If Money Is No Object, What Would We Do? Martin Westerman

5/5/20

As the federal government doles out trillions of dollars in its CARES Act Stimulus Program – mostly to American corporations, leastly to deserving citizens, we might ask, “What kind of ‘economy’ is this?”

Like a tide going out and coming in, money has melted away – in a 10,000 point stock market drop, and returned – led by the U.S. Treasury, creating a 5,000 point stock market rise. Stock market observers have seen this epidemic effect before, and think it’s worrisome. Basically, the U.S. Treasury is borrowing against future U.S. tax revenues and paying itself interest on the loan, exploding our national debt, to print money for Americans who will owe nearly $70,000 per person to the U.S. Treasury.

Economists agree it’s a problem. David Wessel, Director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy explained, “No one really knows at what level a government’s debt begins to hurt an economy.” If interest rates stay low, the government can handle a heavier debt load than anyone thought possible. But federal debt “cannot grow faster than the economy indefinitely.” Eventually, federal borrowing will crowd out private borrowing, and “Something has to give.”

A current Internet meme describes CARES like this:
“It is a slow day in the small Iowa town of Pumphandle, and streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody is living on credit. A tourist visiting the area drives through town, stops at the motel, and lays a $100 bill on the desk saying he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs to pick one for the night. As soon as he walks upstairs,
. the motel owner grabs the bill and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.
. the butcher takes the $100 and runs down the street to retire his debt to the pig farmer.
. the pig farmer takes the $100 and heads off to pay his bill to his supplier, the Co-op.
. the guy at the Co-op takes the $100 and runs to pay his debt to the local prostitute, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer her “services” on credit.
. the hooker rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill with the hotel owner.
. the hotel proprietor then places the $100 back on the counter so the traveller will not suspect anything.
At that moment, the traveller comes down the stairs, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, picks up the $100 bill and leaves. No one produced anything. No one earned anything… However, the whole town is now out of debt and looks to the future with a lot more optimism.”

The Pumphandle story says our economy is built on the movement of capital. But what if each person in Pumphandle owes more than $100? Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck – money flows in, money flows out, and an unexpected expense can bankrupt them. Like the airlines and airplane manufacturers: they can’t make expenses because air travel has nosedived. American petroleum and tar sands companies are going bankrupt because the Saudi Arabia-Russia oil price war has created an oil glut and tanked per barrel income. Food suppliers, farmers and ranchers are dumping produce and killing livestock because restaurants, foodservice, hotel and cruise ship patronage has dropped to a trickle. Wen should create a new bankruptcy category: Chapter 19.

At this point, we might long for the good old days, when there was no such thing as money. Bands of our hunter-gatherer ancestors followed seasonal game and food plants, and even when they settled down 10,000-odd years ago to grow food and tame livestock, they still didn’t need money. They traded and bartered with other settlers and nomads. Labor predates capital by a million years.

But the Ag-Rev fed people, populations and tribal areas grew into territories, more people produced more goods and services, more trading occurred and more market centers appeared. People invented bookkeeping and accounting to keep track of transactions, and markers – money, to represent value and promises to pay. If you didn’t want a cow in trade for 30 clay urns, you could take an agreed weight in silver or gold to represent the value, then trade your silver for food or wood.

Governments appeared and grew; chieftains and warriors evolved into kings and armies; administrators appeared to manage growing realms and empires. Less and less money circulated amongst mid- and low-level tradespeople, farmers, ranchers and service providers; more and more flowed to the king’s coffers and the military – much like today.

Credit – loaning money to finance ventures – came mostly from the king and those connected to him. But expanding trade routes and more available wares to buy and sell encouraged commercial ventures, and helped entrepreneurs make fortunes. Commercial bankers arose to hold money securely. They lent it to finance regents’ adventures, finance new industries and research, and to make money on money. From the 1600s Enlightenment onward, the power of capital began to eclipse the power of monarchs.

Fast forward to today: We may love watching TV programs about hardy homesteaders and off-the-grid survivalists, but they’re just acting out nostalgic hunter-gatherer, or apocalyptic fantasies. With more than seven billion people on a planet running an $80 trillion globalized economy, they need this economy to finance their fantasies.

So, “What kind of economy is this?” All the world’s religions say it should be guided by a Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would treat yourself.” But most every empire has lived by another version: “Whoever’s got the gold makes the rules.” That approach “can weaken even the firmest ethical backbone,” wrote Eduardo Porter. And every empire has fallen, as greed for wealth has financed absolute power, and “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” (Lord John Dalberg-Acton, 1887).

Greed is really the source of all evil, not money. Food, shelter, security, love, and community appear in Maslow’s hierarchy; money doesn’t. Chief Sealth, surrendering his tribal lands to white settlers founding Seattle warned, “You may divide and sell all our land, but what will you do when you have nothing left to eat but your money?” Money is not political, religious or ethnic; nor moral or immoral. It’s amoral; a tool of commerce, a lifeblood of modern society. It’s like condensed energy, able to finance good and evil.

U. Mass. Boston economics professor Julie Nelson asserts that ethics must be a part of economics. “We undermine the ability of the economy to do its job — to provide for the sustaining and flourishing of life” if we imagine economics as “an ethics-free and care-free sphere.”

Labor may predate capital, but Oxford economics professor Bob Smith says they’re partners now – “complementary factors of production.” “In an industrial and post-industrial economy, you literally can’t produce (create, manufacture, distribute) without capital.”

The COVID economic jolt provides a good time for us to reimagine our economy as more than just the flow of money. Money is an agreement about the trading value of goods and services. Its value rises with optimism, falls with pessimism, spikes with euphoria, plunges with panic. If the U.S. Treasury can print money and call it valuable, then we can re-imagine the role of that money for supporting Americans’ aspirations. We should be looking at money in terms of what we could do if money were no object.

During the Great Depression, American infrastructure got built while America supported its artists and culture. We can do that today, too. When someone says we can or can’t “afford that,” it’s usually a statement of political expediency or lack of imagination.

For three years now, the Trump Administration has shown us how not to run a government. Meanwhile new, more cooperative form of financial and political systems have taken shape. While political leaders have locked their borders during COVID, scientists have opened theirs. While the current administration says it’s every man for himself, experts say being part of a cohesive community is the best way to survive disaster. On the business side, buying from or being part of a member-owned cooperative, like Darigold, Tillamook, R.E.I., Costco & credit unions, is more sustainable than with a standard structure business. In the U.S., cooperatives generate $652 billion in annual sales, and employ more than two million people. Worldwide, Certified B Corporations like Patagonia, Seventh Generation, and 3000 other companies are transparently verifying their business, social and environmental performance, working globally to build a sustainable and inclusive economy, and sharing the wealth to encourage more of it.

The models are there. It’s time we demand that our federal governments use them to run a better kind of economy now, and for our future.

This Is The Turning Point.

April 1, 2020

We are at a turning point in american history. Indeed world history. To the extent that we enter in a life or death purchasing and resource competition with other peoples around the world, even the risk of world war has increased. Our approach must be experienced as fair for all parties. It already is not.
But we have a president who disavows the United Nations. America First sets the table for a disgusting meal.

We are at a turning point in american, indeed, world history. The planetary survivors of this crisis will completely refocus our vantage points. Assume you were reading about our historical moment 50 or 100 years from now. (By that time our experience will be highly documented for (hopefully) all future historians).

It was just a matter of time before Trump would meet a challenge that proved his utter unfitness. His lack of empathy (which, try as he can, can’t be faked) his need to be lauded or worshiped, his smallness, his lack of intellect, compounded by Trumps’ actual stupidity, would all factor into turning a critical crisis into a catastrophe. And here it is.

It is critical that the American public is frequently reminded of Trumps’ unfitness, lest he somehow wins another ruinous term. There is a tendency to not allocate blame, to avoid conflict, and even to not get on Trumps’ “bad side” for fear of retribution. Such has already been hinted at by Trumps’ castigation of two governors, and imposing a fear that they will not get a needed share of federal government resources if they “are not appreciative”. As if these resources belonged to Trump, and not all of Americas’ tax payers.

Footnote: A CNN Politics recently published, “Analysis: Donald Trump can’t face the stubborn reality: He was wrong about coronavirus”

The Fully Naked Emperor- NY Times, David Leonhardt (3/15/20?

President Trump made his first public comments about the coronavirus on Jan. 22, in a television interview from Davos with CNBC’s Joe Kernen. The first American case had been announced the day before, and Kernen asked Trump, “Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?”
The president responded: “No. Not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
By this point, the seriousness of the virus was becoming clearer. It had spread from China to four other countries. China was starting to take drastic measures and was on the verge of closing off the city of Wuhan.
In the weeks that followed, Trump faced a series of choices. He could have taken aggressive measures to slow the spread of the virus. He could have insisted that the United States ramp up efforts to produce test kits. He could have emphasized the risks that the virus presented and urged Americans to take precautions if they had reason to believe they were sick. He could have used the powers of the presidency to reduce the number of people who would ultimately get sick.
ed all of his public statements and actions on coronavirus over the last two months, and they show a president who put almost no priority on public health. Trump’s priorities were different: Making the virus sound like a minor nuisance. Exaggerating his administration’s response. Blaming foreigners and, anachronistically, the Obama administration. Claiming incorrectly that the situation was improving. Trying to cheer up stock market investors. (It was fitting that his first public comments were from Davos and on CNBC.)
Now that the severity of the virus is undeniable, Trump is already trying to present an alternate history of the last two months. Below are the facts — a timeline of what the president was saying, alongside statements from public-health experts as well as data on the virus.
Late January
On the same day that Trump was dismissing the risks on CNBC, Tom Frieden, who ran the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for eight years, wrote an op-ed for the health care publication Stat. In it, Frieden warned that the virus would continue spreading. “We need to learn — and fast — about how it spreads,” he wrote.
It was one of many such warnings from prominent experts in late January. Many focused on the need to expand the capacity to test for the virus. In a Wall Street Journal article titled, “Act Now to Prevent an American Epidemic,” Luciana Borio and Scott Gottlieb — both former Trump administration officials — wrote:
If public-health authorities don’t interrupt the spread soon, the virus could infect many thousands more around the globe, disrupt air travel, overwhelm health care systems, and, worst of all, claim more lives. The good news: There’s still an opening to prevent a grim outcome. … But authorities can’t act quickly without a test that can diagnose the condition rapidly.
Trump, however, repeatedly told Americans that there was no reason to worry. On Jan. 24, he tweeted, “It will all work out well.” On Jan. 28, he retweeted a headline from One America News, an outlet with a history of spreading false conspiracy theories: “Johnson & Johnson to create coronavirus vaccine.” On Jan. 30, during a speech in Michigan, he said: “We have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five. And those people are all recuperating successfully.”
That same day, the World Health Organization declared coronavirus to be a “public-health emergency of international concern.” It announced 7,818 confirmed cases around the world.
Editors’ Picks

The Manhattan Private School That Tore Itself Apart

Jan. 31
Trump took his only early, aggressive action against the virus on Jan. 31: He barred most foreigners who had recently visited China from entering the United States. It was a good move.
But it was only one modest move, not the sweeping solution that Trump portrayed it to be. It didn’t apply to Americans who had been traveling in China, for example. And while it generated some criticism from Democrats, it wasn’t nearly as unpopular as Trump has since suggested. Two days after announcing the policy, Trump went on Fox News and exaggerated the impact in an interview with Sean Hannity.
“Coronavirus,” Hannity said. “How concerned are you?”
Trump replied: “Well, we pretty much shut it down coming in from China. We have a tremendous relationship with China, which is a very positive thing. Getting along with China, getting along with Russia, getting along with these countries.”
By the time of that interview, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world had surged to 14,557, a near doubling over the previous three days.
Early February
On Feb. 5, the C.D.C. began shipping coronavirus test kits to laboratories around the country. But the tests suffered from a technical flaw and didn’t produce reliable results, labs discovered.
The technical problems were understandable: Creating a new virus test is not easy. What’s less understandable, experts say, is why the Trump administration officials were so lax about finding a work-around, even as other countries were creating reliable tests.
The Trump administration could have begun to use a functioning test from the World Health Organization, but didn’t. It could have removed regulations that prevented private hospitals and labs from quickly developing their own tests, but didn’t. The inaction meant that the United States fell behind South Korea, Singapore and China in fighting the virus. “We just twiddled our thumbs as the coronavirus waltzed in,” William Hanage, a Harvard epidemiologist, wrote.

Trump, for his part, spent these first weeks of February telling Americans that the problem was going away. On Feb. 10, he repeatedly said — in a speech to governors, at a campaign rally and in an interview with Trish Regan of Fox Business — that warm spring weather could kill the virus. “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away,” he told the rally.
On Feb. 19, he told a Phoenix television station, “I think the numbers are going to get progressively better as we go along.” Four days later, he pronounced the situation “very much under control,” and added: “We had 12, at one point. And now they’ve gotten very much better. Many of them are fully recovered.”
His message was clear: Coronavirus is a small problem, and it is getting smaller. In truth, the shortage of testing meant that the country didn’t know how bad the problem was. All of the available indicators suggested it was getting worse, rapidly.
On Feb. 23, the World Health Organization announced that the virus was in 30 countries, with 78,811 confirmed cases, a more than fivefold increase over the previous three weeks.
Late February
Trump seemed largely uninterested in the global virus statistics during this period, but there were other indicators — stock-market indexes — that mattered a lot to him. And by the last week of February, those market indexes were falling.
The president reacted by adding a new element to his public remarks. He began blaming others.
He criticized CNN and MSNBC for “panicking markets.” He said at a South Carolina rally — falsely — that “the Democrat policy of open borders” had brought the virus into the country. He lashed out at “Do Nothing Democrat comrades.” He tweeted about “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer,” mocking Schumer for arguing that Trump should be more aggressive in fighting the virus. The next week, Trump would blame an Obama administration regulation for slowing the production of test kits. There was no truth to the charge.
Throughout late February, Trump also continued to claim the situation was improving. On Feb. 26, he said: “We’re going down, not up. We’re going very substantially down, not up.” On Feb. 27, he predicted: “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” On Feb. 29, he said a vaccine would be available “very quickly” and “very rapidly” and praised his administration’s actions as “the most aggressive taken by any country.” None of these claims were true.

By the end of February, there were 85,403 confirmed cases, in 55 countries around the world.
Early March
Almost two decades ago, during George W. Bush’s presidency, the federal government developed guidelines for communicating during a public-health crisis. Among the core principles are “be first,” “be right,” “be credible,” “show respect” and “promote action.”
But the Trump administration’s response to coronavirus, as a Washington Post news story put it, is “breaking almost every rule in the book.”
The inconsistent and sometimes outright incorrect information coming from the White House has left Americans unsure of what, if anything, to do. By early March, experts already were arguing for aggressive measures to slow the virus’s spread and avoid overwhelming the medical system. The presidential bully pulpit could have focused people on the need to change their behavior in a way that no private citizen could have. Trump could have specifically encouraged older people — at most risk from the virus — to be careful. Once again, he chose not to take action.
Instead, he suggested on multiple occasions that the virus was less serious than the flu. “We’re talking about a much smaller range” of deaths than from the flu, he said on March 2. “It’s very mild,” he told Hannity on March 4. On March 7, he said, “I’m not concerned at all.” On March 10, he promised: “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”
The first part of March was also when more people began to understand that the United States had fallen behind on testing, and Trump administration officials responded with untruths.
Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services, told ABC, “There is no testing kit shortage, nor has there ever been.” Trump, while touring the C.D.C. on March 6, said, “Anybody that wants a test can get a test.”
That C.D.C. tour was a microcosm of Trump’s entire approach to the crisis. While speaking on camera, he made statements that were outright wrong, like the testing claim. He brought up issues that had nothing to do with the virus, like his impeachment. He made clear that he cared more about his image than about people’s well-being, by explaining that he favored leaving infected passengers on a cruise ship so they wouldn’t increase the official number of American cases. He also suggested that he knew as much as any scientist:
I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.
On March 10, the World Health Organization reported 113,702 cases of the virus in more than 100 countries.

Mid-March and beyond
On the night of March 11, Trump gave an Oval Office address meant to convey seriousness. It included some valuable advice, like the importance of hand-washing. But it also continued many of the old patterns of self-congratulation, blame-shifting and misinformation. Afterward, Trump aides corrected three different misstatements.
This pattern has continued in the days since the Oval Office address. Trump now seems to understand that coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon. But he also seems to view it mostly as a public-relations emergency for himself rather than a public-health emergency for the country. On Sunday, he used his Twitter feed to lash out at Schumer and Joe Biden and to praise Michael Flynn, the former Trump aide who pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I.
Around the world, the official virus count has climbed above 142,000. In the United States, scientists expect that between tens of millions and 215 million Americans will ultimately be infected, and the death toll could range from the tens of thousands to 1.7 million.
At every point, experts have emphasized that the country could reduce those terrible numbers by taking action. And at almost every point, the president has ignored their advice and insisted, “It’s going to be just fine.”
Susan Beachy and Ian Prasad Philbrick contributed research

Holding Trump and Cronies Accountable

Martin Westerman 2/13/20

Democratic President Candidates 5: How to hold Trump-Repub accountable

On Feb. 6, 2020, House & Senate Republicans decided America doesn’t need co-equal branches of government anymore.  They’ve been working to marry the administrative, judicial and legislative branches since the 1971 Powell Memorandum urged them to fight radical & liberal ideas.  The U.S. Constitution, radical in 1789, looks conservative to them today.  So they happily regressed with their hypocritical acquittal of DJT.

Dumping Trump in 2020 isn’t just about (a) voting him and his swamp people out (thanks here to Kristen Gillibrand:  “My first act as President will be to Clorox the Oval Office”).  It’s also about (b) holding the Trumpsters and his ilk accountable, and (c) reclaiming America’s radical, Constitutional form of government.

Evangelicals won’t hold non-Christian, anti-love/Jesus DJT accountable: his administration is delivering for right-to-lifers.  Republican legislators won’t; he’s helping them pack conservative (“strict Constituionalist”) judges on benches.  Also, they’re scared of his vengeance and MAGA trolls.  And MAGAs won’t, because, well, they’re MAGAs.  These folk could have followed Romney’s lead and made this a short game, but they’re self-serving, sociopathic, and/or cowardly.  So we must play the long game.


Some rules going forward:

            1.  Politics is about keeping your cronies in power, period.  That thread runs from slaveholders getting the U.S. Constitution to count slaves as 3/5 human, to 1812 Boston Gerrymandering, to the Mason-Dixon Line/Missouri Compromise between free & slave states and antebellum voter suppression, to the Senate’s vote to kill DJT’s impeachment.

            2.  Politics attracts unrepentant actors.  Politicians are more likely than people in the general population to be sociopaths.  Psychologist Dr. Martha Stout says this small minority of leaders without conscience “has always been a bitter pill for society to swallow,” but it explains “shamelessly deceitful political behavior.”

            A minority may be sociopaths or psychopaths, but a juggernaut of them now controls the Republican Administration and Party.  To define terms:

                        . Psychopaths tend to be calm, even thrive in highly stressful situations (“resilience to chaos”).  They also lack empathy, tend to be callous, dishonest, glib, grandiose, manipulative, promiscuous, impulsive, and/or unable to recognize social cues.  They also think their behaviors will always be rewarded, and any punishments are undeserved, so they find targets to blame for their failures.

                        .  Sociopaths share most psychopathic qualities: but unlike psychopaths, they crack under stress, with angry outbursts and abusive language.  They switch between extreme charm and threats, prioritize power above all else, seek to dominate people and situations, enjoy the suffering of others, and look for weak spots and vulnerabilities to exploit in others.  Does this look like familiar behavior?

            3.   All politics is about getting your way – it’s all visceral.

            In the age of “wars” on women, people of color, and immigrants; foreign election meddling, white supremacists and mass shootings; threats to the social safety net, unaffordable housing, dysfunctional government, post-truth/fake news, and no leadership accountability, people have lost patience with and faith in the system. 

            The Pew Research Center (Partisanship and Political Animosity in 2016) found views of opposing political party members are the most negative in 25 years.  Sizable shares of Democrats and Republicans say the other party stirs feelings of not just frustration, but of fear and anger:

                                                Ds view of  Rs             Rs views of Ds

            Afraid                          55-70%                       49-62%

            Angry                          47-58%                       46-58%

            Frustrated                    58-60%                       57-58%

            Emotional rating         31 our of 100              29 out of 100

            The visceral reactions are resistance to change – from Ds’ “don’t cut my Social Security and Medicare,” to Rs’ “don’t impose your will on me.”

            Will holding psychopathic and sociopathic politicians accountable actually help heal these divisions, and restore trust in our system?

            A study in Lancet Psychiatry shows that psychopaths are not impervious to any sort of punishment.  Rather, they process rewards and punishments differently from most people, and their decision-making skills are markedly atypical.  Since  they’re able to interact within society, understand aspects of social situations, and know how to behave when they want rewards, they can clearly choose whether to play by rules, or break them for personal gain.  And that’s a person who can and should be held accountable.

            In Why We Elect Narcissists and Sociopaths, and How We Can Stop, Bill Eddy introduces the dangerous, deceptive, high-conflict politician (HCP). These narcissistic, sociopathic people use a Fantasy Crisis Triad (“there’s a terrible crisis caused by an evil villain that requires a super hero to solve – me!”) to incite “emotional warfare,” and seduce, attack, divide and dominate communities and nations.  Helping the HCP rise are:

                 (a) voters who tend to split into four warring groups – Loving Loyalists, Riled-Up Resisters, Mild Moderates and Disenchanted Dropouts, and

                 (b) high-emotion media that attracts HCPs from the fringes of society, “and multiplies their emotional warfare thousands of times to reach millions of people.”  

            To stop HCPs, Eddy advises:

                 (a) building relationships among groups that have been divided,

                 (b) educating political parties on HCPs’ patterns, so their leadership, campaigners and voters can reject choosing them,

                 (c) exposing the Fantasy Crisis Triad,

                 (d) countering HCPs with aggressively assertive messages, presented factually and repetitively, with positive emotions, and

                 (e) pressing news outlets to analyze fake HCP news, and counter emotional warfare-fantasy crises with useful information about real problems and real solutions.

            In Think Progress, Zack Beauchamp advocates for using political democracy – the media – to hold politicians and their staffs accountable for their actions.  Psychopaths “very much do care about being able to hold on to their positions of power.  A system that actually holds people accountable to the broader conscience of society may be one of the best ways to keep conscienceless people in check.”

Constitutional lawyer John Whitehead, writing in Huffpost, warns that if the ballot box “becomes our only means of pushing back against the police state, the battle is already lost.  Resistance will require a citizenry willing to be active at the local level… “The Founders understood that our freedoms do not flow from the government,” he wries.  “They are inherently ours. In the same way, the government’s appointed purpose is not to threaten or undermine our freedoms, but to safeguard them.”

Here we must take the lesson from the Powell Memo ideologues, who created think tanks, put candidates up for appointment and election to everything from school boards to courts, state and federal government.

We energize the “sane” electorate — Democrats, Independents, moderate Republicans & everyone in the middle.  We:

  • support the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and every such organization at the state level. 
  • support efforts of Indivisible, Brand New Congress, Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight, Cecile Richards’ Supermajority, Planned Parenthood, and more. 
  • encourage our state attorneys general to file lawsuits against gerrymandering; hammer those at state levels who resist one person, one vote, and move to protect that vote from election tampering
  • regain control of the media messages — from television to all forms of social media, including flooding conservative and right wing databases with progressive messages
  • control social media security — in partnership with Google, Facebook, Amazon and others, so elections can’t be hacked, fake news can be debunked and erased,

If we use every resource at our disposal now to hold our leaders accountable – local actions, the vote, muscular media – we can win in 2020

——- ———- ——— ——- ——– ——-

SOURCES

(Daily Beast, 04-14-17, “Why You Can’t Punish a Psychopath, According to Science,” by Elizabeth Picciuto; study in The Lancet Psychiatry, Feb. 2015).  // CUNY cognitive science professor Jesse Prinz & Sheilagh Hodgins, Professor of Psychiatry at Université de Montréal

Bill Eddy, LCSW JD, Psyhology Today blog, Mar 15, 2018,  “How to Spot a Sociopath in 3 Steps”

John W. Whitehead, Huffpost, “From Democracy to Pathocracy: The Rise of the Political Psychopath” 04-01-2017

Writing for ThinkProgress, Zack Beauchamp

Lindsay Dodgson  Nov 26, 2018, Insider,” The one trait that separates psychopaths from sociopaths”

Message to Dem Candidates

Democratic President Candidates 6: Hammer Trump Failures, Create the Ideal USA – Martin Westerman, 2/13/20

In her Feb. 1, 2020, NY Times column, Maureen Dowd bemoaned two decades of watching Democrats try to play fair as Republicans ruthlessly played to win – from the misogynist Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, 2000 Bush vs. Gore recount and Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld lies to Iraq war, to the Merrick Garland Senate pantomime and Feb. 6, 2020, DJT impeachment hypocrisy.  Democrats may warn Republicans that history will judge them harshly, but “history is written by the winners,” wrote Dowd.

My first question is, Where are the ruthless Democrats and Independents?

We must paint the Whiner In Chief (“The (fake) news media-women-immigrants-Democrats-people of color treat me terribly”) into the Loser In Chief.  President DJT may think he’s the Winner In Chief, but winners don’t whine – unless they’re sore losers.  Hey – there are two new slogans for our presidential candidates!

Let’s compare promises DJT made in his 2017 inauguration speech with results in 2020:

                        .  I take an oath of allegiance to all Americans – no, loyalty oath only to DJT and his family and cronies, or no place for you in federal government; and invitations to Russia, China, Ukraine, etc. to hack U.S. elections and spy on DJT rivals, and use of federal agencies to attack political rivals,

                        .  At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice – no (Hitler-style salute) allegiance to the U.S.A., no loyalty to each other discovery, and plenty of room for prejudice,

                        .  eradicate ISIS – no (cue snorting laughter)

                        .  stop the “American carnage” – no, if increased mass shootings and U.S. border violence against families are any indication… otherwise, a meaningless phrase

                        .  give struggling families much to celebrate – unaffordable housing prices, losses of living wage jobs, closures of factories, choking of new U.S. industries, removal of environmental protections, etc.

                        .  make every decision on trade, taxes, immigration and foreign affairs benefit American workers and American families – no, trade war that has left agriculture in depression, industry, trucking & shipping in mild recession, deficit at $1.1 trillion

                        .  stop enriching foreign industry at the expense of American industry – no, foreign industry is doing just fine, at the expense of American

                        .  repair America’s decaying infrastructure – no

                        .  protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs – no.

Every 2020 presidential candidate needs to:

  (a)  hammer DJT’s failures,

  (b)  repeat:  winners don’t whine, losers do,

  (c) hang a name — “Mister empty promises” or “Donald Danger” around his neck,

  (d)  keep a running tally of lies Trump has told to excuse his failures – 16,361 as of Feb.

12, 2020.  (CNN reports that the rate of DJT’s dishonesty increases with his time in office.  In 2017, he made 1,999 false or misleading claims; in 2017 – 5,689; in 2018 – 7,688; and in 2019 – 8,155)

  (e)  remind voters of what promises he has kept, and the dangers they pose for the U.S.A.:

            i.   to make U.S. money laundering easier for oligarchs, dictators and criminals,

            ii.  to give Russia free rein in Middle East, central and western Europe affairs, and carte blanche in the Oval Office

            iii. to invite Russia, China and other countries, with blessings of Moscow Mitch & Leningrad Lindsey (& Lamar), to meddle in U.S. elections for DJT’s and Republicans’ benefits

            iv. to encourage white supremacist thugs, domestic terrorists and Nazi-wanna be’s

            v.  to favor Christianity over other religions for theocrats like Minister Mike (Pence) and his Evangelicals, violating the U.S. Constitution

            vi.  to approve paying protection money and bribes for favors, and to punish those who resist, testify to the truth, and/or blow the whistle anywhere in the DJT administration – military, intelligence and diplomatic communities, justice department, etc.

            vii.  to encourage enemies of truth (freedom of the press), justice (Bill Barr vs. accountability), and the American Way (governing norms).  All are welcome in DJT’s house,

            viii.  to approve white patriarchy, that abhors independent women, and people of color,

            ix.   to benefit American oligarchs, treating corporations as people, money as speech, and monopolies as preferable to business competition.

There’s more, but you get the picture.  And any 2020 candidate who doesn’t repeatedly remind constituents of these facts and dangers is either out of touch, forgetful or incompetent.

Humans and political dynamics haven’t much changed since 400 B.C.E., when Plato said the best leaders were those who do not want to lead.  They would understand that they don’t know everything.  They would seek to know the truth of what is fine and good, just and unjust.  Through education, they’d develop virtue, be humble, noble, honest, sincere, gentle, dignified, live with integrity, and not desire honors.  That kind of person “would be elected or selected (drafted or compelled, if need be) by the people themselves to be their leader.” 

In 1884, General William Tecumseh Sherman refused the Republicans’ draft to run for U.S. President (Rs were that period’s Ds), saying, “I will not accept if nominated, and will not serve if elected.”  But Plato said one incentive would force the virtuous man to serve as leader:  to avoid being governed by someone worse in office.  He could help create an ideal city, governed by “people who are awake rather than dreaming,” not by “people who fight over shadows and struggle against one another in order to rule.”  The virtuous man would only lead if compelled, and avoid the shame of taking office willingly. 

Sure, it’s important to talk bread and butter issues.  But 2020 is about beating the DJT Republicans.  From Plato’s perspective, they don’t qualify for leadership on the Plato Scale.  And we cannot create the ideal country if they remain.

Democratic Presidential Candidates 5 – How to hold Trump-Republicans accountable

2/12/20 Martin Westerman

On Feb. 6, 2020, House & Senate Republicans decided America doesn’t need co-equal branches of government anymore.  They’ve been working to marry the administrative, judicial and legislative branches since the 1971 Powell Memorandum urged them to fight radical & liberal ideas.  The U.S. Constitution, radical in 1789, looks conservative to them today.  So they happily regressed with their hypocritical acquittal of DJT.

Dumping Trump in 2020 isn’t just about (a) voting him and his swamp people out (thanks here to Kristen Gillibrand:  “My first act as President will be to Clorox the Oval Office”).  It’s also about (b) holding the Trumpsters and his ilk accountable, and (c) reclaiming America’s radical, Constitutional form of government.

Evangelicals won’t hold non-Christian, anti-love/Jesus DJT accountable: his administration is delivering for right-to-lifers.  Republican legislators won’t; he’s helping them pack conservative (“strict Constituionalist”) judges on benches.  Also, they’re scared of his vengeance and MAGA trolls.  And MAGAs won’t, because, well, they’re MAGAs.  These folk could have followed Romney’s lead and made this a short game, but they’re self-serving, sociopathic, and/or cowardly.  So we must play the long game.


Some rules going forward:

            1.  Politics is about keeping your cronies in power, period.  That thread runs from slaveholders getting the U.S. Constitution to count slaves as 3/5 human, to 1812 Boston Gerrymandering, to the Mason-Dixon Line/Missouri Compromise between free & slave states and antebellum voter suppression, to the Senate’s vote to kill DJT’s impeachment.

            2.  Politics attracts unrepentant actors.  Politicians are more likely than people in the general population to be sociopaths.  Psychologist Dr. Martha Stout says this small minority of leaders without conscience “has always been a bitter pill for society to swallow,” but it explains “shamelessly deceitful political behavior.”

            A minority may be sociopaths or psychopaths, but a juggernaut of them now controls the Republican Administration and Party.  To define terms:

                        . Psychopaths tend to be calm, even thrive in highly stressful situations (“resilience to chaos”).  They also lack empathy, tend to be callous, dishonest, glib, grandiose, manipulative, promiscuous, impulsive, and/or unable to recognize social cues.  They also think their behaviors will always be rewarded, and any punishments are undeserved, so they find targets to blame for their failures.

                        .  Sociopaths share most psychopathic qualities: but unlike psychopaths, they crack under stress, with angry outbursts and abusive language.  They switch between extreme charm and threats, prioritize power above all else, seek to dominate people and situations, enjoy the suffering of others, and look for weak spots and vulnerabilities to exploit in others.  Does this look like familiar behavior?

            3.   All politics is about getting your way – it’s all visceral.

            In the age of “wars” on women, people of color, and immigrants; foreign election meddling, white supremacists and mass shootings; threats to the social safety net, unaffordable housing, dysfunctional government, post-truth/fake news, and no leadership accountability, people have lost patience with and faith in the system. 

            The Pew Research Center (Partisanship and Political Animosity in 2016) found views of opposing political party members are the most negative in 25 years.  Sizable shares of Democrats and Republicans say the other party stirs feelings of not just frustration, but of fear and anger:

                                                Ds view of  Rs             Rs views of Ds

            Afraid                          55-70%                       49-62%

            Angry                          47-58%                       46-58%

            Frustrated                    58-60%                       57-58%

            Emotional rating         31 our of 100              29 out of 100

            The visceral reactions are resistance to change – from Ds’ “don’t cut my Social Security and Medicare,” to Rs’ “don’t impose your will on me.”

            Will holding psychopathic and sociopathic politicians accountable actually help heal these divisions, and restore trust in our system?

            A study in Lancet Psychiatry shows that psychopaths are not impervious to any sort of punishment.  Rather, they process rewards and punishments differently from most people, and their decision-making skills are markedly atypical.  Since  they’re able to interact within society, understand aspects of social situations, and know how to behave when they want rewards, they can clearly choose whether to play by rules, or break them for personal gain.  And that’s a person who can and should be held accountable.

            In Why We Elect Narcissists and Sociopaths, and How We Can Stop, Bill Eddy introduces the dangerous, deceptive, high-conflict politician (HCP). These narcissistic, sociopathic people use a Fantasy Crisis Triad (“there’s a terrible crisis caused by an evil villain that requires a super hero to solve – me!”) to incite “emotional warfare,” and seduce, attack, divide and dominate communities and nations.  Helping the HCP rise are:

                 (a) voters who tend to split into four warring groups – Loving Loyalists, Riled-Up Resisters, Mild Moderates and Disenchanted Dropouts, and

                 (b) high-emotion media that attracts HCPs from the fringes of society, “and multiplies their emotional warfare thousands of times to reach millions of people.”  

            To stop HCPs, Eddy advises:

                 (a) building relationships among groups that have been divided,

                 (b) educating political parties on HCPs’ patterns, so their leadership, campaigners and voters can reject choosing them,

                 (c) exposing the Fantasy Crisis Triad,

                 (d) countering HCPs with aggressively assertive messages, presented factually and repetitively, with positive emotions, and

                 (e) pressing news outlets to analyze fake HCP news, and counter emotional warfare-fantasy crises with useful information about real problems and real solutions.

            In Think Progress, Zack Beauchamp advocates for using political democracy – the media – to hold politicians and their staffs accountable for their actions.  Psychopaths “very much do care about being able to hold on to their positions of power.  A system that actually holds people accountable to the broader conscience of society may be one of the best ways to keep conscienceless people in check.”

Constitutional lawyer John Whitehead, writing in Huffpost, warns that if the ballot box “becomes our only means of pushing back against the police state, the battle is already lost.  Resistance will require a citizenry willing to be active at the local level… “The Founders understood that our freedoms do not flow from the government,” he wries.  “They are inherently ours. In the same way, the government’s appointed purpose is not to threaten or undermine our freedoms, but to safeguard them.”

If we use every resource at our disposal now to hold our leaders accountable – local actions, the vote, muscular media – we can win in 2020

——- ———- ——— ——- ——– ——-

SOURCES

(Daily Beast, 04-14-17, “Why You Can’t Punish a Psychopath, According to Science,” by Elizabeth Picciuto; study in The Lancet Psychiatry, Feb. 2015).  // CUNY cognitive science professor Jesse Prinz & Sheilagh Hodgins, Professor of Psychiatry at Université de Montréal

Bill Eddy, LCSW JD, Psyhology Today blog, Mar 15, 2018,  “How to Spot a Sociopath in 3 Steps”

John W. Whitehead, Huffpost, “From Democracy to Pathocracy: The Rise of the Political Psychopath” 04-01-2017

Writing for ThinkProgress, Zack Beauchamp

Lindsay Dodgson  Nov 26, 2018, Insider,” The one trait that separates psychopaths from sociopaths”

Democrats Need To Reinvent America

Martin Westerman 2/5/20

So, Republican leaders have chosen a fascist monarchy government over what the Founding Fathers designed – an anti-monarchial government of, by and for the people –To clarify:  in fascism, a business elite married to religion runs the government.  In monarchy (or feudalism) a religiously anointed elite runs commerce and government.  Both feature a unitary executive – a dictator or king. 

Now what can the Democrat do?  How about something counter-intuitive?  Make friends with business.

Arguably since the U.S. was founded, a wealthy elite (landowners) has run America as a benevolent monarchy.  It has been more benevolent towards most whites, more malevolent toward people of color (PoC) and women.  (After Trump’s election, a Native American commented, “You think this is bad?  Try being Indian.”  But I digress).

In 1790, when 3.89 million people lived in the 13 colonies, our Founders occupied the top 10%, and controlled more than 38% of the country’s income.  The top 20% of Americans controlled 56.2% of it.  The next 40% controlled 34.3%; and the bottom 40% – 9.4%.  Nearly 18% of the residents (694,280) were slaves.  (Lindert & Williamson, American Incomes 1774-1860). 

If that looks familiar, it’s because it’s so similar to today’s America – minus the slaves.  Those at the top today still set policy and run things; those in the middle and bottom only influence policies through focused force of numbers.  So the Founders’ dream to build a nation of, by and for the people is still mostly a dream.

America has made great progress:  it has embraced immigrants, ended slavery, enshrined labor rights, enfranchised women and PoC, created national parks, generated legendary wealth, created a vast middle class, and produced inventions and leadership that changed and improved life throughout the world.

But as Joe Biden says, “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”  Since 1790, U.S. budgets have also valued genocide, slavery, land theft, environmental destruction and endless war.  Our economy has boomed and busted nearly 60 times, through investment bubbles, panics, recessions and depressions.   And Ralph Nader, alleged spoiler of the Bush-Gore election, supports putting corporate executives in prison for defrauding the consumer with shoddy merchandise and unsafe products that will maim or kill the buyer, destroying the economy, and poisoning our food, air, land and water.

Those at the top have turned more malevolent since the 1970s, and set about tearing up America’s social contract.  BTW, Democrats helped do that.

To clarify “social contract”: Elizabeth Warrens, August 2011: “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own…”  Every business moved goods to market on roads the public paid for, hired workers the public paid to educate, were safe in in their businesses because of police-forces and fire-forces the public paid for.  Part of the underlying social contract is, after businesses take their profit, “pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

Roots of that malevolence appeared in the Vietnam War era (1954-74), when a U.S. anti-Communist government used the military-industrial complex to prosecute a losing war.  Frustrated anti-war activists finally called to  “smash the state,” and fearful corporatists acted on the 1971 Lewis Powell Memorandum, which said, the time is long overdue “for the wisdom, ingenuity and resources of American business to be marshalled (sic) against those who would destroy it.”  From this sprang right-wing think tanks, monitoring of news media and textbooks, placements of college faculty, “corporations are people” and “money is speech” lawsuits, and erosion of labor rights.

Since Democrats helped create this mess, can they help get us out of it?  That is their 2020 challenge:  present a clear picture of America’s future that’s forward-looking, and consistent with the Founders’ vision.  They must call for renewing the private-public social contract, but not be branded as socialists or communists.

Today’s Americans think life is so unfair, they elected a “Whiner In Chief” president who constantly complains that life is unfair to him? (NYT, Frank Bruni, 01/21/2020)   And Democratic presidential candidates are parroting him, each complaining that the economy is skewed for the rich, it polarizes incomes; it hollows out the middle class; people of color are disenfranchised, women are victims; America is racist, homophobic & xenophobic; infrastructure is crumbling; climate change will destroy us; and immigrants and/or automation and/or artificial intelligence are taking our jobs.  What is American politics now – a giant game of “Beat My Bummer”?

Democrats must inspire us to stop complaining, and start getting up and doing again.

First task:  create partnerships with business.  The authors of WEconomy, Holly Branson, Marc & Craig Kielburger assert that the greatest engine ever invented for change is business.  By marrying purpose to profit, WEconomy programs are helping business partner with volunteer and public sector organizations to improve lives around the world. 

Knowing the history of abuse by railroads, mining and timber companies, and federal contractors in public-private partnerships, sadder and wiser Democrats must step into these with open eyes.  Because they know they’ve got the potential to create innovations and policies that produce great social, research and technological advances.

Second task:  find inspiration.  Democrats can look to the Rocky Mountain Institute’s economic models for sustainability (e.g., Winning The Oil Endgame):  feebates where lower gas mileage cars help subsidize sales of higher m.p.g. ones; retrofits for buildings (such as the Empire State Building) whose energy savings pay for the work in years less than expected; and fossil fuel taxes paying for transition to renewable energy.

On the design side, William McDonnough and Michael Braungart outline in Cradle To Cradle, how we have already mostly withdrawn from the Earth’s crust nearly all the minerals we’ll ever need to build, recycle and rebuild everything we have ever made.  But we are dumping most of it in landfills, never to be recovered.  Likewise, the U.N. has found we produce enough foodstuffs to feed 10 billion people, but globally, 30–40% of it all is wasted.  Inefficiency, say McDonnough & Braungart, just shows a human failure of design.  They propose re-designing everything to fit into either a technical cycle (for inorganic materials), or an organic cycle to replenish agriculture.

Third task:  don’t just ask big donors for contributions.  Ask for partnerships – to build U.S. infrastructure, address climate change, expand voting rights, improve social and economic equity.  Democrats must constantly hammer the partnership angle.  Republican donors answer to money, and want to privatize all government functions, even when they work better than private ones (e.g., Medicare, Social Security the V.A.).

Fourth task:  Highlight partnerships across the country that are already building a new American future.  As James Fallows reported in The Atlantic (May 2018), what really makes America great are our inclusiveness, expansiveness, opportunity, mobility, and the “open-ended struggle to make the nation a better version of itself.”  Polls (Aspen Institute & others) show that, despite our bad national mood, Americans have rising faith in local governance.

Democrats can capitalize on these examples:

  • The Welcoming Tennessee group founded in 2006 to celebrate how important immigrants and refugees were to Nashville’s economy has expanded into Welcoming America, that supports immigrant and refugee settlement in more than 50 cities.
  • Technology start-ups and businesses are dispersing across the country, to small and medium-sized towns that are working with entrepreneurs and centers of learning, and improving manufacturing, agriculture, medicine and more.
  • Libraries are becoming learning and gathering hubs, as new centers of civic life.
  • The federal government’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a modern counterpart to agricultural-extension programs, has now worked with more than 1,000 successful manufacturing start-ups around the country.
  • Downtowns are being reinvented and revitalized.
  • Conservation is alive – states, localities, and private donors are setting aside land for conservation at an impressive pace.
  • Governors of 16 states, Puerto Rico, and nearly 400 mayors have committed to achieving Paris Climate Agreement goals.  They represent more than half of U.S. economic output, and nearly 2/3 of U.S. population

Culminating task:  Democrats!  Tell the inspiring story of America.  And OK – a benevolent monarchy isn’t that bad (Monaco; a parliamentary-style democracy is better (England – as AOC says, in one of those, she and Biden would be in different parties – but in this on, they aren’t).  So the task is to find the overarching visions that inspire us all to work together.

Then ask for the sale!

Democratic President Candidates 3 – Where’s Democrats’ Optimism

Martin Westerman 1/30/20

When did Democrats lose their optimism?  The “New Deal,” “Happy Days Are Here Again,” “Great Society,” “Can-Do” slogans for the Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam &‘60s upheavals.  Sure, times are grim.  The government seems to be run by clowns directed by monkeys (to paraphrase that Boeing 737 MAX e-mail).  Especially now, we need encouraging messages; visions of a future we can look forward to once we win the victory.  And it’s got to be better than “Democrats:  We Can Fix This.”

In 2015, I watched a young African American man explain he’d joined the Republican Party because :  Democrats always harped on what’s wrong; Republicans on what’s right.  He chose the optimists.  (Since 2016, he’s probably moved back to the pessimists, or to the Bernie Independents).

What can Democrats emphasize that unites us in optimism?  The NY Times reported from Iowa (01/25/2020) that the Democratic tent is becoming so unwieldy, voters can’t agree on a candidate (Too lefty!  Too progressive! Too moderate!) to run for President.

I suggest starting with the U.S. Congress’ words from 1782:  E pluribus unum, Latin for “Out of many, one.”  It’s on the banner in the eagle’s beak on the Great Seal of the United States.  Sure, the anti-Communist 1956 Congress added “In God We Trust,” but that motto of fraught:  whose God do we trust?  Mike Pence & The Evangelicals (how’s that for a rock group name?) say the Christian god – which contradicts e plurubus unum.  The Democrats could make a deal with DC Comics to use the ever-so-timely “Truth, Justice and The American Way.”  But that’s fraught, too.

Most slogans call for what is missing.  The “Quality Is Job 1” motto was designed to restore faith in low-quality Ford vehicles.  “You Don’t Have To Be Jewish To Love Levy’s” helped shift perception that Levy’s rye and other breads were solely for the Jewish-ethnic market.  “This Is Wells Fargo” reintroduces the criminally convicted and heavily fined bank as a place you can trust with your money.  “Make America Great Again” speaks to failures by U.S. businesses and governments to tout American successes, and provide the foundations we need to achieve the American Dream. 

And what’s missing today?  Unity (as of January 25, 2020).  And common purpose.  We all complain about Republicans being in lockstep.  But lack of unity among Democrats will lose them the 2020 presidential election.  A basic step toward conflict resolution is to hold the goal above the controversy.  In the War Room of the Democratic presidential candidate, the writing on the wall should say, “It’s The Unity, Stupid.”  How do we get the unity?  Common purpose.

We all contribute to American greatness and exceptionalism.  The Democrats need to know that beyond money, most Americans want purpose in their lives.  This election cycle, the Democrats must become the party that channels that longing into results. 

In the Sapiens trilogy Yuval Noah Harari observes that the world is changing fast:

            (a) artificial intelligence algorithms and bioengineering, created by businesses, are creeping into our minds and bodies, through everything from voice texting, robot customer service and industrial technologies, to Facebook and Google Maps, to election interference and government surveillance, to Amazon choosing your products and Netflix your movies, to medicine drug-altering your moods and replacing your body parts,

            (b) the governmental tortoise cannot keep up with the technological hare.  For example, by the time cumbersome governments have begun to address cyber regulation, the Internet has morphed ten times,

            (c) our slow-moving institutions can be poisoned by bad actors who get embedded in them, and harm everyone inside and outside the institutions,

            (d) malevolent social media and cyber hackers, and religious and nationalistic zealots are attacking the very concepts of neoliberal democracy – individual autonomy, informed decision-making and free & open information and commerce.  They peddle nostalgia and fantasies from previous centuries, that

            (e) choke our institutions, impede our free flows of information and commerce, and keep us from focusing on the urgent challenges of the 21st Century (a, b, c, & d).

Harari adds the pace of technological development and the speed and volume of the data flow are overwhelming democratic and authoritarian regimes alike.  Never in history have governments been able to gain so much knowledge about the world, and yet be so unable to act wisely on it.

It’s urgent that Democrats wake up to these realities, this election.  They must figure out how to solidify partnerships with labor, whom they’ve sorely and ignorantly neglected.  They must forge new, transparently accountable partnerships with businesses, dump what doesn’t work (e.g., privatized prisons and corporate giveaways), enlist business support for government, which will serve as an engine of research for progress, a leader and partner for change, and a partner in national and global development.

So what’s the slogan?  E plurubus unum too retro for you?  Annuit cœptis (“He approves the things undertaken”) could appear in the Democrats’ War Room, too.  But Novus ordo seclorum (“New order of the ages”) could be a slogan.  Or borrowing from “Hamilton” and playing on E plurubus unum, “Democrats:  We Get Things Done.”  Or “The Right Way Forward,” which could co-opt the Republican message, but surely offend lefties).   America is great because from many, it has the capacity to melt all together into one strong nation.  That’s America’s promise.  And that’s as optimistic as it gets.

Democratic Candidates-The Backbone Party: Martin Westerman.

1/15/20: Every Democratic presidential candidate should stop trying to explain anything, unless he/she can do it in two sentences and a Tweet.  Take Mary Poppins’ retort at Mr. Banks:  “I would like to make one thing quite clear.  I never explain anything.”

Trump groupies, acolytes, sycophants, MAGA cult members, religious fanatics always feel insecure.  They follow the leader.  He (these leaders are always male) is strong, speaks to their insecurities, helps them feel safe, protected, and “in” with the group (there’s strength in numbers).  They say what he says, re-Tweet what he Tweets, chant for him, defend him from perceived danger, or attack.  They see (Democrat) explainers and negotiators and compromisers and apologizers as weak.

So rule #1 for the  Democrat:  Don’t explain anything.  Attack with strength to keep the bully at bay, or on the defensive.  And/or Divert attention (Hey Mr. President, you’re shoe’s untied!).  Then explain if warranted.  If only the Democrats would react first with fire (and humor) to fight Trump & Republican fire, America would probably view them more positively.

Rule #2:  POTUS 45 has taught us that theatrics sell.  The best way to counter the bluster, the stonewall, the answering of a question with a question (e.g., Kavanaugh’s “Doesn’t everyone like beer?”), is to call it out and hammer it.

Rule #3:  Go for the kill.  Congressional Democrats in committee hearings offer the best lesson in how not to do that.  They must instead become a party of stark statements, clear choices, and few apologies.  Not a Republican “You’re either for us or against us” party, but an if this-then that party:  Truman’s “If you want to live like a Republican, vote for the Democrats.” FDR’s “I welcome their (Republicans’) hatred.”  Many consultants have addressed this difference between how Republicans vs. Democrats speak; heed them!

In committee hearings, on media or in public, that means a start with, “You are not answering the question,” and a move to, “When you say this, it means this” statements.  Examples:

  • We’re not hear to listen to you bluster and stonewall, (judge, Mme. Secretary, etc.).  You are under oath here, and you’re just telling us that you’re hiding the truth.   Let the record show the (judge, nominee, etc.) refuses to tell the truth,
  • All of us here are under pressure, Judge Kavanagh.  And we’ve all got sad family stories.  But your daughter is not the nominee, you are.  And you’re being interviewed for a job as Supreme Court Justice, not Father Of The Year.”

Lindsey Graham’s outburst should have won him these comments from Democrats:

  • Well Senator, that was an Academy Award performance.  Except we’re not in Hollywood.  We’re in Washington, D.C., in the United States Senate.
  • Let’s set this record straight.  Senator McConnell made this a sham three years ago.  For the first time in American history, he kept the Senate from holding hearings on a judicial nominee.  Now he’s blocking the Senate from doing its job – to advise consent on nominees.  So enough with this phony offense.
  • In the hearing confrontation between former DHS Secretary Nielsen and committee Democrats, Rep. Gutierrez should have stayed put, and called Nielsen out:  “Is this the best you can do — reduce this to a schoolyard fight?  You are under oath.  Your department is failing to do its job.  You are the head of that department.  You are lying to cover up your department’s failures.  And we are holding you accountable.”

The Democrats have a sorry recent history of playing offense.  During the 2016 presidential debates, Hillary didn’t turn on lurking-over-her-shoulder DJ Trump and snap, “Back off!” We lost trust she could stand up to any bully, domestic or foreign.  When Obama wouldn’t stand up for collective bargaining and unions, honor his Syria “red line,” or defend Merritt Garland vs. Mitch McConnell, he lost national trust.  When war hero John Kerry couldn’t defend himself against the 2004 Swiftboaters, people lost trust that Kerry could defend America.

The Democrats need to reverse that trend:

            . They need to keep a running tally of Trump lies (now nearing 16,000).  If Trump ever shows up for a Presidential debate, his Democratic opponent must keep track of the lie count: “Oh, that’s lie number 15,876, Mr. President,  And that’s 877.”  Twitter snap:  “Will Prez 45 EVER tell the truth?”

            . When Trump calls Warren “Pocahontas,” snap, “So what?  You come from German immigrants, your wife’s a Slovenian immigrant, you used chain immigration to get her family here.  When did you start hating immigrants?  And you hate American Indianss, too?”  The Tweet back at DJT:  “Hates immigrants.  Hates himself.  So sad.”

            .  When Trump denies climate change, Democrats snap, “You’ve got a cellphone.  That’s science – physics, math, chemistry, engineering, biology.  If you don’t believe in science, don’t use your cellphone.  Or your car.  Or your TV.”  The Tweet:  “Trump says Earth is flat, wants to live in horse and wagon days.  Trump For President, 1492.”

            . When Trump talks great economy, Democrats must snap,  “Great for rich people like you.  Not for anybody else.  But how would Trump know?  He spends more time golfing than working.”  The Twitter snap:  “So rich, so clueless, and so bad at golf.”

Answer this question:  Which is the party of backbone that stands up to bullies, makes clear statements about its visions and intentions, and follows through on them?  Don’t you wish you could answer, “The Democrats!”?