Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Letter To My Granddaughters On The 2017 Inauguration

First, my best wishes for all of my granddaughters for a very happy and satisfying New Year.  I want to express to you my thoughts about the upcoming Presidential Inauguration and the Women's March On Washington on the day after, January 21.  This because so many women in my life are converging on our nation's capital on that day to stand up for their rights, your rights and to celebrate the major fight ahead for equality and justice for not only women, but us all.

Most of the women in my life were crushed on November 8 when Hillary Clinton was defeated in our most bizarre electoral college vote.  Crushed not because they agreed with Ms. Clinton 100%; no seriously thinking person would agree with a candidate 100%.  But they respected her preparation for this huge responsibility, her very significant service to her countrymen and countrywomen and the dignified, intelligent and graceful way she presented her case for election.   Now they and I respect the dignified and graceful manner in which she is accepting the results.  No bloviating, no bitter statements of recrimination against her opponent nor those who rejected her candidacy.

I for one had hoped this well prepared and experienced leader might stand before us on January 20 and provide inspiration for all of us as the first women elected to lead this powerful nation.  But, by the tightest of margins in three states she did not prevail.  I will be writing a blog soon entitled Defeat By A Thousand Tiny Cuts.

But for you, the three most important women in my life in addition to my beloved Julia Jackson, I have a few thoughts.  Hillary never gave up, even under withering and demeaning, baseless attacks.  You must not give up either.  Not in any of the pursuits life leads you to, nor complete control over your own destiny and the choices that are ahead for you.  You own your own being.  Every aspect of it.  Mind, body and spirit.   Don't ever give up that control.

Never stop dreaming.  Imagine your futures.  Your highest aspirations.  work like hell to realize and actualize them.

Look the the inspiration the women who came before you offer.  The black women in bondage in America who broke out and not only became free, but gave some much back to us all.   The suffragettes  who labored for 80 years for a right that was always due them, the right to vote and participate in their governance. The Feminists of the 50's, 60's and 70's who fought for your right to control your own destiny, your own bodies and demanded equality.  Their dream of an Equal Rights Amendment to codify their rights and yours is still unrealized.  Help them get it done in your lifetime, if not for yourselves, for your children and those to come.  For your sisters in the cause.

And speaking of inspiration, I want to honor the two women in my life who did their homework, hit the streets in protest, gathered with other women to demand justice, served in community leadership positions denied to others before them and never, never stopped advocating for what is fair and right.  Equality.  Took risks, spoke out and stood tall demanding justice.  Mary Kaye Merriman and Julie Jackson.  Two activists who worked not only for themselves, their families but also for the sisterhood still diminished by misogyny, predatory sexists, ignorant racists and worst of all, silent bystanders who are complicit with their silence.

Do what you can to further the cause of ending the suppression of half the earth's population.  Speak out. Write.  Set examples.  Excel.  Lead if you can.  You are up to the task with the way forward paved by selfless others.  Now it is your turn. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Losing by 80,000 Votes In Three States Is Not a Repudiation

 I'm mad and still in shock that we have a  racist, fascist sexual predator now likely leading our country somewhere that is likely not a good place.  But I'm not so mad or shocked that I cannot discern that this was not some sort of landslide and macro repudiation of the economic policies of the Democratic Party.  It was a stunning example of evil manipulation of our lesser angels and damned effective communications by a master of theater.

Hillary is currently on her way to somewhere in the vicinity of a 3 million popular vote margin.   That's bigger than most in losing American Electoral College election history.  It is a repudiation of lousy emotional connection, policy communications and lousy party GOTV in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.   Our DNC leadership was embarrassing to say the least.  But the margin of victory was hairline thin.

We haven't lost touch with "the people."  Yes, we've lost touch with the white racists, many who escaped from the horrors, in their minds, of having to be in a party with those other people to stake out a new life in ex-urban areas.  Trumpites and their parents started migrating to the ex-urbs back when Daddy Bush in the late 60's started recruiting Wallace people out of the Democratic Party into the current iteration of the Republican Party. The migration  was accelerated with the earlier voting rights and civil rights acts. Likely half the Trumpites fit into this category and good riddance.  The others  are so low information and unengaged outside of their own miserable lives that they fell for a con artist.  Most of them are beyond help.  This is not a mass repudiation as some pundits would have you believe.  This was a very geographically selective failure to turn out our base, in keeping with dismal turnout trends for Democrats at all levels for decades.  It is the continuation of a trend, salvaged by the brilliant Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012 where he found a way to work around this trend and voter suppression with a determined army of loyalists.

There are a helluva lot more folks who have dropped out of the voting process, about half the voting eligible population, that fit the profile of people who can be helped by the Democratic Party and who help themselves by helping the Party win elections locally and nationally.  It will take massive grassroots work, but that is the real work of the Party so let's get on with it.  Restore grass roots party leaders, train them, support them in their neighborhoods and to the degree possible, empower them with the old fashion ward heeler power of yesteryear.  This is the guy or gal in the neighborhood who can help with a job, a problem, a lawyer, whatever is needed.  No, don't rely on brand loyalty.  Rely on old fashioned patronage and damned good communications.  Lord knows we have the communications tools needed.  We have to do this ACORN style.

As for the populist message.  Sure.  As the co-founder of the Progressive Populist Caucus of the Texas Democratic Party 15 years ago, I know something about that movement.  But  know that it doesn't have to mean blowing up Wall Street, big banking and corporate America.  It means limiting their control of our government and candidates at all levels with their money and lobbying.  We do this by restricting their ability to influence our electeds and getting rid of those unwilling to wean themselves from their influence.  Yes, that means a Party that both rewards and punishes when necessary.

Yes, break up the big banks and separate speculation banking from consumer banking, but do it to support local community banks serving  their communities.  I know about this too as a small business person for a significant part of my working life.  I learned long ago that a big national chain  bank manager is barely a cut above a fast food restaurant manager in power, knowledge and authority.  My neighborhood local bankers knew how to advise me and how to judiciously lend me money to grow my business.

Let Wall Street commercial bankers create and move capital around to create and grow businesses, just  regulate them from taking advantage of consumers, punish them when they break the law and tax them when profits and incomes become obscene.  You still need these people, the honest and good ones to advise you on your savings and your retirement.  And you're going to need retirement investment help to a greater degree than before as pensions and defined benefit retirement plans are replaced by 40l Ks and the like.  Just regulate them to keep them honest, properly compensated but not obscenely so and punish them when they screw you.  Yes, we still need the good ones and someone to keep a sharp eye on them.  Those would be your friendly regulators, who should not be from their ranks, but independent of them in background.

This also goes for corporations.  Don't buy their loyalty to keep their production facilities here at home.  Give them incentives and regulations with good reasons to put customers first and shareholders next in line behind consumers and customers.   Tax them not as punishment but as an opportunity to be good citizens. This was mostly the corporate way of the 50's through the 70's  before Reagan turned them loose to turn on us.   Help them innovate and create new ideas, new products and new and better ways of doing commerce.  That will create new and better employment opportunities. Punish them economically when they leave us for foreign lands, excepting those producing goods intended for foreign lands, not to ship back to us.  That production should be here by and for us.

The Party and its candidates must restrain itself from over promising  easy fixes to the macro economic trends that explain our current underemployment/middle class stagnation.  Yes, too much capital has flowed to the top of the capitalistic pyramid.  Tax policy can fix some of that.  But globalization of trade was originally well intended.  It was supposed to provide expanded growth  through new markets.  It did to some degree, but with unintended consequences of offshoring and outsourcing.  We screwed up.  But rewriting some of the rules and some new regulation can address some of the needed solutions.   And trade can provide economic benefits to workers and put the focus on human needs and away from human conflict.

But the biggest culprit in economic stagnation are the decades long trends toward automation and greater industrial production efficiency, reducing the need for hands-on human labor.  We also failed to protect the sacred right of people to collectively bargain for better wages, retirements and employment stability.  

But be realistic.  Many of those industrial  jobs are not coming back, certainly not in the form of massively staffed production lines.   We need to give those in areas like the rust belt and ex-urban counties the truth about the magnitude of the fixes available, whether they choose to comprehend the truth or if they'd rather embrace desperate fantasy.  And we need to raise the money from the affluent to sustain the lives of those families so impacted until at least some of them can be retrained for tech and service industry employment with a just wage.  Whether Democrats will be rewarded for telling the truth and providing sustenance for the negatively impacted remains to be seen.  But it is necessary because both truthfulness and help are the humane thing to do.

It is possible for this dynamic economy to multi-task.  Democrats can advocate for the rights of workers simultaneously with encouragement of capital to provide growth and innovation in the economy.  Yes, there have have huge abuses from Wall Street with dodgy products and absurd risk.  That can be contained and punished.  But remember, it takes capital to generate new products, idea, services and businesses to employ people; that comes largely from Wall Street.

Repeating, this was not a landslide against Democrats in any sense.  It was a tiny edge won by a Republican party that conned us into believing that they were too much in disarray with the undisciplined Trump to put together an effective ground game in the right places.  And they appealed to our latent sexism and racism with very effective, albeit evil messaging, plucking at emotional chords among the disillusioned and disappointed in the right places.  We Democrats did our usual lists of complex policy statements with overtones of altruism and little emphasis on our economic insecurity and struggle to maintain an economic lifestyle over promised with illusions to the mythical American Dream.  And we did not provide a presidential candidate with an uplifting persona that gave us hope for the possible.  This is a cruel reality of American politics.

Trump at least gave us one positive thing.  He proved that our really ineffective consultants and pollsters are mostly a cruel joke.  Authenticity won.  Fascist authenticity but which our media failed to call out for the manipulation game it was and too many of us thought really was not possible in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.