Category Archives: Commentary

American Carnage and Philip Roth

Sometime ago I was on a Philip Roth binge.  He is a great writer, most famous for “Portnoy’s Complaint.” This is a laugh-out-loud book and won him many kudos. Trump’s inaugural speech and dystopian view of America and American carnage reminded me of a different Philip Roth novel, called “The Plot Against America” which at the time seemed completely dark and impossible.  The plot was based on an alternative American history, a history where Nazi sympathizer, Charles Lindbergh, was elected president in 1940.  I had forgotten the “America First” association with American isolationism prior to WW II, but was reminded of it by this post from Blog for Arizona.

Pick up “A Plot Against America” by Philip Roth. It will stimulate a lot of thinking about America First and our future.

An Inauguration Day Reflection

Many of us have wrestled with a feeling of isolation from our neighbors and friends in Saddlebrooke who supported Donald J. Trump.  His campaign was disappointing to so many of us in the way it denigrated the Office of President.  From his unapologetic “birther” campaign, a challenge to the legitimacy Obama’s presidency, to his many falsehoods in tweets and speeches, to his embrace of bigotry, fake news, and conspiracy theories. Trump’s campaign was a wholesale denial of the monumental accomplishments of the Obama presidency.  There was no acknowledgement of a Democratic president and party who saved our teetering economy, restored so many lost jobs, provided health care for an additional 20 million Americans, particularly the poor, students, and those with pre-existing illnesses.  The Obama administration embraced the truth of climate change, and pursued policies to encourage alternative energy sources and technology, as well as international agreements to limit greenhouse gases. We could go on and on. All of these things were accomplished with the entrenched opposition of the Republican party. The point is that none of these accomplishments were ever acknowledged by Trump or his party, not even after his electoral victory and inauguration. There was no olive branch to the majority of Americans who voted for someone else.

What can we do? Where do we start? These questions will require soul searching. But in the end, I hope that you will conclude that we need to be engaged in supporting a different vision than the one we see before us today. That engagement will require our energy and our financial support.  We’ll have to be willing to engage our friends in data, in science, and in facts. We will have to search out the truth. It won’t always be easy. We’ll have to do some research, and compare and contrast conflicting accounts of the truth. We’ll have to decide as best we can what is true or probable, and what is nonsense. We will have to become conversant about issues we hold dear, whether its Social Security and Medicare, or environmental policy, or human rights, support of the poor and needy in our midst, or…  We’ll have to get involved in grass roots organizing, and yes, contribute some money to support candidates who embrace our goals.  For me, this will be a thoughtful acknowledgement of what I really care about for my family, for all of our families, and future families. It will take a new a level of engagement and commitment.  I hope that you will all spend some time reflecting on what you can do to support the things you care about too.

Combating Fake News!

I read a very interesting article from fivethirtyeight called “Fact Checking Won’t Save Us From False News.”  Interesting discussion from the history of news, to the many psychological issues that surround what we choose to believe and what we don’t. Perhaps the biggest new thought the article contained for me is that false news is not about accuracy, but about power.

The two most interesting suggestions for the future were 1) encouraging news outlets to stop providing a false balance or false equivalency between competing arguments where there is none. An example is autism and immunizations.  The scientific media are better at this then the general news media.  Secondly, to discuss policy the impact of policy changes on our lives.  This is one way to engage people, and to separate the personality wars from  what policy changes mean for our day to day lives.

Will Trump move the American Embassy to Jerusalem?

It seems that the cultural and political divide in Israel is as wide and entrenched as the divide in the US that resulted in a closely contested election for a president-elect who has played hard to the right in US – Israeli relations.  This divide has most recently played out in a UN Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank where the US abstained.  This resulted in the denigration of  the US position as articulated by Secretary of State John Kerry by conservative politicians and pundits.

It is clear that there will continue to be diverse and conflicting views on US – Israeli relations, and these diverse views are even present within Trump’s proposed cabinet. How this plays out will be signaled by how quickly Trump embraces moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  My guess it that it won’t happen, but like the beautiful wall Trump has promised his most ardent supporters, only time will tell.  I would recommend reading a very interesting assessment by Bernard Avishai in the NYT of the current political divide in Israel and its repercussions in the US.

It seems many nations are facing the same internal political conflict –  entrenched positions leading to strident and contentious debate arising from entirely different world views, liberal and conservative, left and right.

A Letter to the President Elect

Kathleen Parker is one of my very favorite columnists.  She is a conservative columnist, but one that I regularly read to challenge my thinking about issues and candidates.  She represents one of the many conservatives not enthralled with “The Donald” and regularly reminds her readers how far we’ve strayed from the path of reason in electing Trump as president.

Parker’s recent open letter to Donald Trump is worth a read, while the country waits to see how things play out with confirmation of his plutocratic cabinet, and how Trump shifts (or doesn’t shift) his leadership style from candidate to actual president of the United States of America.

Looking forward to becoming the loyal opposition

It took me almost a month to finally come to a new place in my thought, mood and vision for the next four years.  There may be a few things that will happen that we can cheer.  DJT seems to be taking a second look at some issues such as tarifs, climate change, the Iran nuclear agreement.  We can hope that similar moderation will happen with other issues.  Health care is perhaps most worrisome, but the complexity of repeal and replace will stall any action for months if not longer. The potential appointment of Ben Carson to head HUD is mind-boggling.  That could only be superseded by Rudy Giuliani being served up for Secretary of State. Except for Tom O’Halleran’s election to CD 1, there isn’t too much to cheer about in AZ.

Now I’m resolved to becoming an active participant and member of the loyal opposition.  I hope you feel inclined to join me.  We have to hang in there. For the next few years that is what the Democratic party is called to do.  We have to get back to the ground game and the grass roots. Hopefully we can convince so many middle class folks frustrated with stagnant wages and declining self-esteem that we want what they want, and have been striving on their behalf since FDR and the New Deal.

Will there be new political parties for the 2020 election?

There were lots of news events over the last weekend including the Access Hollywood tape revealing the private Trumpster.  Then there was the 2nd debate demonstrating the scorched earth policy Trump has adopted for the final weeks of the campaign.  Then more Wikileaks email dumps from the Clinton campaign courtesy of Vladimir Putin and friends.   The recent Republican defections from Trump, included John McCain. I’m not sure if bailing out on Trump will have much affect on McCain’s success, but follow-up polling will tell the tale.  Today, Arizona begins to vote!

One of the interesting web sites I’ve visited during the campaign is called fivethirtyeight.  The web site name comes from the total number of legislators in the US Congress. It has a distinct focus on opinion polls and analysis of voter demographics.  It is my “go to” site for thinking about how factors like race, religion and income play into our presidential politics.  One of the interesting questions to ponder as the headlines talk about a Republican Party meltdown is “How will the current two major parties change by the next presidential election?”

I can imagine a far right party for those of the Strom Thurmond/George Wallace/David Duke persuasion, that may have some libertarians and the NRA…who knows who else.  If Trump decides to stay in politics, he may find a home.  This party will be fairly radical in its views on race and immigration, and will likely be more isolationist.  Let’s call it the Freedom Party.  Then there will be a chastened Republican Party which will be more moderate than the old conservative Republican party. I imagine this party will welcome some moderates and more conservative folks, including those constituencies fearful of xenophobia but tough on immigration, in favor of balanced budgets, a less generous social safety net, more militant foreign policy, low taxes and free enterprise. This party will probably be the home of evangelical Christians.

The Democratic Party as we know it may splinter, with  a new progressive party that will be more socialist in leaning.  We can call this the Progressive Party.  This party will embrace more radical solutions for economic equality, education, climate change and health care, and much more control of the American economic engine. This party may include the former Green party. The formation of the Progressive Party will create a more traditional Democratic Party, a party that will be the home for moderates and liberals who favor a more comprehensive social safety net, more moderate immigration policies, more vigorous policies to address climate change, gradual reformation of health care policy, less militant and more cooperative foreign policy, and inclusivity in the broadest sense.  This party will endorse some redistribution of wealth while still embracing a sustainable  strain of capitalism.

For me, the big news is still the fact that a hostile foreign power has played such a great role in our election.  We better make absolutely certain we’re prepared for this kind of intrusion in the future!