Trump and the GOP’s Winning Strategy

April 19, 2019

Say what you want about Trump and the Republicans being corrupt liars, benefactors of the rich and well-born, media bashers and purveyors of conspiracy theories, they know how to frame a message that not only holds their political base but also gives them enough support among independents to forge a winning coalition in 2020.

The Democrats are clueless when it comes to countering the right-wing message built on fear of immigrants, support for a strong military, anti-abortion, demonizing social programs, and calling out liberal women as a danger to our national security. These positions may be outrageous and dangerous to many Americans in the ever-diminishing middle of the political spectrum but they make sense to Trump supporters who now are told that the President was sent by God. Throw in a red-hot economy and the Democrats will be in the fight of their life trying to retake the White House.

The question that has always bedeviled the Democrats since Trump took the presidency is how to respond to all the attacks on long established norms of policy and procedure, the gross avalanche of lies, and the ever-growing corruption. Trying to adopt a measured posture with facts and media appearances on CNN and MSNBC has not worked. Pelosi, Schumer, Sanders and the rest are always on the defensive offering solutions to issues on their agenda but not dealing with what’s on the mind of 45-50% of the nation.

Medicare for All, the Green Plan, taxing the rich may put a small dent in the protective covering of the Trump base, but it is no match for the secret weapon of the President and the GOP – fear of a liberal takeover of government. Of course the 2020 election will be about the economy, jobs, and growth, but it’s that extra edge of fear that may carry day for Trump and the GOP. If the Democrats want to rid the country of Trump and GOP control of the Senate they will have to talk about illegal immigration, military might, abortion, social program costs and the slide toward liberal big government. So far there has been little evidence that the Democrats know how to win over even a small portion of the Trump base; that’s a real electoral problem.

 

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Happy St. Stanislaus Day

April 11, 2019

Happy St. Stanislaus Day. Patron Saint of Poland and Bishop of Krakow, Stanislaus was killed by a tyrant king who feared Stanislaus’ opposition to abuse of power, war-mongering, cruelty toward his subjects and treason.  We desperately need a saint like Stanislaus today in the United States.


What’s Wrong With Saying I Am Sorry?

April 8, 2019

Unfortunately, we live in an age in which politicians on all levels, and in particular on the national stage are adverse to admitting wrong and following through with a public apology. Whether it’s Joe Biden touching women who don’t want to be touched or Donald Trump refusing to say he is wrong and then lying about it, the moral code of just saying “I’m sorry” is sadly in decline.

Most of this refusal to apologize is born of enormous ego trips and perhaps in Trump’s case a psychological defect, but it would be refreshing if political leaders just climbed down from their high horse and admit that they were wrong on a public policy issue or a behavior pattern. We are living in a time when too many Americans take their cues from political elites and just stonewall their response to a problem or personal defect. Yet, there are still countless examples from daily life where we humble ourselves and say “I’m sorry.” Husbands and wives end a fight with I’m sorry;  children run to their parents after some minor dispute and say I’m sorry; members of a church community are often advised by their pastors to say I’m sorry ( the Catholic Church calls it reconciliation); and neighbors often end a petty disagreement with a handshake and an apology.

But not in Washington.  What replaces the apology is the blame game – the political opponent or partisan group that challenges a leader for a miscue is instead characterized as at fault and the spin agents enter the fray and provide the media with all kinds of excuses for just saying ” I’m sorry.” No apology just theatrics. This refusal to apologize for an obvious error in judgment or outright lie is one of the contributing factors in our political malaise. Telling the truth is downgraded and admitting wrongdoing is a political strategy to be avoided at all costs. You would think that political leaders who want to win elections or hold onto power would just try out the truth/apology model and regain the trust of voters with an old fashioned tactic. Certainly President Trump has championed the no apology strategy but Democrats are no better, especially the army of candidates for the White House in 2020.

There is a lot of work that has to be done in order to get this country and its political culture back on track to moral and ethical normalcy, but a good start would be for politicians to simply say  I’m sorry.” I know its risky these days, but it is worth a try.


Democrats Forget the Real Issues

March 20, 2019

With the national economy going full blazes, jobs plentiful and more people with a few more bucks in their pockets (except the rich who have bushel baskets full of bucks) the Democrats running for President are going off the rails with issues that are non-starters or worse yet scare the livin’ daylights out of many voters.

Elizabeth Warren started off  with some likely popular policy recommendations-free day care, tax reform for the middle class and the break-up of the social media giants. But then recently she and other pretenders to the White House started talking about reparations for slavery, changing the constitution to do away with the Electoral College, packing the Supreme Court and embracing socialist-like policies as the answers to America’s income inequality disaster. Victory  for the Democrats in 2020 will not be won by fringe issues that most voters only have a passing understanding of or view as anti-American.

The Democrats continue to forget that they once were the party of the working men and women in this country and that Democratic Presidents like FDR, JFK, LBJ, Clinton and Obama won the White House because they talked the talk and walked the walk of the middle class. I still remember JFK standing in front of factory gates in Milwaukee, my hometown, shaking hands with workers and asking for their vote. Needless to say, he took Wisconsin in 1960.

If the Democrats want to win in 2020 they need to choose a candidate and forge a message around issues like tax reform for the middle class, infrastructure projects particularly in rural area and small towns, realistic climate change policies, affordable health care and scandal-free government. The American middle class is beginning to see that the Trump crowd is only out for the rich, the well born and of course Wall Street, but what they hear on the stump are Democrat candidates who either are fixated on Trump or introduce ideas that have zero chance of success.

If the Democrats want to win in 2020 they need to talk about fixing capitalism, not replacing it with “soft socialism.” Democrats need to talk the talk of all those carpenters, electricians, plumbers, nurses,  teachers, technicians, farmers, truck drivers, and waitstaff, who are looking for a leader who understands their life and their challenges. Democrats continue to be wedded to so-called identity politics – directing their policy prescriptions to African-Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, and Gays – rather than presenting policies directed at improving the lives and futures of the middle class, whatever their skin color, religion or sexual identity.

What this country has experienced these last two years is a class war clearly won by the Republicans and the White House as they effectively filled the pockets of the rich, gave crumbs to the rest and scared the middle class with bogus claims that the identity crowd was destroying America. To win the White House in 2020 the Democrats must change the political conversation and tell the middle class how a change of party in the White House will make their lives and their futures better. How about this for a Blue Hat logo – Make The Middle Class Great Again.

 


The Catholic Church- Authority and Control

February 21, 2019

As the Catholic hierarchy meets in Rome to address the ongoing sex abuse scandal Pope Francis talks extensively about transparency, honesty, compassion, forgiveness and redemption. These are all worthy goals as the Church seeks to formulate rules, procedures and safeguards to ensure that criminal attacks on children, young adults, now nuns will be dealt with swiftly and completely. The bishops at this historic conference know that the world is watching and that the Catholic faithful expect strict policies to be put into place not only to respond to the crisis but also to avoid a further erosion of Church support.

But one of the key stumbling blocks to meaningful change on the issue of sex abuse are the twin issues of authority and control. At the core of the crisis is the horrible rape of innocents and the cover-up, which is centered in the refusal of Church leaders to be bound by state investigatory power or to work with lay boards to put an end to this tragedy. There continues, even today, the view within the confines of the hierarchy the belief that the Church is above the law and that those outside the inner circles of authority have little standing in the resolution of this scandal.

The mindset among too many bishops is that the Catholic Church is their church and their power domain and that those lay members have little claim to interfere. This position, if not dogma, has isolated the Church from achieving its stated goals of transparency, honesty, compassion, forgiveness and redemption. The hierarchy has become one large circle of Yes men shutting out the faithful who clamor for reform and the legal community who are sworn to uphold the law.

Because of Pope Francis’ early comments about the conference that suggest no major policies will come forth, the people in the pews are getting frustrated and angry. Church attendance is down and also financial contributions. Now there are some who are talking about creating a movement to switch the relationship between the bishops and the faithful – it is the Church of the faithful not of the hierarchy and in the future bishops and even parish priests should be under the direct control of local parish councils.

Such organizational heresy is still in its infancy and may just be temporary feelings of sadness that the Yes men refuse to relinquish their hold on the levers of power. Ceding power to the faithful, if it does occur, will be a long struggle and talk about transparency, honesty, compassion, forgiveness and redemption will increasingly be empty words. New goals must now be introduced to the conversation, goals such as cooperation, shared power and indeed democracy. We will just have to see how this struggle plays out. The bishops will not give up without a fight, not after hundreds of years of exercising unchecked authority and control.

 


The Republican Fear Factor

February 18, 2019

The Republicans, whether in the White House or in Congress, are really masters of fear-mongering, in fact they are brilliant pushing at a political strategy that works. The list of fears is long and diverse – fear of immigrants, fear of crime, fear of gun laws, fear of taxes, fear of strong women, fear of big government, and now fear of socialism. I may have left a few out but I think you get my drift.

The Democrats are novices at the fear game and have not been up to the challenge of tapping into the driving force of voter motivation. They have tried with global warming/climate change and now with taxing the rich but they just don’t know how to convince people that governing is about cowering in a corner – whatever happened to the land of the free and HOME OF THE BRAVE.

Thanks to the progressive side of the Democrats in Congress pushing for a Green Deal, Medicare for all and tax increases on the rich the Republicans are back at the fear gambit  characterizing the female leaders of the movement as radicals who are taking the United States down the road to Venezuela. Fear has been at the core of the Trump strategy, especially with immigrants, and so the long knives are out to convince Americans that they must fear big spending, big taxes and big programs.

Now what may help the Democrats deal with the fear factor is that the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, does not appear to wilt in the face of President Trump’s threats or the Republican leadership. Also the new women in the House like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez show little concern over challenging cabinet officials, lobbyists and the Republican men. The fact that she and others might get their facts wrong or over play their policy recommendations has not stopped them from responding to the fear strategy with a healthy dose of class warfare.

So as the politics of governing plays out in the coming months what we will likely see is a tug of competing strategies as the Republicans continue to try and scare the livin’ daylights out of Americans with the fear strategy while the Democrats try and convince voters that they have been cheated out of their hard earned money by greedy millionaires and billionaires.

The fact that Trump Republicans continue to hold onto their base suggests that the fear strategy still works (at least while the economy remains strong), but preliminary polling shows that Americans like the concept of Medicare for all, believe that climate change must be addressed, and agree that the rich need to start paying their fair share of taxes. We could be at a turning point in American politics as fear is replaced with class, in fact the 2020 election is likely to be a contest between these two powerful motivations.

 

 

 


Snow in Hawaii and Car Payments

February 13, 2019

It may seem odd to link two apparently unconnected subjects, the recent snow event in Hawaii (the first such event ever) and the rise in unpaid car payments, as the title of this blog, but let me explain.  Wild climate change events and income inequality indebtedness are the most important public policy concerns facing this nation. While Washington and the political class brawl over border security and tax cuts, it is the regular occurrence of bizarre weather and deepening debt that must rise to the top of the legislative and executive agenda.

It is not necessary now to quarrel over whether man made global warming is the cause of our weather. What really matters is that climate change is wreaking havoc on human life, critical infrastructure, private property, insurance premiums, long and short term displacement and fear of the unknown. Those public officials who aren’t bogged down in ideology are beginning to push for changes in building codes, protection of low lying areas, early warning detection systems, and sensible evacuation procedures.  Day by day our lives are changing as weather reports become more disturbing and dangerous. Action must be taken now.

Then there is debt, not the $ 22 trillion- that’s twelve zeroes- national debt but the fact that new data point to 7 million Americans who are behind in their car payment by up to 90 days. We are back in the pre-2008 era with credit card debt out of control, bankruptcies a regular occurrence and foreclosures a common announcement. Some will say that all this personal debt is the result of poor personal financial decisions, that may be true in part. But debt for millions and millions of Americans is mainly the result of an inability to live with security and confidence in our economic system which clearly is skewed toward the rich and well born.

Who in Congress, the White House and those running for high public office will take on climate change and income inequality? So far there are scattered proposals like the Green Deal and soak the rich tax promises. These may foster debate and controversy but on closer inspection are non-starters. Nothing gets done in our government these days when solutions are presented that immediately strike fear among policy makers and then political push back. Although moderate, middle of the road proposals that occupy the center of the political spectrum currently reside in a time far removed from reality, it is essential that the political class move as quickly as possible to deal with extreme weather climate change and income inequality induced debt.

Back in the old days of common sense politics piecemeal change and incremental policy making were heralded as the answer to pressing problems. There is nothing wrong with inching toward solutions to grave problems as long as there is inching forward, not being mired in partisan wrangling and gridlock. Let’s get started on inching forward on climate change and income inequality.