An Open Letter To The Democratic Party

An Open Letter to the Democratic Party:

Today I received 5 emails from you, all frantically begging for donations in order to stop passage of the AHCA. In none of these emails did you elaborate on how my (or anyone’s) contribution will affect the outcome of the upcoming Senate vote. Even if the money is spent on an advertising campaign, it will not influence one Republican Senator’s vote, they simply are not listening.

The Senate Republicans have charted their course. They will provide minimal discussion during the week, add a few amendments to mollify the supposed holdouts, and it will pass on Thursday or Friday with Pence providing the tie breaking vote. The only thing that can stop this chain of events is action by the Democratic Senators, not by soliciting more donations.

It’s been suggested that the Democrats can place an unlimited number of amendments on the bill, thus stalling it indefinitely. While I fully understand that such a tactic is dangerous, since the Republicans will no doubt use it against you down the road, these are desperate times. Unless you have an equally formidable strategy, then I suggest you use it.

The AHCA is the most self serving, cruel bill ever to be put forward. It was crafted out of malice for President Obama, and greed for the wealthiest Americans. I, along with millions of others have marched in the streets, made calls, emails, tweets and facebook posts trying to protect the ACA and prevent the AHCA from being passed. The caring citizens of this country have done all we can, now we have to put our faith in you.

So, you’ll forgive me if I’m a little offended by your constant pleas for donations. It sounds like you have no strategy at all. I realize the fundraising part of the party is not connected to the actual Senators, but right now the ball is their court, not mine. Let’s see some real backbone, some Republican style dirty tricks to keep this monstrosity from passing. If you’re successful, I’ll consider making a congratulatory donation.

Trumpcare, Ryancare or More Accurately: They Don’t Care

So the American Healthcare Act has finally been revealed and what a piece of work it is. For starters it will cost the average person an extra 1542.00 per year for the same care they have now. That’s right you get higher premiums, higher deductibles (cause that’s what “patient centered care” really means) and less services for your money.

The young and healthy make out the best as they are no longer asked to share the burden for the elderly or sick. The elderly and those with pre-existing conditions now go into a “high risk” pool which means exorbitant costs for their care. Furthermore, the proposed bills will:

  • defund Planned Parenthood.
  • eliminates private insurance coverage for abortion.
  • eliminates penalties on companies that don’t insure employees.
  • ends Medicaid Expansion.
  • provides huge tax breaks – $346 billion over 10 years – to the wealthy.

On top of all this, Senator Charles Schumer tweeted today that there will be a cap on medicaid nursing home spending. If you have ever had a loved one in a nursing home, you know that generally their medical conditions worsen over time. My mother for example suffered from Alzheimer’s and spent her last years in a nursing home. I can’t even imagine what I would have done if she had reached some arbitrary spending amount and the nursing home called to say: “Medicaid will no longer pay for your mother’s care, please begin paying 12,000.00 a month or come take her.”

The idea that people may soon be facing this as a reality is horrifying to me. I used to work in a nursing home, so I know the amount of serious medical care the residents are receiving on a daily basis. Most of these people can’t just simply move back in with the kids, many of them are stroke victims, others are on dialysis, or they suffer from dementia. These people need 24/7 care, most of them worked all of their lives and made their contributions to society. Many of them are parents or grandparents, and as a society, we are responsible for their well being.

These two bills that make up the “American Healthcare Act” truly show the heartlessness and greed of the GOP. For a change, this goes way beyond Trump. He’ll rubber stamp anything they put in front of him, but this nightmare is mainly Paul Ryan’s creation.

I only hope the Democrats develop  a real spine and actually block these bills by any means possible. I will not be satisfied with a “well we voted against it” shrug “what can you do” attitude. They need to shut down Congress and the Senate if necessary to keep these nightmarish bills from becoming reality.

Trump, Putin and Iran

Consider for a moment that during one of Trump’s visits to Russia, Putin or one of his subordinates offered Trump a deal: “We’ll help you become president, if you help us.” There’s already enough evidence to make this plausible, so what happens if Trump does something to sour that arrangement?

Now that Trump is in power, he has to keep Putin happy, as well as balance all the ultra-right wing conservatives who are the backbone of his administration. There is one subject, a country actually where it’s going to be very hard to balance these two powers: Iran.

Modern Iran and Russia have been in fairly good relations since Russia recognized the Islamic State in 1979. Whenever Iran feels pressured by the US, it turns to Russia for support. More recently the two countries have been allied in the Syrian conflict, putting down the rebel factions and keeping Bashar al-Assad in power.

Enter Nationals Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who today “put Iran on notice” for testing a ballistic missile. Tough talk, but only a few hours later the White House softened it’s rhetoric, saying that this was only about the missile test and completely separate from the nuclear agreement that Obama formed.

During his campaign, Trump slammed that agreement many times. For the White House to suddenly sound fine about it is suspicious, unless of course Putin snapped his leash and told Trump to back off. The Iranian President himself has vowed that Trump will not rip up the nuclear deal. Why would he be so sure in the face of Trump’s rhetoric?

So the big question is, who will Trump stand up to? If he lets the deal (and the Iranian government) stand then he will anger his base, his conservative supporters including the Heritage Foundation, the Koch brothers and the big oil companies. Or does he stand up to Putin, who might have all kinds of secrets on him. From my observations, he will turn on Putin, because he will want to keep getting that loyal support and adoration from his base.

And if that’s the case, we could find ourselves in World War III very, very quickly.

Kindness Matters (Even to Trump Supporters)

We are, in very real sense, in the midst of a civil “cold” war in this country. The far right has seized power either through manipulating the public to vote for them or by manipulating the elections themselves with help from Russia. Progressives are not the masters of violent behavior, we’re not the ones who have been storing caches of guns in our basements and bomb shelters for the last eight years, we are, as a group, far more civilized, more educated, more compassionate and more forgiving. It’s easy to forget those qualities sometimes, especially when you’re marching in demonstrations or battling trolls on the internet, but it’s those qualities that will turn the undecided voters to our cause, and those qualities which we want to use as the foundations of our country in the 21st century.

The last year has been a tumultuous one to say the least. There has been a lot of passion and anger from all sides of these debates and it becomes very tempting to hate everyone who voted for the opposition. I confess, it still boggles my mind that over 58 million people voted for Trump, I honestly expected him to lose by the biggest landslide in US history. But 58 million people did vote for him, and the bottom line is, most of  these people aren’t really evil. Misguided, ignorant of their own biases, sure, but not necessarily evil. Many of them will become disillusioned over the next four years, hopefully within the next two. It will take patience, reasoning and most of all, kindness to win them over to our side and not have them reflexively vote Republican again.

There are of course the virulent racists and homophobes, who will be constantly on the attack and as unlikely as it seems, sometimes even they can have a change of heart. These transformations won’t be accomplished with taunts and insults, those are the weapons of the opposition; we have to be better than that. President Obama was a great role model for responding to critics, he made his points without resorting to insults. The trick is to stay calm, stick to the facts, and if the person is open to it, show them compassion.

Every statement we make has a ripple effect. You’re not only speaking to one angry conservative, you’re reaching their family and their friends, some of whom didn’t vote in the last election, these are voters we want to win over to progressive causes, if they perceive us as no different from our conservative counterpart it will only deter them from getting involved.

Many Trump voters are about to lose their healthcare, or see their Medicare benefits slashed. It’s tempting to be smug, to say “serves ya right” but that will only cause them to dig their heels in harder and vote for the next Republican tool who comes along. Right wing media such as Fox News have been demonizing the left for years. So even though we’ve had 6 years of congressional gridlock due to the Republican majority, somehow it’s still “Obama’s fault.” Having their insurance either stripped away or the premiums skyrocketing until they’re unaffordable is the kind of wake up call that might shake off the media hypnosis. With Republicans running all three branches of government and trumpeting (pun intended) their repeal of the Affordable Care Act, it will be hard for even the most uninformed voter to blame that one on the democrats.

There will be other opportunities as well. As Republicans strip Medicare, Social Security and every other part of the social safety nets they can dismantle, more and more people will realize that they were duped. So many of these people said they wanted “change” but this was not the sort of change that they bargained for. In two years every congressional seat and 33 senate seats will be up for re-election.  If we want to win those seats, we need to bring these voters over to our side. We need to sympathize with them when they realize they were conned. We need to extend a hand rather than pointing a finger, and help them realize that progressive causes are for the benefit of the entire country  rather than just the select few. Perhaps some of them will feel less threatened by the idea of a homogenized America, where we are all equal regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or belief system. This is the America we should be creating in the 21st century, hopefully it’s the America we will see emerging four years from now.


How To Survive the Trumpocolypse

These are not normal times we are living in. There will be major changes over the next four years, and possibly for generations afterwards. At the very least we are likely to see an extremely conservative presidency, more so than even George W Bush, and one that will get to appoint multiple Supreme Court Justices. On the other extreme, Trump might use the fanaticism of his far right supporters to stage a full coup and become a dictator. The latter is not as far fetched as it sounds, and the greatest hope to prevent that from happening is to pressure the politicians of both parties who still respect the institutions of this government even when they rule or vote against them. Opposition to this regime has to start early and it has to be strong. If you believe in equality for ALL Americans, and you are opposed to the extremist policies that have been presented so far, you need to make your voice heard while you still can.

Trump has a fragile ego, and reacts to criticism very badly. His track record indicates that the First Amendment will probably be one of his first targets. He is very likely to pass some sort of Sedition Act shutting down both free speech and the free press. Right wing newspapers like the Wall St. Journal are already falling in line to stay safe and cozy in the Trump regime. There may be a time when posts like this one, or something you shared on Facebook, gets you a visit from the FBI. If you don’t believe this could happen here, follow my link to the Sedition Act of 1918, which made it illegal to speak out against the American government in World War I.

Consider the role you want to play in this new reality. There will be a great need for protesters both on the streets and on the internet. Trump is creating wars on Women, economic classes, religion, science, education and LGBTQ rights. He has the backing of a very vocal minority of white, neo nazis and religious extremists. Both of these groups prefer authoritarianism to democracy and see only their way as the right way. With this in mind, protesting may get dangerous. We’ve seen the kind of violence police have used in Standing Rock during the Obama administration, it will escalate quickly with Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. This means protesting can literally become hazardous to your health, we could even see another Kent State massacre.

If you’re Muslim or HIspanic or for that matter just non-white, you are at greater risk of persecution under this regime. It’s true that Trump has only promised to deport undocumented aliens, but how many innocent people will be harassed while hunting them down? Will have have ICE troops storming homes and businesses to search for illegals? What if you’re legal but don’t have ID on you? It’ s a safe be that this sort of harassment won’t happen to white people. For Muslims, he has hinted and teased about some kind of registry, deliberately obfuscating his answer in several interviews. It’s safe to say that if he can get away with making such a registry, he will do it, and we will have to react to it accordingly.

Churches and Synagogues have already been declaring themselves sanctuaries for immigrants. There may come a time these immigrants need an underground railroad to reach these churches, if you are in the right location and feel so inclined, your help will be sorely needed. Some churches may also need donations of food, bedding and clothing, especially if they become a long term shelter.

Watch for every day harassment and violence and learn how to stand up to it.  You can minimize the danger to yourself and to the victim by responding properly. If you are afraid or if are not able to intervene, call the police, you might save someone’s life. Also, if you see graffiti, try to find the building’s owner and encourage them to remove it. If the owner is unresponsive, consider starting a petition to get their attention. If you see a business practicing racial or homophobic policies, post their information to twitter and facebook, public boycotting of such places has proven very effective.

Finally, find something positive to keep your hopes up. Throughout the history of the western Europe and the U.S., there has always been a movement towards greater equality. Even when there have been occasional push backs, they never last and the next generation pushes for more equal treatment for all. Be a positive voice in your community, if you have an artistic talent, express it politically. Some of the greatest songs of the 1960’s came out of protesting the Vietnam War or supporting the Civil Rights movement. It will make a tremendous difference to those who feel oppressed to know that someone cares about them, whether they see it in deeds, spoken/written words, song or paintings and drawings. There is also 57% of the population that did not vote in 2016 and we’re going to need to reach the hearts and minds of some of those non-voters in order to make a real difference in the next round of elections.