And the Winner is: None of the Above

What was most remarkable about the second Republican debate of the non-Trump presidential aspirants and the almost-but-not-quite shutdown of our federal government was how few Americans seemed to care. According to the Nielsen ratings service, viewership in the second debate dropped 38% from 12.8 million to 9.3 million—the lowest viewership since Trump became a candidate in 2015. As for the prospective shutdown, people were much more interested in the budding romance of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce. (Creepily, they do look like siblings.) And, somewhat disconcerting to Democrats, a YouGov poll showed Dems (in Congress plus Biden) were blamed for the looming shutdown as much as Republican members of Congress, although more—44%—blamed both.

In an admittedly somewhat twisted manner, the current disinterest Americans feel toward presidential candidates and Congress warms my heart. I will take it as a sign they are now doing what I have long advocated: turning their attention toward their own lives and their communities to pursue their welfare through means other than our federal government. Building informal neural-styled networks to focus instead on the development of stronghold communities and looking only occasionally at the circus in Washington D.C.—principally as a masochistic form of entertainment. If “Traylor,” “Tayvis,” or is it “Swelce”(?), transform their romance into a presidential ticket, my money is on them. And yes, Ms. Swift would be at the top of the ticket.

After I did watch the second Republican debate, which reminded me of a bunch of kindergartners just before a much-needed nap time, and observing the complete dysfunction of Republicans in the House of Representatives who are controlled by the pervy and peevish Mr. Gaetz, it is apparent the only plausible prospect for new inspired leadership resides on the Democrat side of the political ledger.

If you are Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, Vivek Ramaswamy, Mike Pence, Tim Scott, Asa Hutchison, that guy from North Dakota, Marianne Williamson, or Cornel West, you actually share something in common besides running for president: the majority of Americans do not want you to be the next president of the United States.

Get over yourself and get off the stage.

Nor is a “No Labels” or other third-party candidate what America needs because that would virtually assure a Trump election inasmuch as it would dilute the vote for whomever the Democrats put up against Trump—presumably Biden. What we want are new candidates in both parties; preferably under 60 and not under indictment.

Is that so much to ask?

In my post of September 10th, “Let’s Get Really Real,” I called for Biden to step aside, give his blessing to a new roster of Democrat presidential prospects, and allow a process of debates, primaries, and the convention to sort out a new nominee. Several others—from pundits to columnists to scholars—followed with the same plea, but to no apparent avail. It turns out Biden, who promised he would be a “transition president,” has an ego, too.  Since then, the data for his prospects of reelection continue to be highly uncertain, especially if there is a third-party candidate and in the face of growing discontent of younger voters who may just sit this election out. Notwithstanding the fact that millions of older Trump voters have passed on since 2020, if younger voters don’t show up that potential advantage for Democrats is lost.

I would not be at all surprised if neither Trump nor Biden were inaugurated in January 2025. I know it seems improbable today, but both are weak and getting weaker.

There is another way to save the 2024 presidential election, although it will be messy. The old-time brokered convention. Smoke filled rooms. Arm twisting and enemies who magically become friends, or at least temporary political allies acting in the interest of a majority of their party. This is the way we named nominees for decades. Convention delegates actually arrived at their conventions as free agents once the first ballot resulted in no clear winner. Eventually, this process was seen as undemocratic and the parties schemed to rid themselves of the cigar-smoking arm twisters like, for the Dems, creating so-called “super-delegates” (which itself is highly elitist and undemocratic). The move to a more transparent and ostensibly inclusive process was heralded as an advancement for democracy. It (sort of) made sense but, today, does it? Might it be relatively more democratic today to let delegates duke it out, especially with the level of burnout/apathy amongst the broader electorate?

Furthermore, the stranglehold the geriatric class of politicians have on America today, coupled with their insatiable appetite to stay in power, including Biden, Trump, McConnell, Pelosi, and Grassley—collectively the dentured not-so dynamos—there is an obvious oligarchy who represent a form of political constipation that today threatens democracy more than the party convention arm-twisters of yesteryear.

Our federal government needs an enema.

The last time a candidate was selected in a contested/brokered convention was Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952, after which he served as president for two terms. Before that it was FDR in 1932 who served for twelve years. Generally, though, the concern at the party level has been to unite the party after such a contentious process. Yet, today, we need more choices. We need to have a pathway for as-yet undeclared candidates to see that it may be worthwhile to throw their hat in the ring, or be drafted by delegates. My expectation is that once one does others may follow if only to claim they are positioning themselves for 2028. Furthermore, it allows the party to (at least) force the incumbent—Biden in this case—to consider other alternatives for his choice of running mate which, in the case of Kamala Harris, allows the party to replace her with a stronger backup to Biden and enhance his chances next November.

Based on today’s polling that shows a high dissatisfaction with declared candidates, it is simply too early to lock-in candidates for either party. Incidentally, the Republicans may be forced into a brokered convention if Trump’s legal woes manifest into higher uncertainty as to his capacity to serve another term. If that occurs, it is even more critical that the Democrats open up their process to have an equal advantage to consider all the possibilities.

We are thirteen months out from the general election. Neither party is served well with their current frontrunners. Strategically, openness and flexibility in the nomination process fits with periods of high uncertainty and long lead-times. Many, like Obama’s former advisor David Axelrod, argue it is too late; to which I—as politely as possible—respond, bullshit. The American electorate is hungry for more and better choices and is quite capable of turning quickly in favor of new intrigue—as in Traylor/Tayvis/Swelce from the world of celebrity couples. The party that understands this first may significantly improve their chances later not only with a better candidate, but with a reinvigorated electorate—including independents who will likely decide the winner, anyway.

It will take some courage but that is, after all, a foundational characteristic of leadership.

By |2023-10-29T12:42:38+00:00October 6th, 2023|General, Leadership, Recent|0 Comments

Let’s Get Really Real

That sickening feeling you have in the pit of your stomach when you think about (or perhaps are forced to think about) the 2024 presidential election is, unfortunately, based in reality. Most sickening feelings are. And, like all things that bother us—from little mental disturbances to sickening feelings—we summon all manner of coping behaviors to rid, or at least quell, the trepidation. In this manner, we are only guilty of being human. But in this case, the stakes are simply too high for coping strategies. Action must be taken, and soon.

As one who has studied the American presidency well beyond what might be considered normal (let alone healthy), trust me when I say my concerns regarding 2024 are rising each day new data comes out. Although I routinely comfort myself as you might with the old axiom “in a democracy you get the government you deserve,” to grant myself a false sense of cheap absolution, the presidential election in 2024 may be the grand finale of a process underway since 2016 when the American experiment of a democratic republic could ring its final bell—its death knell. Like you, I can argue endlessly about why this shouldn’t be so, but data suggests the risk is real.

Yes, I am pulling the fire alarm.

It is time now, before it is too late, to get really real. Here are the ‘reals’ today.

  • The vast majority of Americans do not want to see either Trump or Biden run for president again. If they are the nominees, watch voter turnout plummet—more so for Biden. Not even lightning-rod issues like the Dobbs ruling are likely to affect turnout unless associated with a state-level initiative. In a Biden/Trump rematch, apathy will receive the most votes.
  • Less than 50% of Americans see either Trump or Biden as being “mentally capable” of holding the office of the presidency (only slightly more than one-in-three for Biden). For Trump it’s a character issue, for Biden it’s an age issue. Neither are seen as worthy.
  • Whomever holds the spotlight the longest has the greatest chance of winning. For reasons that should probably be left to psychoanalysts or crystal gazers, dominating media airtime and social media feeds today—regardless of message content or veracity—leads to victory.
  • If the election were held today, it’s a 50/50 tossup; it’s a coin toss on who returns to the White House. Yes, a twice-impeached former president with 91 felony charges against him is running neck ‘n neck with the incumbent president who probably has never had a parking ticket. A Trump/RamaswamyMTGLakeNoem administration will make Putin’s regime seem flaccid, except that under Trump the victims will be mostly innocent Americans.

To my Democrat friends, I know, it doesn’t seem fair. I have heard all your “Yes, but …” arguments regarding Biden’s accomplishments and vitality. But the game of politics is seldom fair. Get over it. Get real. And, demand a change of course in your party before it is too late.

Being elected president in the United States is no longer based in a substantive evaluation of the candidates. Today, it is largely performative. In the elections of yesteryear, it was also performative to a lesser degree, but since 2016 it has become nearly completely performative, which is to say facts regarding policies and their actual or expected outcomes—the substance—doesn’t matter; neither does the truth. When was the last time you heard Trump take a policy position? His legal troubles are his campaign and it’s working! Thanks to MSNBC, CNN and, ironically to a lesser extent, FOX, he is constantly the lead story. Presidential elections have become a clown show of grandiosity and while the electorate is growing tired of stale popcorn and the putrid smell of cotton candy, let’s get really real: this is the way it is today.

If Democrats want to win, here is what they should do for the good of their party and America. I also have suggestions for the Republicans, but why waste the ink? Sadly, their cowardice is beyond reproach.

  1. Joe Biden should immediately announce he will not run for president in 2024.
  2. Further, he should take the next 60 days to evaluate candidates to replace himself concluding in his recommendation about who should be considered as the next Democratic nominee. A baton passing that respects Biden and his administration. Care should be taken to involve respected thought leaders in the process and to maximize media coverage by giving frequent updates. Push Trump off American’s screens.
  3. A series of debates should immediately follow with all viable candidates (regardless of Biden’s recommendations). I can see a stage with candidates like Buttigieg, Whitmer, Newsom, Polis, Harris, etc. Young(er) aggressive candidates who can attract media attention and generate turnout from key demographics, especially 18–34-year-olds and African Americans who can make the winning difference next November.
  4. Then, the primaries as scheduled, followed by the convention next summer. Let the cream rise to the top and retake the spotlight from the Trump-MAGA sh*t show.

This process completely changes the cringe-worthy prospect of another Biden/Trump election, pushes Trump and the possibility of a third party No Labels candidate (which would assure Biden’s defeat) further from view, and might even return focus to the needs of Americans and America’s place in the world—back on the table where they belong. (Perhaps even reestablish the value of substance.)

In my view, this is America’s best hope. The Democrats need to put the future of our country in their hands. As of today, I fear they are sleep-walking into a catastrophic outcome from which America may never recover.  Are taking these steps risky? Of course they are. Not as risky as what the Founders embarked upon in 1776, but yes, risky. The reality is a coin toss is not acceptable given what is at stake. If there was ever a moment failure was not an option, this is the moment. If you have anyone’s ear in the Biden camp and/or the Democratic Party, please speak up.

Time is of the essence.

By |2023-09-24T13:34:42+00:00September 10th, 2023|General, Recent|0 Comments

Buck Up, Bucko. (What Biden might have said.)

Yes, you are special. Yes, your rights have been violated. Yes, I hear your grievances. Yes, you most certainly are a victim who deserves recompense. Poor you.

Now, buck up, Bucko.

You also have responsibilities, much to be grateful for, and you owe your community, country, and the world more than your whining. And, that person seated next to you? They may even be more special than you are. Who knew?

The world is a mess, but this condition is also not special—not new. Human civilization has been more often a mess than not in its long history. Variables outside of our control—exogenous variables—will forever conspire to challenge our aspirations. What matters is how we deal with variables we can affect—endogenous variables—to turn chaos and threats into order and opportunities.

This is the lesson Ukrainians are teaching the world today. Against all odds, they knew that if they did not stand up for themselves and their country the life left over would not be worth living. Chaos and threats did not break them. They know that life as a Putin pawn means a bleak future living in a world like their Russian neighbors where the color spectrum of life ranges from gray to black and liberty is as rare as truth. Ukrainians prefer their bright blue and yellow, and while their flag may be stained by their own red blood, they are forty-four million souls who will fight for their home long after their buildings are felled and oligarchs lose their yachts.

There is not enough Botox in the world to fix what Senator Romney called Putin’s “feral eyes.” Putin’s destiny is assured as just another evil madman whose pasty reptilian skin will blister and fester under the blaze of damnation. Unlike many other political leaders, especially those in America, Putin is in many ways more forthright—more predictable. Yes, he deploys subterfuge, distraction, and deflection as a tactical effort at confusing and disorienting his foes, but his evil aims are pursued in an obvious and direct manner while barely feigning morality or decency.

Meanwhile, we Americans melt down if our barista puts butterscotch syrup in our latte instead of hazelnut. “I’ve been violated!” “Who will save me?” “Someone must pay!” “You will hear from my attorneys!” As children in every city in America go to bed hungry every night.

Performative activism on social media, which has become an acceptable yet meaningless expression of American character, must be replaced by redirecting our energy from rights to responsibilities; from grievances to gratitude; from condemnation to empowerment; from passivity to action. Posting a borrowed meme on Facebook while chewing your corn syrup-laced red licorice does not qualify you as a candidate for citizen of the year. We must stand up, speak up, and act in a manner that honors our past, provides stewardship of the present, and secures the future for those who follow. The challenges of our time are not insurmountable. We must simply decide to trade victimhood for victory.

We know the difference between right and wrong, or at least we did when we were in kindergarten; before we lost ourselves to the imperative of entitlement. In the age of abundance, we have been confused by a lack of consequences. Rather than raise our hands in service, we stretch them to grab our unfair share. We conjure enemies as anyone who doesn’t affirm our fragile egos or satisfy our limitless desires. How special we aren’t.

To be clear, Ukrainians are not superheroes; they are humans too. They are not better people than Americans, they just behave better. There is something about the prospect of losing everything—especially your freedom—that is both sobering and empowering. It stiffens the spine. In America, we are losing our democracy and the values of world stewardship—of exemplar exceptionalism—that should have made us leaders in the fight against climate change. We now stare at our dumbphones, while chewing our licorice, oblivious to our self-inflicted impending doom. As long as the next Amazon parcel arrives, what could possibly go wrong?

I write to you as one of those Americans. I don’t care for red licorice, but my dumbphone is always on and my Amazon shopping cart usually has something ready to “buy now.” However, I am also an historian who knows that American power was not won from the comfort of a couch. That the brilliance of our founding documents has more meaning than a Kardashian tweet. That those same documents gain their meaning not from their scrolled parchment; rather, from the behaviors of Americans who honor their aims with a duty of service.

Name one great American living today. Time is up. Stumped? Me too. Although it is true that greatness may not be obvious in real time—that it reveals itself after the fact—we should be able to name a number of prospects for the accolade. And yet, crickets. Leadership in our society is hard to find. Selflessness is a quaint notion hidden in the pages of books gathering dust in the library. Courage means more than surviving being unfollowed. Duty means putting down Wordle and getting to work.

There is greatness in every human being. Ukrainians are finding it the hard way—while staring down a murderous madman. It is time for Americans to put away their dumbphones and get off the couch. Self-pity will not change the course of history. We must renew our commitment of care for each other and the spaces we call home. We must re-engage in the spirit of perfectibility: to leave things better than we found them.  We must, once again, endeavor to set the example for others to follow. This is the American story of our past when unity and determination led the world. It is time for the sequel.

By |2022-03-10T15:45:34+00:00March 4th, 2022|General, Leadership|0 Comments

MAFGA

Do you remember when it felt good to be an American? When the always sunny-side-up Ronald Reagan proclaimed that every day was “Morning in America”? The best day ever in America was always that day, and tomorrow would be even better.

Traditionally, the essence of the American spirit lies in one basic proposition: that the United States of America is the best place in the world to become all you can be—to realize your dreams. If you were born here, you were damn lucky. And, if you weren’t you would do what you could to get here.  The shining city on the hill beckoned all as the escalator to unmatched human fulfillment where each successive generation would reach new heights of achievement. That spirit was indomitable in American life for more than fifty years—from the late 1940s until the early 2000s. Then, we turned against ourselves.

Today, Americans are exhausted. Many feel as though they have been living on the edge of disaster—mentally, physically, and financially—since before the Great Recession, now more than a decade past. Then, the pandemic threw us all in a pressure cooker threatening our very existence. It has taken an extraordinary toll that has proven very stubborn to resolve. The sad fact is that Americans are killing each other at rates not seen since the Civil War, and committing suicide at rates never seen—ever. (Let those facts sit with you for a moment.) Since the early 2000s, we have fallen so dramatically into divided camps of hate-filled animus the prospect of redemption seems impossible to summon.

After fifty years of extraordinary achievements and prosperity, made possible by the sacrifice and toil of six-plus generations of Americans who preceded us, we slipped into the trap of judgment and condemnation, heaping shame on each other at every opportunity. Shame that kindles humiliation, which results in depression, anger, and violence.

The invocation of shame started with the religious right, but today finds its greatest animated vigor on the woke left. “Family values,” espoused by the religious right was always a contrivance to bind true believers together (for the benefit of the church and/or televangelists), and to condemn those who did not join and conform to the money-machine bondage of institutionalized mysticism. Their pro-life movement is perhaps the most enduring shame-based construct of all time. All well-packaged doctrines, but nonetheless hypocritical and knavish.

More recently, the many shame-based movements of the woke left (MeToo, BLM, Defund the Police, Occupy Wall Street) target men, Whites, cops, and the wealthy with a firehose of shame. Do those targets deserve ridicule? Yes, some do. Will it change behavior—solve the problem? Absolutely not. Finally, right when we need everyone on board to solve the many effects of climate change, and to persuade the unvaccinated to get in line for a jab, the principal pathway of persuasion is, you guessed it, shame. We humiliate people and then wonder why they flip us off rather than do what we need them to do, for us and for themselves.

The message is always the same, notwithstanding subtle modifications to fit different targets: you are immoral; you are unworthy; you are deplorable; you are stupid. Like middle school bullies, we put each other down to build ourselves up. In fear of being displaced from our position in American socio-economic hierarchies and/or enduring the effects of a widening gap between the haves and have-nots, or simply satisfying our elitist impulses, we defaulted to putting one foot on our fellow Americans’ necks and a knee on their backs to assure our own status and success. It is little wonder why we live in a toxic cauldron of ire that is destroying our humanity and our country.

This dire assessment aside, there is an enormous opportunity for those in all elements of society—business, political, and social—who are astute enough to provide the foundation of redemption to save us from ourselves and, yes, thrive. Make Americans Feel Good Again (MAFGA) is a simple and powerfully persuasive proposition. Lifting people up has always proven more powerful than putting them down. “Your success makes mine possible” is a tried-and-true leadership axiom. The elegance of this proposition lies in its return on investment inasmuch as the investment—the cost of adopting this approach—is $0.

The use of the term ‘good’ in MAFGA is intentional. Not happy, or great, or special; good. As my high school expository writing teacher often reminded me: “good is a moral term.” Moreover, ‘good’ is the essence of feeling worthy, which is essential to every human being’s sense of self that enables them to succeed in their pursuit of their particular purpose—of their dreams. Evisceration of the goodness in our fellow Americans—what shaming does—is a surefire pathway to societal collapse.

Today, MAFGA can be applied to any aspect of life that requires persuasion. Business, public health, politics, education, law enforcement—wherever you need people to make a preferred decision or adopt better behaviors, making them feel good about themselves for having done so is by orders of magnitude more effective than dropping the anvil of shame upon their heads. Shaming and the humiliation it evokes must stop, now.

Finally, since many of you follow this post for my political observations, to my Democrat readers, it appears the Republicans have figured this out first. While Democrats are busy criticizing each other in Congress, and shaming people who are unsupportive of their policies (from fiscal stimulus packages to climate change to vaccinations), Governor-elect Youngkin in Virginia was making parents of schoolchildren feel good about themselves again and won the statehouse. Even Republican senator Josh Hawley, a Trumpy firebrand, who made some rather visceral remarks about the state of manhood in America last week, is onto something: he was attempting (wittingly or not) to make men feel good again.

In the presidential election of 1980, Mr. Sunshine, Ronald Reagan, defeated the jeremiad-driven Jimmy Carter by granting Americans absolution from their sins. He intoned: you (Americans) are not the problem, government is. You Americans are good. The question for Democrats today: is Biden, Carter? Republicans may not even need history, redistricting, or voter suppression to assure their next wins if they embrace MAFGA-based strategies. The midterm elections of 2022 and presidential election in 2024 may well turn on the simple measurement of who made Americans feel good again. In the emerging post-crisis era, how could making Americans feel good again ever fail? (Wake up Dems, you may not be as ‘woke’ as you think.)

MAFGA, people. MAFGA.

By |2021-12-01T16:24:06+00:00November 17th, 2021|General, Leadership|0 Comments

Flipping the Script

As the country grinds to a Covid-induced halt, and President Trump descends from existential threat, to absurd clown, to likely defendant, the rest of us are tasked with our personal survival through spring, or longer.  Hibernation is natural for many mammals during winter’s darkness and cold, yet we humans are better at romanticizing hibernation than practicing prolonged seclusion.  Distractions conceived to ward off anxiety and depression are, I have learned, a simple enough concept, but soon fall victim to the banality of repetition.  And, while I embrace the theory of the “present moment” as the only one that matters, when desperation takes up residency in the now, as it has for too many Americans, breathing deeply can slide into hyperventilation.

Watching the news as a go-to distraction is of little help when the message is, we’re all gonna die.  Old movies turn out to be just that: old. Hallmark movies?  Little more than a sugar high. Reminisce about lost freedoms and good times?  I don’t recommend going down that rabbit hole.  And, our spouses, partners, family members, and even pets (if they haven’t bailed on us already) look askance at us with that gaze of simmering contempt as their eyes speak without words: “Oh, you again? You’re still here?”  Do you think “stay-at-home” comes with the permission to share your flatulence as loudly as you can?  Winston Churchill gave the best advice: “When you are going through hell, keep going.”

Alas, the earth still spins its way, day by day, to a new tomorrow.

As for earth, I expect it is wishing for an asteroid to rid itself of humanity but, for the time being, we are stuck with each other in a fateful embrace of dual threats: nature’s virus to humans, and human’s toxic dependencies that are assuring the extinction of nature.  Oh, joy!  This is our centennial (perhaps millennial) test: can we come together to defeat a pandemic and leverage that new-found unity to halt, then reverse, climate change?  Can we save ourselves and nature too?  The pandemic is, in many respects, our audition—a training-wheels deal.  If we can’t defeat it, we have little hope of affecting climate change.  We may as well load up the Yukon and move there—to the Yukon.  (I hear new real estate brokerages are opening there every day.)

Dear reader, we need to flip the script, and soon. We need to summon our inner entrepreneur and reconceive threats as opportunities and work to morph our weaknesses into strengths.  We need to reimagine our world and the role(s) we play.  Lord knows we have the time, now we just need the will.  I used to teach budding entrepreneurs and aging executives the same thing: that success is based in intelligence, resources, and passion; that you can win with two of three as long as one of them is passion.  You can be smart or well-funded, but if you lack passion—intensity—you will not prevail.  To that end, I have some thoughts for America.

The recent election revealed an America at war with itself; a cold civil war, but a war nonetheless.  Biden won the presidency, but had no coattails down-ballot.  Trump lost (yes, Donald you are a LOSER), but voters down-ballot preferred Republicans.  So, Biden’s challenge is to largely ignore the 30 million voters on each of the far right and left—the core audiences of FOX and MSNBC—and try to satisfy the 90 million in the middle.  That is his only path forward.  Political provocateurs with absolutist exclusionary slogans need to take a holiday.  Self-righteous condemnation has no place in public discourse, whether it emanates from the right or left.  We can’t afford extremes; we must live in the middle lane.  Boldness? Certainly.  Win-lose certitude?  Absolutely not.

To that end, as we wish him well, we need to shift our focus from Biden’s challenges and reimagine how we can affect the production and distribution of public goods—without the Federal Government.  Public goods are things like healthcare, education, transportation, and communication systems.  Things better managed through collective interest than personal.  They are things that, if we all have access to them, make us both collectively and individually better off.  They are best considered through the lens I call collective capitalism: a hybrid of collectivism for the common good and the efficiency of capitalist regimes that reward the highest and best uses of available resources.

Let’s take healthcare as an example of a public good we might tackle on a regional basis.  What if states grouped themselves into like-minded affiliated networks?  Like networks of blue states and red states.  What if the governors of Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado got on the phone and formed a public-option based healthcare network?  What if those same governors demanded a return of tax dollars and authority from the Federal Government and tasked their brightest minds—from the public and private sectors—to design and implement a new healthcare system for the residences of their states?  Red states could form their own networks based on their own particular ideological preferences.  A healthcare system based on every person for themselves?  Abortion illegal? Defund Medicaid? Go for it. (And watch people flee.)

The reality is this: in a cold civil war, our Federal Government provides little hope for solving our problems.  To be clear, I am rooting for Joe.  However, reality is screaming in our faces; the Federal Government no longer serves our interests—even on life and death issues.  Perhaps seeking solutions through regional affiliations will exacerbate division, but affiliation may be more realistic than unification, and we need to solve some basic problems now.  Regional competition based in service to citizens rather than politicians may be just what we need to bring honesty back into the process.

People like Mitch McConnell should not be a factor in the health and welfare of children in South Central Los Angeles.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should not determine what crops a farmer plants in Iowa.  However, they exert their influence because we have placed these decisions in their hands.  Shame on us.  We have both asked and allowed all three branches of our Federal Government to take responsibility and assume authority for way too many issues.

Frankly, we need to get off our asses, get our proverbial shit together, and control our own destiny.  The Washington monument is just that—a monument.  It is not a beacon to light our path to the future.  That path begins at home.

By |2020-12-18T16:16:49+00:00December 3rd, 2020|General, The New Realities|0 Comments

Let’s Give Each Other a Chance Again

It started as a fairly normal Saturday morning in southwestern Colorado, excepting the dull headache that persisted following too many hours of viewing election coverage for what seemed an eternity.  The headache quickly resolved with a stout cup of coffee born on the island of Sumatra—a steady morning companion.  There were chores to be done, which arrived with a sense of urgency to beat the arrival of a winter storm creeping toward the doorstep of the San Juan Mountains.  The storm warning suggested more feet than inches of snow accompanied by a fierce wind—the kind that would erase any of the last golden vestiges of autumn in favor of a white blanket of winter.

As I organized the trash and recyclables to arrive at the dump when the gates would swing clear to receive the castaway evidence of my solitary life, my Springer Spaniel, Stella, started her twirling dance by the door.  She loves to go to the dump; her enthusiasm, while odd by human standards, provides a welcome spirit to an otherwise pedestrian chore where the only human interaction is with a maskless transfer-station clerk who takes down license plate numbers and assesses fees with alacrity commensurate with the bounty her customers leave behind.  The rats that live beneath the industrial-size compactor are the only critters that wage a smile.  Yes, rats can smile.  (Google it—they smile with both their ears and lips; happy happens.)

Upon returning home and moving more firewood closer to the front door, I decided to flip on the TV and sink, once again, into my oversized leather chair where reading, viewing, and naps are common.  The scene that revealed across the glassy platter of Samsung digital clarity was stunning, even jarring.  People gathering in the streets of America—that much seemed normal following months of civil unrest.  But, this was strange.  Screaming, anger, and violence had been replaced by cheering, singing, and dancing.  I struggled to remember the last time I had seen joy, but my memory failed to comply. Tears gathered in the lower half of my eyes then, as suddenly as they arrived, they breached the dam of my eyelids and streamed down my face; an aging white man trying to reconcile the moment after living of the edge of dread for four years.

I wept for the prospect of normalcy.  I wept for the promise of hope.  I wept for the possibility that the America I was raised to love and protect might return.  I wept for the immigrant children who may now be reunited with their parents that had been exiled by an evil American regime.  I wept for those who lost their lives at the hands of an incompetent leader who cared more about his reelection than saving them from a deadly pandemic.  I wept for those who, because of the color of their skin, or unsettled legal status, or gender preference, or simple political persuasion, have lived in a state of fear moving from shadow to shadow lest the light of day place them in peril.  But I also wept for those who prefer red to blue—Trump to Biden—for they are victims too.  Dying from a poverty of dignity at the end of a gun, or a stomach full of opioids, bereft of hope and swindled by a man who promised them deliverance but never, ever, cared enough to save them.  And, I wept for those who sold their souls to grab what benefits they could—political or financial—from a man who was determined to destroy American values and institutions so that he might realize his fantasies of fascism.

The heart of America has many wounds.  To be clear, I am far from Pollyannaish.  It is highly uncertain if America will recover her promise, her hope, her power.  The American Dream may be lost forever.  Our greatest days may only be experienced by reading our history, rather than living our future.  However, I heard president-elect Biden’s plea, that we “give each other a chance.”  After all, chances—first, second, and more—course through the veins of the American spirit.  It is within our power to choose, and each and every one of us has the responsibility in every new morning that arrives, to decide whether we want to save our heritage from the travesty of the Age of Deceit—punctuated in finality by the Trump administration—or meander toward mediocrity, or worse.  In November 1863, with the Union teetering on collapse, Abraham Lincoln stood in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—the same commonwealth that delivered victory to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris—and argued for a “new birth of freedom.”  Today, we must again set aside fear for hope, hate for love, dread for grace.  We must give each other a chance again.

By |2020-12-03T14:33:05+00:00November 8th, 2020|General, Recent|0 Comments

Wanna Get Back to Normal? Think Again.

The gift of Covid-19—yes, gift—is that we have been given an opportunity to, in Thomas Paine’s words, “begin the world over again.”  Okay, maybe not the world, but America.  We all want to be unshackled from our isolation and social distancing; that much is obvious.  However, we must also take stock of the myriad of weaknesses and fatal flaws that have been revealed and amplified by Covid-19, and seize the moment to affect change before we settle too far back into business as usual. Trump and the Trumplicans would like nothing more than for us to demur once we are set free, and to be so full of gratitude for simply being able to hug our friends again, and sit at our favorite table in our favorite restaurant, that we allow the status quo to resume.  However, as American patriots who have now witnessed the horror of a broken healthcare system, the extraordinary cost of incompetent and deceitful leadership in the executive branch, and the economic toll on millions of Americans held captive in an economy that rewards the very few, the time is now for a transformative makeover.

The status quo enjoys a powerful gravitational pull, so it won’t be easy.  During the Covid-19 crisis in my own community, I implored our elected leaders to, well, lead.  Unfortunately, as is all-too-common in times of crisis, they have locked their focus on the flames closest to their feet—staring at the tops of their shoes—rather than lift their eyes toward the horizon.  They are anxious and scared and retreat quickly behind bureaucratic veils to justify doing nothing.  But, one of the first lessons of crisis management is to seek reliable information and cast your eyes where you would like to go—in the distance—to get ahead of the threat in a proactive fashion rather than remaining stuck in reflexive reaction.  As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who knew a thing or two about crises, argued, “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something!”  A do-nothing strategy only assures a fate beyond your control—it is a wager on luck.  It takes courage, but the best leaders have the capacity to make the tough choices to master the elements of crises rather than become victims of circumstance, while others remain lost in their anxieties, addled by imagined risks and unimaginative thinking.

To affect change on a large scale, we must similarly first lift our eyes and visualize a new America.  Let me illustrate with two oppositional news reports from the future, January 20, 2025.  You decide which you prefer.

January 20, 2025, Washington D.C.

It was a crisp and cold day that welcomed the midday inauguration of Kamala Harris as the 47th president of the United States.  Throngs of people packed the mall from the steps of the Capitol to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as the oath of office was administered by Chief Justice Barack Obama.  The regional administrators of public goods, appointed by President Biden after his election in 2020 to cabinet-level positions in the newly formed North American Alliance for Security, Healthcare, Transportation and Commerce, including Gavin Newsom of the Western Region, Jared Polis of the Intermountain West, Beto O’Rourke of the Southwest, Pete Buttigieg of the Midwest, Andrew Cuomo of the Northeast, Andrew Wang of the Mid-Atlantic, Stacey Abrams of the Southeast and Justin Trudeau of Canada surrounded the new president.  The alliance, designed to narrow the focus of the federal government to the management of its core responsibilities, was part of a package of reforms to move more authority and resources to the state and local level while effectively opening the border with Canada.  Biden’s attorney general, Andrew McCabe, missed the event as the “designated survivor” of the administration although his work to bring former President Trump, his family, and a number of former Trump cabinet members to justice for tax evasion, tax fraud, money laundering, crimes against the state, and crimes against humanity continued to produce “below-the-fold” newspaper coverage.  In her first address as president, Harris acknowledged that “while the long nightmare of the Trump presidency and the Covid-19 pandemic is largely behind us, healing would be incomplete—lessons might otherwise be missed—until and when total and comprehensive justice has been rendered.”  The largest inaugural crowd since the swearing in of Barack Obama in 2008 filled the mall with both cheers and tears.  The American Dream was, once again, alive.

Or:

January 20, 2025, Washington D.C.

It was a crisp and cold day in Washington D.C., but the inauguration-cum-coronation of Ivanka Trump as the 46th president was moved into the rotunda of the Capitol to accommodate the use of the throne her father installed during his second term, and to assure the safety and security of Her Royal Highness from the masked marauding malcontents that roamed the city armed with little more than their viral shed.  The “Trump vaccine,” owned by the Trump Organization, that had proved largely ineffective in treating Covid-19 and Covid-21, was the only treatment allowed in the United States under Trump’s first executive order following his second inaugural.  The approximately 100 million Americans who fled the United States in 2021 to seek refuge from disease and the raging impulses of the 45th president, left behind 250 million lost souls who continued to suffer disease, poverty, and toxic levels of lead, mercury, nitrous oxide and benzine; evidence of America’s new role as the last fossil fuel producing nation in the world.  Cormac McCarthy’s nightmare, The Road, has become an American reality.  Trump’s “culture czar,” William Barr presided over the coronation as he now oversaw both the executive and judicial branches of the government.  “God’s law,” as interpreted and enforced principally by Barr, had effectively replaced the Constitution as the law of the land.  Jared Kushner’s drafting of supporting laws, statutes, and codes had succeeded in relegating Congress as little more than a social club of old MAGA standouts like Richard Spencer of the White Nationalist Party.  The social media scions, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey loaded their platforms, Facebook and Twitter, with glamorous photos of Ivanka with a brilliant tiara of diamonds, sapphires and rubies in celebration of her ascension to the throne which, once and for all, dealt a final blow to the American Dream.

It’s your choice, America.  Where do you want to go?  Both stories may seem far-fetched today, but are they?  (Remember where we were just four years ago.)

By |2020-05-02T15:42:11+00:00April 18th, 2020|General|0 Comments
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