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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 22,309

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For a Forum devoted to Democratic Party and Democratic Coalition activists

All of us facing the greatest threat to our Democracy in our lifetimes with Trump in power, all of us united in wanting to see every Republican running in a special election defeated by his or her Democratic opponent, all of us counting off the days until a Blue Tsunami breaks across America in November of 2018, all of us seemingly in agreement on 97% of issues and 92% of priorities for America...

There sure is a hell of a lot of bitter anger and finger pointing expressed daily on DU. We are at each other's throats almost as often as not. We accuse each other of not caring about what is really important, or who is really important. We draw bold bright strokes about who are the real heroes and who are selling out our ideals among us. Every possible point of stress within the broad American Democratic coalition is the focal point of heightened tension. Fissures are growing and there is the smell of gasoline in the air. If I didn't know better I would say that a cyber ops campaign was being waged against us. But who would have the means or motivation to do that?

Reliably Blue States and the U.S. Senate

Subtitle: Why winning the popular vote or even the electoral vote in Presidential elections is not enough. Subtext: Why winning the votes of some whites who have some prejudices is still important. Reminder: We could never have passed Obamacare if the Democratic Coalition in the U.S. Senate didn't at one point have 60 members.

In 2008 President Obama won the electoral votes of 29 states. Between them they elect 58 U.S. Senators.
In 2012 President Obama won the electoral votes of 22 states. Between them they elect 44 U.S. Senators.
In 2016 Hillary Clinton won the electoral votes of 20 states. Between them they elect 40 U.S. Senators.

In all three elections the Democrat also won the District of Columbia which has no U.S. Senators.
In all three elections the Democrat running won the popular vote handily.

Control of the U.S. Senate is a critical part of governing on a national level, even if Democrats do win the White House. The importance of holding the Senate is magnified now far more so than it was even in 2008. That is because the nation has now been plunged into a period of unified Republican control of Congress - which has allowed Republicans to cause deep damage through their control of Congress including but not limited to stacking the courts with far right judges. It includes but is not not limited to their passing a massive tax bill that gives to the rich and steals from virtually everyone else while putting our government into an ever deepening fiscal hole that makes it essentially impossible to find the funds needed for a sane progressive agenda for America. A return to a status quo deadlock of the Federal Government now would still leave us worse off than we were in the last year of George W. Bush's Administration.

The ugly reality that so often gets ignored on this board is that, because of the way the U.S. Constitution is written, Democrats need to win a sizable portion of white voters, and in some states a near if not actual majority of them, in order to elect enough Democratic Senators in order to actually move on a national agenda that counters the Republicans and furthers causes dear to all of us here. Winning truly matters. Fighting for the right things is not enough when losing results in massive suffering. I say that knowing full well that most whites have real prejudices, whether they want them or not, and that some of us (I'm White) seem perfectly content to view the world through at least partially racist lenses.

I've stated this here before: I do not believe that the Democratic Party should alter a syllable of our national platform or of our Congressional agenda in order to appeal to, let alone appease, racist voters. That is non negotiable. I only take issue with those who say "fuck 'em" to everyone out there who voted Republican in the 2016 election. A number of the voters needed to allow Doug Jones to win his Senate seat from Alabama, and for Conor Lamb to win his Congressional seat from PA CD 18, voted for Trump in 2016. I see no purpose in making excuses for why they did so. I see a purpose in preventing them from doing so again, either for Trump or for Republicans in Congress who support Trump. I see a purpose in winning more elections, because I see the purpose of taking power away from Republicans.

If we can engage some of those voters around some issues which we proudly fight for - because it happens to be the right thing to do to fight for those issues - and they end up voting Democratic as a result, I'll take those votes. I'll take those votes while continuing to work through the Democratic Party to end all racial injustice in America. Hopefully we can convert some of those fore mentioned voters on that front also, but in the meantime we have work to do in Congress for all Americans, and to do so we must win back control of our government.

Lamb's Victory was an excellent expression of Center Left solidarity

Activists and voters with beliefs that ranged from centrist to fairly far left worked together to pull off this Democratic upset in a wildly Republican district. I do not mean just voting for Lamb, but also donating to his campaign and, on the local level, working for it. Their ranks included some actual Republicans disgusted with what Trump stands for, and others who are registered as Independents or even as third party members, along with a wide range of Democrats who have been supportive of different presidential candidates in the past.

Today we should be celebrating the solidarity that brought us victory, not looking for opportunities to score political points by searching for and elevating scattered voices of dissatisfaction with the candidate we all helped carry to victory.

Independents and Our Binary Political System

Around the world politics is seldom binary. Though America may officially have a multi-party system rather than a two party one, national alternatives to the Democratic or Republican parties have about as much chance to actually participate in governance here as an opposition party does in Russia. Internationally most people get no choice since most nations are functionally one party states like Russia, if not officially one party states like China. But when people are allowed real choices they seldom are satisfied with having just two options.

Our Democracy is old, as these things are measured. The American Revolution was cutting edge stuff – back in 1776, but we are out of step and behind the times now. We no longer live in a Coke or Pepsi world. Unless you fanatically believe in American exceptionalism, it is ludicrous to believe that we have democracy right and everyone else has it wrong. Americans, as human beings, are not radically different by nature than Canadians, the British, the French or pretty much any other people where democracies flourish. We are not hard wired to prefer binary choices when most everyone else wants a fuller menu to pick from. Canadians currently have four major parties to choose between. The British have five. The French have at least 8, depending on where you draw the line. The 2015 Israeli elections seated members from 17 different parties in their Knesset. Even Mexico, long a bastion of one party rule, now has three major national parties and several smaller ones that those three frequently enter into coalitions with.

American voters are essentially forced to fit into a two party system because our electoral system is structured to punish alternative political challenges to the dominant duopoly. No I don't believe “our two major political parties are the same”. But neither do I believe that confining the public to a binary choice adequately offers expression to a multiplicity of viewpoints and differing personal priorities. Americans have elevated “lesser evil” voting into a national model, because voting for one's ideal choice is increasingly equated (for good reason) with allowing your worst fear to emerge triumphant instead. And so voters in America adopted to having either vanilla or chocolate allegiances, but that adaptation is becoming increasingly uncomfortable for many. A plurality of Americans now identify with neither of our major parties, and that bloc grows quickly by percentage as the age of voters polled lessens.

Most of us here choose to be Democrats. I for one do. But do we profess loyalty to the Democratic Party because it nearly always embodies our deepest values, or instead because we know we risk being politically disenfranchised if we don't associate ourselves with a viable political vehicle? Put me in that latter camp. Call it short sighted, or call it prophetic, but fewer and fewer Americans view politics in either of the aforementioned ways, and the ranks of those who labor within the Democratic Party in America continues to shrink. Love it, hate it, fear or welcome it, the trend lines are unmistakable. Here on DU we frequently rant about insufficient loyalty being shown to the Democratic Party, out in the general public people more often rant about how both parties are unworthy of their loyalty.

In our political system, third parties pose problems. We here tend to view their candidates as hopeless narcissists running for offices they have no chance of winning, stealing votes away from those who actually can win. In a typical election they are simply ignored. In a tight election they get labeled as spoilers and blamed for throwing elections to those we fiercely oppose. That's not what happens though in Canada, the UK, Germany, India, Israel, France, Mexico etc. etc. etc. In those nations it is widely understood that voters can't be stuffed into one of two boxes and personally blamed if they don't coexist comfortably with forced binary choices.

In the vast majority of the world's democracies people are accustomed to coalition governments. Parties that contest for election against each other frequently enter into negotiations once the votes are counted out of which some reach agreement to form a new government together. They do so by hammering out ground rules about the priorities which the government taking office will pursue. They don't pretend that everyone on “their side” suddenly all belong to the same political party. They don't live in a George W. Bush reality where everyone has to either be with them or against them, which is the ultimate extension of binary politics. Party leaders from the largest party in a newly formed coalition government don't vilify ministers from other parties in it for showing insufficient loyalty to the largest party's internal platform. None the less they all remain overall allies despite real differences continuing to exist between them.

In my opinion actual multi-party coalition governments more closely reflect the prevailing viewpoints of the populous of a nation at any moment in time better than a system that offers voters a choice between two supposedly big tent political parties. Of course it is also my opinion that all swords should be turned to plowshares, but my opinion doesn't dictate reality here nor anywhere else. So America has a two party system even though Americans increasingly don't like it. I can't blame them for not liking it though I still pursue politics through the Democratic Party. More Americans are Independents than Republicans. More Americans are Independents than Democrats. It is their right to be neither a Democrat nor a Republican, and increasingly they are exercising that right. Does that therefore mean that Independents can not/ should not have their views directly represented in Congress or the White House? Must they pick only one party to express criticism of in order to fully participate in our Democracy? If they don't in all cases support our own party, can they never literally be our allies?

In short, does anyone doubt the cards are stacked to favor those willing to work politically from inside one of two parties rather than outside of both? The fact that the word “bi-partisan” serves as secular shorthand for nonpartisan should serve as a good clue. In many states those who refuse to identify as either a Republican or a Democrat have no say in deciding which two Americans get granted a viable path to the Presidency. They must pick between them every four years lest they “throw their vote away” in the eyes of major party partisans. Political parties are indeed vehicles for ideologies, but they also become entrenched bureaucracies. When only one or two can defacto control government over time spans lasting a century, their institutional instinct for self preservation is ingrained into our very politics, and big time influence peddlers know where to lay down roots.

I don't know what the solution is to this problem or even whether many of you agree that there is a problem with bi-partisan politics at all. I see most of the other world democracies providing multiple viable vehicles for political representation, not simply two. Most of the people we call Independents here in America find or form viable alternative political parties to belong to in other major democracies. It is wrong to expect our Independents to mimic broad loyalty to a big tent party line. And it's crazy to expect Independents to confine their electoral involvement to endorsing/voting for one of two major party candidates each November, to then faithfully stand behind them.

Many of us are upset that an Independent, Bernie Sanders, ran for President as a Democrat challenging a Democrat in the Democratic primaries, before bowing out of the race and reverting to an Independent status once he failed to win the Democratic Party nomination. Many of us were also upset that Ralph Nader and later Jill Stein ran for President in General Elections as a Green – thereby splitting progressive votes when it really counted. We don't want Democrats challenged by third party candidates in November. We don't want Democrats challenged by Independents in Democratic Primaries. We want Independents to all vote Democratic in general elections, for the candidates that Democrats alone get to choose . Yes, we are free to want that and even to argue for that, but we still remain in the minority, one that becomes smaller every day.

Republicans ushered in Autocracy when they undermined Democracy

Trumpism is just a recent manifestation of anti-democratic beliefs that every generation of Americans must battle in order to advance our basic freedom. Democracy is much more than a system of governance, it is a fundamental philosophy that runs deeper than any set of laws, because it articulates the basis from which laws draw their legitimacy. Fundamentally there are just two models for government, one in which the people serve the interests of the state, and one in which the state serves the interests of the people. In the first model it doesn't really matter what the people think at any given moment of time, because their will does not guide the state, that authority abides in the dictates of leaders/rulers.

True Democracy is the expression of the second model of government, and Republicans by and large have ceased to honor its essential underpinnings.They do not encourage full, fair and free democratic participation by all of our nation's citizens, they consciously and selectively suppress and restrict voting in order to maximize their ability to control government via systems designed to generate the results they desire. They purge voter roles for political purposes, they impede voter registration to gain partisan advantages, they make voting easy in districts that they count on support from and difficult in areas they see as harboring adversaries, and they draw wildly improbable legislative districts for the sole purpose of disproportionately electing their own to office

Republicans manipulate the mechanics of democracy because they do not hold sacred the true expression of a vibrant healthy democracy. Other elements of their ideology take precedence over honoring the actual will of the people, and so they have few qualms about manipulating our democracy in order to maintain power. The difference between the attitude most Republican officials hold toward democracy in America and the attitude Putin holds toward democracy inside Russia is not what Republicans pretend it to be. The difference is more a matter of degree than of actual essence. Once you set out to skew the results of an election in advance you no longer truly believe in democracy.

I've heard it described how Russian intelligence agents develop American "assets" by slowly reeling them in with relatively inconsequential betrayals that barely consciously register in the minds of their targets, until those individuals one day find themselves in way over their heads. At that point they have lost their moorings, at that point they are adrift and it soon becomes any port in a storm.

Fundamentally you either believe in democracy or you don't, and if you don't than it is easy enough to make do with the trappings of democracy instead. President Putin seeks reelection this year, with millions of Russians soon going to the polls. I am certain Putin will express great satisfaction in the overwhelming victory I am certain he will register. Not so different from the public elation I am certain that the Republican Party in Pennsylvania will express if they get the Supreme Court to reinstate their gerrymandered Congressional district lines in time for our mid term elections. A democracy designed to protect the interests of the rulers is but authoritarianism by another name. It is a tool to achieve prescribed results, no longer an inherent expression of justice, equality, and human rights. Yes Russia is trying to undermine our Democracy, but some here at home have been at that a lot longer than them.

Ordinarily Trump would have gotten away with his conspiracy with Russia

Of course there is still a chance that he will, but I increasingly doubt it. Mueller's probe is too exhaustive and professional at the highest level of competency. His office has very deep pockets, and Mueller had a mandate to recruit the best investigators in every aspect of his inquiry. His own personal standing in the fields of law enforcement and intelligence no doubt made it easier for him to attract top talent to his probe, and his reputation for integrity gave all who signed up with him reason to believe the investigation would be guided only by the nation's interests.

I think our nation likely has dodged not just a bullet, but an incoming ICBM with a nuclear warhead. On one level I of course take comfort in this, on another I find it profoundly chilling to contemplate. The media on its own could never have delivered the full goods on Trump and all of the Republicans complicit with him, and I say that with full appreciation for the incredible investigative effort that journalists with integrity have undertaken on this matter on behalf of our nation. Without Mueller's office the media alone likely could have bruised and battered the reputation and standing of many of Trump's co-conspirators, but they couldn't make the final kill. No media outlet has either the resources or standing in the public eye to definitively establish both the truth and/or the full extent of the conspiracy against our Democracy that has long been underway. Anything short of that and I believe the conspiracy would have ultimately achieved it's goal of subverting our Democracy

In a different era, or even now if opposition Democrats were instead in full control of the investigative organs of Congress, much of the truth may have come to light. But even a non complicit Congress lacks the time and resources that Mueller's office was able to assemble, to unravel the maze of international money laundering operations, back channel communications, and the world class capabilities of Russia's formidable intelligence operatives working with the full support and blessing of Putin - in cooperation with American players.

In a sense we are dealing with an inverted 21st century confrontation with the concept behind Hitler's Big Lie propaganda machine. In Goebbels case repeated defiant claims were so outrageous that a response "they couldn't keep saying that if it wasn't true" was cultivated. This is the type of twisting of the truth that Donald Trump himself routinely uses. The inverse though is even more insidious. The scale of the ongoing attack on America, and the true identities of the Americans complicit in it, is so audacious and ultimately deeply treasonous, from quarters where patriotism supposedly dwells, that the truth itself defies belief. The case against the conspirators must be air tight and meticulously assembled and then presented by those with the highest possible credentials in order for substantial segments of the American public to face it fully free of ingrained denial.

But there never would have been a Mueller had Trump not fired Comey. And of course no Special Counsel of Mueller's caliber would ever have been appointed by Jeff Sessions if he had not recused himself in the first place, nor would that hypothetical Counsel have been given free reign if somehow Sessions had been forced to appoint and then oversee one. International crime has become so complex, and asymmetrical information and cyber warfare has become so sophisticated, that it increasingly takes the focused highest level abilities of a nation state to counter. And if a nation state that is under such attack is controlled by forces complicit with that attack, prospects for a successful defense become bleak at best.

Donald Trump and his American co-conspirators had every reason to believe they would never be held accountable for their deeds. If Trump lost the election, the U.S. Government response would have centered on countering Russia's efforts. I strongly suspect even a government controlled by Democrats would not have risked unleashing domestic partisan fueled social upheavals by exhaustively pursuing all domestic leads into the crimes that occurred utilizing the type of resources that Mueller's probe has now mustered - and without that we never could have gotten to the bottom of all this. And I'm sure it never occurred to Trump that if he won he would not have the sufficient control, with his allies in Congress, to make sure the full truth never saw the light of day.

Forty years later and historians still talk about Watergate. One hundred and forty years hence they will still be talking about these times we are living through today.
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