Friday, June 10, 2016

An Exciting Time to Be an American

For the first time in our nation's history, a woman is a major political party's presumptive nominee for President of the United States. Whatever your feelings about Hillary Rodham Clinton, this moment is undeniably historic.

But Clinton is not the only person changing the history books. Bernie Sanders, her opponent in the Democratic Party’s nominating contest, is the first Jewish-American and democratic socialist to win even one primary. His victories in over 20 states are an epic achievement in its own right. And, of course, both of these distinctions follow the barrier-breaking presidency of the country’s first black president, Barack Hussein Obama.

As the country moves closer to embodying its ideals of diversity, equality, and opportunity for all, there has never been a more exciting time to be an American

It is true that many of today’s most urgent social challenges remain unresolved. Mr. Obama's presidency has done little to quash racism; the achievement of marriage equality has reinforced discriminatory laws directed against gay and transgendered people; and we face the worst income inequality since the founding of the republic.

But despite the problems we need to solve, this election is a symbol of hope. A decade ago, though sadly just as important and ever-present, racism was not in quite as stark a national spotlight as it is now; transgender issues were not much discussed either; marriage equality seemed like only a dream; and tax cuts flowed to the wealthy without check. Today, thanks in part to some historic candidates who have been moved to act by the outcries of the people, these issues, though highly contentious, are receiving the attention and forward-moving work that they deserve.

Present history is leading toward a brighter future.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Any Candidate Who Inspires Racists Is Unworthy of Being President And Should Be Stopped

It is a frightening day in the United States of America. In less than 2 hours, a man who has inspired and failed to unequivocally condemn the Klu Klux Klan and other white supremacy groups will likely become the unstoppable frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States thanks to the Super Tuesday primaries.

The media has been obsessed with asking whether Donald J. Trump is actually racist. But at this point, when he has flip-flopped between repudiating and quietly accepting the endorsement of KKK leader David Duke, whether Trump is or is not racist is irrelevant. What matters is that, with his rhetoric of mass deportations and registrations of millions of people in a tracking database, Trump has stirred the vilest elements of our society to see him as their leader.

And any candidate who has so successfully been able to do so is unworthy of leading a republic whose founding principles and historical progression call for greater liberty, equality and justice for all.

Yes, sadly America has often stumbled and regressed with these goals, but to repeat that history again in 2016 would be egregiously shameful and runs counter to everything this country stands for.

More frightening still is that many people seem to be ignoring Trump's meteoric rise in popularity. Many in the media still see Trump as a running joke instead of the existential threat to our ideals that he actually is. Media pundits also persist in insisting that whether it will be Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate for president will be only too happy to take on Donald Trump and secure an easy victory in the general election. But these pundits also insisted that Trump would not be able to win even a single early voting contest, let alone most of the eleven Super Tuesday states he is likely to win tonight. It's time to reevaluate what we think we know about politics in 2016 and what we believe may actually happen. Donald Trump could win the presidency!

Some commentators have likened Trump's disturbing xenophobic attitudes to Hitler's. I do not wish to hyperbolize and am thus hesitant to make such comparisons. Still, I cannot ignore the striking parallel between expectations surrounding the two figures.

In 1939, after six years of increasingly systematic, national discrimination against Jews that stripped them of their businesses, jobs, citizenship, and basic human dignity, people all over the world, including American Jews, could not imagine or believe that Hitler's policies were leading to the methodical, industrialized elimination of six million Jews in death and labor camps scattered across the European continent. But they were and they did.

Again, I am not suggesting that Trump's expressed plans for Muslim registration and Mexican deportation will lead to the same "unbelievable" results produced by Hitleralthough these statements in themselves are alarming for the dark paths they have the potential to lead us on. But I am arguing that when we have a xenophobic demagogue who has secured support from America's racists and is about to clinch the Republican nomination despite the majority of people's expectations to the contrary, it is time for the entire countryDemocrats and Republicansto believe in the threat that he poses and mount a serious campaign to reaffirm America's values of equality and compassion and challenge this creature's rise to power.

This story also appears in The Huffington Post.

Update on March 3, 2016: After reading a number of comments, I would like to clarify a point of potential confusion. Yes, of course other candidates throughout history have also excited hate groups. The point of this piece is that Donald Trump did not unequivocally denounced the support of the KKK. His excuse about the bad earpiece is disingenuous at best; the clip of him answering the question speaks for itself. This has resulted in increased publicity for the KKK and other groups. Additionally, his specific policy platforms very much appeal to hate groups, which is why they are so excited about his candidacy. Finally, I am not suggesting that someone who voted for or supports Trump is automatically racist. My intention with this piece is to encourage a critical examination or reexamination of the candidate and what he stands for.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Where Do We Go From Here?

Ahead of tonight’s CNN Republican debate, there has been a lot of talk about whether a Donald Trump presidential nomination will mean the end of the Republican Party. While that is certainly a vital question, it is far from the most important one posed by the rise of an anger-stirring demagogue. The far more critical question we should be considering is: whether Donald Trump becomes the nominee or not, where do we as a nation go from here?

Though many people do find his views repulsive, Donald Trump obviously does not exist in a vacuum. As evidenced by stunning poll numbers across the country and astounding victories in three out of four Republican primary contests up to this point, many Americans obviously embrace the bully tactics, racism and isolationism that Trump stands for.

Throughout its history, the United States of America has struggled to live up to its ideals of liberty and justice for all. The examples of our failures are numerous and stark. Slavery, Jim Crow laws, mass relocations of Native and Japanese Americans, closing our borders to refugees both in the past and present, and supporting vile dictatorships even as we fought the tyranny of communism are just a few examples.

But we have also shed our blood to stop genocide, stood up for democracy around the world, and have truly served as a beacon of hope to millions of people.

We now find ourselves at yet another point in our history in which we face the choice of regressing to our baser fears or striving to live up to the ideals of our republic and be something better tomorrow than we are today.

Alarmingly, it appears that even at a time when global connectivity is said to be bringing more people together than ever before many are choosing the former instead of the latter. Donald J. Trump is not merely a symbol of a seismic shift in politics, but in the very values of our society. In 2016, we find ourselves dangerously close to repeating the mistakes of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Hopefully, it is not yet too late for a course correction. Tonight especially, but also in the days and weeks ahead, the Republican candidates for president and other party leaders have an opportunity to appeal to the better angels of Americans’ nature and call for tolerance and unity. They can stop decades of social attacks against fellow Americans and focus on the issues their party was founded around, small government and economic growth, and lead by example by working with the Obama administration to confirm a new Supreme Court justice instead of bullying the president into submission.

Of course the Democrats should play their part as well and work to unite their own potentially fracturing electorate instead of digging up dirt against each other.

The choices we and our leaders make today could very well affect the next few decades and even century to come. Let’s hope we choose wisely.

An Open Letter to the Republican Leadership

Dear Republican leaders,

            Please accept my sincere congratulations for having Donald Trump as your present frontrunner and, after Tuesday, likely presidential nominee. You’ve worked so very hard to get him here, and I applaud you for your efforts.

            Just imagine, if you folks had not spent decades stirring the American people to think more about themselves than they do their neighbors, teaching them that it’s OK to subvert democracy and the Constitution in the name of establishing an Evangelical religion throughout the land, and using the rhetoric of hatred and singling out the other, Donald Trump—who embodies the heart and soul of the intolerance you’ve helped Americans learn—might have never come this far.

            Thank goodness you’ve been targeting gay families, making them feel like lesser people than their straight counterparts. How wonderful that you oppose marriage equality to this very day, fanning the flames of intolerance that a man like Donald Trump can thrive on. Sure he seems somewhat nicer to gay people than the rest of you—though he might help you out by trying to repeal marriage equality too—but you’ve done such an exemplary job in programming Americans against one group of law-abiding citizens that it’s no wonder that Trump can do the same against Muslims. And Mexicans. Let us also not forget the anti-sodomy laws still on the books in defiance of the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas and the antidiscrimination laws against LGBT people that you refuse to pass. Bravo!

Thank you to these popular GOP bullies and bigots who paved the way for the main one: Donald J. Trump!

             Of course, we have to understand that this all happens because you have also spent so much time reminding us that we are a Christian nation, specifically of Evangelical Christians. Good call ignoring the Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of a state religion. When we elevate ourselves and our values above other people’s it becomes all the easier to ignore everyone else and do what is only best for us. Now we have Donald Trump, a man you folks have said will also behave in an unconstitutional manner, to keep all Muslims out, “grab, grab, grab," and further eviscerate our democracy.

            Let’s not forget the poor either. How right you have been every time you’ve decided that they really don’t need funds for Medicaid or other social services. It’s so great that so many of your governors cut those budgets and refused to accept Federal monies to fund programs. After all, it’s so obvious that all we really need to help the poor is to give more tax cuts to the ultra-rich so they can move more of their wealth overseas. I am so grateful that you are a pro-life party when it comes to birthing life, but not when it comes to living it. The anger you’ve helped create has very much helped Trump, so again I must congratulate you.

            I could go on and on about your many other accomplishments, but I think you get the drift. Thank you for all of your hard work in making America a place where different politics automatically equal different values, resulting in the anger and discord that makes a Trump presidency so likely. Thank you for ignoring issues vital to our economy, health, and education in favor of stirring up social issues that have split us into red states and blue states. How wonderful that your previously most popular politician, Sarah Palin, has endorsed Donald Trump for president. You have not only done a great service to your party, but to the whole of America.


Your Biggest Fan

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

More Hillary, Less Clinton

Tonight was a turning point in the Clinton campaign. Not a moment too soon, viewers who tuned into the CNN Democratic town hall saw far more Hillary and far less Clinton.

At least partly because the name Clinton is synonymous with the word politician, it’s no secret that the former secretary of state has struggled to connect with voters in a meaningful way and has been unable to quash the perception of her wanting the presidency for nothing but her own ambition. Though she recently started to rebrand herself as more than a single-issue candidate and echoed Barack Obama by declaring, “This is your campaign” to the people of Nevada after winning the caucuses there this past weekend, many Americans perceive her as self-interested and untrustworthy.

Hillary Clinton answers a question about student debt posed by a Sanders supporter.
Tonight, Hillary connected with the voters of South Carolina—and the rest of the country—like she has not before. It’s no secret that I’ve been a strong supporter of hers since 2008, but even I sometimes get frustrated with her ability to dance around a question without completely answering it. (Of course this is something that all politicians, including Bernie Sanders, do.) Tonight, though, I watched a Hillary who was excited but thoughtful, gave specific answers to specific questions, and finally communicated her desire to be a champion for the American people in a genuine and sincere way. It’s as if she told the political, Clinton side of her personality to go away for the night so that the human Hillary side could open a frank and direct dialogue with the country.

She was even brutally honest when, at the very end of her strongest hour, she admitted that she does not know how to return congressional Democrats and Republicans to cordiality and building genuine relationships with one another. A typical Clinton answer might have been to do what all politicians and people on a job interview do and spin this weakness into an untrue strength, but Hillary acknowledged this limitation with no equivocations.

To anyone who points to this admission as a potential failure in her leadership, I say this: Bernie Sanders has not even rallied support from his own party for his agenda. When asked how he would unite the country, he reverts to his talking points about the political revolution. On the other side of the aisle, the Republican candidates can’t even stop themselves from attacking each other, and the GOP members of congress have gone out of their way to obstruct President Obama’s agenda at every turn. It’s clear that no one has a solution for uniting the parties, but at least Clinton owned up to it.

If, like she did tonight, Hillary keeps leaving her Clinton self at home and continues this human, genuine rapport with people, she could finally make America understand what it is she stands for and what she hopes to accomplish as president: the betterment of people from every state and all walks of life.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Obama's Supreme Court Nominee Must Be Confirmed This Year

As my good friend said tonight, Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court has been dead all but a few hours and the politicians are already swarming. GOP presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have already declared that the next president should be the one to appoint a justice to fill Scalia’s seat. In a written statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed with this view, claiming that the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next justice.

Dear Senator McConnell: the American people have a voice and it was heard when we reelected Barack Obama in 2012. Of his second term, President Obama has only finished 75% of its four years, meaning that he has 25%, or one year, left. As the democratically elected leader of the American people until his term expires in 2017, Barack Obama not only has every right, but the Constitutional obligationto name a new justice to replace Scalia and the senate has a constitutional duty to review and confirm the nominee.

This sort of obstructionist politics serves only to diminish the voice of the American people and the leader we elected. It is deplorable and shakes the very foundation of our republican form of government. I suspect if our current president was a Republican, you would feel quite differently.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bernie Sanders: Lots of Dreams, No Reality

After watching the New Hampshire Democratic Town Hall last night I have come to one inescapable conclusion: Bernie Sanders is well-intentioned but has no actual plan to govern.

When asked how he would usher in the passage of his ambitious agenda (single payer healthcare system, free college, etc.) by moderator Anderson Cooper, the Vermont senator went on a long tirade about the bottom-up political revolution. Specifically, he thinks young people’s involvement with this presidential race will somehow inspire what may likely remain a republican-dominated house and senate to enact sweeping leftist policies.

We’ve heard this answer from him many times before. However, Sanders did not touch on even a hint of strategy for actually working with the congress. By the way, it is very likely that even democrats will not support the bulk of his goals.

Moreover, Sanders seems ignorant of the unfortunate truth of how politics work in this country. Lots of people gets very fired up about a presidential race. It happens once every four years and legitimately inspires people with the prospect of new leadership and a better direction. But then the election ends and people go back to the challenges of their day-to-day lives. To say that they become entirely uninvolved diminishes our citizens, but it’s been demonstrated time and again that people pay less attention during midterms and so on.

In 2008, Barack Obama was the candidate that was going to change Washington. It ended up changing him more than he it. In 2016, Bernie Sanders is taking up the change mantle, though his word is revolution. He was wonderful ideas—I find myself inspired by them—but he has no firm strategies to turn them into tangible achievements.

It’s time for President Clinton.