Dear BernieCrats and BernieBros

Dear BernieCrats and BernieBros,

This is a tough time, I know. I voted for Bernie in 2016 and I caucused for him this year. Is he the President we need? Probably yes. Is he the President we are ever going to get? No. Truths, harsh and mellow, to follow:

As a direct “revolution” in American politics, Bernie Sanders failed. And was always going to fail. Don’t get me wrong, Bernie has the right ideas, and has been living them his entire career. For that alone, he deserves all the applause and kudos he gets and more.

The problem is, American politics has shifted so far to the right and is accepted as the normal, that what Bernie Sanders is fighting for, no matter how correct he is, is radical. And too many Americans aren’t ready for it.

Bernie built his base on “the young people” in large part because the younger set agree with him more than the older people. His rallied were packed to the rafters with the under-40 crowd, Millennials and Gen-Zers. Thousands, tens of thousands. So I have one question for you:

Where were you all on voting day?

The records show that despite being the first or second largest demographic now, up from 2016, at least as a percentage of turnout, was down. Way down. Where’s that enthusiasm? It wasn’t there in the one place it mattered.

Bernie has been campaigning for President since 2015. He never stopped. Even after he conceded the race to Hillary Clinton in 2016. He’s been at this for five years. Longer than anyone else who was running, including Joe Biden who did NOT run in 2016 hot on the heals of being the Vice President for eight years to one of the best Presidents in modern history. And he still couldn’t shift the needle enough.

As a group, you BernieCrats and BernieBros turned off most of the voters you needed. “Bernie Or Bust” is not the way to win a primary. Doing the virtual version of hitting everybody over the head with “only Bernie can turn us around” or “only Bernie can win” or even, and I’ve heard this from many myself, “you want us to ‘vote blue no matter who’, but will you make the same promise to vote for Bernie when he wins”? Really? Seriously”

We already said “blue no matter who”. That includes Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris, and possibly even Williamson. So yes, if Bernie had won the primary, we’d all have voted for him in the general election. And you never, ever said that you’d support the winner if not Bernie. So many who might have voted for Sanders were actively turned away not by Sanders or his policies, but by you hitting people over the head with do-or-die.

Following close on the heals of the above, that makes you nothing more than the other side of the coin from the MAGAHatters. Blind devotion to your chosen savior and everyone else is wrong for not believing as you do. There is a word for that: Cultist. The only practical difference other than which side of the coin you’re on, is that Trump set out to do that intentionally, and you are doing it on your own despite pleas from your leader.

Sanders never said that HE would transform American Politics. He said that WE would. By picking up his fight and fighting it with him, and continuing after he’s gone. “Not me, us”. Bernie Sanders cannot transform the country on his own, he needs you. He needs us. However, we can transform the country without him. By following the direction he pointed.

There is a time for ideological purity, but pragmatic realism needs to take precedence. Joe Biden is far from perfect. In fact, he was so far down my preference list that if we had Ranked Choice Voting and all the candidates were still in, I’m not sure I’d have even ranked him at all. I’d have voted for Buttigeig before Biden and I don’t think Buttigeig is qualified yet. But we were out voted, and Biden is going to be the nominee. So we need to work with him

He’s already showing he’s willing to work with us:

Are these perfect? No. And some are definitely not as progressive as other. Is it better than what we’d get with four more years of Trump? HELL YES!

We didn’t end up with Trump because Sanders lost in 2016. Hell, Clinton won the popular vote in 2016! We ended up with Trump because not enough people voted against Trump in the rural and battleground states. To prevent another four years of Trump, and possibly the end of the United States Of America, we need to stick together across the country, especially in the rural and battleground states, to overwhelm the gerrymandering and archaic “electoral college” that gives undue influence to the less populated areas.

So please, support Biden for President. He’s our current best hope to reverse the tide. And in your local primaries, if not already held, vote for the candidates that best upload the Sanders ideal. And again in the 2022 mid-terms. And again in the 2024 Presidential race. And in 2024, vote for the Presidential candidate that best suits your ideals. Maybe Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will run, she’ll be just old enough then.

Push for Sanders, accept Biden

I voted for Elizabeth Warren because I think she is the best qualified out of all that are/were running. When she dropped out after Super Tuesday, I decided to caucus for Bernie Sanders. And I’m glad he’s staying in the race until the end.

I do not expect him to win. His path for winning ended when Klobuchar and Buttigieg dropped out prior to Super Tuesday, and their endorsing of Joe Biden was irrelevant to this. With them in, the so-called moderate vote was fractured, none of them would have been able to win enough to overtake Sanders. Their departure from the race enabled a consolidation of that wing around a single candidate.

On top of that, despite the Bernie rallies attended by thousands of younger voters at every turn, they did not turn up when and where it mattered: At the polling stations on election day.

So, I am still supporting Sanders. I will be among the Biddeford delegation caucusing for him at the MaineDems convention in Bangor at the end of May. I do not expect him to win the nomination. I do expect, and hope, that Biden gets a 50%+1 minimal majority and Sanders gets close to just under half. Why?

Because I want his policies to help shape the platform. I want his polices to help shift the party back to the left where it should be. I want his policies to have a chance of being enacted or at the very least worked towards. I want to build a future in my lifetime where an ideological successor CAN win. Someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Stacey Abrams.

We are Democrats. We should not be merely less-bad than the Republicans. We should be better.

We should be for making health care accessible and affordable. We should be for protecting and repairing the environment. We should be for ending and preventing wars for profit. We should be for science based decisions. We should be for making education accessible and affordable. We should be for protecting people from financial predators.

We should be for the people. This is who Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are.

So while I accept that Biden will win the nomination, that does not mean that we give up. It means that we continue to push. Push for the policies that are right. If the Progressive wing has a strong enough showing, we can help shape the platform and the resulting policies. We can show Biden that while he may win the nomination, he does not have a sole mandate and must take our council. Maybe even appoint Progressives to his cabinet should he win in November.

Term Limits

There is a candidate for President who is running with a platform item of Term Limits for Congress. I disagree with this idea.

The problem we have with “career politicians” isn’t as simple as how long they have been there. There are plenty of long term, career politicians that work diligently for the people in their districts and states, just as there are plenty that prefer to work for special interests and the “donor class”. Term limits is not the answer because then you are getting rid of the good as well as the bad.

The problem we have is much more complex. It is instead one where the already corrupt have corrupted the system to keep themselves in power. The problems include voter suppression and gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is when the politicians redraw the voting districts so that they choose their voters rather than the voters choosing their representatives. One good place to get more information about this is the book “Constitutional Calculus” by Jeff Suzuki . Mr. Suzuki covers this and so much more about how math affects politics. (disclaimer, he’s a friend). Politicians, usually but not always Republicans, redraw the districting maps to give themselves an election advantage.

Voter suppression takes many forms, and again is usually perpetrated by the Republicans. It can be voter ID laws to require forms of ID that happen to be very hard for poorer people or students to get, sometimes coincidental to the closure of government offices in areas that those targeted citizens live in or restricting the available hours in those offices to when people are at work. For ones targeting students, it can also include requiring any vehicle used by the student to be registered in the town they go to school in instead of where they came from.

Beyond that, I don’t think term limits are a good idea because then instead of having career professional politicians and a chance at a steady set of policies, we wind up with amateurs and polices that swing widely from session to session with corresponding changes to laws, treaties and other international relationships.

The fix to the problem isn’t term limits, it’s unrigging the system, so that no one gets an unfair advantage. It’s undoing gerrymandering. It’s restoring voting rights and access. It’s getting money out of politics so that people cannot literally buy elections. It’s a complex fix for a complex problem.

It is not as simple as term limits.

Loosing my religion

An article popped into my Facebook feed today because one of my more religious minded FB Friends commented on it on FB. About how Millennials are leaving religion and not returning (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/millennials-are-leaving-religion-and-not-coming-back/). I won’t ID them unless they ID themselves.

The article primarily is focused on the what, and barely touches on possible whys. Based on the writing, the article’s author also assumes Religion=Christian. I’m not a Christian, and I am also not religious. I identify as a “cultural Jew”. I am also not a Millennial. I am old enough to be the parent of a Millennial (if I had any kids).

My take on it is layered, from fundamental to political, with swerves through morality and ethics.

Fundamentally, religion is organized superstition. Millennia ago, this is something that we as a species needed to help make sense of the world and things that go bump in the night from the time we discovered fire. But slowly, over time, we have learned what things really are and how they work. We have, imo outgrown religion. And did so a couple centuries ago.

I think that the trend of Millennials, and others, to leave religion behind is multifaceted. The above certainly plays a part of it. Other parts is that contrary to what religious leaders may say, morality is not tied to religion. How can it be when different religions preach different moralities? If you need the promise of a Heaven or threat of a Hell to think and act in a moral fashion, then you by definition are not a moral person. Morality is how you behave when no one is watching. It’s who you are, not who you pretend to be. Yes, morality does need to be taught, but that teaching does not have to be tied to superstition.

Another reason, I think, is political, conscious or not. As I noted up top, the author of that article appears to assume that Religious=Christian. How MORAL can organized religion be when the loudest and one of the largest collection of sects are arguing for political policies and actions that patently are contradictory to the teachings of their professed God and Savior? How MORAL can they be when they have denigrated a man who upheld their claimed values, an honorable family man married to the same woman for over 20 years with two children by that same wife, who has shown consideration and compassion, and had fought to make life better for those around him. How MORAL can they be when they praise a serial philanderer with multiple affairs, three marriages, children by multiple wives, a man who is a proven cheat, liar and has broken most of the Ten Commandments?

I’d be quitting religion too if I were a member of one of those sects and not already non-religious.

Make America (Truly) Great Again the Eisenhower way

You want to really make America Great Again? Aside from the obvious pun of don’t by shredded cheese, this requires a return to the economic, social support and infrastructure policies that were enacted during the period considered “great”, the lat 1950s through 1970s. What made that time period great as far as American economic power goes?

Taxes.

Under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, and well supported by a bipartisan House and Senate, the United States changed its tax code to have a progressive tax rate, where those that could afford to pay more, paid more, and those that couldn’t, paid less. As a result of this, the top marginal tax rate in 1960 was 91%, which applied to income over $200,000 (for single filers) or $400,000 (for married filers) – thresholds which correspond to approximately $1.5 million and $3 million, respectively, in today’s dollars. Approximately 0.00235% of households had income taxed at the top rate. A taxpayer at the very bottom of the top 1% (in other words, one who is right on the boundary between the 98th and 99th percentiles) had a nominal income of $24,435, or about $190,000 in today’s dollars. (In 2008, this figure was nominally $380,354, or $400,000 in current dollars.) (Tax figure Source).

At the same time, corporate income tax was higher on profits, not income. More below.

What did this fund and fuel? Many things including, but not limited to:

  • Social Security
  • Education
  • Interstate Highways

The way the tax code for companies was structures made it more over all profitable for the corporations to actually invest in themselves with R&D and paying living wages to their employees.

With tax funded public education at all levels, Kindergarten through College, Americans of all economic classes could afford to send their children to school for higher education, which is traditionally the gateway to prosperity.

Also during this time, while for-profit health care was legal, it was not the standard operational model that it is today.

All together, this mean that America had a growing economy fueled by the ability of people to spend and pay for things. Like new cars, and houses. These tax policies created the Middle Class as we knew it, and that in turn created the greatness of America in the latter half of the 20th Century.

So how do we return to that greatness? By returning to those policies. We need a return to a progressive tax that has those that can afford to pay more, pay more. We need a similar structure back on the corporate tax side as well, taxing effective profit, which deducts for self-investment in capital improvements, R&D, and wages to the employees (maybe calculated as a ratio to the CEO. In 1965, this ratio was 20 to 1. In 2016, it was 260 to 1 (source).

With a return to these tax policies, we can fuel a rebirth of the Middle Class, which is the engine that drives economic greatness, which drives the overall power of a nation.

We also need to return health care back to a not-for-profit model. Under the current system, people have to choose life or death based on how much money they have in the bank, and for many, choosing life results in financial ruin.

We need public education that is actually publicly funded. We need a single-payer health system. We need lots of infrastructure upgrades and expansion. We need wage increases, a solid social support system including Social Security and assistance to give a hand up to those in need. And this can only be funded by a return to the Eisenhower-esque progressive tax code.

Guns

Guns.

People who know me know that in general, I am a progressive liberal. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries, and I favor Elizabeth Warren this time around. I am for rebalancing the tax code in this country so that those who can afford to pay more do pay more, and those who are struggling pay less. I am for tuition free (and free books) in the entire public education system, including Community and State Colleges/Universities. I am for universal health care. And I am for reasonable regulations regarding the ownership of guns.

Guns.

The United States Constitution, 2nd Amendment, states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

To some, all they see is “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” without considering the first clause, “A well regulated Militia”. What these people either forgot or never learned, is that this was written at a time when there was no standing army. The United States of America did not have a standing army until the Civil War. Prior to that, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the French And Indian War, and the start of the Civil War, an army was called up, State by State, from each State’s own local Militia. Militias that were, in turn, formed by volunteer call-ups at the time of need.

To others, all they see is “A well regulated Militia” and ignore the rest, and place strict restrictions on gun ownership by the common citizenry.

There are “nuts” on both sides of this issue, the gun nuts and the gun-control nuts. I see both. I grew up in Massachusetts which has one of the strictest set of gun control laws in the country, and I now live in Maine, which has almost none. As a Maine resident, I do not even need a permit to carry a concealed gun. All I have to do is pass a simple background check and be able to afford the hardware. No training required. It is scarily easy. I know, because that is exactly what I did last month.

I am a lefty-liberal progressive Democrat and I now own a gun.

My thoughts and feelings about guns have not changed over the past 20 or so years. They have, however, clarified.

Columbine. Sandy Hook. Pulse. Las Vegas. Ft. Hood. Virginia Tech. El Paso. Dayton. The list is much, much longer than that. The gun nuts see these and say “if only there were good guys with guns there”, and the gun-control nuts see these and say “this is why we need gun control and disarm everyone” and point to countries with strict gun control laws and low gun violence as examples of proof.  Like many things, the truth is somewhere in between. 

The gun nuts forget or ignore that Sandy Hook, for example, is an elementary school, or that the Las Vegas shootings were done by a sniper. And the gun-control nuts forget or ignore that the countries they tout as examples have had national gun control laws for so long that no-guns is part of their cultures.

So, my thoughts? Here in America, the cat is out of the bag on guns, and has been for over two centuries, reinforced with the Westward expansion of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Guns are so entrenched in American culture, that this not something that can be legislated away anytime soon, and not all at once. I am, and always have been, of the opinion that the bad guys will ignore the law, because that is what bad guys do. “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” is a trite saying, but I believe it’s true.

So, what is a reasonable regulation regarding guns? For one thing, a more level field across the nation on gun control. I can open or conceal carry a gun in Maine without a permit. If I get a Maine permit, I can then conceal carry in about a dozen other states, not including Massachusetts, New York or California, or even some of the more otherwise gun-friendly states in the mid-West or West. If I get a Maine permit and then a Utah non-resident permit, I can then conceal carry in 35 states, but again, not including Massachusetts, New York or California.  For that matter, a resident gun license issued in Buffalo, Plattsburgh or Albany NY is NOT valid in New York City!

For another, a stricter background check. The form I filled out, from the ATF I believe, is a four page booklet, of which the only part that pertained to me, the buyer, was the questionnaire on the first page and an oath to sign on the second. Two and a half pages were for the dealer, including a record of the gun I was buying. It’s harder to buy a car than a gun in Maine.

Another, one that would directly affect the ability of people to do mass shootings, are the Red Flag Bills that would allow friends, family, and law enforcement, to petition the courts to temporarily remove guns from people who have expressed intent to harm others or themselves. The courts can deny the petition if the petitioners fail to make their cases, and the persons in question can get them back if the court or authority appointed by the court has deemed that the danger has either never been or has passed. Multiple polls have shown significant bipartisan support for this among the people.

2020 Democratic field

A little earlier, I alluded to my leanings on the Democratic ticket for President. I thought I’d expand a little on that.

First off, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are two sides of the same coin. Or perhaps more accurately, two faces of the same dice. Their end goals on their platforms are similar: Universal health care, climate change, foreign relations, consumer protections, economic equality, etc. However, read what they have to say, listen to what they have to say. How to get there is very different. Senator Warren wants to fix the system, Senator Sanders wants to burn it down and build anew, as he considers it unfixable. I have a problem with this.

In the countries he brings up as examples of how it should be done, he leaves out a couple of important details: The national healthcare systems in those countries were built from the start as a unified single-payer system. And the populations of those countries are a fraction of the US’. He specifically called out Canada as a shining beacon of how it should be. He is right, but Canada has what, 37 million people compared to the United State’s 325+ million?

Our current system is too entrenched and our population to be served is too big to just burn it down and build something new. It would cause massive chaos in everything it touches.

The same is the same for almost all of Sanders’ platform. As much as I like the ideas he has, and I voted for him in the 2016 primary, this time around we have candidates with aligned or nigh-identical goals but a more realistic and achievable method of getting there. He’d probably do good as a Cabinet Secretary, though.

Buttigeig needs to serve some time in Congress (House or Senate) or Governor of his state before I’ll take him seriously for President. Same for de Blasio, even if NYC is a crapton bigger than South Bend.

Williamson and Yang are IMO political flakes, Williamson being also just a plain flake.
Harris, Hickenlooper and Inslee are possibilities. Not as overall progressive as Warren, but more realistic in methods than Sanders, so I’d probably rank them 2nd, 3rd and 4th (not necessarily in that order) with Sanders 5th.

No Nuance to issue of The Wall

This is one issue where there really isn’t much nuance. Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are holding the country hostage to the tune of 5.7 BILLION dollars to build a monstrosity of a wall that has no basis in logic, no plan, is already demonstrably not needed and ineffective, and is only supported by Trump’s narrow base.

The people and stuff that Trump claims it would protect against are not traversing the border where the wall would go, at least not in the numbers that might justify such a thing. No. The illegal goods are coming in through uninspected vehicles at the border crossing checkpoints, cargo ships and air planes. The illegal immigrants are likewise mostly entering through customs at legal points of entry on valid visas and then simply not leaving.

Meanwhile, a wall built to prevent people from crossing would also prevent animals from crossing. It would further endanger wildlife species that would be prevented from making their normal migrations across the desert between northern Mexico and the American Southwest, some of which are endangered species. It would disrupt the paths of rainwater, drowning some areas and drying up others.

This shut down, this impasse, is entirely on Donald Trump and his enablers, Paul Ryan, retired Speaker Of The House who refused to take a vote on the funding bills passed by the Senate in the last session after Trump once again showed he cannot be trusted to keep his word, and Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader who is now refusing to take a vote on THE SAME BILLS previously passed unanimously by the Senate and now nigh-unanimously by the House under Speaker Nancy Pelosi. With that level of support, the shutdown can be ended by passing the damn bills and then overriding the Trump Veto.

Term Limits for Congress? No, it’s been gerrymandered

I’m starting to hear people grumble and yell for term limits on the US House and Congress again. Saying that we are in the mess we are because of “career politicians”. I disagree.

Quick question: How do you feel about Mitch McConnell? He’s been in the Senate for over three decades. What about Nancy Pelosi? She’s been in the House for just over 30 years. Chances are you like one of them and hate the other. So, term limits? You can’t legitimately impose term limits on one without the other.

I don’t agree with mandated term limits. Mandated term limits forces a turn over, removing experienced people from their jobs. People that voters may actually like and would prefer to have stay. Considering that the Senate have to reapply for their jobs every six years and Members of Congress have to re-apply for their jobs every two years, we already have the best form of term limits there is: If their constituents think they are doing a bad job, vote them out and replace them.

There is also the issue of continuity. We already have wide swings of domestic and international policy when the Presidency changes hands every four or eight years, which sometimes leaves programs, partners and allies in the lurch. Just think about how much worse it would be with a forced turnover of the legislature as well.

Example: Here in Maine, there are term limits in place for the House and Senate. Mark Eves was a House representative from The Berwicks, until he was termed out. But unfortunately for him, the State Senator for his district wasn’t and is of the same party so he is currently out of the legislature entirely. This is a man that very likely would have easily won re-election. His last assignment in the House in his last term was Speaker – he ran the House in his last year, and famously got on the now-former Governor’s bad side just for doing his job as the people of his District wanted.

The problem isn’t how long legislatures are in office. The problem is the cheating that has been put into law to enable unwanted people to remain in office past the time the people in their states want them gone. Gerrymandering has reshaped districts in such a way that the parties, usually the Republicans, are choosing their voters rather than the voters choosing their representatives.

Susan Collins is responsible for this

Maine’s Senior Senator, Republican Susan Collins is responsible for this.

A Federal Court in Texas has now ruled the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional since a central pillar is the Individual Mandate which was enforced by a tax penalty.  The tax bill passed in November, 2017 did away with that tax penalty. So why is this Susan Collins’ fault?

Because she was the deciding vote cast in that tax bill.

Prior to the passage, she claimed that she would not vote for it if it dismantled the ACA. She stated that she would not vote for it unless various things were done first, which were never done. She kept moving the goal post on her “won’t vote for it unless” statements until they became meaningless, and she ultimately voted for it. Despite the largest to-then-date outpouring of constituent contacts to her offices asking, pleading, begging,  demanding a vote of no.

So now we’re left with a Federal judge declaring the ACA as unconstitutional because of Susan Collins.

This was a case brought to the courts by a coalition of Republican Governors and Attorneys General.  Maine’s Governor LePage tried to join in, but was stopped by then-Attorney General Mills, who stated that LePage did not have the authority. The decision will be appealed by the coalition of Democratic Governors who are acting as the defendants. The Trump administration has abdicated its responsibility to defend the standing laws.