Thursday, May 25, 2017

Don't Confuse Donald Trump With A Businessman

I've been hearing the above statement - or something similar - from a lot of people ever since il Duce rose to power. The failures of the Trump Administration, they argue, is proof positive that you can't elect business people to run the government. It's simply beyond their capabilities to handle.

To which I say, bullshit!

Look, I'm not suggesting that running a business and being the chief executive of the largest bureaucracy on the planet are analogous, and no doubt there are many facets of the latter which cannot and should not be run like a business. For instance, businesses must earn a profit and I wouldn't want agencies like the FDA or the FAA - which are tasked with regulating the food we eat and the planes we fly in - to be motivated by profit. Just the opposite, in fact.

But please, let's stop this nonsense that Trump's ineptitude is due to the fact that he has no experience in government and that he thinks like a businessman. Apart from Trump I know of no one who's successful in business who behaves like this idiot. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, even Marc Cuban, none of them would act like this.

In fact the only person that comes even remotely close to matching Trump's bizarre and eccentric behavior would be Steve Jobs. But while Jobs did everything humanly possible to make people despise him, in the end he transformed an entire industry and invented another, creating millions of jobs in the process. Apart from making a few tax accountants filthy rich by keeping him from going bankrupt, the only thing Trump has managed to do successfully is to find enough gullible people to license his name to.

No, Trump's problems have nothing to do with his background, but rather who and what he is. The fact is we have a 70 year old man child living in the White House. He could've been a career politician and the results would've been the same. To quote Forrest Gump, "Stupid is as stupid does."

How can I be so sure? After all, how do I know that Bill Gates in his own way wasn't just as bad as Trump? The difference, one might argue, was that Gates lived in the world of technology, whereas Trump came from the real estate industry. The former was primarily a private person; the latter far more flamboyant. Maybe deep down, both men were just as egotistical and full of themselves and that the only reason we know about Trump's idiosyncrasies is that he chose to air them in public.

Okay, let's play this out. Let's assume that all successful business people have huge egos. After all, Gates's company Microsoft was once sued by the Justice Department because it was believed to be a monopoly. Though the suit eventually failed, it nonetheless tarnished the reputation of Gates. Cuban has been in the public spotlight more than the Kardashians these days. And he hasn't exactly been the poster boy for restraint of tongue. Bloomberg thinks so highly of himself he took advantage of a loophole that allowed him to serve three terms as mayor of New York City, then had the audacity to support a measure that would've restored the city's two-term limit, AFTER he had been elected for the third time. Now that's balls.

So why do these men get a pass and not Trump? Because while all three of these men, I'll admit, have huge egos the size of the Grand Canyon, all of them have had the good sense to surround themselves with quality people who - and this is the rub - actually run their companies. Yes, as strange as it may seem, successful businessmen and women hire people to carry out the day-to-day operations of their companies. As CEOs, they chart the course, then turn the helm over to their respective officers and management. In return those people are responsible to them for the results. Even with all their enormous egos, successful business people have enough humility to know they can't run the show by themselves. They are only as good as the people directly under them.

Just this past weekend I was one of about a hundred or so sales reps who were honored by the senior management of my company at a posh resort in the Dominican Republic. It was a proud moment for me. The senior vice president of the company started off by acknowledging the enormous contributions all of us had made to the company and said this weekend would not be possible without us. You see he knew that success is a shared accomplishment not simply a policy initiative handed down by the president. Without our efforts there'd be no company. He knew that and so do the Bill Gates and Marc Cubans of the world.

I can just imagine Trump addressing his people at a similar awards celebration. He'd probably say something like, "I'd like to thank myself, because without me none of you would be here today. My greatness is the reason you all have jobs and your failures are the sole reason we haven't been as successful as we could be." If you think I'm being too harsh, remember the Yemen raid that went bad a few months ago that led to the death of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens? Rather than take responsibility for the failure, the first thing Trump did was blame his generals. No real leader - or man for that matter - would ever have done that.

Another character trait of successful business people is that they know how to build partnerships. While they always put their own company's interests first, they know full well that without strong relationships with their partners they will inevitably fail. It's called quid pro quo and every salesperson I know has employed it to one degree or another. Successful negotiation involves giving up something to get something. Our economy - indeed the world economy - depends on this basic principle. It's the common thread that binds us all together. Only a fool would believe he could go it alone.

Take a good look at Trump and tell me what you see. If you can honestly say that you don't see any difference between how his administration and most businesses are run, I pray you never start one yourself. You'd be broke in six months. The truth is the differences are night and day. The chaos that has enveloped this White House is the direct result of a man who has all the machinations of a would-be king, but none of the wisdom. He hires people and then refuses to let them do their jobs. Worse, he often undermines them in public. He is the consummate control freak who needs to be the center of attention everywhere he goes. It isn't just that he has a YUGE ego; it's that he sucks the oxygen out of the room.

This isn't genius personified, it's the sign of a very insecure man who is deathly afraid of being found out. He almost reminds me of George Steinbrenner, save for the fact that while Steinbrenner was a notorious micro manager, he did have the good sense to hire Gabe Paul and Gene Michael as GMs. The former was responsible for building the team that won two consecutive World Series titles in the 1970s; the latter built the team that won four championships in five years from 1996 to 2000. And though Steinbrenner could be vindictive and often treated his managers terribly, he was also fiercely loyal and generous to a fault to those who worked for him. Billy Martin may have been fired by him three times, but he was handsomely rewarded while in his employ, as was just about everyone else who worked for him. He was the very definition of a contradiction in terms.

There is no such contradiction in terms with Trump. The man is as obvious as a wooden nickel and just as shallow. He demands complete loyalty from his employees, yet never shows any in return. He screws his partners, berates people he doesn't like and threatens those who challenge his authority, be they the press, the intelligence community or his own cabinet. He has no moral compass to speak of and openly flaunts his contempt for the law and those who enforce it. He does not inspire confidence in his employees, but rather fear and loathing. The massive leaks that have come to define his administration are a plea for help from those who are rightly concerned by what they are witnessing.

And what they are witnessing should terrify all of us. It is the understatement of the century to say we are in unchartered waters. The leader of the free world is running amok. He is not the answer to our prayers; if anything he is our worst nightmare come true. A man bereft of even the smallest semblance of humility, with no business acumen to speak of, zero communication skills and the maturity of a pro wrestler. As I said in my last piece, he has all the impulse control of a four-year old in front of a batch of cookies.

To confuse Donald Trump with a businessman is to impugn the integrity of millions of successful business people across the country and around the world. Maybe one day someone with an actual resume in the business community will get elected president. Then and only then will we finally be able to put this issue of whether a government can be run like a business to bed.

Until that day we are stuck with Donald Trump.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Now It's Mueller's Investigation

The announcement by Rod Rosenstein that he has appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to take over the Russia investigation is encouraging, and for two reasons: First, it's a ray of hope for millions of Americans who were rightly concerned that the wheels were coming off this democracy. Two, it's a thorough rebuke to this president who thought he was above the law but was rudely reminded of just how resilient the system truly is.

Whatever else you may think of the Mueller appointment, there are two things to remember: One, he is meticulously thorough as an investigator. Everyone who knows him has vouched for his character and professionalism. Two, he won't be bullied. [He once threatened to resign while head of the FBI over the NSA's eavesdropping program.] In other words, whatever is out there, Mueller will find it. Oh, and I should also point out that his close ties with James Comey doesn't exactly hurt matters.

But while Democrats are publicly lauding this move and progressives are absolutely giddy at the prospects of Donald Trump being led out in chains, I would hold off on the celebration. For one thing, we are still in the early stages of this investigation. It took almost two years of painstaking investigations by Congressional committees and a litany of courageous journalists who stuck out their necks in pursuit of the truth to bring down Nixon. From what we know of this investigation, there are many more layers and subplots. It could well take years before we know the full scope of what happened.

Granted, for all the parallels between this White House and the Nixon White House, there is one important difference: Nixon, despite his obsession for power, was very much an establishment Republican who, from all accounts, was an otherwise accomplished president. He did after all open the door to relations with Communist China, establish the EPA and took the U.S. off the gold standard. And his administration was for the most part functional.

Trump is the polar opposite. Apart from appointing a conservative to the Supreme Court he has virtually no accomplishments to show for his three and a half months in office. And his administration is in constant turmoil and chaos. Nixon chose his words carefully, Trump tweets the first thing that pops into his head. He has all the impulse control of a four-year old in front of a batch of cookies.

Still, as I write this, two things are certain: One, the White House did not want this, and that is a good sign. It means that they're very concerned about where this investigation could lead. But two, now that this investigation is in the hands of a competent and independent prosecutor, Republicans will finally be able to concentrate on their agenda: killing Obamacare, slashing every regulation on the books and giving YUGE tax breaks to billionaires and millionaires. Meaning Democrats are now going to have to focus their attention squarely on stopping Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell from destroying what's left of the middle class. So long as Trump was the center of attention, they were free to devote all their resources on him and the GOP was forced to play defense.

Funny how things can turn on a dime. Twenty-four hours go, we were talking about how this president both divulged classified intelligence to the Russians and attempted to impede the investigation of a member of his administration. The former has the potential to undermine our relationships with our allies and endanger our security; the latter, if true, is an impeachable offense. Now all the talk is going to be about Robert Mueller and his quest for the truth. The GOP catches a break and, for the time being at least, so does Trump.

As for the Democrats, they have an important special election in Georgia coming up, as well as the 2018 midterms to concern themselves with. Thanks to Rod Rosenstein doing the right thing, they will be forced to do something they haven't been very good at for quite some time: make the case to the American people for why they should be in charge.

Since Barack Obama's ascendency to power in '08, they have lost the Congress, the majority of state houses and the presidency. Rarely has a party's fortunes taken such a hit over such a short period of time. Rebuilding that fortune will be a tall task indeed.

Being anti Trump isn't going to convince the electorate to come back home. It was just that sort of delusional thinking that landed this man child in the White House in the first place.

Monday, May 15, 2017

What Schumer and the Dems Need To Do Regarding Comey's Replacement

It's nice that Chuck Schumer is drawing his own red line by demanding that any new FBI director not be a "partisan politician" from "either party," and that voting on James Comey's replacement might be contingent upon the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Donald Trump and his administration.

Unfortunately for Schumer, Democrats only have 48 seats in the Senate - that's why he's the minority leader and not the majority leader. At present, all Trump needs is 50 Republican senators to do what they've been doing since he was sworn in as president: turn a blind eye and pretend the Republic isn't in mortal jeopardy. Up until now, with a couple of exceptions, things have gone pretty much according to his plan.

So in order to deny Il Duce an opportunity to name a lackey that will ostensibly quash the Russian investigation, Schumer is going to need some help; and by help I mean finding three Republicans who will be brave enough to join ranks with his party. That won't be easy, not in this polarized environment. As we speak Mitch McConnell is working on a way to fast track an Obamacare repeal bill through the Senate without going through committee. In other words, despite their criticisms of the way the lower chamber handled the repeal process, the GOP is fixing to do virtually the same thing in the upper chamber. How's that for underhanded?

Still Schumer must do the seemingly impossible, even if it means sacrificing a rook or a knight to do it. As strange as it might seem, this latest stunt by Trump has aroused some concerns even within his own party. This could give Schumer and Democrats just the opening they need to block him and perhaps get the special prosecutor they've been asking for ever since Comey first went public about the FBI investigation.

Unlike the House, there are still a number of "moderate" Republicans in the Senate. I use the term moderate only because once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, they would've been referred to as conservative. They are basically what's left of the George H.W. Bush / Bob Dole wing of the party; just left of Reagan and a football field's length away from the current rank and file. You can count 'em on one hand plus one finger: John McCain, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Richard Burr, Rob Portman and Dean Heller. FYI: with the exception of Burr, they're also among the likely senators who could derail the ACA repeal effort. Just saying.

Schumer needs to find a way to entice at least three of these senators to not only block Trump, but to stand up with the Democrats and demand a special prosecutor. McCain would be my first choice. Call it my women's intuition - we all have it - but I suspect McCain has never quite gotten over Trump's slight at him during the primaries and would like nothing better than to return the favor. A "no" vote would do just nicely. As to a special prosecutor, McCain has been an advocate of it for weeks.

Next up would be Burr. As the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he along with Vice-chair Mark Warner, are currently investigating possible collusion between members of the Trump Administration and Russia. He is already on record as saying Comey's dismissal was "troubling." While Burr may not agree to a special prosecutor, he might be inclined to insist that any future FBI director be non-partisan.

My third choice would be Murkowski or Collins or both. If approached properly, I think both could be persuaded to, if not support a special prosecutor, than at least demand that Trump pick someone qualified, with no political ties to head the FBI. If both sign on that would give Schumer a total of 52 "no" votes with which to compel Trump to do the right thing.

But in order to get the aforementioned senators to jump ship, Schumer might have to give up something of importance. Obamacare shouldn't be it. The way Republicans are getting it from their constituents at town halls, why on Earth would Schumer part with that bargaining chip? More than likely, Schumer will have to blink on tax reform. Without a total repeal of the tax subsidies in Obamacare - which Republicans can do through reconciliation - McConnell will need 60 votes to get any tax plan through. Schumer could dangle some of his members support in exchange for getting some Republicans to show some spine. A quid pro quo of sorts.

It would be quite a gamble. The sort of tax reform the GOP is proposing would blow a hole the size of the Grand Canyon through the deficit and might well double or triple the debt over the next ten years. Schumer could make his members' support conditional upon some kind of role in the drafting of the legislation. While it's unlikely McConnell would agree to that condition, Schumer should at least make the attempt. If nothing else it would give Democrats another issue to run on in next year's midterms.

Grand speeches are laudable, as are declarations, but desperate times call for desperate measures. We are dealing with a would-be dictator who is doing everything possible to eliminate any and all obstacles to his authority. History will not care how he was stopped; only that he was.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Coup Begins

Let me state this as bluntly as I can. If you think for a moment that Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because of the way he handled the Clinton email server investigation last year, I would strongly advise you to stay out of Vegas for the foreseeable future; you'll lose your shirt and the kids tuition to boot.

The firing of Sally Yates should've sounded the alarm. We now know that just days before she was removed from her post as acting Attorney General she warned the Administration that Michael Flynn was compromised; Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (which just happens to include Trump Tower), was unceremoniously fired; and now the man who was in charge of the agency that was conducting a criminal investigation into the Trump campaign has been terminated. These aren't mere coincidences, there's a disturbing pattern here.

These are the actions not of a president of a free and open society, but of a strong man of a petty dictatorship. Do not believe for a second the lame excuse from the White House that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's letter condemning Comey's conduct during the Clinton investigation - which, to be fair, is inexcusable - was the reason for this move. If that were the case, why not fire Comey on January 20? Why wait over three months to make a decision any reasonable person could've made on day one.

No, this came directly from the top, and the timing was so brazenly arrogant that it demands a special, independent prosecutor to thoroughly investigate the matter. Nothing short of that will suffice. We haven't had a Constitutional crisis like this since Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox in 1973. It is clear the Department of Justice has been compromised and now, with Comey out of the way, the FBI's active investigation is in serious jeopardy.

Not all Democracies die by the sword; some die from a fountain pen. We are in treacherous waters as a Republic. We have a president who is openly contemptuous of the rule of law, berates judges who challenge his executive orders, calls the media fake news, pulls alternative facts out of his ass, heaps praise upon despots, appoints his family to ostensibly run his administration, and is taking steps to eliminate any threats to his authority from within the federal government. If that isn't a textbook definition of a coup I don't know what is.

It remains to be seen whether Republicans will finally show some spine and stand up to Trump before it's too late. Frankly, I wouldn't hold my breath. Both the Senate and House intelligence committees are woefully understaffed, meaning if Trump succeeds in getting the FBI to drop its investigation, Congress may never be able to get at the truth.

The courts may be the last vestige of hope for this nation if the legislative branch fails in its duty. But even they may not be able to thwart Trump entirely, especially since the Supreme Court has the final word and it is now fully manned with five conservatives and four liberals on the bench. In other words, we could be fucked.

I know progressives are concerned about the fate of Obamacare, women's reproductive rights, the environment, etc, and rightly so. But all of that must take second fiddle to what is happening right in front of our very eyes. I was only 13 years old when Nixon resigned in disgrace. Back then the system worked, and the Constitution, despite being severely tested, withstood the assault. I am not so optimistic that we will come out of it this time.

Some rabbit holes are too deep to climb out of.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

In Honor of My Father

Over the last couple of days I've thought a great deal about my father. Since it's hard to sum up a man's life, especially someone as complicated as dad, I thought the best thing would be to just make a list of bullet points and see where it took me. I hope I've done him justice.

  • Growing up, my father was a huge Brooklyn Dodgers' fan. His favorite Dodgers were Duke Snyder and Pee Wee Reese, though I suspect he probably held a special place in his heart for Johnny Podres, the pitcher who tossed a shutout over the hated Yankees in the 1955 World Series.
  • After the Dodgers left Brooklyn, my father would eventually become a Mets' fan, and it was only fitting that his son would follow suit. My father and I spent many an evening watching Tom Seaver and Rusty Staub together.
  • In fact, my father and I watched a good deal of sports on TV, from the Rangers to the Giants to the Knicks.  We celebrated the Rangers' upset over the Islanders in '79 and their Stanley Cup win in '94. When the Giants marched their way to championships in Super Bowls 21 and 25, I made two copies of the games: one for me and one for him.
  • My father was a World War II buff. His favorite movies were Patton and The Longest Day. On one of his birthdays I got him the entire series of Victory At Sea. I swear the man locked himself in the den and watched every episode. And when The World At War made its way to television, I taped it for him. He was like a kid with a new puppy.
  • Speaking of TV, some of my father's favorite shows were Hogans' Heroes, Get Smart and Rowan & Martin's Laugh In. He used to love the way Sgt Schultz would say "I know nothing." I think that's why he loved Laugh In so much. He got to see Arte Johnson dressed in a German uniform saying "Very interesting, but stupid."
  • Another show that my father would watch religiously was the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast. His personal favorites were Foster Brooks (the bumbling drunk) and Don Rickles (Mr. Warmth as Martin jokingly referred to him). I suspect had he'd been aware, he would've mourned the passing of Rickles.
  • And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Lawrence Welk. Every Sunday evening, the family would sit down in front of the TV and watch Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, followed by old Mr. Bubbles himself.  I'm being polite when I say sit down. As kids, it was the closest thing we knew to forced labor.
  • When it came to music, my father worshiped the Big Band era. His favorite band leader was Glenn Miller, though the Dorsey Brothers were a close second. And he probably wouldn't want me saying this, but the man had every Lester Lanin record ever made. Why? I have absolutely no idea. But then he was a complicated man.
  • The old man absolutely loved to drive, and often the family would pile into the car and go off for hours. It didn't matter where, so long as my father was behind the wheel. Some of my fondest memories were when dad would take me with him in the car, just the two of us. When I was maybe 6 or 7, I remember one time when we were in Nantucket. I got to sit on his lap and steer the car for a while. I think he got more of a kick out of it than I did. I should point out that I took my cue from dad when it came to driving, a fact my wife has never let me live down.
  • My father was a good provider and often made sacrifices for us. Every Christmas, the tree was overflowing with toys. My sister and I wanted for nothing as kids. On one occasion, he got a hold of a ticket to a Rangers' playoff game against the St. Louis Blues. Only one of us could go, so he gave me the ticket. I saw Barry Beck score the series winning goal at the Garden. It was a moment I'll never forget. I only wish he'd been there to share it with me.
  • But my father and I didn't just share a love for the local sports teams. We were both avid model rail roading fans. My father bought me my first train set when I was five. He set it up on a board that he hand-painted himself. When we moved out to Long Island, he and I spent many a day and night in the basement with the Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroads for company. Dad was more into the houses and the scenery; I was more of a track guy: the more the merrier. At one point I had three power packs running three separate trains on four boards. It was like Jamaica station during rush hour.
  • My father was never one for expressing his feelings. On the one hand we knew, as kids, that he loved us, but he just couldn't bring himself to say it. In his later years, my father and I grew closer and, after he moved down to Florida, we would often call each other. We always ended every call by saying "I love you." On my last call to dad, I told him I loved him, and he replied in kind, though by that point I suspect he was just repeating what he heard. Still it meant the world to me to hear him say it one last time.
  • As he grew more and more ill, I made it a point to visit him several times. We would just watch his favorite shows on DVDs that I had brought with me. They made him laugh, and it made me feel good that I was bringing some joy into the remaining months of his life. We even managed to shoot a game of pool.
  • Oh, did I forget to tell you tell you, the old man was one helluva pool player. We used to call him Massapequa Fats in the day. When we were kids, I remember my father and my uncle Syd would play pool down in the basement and we weren't allowed to make a peep. It was like watching Jackie Gleason and Paul Newman in The Hustler, that's how good the two of them were. It was a thing to behold.
  • And now he's gone. I miss him terribly, but I know that his suffering is over and that God has him in his care. One day I will be reunited with him in Heaven and we will watch those wonderful TV shows again, catch a ballgame or two and maybe even finish that pool game we started but never quite finished. Who knows, I might even beat him this time.
  • Rest in peace, dad. I love you.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Dems Need To Bury The Past and Embrace The Future

Andrew Sullivan has a piece in New York magazine that in my opinion is a must read for every Democrat in the country. It's titled, "Why Do Democrats Feel Sorry for Hillary Clinton?" and it's the most brutally honest assessment I've seen not only about what happened in the 2016 election, but the current state of the Democratic Party.

Sullivan's main premise is that Clinton was a lousy campaigner who had no one else to blame but herself for her failures. One paragraph in particular is worth noting:
Clinton had the backing of the entire Democratic establishment, including the president (his biggest mistake in eight years by far), and was even married to the last, popular Democratic president. As in 2008, when she managed to lose to a neophyte whose middle name was Hussein, everything was stacked in her favor. In fact, the Clintons so intimidated other potential candidates and donors, she had the nomination all but wrapped up before she even started. And yet she was so bad a candidate, she still only managed to squeak through in the primaries against an elderly, stopped-clock socialist who wasn’t even in her party, and who spent his honeymoon in the Soviet Union. She ran with a popular Democratic incumbent president in the White House in a growing economy. She had the extra allure of possibly breaking a glass ceiling that — with any other female candidate — would have been as inspiring as the election of the first black president. In the general election, she was running against a malevolent buffoon with no political experience, with a deeply divided party behind him, and whose negatives were stratospheric. She outspent him by almost two-to-one. Her convention was far more impressive than his. The demographics favored her. And yet she still managed to lose!
The only thing I might take issue with is the growing economy line. Yes, the economy was growing, but for approximately one third of the country that wasn't the case. A good look at the electoral map should tell you which third that was. Bernie Sanders - that elderly, stopped-clock socialist - sounded the alarm bell long before Adolf Shitler descended down that escalator in Trump Tower. But apart from that, Sullivan nails it.

He even blows up the popular vote argument that Clinton supporters keep invoking by comparing her loss to that of Al Gore, who also won the popular vote yet only lost the electoral college vote 271-266. "Any candidate who can win the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and still manage to lose the Electoral College by 304 to 227 is so profoundly incompetent, so miserably useless as a politician, she should be drummed out of the party under a welter of derision."

As the saying goes, the truth shall set you free, but first it'll piss the shit out of ya. Right now, a majority of Democrats seemed stuck in the "piss the shit out of ya" mode. To certain extent, I get it. Losing to Trump hurt, a lot. I'm guessing that in the months after the Titanic sank a lot of people in the shipping industry were bewildered too. The point is they got over it; they made improvements to their ships that made them safer and more reliable, and in time, consumer confidence was restored. I see no such epiphany occurring within the Democratic Party. Sadly, just the opposite. This insanity must stop, if not for the sake of the Party, than for the sake of the whole damn world.

Look, I voted for Bill Clinton twice. I voted for Hillary three times (twice for senator and once for president). I do not regret any of those votes, nor should anyone else who did likewise. Bill was a good, if personally flawed, president, and Hillary proved to be a competent and successful senator. I also think that, despite what her far-right detractors would have you believe, she was a damn good secretary of state, and history will back me up on that.

But her time, and that of her husband's, has come to an end. The Clintons have served their country with distinction, and, as is befitting any family with such accomplishments, they deserve our respect and our gratitude for their contributions. What they do not deserve - and what the Democratic Party can ill afford to give - is yet another bite at the apple. Not only isn't it fair to any potential future candidates who might wish to dip their toes into the water, the message it sends to the electorate is that the Democratic Party is tone deaf to the needs of millions of blue-collar workers. And that is the wrong message for a losing party to send. 

Even great athletes know when to retire, and in case they don't, their teams typically give them a hint by "retiring" them anyway. It's called a youth movement, but the more accurate term is purge. Older veterans are cut to make room for younger, future stars. Democrats need to do that with Hillary. She has twice run for president and lost. Trust me, the third time will not be the charm.

Every car owner knows there comes a point when their old clunker, no matter how familiar, simply costs too much to keep on the road. All the fond memories can't disguise the dings and the dents. Inevitably, they bite the bullet and get a new car.

The Democratic Party needs to get itself a new car, or at the very least take a few test drives.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Trump Is Playing Chicken With the Wrong Psychopath

It’s one thing to bomb Syria. The only consequence, apart from spending $59 million to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles, is pissing off Putin. And if you’re a skeptic like me, you probably aren’t buying the “Russian / U.S. tensions are at their highest level in years” bullshit to begin with. If you’ve ever watched the Godfather II, you know this is just another Trump misdirection to get people off of the real story: the Russian collusion criminal investigation that the FBI and the Senate are conducting.

But North Korea is another thing altogether. Kim Jong-un is no Bashar al-Assad. He’s not just your typical, run of the mill psychopath; he’s a psychopath with nukes and a rather large conventional army less than 50 miles from the capital city of South Korea. Bombing him can be hazardous for the health of the entire globe. Forget what the Chinese might do, Kim Jong-un can, in a matter of minutes, reduce Seoul to rubble and kill perhaps a million people, not to mention take out the 11th largest economy in the world. And that’s just for starters.

This isn’t merely foolishness personified; it’s outright insanity. Playing chicken with someone like this is like playing Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun. There’s no way this ends well, not for us, not for South Korea, and not for the roughly four billion people who inhabit this planet. Someone has to convince Trump that this isn’t some Celebrity Apprentice episode. He’s not firing Gary Busey or Meat Loaf here; he’s considering launching a preemptive strike against a nuclear power. Even Dr. Strangelove would’ve walked away.

I have spent a considerable portion of the last year and half documenting the many flaws that Trump has: from his xenophobia to his shady financial dealings to his lack of intellectual curiosity. But the worst flaw by far that Trump possesses is his incredible thin skin. The things that tend to bounce off others as mere nuisances, stick to Trump like Velcro. He considers the smallest of slights as a personal attack and he never forgets or forgives anyone who crosses him. It’s bad enough that such a trait is anathema to a successful business career; as a world leader it is a disaster waiting to happen.

We have already seen examples of Trump’s ill-suited temperament when he dissed the President of Mexico and openly called NATO obsolete. His refusal to even shake hands with Angela Merkel in the Oval Office last month was the sort of thing even a child would know not to do. But as embarrassing as those episodes were, they pale in comparison to a confrontation with North Korea. You can shake and make up with rational people; you can’t with a mad man. And that is what Kim is: a mad man with a lot of fire power and the willingness to use it. You don’t provoke people like this. Just the opposite: you do everything possible to deescalate the situation before something happens that can’t be undone. I’m not suggesting appeasement, but throwing the first punch should never be the first option out of the gate.

A lot of years have come and gone since the Cuban – missile crisis pushed the word to the brink. We were days away from nuclear Armageddon. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and doomsday was averted. We could be 48 hours away from a repeat of that scenario. Only this time Kennedy and Khrushchev aren’t in charge. Frick and Frack are. One thinks he's God; the other knows it.

At the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union had one thing in common: they were smart enough to know that if either one of them attacked the other, both would be wiped out. That deterrence was called MAD (mutually assured destruction) and, ironically enough, it kept the lid on the nuclear arsenals of both super powers.

There is no such deterrence at work here. Not only are we dealing with a maniac who doesn't know that his provocations could lead to his own destruction, he probably welcomes it. Only an overly insecure and naive person would encourage him.

  • An earlier version of this posting said the U.S. fired 50 Tomahawk missiles at a cost of $59 million. It was actually 59 Tomahawk missiles at a cost of $59 million. I have made the correction.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Blaming Bernie for 2016 Isn't Going To Defeat Trump in 2020

Look, no one was harder on Bernie Sanders and his supporters - Bots, I believe is what I called them - than I was. If I had a dollar for every swipe I took at them, my wife and I could've gone to very fancy restaurant in Manhattan and left a very generous tip. I mean a VERY generous tip! I won't rehash some of my comments here; suffice to say they weren't all that delicate and rubbed more than a few people the wrong way.

But you see, here's the thing. Bernie was right and I was wrong. I didn't see the tsunami that was coming; Bernie did and he tried to warn all of us. He knew what was going on in the Rust Belt states; how the Democratic Party was about as popular among blue-collar workers as a cockroach at a picnic. And while Hillary racked up huge margins in states that haven't been in danger of going red since some of you were in diapers, Trump eked out small but significant enough margins in most of the rest of the country.

The only analogy that comes to mind is the 1960 World Series. The Yankees routed the Pirates in three of the seven games, but Pittsburgh won the other four by a combined total of seven runs. In the end, the total number of runs the Yankees scored proved irrelevant; the only result that counted was the total number of wins.

Funny thing, politics isn't all that dissimilar. California may qualify as the world's sixth largest economy, but it is still only one of fifty states. And whether you win it by three million votes or, say, thirty thousand, it's the same result: you get to put that state in your win column and all the electoral votes that go with it.

Democrats, for the most part, still haven't gotten this memo. The reason I know this is because they keep trying to relitigate the November election. I keep hearing the same bullshit: "But, she got more votes." "We have to abolish the electoral college." "Comey threw the election." "Putin hated Hillary." "Trump won because of racism."

Let me, for the last fucking time, take on each of these asinine points one by one:

She got more votes. See above example.

We have to abandon the electoral college. Good luck with that. With this Congress? With two thirds of the state legislatures in the hands of the GOP? Right.

Comey threw the election. Clinton's poll numbers were heading south before his little October surprise. Face it, she never made her case to the American people that she was the better candidate. The truth hurts.

Putin hated Hillary. Know what? He hated Obama; he hated Bush; apparently now he hates Trump. Last time I checked he hates just about everyone and everything that goes against him and his world view, which I guess makes up about 90 percent of the planet.

Trump won because of racism. So how do you explain Obama's success - twice, mind you - in the same region of the country? Did all of the racists get bussed in just for that election? And did they only vote in the states Trump won? You mean there are no racists in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico and California? Really?

If you seriously think that racists don't live in Democratic strongholds, you've obviously never been to the neighborhood I grew up in. Or to South Boston. Or to Chicago. Or to Los Angeles. Or to your own fucking block. Face it: you went to school with them, as did I.  Hell, you probably work with a few of them. They're everywhere: north, south, east, west; in the cities, in the burbs, in the sticks. But so far as I, or anyone else for that matter, knows, they've never decided a presidential election. And thank God for that.

To paraphrase Louie De Palma, get me a bar rag for Christ's sake. I'm so fed up with this shit. Mussolini is living in the White House and all Hillary supporters seem to care about is trying to exact vengeance on Bernie or anyone else who just happens to agree with him. Oh my God!

Latest on the shit list is none other than Tom Perez, the recently anointed chairman of the good ship Titanic. So what was Perez's crime? Oh nothing much. He just decided to team up with Bernie in what is being called a Unity tour, but for many Hillary supporters is nothing more than a Rub It In Your Face tour.

You should hear them. "Bernie's not a Democrat." "What's he doing teaming up with the DNC Chair?" "How dare Perez share the stage with that Judas!"

Like I did above, let me tackle each one of these protestations:

Bernie's not a Democrat. Guess what, Trump isn't a Republican. What's your point? Ask most people and they'll tell you that party identity ain't what it used to be. In the Midwest, it don't mean shit. And that just happens to be where the 2016 election got decided.

What's he doing teaming up with the DNC Chair? Oh, I don't know. Maybe he just has a natural revulsion about seeing a xenophobic wanna-be dictator in the White House and would like to do whatever he can to expedite an exit for said dictator.

How dare Perez share the stage with that Judas. Last time I picked up my Bible, Judas was the guy who sold out Jesus for a few pieces of silver, not someone who tried to warn him about what the religious authorities were planning to do to him, which if you think about it, was pretty much what Bernie was trying to do for the Democratic Party. If you're going to impugn the integrity of someone at least have the decency to get the right historical context.

Democrats need to do a lot of soul searching and stop their infighting. Blaming Bernie for 2016 isn't going to defeat Trump in 2020. Indeed, it's a damn good way of ensuring his reelection. They should listen to him and adopt some, if not most, of what he's saying. The truth is that in the heartland of this country, Bernie is more respected than the Democratic Party. That's just a fact, a fact that Perez gets.

You don't have to like a fact to accept it. For instance, this Wednesday my New York Rangers will face off against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs. They have not won the Stanley Cup since 1994. In fact, since 1940, they've only won it once. Do I believe they have a shot this year? The fan in me says yes; the realist says no way. We'll know soon enough which one is right.

Democrats may believe with all their heart that all they have to do is tweak a few things and the glory days will magically reappear. I know a lot of Ranger fans who feel the same way about their hockey team. In about two weeks the air will go out of the balloon for them yet again. That moment of truth for Dems will likely occur on November 3, 2020.

When that happens both groups can go out and cry in their bar rags while the Republic goes down the drain.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

No the Senate Didn't Die This Week. It's Been Dead for Quite Some Time

Okay, it's time for a reality check here. Yes, it's regrettable that the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees is now a thing of the past, and for that both parties much share in the blame. Mitch McConnell's refusal to allow Merrick Garland an up or down vote precipitated this fiasco, and Chuck Schumer's refusal to stand up to his base sealed the deal. But, contrary to what I've been hearing and reading, the Senate didn't die this week. Sadly, it's been dead for quite some time.

For the last eight years the Senate was where bills came to die. As Minority Leader, McConnell did everything possible to block Barack Obama's agenda, as well as many of his cabinet and judicial nominations. From 2009 through 2014, when Democrats controlled the chamber, the confirmation process for executive nominees averaged 127 days, more than twice that of Ronald Reagan's nominees. In Obama's first term alone Republicans filibustered 27 of his nominees. By comparison the total number of nominees that were filibustered during George Bush and Bill Clinton's first terms were 7 and 9 respectively.

When McConnell wouldn't stand down on his party's obstructionism, then Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to invoke the nuclear option for all appointments except the Supreme Court. This allowed Obama to fill dozens of openings on the lower courts, but it also set a dangerous precedent. When the GOP took the Senate in the 2014 midterms, the spigot was shut off permanently. The Senate came to a virtual standstill.

Now with a Republican in the White House, Democrats find themselves in the same position their counterparts were in. So when Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, they proceeded to filibuster him. While some are calling the move that McConnell made extraordinary, I think in some respects it was inevitable. Had Hillary and the Democrats prevailed last November, the likelihood is that Schumer would've done the same thing.

The sad truth is that the partisan bickering in Washington has made the Senate all but irrelevant. The only question remaining to be answered is whether McConnell will blow up the filibuster altogether. Even as we speak Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Chris Coons have gotten more than 60 senators to sign a letter to McConnell and Schumer urging them to keep the filibuster intact for legislation. We'll know soon enough if their efforts were successful when the House passes its tax "reform" bill, which will probably happen sometime in the Fall, assuming Republicans don't get sidetracked by yet another fruitless Obamacare repeal attempt. If I'm any judge, I'd say the filibuster is toast.

Let's face facts. There is no such thing as consensus governing anymore. Neither party has any incentive to negotiate with the other. Indeed, just the opposite. As we saw all too clearly, the decision to filibuster Gorsuch was motivated solely out of fear of what progressives would do to any Democrats that didn't comply. What we now have are two political parties that are more afraid of their bases than actually governing the country. For eight years McConnell had the Tea Party breathing down his neck; now it is Chuck Schumer who will face the wrath of the Left.

To tell you the truth, I'm kind of relieved that McConnell went nuclear. While I am certainly not looking forward to what the GOP has in store for the country, the fact that they will be able to pass almost any bill or nominee they choose should provide Democrats with all the incentive they need to retake the Senate in 2018. Hiding behind a 60-vote threshold as a way of holding the legislative branch hostage was childish to begin with. It was wrong when Republicans did it to Obama; it would've been equally wrong had Democrats gotten away with doing it to Trump.

Put succinctly, elections have consequences. Some more than others. Progressives would do well to remember that fact the next time they find themselves in a voting booth.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Progressives Are Drawing the Wrong Conclusions From the Tea Party Insurrection

There’s a prevailing sentiment among many progressives that Tea Party obstructionism was successful because it effectively blocked President Obama from enacting his agenda; also it resulted in Republicans winning two consecutive midterms and now a presidential election. One can certainly understand how tempting it might be to draw that conclusion. To tell you the truth, I often find myself doing the same.

The problem with that sentiment is that it only tells part of the story. Yes, Tea Party obstructionism did block Obama from passing much of his agenda, not to mention blocking, shamefully, the appointment of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. But the way I see it, the rise of the Tea Party was mainly due to Democratic malpractice on a massive scale. Put succinctly, Democrats took their eye off the ball and provided this movement with the impetus needed to seize power. Since nature abhors a vacuum, the Tea Party merely filled the void the Democrats created.

But as a political movement, the Tea Party has virtually no accomplishments to show apart from winning elections. So thorough was its takeover of the GOP that the Party, despite its electoral success, is no longer mainstream. Worse, the Tea Party created deep fissures within the Party that have ostensibly crippled its ability to govern. Think about it: Republicans now control both Houses of Congress and the White House, yet Speaker Paul Ryan was unable to get a bill passed that would've repealed the Affordable Care Act. Astonishing. If that's what progressives view as a success, I'll pass.

Yet progressives, at least most of them, seem determined to adopt the Tea Party strategy, flaws and all, and force Democrats to tow the line. To coin a phrase from the movie Network, they're mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. And just like their Tea Party counterparts, they are exerting pressure on their Congressional leaders to stand up to Republicans and Donald Trump. Anyone not on board is being threatened with a primary challenge.

The nomination of Neil Gorsuch has become a litmus test for the Left. Anyone who has spent more than ten minutes covering politics knows that Gorsuch is going to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, either by securing the necessary 60 votes to overcome a filibuster or by a simple 51 vote majority. The former requires Democratic support; the latter requires Mitch McConnell to invoke the nuclear option and end the Senate filibuster. Progressives are demanding that Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats filibuster Gorsuch when he comes up for a vote on Thursday. Schumer knows full well the filibuster will fail, but he basically has no choice. If he doesn't comply he faces a rebellion among the rank and file, which might very well threaten his position as Minority Leader.

This is exactly what happened to John Boehner a couple of years ago. Basically he and the Republican leadership had lost control of the House conference. They were unable to rein in the more extreme members of the Party. The result was that we had a government shutdown and damn near defaulted on the debt.

This insistence on cutting off one's nose to spite one's face is exactly what's wrong with politics today. As much as I agree with progressives that this seat was stolen, the strategy that they are forcing Democrats to employ is not only foolish, it is potentially fatal to any prospects the Party may have to block future legislation and the next Supreme Court nominee, which you can bet the ranch will make Gorsuch look like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

It is time for cooler heads to prevail here. Schumer must not lose control of his caucus the same way Boehner lost control of his conference. He must come to his senses and not submit to this lust for vengeance from his left. He cannot let the tail wag the dog. Say what you will about Harry Reid, he would never have allowed this type of grandstanding.

This is Chuck Schumer's first test as Senate Minority Leader. How he handles it will go a long way towards determining the fate of his party, and perhaps the whole country.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Dems Should Tell Mike Flynn To Take A Hike

So the man who said that anybody seeking immunity has probably committed a crime is now asking for immunity to testify before Congress. Now that's what I call irony. Kudos to the Senate Intelligence Committee for rejecting the offer. It's obvious that Mike Flynn knows his goose is cooked. Why on Earth would he be asking for immunity unless he had something to hide? And why on Earth would Richard Burr or Mark Warner give him a get out of jail free card?

We are only in the first quarter of this political football game, kids. We still don't know enough about who did what and when, but this much we do know. This isn't some "witch hunt" as Donald Trump falsely tweeted. This is the most serious threat to the Republic since Watergate; and while it is way too premature to assume that Trump will be the next Richard Nixon, granting anyone immunity at this stage of the investigation, especially someone as close to this president as Flynn, would be the height of irresponsibility.

Consider the following:

1. We know that Russia hacked the servers of both the DNC and John Podesta in an attempt to directly influence the 2016 election;
2. They also were responsible for thousands of news trolls on fake social media sites that spread vicious lies about Hillary Clinton that were meant to depress Democratic turnout;
3. Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign manager, has close ties to Russian oligarchs and is a strong supporter of Vladimir Putin;
4. Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, has a financial connection to a Russian bank under economic sanctions;
5. Jeff Sessions, Trump's Attorney General, lied under oath about meeting with the Russian ambassador;
6. The Director of the FBI publicly admitted that the Bureau is conducting a criminal investigation into the Russian hacks and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia;
7. Devin Nunes, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee and Trump lackey, seems more concerned about the people leaking information on the Administration than the actual information being leaked; and, oh yeah
8. The Flynn fiasco.

There would be only one reason, and one reason alone, to grant Flynn immunity: he has something on Trump. Barring that, the entire intelligence community should tell him to take a hike. Not only don't Democrats need his testimony, in a couple of months the FBI will likely have enough dirt on him to send him away for a very long time. And, with any luck at all, he'll have plenty of company. Seriously, this administration is so corrupt, it would be nothing short of miraculous if no one ended up doing prison time.

Let's get everyone's testimony, including Sally Yates, and follow the facts wherever they may lead. The truth will have its way eventually.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Democrats Shouldn't Waste Their Mulligan on Gorsuch

Golfers call it a Mulligan, named after the golfer David Mulligan who, after slicing a shot on his first tee, replaced his ball with another. He originally referred to it as a "correction" shot, but later amended it to say it was a Mulligan. The term stuck and today it is widely understood by most people as a do-over. There's only one catch: you can only use it once. Once employed, it's gone; no more Mulligans, no more do-overs.

I've been thinking a lot about the Neil Gorsuch nomination and Eric Segall is right: Democrats should not filibuster him. He's going to get confirmed regardless of what they do. As Segall adroitly observed, "Leaving the filibuster on the table is the best strategy for people taking a long view of the future of the United States Supreme Court." In other words, Dems shouldn't waste their Mulligan on this nominee. Segall quotes Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California at Irvine:
Democrats hold a pair of twos. They don’t have much they can do. Triggering a fight over the filibuster will gain attention, but Democrats can only do it once. The Gorsuch nomination restores the balance of power on the Court to the position it was in before Justice Scalia’s death. 
Imagine if in a year or so Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, or Kennedy leave the Court. Then things get MUCH worse from the point of view of progressives. Then Roberts becomes the swing voter and there goes affirmative action, abortion rights, etc. If you think things with the Supreme Court are bad for progressive now they can get much, much worse.
Better to save the firepower for that fight. It is possible that Senators like Susan Collins would be squeamish about such a nominee, and they might not vote to go nuclear. At that point, people can take to the streets and exert public pressure.
I've never been one to shy away from a fight and, let's face it, Democrats need to show their base they can put up a good one. But there's a difference between a fight and a massacre. With the Trump Administration imploding before our very eyes, Democrats will have plenty of opportunities to thwart his agenda, or the agenda of a President Mike Pence if to comes to that, which it very well might. What they can scarcely afford is to gift-wrap a victory for Mitch McConnell, who you can bet the ranch will go nuclear if push comes to shove.

The GOP just suffered a humiliating defeat on healthcare. They will pull out all the stops to get one in the win column. Democrats should let them have this round by voting for cloture on this nominee. They can still vote against him on the floor of the Senate. Gorsuch will get his 52 votes and be confirmed. Progressives will scream bloody murder and threaten primary challenges on all the DINOs who "caved."

The point is the filibuster will still be in Chuck Schumer's back pocket for him to use on the next Supreme Court vacancy or, dare I say it, another hair-brained healthcare scheme. Remember, if the House passes a bill and the Senate parliamentarian concludes it doesn't qualify under the reconciliation rules, the only thing stopping Trump from signing it into law will be eight Democratic senators; the exact number needed to get to the magical 60-vote threshold.

But if McConnell invokes the nuclear option, there goes the Affordable Care Act and, while we're at it, just about every fucking thing progressives care most about. Nothing will be able to stop the GOP from enacting its agenda on the country. Just wait until they start on their beloved tax reform. You thought Reaganomics was a joke? You ain't seen nothing yet.

Look, I know this hurts. This seat was stolen. Period! By all accounts Merrick Garland should be sitting on the bench right now hearing cases. His nomination never made it to a vote thanks to McConnell. But let's not make Garland out to be Thurgood Marshall. As I've said before, he's what we refer to as a center-right conservative, as opposed to what passes for conservative in this country nowadays.

If progressives are going to lose their shit over the loss of a center-right seat on the Supreme Court and, even worse, force Democrats to fight wars they cannot hope to win, four years from now this nation will be completely transformed and the biggest challenge Republicans will face is not bursting into uncontrollable laughter at the sight of their good fortune.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trumpty Dumpty Has A Great Fall

Let's be clear here. The failure to pass what the GOP comically referred to as a healthcare bill in the House was a devastating defeat for the Party. Do not for a moment believe either Paul Ryan or Donald Trump's claim that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were to blame here. The fault lies clearly and completely with the Republicans.

First of all, not one Democrat was invited into this process. From the beginning Ryan and Republican leadership, along with the White House, decided that they were going to ram this bill through the House and, magically, Mitch McConnell was going to get 51 out of 52 Republican senators to vote for it, knowing that it would lead to the repeal of a law that, despite its inherent problems, has broad appeal across most of the country and which many Republican governors were reluctant to back.

Secondly, Ryan, with the largest majority his party has had in the House since the Great Depression, could not get a simple majority of his own conference to vote for a bill that would've fulfilled a promise Republicans have been making for the last seven years: to repeal Obamacare. It was, ironically, the Freedom Caucus and its 37 members that did this bill in, not Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. Fancy that.

And lastly, this defeat proves what we've known for quite some time: that, much like the dog who finally catches the car, Republicans discovered they can't drive the damn thing. Eight years of saying "No" to everything President Obama wanted has ostensibly turned them into an opposition party only with no vision or ability to govern. They are purely reactive, beholden to a fanatical base that threatens them with primary challenges if they don't listen to them and constrained by the political realities of what would happen if they did.

It is the ultimate quagmire, and I for one do not pity them for a minute. You don't burn the house to the ground and have the audacity, as both Ryan and Trump did, to blame the fire department for responding too late. While Democrats are certainly no angels, without them and Obama, millions of people would not have access to affordable healthcare.

Flawed though the ACA may be, it was at least an honest attempt to address a major problem, and all Republicans did was sit in a corner sucking their thumbs and acting like little brats. Well now they have the one thing they've haven't had since 2006: complete control of the federal government, and much like what happened when George Bush was in the White House, Republicans can't seem to get out of their  own way.

But while Democrats may be crowing over the humiliating defeat of the GOP, I would caution them against being too cocky. Michael Moore is right when he says this is not the time for Democrats to "gloat" or "throw a party." For one thing, Republicans are hardly done with their attempts to repeal the ACA. They may lie low for a while licking their wounds but, trust me, they'll be back to try again. Know this much: when it comes to obstinance and determination, the GOP has no competition.

And that's why Democrats need to make the case not just for preserving the ACA, but improving it. If its flaws are not corrected, the likelihood is that the law will inevitably fail. What we know is this: Insurers are pulling out of markets, small businesses and many middle-class families continue to incur rate hikes that are becoming increasingly alarming. Voters will not care who shot the baby next year when they go to the polls; they will want to know who tried to save it. If Democrats make the mistake of simply taking the contrarian view of the GOP here, they run the risk of being lumped together with them and a golden chance of possibly retaking the House and Senate will go by the wayside.

Democrats must not become the next party of "No" like the Republicans were for eight years. That doesn't mean they should roll over and play dead; what it does mean is that they must learn how to pick their fights. And this is one fight they must wage and win, not with platitudes, but with actual ideas. They have a tremendous opportunity to prove to voters that they can come to the table with real solutions that can make people's lives better.

There was a time when watching Republicans commit political suicide worked brilliantly for Democrats. It allowed them to retain control of the Senate for a time and keep Mitt Romney out of the White House. That time has come and gone, along with the White House. Even with a president as incompetent and unpopular as Trump, Democrats will have a long road to hoe if they are to regain the trust of the American electorate.

This would be a good place to start.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

America on the Precipice

"Yesterday I felt truly embarrassed. The 'leader of the free world' just sat there, awkwardly, waiting for Trump to shake her hand." - George Takei

George wasn't the only one embarrassed. To tell you the truth, I was flabbergasted. I've never seen anything like this in my lifetime, not even from Nixon. And believe you me that guy was about as antisocial as it got.

But this took the cake. A sitting president behaving like a spoiled brat, refusing to shake hands with a world leader. Even 9 year olds don't act this way. BTW, take a gander at the above picture of Angela Merkel. That look says it all. She knows she's standing next to an asshole, and, sadly, the rest of the world knows it too.

And that is the real and present danger here. For beyond the mere ridiculousness of Trump's antics, lies the underling problem that poses the greatest threat to the United States. Donald Trump isn't merely a buffoon who gets lampooned on Saturday Night Live, as the President of the United States, he is the face of America to the entire world. And right now that face has a lot of egg on it. He hasn't just diminished his own reputation abroad, he has diminished the very office he occupies.

It isn't just our allies who are now beginning to realize that this man is a putz; our foes are starting to realize it too. One of those foes, North Korea, launched four ballistic missiles two weeks ago that landed in the Sea of Japan, less than 200 miles off of Japan's northwest coast. And while there is no evidence that the North Korean's have the ability to launch an ICBM, it is only a matter of time before they do. When that happens, the entire west coast of the United States will be open to a nuclear attack.

If this manchild can't handle even the most basic of presidential duties, such as being cordial to his guests and not engaging in reckless conspiracy theories that even his own party knows are bullshit, how in the world will he be able to handle a real crisis like the threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea? How would he react if Vladimir Putin decided to invade Eastern Europe? Based on Trump's comments about NATO, Putin may well feel that he has a green light of sorts to take back what many Russians feel was stolen from them after the breakup of the Soviet Union. And, God forbid, what would he do if the government of Pakistan were to fall into the hands of the Taliban and all those nuclear warheads that were aimed at India suddenly were aimed at us?

I can't even begin to imagine what the consequences might be, but know this much: one of these scenarios is likely to play out during the course of the next four years. You know it, and I know it. The scary truth is that not only is this president not prepared to handle any or all of these crises, he has shown no inclination to even learn about how to deal with them. Never in the history of the United States has there been a president with less intellectual curiosity than Trump. To put it in computer terms, it's as though his auto save feature isn't working.

Not only is he bereft of any capacity to learn, he is contemptuous of anyone or anything that challenges his preconceived notion of reality. He calls the media fake news for reporting facts he doesn't like; he berates the intelligence community for alerting him to threats that contradict his administration's stances; he accuses the former president of wiretapping him to divert attention away from a Congressional hearing that is looking into his campaign's ties to Russia. Donald Trump isn't just living in his own private Idaho, as it were; he's the emperor of Trumpland, where he is always right and everyone bows down and worships at his alter.

America first? More like America alone. Because that is the likely outcome that awaits this country if this president doesn't grow up and act the part he was elected to do. This isn't rocket science. If George W. Bush could do it, then Trump has no excuse.

America stands at the edge of the precipice. At stake are decades of alliances, partnerships and treaties that have defined what we refer to as the West. The wave of nationalism that is currently sweeping across Europe and which was primarily responsible for the Brexit vote in Great Britain and Trump's election here, is threatening the very stability of the European Union. Right now Merkel might be the only thing standing in the way of a fractured continent. The last time that occurred, an entire world was at war.

Since the days of the Truman Doctrine, America has taken the lead role in the spread of democracy throughout the world. Not all of those efforts were successful. Both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, as well as our presence in the Middle East, continue to serve as painful reminders that interference in the affairs of other nations, even with the noblest of intentions, can have profound consequences for millions of people.

But on the whole, the latter half of the 20th century was a golden age for the United States. We outlasted the Soviet Union and saw NATO expand its influence in Europe. Eschewing the isolationist tendencies that defined pre-World War II America helped establish an empire that was the envy of the world.

I say "was" because all that is now in jeopardy. Donald Trump and his Minister of Propaganda, Steve Bannon, do not accept an America that is actively engaged in the world. Rather they see an America that looks inward and withdraws from the world. This "we take care of our own" mindset, I should point out, is not a new phenomenon in American politics. Many on the Left, including Bernie Sanders, share a similar vision. But we are now seeing it come to fruition in this administration. And it could not have come at a worse time.

With the Middle East in turmoil, an ever-increasing Russian threat in Europe and a very unstable and volatile situation in the Korean peninsula, now, more than ever, the world needs the United States to lead the way. Instead the Trump Administration peddles in conspiracy theories at home and insults its closest allies abroad.

These are very perilous times both for the nation and the globe. What is required is the steady hand and sound judgment of a mature and responsible president; not the machinations of a megalomaniac with an inferiority complex.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Oprah for President? Are You Shitting Me?

Normally I don't pay much attention to the talking heads that propagate the cable news shows. The last time I heard something come out of their mouths that made sense I didn't have a gray hair on my head. For the record, I started going gray in my early 30s, 25 years ago.

But sometimes I hear something so completely asinine that I just can't let it slide. So who was the lucky dimwit who set me off? None other than Van Jones, a CNN correspondent who most days manages to stay under the radar. But of late, Jones has said a couple of things that make me wonder if he might have suffered a brain aneurism.

The first came after Adolph Trump's joint address to Congress, in which der Fuhrer managed to go a whole hour without making a fool of himself. According to Jones, Trump "became president of the United States" that night. You'd think that would be enough humiliation for one man, but Jones really outdid himself this week.

In an interview on "Watch What Happens," Jones said this:
“For real. Listen, I’m telling you. I love a lot of the Democrats. I love Kamala Harris, who’s coming up in California. I love Cory Booker, who I’ve known for 20 years. This new Joe Kennedy, the third coming-up, redheaded Kennedy kid. He’s awesome. But it takes a superstar to beat a superstar. I think if Oprah Winfrey ran, she’d win all 50 states. It’d be a wrap.”

Are you shitting me, Van? Are you out of your fucking mind? Hillary got her ass kicked in the Midwest and your remedy is to run a billionaire, talk-show host for president? Sure, why not? While we're at it, why don't we tap Arnold Schwarzenegger for VP? Oh, wait, we can't. He wasn't born here. Shucks, I'm disappointed. I was so looking forward to him turning to Oprah on stage and saying, "You're so beautiful, you're so fantastic"

Sometimes I think I must be trapped in an episode of The Twilight Zone. Democrats have an approval rating just slightly north of a used-car salesman and shit-for-brains thinks that a talk-show celebrity is going to restore the Party to glory. Jesus, some people just can't smell the caffeine.

Okay, people, gather round and listen up. You too, Van. If you want to win back the White House, here's how you do it. Go to Wisconsin, go to Michigan, go to Iowa, go to Ohio and go to western Pennsylvania. Talk to the people who voted for Trump and find out what makes them tick. And listen to what they have to say, the way Bernie Sanders did in his town hall in West Virginia last week that was broadcast on MSNBC. What you don't do is dismiss them like Hillary and the majority of the Democratic Party did.

These people don't need your condescension or your pity. They aren't looking for a TV celebrity. They're looking for someone who actually gives a shit about what they're going thru; someone who can relate to their everyday struggles. And it ain't Oprah. Nor is it Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer. It's high time Democrats accept the fact that while San Francisco and New York are beautiful and culturally diverse cities, neither is held in high regard in the heartland. And that goes double for Hollywood. Even I, as a progressive, have just about had it with movie stars mouthing off. Robert De Niro might be the greatest actor of all time - Raging Bull is among my favorite movies - but when he said that he would consider leaving the country if Trump won, he was no different than Rush Limbaugh saying he would leave if Obama got reelected. Stupid is as stupid does.

And speaking of great artists, I love Bruce Springsteen and consider him to be among the greatest rock stars of the past four decades, but John Mellencamp is from Indiana. Would it kill Dems to make a call to his agent the next time they hold a rally? If you're trying to appeal to a particular geographic region of the country, wouldn't it make sense to include people from that region at your events? You may think Katy Perry is a great pop star - and maybe she is - but personally I would've chosen someone like Miranda Lambert to perform at the Democratic Convention. I may not be much of a country music fan - I kinda stopped listening to it in the mid-80s - but to the millions of people who call the middle of the country their home, it is the only music worth listening to.

Last month the Democratic Party tore itself to shreds over who was going to be the next DNC Chair. Tom Perez finally got the job and progressives blew a gasket. Meanwhile, this past November, in a vote that actually meant something, House Democrats decided to keep Pelosi as Minority leader over challenger Tim Ryan of Ohio. Who's Tim Ryan? He represents Ohio's 13 district which includes Youngstown and Akron, and which barely went for Clinton last November. The district is 84 percent white and is loaded with blue-collar workers; the same ones who voted heavily for Trump.

This is what Ryan said after his defeat:

"It is clear as we learn more about the outcome of our elections that we're ignoring crucial voices that deserve to be heard. The people I represent in Northeast Ohio and the tens of millions of workers across our country are proud to be called blue collar. Democrats must adopt a progressive economic message that focuses on large, direct infrastructure investments, affordable health care, portable pensions, and public-private investments that promote advanced manufacturing."

Now here's a guy who gets it. He's actually paying attention, unlike his party. You sometimes get the feeling that if Democrats had been in command of the Titanic on the evening of April 14, they'd have been more concerned with the breakfast menu than the ice warnings. Even foolish people occasionally have an epiphany. Not these morons. Here's my strong recommendation: whoever wins the Democratic nomination in 2020 should seriously consider this guy as their running mate.

The paradox in this tragedy is that while Democrats may be unpopular across the country, progressive initiatives continue to poll very well. That only underscores what I've been saying for quite some time: it's not the message, it's the messenger. If Democrats ever manage to find the right messengers to deliver their message, they would find a most receptive audience.

One thing is certain: this insistence on dancing with the stars isn't going to defeat Donald Trump. If anything, it'll all but guarantee him a second term in office.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How Should Democrats Approach the GOP Healthcare Plan?

Well, for starters, let's stop calling it a healthcare plan, because what it really is a bastardized version of the Affordable Care Act. It keeps all the goodies that poll real well, like prohibiting insurance companies from denying you coverage for a pre-existing condition and allowing your kid to stay on your insurance plan until he or she turns 26. That's where the good news ends, however.

The GOP plan removes the individual mandate that basically paid for the ACA and replaces it with a 30 percent surcharge payable to insurance companies if you let your coverage lapse, which basically means if you get laid off and you elect not to pay for Cobra, you're fucked.

Next up on the Von Ryan Express is Medicaid. It's phased out by 2020. Instead states will be given block grants that they can distribute as they see fit. And if the amount is insufficient to cover all those who may need it, oh well. That's the price you pay for freedom and liberty.

Next to go are the subsidies, well, as it turns out, not all of them. Under the GOP plan, the top 2 percent receive $275 billion in tax breaks that they can use to buy all kinds of wonderful things like yachts, investment property, politicians, etc... The working poor? They're shit out of luck. Under the GOP plan, they would get tax credits which won't be nearly enough to cover the cost of even a modest healthcare plan. In other words, most of them will be forced to forgo getting insurance. It's probably just as well. I mean, with all those poor people covered, what would the emergency rooms do?

At the risk of sounding repetitive: elections have consequences and this is one of them. But on to the question I posed: how should Democrats approach this bill from hell? For the time being they should do nothing. Just sit back and watch the GOP duke it out. It'll be fun seeing Republicans tear their hair out over this bill, just like Democrats did back in '09. If you recall there were several "moderate" Democrats who ostensibly hijacked the bill and wouldn't let it out of committee until the public option was taken out.

We are already seeing the beginnings of what will be a blood letting of sorts brewing in the Senate. Assuming the bill passes the House, and that's still up in the air thanks to the Freedom Caucus, you have two intransigent camps in the upper chamber who are sure to muck things up: On the Right are Rand Paul and Ted Cruz who are demanding an outright repeal of the ACA and consider the Ryan plan Obamacare Light. They have vowed to vote "No." Then there are the "moderates" like Rob Portman and Lisa Murkowski who are objecting to the Medicaid provision. Both realize that their states could be devastated if the GOP plan became law.

In case you weren't counting, that's four senators out of 52. That leaves dear old Mitch McConnell with only 48 potential "Yes" votes, assuming there are no further defections. And it is highly likely there will be others. The GOP may be 40 years behind the times but they're not stupid. They know full well that once Obamacare is repealed and this new law takes over, they will have their names attached to it. They also know what happened to Democrats in the 2010 midterms after the ACA passed and was signed into law by President Obama. They want no part of that nightmarish scenario. They've already gotten an earful from their constituents in town halls. Can you imagine the fury that will be awaiting them this summer if they vote to repeal?

With the prospect of 14 million people losing healthcare coverage in 2018 and up to 24 million losing it by 2026, if I'm the Democrats, I'd grab a comfortable chair, get some popcorn and enjoy the carnage. Why on Earth would they want to get entangled in this shitstorm, especially when Republicans have been praying for this moment for seven years? Now that it's here, let them have their civil war. Let them find out just how "complicated" healthcare is. Let them deal with the real-world consequences of trying to come up with a law that pays for itself that doesn't screw over millions of people. Good luck with that, Paul.

But after the civil war is finally over and the GOP comes to its senses and realizes that it will need Democratic support in order to get 50 votes in the Senate, what then? Well, that depends on what Republican some up with. Assuming Ryan throws the Freedom Caucus under the bus and McConnell is willing to do the same with his conservative faction, I would then dip my toe into the water.

I'd insist on the following: 1. Leave Medicaid alone, 2. Drop the ridiculous tax break for the wealthy and 3. Keep the subsidies for the working poor intact. Those would be my starting points. Make sure that McConnell knows that no Democratic senator will vote "Yes" unless they see those concessions in the bill. He may not need 60 votes to repeal the ACA, but he'll sure need 60 votes for a replacement. If he balks, tell him to have a nice day and you'll see him at next year's midterms.

It may not come to that. What is more likely is that Portman, Murkowski and a few other brave souls will reach out to Chuck Schumer and form a partnership of sorts. Perhaps a new gang of eight that will box McConnell in and force Ryan's hand. I may be pipe dreaming a bit, but I actually think a few of the more lucid GOP senators could be persuaded to save the ACA; maybe even fix the flaws in it, of which there are many.

Democrats may have more leverage here than they realize. While the Far Right has been chompin' at the bit to get rid of Obamacare, the fact is that, like any other entitlement, once imbedded into the society, it is almost impossible to extricate. Frankly, the political will for a repeal just isn't there. Ryan and McConnell know that. That's why they're fast-tracking this bill. They know the longer this process goes on, the less likely their prospects at repealing Obamacare will be. In fact, I predict that if we go into the summer and the ACA is still on the books, it is probably here to stay, warts and all.

Note: An earlier version of this post said that 26 million people could lose health insurance by 2026. The actual number is 24 million. I have corrected the error.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Dems Should Heed Bernie's Warning

Bernie Sanders, in an interview in The Huffington Post, had some strong words for Democrats, and in typical Bernie fashion, he didn't hold back.
"The truth is, and I think anyone who objectively assesses the situation has to appreciate, that the model the Democrats have followed for the last 10 to 20 years has been an ultimate failure."
Know what? He's right. Much as it may pain them to admit, the flight plan the Party has been using over the last couple of decades has resulted in a crash landing. The unmitigated disaster that was the 2016 election was a long time coming.

Zach Carter cites some disturbing statistics that corroborate Sanders' assessment. Over the last twenty years Democrats have gone from winning roughly half of the country's 3100 counties in presidential elections to winning just 15 percent. That is an alarming trend that if not corrected will inevitably lead to political extinction.

And yet, to hear the leadership, you'd think that everything is just peachy keen. The problem, they insist, is simply a matter of turnout and getting more of their base engaged. However, it wasn't a lack of turnout that led to Hillary Clinton's loss. Clinton got her base to the polls, yet still lost to Trump. For Carter, the problem was one of geography not demographics. The Party focused their attention - and messaging - almost exclusively on large urban areas while virtually ignoring the millions of people in the less populated regions of the country. The belief was that Clinton's margins in the cities would carry her over the finish line. Not only did that not happen, the strategy cost them a shot at the Senate as well. Carter explains,
Running up the score in population centers isn’t helping much with down-ballot contests either. As culturally liberal people move away from suburban and rural communities and concentrate themselves in cities, they’ve increased the Democratic Party’s margins in already blue areas — but decreased them in swing suburban, exurban and rural districts. At the same time, Republicans have aggressively gerrymandered many previously competitive districts, redrawing them to neutralize Democratic votes. Those two factors make it extremely difficult going forward for Democrats to win the U.S. House of Representatives, where they’ve shed 69 seats since 2008, or state legislatures, where they’ve ceded more than 900 seats over the same stretch, without revitalizing their position in exurban and rural America.
You didn't need to be a rocket scientist to conclude that apart from the Northeast and west coast, the Democrats got crushed. Indeed, if you subtract those two regions, the total number of states they won not bordering on an ocean was five. Four years ago that number was ten. In 1996, it was sixteen. The truth is most of the central part of the country has become a sea of red. What used to be an electoral map that was defined by North vs. South is now an electoral map defined by urban vs. rural. And rural is winning.

It may be a hard pill for Democrats to swallow, but it's looking more and more like Barack Obama, far from being the rule, appears to have been the exception. His two impressive wins in 2008 and 2012 stand in stark contrast to the two losses by Al Gore and John Kerry that proceeded him and the epic collapse by Clinton which followed. Just look at these numbers:

In 2012, Obama carried 26 states and won 332 electoral votes; in 2016, Clinton carried just 20 states and ended up with 227 electoral votes. While Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million, the bulk of that margin came from deep blue states like California and New York.

Apologists for Clinton point to the fact that she lost Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin - and with it the White House - by a combined total of 82 thousand votes. But the fact is Obama won all three of those states in 2012 by a combined total of 962 thousand votes. That's a difference of just over a million votes. To make matters worse, Obama won Ohio, Iowa and Florida by a combined total of 334 thousand votes, while Clinton lost all three by a combined total of 540 thousand votes; a difference of 874 thousand votes. All told, Clinton got almost two million fewer votes than Obama in the all-important swing states. That's not a close shave, people, that's a wipeout.

So now what? With a midterm election staring them in the face, what are the Democrats' plans? If the last two midterms are any indication we could be looking at a slaughter. Already you can hear the bean counters at work. The Republicans will drop the ball on their efforts to repeal Obamacare and Trump will continue to push the envelope until he either gets impeached or his party invokes the 25th Amendment. When that happens, the Democrats will come to the rescue like Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders.

We've seen this movie before and it never ends well. If the Democratic Party really believes that the American electorate will come back home like some prodigal son, I've got some bad news for it. Turns out Democrats are even less popular than the GOP and - even more humiliating - Trump. So says a poll conducted by Suffolk University. Want to know who's the most popular politician in the country? It's Mike Pence. That's right, Mr. religious liberty is number one with a bullet. Right behind him is Il Duce. The only thing keeping Democrats out of the cellar is Clinton herself and Congress as a whole. When you're only saving grace is that you're ahead of the person who lost to the most racist, xenophobic presidential candidate in history and the worst legislature since the founding of the Republic, you should be ashamed, not gleeful.

But Democrats seem oblivious to these facts. They dismiss any and all criticism and remain intransigent. Shaun King of The Daily News writes,
At a time when Donald Trump is the least liked President ever measured at this point in his first term, the Democratic Party has found a way to be even less liked than him. This is how Donald Trump wins a second term. This is how congressional Republicans win the next midterm elections. This is how conservatives not only maintain their current power from coast to coast, but also expand it. 
Huge grassroots movements, made up of millions and millions of people, are fueling the fight for a $15 minimum wage, fighting back against fossil fuels and the Dakota Access Pipeline, fighting to end fracking, fighting to remove lobbyist money from politics, fighting to end senseless wars and international violence, fighting for universal healthcare, fighting for the legalization of marijuana, fighting for free college tuition, fighting against systems of mass incarceration, and so much more. But mainstream Democrats aren’t really a central part of any of those battles, and, to be clear, each of those issues have deep networks, energized volunteers, and serious donors, but corporate Democrats virtually ignore them.
And almost as important as the message is the messenger. Face it, Clinton may have made a very good president, but she was a flawed candidate who ran a lousy campaign. Her strategy appeared to be to have her cake and eat it too. Her affinity for hedging her bets on issues like the minimum wage and TPP made her look like a hack and left a bad taste in many voters' mouths. And she was despised in the Rust-belt region where Trump was able to steal many blue-collar workers from the Democratic column.

Perhaps steal is too strong a word. The truth is that Clinton never really put up a fight for them. The consensus within her campaign and most of the party was they would probably lose Ohio, but prevail in Wisconsin and Michigan. The sheer arrogance of such thinking is what led to Democrats losing in 2016, and it will likely be the reason they lose again in 2020. Identity politics may have given Democrats huge margins in urban American, but it resulted in a shrinking electoral map across the country.

You'd think that faced with such dire news the Democratic Party would want to change how it goes about attracting voters. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. Far from changing tactics, the Party seems hell-bent on doubling down on its failed strategy. They seem determined to "write off" rural America altogether.

It is astonishing in this day and age for a major political party to not even make a play for voters; to ostensibly forfeit them to the opposition party. Yet that is exactly what the Democratic Party has decided to do. And the sad truth is they don't need to do this. Democrats can win in these regions if they put some effort into it.

Obama managed to do so twice; shit he even won Indiana in '08. Not even Bill Clinton did that. And he did it by crafting a message that was inclusive, not exclusive. It may have sounded corny at the time, but when Obama said "There are no red states or blue states, just the United States," he was resonating with voters all over the country who were fed up with being labeled as strictly liberal or conservative.

Joe Maxwell understood what Obama was trying to do. Who's Joe Maxwell? He's the political director for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) who was almost singlehandedly responsible for killing a right to farm bill in Oklahoma that, if passed, would've ostensibly shielded Big Ag from any and all environmental regulations. The "No" vote passed by 20 points, astonishing given that Trump won every county in the state.

Maxwell is a Democrat, but that hardly matters, because, like Obama, he has discovered how to communicate with his constituents on their level, and he some advice for his fellow compadres. "Democrats don’t have to throw out their values. Democrats don’t even have to abandon their issues. It’s about how you frame it. It’s about connecting with people and showing them how your ideas fit with their values."

Zach Carter says that "Maxwell's brand of politics looks beyond the poll-tested analytics that dominate Washington." He goes on to further explain:
Even the best mathematical models are only useful at a particular snapshot in time. They treat voters as static data points, rather than human beings capable of changing their minds. A model might focus on the number of Democrats registered in a district to predict the party’s performance in an upcoming race. But models can’t explain how to create more Democrats in that district.
I cannot stress this enough: the Democratic Party MUST find a way to reconnect with this part of the country; their future as a political force depends on it. No, they will never win Oklahoma, or for that matter Nebraska, or Idaho, or Montana, or the Dakotas. That's not the point. You don't craft a message based simply on appealing to a constituency that already supports you, anymore than a business would come up with an advertising strategy that would target a segment of the market they already serve. You grow your business by growing your market share.

Blue-collar workers once called the Democratic Party their home. That isn't the case anymore. Trump gave them a song and dance which they bought. But more to the point, he paid attention to them, told them they were getting screwed and promised to do something about it. And while we all know Trump is a con artist who will never deliver on his promise, the lesson for Democrats could not be plainer.

In business, if you want someone to buy your product, you have to give them a reason to do so. It is no different in politics. Votes are earned, not given. Bernie understood that; Hillary didn't. It's time Democrats started earning their votes.