America’s national identity is defined by its first principles.

In four years, my father’s family will have lived on this continent for 300 years.  Does that make me more American than a young Guatemalan woman who has just pronounced the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States “and the Republic for which it stands”.  That Republic was and is and always will be based upon its founding principles.

What makes us both American is belief in our first principles.  In America, nationality is not defined by race, creed, color, religion, or ethnicity.  It is defined by allegiance to a set of principles more clearly defined than any other nation on earth.

So the test of our patriotism, of our Americanism, is adherence to those principles.  When those of us who are American citizens, from whatever background, accept and follow those principles, then we are part of America.  When we […] Continue Reading…

Where Have You Gone, Elizabeth

Author: Gary Hart

We are missing Elizabeth Miller’s sometimes acerbic wit, keen insights, and often challenging observations.  We hope she is well and will return to this site when she is able.  Our numbers are too small to let anyone disappear.  The advantage of small membership is the identity each member reveals.  Perhaps nostalgically, I sense the identity of each of our regular commentators and the often illuminating exchanges that occasionally occur.  In moments of crises of the soul, I have sometimes been guilty of straying from the forum of political opinion and, if so, I pray that was not the cause of her leaving.  I promise not to indulge in my own personal preoccupations again.  Be well, Elizabeth, and come back to the matters of principle forum.  Gary

We all have our models, prototypes, frameworks, and agendas for sorting the bus load of candidates for the Democratic nomination for president.  The categories include gender, race, generation, and experience.  Some will sort among the several women, some among the minorities, some will want young and others will want older, and then there will be the struggle over who is the most liberal/progressive, as defined by a whole basket of issues.

Let’s step back and assess the situation.  By November 2020, we will have had four years of White House and Cabinet chaos, an endless struggle over a Melvillian wall, and most of all the destruction of almost eight decades of relative solidarity among Western democracies and others over security, trade, environment, and economic stability.

This is the reality the next president will face.  He or she will have three choices: continue Trumpian isolationism; rebuild the post-World War II alliances; construct […] Continue Reading…

Active Measures

Author: Gary Hart

Sometime last year a documentary entitled Active Measures was released.  A recent viewing revealed that it is a painstaking, well-documented review of Donald Trump’s activities and associations in Russia.  It makes no effort to be “fair and balanced”.  But there seems to have been no critical, documented rebuttal of the case against this continuing close association.

The crux of the matter, leading up to Trump’s unexpected presidential victory, has to do with the confluence of Russian oligarchical money, virtually all traceable to Vladimir Putin, and the global Trump hotel dynasty.

Following disastrously failed casino ventures in New Jersey, Trump experienced a series of bankruptcies and found conventional bank financing scarce.  Through ties Paul Manafort and others developed with spectacularly wealthy Russian oligarchs, money soon became available for the Trump Tower in New York, condominium developments in Florida and elsewhere, and a variety of other Trump branded hotels world-wide.

In virtually every case […] Continue Reading…

Fasten Your Seatbelts

Author: Gary Hart

“Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night,” according to the movie.  Or perhaps lots of nights.

Donald Trump does not respond to pressure well.  Pressure, in the form of Pelosi and Mueller among others, has increased virtually overnight.

He now has an interim Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, and a temporary chief of staff.  “His” generals are gone.  His National Security Advisor contradicts him on a Syrian withdrawal, saying it would occur over an undetermined length of time.  Then the Pentagon starts moving equipment out despite that.

His border wall, which many in his own party do not support, has become an obsession of Melvillian dimensions.  Since popularized in the age of Gingrich, the party responsible for a government shut-down, and in this case it is not the Democrats, has been punished at the next election.  Republican Senators faced with re-election in 2020 are beginning to bail.

There have been […] Continue Reading…

The Darkness Before the Dawn

Author: Gary Hart

A very astute friend has been discussing changes in popular culture, occurring so gradually as almost to be unnoticeable, that will have the cumulative affect of producing a different kind of society with as yet unclear political implications.

He says, for example, that many, if not most, people will quit going to movie theaters and will watch movies at home.  The same is true of dining out.  We have only to wait for first run movies to appear on DVD and, with a somewhat larger screen, watch them at home.  Meals delivered to the home are expanding exponentially to a growing consumer base, especially for two wage-earner families.

In both cases the savings are the same: car parking, theater tickets, large restaurant bills, tips here and there, baby sitters, expensive sodas and popcorn at the movies, and on and on.  Not to say also maneuvering through urban traffic and the danger […] Continue Reading…

Sunset of Civility

Author: Gary Hart

Even some of us described as “liberal” by the media—that is tolerant, open-minded, experimental, socially concerned—have a conservative side.  Mine has to do with public life and public institutions.  It is offensive for an elected official to use profane language in public and against political opponents…including Donald Trump.  And the chambers of Congress are not the venues for making social commentary about gender by breaching dress codes for those elected to serve there.

Trump’s vulgarities are cited as justification for vulgar language.  Vulgarity does breed vulgarity.  But falling into that trap brings anyone using vulgarity down to his level.  He wins.  You lose.  Does profanity elevate the dialogue, or is it merely a jazzy way to spin up the anti-Trump base?  Do night club style dresses on the floor of the Senate genuinely send a powerful gender message, as some have commented, or does it diminish the Senate as an […] Continue Reading…

Restoration of Optimism

Author: Gary Hart

Cocked-eyed optimism has philosophical roots.  It springs from the Enlightenment, that movement that emerged in the late 17th, early 18th centuries premised on the belief that the human mind exploring new scientific breakthroughs, tolerant democratic government, and human flourishing would, with a few possible detours, inevitably lead to a better tomorrow.

Without knowing it, many of us, especially Americans, took this philosophical movement that so animated our nation’s Founders as a given, a premise of all future undertakings.  It wasn’t exactly Pangloss–we are getting better and better in every way–but it was a sense that we can aspire to achieve the highest goals our talents will allow.

No one is quite sure, but a few years back, perhaps sometime in the 1970s and 80s, this Enlightenment-fired optimism began to falter.  The usual causes are Vietnam, Watergate, assassinations, economic competition and dislocation, mass migrations, encountering the limits of environmental tolerance, and much […] Continue Reading…

There are many ways to escape the Trump era.  Mine is reading.  And most recently my son gave me Michael Lewis’s book The Fifth Risk.  Instead of distracting from the Trump era, it drove me deeper into it.

The narrative is about the Trump transition into management of the U.S. Government and how little those handling the transition know or cared about what they were doing.  They got away with it, at least so far, for an even more depressing reason: too many Americans, especially those who voted for Trump, don’t have a clue what the United States Government does and how it benefits their lives.

The single organizing principle then and now seems to be: whatever the Government was doing before we got here, unless it benefits corporate America, has to stop.

Underwriting this principle are rejection of science, distrust of public service and servants, privatization of even the most successful […] Continue Reading…

“America’s Best Idea”

Author: Gary Hart

All humans are sacred.  That is, until they prove otherwise.  All nature is sacred.  That is, until humans destroy it.  Of the many sins for which Donald Trump must answer in this life or another, among the worst is his destruction of what has been called “America’s best idea.”

In an essay in the New York Times (“The Beginning of the End of America’s Best Idea”, New York Times, November 23, 2018), Timothy Egan movingly intertwines American history with its decision in the last century or so to protect America’s natural heritage.  Though his focus is on California, and the devastating fires of recent years and those inevitably to come, he is writing for all our natural heritage…national parks, wildlife areas, recreational areas, unique pristine enclaves, camp grounds, hiking trails, and of course the wild animals that inhabit them.

That a huge national protest against Trump’s mounting depredations of all this […] Continue Reading…