Scenes From The #ResistanceRecess

My latest pièce de résistance against the new administration has been work with NDAPL (No Dakota Access Pipeline) on a petition drive.  The Standing Rock Sioux tribal leaders are continuing their struggle against the construction of the DAPL, especially since the Trump administration has ordered that the pipeline construction be continued.  However, the vast plethora of attacks made by the administration upon our civil liberties, upon the free press, and upon constitutional norms of government, have diverted much of what little national attention had managed to trickle over to Standing Rock.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has posted a bill (S. 65, and HR 371), “To address financial conflicts of interest of the President and Vice President.”  In concert with this bill, Roxanne Saxton of Michigan put up a petition through MoveOn.org, calling on Congress to “Require President Trump to provide the audit trail of papers proving he is no longer involved in any way, shape, or form with the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

In very little time, the petition accumulated over 230,000 signatures nation-wide.  Then volunteers and organizers like myself who signed the petition began a drive to visit every single member of Congress, Senators and Representatives alike, and present them with a full list of their constituents who signed the petition, together with the petition language and a summary of the campaign (numbers and so forth).

Michigan has 16 members of Congress (MoC’s, as they are increasingly being called, as groups like Indivisible and others make resistance plans around contacting these key elected leaders).  Our Great Lakes State has 14 US Representatives (5 Democrats, and 9 Republicans); and both of our US Senators (Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters) are Democrats.  Recent events have put Republican MoC’s under considerable pressure to face their increasingly disgruntled consituents; and many have gone “missing,” ignoring invitations and pleas to hold town halls or public events at which they might have to explain their acquiescence to increasingly unpopular Trump administration initiatives.

This past week, (Sunday, February 19 through Sunday, February 26) was a scheduled recess for both houses, and MoC’s from both parties came home to hold public events or to visit key places in their states and districts.  Our petition campaign’s national leadership sought to exploit the opportunity, and to put copies of the petition, with constituents’ signatures and comments from the online petition, directly in the hands of all of the country’s MoC’s or their respective staffs by the end of the recess week.

Considering that 6 of Michigan’s 7 Democratic MoC’s are co-sponsors of the Warren bill, the Democrats were very friendly to this petition; while the Republicans are less comfortable with the implications of calling on investigations of their party’s president and vice-president.  Democratic officials have not been as eager to avoid public appearances during the recess as have the Republicans; and here in Michigan we were able to make direct contact with several Democratic MoC’s, such as Rep’s Sander Levin (MI09-D) and Brenda Lawrence (MI14-D), both of whom thanked our volunteers for our efforts and asked us to keep fighting.  While Republican staffers receiving the petition for their bosses have not generally been unfriendly in Michigan (and some have contacted our campaign with further questions and requesting electronic copies to back up their paper copies received in person), we were unable to make direct contact with any of the Republican Representatives of our state.

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A supportive crowd at Brenda Lawrence’s Town Hall at her Detroit office, 2/24/17, listens to a panel member discussing immigration law.  Rep. Lawrence is at the podium on the right. Photo ©Sparkpolitical, 2017.

Public rallies and town halls by Levin and Lawrence (some attended by other members of the Michigan Democratic delegation, such as Rep. John Conyers (MI13-D), Dean of the House of Representatives, who attended the Lawrence town hall) were scenes of public gratitude to their Democratic officials, in open contrast to the many angry crowds haunting the Republicans around the state and the nation.  At the Lawrence town hall, which I attended, for example, only one member of the audience showed visible (and relatively well-behaved) opposition as a Trump supporter; while applause was loud and energetic from the rest of the room for Lawrence’s support for immigrants fearing the new sweeps and deportation drives of ICE and the CBP, and for her presence at Detroit Metro Airport last month during the protest of the travel ban on Muslims.

On the other hand, Michigan Republicans like David Trott have become notorious for avoiding their own constituents.  While we were (optimistically) hoping to be able to catch at least one or two of them at their offices or during some public event or other, these officials have continued to avoid the public.  However, the Jackson office of Rep. Tim Walberg (MI07-R), whose constituents have created a “Where’s Walberg?” site for their missing representative, contacted our campaign and informed us that his office was going to address the questions raised in the comments column of the signatures print-out.  Other questions were asked of our volunteers by Republican staffers seeking more information about the petition, so they were not all immediately dismissive or unfriendly.

Now that Michigan’s petition effort is virtually complete (current projections are that all packets will have been delivered by Monday, Feb. 27), the Michigan volunteers are ready to move on to our next battle of resistance, either against the state administration of Governor Snyder, or against the national administration of President Trump.

Headline image, Danee Kaplan delivering our petition to Mitzi, Kalamazoo office staffer for Rep. Fred Upton (MI06-R).  With special thanks to Danee Kaplan for authorizing use of this photo.

The Way to Fight in Our Struggle Ahead

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The following is my commentary on means of taking on the new administration, based on bullet-points suggested by Bernice A. King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King.

1. Don’t Use His Name: this is a regime, and he is not acting alone.

Not only does Trump have an administration of like-minded people helping him (and in cases like Steve Bannon, actually helping to shape his own thoughts and actions), but he is also acting in concert with the Republicans in Congress and the Republican administrations of some 33 state governments.  Even before the confirmation of the Secretary of Education (Betsy DeVos), and of the new head of the EPA (Scott Pruitt), Republicans in the House prepared bills to abolish both agencies, in keeping with the Trump campaign promise to eliminate them.  Were a magical force to suddenly lift Trump away today, the intent, force, and mechanism for executing these actions would remain unhindered.  This is not about one man in one office.  This is about a mentality held by an entire political party, and endorsed by a significant minority of Americans, the people who voted for him.  Trump is in many ways more a response to conditions in our political and economic system than a singular phenomenon that he has imposed all by himself upon an entire, 230-year-old, Constitutionally protected political system.  Don’t focus upon the removal of Trump, but for a greater victory in the fight against the ideology of our opponents, and in the fight for the support of those who decided to vote for them.

2. Do not argue with those who support him–it doesn’t work.

There is a core of supporters of the new administration who are, and will always remain, both ideologically attached to their choices and unable to accept arguments that are based on indisputable facts (which they do, in fact, dispute in favor of preferred, unverified, misstatements and untruths).  However, this is a strategy that needs to be used with caution.  There were many people who voted for the Republicans (and for Trump specifically) who have in the past voted Democrat (and for Obama), and who are just finding their way to the dark side in their perception (real or not) of changing realities that inhibit their freedom of action.  The Hillary campaign was often criticized after the electoral defeat for not speaking out to the many former Democratic voters who chose to vote for Trump and other Republicans, and for neither answering their questions nor fighting for their vote.  This is about the hearts and minds of the people, and Trump voters are a strong but rather less cohesive group of the people than we often like to perceive them to be.  We need to talk to the ones who are only just barely Trump voters, who found their way to the Republicans through a path of desperation, rather than strong-hearted enthusiasm, and who do stop when presented with a factual argument to at least consider the other side.  Shutting people like them out of our political conversation and consideration is partly how we got here in the first place.

3. Focus on his policies, not his appearance or mental state.

Since there is a clear lack of maturity and social responsibility on one side, we need to continue to be the adult in the conversation.  Remember your umbrage at Trump’s characterizations during the campaign of opposing candidates based on their appearances?  It is easy to call the other side out for being hypocrites.  It is harder to not be a hypocrite yourself.  If a man or woman should be respected for the work they do and not for their appearance, then that goes both ways: we should deplore the Republicans not for their appearance but for the lack of qualifications of their candidates; for the threats that their policies pose to our democracy, diversity, and national security; for the continued contempt that they heap upon ethics rules to distance politicians from private business and the conflicted interests that ensue from such connections; for their suspicion and hatred for fellow Americans and for those choosing to become fellow Americans.  We must choose to be bigger than that, and not just leftist versions of the “deplorables.”

4. Keep your message positive; they want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies will grow.

Many people voted Republican last year because they were angry and afraid.  Instead of fighting back with more anger and fear, emotions which distance all sides from using rational arguments and facts, and which enable “us” vs. “them” schema which replace positive policies with blame games and punitive sanctions, we should employ positive messages about how we the people are really going to “make America great again.”  We represent greater numbers, more unified than ever; but we lost massively in the recent elections and we need to win even greater numbers before we can see any measurable degree of victory.  We do that by attracting people to our side, not by repelling people from us or by helping our opponents to solidify as we do so.  Be the reason why others should join us, and not the reason why they do not.

5. No more helpless or hopeless talk.

We can do this.  We do have the numbers, and a more unified force than ever.  However, this is going to be a long war, not a short battle.  This year, there will be local elections throughout the country, for mayors and city council-members, for county administrators, and there will be a few special elections here and there to replace the occasional death, resignation, etc., of local, state, or even national officials.  In 2018, many governors and other state legislators come up for election; as well as all of our US Representatives, and one third of our US Senators (the so-called “Class I” senatorial seats come up for re-election in 2018).  We can start working now to put local, and then state, and finally some national representatives into power who are fighting for us rather than against us.  Before any of that happens, though, we will lose battles.  Despite a seemingly overwhelming outpouring of public outcry after the election, the simple fact is that for now, the Republicans rule the House, the Senate, and the Oval Office.  They will get their nominees through, perhaps all of them, and if not, then virtually all of them.  This does not mean we should not fight tooth and nail for each appointment, make them fight back to win them.  We need to get right in their faces, every single day, and make them fight back for the things they think they can just go ahead and realize without difficulty.  The media has already noted that the administration is having one of the hardest battles getting their appointments through in recent history, requiring for the first time ever a vice-presidential tie-breaking vote in the US Senate to put an appointment through.  That sends the administration, and people on our side, and perhaps most importantly, people torn between the two forces, a strong signal that this administration does not by any means represent the people fully, no matter what the electoral results were.  We need to keep pushing that, every day.  Call your senators, regardless of whether you share their party or views.  Call your representatives.  Make calls as often as possible, every week or even every day if you can.  Be specific, be frequent, and be heard.  Find out what local elections you have coming up in your area, and involve yourself.  Remember that some 90% of American law happens at state and local levels.  These things affect you directly.  Start fighting now to win them back.  Ultimately, we can win some local elections this year; win some state and national seats back in 2018; and start building a greater movement for 2020.  This is doable; but only if we actually set out and do it.  Have faith, have purpose, and fight.

6. Support artists and the arts.

This is one of those areas that Republicans love to target.  Art represents a minuscule proportion of public funds, but they reserve a disproportionate share of their ire towards such things.  Artists are by their nature independent, self-thinking, and often pioneers working outside of established norms.  Republicans hate it when we spend money on cultural venues that are sometimes unfriendly to them (which is really, from their political perspective, just plain common sense).  For all of these reasons, art is a good way to fight back.  In fact, until we actually start winning elections, it is one of our few principle weapons.  We are fighting the cultural battle in comedy, in music, in theater, and in all other cultural venues; pushing our message of diversity and unity forward, convincing the people consuming culture of our righteousness in the battle.  And this has worked strategically for some time.  The progressive move of television and movies toward normalizing multi-cultural families, homosexuality, and other social realities unappreciated by the Republicans, has helped shape younger generations’ acceptance of them as normal.  Cultural warfare does work; and as our principle weapon open to us, must be openly embraced and utilized to its full measure.

7. Be careful not to spread fake news. Check it before you post it!

The information superhighway is often difficult to navigate, giving us access greater than ever imagined to articles, arguments, films and video, etc.  This also, however, has decidedly moved our information sources from those easily subject to vetting and even peer review, to new sources completely unchecked by any standards.  New internet media can “cite” whatever other “sources” they want, propose any theory they want, present any misstatements or untruths they want.  Many Americans who have had little or no actual training in verifying sources simply do not understand what the difference is between a racist hate site that demonstrates how some ethnic group is taking over or unfairly uses the system against us, and a site like the New York Times or CNN or a peer-reviewed scientific or academic journal, when all of these can be easily accessed just by clicking on a link.  All of these seem to be some person expressing some idea; and thereby ends the distinction between “fact” and “opinion,” and between the scientific value of a theory ( a verified explanation of observations, that has passed the test of independent experimentation) and the public’s use of the word “theory” to mean a simple, unverified guess.  To fight against this trend, we have started to employ the expression “fake news.”  This term was used originally to describe certain sites deliberately providing arguments and information they know to be false, on purpose, often as a deliberate parody of extremism.  The term then was generalized to be simply a synonym for propaganda, for biased media that may well be believed by those generating it, and presented not to deceive but to argue a point, but not objectively fair or accurate.  Now the expression has been co-opted by the administration’s information warfare staff as a means of combating against actual, vetted news sources like the Times, Washington Post, and CNN.  While it is true that some of these sources show a liberal bias (the Times being one of the most recognized targets of this accusation), they have also been critical of all parties and all candidates, and they are useful sources of verified information unlike sites like Steve Bannon’s infamous Breitbart News site.  But there are many, many “fake news” and propaganda outlets on the left, as well as on the right.  Beware of what you cite when you make arguments and cite sources.  Beware of what you believe before you pour your outrage all over the internet and invalidate the actual arguments that we on the left can make about the new administration.

8. Take care of yourselves!

Do not let yourself get swallowed by “resistance fatigue.”  As we fight, do make sure that your physical, mental, and social health are not impaired.  Spend time with your family, sharing activities besides fighting.  Pet your cat, take your dog for a nice, long walk.  Swim, run, work out.  Enjoy a nice meal without focusing on whatever the administration did today that angers you so.  Take time away from the fight to make sure you are okay; because we do need you to come back reinvigorated and ready for more.  At night, before you go to sleep, if you are thinking about what is happening politically, remember all that we have going for us, and focus on our positive forces instead of on the negative actions of the other side.  Go to sleep thinking, “We can do this.”

9. Resist!

Call and visit your public officials, both elected and appointed.  Organize – call your friends, ask your family to help, find your allies in your social circle, and move them towards doing more.  Join mass forces in the street as absolutely often as you can.  If you can, donate to groups on our side, fighting the good fight.  Online petitions frankly do little; they are mostly just means of getting you to a donations page.  Click if you like; but “slacktivism” will not accomplish much.  Our government needs to see us out there and fighting en masse; the thing that terrifies them the most is the possibility of losing the next election.  “Clickers” are often not voters; so be a regular and visible threat of actual electoral change.

Headline image, ©2016, Sparkpolitical.

Scenes From the Resistance in Michigan

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Yesterday, Women’s March On Washington – Michigan participated in a mass protest with other groups, at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), against the recent Trump executive order banning Muslim entry into the US from Muslim nations which do not have Trump businesses operating there.  Having worked with WMW on the march on DC on January 21, 2017, the day after inauguration day, I have been following WMW’s chapter in Michigan and joined in the protest under their Facebook page for the protest. Many other groups not affiliated with WMW, in particular local Muslim groups and local resistance organs like MoveOn, Democracy For America, unions, etc., also participated.  By some estimates, participation was roughly 5,000, at the McNamara Terminal.  Protesters held positions on both the terminal’s upper (Departures) level, and on the lower (Arrivals) level.  Those pictures, video, and verbal descriptions of the lower level that I have encountered indicate that the majority of the protest was there.  Originally, WMW told its participants to go to Departures on the upper level, so that is where my party went.

The day before the protest, when the ban was announced, WMWM posted the protest almost immediately, and in no time at all a couple thousand people indicated interest or intent in going.  I used my personal contacts from the Hillary Clinton campaign, and my network of personal friends and family, to form a team of about 12 people to join the protest; and numerous other campaign staff and other associates also went.  Unlike my group, most of those who I know that went, and who did not come with me, went to the lower level protest.

On the day of the protest, my wife and I hosted a preparation party to make signs and to fortify ourselves for the Michigan cold with some of my wife’s awesome cupcakes, veggies, and snacks.  I met some great new friends who wanted to get more involved in the resistance, and who came with some of my other friends.  After making signs, we divided our group into two car-loads, and off we went.

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Then, we hustled off to the airport, only a few minutes away in normal traffic from my house.  Quickly, we found ourselves in a massive parking lot on the roads heading in, as so many other people were all heading to the airport to join the protest at the same time.  We could see signs in lots of the cars around us, WMW “pussy hats,” and other paraphernalia indicating that most of the jam was protesters, not people trying to catch a flight.  The normally 10-minutes’ drive to the airport from my house took roughly an hour; and about a mile from the terminal, people were walking past us on the sidewalk, some towing luggage, some carrying protest signs.  We did at least have lots of time to wave and exchange thumbs up with other cars of protesters, and to enjoy the many signs that we all just started hanging out of our cars or putting in the window.

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Once we got to the airport, the police were having a hell of a time keeping things from inhibiting airport operations, so we had to get out of the truck quickly while police were yelling for us to keep going.  Our two vehicles got divided, and our twelve people found different spots in which to protest. My carload (after my wife dropped us off to circle around and find parking) joined a long line of newly arriving protesters, all of whom got cheered and “high-fived” by those already there, as we walked past a fence acting as the outer perimeter of the protest area.  Sadly, my wife never was able to make it in; she found some other protesters who needed a ride back out, and helped them out; and then tried to circle back in.  By the time she made it to the parking lot, it was more than another hour later; and the police were no longer letting people park – they were trying to break things up, as the permit for the protest had expired (we had a two-hour protest permit).  She circled back one more time, and picked us up about an hour or so after the protest was supposed to have ended, although the protesters were still there in force.  My party, both cars, found their way out (much easier at least than coming in), and went back to my house to share pizza, stories of the resistance, and friendship.

Some of my pictures from the upper-level protest:

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All images ©2017, Sparkpolitical.

 

A Letter to Benjamin Netanyahu

I have written the following letter to the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, who on several occasions has offered praise to Donald J. Trump, in view of the dangers that Trump poses to the Jewish community of the US and to other minorities here, most especially our Muslim brothers and sisters.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

I am writing to you as an American Jew, about the grave dangers threatening my country, the United States.  As the leader of a consistent ally of the US, you hold great influence with the new leaders of my country, and I urge you to employ that influence effectively to protect fellow Jews and one of Israel’s closest friends among the international community.

The United States is facing a tough struggle for the next four years, and we badly need your help.  The specter of fascism has taken hold, and Jews as well as other minorities in the US are under a grave threat, not dissimilar to the threat posing us in Germany in the 1930s.

Mr. Prime Minister, you have expressed praise for Donald Trump, and previously you spoke unkindly of President Obama during his administration.  Both of these stances, I am sorry to say, have undermined the safety of Jews in the US and elsewhere.  I cannot image that you are unaware of the great support Trump has received from Nazi groups in the US and other nations, from the KKK, and from other antisemitic and fascist groups here and worldwide.  The new president has received “Heil Trump” salutes; and language recalling and celebrating the Nazis of the 1930s has been spray-painted on temples, mosques, churches, and other potential targets.

It would be easy in normal years to dismiss these atrocities, and to presume that these people have misunderstood Trump’s message or that these people do not represent what Trump is attempting to accomplish.  But Trump’s appointment of a leading American white nationalist and anti-Semite, Steve Bannon, to the position of Chief Strategist, signals clearly that the harmony between Trump and the Nazis is neither imagined nor unintended.  In the wake first of the election in November, and more recently of the preparations for and festivities of the inauguration, Jewish communities across the US suffered bomb-threats, swastika paintings, and other acts of intimidation, intended to keep Jews here fearful, obedient, and quiet.

As if that weren’t enough, Steve Bannon has been further elevated by a change to our National Security Council, whereby this white nationalist and anti-Semite has a key role in constructing our country’s security policy – policy which is going to closely affect your nation as well.  This change also included the shocking removal from the council of the Director for National Intelligence and of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces.  Our intelligence and military chiefs no longer have a right to sit on the key venue for crafting our country’s security policy; but our country’s leading architect of racist and antisemitic propaganda has a leading voice on that body.  Sir, as a Jew, if that does not chill you to the very bone, then I think you need to re-examine your Jewishness, and to take a closer look at Adolf Hitler’s shifting of Nazi Party members into Germany’s security mechanisms in the early 1930s.

Recently, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the US government under Trump spoke about the “innocent victims,” while failing to mention Jews in any way.  Nazis and other groups applauded this statement loudly, revitalizing their movement to destroy Jews and other minority groups.  On this very same day, Trump proclaimed a ban on Muslim entry into the US from several Muslim states where Trump has no personal business interests (we can presume, so that his personal business interests would be less threatened by the inevitable attacks that such an act will provoke).  Trump’s ban is a clear reminder to many Jews like me of the policies of the US toward Jewish refugees prior to World War II, turning back many seeking refuge from Nazi terror – many of whom were shortly to perish in the camps.  Sir, as Jews, it is fundamentally imperative for us to embrace those seeking refuge from the political and theocratic extremists of the Middle East (such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, and similar groups).  Innocent people need protection just like we did in the 1930s, and which some like me fear even Jews in the US may need over the next few years.

And where are we to go if the US treks its current path toward fascism ever further?  As long as Israel promotes the settlement of areas of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, we can’t look to your state, either, if it destabilizes regional security with policies such as this.  As an American Jew, I live in a nation built on an idea – attacked as it is by Trump and those supporting him – that all peoples can live together and build a greater community.  That idea has worked for almost 250 years, even if now it seems shaken by those who want to erase the progress of history.  Israel, too, to be a democratic state, must embrace and empower both the minorities within your borders, and the Palestinians seeking to build their own nation-state in the West Bank.  A two-state solution is necessary to the security of Jews in Israel (and may even become necessary to the Jews of the US if we need to seek a haven from American fascism).

Sir, I urge you strenuously, with both the knowledge of history, and the close reading of the events of the past few years, to cease advocating or expressing support for Trump, and to act like a leader of Jews, concerned about the lives of Jews abroad.  The US has not yet become the Third Reich; but we have taken, and are continuing to take, ever more rapidly, the first steps down that road.  We need leaders like you, who have power and influence and who know how to wield them, to help stand in the way and to provide a guiding light for a better way, a way of embracing fellow communities, before that light is extinguished by the darkness of Trump, his Nazi supporters, and those like them.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Paul Rincon

Spark’s Subtitled and Annotated Edition of Trump’s Inaugural Address

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So you “missed” the speech on, as our new Dear Leader calls it, our National Day of Patriotic Devotion.  Or, you just need a friendly reminder of the unifying ideals expressed by the new leader of the “free world.”  To help fill that gap, Spark! presents an annotated guide to Trump’s day in the rain. You’re welcome.

Trump Inaugural Address, January 20, 2017

Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans and people of the world, thank you.

[“By ‘fellow Americans,’ obviously I’m not including President Obama, because my guy in Hawaii is still out there waiting to reveal those things I’ve kept secret all these years for some reason.  And by ‘people of the world,’ I mean the people who have unfairly been keeping our precious American oil underneath their sands. But we’ll change that.”]

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people.

[But not for American Indians at Standing Rock, whose lands Trump is about to commit to corporate exploitation, because screwing over the original Americans never gets old.  And not for women, who are experiencing increasing attacks under the emboldened Trumpist cultural warfare ravaging across our landscape.  And not for Jews, who have since the election seen a stark rise in attacks.  And not for working people, since Trump has nominated a labor secretary who wants to eliminate workers so that management and shareholders can make and keep more money to themselves.  But to all corporations who, thanks to the US Supreme Court, are now “people,” “You’re welcome.”]

Together we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come.

[“Because my SCOTUS bench fillers are going to derail decades of political progress and civil rights victories for an entire generation.”  And by “together,” Trump means, “the minority of Americans who voted for him,” and “the small cabal of personal advisers who operate more secretly now that Trump has muzzled our executive agencies and kept them from communicating with us and with Congress.”]

We will face challenges. We will confront hardships [ever more so, in fact, as we invoke a new age of protectionism with its long history of economic failure in an inept way to stop globalization, a force far beyond the understanding of the petty children we have now elevated to power], but we will get the job done. Every four years we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent. Thank you.

[“I’m told that I can’t say what I actually think, because there’s some semblance of civility that is required.” And truth be told, the Obamas were just as civil in not simply exploding in disgust or requesting our armed services to save the nation with a last-minute coup d’etat.]

Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning because, today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.

[See previous note about “the people” being corporations and Trump’s personal board of dismantlers, particularly as in “draining the swamp,” Trump is now appointing Wall Street in charge not only of the financial and treasury aspects of federal government, but over education, foreign policy, and all aspects of American governance. We the People are now, “We the People, Inc.”]

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have born the cost.

[“Those rewards will now be reaped by a small group of the struggling superwealthy in New York instead.  The people, of course, will continue to bear the costs, especially my ‘poorly educated’ who will be ever more unsuited to a 21st century economy.”]

Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs and, while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

[“Not that that stopped me from exploiting struggling families, who ultimately had to sue me a few weeks ago for a $25 million settlement for my ‘Trump University,’ and not that that stopped me from screwing over those little girls who sang for me during the campaign, workers building my properties, blacks, etc.  Screw those people.”]

That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you. It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration, and this, the United States of America, is your country.

[“It isn’t the country any more of those dark-skinned people, those people who speak with suspicious accents or have virtually identical religious practices but under a different name.  It isn’t the country any more of the educated, the knowledgeable, those who use facts to make arguments and know what words mean. Again, screw those people. Am I right?”]

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of an historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

[Well, a minority of embittered white people in full control of virtually every venue for power thinking that a minority has somehow kept them from their fully deserved place in the sun, and using a weakness in the system of selecting a chief executive to take further power and retract all progress made toward making the nation more fair and productive, does have a precedent or two.  For example, we have the 1930s.]

At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public, but for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists.

[“And you can thank the party now in power, and people like me, for constructing that reality in the first place.” So, thanks, Republicans, for dismantling our public education system. Thanks, Betsy DeVos and your family for converting public education in Michigan into a source of profit for billionaires while student progress plummets ever further. Thanks, Republicans, for writing into law provisions not only making this possible but favoring for-profit corporations in dismantling the school system. Thanks Republicans, for cutting pensions, pay, and even jobs for the police protecting our neighborhoods; all the time while obstructing the passage of laws that keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people; and for refusing to protect our schools from gun violence.  Thanks, Republicans, and Trump specifically, for opposing the auto industry bail-out, which protected an entire industry and tens of thousands of American jobs, and which was paid back with interest to the taxpayer.]

Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

[See previous notes on the causes of this “carnage,” and on Trump’s exploitation of the people impacted by it.  This carnage also underscores eight years of virtually continuous job growth from the dismal performance of the last time Republicans managed the economy; as well as the historically low levels of violent crime, which has been steadily dropping for the last two decades.]

We are one nation and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home and one glorious destiny. The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans. For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

[Trump never learned not to use pronouns without the use of an antecedent. Who are “we,” and who are “they”?  Trump is separating America into “us” and “them,” the rich and empowered, and the poor and disenfranchised.  He calls hypocritically for a sudden reunification of those whom he exploited, with those doing the exploiting.  He also criticizes moderate reductions of the rate of military spending growths as “the very sad depletion of our military,” the largest military force in the entire world.  Trump completely ignores the our nation’s uncontested military supremacy, and the fact that there is no nation on earth whose military comes close in either size, training budget, technological sophistication, or experience in modern joint operations.  Trump also moves straight from the “dreams,” “success,” and “destiny” of the people to military force.  His view of “greatness” is clearly not a reflection of civil rights, or equality and justice, or even providing good jobs and working conditions; but is solely a measure of how many bombs the US can drop and how many people it can kill.  “Sad!”]

We’ve defended other nations’ borders, while refusing to defend our own, and spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas, while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon. One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.

[Which leads one to ask why Trump has nominated a labor secretary who wants to automate more jobs and reduce job opportunities even further. While his words here castigate this tendency, his actions past and present celebrate the dissipation of American jobs.  And why has Trump himself been a leading mover of jobs overseas? If he cared at all about this, how come he never acted on matters that have been entirely under his control? He could have been an innovator and employer of new factories in the US if he cared at all for these shuttered factories and workers “left behind.” Where was he? Playing the rich playboy, playing golf, screwing over the poor students of “Trump University,” and making and keeping wealth for himself at the expense of the very people he here pretends to care about.]

But, that is the past and now we are looking only to the future. We assembled here today, are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.

[Not the first time that isolationism has been suggested; but in that case why do we need to spend even more on an already incontestably powerful military? Also, how are we defining “American workers and American families”? Trump’s tweets about his “enemies,” and his ceaseless attack on Americans not firmly behind him make it plain that he does not mean “all Americans.” His hypocrisy and his ceaseless efforts to screw over the very kind of people who voted for him suggest that even they may not be included into the “all Americans” category. Who he is talking about here are the top 1%, pure and simple. The “workers” he looks after are those who wear expensive suits and ties and are driven around in big, black cars by others.]

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never, ever let you down.

[Protectionism has, of course, had a sad record of closing off trade and shuttering factories even further. As the world has grown wealthier, the US has not only lost jobs but has also become more dependent for the ones we’ve kept on being able to trade across borders, and those borders he is now suggesting we close. Chinese and Indian consumers from an exploding middle class eager for sophisticated products and services will just get them from other markets (each other, Brazil, Russia, Europe, etc.).  As far as “letting us down,” wait until you hear about Trump’s use of private email servers, or his multitude of “imperial presidency” executive orders, or closing off our contact with our own government agencies, or his diversion of attention away from Russian hacking to the ridiculous notion of “millions of illegal immigrants voting.”]

America will start winning again. Winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. [Where did our borders go? Last time I looked, they were still there.]  We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams. We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American. We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

[Trump, of course, has no conception of how to handle the greater loss of jobs to automation and virtual economy and to the Walmartization of our economy. The “winning” was not just a matter of one nation wins and another loses; but we have instead chosen to shop at places and in ways that eliminate jobs and workers from the purchases that we make, helping to concentrate wealth into the hands of ever fewer Trumps. Trump’s words, “ideas,” and plans include no measures to restore small business and Main Street storefronts from these losses.

By “seek[ing] friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world,” Trump must be referring to his good-natured attacks on our ally and leading trade partner Germany, his criticism of NATO. Or maybe he is just hinting at the closer relationship with Putin that will do our nation little good.]

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow. We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth. 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.

[“Of course, radical Christian terrorism, like that of Dylann Roof and Charles Dear and so many others, will continue to go unchallenged, because Jesus.”  And in telling his American-flag flying deplorables, the very ones who fly their Confederate Battle Flag alongside our stars and stripes, the ones who fly our flag while shouting “Heil Trump!” and performing the Nazi salute, those entitled white people who “don’t see color,” will refuse to see the prejudice that remains. Prejudice entrenches itself further as we dismantle all of the protections that weakened it. Flying the flag does not stop it. We have to fight for the things symbolized by that flag, for patriotism to mean anything.]

The bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when god’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and most importantly, we will be protected by God. [“Because, Jesus.”]

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action constantly complaining, but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action. Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.

We stand at the birth of a new millennium ready to unlock the histories of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease and to harness the energies, industries, and technologies of tomorrow.

[“Of course, all of this requires a Congress willing to spend your tax dollars, and executive agencies able to converse with the public, with Congress, with other nations and private enterprise. We need an EPA protecting our environment, a CDC unrestrained from studying the things ailing our nation like gun violence, and departments like the Department of Energy to be led by innovative people with sophisticated knowledge. Since I’ve appointed complete quacks to lead my government, and am about to shut that all down anyway, I wouldn’t hold my breath on any of the above.”]

A new national pride will lift our sights and heal our divisions. It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots. We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag.

 

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky. They fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator. So, to all Americans in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.

Together we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And, yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you and god bless America. Thank you. God bless America.

[We are, of course, already strong, more so than any other nation on earth. We have more wealth than any other nation on earth – we just let it get concentrated at the very top by undermining unions and middle-class workers, by freeing the top 1% from their tax burden, by selling off all of the public good to private corporations.  We are as “safe” as we have ever been, more so than in many times in our history.  And “greatness”? Trump is calling for a new Roman Empire, a militarization to replace a working economy, a chorus of “hell yeah” as we drop bombs and kill people to distract the poor from the corporate hand taking ever more of their power away. God does not bless such an America, trust me. If we are to be blessed, we must make those blessings happen by doing good, by distributing Trump’s wealth and that of his Wall Street cabal, by welcoming in refugees and immigrants and servants and slaves, the very people who have always built this nation and made it strong in the first place. That is the only kind of America that any kind of God could bless.]

See also NPR’s annotated guide to the diatribe speech.

Headline image, of Donald Trump during the inaugural address of January 20, 2017, via LA Times.

Another Personal Note, on My Return

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Welcome back to Spark!  It’s been a while, and I had many adventures that took me away from writing, but it’s time I got back into it.  Since I last ended with a “personal note” explaining my upcoming absence, I’ll return with another such.

I left my writing last year to work for the Hillary Clinton campaign, something that I may write more about in days to come.  Despite the disappointment of the results, the shock and dismay that, yes, people actually did vote for that, I have to say that my time on the campaign was, quite simply, “the toughest job I ever loved.”  I worked 12-16 hour days, every single day for about 80 days in a row.  I met some great volunteers in my area, and some amazing fellow organizers and campaign staff.  Whatever some (including Sen. Bernie Sanders) have said about Hillary suffering an enthusiasm gap, those at least that came to the campaign were very enthusiastic, full of energy, and ready to fight.  In the upcoming couple of years, as my state of Michigan gets ready for a gubernatorial and state senate race (not to mention the race for state and US representatives) in 2018, this kind of enthusiasm will be needed to take back our state government from those, like the DeVos family and the Republican administration of Governor Snyder, who have sold off the public good to the corporate hunger for cheap resources.  Michigan has great Democrats, liberals, progressives, ready to fight for what we believe in and to build our City on a Hill.  This campaign built an amazing team in Michigan, and I was proud to fight alongside them.

After the campaign, I took a brief break, and then was called back by the campaign to work – and then not – on the Michigan vote recount.  Then, again, I went back home and perused my options.  My wife and I took a great trip down south to visit some friends and family in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio.  And I’ve been slowly reinserting myself into the political life by attending events like the huge Rally to Defend Healthcare in Warren, MI, on January 15.  This enormous rally (over 6,000 people braved Michigan’s 20-degree cold for this outdoor event) was addressed by Senators Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, and Gary Peters; various Michigan state and US Representatives; Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood; and many private individuals chosen to share their stories of how the ACA saved their lives.  This coming weekend, my family and friends will be descending on Washington, DC, to protest against the inauguration of He Who Shall Not Be Named.

In the meantime, I’ve been considering other career options, gathering thoughts on the numerous fights to come and which ones to apply my energies.  I did not want to get back in with too much of a “think piece,” instead dipping back in with a soft parade of thoughts about where we go from here.  As many of my campaign comrades are also taking it easy before we all dive back into this year’s local fights (for mayorial and other local campaigns coming up this year, as well as building a resistance mechanism to neutralize the Orange Office before it can get any momentum), I thought about maybe escaping with a movie.  What should we watch?

How about 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate?  Don’t know it?  It’s a fanciful story, something almost impossible to conceive.  A mindless conservative politician turns out to be controlled by political masterminds in Russia, and is Moscow’s tool for turning America from a liberal democracy into an authoritarian dictatorship.  You see,…  Oh.  Awkward.  Okay, right.  Maybe not.

What about Red Dawn, then?  The Russians invade, after the US withdraws from NATO and unsuspectingly opens its doors to its enemy.  What’s that?  Yeah, you’re right.  Also a little too close for comfort.

I guess we should also rule out the 1980s TV miniseries, Amerika.  The US is not so much “invaded,” as relatively peacefully taken over by the Russians and the KGB in the wake of a divisive election and the nation’s failure to remember why it cared so much about maintaining a democratic federal government.  Yeah, not quite what we’re looking for in an “escape.”

Okay, let’s maybe step away from Cold War paranoia.  How about a nice classic like Gone With the Wind?  Can’t go wrong with a multiple Oscar-winner, right?  A nice, relaxing story centering around a romance, that takes place during a turbulent time as our nation is torn between two sides fighting against each other, and systematized racial violence is kept quietly in the background…  Okay, moving on, then.

Maybe instead of a movie, I’ll just watch some TV.  Rather than focus on the present, maybe a nostalgic trip to the past on the History Channel.  Hey, here we go!  A documentary about a demagogic leader in the 1930s rising up amidst a populist movement, having no political leadership experience or knowledge whatsoever, but lying his way to political victory by blaming an ethnic group for his nation’s failure to experience the greatness that it should…  Oh, for the love of…  Really?

It’s like someone was trying to tell us something.  If you want the longer version, you could of course choose to read The Federalist Papers.  But our culture has been warning us for decades against exactly the thing that we let happen last year.  And history has warned us about what happens when we let it go and assume it will all be okay at the end.  What makes things “okay in the end” are the fighters for justice from our history, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose church in Atlanta I had the good fortune to visit last month, and whose mission we celebrated this past week (in the case of our next occupant of the White House, by insulting one of MLK’s most determined allies, Representative John Lewis of Georgia).  And in the end, there is no “end.”  History doesn’t get a period, but an ellipses.  We have to keep fighting, even (especially) when we’ve won a  great victory.  MLK and John Lewis pushed the US into a variety of great reforms (and many half-assed ones); like the Voting Rights Act that last year was emasculated by a Supreme Court that this year (try not throw up) is going to get another justice added to it by our new Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief.  A victory won can be lost down the road by complacence.  We have to get back to fighting for the things we’ve won and are about to lose (or already have lost).

Now that I am back, I will be writing more about what we can do in the days ahead, and how we can fight the battles before we lose the war and before our nation sells its soul to its own devils.  As Rachel Maddow likes to say, keep watching this space for more.

Thanks for your patience, and welcome back to Spark!

Headline image: Owen Roper, the author, Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI-D), and Tashawna Gill, on Election Day, 2016.  © Sparkpolitical, 2017.

A Personal Note to My Readers

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Some of you who have followed Spark! may have noticed a lapse in my writing, for which I blame a combination of personal inertia and a variety of summertime tasks otherwise consuming my time.  However, over the past month, I have pursued an opportunity to work for the Clinton campaign in my home state, and I have accepted an offer from the campaign.  The demands of the position are very great, and sadly I will probably be unable to make further contributions until after the election in November.  I therefore would like to thank those of you who have followed, “liked,” or commented on my posts; and I hope that you will continue to do so when I return to my writing after the election.

For those of you who are also used to my presence in reading and liking and commenting on your own blogs as well, please do not feel offended by my disappearance from your blogs.  I simply will not have the time to appreciate your offerings until November, but I eagerly look forward to returning with a vengeance after that point.

Please, everybody:  Remember to cast your vote in November.  As I disappear into the ranks of Clinton’s campaign organization, let me make a last plea for that vote to be for the candidate I feel is the best able to steer the helm of our ship of state to the correct course: the Democratic Party nominee, Hillary Clinton.  It is also every bit as vital that you all vote in your local and state elections, and for your congressional representation in Washington, to take back our rights from the entrenched conservative political machine.

Thanks for your support, everybody.  Good luck to all of you, and I hope to see you all (on the internet, at least) in November!

Headline photo, Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI) and myself earlier this year at the Flint, MI campaign office, before Michigan’s primary in March. © 2016, Sparkpolitical.

Trump and the “Second Amendment People”

A campaign that has effectively made it a policy to shock the American people on a daily basis made what some critics might call a “gaff” this past Tuesday, when he seemed to imply the use of force by private citizens in case Hillary Clinton is elected in November.

“Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know,” Trump muttered in his standard stream of unconsciousness that has become his trademark oratorical style.

Was Trump really implying that people take matters into their own hands when Clinton starts to put her judges on the bench (either to assassinate the president, or her judges)?  Obviously the campaign says that it was “sarcastic,” “a joke.”  This sarcastic joke emanated from a campaign whose key link to the people has been the idea that Trump “speaks his mind,” and “says what he means.”  Well, once again we have to ask:  does he or doesn’t he?

In fact, Trump never used the actual words, never included a verb; not unusual for a man whose “speeches” rarely involve sentences that any English teacher would let by without a generous use of the infamous red pen.  Instead, he said something without saying anything; and his campaign has implied that perhaps Trump was talking about the “second amendment people” uniting politically to pressure the government not to name or confirm certain judges not passing the right’s own tests for political correctness.  But we also have to realize that Trump has raised a violent force, a party not unlike the brown-shirts of Hitler’s Sturmabteilung, willing and able to follow the leader’s exhortations to violence.  Certainly such “implications” were followed by conservative followers in the past, as when after Sarah Palin put Rep. Gabby Giffords’s name on a “target list,” Giffords was, in fact, shot.  And if the college-educated reporters and leaders of the nation can see the threat of violence in the ambiguity of the words, what must the people whom Trump has congratulated for being “poorly educated” read into those words?  Trump can pretend a “plausible deniability” when someone takes a potshot at either Clinton or a justice whom she appoints; but that will not separate him from the blame behind such an act if it occurs.

Another, darker problem lurks behind the “gaff.”  Trump claims, and his followers accept unquestionably, two problematic axioms:  first, that Hillary Clinton is opposed to the Second Amendment; and second, that he himself will support and somehow strengthen the Second Amendment (as shaky and weak as he implies it is, what with mass shootings and demonstrations of open carrying of military-style weapons being merely a daily occurrence).  Both contentions are, of course, ridiculous.  Clinton has never opposed the Second Amendment, or the implied right to own firearms; and in fact she has on numerous occasions said the opposite.  Obviously Trump’s opponents do not so much care about Clinton’s words, as they do not trust anything that she says anyway.  Equally ridiculous is the notion that a candidate without a shade of understanding of basic constitutional principles, and who as a businessman has made much of his wealth by breaking contracts, could be trusted to preserve what many consider to be a basic constitutional right.  Again, however, the shakiness of such a notion is missed by the masses who care nothing of Trump’s record of failure and unreliability.  The dog whistle sounds the alarm of the Second Amendment, and the dogs then howl as required.

Another problem, one often ignored even by politicians like President Obama and Secretary Clinton, is the actual right provided by the Second Amendment – or more accurately, the right not so provided.  The words of the Amendment, words that have troubled scholars to elucidate for others, are as follows:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

What most readers miss is the fact that no rights of the individual are recognized or provided by this amendment.  The gun-owner clings to his gun on the basis of “the right of the people”; but in the Constitution and in the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments), as well as in the Federalist Papers, written by three of the framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the rights of “the people” are not the same rights as those for the individual.  The framers referred to “the people” as the embodiment of popular power; be that the elected governments of the several states, or other corporate bodies of popular power.  Whenever the framers wished to make abundantly clear to the reader that a right was for individuals, they named individuals, or left vague references to “the people” out entirely.  The right to protection against quartering is secured for “the Owner [of a house]”; trial rights are secured for “the accused”; other rights are promised to “persons” (individuals).  The right to freedom from government interference in speech and religion simply denies the government a right to make laws at all, without referencing either individuals or “the people.”  Nowhere in the Second Amendment do the framers actually suggest that individuals themselves have any specified rights under that act.  The right of the people to keep and bear arms is the right of the states, separate from the federal authority of the US Government.  The Second Amendment promised the states that they could and should maintain “well-regulated militia” for their own security, both from foreign invasion as well as from each other’s militia and from federal measures of force in their territories.

All references by the framers to “the people” were to corporate entities, not individuals.  In fact, that reference created animosity by such leaders as Patrick Henry who saw in the very preamble of the Constitution that the words “We the People” were written by delegates to the Constitutional Convention as selected by the states’ governments, and were not in fact representatives of the people themselves, let alone free individuals speaking solely for themselves.  “We the People” were the states.  The rights of “the people” were the rights of the states, not the rights of the individual inhabitants of the states.  It is also true that at the time, most states had militia based on private owners of their own weapons (in addition to every state maintaining central arsenals of both artillery and extra infantry weapons, the latter for those soldiers who had none of their own or lost theirs in combat).  Private ownership of weapons was preferred by the states as a means of reducing the cost of maintaining public arsenals.  But the Second Amendment does not specify that private ownership itself is either sufficient or necessary to the defense of a state.  Instead, the presence of a state-run and well-regulated militia is needed for state defense.  The states insisted on their rights to protect themselves from each other (at a time when state animosities toward each other was quite high, and many border and trade issues unresolved), and from a larger federal military (which the framers argued in the Federalist Papers to be more conducive to a credible deterrence of external aggression, but which could also be used by a tyrannical central authority to force undesired measures upon the states).

However, the Constitution is not merely a historical document, but a living contract subject to interpretation by the US Supreme Court.  What the Court ultimately says about the Constitution, and about how the rights therein are to be protected or interpreted, determines what the Constitution is for those to whom the Court’s musings apply.  In Heller v District of Columbia, in 2003, the Court finally decided that the Amendment does indeed guarantee the individual a right to own a firearm, separate from any need of state or federal regulation of militia, and separate from the use of such firearms for the security of the states.  For now, regardless of what our framers meant by “the people,” “the people” are indeed the individual citizens of the nation.  And both the militia clause and the security clause are considered inoperative and irrelevant to the rights of the individual.  The Court has overturned its own decisions before; and therefore at some point a future Court may well decide either to reattach the militia and/or security clauses to the right, and/or to define that right as not individual but corporate.  However, that is for the future.

In the meantime, we have a problem of who exactly the “second amendment people” are, the people vaguely referenced to in Trump’s distorted mutterings.  Are they gun owners, or the NRA (who consider themselves to be a constitutional rights advocate), or the gun industry (notwithstanding the NRA’s role as the industry’s chief corporate lobbyist)?  Who are these people to whom Trump held his hand to say, “maybe there is,… I don’t know”?  He himself obviously would have a difficult time answering that question, although the ease with which he can accept endorsements and donations from the gun lobby is unquestionable.  Trump’s failure to know what even he is saying as he may, or not, be saying it, is frightening in what those who follow him may decide that he was saying (such as the followers who easily obeyed Palin’s later denied exhortations to shoot people like Gabby Giffords).  But Trump’s failure to know what even he means is even more frightening as we envision a nation presided by a man exhibiting clear symptoms of dementia and who (unlike Pence, who some have hinted might be more responsible for certain governing roles), would actually have control of our nuclear codes.  If the missile hatches are ever opened, we need a leader to know what she says, what she means, what she expects from her supporters and from the nation, and what the nation that elected her stands for and expects from her.  Trump is unquestionably not that leader.

Headline photo by Sara D Davis/Getty Images, posted on Thomas L. Friedman, The Dallas Morning News, Trump’s Ambiguous Wink to the ‘Second Amendment People’,” August 10, 2016.

The Third-Party Option is Not a “Conscience Vote”

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Throwing away your vote on a message no one will hear, and which will change no outcome, is sometimes presented as ‘voting your conscience’, but that’s got it exactly backwards; your conscience is what keeps you from doing things that feel good to you but hurt other people. Citizens who vote for third-party candidates, write-in candidates, or nobody aren’t voting their conscience, they are voting their ego, unable to accept that a system they find personally disheartening actually applies to them.

blogger Clay Shirky

Blogger Clay Shirky (not connected to WordPress) makes an effective argument for why voting for third parties in the US, or simply not voting, are not effective uses of the “protest vote.”  The voters may not like living in a two-party system; but pretending that they do not is unrealistic and ineffective.  It also reinforces the precise electoral system that they might hope to change through their “protest.”  See Clay Shirky’s argument in more detail here.

Headline image from the BBC News.