One-Liner Wednesday: words

“Words tend to be inadequate.”
~~~ Jenny Holzer quote being re-purposed because I can’t find the words to express my upset about the behavior of the US president at the debate last night.

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meltdown

“Meltdown” seems to be the word most being used this weekend to describe the Trump campaign and its relationship with leading Republicans.

I admit to being puzzled.

Yes, a lewd recording of Donald Trump from ten years ago is now public, but there have been many other reports and recordings chronicling his horrid behavior and opinions about women readily available for decades. I don’t understand how anyone could be surprised by this new recording.

Supporters were apparently willing to ignore Trump’s sexual behavior and sexist attitudes until now; some still are.

I think that those who are now withdrawing their support are doing so because the recording shows predatory behavior and the attitude that, as a rich man, Trump feels entitled to sexual access to any woman he finds attractive, regardless of her own feelings. I am glad that people are finally standing up for women’s rights to be free from harassment and from being judged solely for their physical attributes. But why were they willing to look the other way for so many months?

Trump’s plan to fight back is apparently to attack Hillary Clinton over her reaction to her husband’s affairs at the debate tonight.

This is a bad idea.

Any spouse who has ever been cheated on will likely be offended by Trump’s attempts to hold Hillary responsible for having a cheating spouse. People who have been faithful to their spouse will not appreciate him denigrating her for staying in her marriage. Trump would also be calling attention to his own divorces, public affairs while still married, repeated treatment of women as trophies or pretty accessories on his arm, repeated mean, dismissive, offensive, and sexist comments, and his apparent inability to take responsibility for his own actions and attitudes.

Many of Trump’s advisers and Republican officeholders are warning him not to attack Hillary over Bill’s behavior, but Trump is not especially inclined to take advice.

I will be watching the debate tonight, although it may make me sick to my stomach.

debates

The first of the US presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is tomorrow night.

What I would like is for the moderators of each debate to ask for specific policy positions on various topics from each candidate.

No generalities. No characterizing the opponent. No personality comments.

If a candidate strays from addressing the topic at hand, the microphone is cut off and they forfeit the rest of their time on that topic.

Everyone keeps lamenting that no one is concentrating on the issues, so let’s make all the debates issue-only zones.

Issues like climate change. Immigration reform. Health care. Trade policy. Diplomacy. Syria. Indigenous rights. Job creation. Income inequality. Education. Military spending. Veterans’ affairs.  War and peace. Civil rights. Justice system reform. Education. Social Security.

Each candidate giving his/her positions and plans. Period.

It would be a huge public service as we prepare to vote in this historic election.

Independence and the art of compromise

Today is celebrated as Independence Day in the United States. July 4, 1776 is the date on our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, written by future president Thomas Jefferson and edited by committee and by Congress.

It contains many stirring passages such as this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

Then, you realize that “men” meant adult males, excluding women, and, furthermore, that ownership of people through slavery and indentured servitude was still permitted.

Two hundred forty years later, our country still grapples with the legacy of those exclusions.

Why were they made? Despite Abigail Adams’s admonition to her husband John to “remember the ladies,” the declaration was totally silent on the matter. Jefferson’s original text would have abolished slavery, but the slave-holding colonies refused to vote for the declaration until that statement was removed.

The final document was a compromise, giving up freedom from slavery to create a new nation of all thirteen of the British colonies. I leave it to historians and social scientists to argue if the compromise was appropriate.

What I do know is that the art of compromise has been severely hobbled in the present day and the consequences have been disastrous, leaving the United States with a Congress that has not been able to pass a budget and all the requisite appropriations bills in years; a judicial branch struggling with too few judges, including being down a Supreme Court justice, due to refusal of the Republican majority in the Senate to hold timely hearings and votes on nominees; a similar problem in the State Department with ambassadors waiting months or years for Senate approval; and a general refusal by the Republican majorities in both houses to bring up a vote unless nearly their entire delegation supports it, giving enormous power to their most conservative members and precluding bipartisan consensus bills. The amount of gridlock has caused damage to both the public and private spheres and has made recent Congresses the most unproductive in history, undermining the purpose of government for the common good that Jefferson outlined.

This inability to seek consensus and compromise has infected large segments of the population as well. Some people will not support a candidate unless s/he agrees with their views 100% of the time, which is an unrealistic standard. Worse, some people can no longer even engage in a reasoned debate, preferring to follow the example of those in public life who dismiss all other viewpoints than their own and resort to name-calling, character assassination, bullying, and threats.

Enough.

It is time for the governed to withhold their consent/vote from any officeseeker who is not committed to governing for the common good. This entails educating ourselves about all sides of the issues and engaging in respectful inquiry and debate. It also entails compromise so that we can move forward together.

It is our duty and honor as citizens to do so.

There is no better day than July fourth to renew our commitment to our country and its highest ideals.

another debate

Tonight, there will be a debate among the candidates for the Democratic nomination for the US presidency.

Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland, has failed to gain traction with voters, so most eyes will be fixed on Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State, New York Senator, and First Lady Hillary Clinton.

Sanders and Clinton are close in the public opinion polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to award delegates for the nominating convention.

There is one aspect of the race for the nomination and the general election that I feel is important but that isn’t being discussed much in the press. While Sen. Sanders is running for the Democratic nomination, he is not a Democrat himself. While in Congress, he has caucused with the Democrats, while retaining his status as an Independent.

Among the US electorate, there are more voters who are independent, that is, not registered with any political party, than there are voters who are registered Democrats or Republicans.

In some states, such as my native Massachusetts, independents can decide on the day of the primary which party ballot to vote; in others, such as my current home state New York, only registered members of the party are allowed to vote in that party’s primary.

I am an independent, so ineligible to vote in the primary, which is especially vexing this year as I am a supporter of Senator Sanders, but will not be able to vote for him in the New York primary.

The story that many in the media are missing is the possible impact of independent voters in the race.  In states with open primaries, Senator Sanders may draw significant support from progressive independents, while he may poll more poorly in states with closed primaries where only registered Democrats are allowed to vote.

The interesting thing to study is whether how well Sanders polls versus potential Republican rivals is due to his increased appeal to Independent voters. If so, it is something for the Democrats to keep in mind in choosing a candidate who can appeal to and energize the most voters in the general election.

In the United States, turnout is the most important factor in elections. A candidate who can marshal not only the party that nominated him/her but also the independents is the one who will win the election.
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Scott Walker leads?

“People are called to be leaders in unusual ways,” Walker said. “Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive, conservative message can rise to the top of the field.”

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said this yesterday in his speech suspending his campaign for the Republican party’s nomination for the presidency.

It is one of the most unusual leadership calls I have ever seen.

Leading by quitting? And inviting others to follow you in quitting, too?

In one way, I am relieved that he has abandoned his presidential bid because I think his policies would have been a disaster for the country,  but there are a number of other candidates in the field who are even more destructive and they are not about to “follow his lead” in leaving.

I guess the bright side is that the next debate may be able to fit all the candidates on stage at once, instead of having a small sideshow debate before the main event.

Seriously. I’m trying to find something positive to say about the mess that is the Republican nominating process.

It’s a difficult assignment.