Beard Boys

July 4, 2019

Here’s a modest proposal for the struggling Red Sox as they seek to get back into the groove and make a run for a playoff spot. How about they all get up tomorrow and shave off their beards and facial hair. Now that may seem like a trivial matter, especially these days when masculinity is defined as beard growth, but if the Sox players want a new start, they can begin with a new look.

As the old saying goes, ” Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, which could be translated into the Gods of baseball might look favorably upon a group of guys who are clean shaven and can look into the mirror in the morning and see a younger face ready to take on the world. Now of course shaving everyday and presenting a new team look is not the answer to Chris Sale’s pitching woes or Mookie’s poor start or all those relief pitchers who look like they spent the night sleeping on a park bench. But right now the Boys of Summer need something to rally their inner spirits and start getting serious about baseball. How about we start with a morning shave.

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Strong Economy, Weak Values

May 15, 2019

Critics of President Trump, especially liberals, often complain that he and his administration have either attacked, ignored or dismantled fundamental constitutional principles and norms such as adherence to the rule of law, support for the system of checks and balances with a co-equal legislative branch, and the importance of an open and free press. Added to these charges are the now over 10,000 proven lies and misstatements by the President and the growing list of scandals and corruption by members of his inner circle of cabinet members and advisers. We now live in a time when”constitutional crisis” is an oft-used term that suggests this country is experiencing a democratic decline, or worse yet a move toward authoritarianism.

And yet with a strong economy that boasts low inflation, low unemployment, solid growth, vibrant stock market numbers, and for most Americans more money in their pockets, there is scant discussion among the general public and certainly among Trump’s base about the obvious challenges to constitutional principles that have guided this nation since the early days of the Republic. Trump’s directive to his staff to ignore Congressional requests to testify before committees, his refusal to turn over his tax returns, the attacks on the FBI and the intelligence community, and his not so subtle acceptance of right wing hate, violence and wack-job conspiracy theories are too often greeted by a near majority of Americans with a casual shrug or a silence that signals consent.

Why has America entered a time when our most cherished document, the Constitution,  the Bill of rights, and long standing procedures and governing values, are so easily dismissed as not terribly important? There, of course, is no simple answer to this scary predicament; it is not enough to say that too many Americans want to “stick it” to the liberal elite or that Trump’s army of ” low educated” voters have become the voice of the nation or that Trump represents an angry revolt of those disgusted with government.

My take on this real threat to our democracy is a sad and growing ignorance of what this country stands for, what hundreds of thousands of men and women died for on the battlefield, and what our forefathers and mothers envisioned as the “shining city on a hill”. During my youthful years as a political science professor I would take student groups to Washington D.C. and visit among many monuments, the National Archives where the Constitution is encased in glass. Those visiting the Constitution would always pass by and whisper in a kind of governmental reverence, akin to going to church or reading the Bible. These days the National Archives is not a destination site and a declining number of Americans have never read the Constitution or the thinking of the writers in forming a “more perfect Union.”

There is certainly nothing wrong with feeling great about a booming economy, but it is deeply disturbing to see a growing number of Americans show little understanding or support for our governing values or hail the President of the United States for blatantly working to tear down our democratic heritage. The Constitution and the amendments are not exciting reading, but the entire document is rather short and can be examined in the time it takes to watch the last episode of Game of Thrones.

We remain a great country with enormous potential, but these last two years we have become a people who care too little about our governing values and are too willing to follow a president who I suspect has never read the Constitution and cares less about the principles that define our democracy and indeed our nation. My advice – read the Constitution and support the values expressed in that wonderful document.


The Art of Political War

April 28, 2019

The score of Democrats seeking to lead their party into the fire of the 2020 presidential election are desperate to find the right mix of policy, personality and pugnaciousness to remove Donald Trump from the White House. At this point in the electoral process none of the challengers admit to finding the right approach, in fact it is fair to say that many of them are worried that the strong economy and a solid Trump base will make it difficult to grab the golden ring of the presidency.

Now, I don’t claim to have the answer  to the right approach to taking on President Trump, but I came across a quote the other day from the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu, who authored The Art of War, a book that has become a classic of political and military insight and strategy that might hold the answer. Sun Tzu offered his advice on acquiring power and control by stating, ” It is the unemotional, reserved, calm and detached warrior who wins, not the hothead seeking vengeance and not the ambitious seeker of fortune.”

Granted that Trump won the White House by being a hothead who sought vengeance in the name of the ” low educated” and then proceeded to use his position to advance his fortune. But 2020 is not 2016, and there are growing signs that the American electorate is getting a bit tired of the Trump act with all the hyperbole, goofy ideas, outright lies and dangerous directions. The Trump base remains solid but those independents are starting to wonder whether it is  worth it as a country to have four more years of the circus.

The Democratic challengers will likely be tempted to fight fire with fire as Trump uses his Twitter account to call people silly names and insult reasonable policy positions, but Sun Tzu may have it right when he talks about how to win as he recommends warriors reject hotheaded vengeance and fortune seeking and embrace calm and unemotional detachment. After four years of Trump, the American people may just be ready for a leader who approaches the job of running this country as an adult not an eighth grader.

Right now Trump has the economy on his side and many voters will likely not want a change of leadership, but you can be sure that he will run a campaign of verbal retribution and half truths and spend less time and effort on pocketbook issues. By battling the Twitter tirades of the President with calm and reserved responses and attractive policy prescriptions to correct the decline of the middle class and gross income inequality, the Democratic challenger, whoever he or she is, may find a winning strategy.

 


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.

 


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.