Death, Taxes…. and Voting!

I can remember being a little kid in grammar school, sitting there in my uniform, listening to the (mostly) nuns teach us “Social Studies”, including about voting not being required of each and every citizen at or above the legal age to do so. In a country that is supposed to be “by the people and for the people”, allowing apathy and inconvenience to keep anyone from participating in the franchise is yet another example of white supremacy. A study done in July supports this: The Urgency of Universal Civic Duty Voting.

Since the 1980’s, every baby born in this country has bee required to have a valid Social Security number in order for baby’s parents to claim them as a dependent on their income taxes. There is no reason that the Social Security system (which is also notified upon the death of almost everyone with a number) cannot be utilized in some way to provide automatic voter registration to everyone eligible (let’s take that as a given for the rest of this post) upon the occasion of their eighteenth birthday. In answer to those screaming about ‘dead people’ getting ballots, it is also possible to require that the Social Security Administration be notified upon the death of everyone to whom it has issued a number, thereby triggering a verification mechanism (in order to avoid taking away the ability to vote from someone who is still very much alive) and removal from the voter registration role once the death has been verified as legitimate.

In addition to automatically registering everyone at age eighteen, it is also necessary that all elections be held almost entirely by mail, with in-person voting primarily available for this who must cast their vote in person (due to disability, etc.) or who did not receive their ballot by mail. This includes the use of prepaid return envelopes, tracking of ballots back to the election officials, and a chance for citizens to correct or address any discrepancies before the ballot is tossed out. The point is, in order to ensure as much compliance as possible with mandatory voting, it is necessary to make it as easy and painless as possible for every eligible voter to cast their ballot. Doing this also brings a halt to the numerous and varied attempts by those on the right to prevent everyone else from voting.

There isn’t any logical reason why all these things can’t be enacted – and every reason to see this as the only sensible way of moving the government to a place where it is truly following the will of the majority instead of the minority. From local, county and state governments through to The White House, the Democratic Party has consistently demanded that everyone be able to cast a vote for the government of their choice, while the right has engaged in more than half a century of covert and overt voter suppression and disfranchisement to maintain their own hold on the reigns of power.

We must vote in numbers too big to manipulate, giving Joe Biden and Kamala Harris a victory so huge that Trump sneaks out of The White House in the middle of the night with his tail between his legs and his sycophants in the House and Senate crawling behind him. There is seriously no other outcome that we can reasonably expect to result in a peaceful transition of power. If Biden wins by just enough to get the Electoral College, especially when it could take weeks to get the totals figured out, we’re unlikely to get by without Trump firing up his gang of armed white supremacists to violence in cities run by Democrats all over the country. Since Biden supporters will be equally enraged and peacefully protesting, there will inevitably be clashes that turn out badly for the people who came to the fight unarmed (i.e., the Biden supporters).

Trump seems to be in self-destruct mode right now, and every day there seems to be another ‘anonymous source close to the president’ or “person familiar with the incident” willing to provide more and worse information that, while utterly unconscionable by any other President, is just verification of what we already know about Trump. Of course he refers to anyone who has chosen to serve our country in battle as “suckers” and those who were injured or died during their tour as “losers”; he threatened to disown his eldest son if he dared to enlist in the Army. Of course he doesn’t understand the willingness of someone to choose country over self; he lacks any ability to do anything that does not primarily and mainly benefit himself.

I feel some sympathy for those presently in the military who have been supportive of Trump’s presidency and it’s horrendous policies who have finally heard what he really thinks about them and their sacrifices, but I feel more pain for all those who have lost limbs, functionality, mental stability and family members or friends while they served in the armed forces. To hear the person referred to as “Commander in Chief” of the armed services speak so disparagingly of those who paid the ultimate price for their patriotism is beyond reprehensible. Maya Angelou said it best; “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” This is who Trump has made very clear he is, for at least the last 25 years in various and assorted media clips.

Journalists are giving John Kelly, former DHS Secretary and Chief-of-Staff for Trump, credit for his silence at the reporting of Trump’s words, as though it’s tacit confirmation of the reports was in some way a sign of bravery on Kelly’s part. That’s bullsh**; some of these things were said either directly to or at least in John Kelly’s presence, and he continued to work for Trump anyway, I don’t think he deserves kudos, he deserves derision. Kelly chose to interpret Trump’s incredulous “What’s in it for them?” at the grave of Kelly’s son as though Trump was awkwardly expressing astonishment at their willingness to sacrifice themselves for their country. Kelly by that time had to know that Trump completely lacks compassion or empathy, making his continued fealty to Trump especially disconcerting and hard to fathom.

I suspect that there are thousands and thousands of things that Trump has said in private to people all over the world that, if put together in one book, would reveal many of the same or similar things that my grandfather and father used to say back in the 60’s and 70’s when it was somehow still acceptable in many circles to be outwardly racist, homophobic, misogynistic and generally just an asshole – at least for white men. Even if such a book were published, with the full names of those providing the quotes prominently placed for effect, it would be highly unlikely to change the opinions of most of the Republicans who will continue to either support Trump or remain silent about him in their own electoral or financial interest. It would do nothing to alter the base’s support or likelihood to vote for him in November, because this is who they knew him to be when they voted for him in 2016 and most still find nothing he says or does as ‘the last straw’ of their support for him.

I’m frustrated by the what-aboutism that continues throughout much of the mainstream media, since there is nothing that the Democrats have done since Reconstruction that can compare to the length, breadth and consistency of the Republicans’ efforts to suppress, withhold, discount and destroy the ability of Black, minority, immigrant and all those likely to vote Democratic to have their voices heard. The time is long past for mainstream media to specifically call out the Republicans as the reason we find ourselves where we are at this particular point in our history – in the middle of a raging pandemic unchecked by any coordinated effort at control or containment at the federal level by a president who refuses to accept responsibility for any of it. This failure in turn has caused the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression (which Trump continues to conflate with the Dow Jones average) while millions have no money for food or rent and are in danger of losing their homes, because those aren’t ‘his people’. Trump only concerns himself with those whose good fortune benefits Trump personally.

I spent two or three hours on Saturday afternoon texting to registered voters in Pennsylvania on behalf of a Congresswoman running for re-election. I don’t live in Pennsylvania, but New Jersey is a relatively blue state, while Pennsylvania (a mid-Atlantic state considered “Midwest” when the presidential election comes around) certainly helped put Trump in The White House in 2016, so I want to help where I can make a difference. These are the things that we can do right not to help get this clown out of office after just one four-year term of destruction.

So do something – volunteer to make calls, send texts, write letters, or postcards to voters across the country in places we want to flip from red to blue in November. The more we do, the greater the likelihood that we can encourage people who weren’t going to vote to do so, or to push someone to request a mail-in ballot in time to have their vote count. More participation in every election is demographically beneficial to Democrats, so Republicans want to keep participation down.

If you want to see change, you have to be the change. It took me years to figure out that the only person I can hope to change is myself, which led me to the amazing realization that everyone with whom we have a relationship is going to do things that get under our skin, and the only options we have about those things involve ourselves, not the other person. We can either accept that this person does that thing that makes you crazy and get over it, or get that person out of our life. There is no ‘I’ll change them to suit me’ option; knowing and understanding that would have led me down an entirely different path back in 1978… and 1993. Better late than never.

My point is, if we want things in politics and government to be different, then we need to do something different to make it so. I’ve never volunteered to help any campaign before in my life, but this time is different; this time matters more than any other in my adult life, and will matter even more years from now, when my children and (fingers crossed!) grandchildren are left to deal with the results of our action – or lack thereof. Even most of the childless have children further out in their families – nieces, nephews, cousins – that they don’t want to see suffer in 40 years because Republicans refused to tackle climate change to benefit the people instead of fossil fuel companies. Think about their future and volunteer for something.

Donate what you can. If there isn’t a particular local candidate you want to support, go to ActBlue.com and donate to the Biden/Harris campaign or to someone like Jamie Harrison for Senate against Lindsey Graham or Amy McGrath against Moscow Mitch.

We cannot just cast a vote every couple of years and call it good enough.  Today, we have the government that a minimally involved citizenry deserves; we have to make the effort so our government works for the 90%, not the 10%.  By the people, for the people.

Trump, the Fascist Swine

John Bolton doesn’t have to publish a book to let the public know what he saw and heard during his time in the Trump Administration; all he has to do is contact a non-right-wing media outlet and agree to a no-holds-barred on-camera live interview or even just offer to make a statement.  Of course, those options do not successfully line his and his publisher’s pockets, so damn the damage Trump does to the country, let’s wait until we can charge people for the information!  No giving anything away for free, no siree!

Not that Bolton’s self-interest is anything new – this is the same man who refused to testify to the House to provide first-hand knowledge during the impeachment investigation, after all.   In fact, most of the revelations Bolton has made in public have been made during paid speaking engagements, not during media news interviews.  Bolton’s behavior is on a par with Trump’s, although with much less power to wield and he appears to share in the narcissism Trump is so clearly suffering from. The point is that John Bolton, in order to benefit his bottom line, is completely happy in his disloyalty to the United States.   His continued silence in the face of rising, brazen fascist actions and rhetoric from Trump is all the proof anyone should need to recognize that Bolton does not care about the country anymore than Trump does.  No one should spend money on his book; we’ll see the most inflammatory parts in the media anyway, so why line Bolton’s pockets?

I hope that more people now recognize that John Bolton, Jim Mattis, John Kelly, et al are not showing their patriotism now, as the world watches the United States turn into a tin pot dictatorship – they are trying to be let into the lifeboat.  They had a chance to make a difference during the impeachment, although we’ll never get to know if their information could have swayed the Senate Republican denizens to put country over party.  Their continued silence at that time means they now have ownership in the absolute abdication of responsibility or accountability that Trump has exhibited, this fascist bent including the most recent abuse of power, subverting the Constitutional right to peaceably assemble and protest by using excessive force to get a photo-op.

So again, thank you to all the former administration collaborators/employees/sycophants who have waited until now to tell us what most of us knew before the 2016 election – that Trump is a useless piece of shit who only got where he was by stealing his father’s money and abusing the legal system, the latter a skill he has continued to benefit from since taking office.  I’m unable to understand why, with the first-hand experience you have all had with this incompetent boob, it took so long for you to speak up, although there are still more of you who remain silent out of greed or what?  Fear?  Of Trump?  Seriously? 

Trump may be tall in height, but he is otherwise a very small, scared, shell of a man.  He has never, in his entire life, ever been required to do anything he didn’t want to do.  His ego is so fragile; he is utterly incapable of acknowledging his mistakes or obvious lack of understanding for so many things that they require their own blog post!  His opinion of himself is inversely proportionate to his actual knowledge base, making me wonder who he paid in order to graduate from college and graduate school.  There’s no question why he keeps all his school records hidden – it’s impossible to pretend you’ve always been all that and you’re a “very stable genius” if your post-secondary records reveal you graduated “summa cum prematurely”.

All who have kept silent, regardless of your reasons, have culpability in what comes next.  For those who served in the military, thank you for your service.  That said, when your country really needed you, this time to put only your reputation on the line, you refused to do so.  When you offered your life in service, you were one person out of thousands doing so, but when you were one of only a select few who could have averted at least some of the ongoing crises, you sat back and did nothing.  That’s not patriotism.  That’s greed… or cowardice.

The silver lining to this huge thundercloud of disaster we are now living through is this – we are now painfully aware that there is an overwhelming need for sweeping changes regarding things once considered ‘norms’ but not officially enshrined in statutes and laws.  No longer can we go blithely along, expecting that those with the power will do what’s expected of them without the force of law that provides for swift and fair repercussions when the executive branch refuses to submit to oversight, ignores subpoenas, or misappropriates money using bogus emergency declarations. 

It is now no longer acceptable for those in positions of power, including in the Senate and the House, to remain in their seats indefinitely; twelve years for either chamber, whether consecutive or not, should be the maximum amount of time anyone can serve, and maybe it’s time to change the House from two year terms to three years.  Along with this, there has to be huge election reform, particularly with regard to election financing.  Elections must be federally funded in an equitable way, while allowing actual people only (no companies, corporations, SuperPACs, or other entity) to contribute to those they wish to, using some type of voucher system so that everyone, regardless of income or wealth, can participate in this part of politics.  The time for only the most wealthy to have all the political power is over.

It is no longer reasonable for judges throughout the judiciary, up to and including the Supreme Court, to be given lifetime appointments.  When this was first written into the Constitution, the average lifespan was 35 years, so a lifetime appointment was only a few years.  Now, judges routinely sit on the bench for 25 years or more, leaving at an average age of 78!  There is no reason at this point in our development to continue with this outdated method of populating the bench.  All federal judges must serve for a limited period of time with every president given the opportunity to name two justices to the court during each term (see https://fixthecourt.com/fix/term-limits/).  Although there is always the possibility of an unexpected death of one of the justices, having a term limit means that death is not the most frequent reason justices leave the court.

It is no longer acceptable for lobbyists to have a place in Washington, DC.  The wealthy, including corporations, foundations, foreign governments, and who knows what else, should no longer be allowed to continue their unfair and undemocratic ability to influence policy that disadvantages the rest of us.  Corporate welfare at all levels must be eliminated; no more subsidies for giant agribusiness, the fossil fuel industry, the pharmaceutical industry, etc.  Once, monopolies were broken up into smaller companies, now they’re approved and allowed to overtake everything, concentrating the wealth at the very top.  This should never have been allowed, and must be undone ASAP.

Racial inequality and oppression must be addressed.  It requires all white people to work at it, since we are the ones with the problem; the black folks are the ones who suffer because of our problem.  Every one of us must work, every day, in all ways, to change not just our own misconceptions and biases, but we have to speak up when we see or hear them in the people around us.  That’s the only way we can begin what we’ve been pretending was done after the Civil War – treating people of color with the dignity and respect we have often only shown to fellow white people.  See White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism at your local bookstore or ebook platform.

Finally, social media has to be brought to heel.  Jeff Zuckerberg does not care about the damage being done to our social discourse, so long as people keep clicking.  Jack Dorsey will keep letting Trump and others like him post false, misleading and inflammatory things in order to keep people coming back for more.  These and other social media platforms, while not the creators of the information posted, have a responsibility greater than that of the established media giants.  The ability of their platforms to spread in a nanosecond makes it more imperative that they be held accountable financially so that they are more likely to do what other media outlets have been required to since the beginning – prevent the dissemination of lies, propaganda, etc., and be required to prominently post retractions and corrections when something slips by. 

Vote the Democratic ticket – only by taking power from the obstructionist Republicans can we hope to see the changes we need.  Then hold those we vote into office accountable.