Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

…if you can keep it

Author: Gary Hart

A small group of patriots, myself included, has been working for weeks under the banner “Keep Our Republic” to combat treachery in its many tentacled forms leading up to and after the looming election.

More and more Americans are being reminded, including those who possibly never knew, that this phrase is attributed to Benjamin Franklin toward the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in response to a question from a citizen outside the Convention who asked what kind of structure and government was being formed.  He said: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

There has possibly never been a time in our nation’s complex 240-year history where that phrase has become more significant.  The American Republic and its ideal of democracy have never been more threatened from within.

Thus, Franklin’s epic challenge has never been more important.

At the expense of repeating several past essays, it is still worthwhile to state the elements of republics throughout history.  They are: civic virtue, the obligation to participate; popular sovereignty, political power belongs to the people; a sense of the common wealth, what we all hold in common for ourselves and our posterity; and resistance to corruption, maintaining the public interest against the tide of special and narrow interests.

So, for Franklin and his citizen heirs, “keeping” the Republic meant participating, paying attention to government activities and the public interest, voting above all else, attending public forums at all levels of government, discussing, even debating, the issues of the day civilly and knowledgably, engagement, gathering knowledge, resisting demagoguery, questioning authority, paying taxes, educating young people, and practicing citizenship every day.

For all our country provides us, this is not too heavy a burden.

The autocratic tendency among the incumbent president and those around him does not want us to do these things.  Undemocratic power is hoarded in secret.  The meaning of language is twisted and perverted.  There is little regard for the truth.  Spokespersons are economical with facts.  The pattern is crystal clear because it has been repeated for so long.

Republican thinkers since Rome have feared corruption.  Now we see it all around us.  The representatives of special interests now run our government.  The public’s interest is disregarded.  Corruption on every level is rampant.

Corruption of this kind is a fatal cancer on any republic, including ours.

With close to half our country complicit in this corruption, the American Republic is in great danger.  It is left to all the rest of us to keep our Republic.

Vote and urge all others to vote.  From this day forward, remember that the president of this country does not want you to vote.  Demand that election officials at State and local levels be prepared for long lines, for “poll watchers” illegally demanding identification from those waiting to vote, for officials from the president on down insisting that mail in ballots not be counted, for massive voting challenges, for voter intimidation, especially in minority precincts.

Be prepared for extended vote counting for days and possibly weeks.  Also be prepared for intricate Constitutional processes if the popular vote and the electoral vote are close.  The variations of possible outcomes are bewildering even for election scholars.

We Americans are going to be tested both by the watching world and by future generations for how we go about keeping our Republic.

History will be our ultimate judge.  In two months and for weeks to follow, will we lose our Republic…or will we keep it.

 

 

The Trial

Author: Gary Hart

The forthcoming national election will be like no other in our history.  Those already focused on this, despite the pandemic and economic collapse, are coming to agreement on that.  In traditional terms, this would be a contest between the Republican Trump and the Democratic Biden.  But in the past four years, America has left tradition behind.

During the Trump years, he has stood by while a deadly virus has killed more than 175,000 Americans and destroyed or badly injured more than half the nation’s economic base.  He has converted an 80-year bipartisan foreign policy based on international democratic alliances to an isolationist-nationalist retreat.  He has replaced conservation minded national leaders with lobbyists for oil and gas, mining, and timber industries who are selling off, for pennies on the dollar, the national resources that represent our sacred heritage for future generations.  He has abandoned decades of arms control agreements that made the world safer and instead has ignited a dangerous nuclear arms race.

This is not an election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.  It is a choice between Donald Trump and America.  Joe Biden has the burden and the honor to represent the interests of America against a man whose only concern is for himself.

Donald Trump has systematically rejected the institutions, the history, the laws, and the Constitution of the United States.  He has but one principle.  And that principle is himself.  He cannot tell the truth, because he does not know the truth. He stands outside American history admiring himself in his own mirror.

Donald Trump cannot manage the national government, with all its concerns for the people and the nation’s well-being, because those who can manage are in one door and out another for refusing to worship him.

His term is characterized by massive fraud, chaos, and confusion.  He wants dictatorship, like those he has admired the most.  But the Constitution will not let him have it.  Instead, he surrounds himself with those who tell him the Constitution gives him the power to do whatever he wants.

Joe Biden now stands before the court of public opinion, the court of justice, and the Court of Democracy itself to defend the principles and the honor of the United States.  The court of history awaits.

We must hope he reads daily the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address, and Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms.  He might also remember to remind all of us to “ask what you can do for you country.”

This will not be an ordinary election.  The soul of the nation is in the balances.  This is the United States of America vs. Donald J. Trump.

Treachery

Author: Gary Hart

At the dawn of the space age, the brilliant writer Norman Mailer wrote a great book entitled Of a Fire On the Moon.  In it he compared rocket designers to plumbers because, he wrote, “the job of both is to prevent treachery in closed systems.”

American politics and government are hardly closed systems.  But their rules are subject to treachery.

Our national election is now coming out of the far turn and headed for home.  Prepare for anything and everything.

We have already seen unidentified para-military units deployed on major city streets in unmarked vehicles.  These may be private contract militia outside the military chain of command. The cities involved have Democratic party leaders and are in key swing States.

The Trump loyalist appointed to manage the U.S. Postal Service is cutting back personnel and shortening hours to inhibit delivery of ballots to voters and filed ballots to official counting stations.

The top management of the Department of Defense is now led by Trump loyalists prepared to respond to commands for domestic deployment of official military personnel prepared to put down demonstrations that can be manufactured by right wing militia or that merely involve voters waiting in long lines to vote.

Trump has repeatedly threatened to challenge any mail-in ballots not counted by midnight of election night.  There is no Constitutional or legal authority for this.

His campaign promises to deploy 50,000 voting “observers” who will be sent to minority precincts in Democratic cities in key swing States whose purpose is clearly to intimidate those voting in person.  They will demand voter documentation not required by law.

Attorney General William Barr has now converted the U.S. Department of Justice (of which I am an alumnus) to Trump’s public law firm instead of the law firm of the American people.  It will be the subject of amazement if Justice intervenes in the election to protect fairness and the law rather than the interests of the Trump campaign.

Expect ballot, machine, and poll worker shortages in seven or eight key swing States that will determine the election and that have Republican governors, mayors, or legislators responsible for conducting the election.

Courts across the land, high and low, will be deluged by suits filed from all sides on and beyond election day.  Do not expect swift decisions, except for those cases clearly dilatory.

Treachery knows no bounds.  American democracy, so vaunted to the world, will be tested, with the possible exception of our tragic Civil War, as never before in our history.

This is primarily because we have a president who knows no bounds, who lives in a fabricated world far removed from reality, and for whom the worst condemnation is “loser”.

When I still insist that Trump must have a conscience, must think of the poor, must regret privatization of our sacred national trust, must occasionally question piling billions after billions on his fabulously wealthy friends, must feel some secret guilt about literally embracing autocrats and dictators, to all of this and more, my son John simply says, “he does not care.”

That is the only response that makes any sense.  But even that must cause everyday Americans who family, religion, education, and decency have taught to have a conscience to respond, “how can that be?  How can a president of the United States be so hollow?”

The best solution to a systematic effort from the highest office to steal a national election must be a landslide of rejection.

Pray that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win Florida election night by an indisputable margin.  Pray that other determinative States then follow, one after another.  Pray that the outcome is so decisive that even the Master Manipulator is left with nothing to manipulate.

If Donald Trump wants a pardon for these disastrous four years, he will have to look beyond mere temporal powers to forgiveness from a higher power.

There should be no pardon for the treachery of attempting to destroy American democracy.

 

 

Even the strongest political and moral convictions, it turns out, are negotiable.

Take, for example, the Republican Party’s policy toward Russia.  Starting with WW II negotiations in Potsdam and Yalta, conservatives have been ardently anti-Soviet continuing into and beyond the Gorbachev era.

Democratic leaders were routinely derided as “soft on communism” and insufficiently concerned with the Red Menace.

But, of course, during those same decades Republicans were for a balanced budget, cuts in social safety net programs, smaller government with fewer regulations, and so on.  All this and more has changed with the Trump take-over of the traditional Republican Party.

Now we have heard very little about federal deficits even before the virus-inspired economic disaster and the deficit boom brought on by tax cuts for the rich that were supposed to, but did not, pay for themselves.  Just money taken from future generations for today’s billionaires.

Deregulation is going forward with demented insistence endangering our nation’s natural trust, our environment, and the present and future climate.

But the real head-snapping twists and turns have occurred in the international arena.  Post-Cold War economic, political, and security arrangements have been unilaterally abandoned by Trump and trade and security treaties tossed aside with no coherent explanation.

Given a second term, Trump will withdraw the United States from NATO and weaken our principal security alliance to the consternation, but also silence, of conservative hawks who have successfully prevented him from doing so in this term.

Who benefits from this?  Surely not the United States.  The principal beneficiary is Russia.  NATO and the Atlantic Alliance have, with the exception of Ukraine, kept Russia at bay.

The Trumpian retreat from international leadership, especially in the democratic West, has been a huge gift and invitation to Russia to fill the vacuum left by our retreat.  In my years serving with Barry Goldwater, among a number of Cold War hawks, I never would have thought it.

But Trump has carried this off without a public peep from the Boltons and anti-Russians of the Republican Party.  Remarkable.

Little wonder that suspicions abound about what’s going on between Trump and Putin.  Just the unprecedented one-on-one between the two at Helsinki in July 2018 with no staff and only translators present, no hint of topics covered and agreements made, and confiscation of translator’s notes.

This secret discussion featured at least one stunning development where Trump publicly agreed with Russian intelligence over the entire U.S. intelligence services assessment as to Russia’s manipulation of the 2016 U.S. national election.

Try to imagine the Republican response if that had been done by a Democratic president.

Bets are being offered that the complex mystery involving Trump and Putin/Russia will inevitably come out.  Trump will be in Mar-a-Lago by then, thumbing his nose at one and all.

But some present-day Republican Members of Congress will have much to answer for in keeping their silence and not insisting on protecting our national interests.

First question: Senator, you’ve made a career out of suspicion of Russia’s intention.  What happened and why did you go silent?  Congresswoman: did you agree with Trump’s abandonment of defense of democracy?  Senator: what do you think of the new security alliance between Russia and the Baltic States?  Congressman: are you worried about the new Organization of Nationalist Parties Russia is forming in Eastern Europe?

Political parties, including in the United States, do twist and turn to accommodate new and changing realities.  But historians will search high and low for a precedent such as the Republican Party’s total about face on Russia.

 

Reports confirm that law abiding American citizens are being plucked off the streets of Portland, Oregon, by otherwise unidentified groups of men wearing camouflage clothing, carrying weapons, and cruising in unmarked combat vehicles.

The same reports identify these vigilantes as troops from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and security services under the control of the Department of Homeland Security.  The acting deputy secretary of DHS, Ken Cuccinelli, stated what many immediately believed, that this was a trial run at a national undertaking:

With as much lawbreaking is going on, we’re seeking to prosecute as many people as are breaking the law as it relates to federal jurisdiction. That’s not always happening with respect to local jurisdiction and local offenses. But, you know, this is a posture we intend to continue not just in Portland but in any of the facilities that we’re responsible for around the country.”

We cannot say we have not been warned.

No national legal authority was cited for this unprecedented exercise of police power on an American city’s streets, presumably soon to appear in cities all across the nation.  What the “federal jurisdiction” is that he has cited is unknown.

Why this vigilante force does not carry identification is not explained.  For all the people of Portland know this operation could be carried out by private right-wing organizations in the service of the Trump campaign organization or the White House itself.

For those still repressing the thought that Trump is capable of anything from now until after the election, including its suspension, wake up.

American democracy is at serious risk.

The distinction between traditional police, under the authority of local and State jurisdictions, and the military has been eroding for years.  After Vietnam and particularly after draw down of forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military found itself with more combat equipment than it could use.  Armored combat vehicles and combat weapons themselves made their way into police forces all across the nation.  In effect, local police began to look like, and too often act like, traditional military forces.

Dangers that explode unto the surface have often been marinating under the surface for considerable time.

Consider this: weapons in private citizens’ hands are estimated to be in the range of three hundred million.  That’s almost one per person because some gun owners have extensive arsenals.  Many of those arsenal owners have armed up in anticipation of a government takeover.  If this suggests the possibility of civil war, it should.

Some of the most thoughtful, experienced, and sober people I know now admit to being more concerned, even frightened, than at anytime in their lives.  That is because things are happening almost daily that none of us thought could ever happen in America…until they did.

If a political leader can silence an entire political party, what can he not do?  He has two or three broadcast networks working for him.  Much of the billionaire class is indebted for their tax cuts.  He is using the U.S. Postal Service to prevent mail in ballots and putting 50,000 “voting monitors” at polling places to intimidate voters.  And now he is deploying his private governmental army on America’s streets.

What more do you need?  A knock on the door late at night?   Unidentified men in unmarked vehicles plucking you off the streets of your city and depositing you in secret prisons?

This fall if you hear the rumbling of vehicles on your street, it is probably for your neighbor.  But it may be for you.

When It Is Over

Author: Gary Hart

Friends of this site may recall an invitation from its moderator to speculate what our nation would be like after the pandemic receded.  That was in late April.  And here we are, in an expanding pandemic with no end in sight.

Nevertheless, that kind of speculation is claiming participants.  Most recently, David Leonhardt of the New York Times (“It’s 2022.  What Does Life Look Like?”, July 10, 2020”, with the help of a variety of predictors, sees some fairly dramatic outcomes ahead.

He begins by writing that near-term success in taming the virus by this year’s end will result in few major, long-term changes in life as we used to know it.  However, as is more likely the case, if the virus continues into next year, vaccines are slow to arrive and even slower to massively distribute, “the long-term changes could be truly profound.”

Under the latter scenario, whole industries could disappear.  He lists cruise lines and theme parks as victims.  Also, movie theaters and minor league sports. (What about the majors?)  Major department stores are already teetering and more will follow.  He predicts the demise of thousands of restaurants, but hold open the projection that they will eventually be replaced by others.

Sadly, experts expect further losses in the local press.  Newspapers have been shrinking, both in terms of column inches, but also in terms of advertising and staff sizes.  With notable exceptions, the journalistic industry is diminishing.

As to retail, department store failures will bring down the shopping malls they had all come to inhabit thirty or more years ago.  Internet shopping had already eaten into sales and therefore profits, and the pandemic have left many or most as deserted waste lands.  As with all other set-backs, jobs fall with profits.

Sadly, colleges and universities, higher education, are on the chopping block.  Enrollment had begun to decline, for the first time in a hundred and fifty years, even before the virus.  Now, it is predicted that marginal institutions, especially those without large endowments, are in jeopardy.  This trend is not only a blow to education, it is a tragedy for democracy.  Even before the pandemic a report from the Chronicle of Higher Education was entitled “The Looming Enrollment Crisis.”

Leonhardt points out that all this economic impact will be enormous but might lead to restructuring and innovations that will be creative.  There are dangerous side effects, however: “When local newspapers close, corruption and political polarization tend to rise, while voter turnout tends to fall.  Cuts to higher education budgets could make it even harder for poor and middle-class students to graduate.”

Even though white collar workers are finding the Zoom profession helpful, millions of others must return to the work place to do their jobs…if the jobs still exist.

The political implications of all this are harder to discern.  A Trump re-election will encourage further industry concentration without antitrust fears, continuing deregulation to the benefit of profits and the costs to worker and environmental health and safety.  A Biden victory will almost certainly lead to action, some of it dramatic, on climate change, expansion of health care and coverage, antitrust enforcement, and higher taxes on wealth.

But much of that will depend on the make up of Congress and not just the executive branch.

Since few believe the short-term success scenario, we are in for a changed nation and a changed world.  Much of this, but not all, will be damaging, certainly to a way of life already undergoing great change even before the virus.  The middle class was shrinking.  Poverty was increasing.  And wealth was once again headed toward the top.

The current president has encouraged all three.

But if America can restore its creative instincts and egalitarian hopes, all is not lost.  But men and women of good will, decency, collective respect, restored integrity, and optimism must make the different.

It has always been thus.

Reflections on the Fourth

Author: Gary Hart

Our Civil War, the Great Depression, and World War II are notable exceptions.  Otherwise, history will show the nation’s birthday celebration in 2020 to be one of the most fraught in our history.

We are beset by a pandemic that seems to have a life of its own, thanks mostly to the almost demented insistence on too many people taking their own lives and those of others into their own hands in a growing death spiral.

Our economy is characterized by almost Great Depression levels of unemployment, business failures, increasing poverty, homelessness, and hunger, and family tales of tragedy.

Then, we are hurtling toward a national election possibly unique in U.S. history with an incumbent alleging fraud four months before a vote is cast and arming himself with hitherto secret powers that represent a blueprint for dictatorship.

The American people are treated to a daily Svengali-like performance of denial and magical thinking.  The virus will disappear overnight.  The economy will totally recover by tomorrow.  Never fear.  “I alone can fix it.”

Underneath the reality t.v. hocus-pocus is the divisive drumbeat meant to distract the “base” into lashing out at minorities, liberals, Democrats, globalists, leftwing extremists, the traitor next door, gun snatchers, big city elites, and on and on.

This is the test.  Which America are we?  Trump’s America or Abraham Lincoln’s America?

On this Fourth of July, I am betting there are five or ten more Lincoln Americans than there are Trump Americans.  You cannot be both.  One or the other.

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.  The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.  As our case is new, so must we think anew and act anew.  We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

And then, of course: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle; and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

These are the words of a true national leader.  A large figure, not a small figure.  A great humanitarian, not a pitiful nationalist.

May America once again earn God’s blessing.

Keep the Republic.

The Meaning of the Fourth

Author: Gary Hart

This is to wish all of you a memorable Fourth of July in this problematic year.

Stay safe and remember good friends.  And of course we always remember our good friends in Canada and Great Britain.

More to follow on reflections on the day.

Gary Hart

Post-Rational Politics

Author: Gary Hart

It seems very possible, if not probable, that Trumpism will not disappear with Trump.  He did not create the “base” that supports him.  With the help of some clever advisors, he discovered it and captured it…right out from under the nose of the Republican Party.

Too many smart commentators and would be pundits are assuming a Trump loss will magically disappear the “base”.  I don’t think so.

Consider whether what Trump discovered (but did not create) was a new politics that may, or may not, be peculiar to America.

Let’s call this new politics “post-rational”.

America’s Founders were products of the largely Scottish and English Enlightenment that put science and facts before mediation by monarchy and church.  They presumed that, with access to education and information, including contested information, men and women were rational creatures who would reach proper conclusions in both self-interest and societal interest.

With several notable exceptions, largely detailed in the well-known Hofstadter book, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, we have generally adopted this Jefferson/Madison/Hamilton assumption.  We are rational people who know the truth when we see and hear it and find it in our collective interest to follow it and the leaders who uphold it.

But then several things happened.  Assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate, CIA plots, Cold War secrecy, conspiracies real and assumed, and much else.  The confidence by the people in their government gradually, then massively, was eroded.

If you cannot trust the people you elect, then who can you trust?

Nobody, said the Fox network starting in the late 1980s.  Don’t trust any of them.  Your government is a swamp of self-interest and routine corruption (the “revolving door”), and there was increasing evidence to support this.

And, by the way, don’t trust the press and media.  They are covering up, or ignoring, wrong-doing and not telling the truth.  What they are giving you is “fake news.”

Even for small town and rural conservatives, don’t trust the Republican Party.  It’s run by self-serving career politicians doing what Wall Street and big wealth tells them to do.  Trump didn’t take over the Republican Party; he replaced it with the “base” eager to reject ambitious political leaders trying to be president in 2016 simply by ridiculing them and calling them names.  No position papers, no agenda, no thought, no rational arguments.  Just name calling.  And he moved on to do the same thing to Hillary Clinton.

Overwhelmingly, the “base”, systematically misinformed by Fox News, formed a closed social and political system in which facts were irrelevant, “trust me not your lying eyes” was the watchword, and an alternative universe was created.

America is now divided into two separate universes, one the remnant of the rational Enlightenment and the other a closed system impervious to facts, documentable information, perceivable truth, and one almost completely dominated by conspiracy.

There is no virus.  Anthony Fauci is perpetuating a myth to get rich and hurt Trump.  Putin or anyone else is welcome to surreptitious participation in our elections so long as it helps Trump.  Climate change is also a myth.  Our government is really run by a “deep state.”

Donald Trump is welcome to say whatever comes into his mind so long as it helps him and hurts the hated liberals.

Evidence that all this is fantasy and will pass on when Donald Trump does is welcome.

I fear we are teetering on the edge of a precipice with 50 million of our fellow citizens on one side and the rest of us on the other.

 

Make America America Again

Author: Gary Hart

Donald Trump has but one idea, and it is wrong.  He started from the assumption that America was faltering and had lost its way.  Somehow, the eight-year Obama presidency was at fault.  Because he could not fault previous Republican presidents, the loss of America’s greatness occurred on Obama’s watch.  But Obama inherited a serious recession and managed to claw his way out of it.  He also inherited two flawed wars and struggled to reduce their clutches on the nation.

Based on his destruction of a 75-year-old U.S. bipartisan international policy, by retreating from virtually every foreign policy engagement with democratic allies, he also implicitly blames all presidents of both parties going all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt.

There never has been, and never will be, a Trump date when America lost its “greatness”.

When Trump leaves Washington, sooner rather than later, he will leave behind no blueprint for making America great again.  Because he does not have one.

Thus, the next president’s mandate is to restore the best elements of America’s post-World War II greatness in international leadership and to adjust our fixed principles of justice, equality, and liberty to the new social, political, and economic realities of the 21st century.

In a word, the next president must make America America again.

Through our national society, America has a soul.  That soul is being violated daily by the incumbent president who does not understand it.  That is why he cannot define “greatness”.  Our soul was defined by our Founders in our Revolutionary War, during our Civil War, and in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States.  And by the tens of millions of Americans who care deeply for our country and its future but do not wear red caps and go to rallies.

There is hardly an area of our national life that has not been seriously damaged in the past three and a half years.  That includes our public educations system, environmental protections, health systems, public infrastructure, fair tax laws, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and even our proud military structures.

Has any of this destruction made us greater.  Hardly.

The great America Trump inherited is much less great now.  Our public esteem around the world now is in sharp decline.  Vast numbers of foreign citizens no longer see us as a shining city on a hill.  The torch of the Statue of Liberty is dimmed.  A nation of immigrants now builds walls to keep out those with legitimate claims for entry.  International trade creating millions of American jobs has been torpedoed by trade wars.

Nuclear arms control treaties with Russia and other nations are being summarily and unilaterally repealed and abrogated.  Is a new nuclear arms race making us safer…or greater?

When Trump returns to his golf course next January, the virus which he failed to address for too long will still be with us, our economic shambles will continue for at least a decade and we will continue to struggle toward racial justice in our society.

Teams of skilled diplomats will entrench themselves in the capitols of allies to repair the damage and restore alliances and in non-allied nations to restore good will based on mutual self-interests.

A new national recovery agency will help finance the restoration of millions of small businesses.  The Affordable Care Act will be stabilized and expanded.  The Jeffersonian public education system will be rescued from the clutches of the privatizers.  Corporate lobbyists will be driven from government agencies mandated to protect our environment and to preserve our nation’s natural heritage.  Most of all, our national security structures and our military services will be restored to positions of respect.

Serious damage has been done, so all of this will not be easy.  But restoring the ancient republican ideal of public service will once again attract the involvement of an army of young people.

And then, we can make America America again.