and discrimination
  • Understands economic inequality – and wants to fix it
  • Thinks anti-vaxxers (vaccine) are stupid
  • Supports gun control, including comprehensive background checks and closing loopholes that allow guns to fall into the wrong hands.
  • Knows the criminal justice system in this country is broken and wants to fix it
  • Wants to fix  Citizens United
  • Supports  other women in the climb toward equality
  • Supports American Workers
  • Is pro-choice
  • Secured a policy change that would “take into account” a country’s LGBT human rights record when distributing foreign aid
  • Worked with Ted Kennedy to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • Directed the State Department to “champion a comprehensive human rights agenda” that included protection of LGBT human rights
  • Made the promotion of equality for gay people a core value of United States foreign policy
  • Declared that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights” to the international community
  • Launched the Global Equality Fund to support LGBT human rights advocates in partnership with eight countries
  • Fought Ugandan efforts to criminalize homosexuality, punishable by death
  • Played a vital role in the passage of the Turkish-American Accord
  • Launched the African Women’s Enterpreneurship Program to help women “get their own businesses in order, to learn how to better achieve what they’re hoping for
  • Launched the United States-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative to drive private sector investment into Africa’s energy sector
  • While a member of the United States Senate, sponsored or co-sponsored 713 pieces of legislation
  • As one of her first acts in office as Secretary of State, created equal benefits to domestic partners working for the State Department
  • Launched the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which has thirty-seven countries working to reduce methane emissions
  • Repeatedly co-sponsored the Clean Power Act
  • Was an original co-sponsor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
  • In 2007, during debate over the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, introduced an amendment to reclassify the spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents as immediate relatives
  • Co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families advocacy group
  • Introduced the Heroes at Home Act  to help family members care for those with Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Worked to increase the military survivor benefit from $12,000 to $100,000, and co-sponsored the Support for Injured Service Members Act to extend benefits provided under the Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Fought to secure funds for medical assessment, referrals and outreach for 9/11 first responders and volunteers
  • Led efforts to rescue Chen Guangchen, the dissident who took refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing
  • Co-Sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act
  • Initiated the creation of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, protecting abused children and encouraging the adoption of children with special needs
  • Investigated health issues affecting veterans of the Gulf War, now commonly known as Gulf War Syndrome
  • Negotiated Iran sanctions, and brokered an agreement between Hamas and Israel that brought about a ceasefire and helped bring security to Israel
  • Created the Office on Violence Against Women in the Justice Department
  • As First Lady of Arkansas, she instituted cutting-edge early childhood and education programs
  • As United States First Lady, she worked with Congress and succeeded in passing a historic childhood health insurance program

It is about time. When a woman takes up the mantle of “Leader of the Free World,” our nation will cross a line, never to return. I am not saying that Hillary Clinton becoming president will magically create nationwide gender equality, because it will not. But when we join the ranks of twenty-two other countries such as Germany, Denmark, and Chile by placing a woman as our Head of State, a new generation will grow up with an altered view of what a woman can do. When women take on leadership roles, the way women are perceived and talked about changes. In just the last half-century, the way women are discussed in the media has changed dramatically.

She is a pragmatic Progressive. President Obama does not receive the credit he deserves for turning this country around after George W. Bush nearly put us into financial ruins. He stopped the great recession and has us headed in the right direction. Clinton will continue in that same direction. Her policies and governing style are very similar to his and many of her goals are to expand on Obama’s accomplishments like:

  • Comprehensive immigration reform
  • Legislative action on climate change
  • fixing and expanding Obamacare
  • expanding and strengthening Dodd-Frank financial regulations

If you have been able to handle President Obama for the past eight years, then you will be just fine with a President Hillary Clinton. They are both calculating pragmatic progressives. And the transition should be seamless. And a President Hillary will ensure Obama’s legacy, as well as forge one of her own.

She has experience. No one in our history has ever come to this office as ready on day one as will Hillary Clinton. She has served as Secretary of State, Senator of New York, First Lady of the United States, First Lady of Arkansas, a practicing lawyer, a law professor, and an activist over a very long and public career. Whether you like her or not, it is very hard to compete with her résumé. And because Clinton has been in the public eye for so many years, we have all seen her life play out before us. We have seen her accomplishments and her failures. We have also seen a Conservative movement attack her like no other. Yet somehow Clinton always remains standing. She is battle tested. There is nothing the Republicans can throw at her that has not already been thrown. And Hillary Clinton has proven herself tough enough to handle anything.

That toughness will help her lead this country. I think one of the mistakes that Obama made early on in his Presidency was that he underestimated the hatred that the Republicans had for him. Those same Republicans will have an equal amount of hatred for Hillary Clinton, but she will not make that same mistake.

People like to label her a “bitch.” Well, maybe in order to deal with some of the opposition right now, she will have to be a bitch – and she is just the woman to do the job.

Foreign policy is her forte. Simply put, there is no one who can touch Clinton when it comes to foreign policy. Her experience as Secretary of State was invaluable. She is more knowledgeable and respected on foreign affairs than anyone running. And trying to compare her with Donald Trump is hardly more than a joke. Henry Kissinger, who served as Secretary of State for Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, says Hillary Clinton ran the State Department in the “most effective way” he has ever seen, even counting himself.

Her foreign policy will be much like Obama’s. She is probably a bit more hawkish than Obama, but to call her a hawk is unfair, especially when you compare her to any of the Republicans. And if you take issue with Obama’s foreign policy and that is why you do not like Clinton’s, just think for a moment what would happen if Donald Trump won the White House – a man who has said that he “loves war, in a certain way,” and whose updated ISIS plan is “to bomb the shit out of them (the oil fields). I would just bomb those suckers, and that’s right, I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left.”

Yes, her hawkishness is a concern; it is why I supported Obama in 2008. Clinton was wrong on Iraq. She supported intervention in Libya, which has not worked out well. But she supports the Iran nuclear deal, restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, and reducing the military budget. These are all important foreign policy issues.

Reproductive rights. She supports funding for Planned Parenthood, fact-based sex education, and widespread access to birth control (including emergency contraception). She has broken new ground by calling for an end to the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal Medicaid funds to pay for poor women’s abortions.

Health care issues. As First Lady, Clinton worked to pass the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which funds health care for six million children. Now she wants to get resistant red states to expand Medicaid; add a public option to the Affordable Care Act; let those aged fifty-five and over buy into Medicare; and offer coverage to undocumented immigrants. She wants to rein in drug companies and their excessive prices on prescription drugs, and has detailed plans to improve access to care for HIV, mental illness, and more.

Voting rights. The Republican Party has been working hard to disenfranchise black, Latino, student, and other likely Democratic voters. Clinton supports automatic registration for all citizens when they turn eighteen; restoring the Voting Rights Act; extending voting rights to ex-felons; and setting a national standard of twenty days for early voting.

Immigration reform. Clinton supports a path to citizenship for Dreamers – the young people brought to this country as children by their parents. Unlike Obama, she does not support deporting undocumented immigrants, unless they are violent criminals or terrorists. This is huge: peace of mind for at least eleven million people.

Children and families. Hillary supports twelve weeks of paid parental and family leave; twelve weeks to recover from a serious illness; universal preschool; doubling Head Start; and affordable child care that costs no family more than ten percent of its income. She also wants to raise the pay of child-care workers and add quality child-care centers to college campuses.

Educational reforms. She supports debt-free public college and free community college, with debt relief for current borrowers. She has also pledged $25 billion for historically black colleges and universities and other institutions that serve minorities.

Criminal justice system. Clinton will support leg­­islation to end racial profiling and introduce sentencing reforms to end our shocking era of mass incarceration.

Workers rights. She wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour (not $15, I grant you), fight wage theft and other employer abuses, and strengthen unions’ bargaining rights. She opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership – another success for Bernie Sanders.

Our tax structure. Clinton wants to raise taxes on the rich, prevent them from avoiding estate taxes, and close loopholes for Wall Street and corporations. She debunks “trickle-down economics” – the conservative belief that obscene wealth in the hands of a few leads to prosperity for all, and that if you are poor, it is your own fault. That is oligarchical thinking at its worst.

Personnel are policy. The next president will nominate at least one and as many as four justices to the Supreme Court, and many judges to the federal judiciary. This alone would be reason enough to vote for Hillary Clinton. The White House controls thousands of appointments for the officials who actually run the government. Remember the many hapless and bigoted officials of the George W. Bush years? Clinton, who is superbly knowledgeable on a wide range of issues, will nominate and appoint progressive, competent people – many of whom are likely to have been Sanders supporters.

Everything but the kitchen sink. Clinton is for gun control, equal pay for women, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and the Paris climate-change agreement. Yes, she believes in global warming!

President George H. W. Bush, also known as “41”, said that he is voting for Hillary Clinton. And lastly,

If Hillary Clinton wins in 2016 that means: Donald Trump will not be President!

 Some would say that is a pretty good reason in and of itself.

So you choose. I have.

 

 

 

 

 

Abysmal Civic Ignorance

civicsThe woman is a bright and friendly person in her mid-twenties. But when a friend casually refers to Hillary Clinton’s hearings on Benghazi, Libya, she is befuddled. Not just because she has never heard of the Benghazi controversy, but because she has never heard of the Secretary of State, or of the State Department, or of United States ambassadors. She is just as blissfully unaware of the existence of the two houses of Congress, with each appointing committees to focus on matters of national concern.

Now, the woman is not a high school dropout or a recent immigrant. She is a native-born American who graduated from a recognized four-year college. And yet somehow in sixteen years of education, she has failed to learn the most elementary facts about our government.

And she is not alone.

For years, I taught at a college in the Baltimore area and I mentioned Adolf Hitler in a lecture one time, only to be met with the blank stares that signal incomprehension and perplexity. These students not only did not know who Adolf Hitler was, but they also did not know who won World War Two! How does one enter a college classroom and not know such things? As King Mongkut of Siam says in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I: “It’s a puzzlement!”

The longer this election season goes on, the more evidence I see of the cost of the shocking ignorance instilled by our system of schooling. Late-night comedians have made a running joke out of this civic illiteracy with their “man on the street” interviews. I can well remember watching a segment on The Tonight Show back in the 1960s in which a reporter was sent out onto the streets of New York City to ask people to identify a photograph of then Vice President Lyndon Johnson. No one interviewed knew who he was. No one! It was funny at the time, but the Kennedy assassination changed all that. Surveys show that such ignorance is not out of the norm.

Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute has noted: “By the end of the 1990s, two thirds of high school seniors were unable to identify the period in which the Civil War was fought; half didn’t know in which half century World War I took place. More than half could not name the three branches of government. A majority had no clue what the Gettysburg Address was all about. Fifty-two percent chose Germany, Japan or Italy as ‘U.S. allies’ in World War Two.”

But it only gets worse.

Several years ago, Newsweek asked a sample of 1000 voters to take the same test that new immigrants applying for United States citizenship must pass. One third of the respondents could not name the vice president and half did not know that the first ten amendments to the Constitution are called the Bill of Rights. Only one third knew that the Constitution is considered the nation’s highest law.

What are the results of this dismaying lack of knowledge? The most obvious consequence is the extent to which Donald Trump has transfixed the electorate this year in spite of his complete absence of workable policy proposals.

For example, on the campaign trail in September of this year, Donald Trump told supporters, “We have forty-one days to make possible every dream you’ve ever dreamed.” Oddly enough, it is apparently part of Trump’s new pitch: NBC News’ Katy Tur noticed the Republican nominee make a similar comment a day later: “You have forty days until the election. You have forty days to make every dream you ever dreamed for your country come true.”

Trump also reportedly  vowed to supporters that he would “fulfill every single wish” they have for his presidency.

The problem with Trump’s over-the-top promises is not just their excessive arrogance or their detachment from political realities. What the GOP nominee also fails to realize is the degree to which his rhetoric is at odds with his own alleged conservative principles.

Conservatives are not supposed to tell the public they will “make possible every dream you’ve ever dreamed.” On the contrary, at a root, almost crude level, conservatives believe in telling the masses, “Everyone cannot have everything.” More to the point, the conservative right’s core beliefs dictate that it is ridiculous for the public to even look to the state and political leaders to fulfill their dreams. Such people are “takers” not “makers,” according to Republican conservative dogma.

And yet, here is Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, who has no real understanding of what he is talking about, effectively saying the opposite: Everyone can, in fact, have everything, and he alone – a President Trump – will make it happen.

Trump promises to spend trillions of dollars for new programs without offering any realistic method of paying for his promises. Trump promises to  eliminate “waste, fraud, and abuse,” an empty promise that dates back at least to President Jimmy Carter, and which experienced policy analysts recognize as pie-in-the-sky. (Where, for instance, is the line item in the federal budget for “waste, fraud, and abuse”?)

And when it comes to foreign policy, Trump preaches isolationism, with unthinking indifference or unawareness of how terribly the United States and the world suffered when such a policy was implemented in the past. Further, he turns his back on free trade, which most economists agree is a good thing.

Trump has gone even further by promising that he “alone” can somehow destroy the Islamic State, end terrorism, return lost manufacturing jobs, stop illegal immigration by building a wall that Mexico will pay for, deport eleven million undocumented immigrants, end trade deficits, make all of America’s streets safe, and accomplish a host of other miracles. His inability to spell out any way to get from here to there without any other help, such as the legislative branch of government, has not been an insurmountable impediment to his electoral success, at least not so far.

A surprisingly large number of people are all too willing to swallow these grandiose and unbelievable promises while professing themselves not to be troubled by Trump’s lack of basic knowledge about governance. Trump is a candidate, after all, who thinks that judges issue “bills,” or who has no idea what the “nuclear triad” is, or who does not know what the difference is between the Kurds and the Quds Force.

Yet Trump looks almost exceptionally well-informed compared to the Libertarian Party candidate, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who apparently has never heard of the Syrian city of Aleppo, could not in a television interview identify a single, favorite world leader, and cannot or will not name the dictator of North Korea. The isolationist Johnson actually brags that his lack of knowledge is to his advantage because he cannot invade countries he has never heard of, can he! Now, there is a piece of logic for you to ponder.

Johnson is nevertheless attracting a substantial share of millennial votes – and many of those voters are oblivious to the danger of a third-party candidate throwing the election to Donald Trump. The vast majority of millennials were not old enough to vote in 2000, when Ralph Nader ran as the Green Party nominee and, with the strong backing of young voters, helped cost Vice President Al Gore the presidency.

“Ralph who?” asked David Frasier, a junior at Charleston Southern University. “Didn’t he kind of come in at the last minute and kind of alter the votes or something?” Frasier, twenty-six, asked, his memory barely jogged. “I was too young to remember.” (Note that Trump’s main support comes not from college students or college graduates, but from white men with a high school education or less. So presumably they know even less than David Frasier.)

Whatever happens on 8 November, recent events should underline the urgent necessity of revitalizing civics education – of making certain that current and future voters know basic information about government, history, geography, international affairs, and economics to make well-informed choices.

This lack of basic knowledge about national and world affairs poses a real danger to the future of our democracy. Elections presuppose that voters have some intellectual apparatus to distinguish between the choices they are offered. If that is no longer the case, American democracy will fall prey to demagogues – and if not to Donald Trump, then to someone else. This is precisely what our Founding Fathers feared. As Federalist Number 10, an essay written by James Madison as the tenth of the Federalist Papers warned: “Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people.” For the benefit of today’s under-informed voters, the Federalist Papers are a series of eighty-five essays published between 1787 and 1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay promoting the Constitution. You may have heard of Hamilton – he is a rapper with a Broadway show! (Just messing with you.)

If we do not revitalize civics education, we will be entrusting our future to people who cannot name all three branches of government – a feat that only one-third of respondents in one recent survey could pull off. Such abysmal ignorance is a deal-breaker in making informed decisions at the ballot box.

However, the way we are going, one of these days the republic could find itself in peril if in the future we see some demagogue who is smoother, more articulate than Donald Trump and devoid of his debilitating personal flaws, who will not just be a candidate for president. He will actually become president – and heaven help us if that should occur!

We are not that ignorant.

Or are we?

I spend sleepless nights pondering that question.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You One Of the “Deplorables”?

deplorables

Indiana Governor Mike Pence hammered Hillary Clinton and Senator Tim Kaine for running an “insult-driven campaign” during the vice presidential debate Tuesday night and said that Clinton’s comment about Donald Trump supporters being “deplorables” is worse than anything that Trump has even said. (Of course in the debate, Pence denied that “the Donald” said any of the things to which Kaine alluded.)

For context, Clinton’s comment about “the basket of deplorables” - those with “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, [and] Islamophobic” views - was directed toward half of Trump supporters. That is a greater percentage than those who believe minorities currently have too much power according to a new poll, but a lesser percentage than those who believe President Obama is a Muslim - a quickly discredited conspiracy theory that nonetheless brought Donald Trump to national political prominence.

In response, Kaine said Trump has said some awful things, and he pointed out that Clinton apologized for her comment about “the basket of deplorables” and that Trump has not apologized for any of his. “Did Donald Trump apologize for calling women ‘slobs,’ ‘pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘disgusting’?” Kaine asked. “Did he apologize for saying African Americans are living in hell? Did he apologize for saying President Obama was not even a citizen of the United States? You will look in vain to see Donald Trump ever taking responsibility for anybody and apologizing.”

Tell me you are conservative.

Tell me you are Republican.

Tell me you are Christian.

Tell me any of these things, and I will not make too many assumptions about you.

Sure, I may assume that you go to church every Sunday, that you eat red meat, and that you obtain most of your news from Fox and Friends, but beyond that, I will withhold judgment on the kind of person you are until I learn more about you. In fact, as a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant male who lives in a heavily conservative area in Pennsylvania, most of the people in my spheres of influence are of the right-leaning variety. And I can further attest that most of those people are fairly decent when you begin to know them.

But tell me unequivocally that you are voting for Donald Trump and instantly, I am going to make certain assumptions about you and your character that I would not make if you told me you supported any other GOP candidate.

And there ain’t any of those assumptions that are good.

Are you one of the “deplorables”?

I assume that you may be one of the “deplorables” if you want a despot (benevolent or otherwise), not a president.

The single trait that predicts the Trump supporter has nothing to do with race, income, or education is his or her proclivity towards authoritarianism.

Trump’s electoral strength – and his staying power – have been buoyed, above all else, by Americans with authoritarian inclinations. And because of the prevalence of authoritarians in the American electorate, among Democrats as well as Republicans, it is very possible that Trump’s fan base will continue to grow. Those who say a Trump presidency “can’t happen here” should check their conventional wisdom at the door. Donald Trump has confounded conventional expectations this election season because those expectations are based on an oversimplified caricature of the electorate in general and his supporters in particular. Conditions are ripe for an authoritarian leader to emerge. Trump is seizing the opportunity. And the institutions – from the Republican Party to the press – that are supposed to guard against what James Madison called “the infection of violent passions” among the people have either been cowed by Trump’s bluster or are asleep on the job.

Authoritarians obey. They rally to and lock-step follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened. From pledging to “make America great again” by building a wall on the border to promising to close mosques and ban Muslims from visiting the United States, Donald Trump is playing directly to authoritarian inclinations.

So spare me your lectures about market freedoms or any constitutional rights you claim to hold dear. You want a dictator in the style of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, which pretty much makes you anti-American.

I assume that you may be one of the “deplorables” if you have class, but all of it is low class.

I am sorry to say this and I have tried to revisit this one several times, but I do not know how to sugar-coat it.

It is not okay that Donald Trump mocked a disabled person. If Hillary Clinton had done that, it would be a deal-breaker for me. I would vote for a third-party candidate, or write in Mickey Mouse. I have standards. You apparently do not. Some people try to justify this by saying Trump did not really do it. Except he really did, and it was awful.

The disabled person, reporter Serge Kovaleski, suffers from arthrogryposis, a condition that limits the movement of joints and is particularly noticeable in Kovaleski’s right arm and hand. After referring to Kovaleski as “a nice reporter,” Trump launched into a seeming impression of him, pointedly flopping his right arm around with his hand held at an odd angle while saying (in imitation of Kovaleski): “Now, the poor guy, you’ve got to see this guy: ‘Uhh, I don’t know what I said. Uhh, I don’t remember,’ he’s going like ‘I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said’”

After Trump then became the center of a controversy for having callously mocked Kovaleski in public, Trump asserted that the whole thing was just a coincidence – he had no idea who Kovaleski was and thus could not have been aware of his physical condition. Trump’s claims to non-memory were widely considered to be disingenuous, as Kovaleski had covered Trump extensively while working for the Daily News from 1987 to 1993 and had interviewed and talked to the business magnate numerous times during that period.

It is not okay that Donald Trump mocked POW’s. No one even tries to defend Donald Trump mocking POWs, because he said it loud and clear: “I like people who weren’t captured.” It was that insult to John McCain that I thought would have killed his chances within the GOP ranks, since they claim to be pro-veteran. But I grossly overestimated their character. By the time we get around to the part about Trump lusting after his own daughter or justifying statutory rape, I have already given up on you as a decent person. You are deplorable.

And please. Don’t tell me that you did not know about any of this. You know. You just do not care. Hence, my statement that you have class – all of it low.

I assume that you may be one of the “deplorables” if integrity is not high on your list.

Yes, all politicians lie, but Donald Trump is obscene with his falsehoods. According to PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter™, seventy-one percent of everything he says is either mostly false, false, or pants on fire false. He says whatever he feels like to whatever crowd he is speaking to, and then will deny ever saying it. I am not okay with someone who lies to me constantly. If you are, I have to wonder: would you fudge the numbers? If you caught someone on your team doing something unethical, would you be okay with that?

I already know that integrity is not high on your list. Furthermore, you clearly have no trouble with someone who has a long history of fraudulent business practices. Having a bumper sticker on your truck for any other conservative would not be a problem for me – but Trump? That is another story altogether.

I assume that you may be one of the “deplorables” if you have no problem with racism.

Trump threw out all the dog whistles and fully embraced the alt-right movement. He led the campaign to de-legitimize Barack Obama’s presidency. He constantly complains that black Americans are violent and stated that Mexican immigrants bring “crime” and are “rapists.” He demanded that any judge who tries him must be white! He retweets from handles like “@WhiteGenocideTM” – which gives its location as “Jewmerica” – and goes to anti-Semitic websites for material to attack his opponents. Your embrace of this kind of hate makes me wonder what things you say about me and my family behind my back.

I assume that you may be one of the “deplorables” if you have an issue with women.

Donald Trump has brought a level of vulgarity that we have never before seen in national politics. From his attack on Megyn Kelly, to insulting Rosie O’Donnell twice in national debates, to bragging about his genitalia on television in front of millions, to his suggestion that Hillary and Carly Fiorina are too ugly to be president, Trump’s measure of tastelessness is unprecedented. Anyone who supports a man who does not think twice about calling women “pigs” or “dogs” is not someone with whom I want to deal.

I can say in all honesty that if it was the Democratic candidate who kept bragging about his sexual dominance and ranked all women he met by their looks, that person would not get my vote. Demanding that a man treat women with a basic level of respect is a pretty low bar. I have a problem with someone who cannot even meet that, along with that person’s supporters.

In a clip from a 1994 episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, host Robin Leach conducted a joint interview with Donald Trump and his second wife, Marla Maples. Their daughter, Tiffany, had just turned one year old at the time and Leach asked Trump what attributes the baby inherited from each parent.

“Well, I think that she’s got a lot of Marla. She’s a really beautiful baby – she’s got Marla’s legs.” Then making a gesture that indicated large breasts, he added, “We don’t know whether or not she’s got this part yet, but time will tell.”

He could have said anything! Anything! And yet, he went with legs and possibly boobs, which, to my mind, is not the correct answer. We know for sure from this instance that there is no female too small for Trump to reduce her to her body parts.

To Trump, every woman is just a pair of legs connected to a pair of breasts and there is a bunch of extra stuff in the middle, but it is not sexy and no one knows what it is for really. And you know, normally a candidate who views women this way would be doomed. But Trump is not a normal candidate and we know that. As several news outlets have reminded us over the past year, Trump has a tendency to make unnecessarily lewd comments about being attracted to his daughter Ivanka, dating back to her teen years. But this is the first time we have heard him making similar statements about his own baby.

And now we find out that Trump, the top of the GOP ticket, recently tweeted instructions at 3 a.m. to go watch a sex tape starring Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe who insulted him. And, of course there is no sex tape. He lied about that too.  (As it turns out, there was a sex tape that was uncovered, but it was a 2000 Playboy soft-core porn that starred Donald Trump!)  Your candidate.

And finally, I assume that you may be one of the “deplorables” if you do not believe in the Constitution.

For eight years I have listened to your rabid rantings on how President Obama does not follow the Constitution. Yet you support a man who said the United States government should shut down mosques, curb our First Amendment rights, and forego due process on people he does not like.  These protections are enshrined in our Bill of Rights, and you want to give them up. Trump also said he wants to end birthright citizenship, which is also in the Constitution. Maybe Mr. Khan should have made more copies of the Constitution for Trump’s supporters.

Are you one of the “deplorables”?

I respect people who hold convictions, even if they are different than mine, but Trump supporters do not really believe in anything. They are authoritarian-prone sheep who will justify anything Trump says or does. Unfortunately, once you decide to sell your soul, there is no limit to how low you will go. Jimmy Kimmel proved just how low recently.  He had someone ask Trump supporters on the street about the surprises found on a Trump fictitious tax return.  Trump supporters vigorously defended everything they thought he did – from writing off his wives as entertainment expenses, to buying Putin a tiger, to donating large sums of money to Jared Fogle, former Subway spokesperson who was found guilty of distribution and receipt of child pornography and of traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor. Nothing they could come up with remotely bothered any of them.

So there you are.

If you are one of the “deplorables,” I will always be nice to you, but I will not respect you. How could I? Suffice it to say, if you tell me you are in the tank for Donald Trump, please say no more. I already know everything I need to know about you.