Wednesday, June 21, 2017


The defeat of Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff in the most expensive House of Reps election in history is a big downer for Democrats across the country. Ossoff ran as a moderate, tried not to offend Republican voters by demonizing Trump, and spent truckloads of cash. He lost anyway.

I have a few thoughts about this election result. First, it seems that political party might be more important than any individual politician, from candidates to president. No matter what Donald Trump does, Republican voters still seem to vote Republican. Perhaps party loyalty is stronger than any other factor in elections.

Second, I think the specifics of a candidate are more important than the party. This seems to contradict my first point, but let me play this out a bit. The strategy used by Ossoff was to run as a moderate in order to attract independent and less conservative Republican voters. This strategy didn't work. Perhaps the biggest problem for Ossoff was that he simply was not a good candidate for this kind of election. He is young, inexperienced in politics, and doesn't even live in the Congressional District he hoped to represent.

I want to use my state, Oregon, as an example. We have one Republican Member of the House, Greg Walden, who represents the more rural parts of the state. Walden is conservative, and was instrumental in passing the Repeal/Replace Obamacare legislation in the House. Unseating Walden will be a very difficult task for Democrats, perhaps an impossible task. Walden's district is majority Republican, made up of ranchers, farmers, loggers and other rural demographics. If a Democrat has a chance, a slim chance of unseating Walden, that person would need to be a well-established local who is part of the majority demographic in rural Oregon, a moderate, and someone with a political or government history.

To date, two Democratic candidates have anounced their intentions to run against Walden; both are from more liberal towns in Walden's district. One candidate, a Bernie Sanders supporter, ran against Walden in the last election and was soundly defeated by a huge margin. The other candidate is a political newbie, a woman dog-sled racer. Both candidates, in my humble opinion, are snowballs in hell regarding their chances to beat the Republican incumbent.

So, what is my conclusion? Well, I think loyalty to political party is probably the most important factor in elections, and any chance of upsetting a Republican, especially an incumbent, has to be based on understanding not only voter loyalty, but what factors make a candidate appealing to independent voters and voters in the other party who might be having serious qualms about their party candidate.

We Democrats need to understand that in this time of history, nominating very left candidates in traditionally conservative districts is not a good strategy. Both houses of Congress are controlled by one party, and that party gets to do whatever it wants, with limited options available to the minority party to stop them. So the most important thing Democrats can do for the forseeable future is put forward candidates who are Democrats who can win, whether or not they have each of our specific set of political "leftness." Our choice going forward is very simple: 1) keep putting forward candidates who have the best "left" credentials but can't win because they have no credibility with the majority of voters in their district, or 2) put forward candidates who have the best possibility of winning as Democrats, no matter how centrist they are. If we use strategy 2, we might have a chance to gain the majority in Congress.

My conclusion actually bothers me, because as a self-described "progressive realist" and long time some-kind-of-socialist I would prefer a more left-leaning majority party. The realist part of me, however, understands the present political realities of the United States, and the important context of the rest of the world, and so I am reluctantly comfortable with my aforementioned conclusion.

Any thoughts?

Friday, June 02, 2017


Dear people of the world:

It is important for you to know that most Americans did not vote for Donald Trump, and most Americans disagree with everything he has done and will do. I know this because: 1. his opponent received 3,000,000 more votes than he did; and 2. public poll after public poll show that most Americans do not approve of what he is doing.

Donald Trump has redefined American exceptionalism; this now means that the USA will do everything except what is right and just. This is not the Amercia you know, and it is most certainly not the America the majority of Americans know. Donald Trump has his base, meaning the people who support him and what he does. Those of us who are not part of his base, and again I have to assure you that I mean the majority of Americans, vascilate between thinking we should try to understand his base and simply understanding that they are ignorant people. Yes, l know, that previous thought is not very politically correct, but seriously....

American democracy is a strange system. Someone recently wrote that our democracy is still in Beta testing, and it has many major bugs that need to be fixed. We are a country in which big money has taken more and more control of our political system. One of our two major political parties, the Republican Party, is controlled by that big money, spouting free market economic theory mixed with Libertarianism and, now, Trumpian populism. (To be balanced, there is a lot of Big Money supporting the Democratic Party, also; however, that party has ideals that differ markedly from the R's.) Members of our elected Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, are charged by our Constitution to "promote the general welfare;" this is their basic job description. Unfortunately, there is no annual job review for these politicians, and the only way to remove one is to not re-elect her/him. Also unfortunately, it is too often the case that Republican politicians at the state level rearrange voting district boundaries to ensure that their party candidates win elections.

Donald Trump, unfortunately now the President of the United States, has rejected the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This is a shameful, selfish and ignorant action by a shameless, selfish and ignorant man; a very privileged man, I might add. By rejecting the Paris Agreement, Mr. Trump has rejected every principle of justice, peace, understanding, tolerance, human rights and common sense. I assume that Mr. Trump has never read the Paris Agreement; he does not read lengthy documents. He, or someone close to him, has cherry-picked themes that he has misapplied. One only needs to read or listen to his speech on rejecting the Agreement to understand what a completely ignorant person Mr. Trump is. Perhaps the funniest and saddest line in his speech was that he was not elected by the people of Paris!

In rejecting the Paris Agreement, Mr. Trump also rejected everything contained in it, including these words and phrases:
- equity,
- responsibility,
- respective capabilities,
- urgent threat of climate change,
- best available scientific knowledge,
- specific needs and special circumstances of developing country Parties,
- (Parties) vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change,
- effective and progressive response,
- equitable access to sustainable development and eradication of poverty,
- safeguarding food security and ending hunger,
- just transition of the workforce and creation of decent work and quality jobs,
- obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity,
- importance of the conservation and enhancement, as appropriate, of sinks and reservoirs of the greenhouse gases,
- importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems,
- protection of biodiversity,
- the importance of the concept of "climate justice,"
- importance of education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and cooperation at all levels,
- importance of the engagements of all levels of government and various actors in addressing climate change,
- recognizing that sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption and production, with developed country Parties taking the lead, play an important role in addressing climate change.

In other words, by rejecting the Paris Agreement, Mr. Trump, claiming to act on behalf of the American people, has rejected the rest of the world, and all the people in it! He has rejected all notions of equity, fairness, science, justice, sustainable development. He has damned the vulnerable people of future generations everywhere on Earth to continued poverty, disruption, misery and death. This is truly a crime against humanity.

Let me be very clear here: Donald Trump, the elected leader of what until now has been the leading country of the free world, has given away the mantle of leadership, has abandoned everything that makes America America, has let the poor, aspiring peoples of the world know that America no longer gives a damn about them, has slapped our allies across the face, and has heaped scorn on the ideals, real and aspirational, of the United States of America.

I, like most Americans, am ashamed and embarassed that Donald Trump is the president of my country. In the few short months he has been in office, Mr. Trump has wreaked much havoc on the instituions of American government. He has, through his own statements and actions, condoned the emergence into broad daylight of the most hate-filled and bigoted elements of our society. And on the world stage, he has publicly embraced our traditional enemies while insulting our closest allies. The President of the United States is no longer the leader of the free world, let alone the leader of his own country except in title.

I want to conclude by telling you, people of the world, that Americans are not being silent and passive. As of June 1, 30 mayors of American cities, 3 governors, more than 80 university presidents, and more than 100 businesses have come together to submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet the greenhouse gas targets of the United States under the Paris Agreement. As individuals, huge numbers of us will continue to be politically active, outspoken, and engaged in efforts to thwart and reverse Trump and the Republicans wherever and whenever possible.

This is our pledge to you, made by true American patriots.