Sunday, July 24, 2016

Liberal - Progressive -- A Rose By Any Other Name...

The labels Liberal and Progressive are thrown around in Democratic Party politics without any reference to either historic meaning or consistent current definition.  We have reached a point in our politics today where anyone can label them self what they like, their opponents can label them what they want and people just accept those labels -- giving those labels their own understood meanings.  Thus the labels become meaningless.

In 1896 a relatively conservative Democratic party controlled by the money interests of the northeastern states and the ex-confederate Bourbons of the South was subjected to a popular revolt and transformed into a populist party. That original Populist agenda included many items of economic justice (anti-big banks, anti-monopolies), political justice (direct election of Senators, referendum, recall) and global justice (anti-imperialism and anti-war).  After the turn of the 20th century Populism, whose roots were rural and western, merged with urban Progressivism and became the Progressive movement. Progressives added social justice (labor conditions, health care, and slum eradication) to economic and political justice and on the global scene became advocates for an American style world justice and organization.  The Progressive movement was personified by Theodore Roosevelt and institutionalized by Woodrow Wilson.

After World War I, as Progressives embraced woman suffrage, extreme elements pushed successfully for prohibition and many nativist elements opposed Wilsonian world leadership. These divisions, which often reflected urban  rural differences, lasted throughout the 1920's.  And, then came Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal.

FDR, a firm Wilson Progressive and cousin to Teddy Roosevelt, considered himself a LIBERAL.  Read his speeches and you will be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t use the world Liberal in it. He advocated economic, social, political, and global justice. He preached Four Freedoms “everywhere in the world” and an Economic Bill of Rights.  His twelve years in office made the Democratic Party a Liberal Party. Truman, Stevenson, Kennedy, Johnson and Humphrey were all proud to call themselves Liberals. 

The Vietnam War divided Liberals on global issues and the degree to which the US should be willing to engage in war to defeat communists and so called fellow travelers.  After the 1968 convention the anti-war Democrats took control of the party apparatus and the 1972 convention and nominated George McGovern on a Liberal platform strongly anti-war.  His crushing defeat by Nixon caused a reaction among Democrats that can only be described as cowardly as most Democrats began to deny the word Liberal and instead use the word Progressive which they felt would denote liberal views on social and economic issues and not carry the “stain” of McGovernism.  In contrast when LBJ decimated the Goldwater Republicans in 1964 they responded by hunkering down and pushing conservatives from the school board to the court house and building the base for the Reagan revolution sixteen years later.

And so for twenty years the Democrats, having rid themselves of the segregationists and having taken a clear pro-choice position on abortion, see sawed between centrists Progressives like Carter and Liberals like Mondale and Dukakis.  Finally in 1992 the centrist Democrats led by Bill Clinton took control of the party and Liberal became an unused label.

It was not until 2014, when Senators like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown began to crusade for economic justice again - and people went into the streets to demand that government reign in Wall Street, raise the minimum wage, and rescue the middle class from extinction, that the word PROGRESSIVE began again to have its historic meaning of economic justice and opposition to the power and greed of the wealthy and the corporate interests.  And people also began to again use the word LIBERAL with pride as contra CONSERVATIVE.

The two labels tend to denote the same views on social issues and support for the economic programs of the New Deal and the Great Society.  I would argue that Progressive today includes liberal values with a heightened concern about the oligarchic power of big business and the influence of the military industrial complex on our international relations.  But, I would also say that it is difficult today to give precise meaning to the two labels: Liberal and Progressive. While both support equal rights for all only some in each oppose the death penalty. Today both labels now denote opposition to corporate power and Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United; but, Progressives place more value on minimum wage and single payer health care than many Liberals.  And, most unfortunately, many Liberals today are not advocating political reform - they are satisfied with the reforms that were enacted post 1972 and the party structures they control and so resist changes such as open primaries, abolition of automatic delegates, ending caucus systems.     

But, now (2016) in the mind of the public the labels Liberal and Progressive have become somewhat synonymous. Many people see them as the same-- which they are not.  And, many party activists argue over the Progressive bonafides of candidates.  If the key litmus test is economic justice and attitudes toward Wall Street and corporate political power than we should begin using the terms Progressive Liberal and Traditional Liberal. A Progressive Liberal being one who holds basic liberal values on most issues but is clearly anti-Wall Street and all that entails.  A Traditional Liberal would be one who holds basic liberal values on most issues but has become comfortable with the role that corporations and big business play in our government. (To be clear I would denote Bernie Sanders the former and Hillary Clinton the latter.) Personally I prefer either type of Liberal to a conservative, or an extremist tea-partier, or an enabling so-called moderate or Trumpian.

24 July 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


The 2016 Presidential election contest has become unique by the presence of the "first" non-political candidate -- Donald Trump.  Not since Wendell Willkie in 1940, some seventy-six years ago, has a non-political type dared to enter the presidential sweepstakes. Trump=s primary opponents and now his general election adversary seem at a loss as to how to campaign effectively against him.  They complain, they react, they act bemused sometimes outraged and often incredulous. They simply haven=t a clue about what he is doing and what he may be all about.  He has developed a 21st century version of Populism that harkens back to the 1890's but in many ways is more nostalgic and certainly less progressive than William Jennings Bryan=s transformation of that label.

As someone who has spent his entire adult life in politics -- running for office, managing campaigns at the federal, state, county and municipal levels one gets a feel for the do's and don’ts of campaigning. True I=ve won some and lost others. I claim no great expertise or predictive abilities, but do believe that I am as cognizant of the new politics of today and the impact of the technology of our century as anyone in the political analytic process.  Where Lincoln used lists of voters to get out the vote for Henry Clay, we use computer print outs with information on voters that in Lincoln=s day only the local minister had.

I offer this list of Do=s and Don=ts on ways to campaign against Donald Trump.    

DON=T ridicule Trump or treat him as some sort of buffoon who doesn=t know what he is talking about.  He is a well educated man who has an ability to read an audience and express in terms that audience understands what he, Trump, is thinking. 

DO take Trump seriously. His supporters enjoy his approach - his opponents do not.  Let him turn off the undecided by himself. He can do a good job of that.  Voters don=t like to be told why not to like someone they like to come to that conclusion themselves.

DON=T react to Trump=s actions and comments.  If one does so they continue the story he has begun and let him set the agenda of what is considered significant by the media. 

DO offer positive programs and goals and reasons for people to vote for the Democratic candidate.

DON=T explain every Democratic proposal or critique every one of Trump=s with extensive description and multiple points.  Trump has found a way to replace the 30 second commercial and the 10 second sound bite with a 140 character tweet, and bumper sticker slogans. Trump is speaking in clear affirmative sentences not paragraphs of verbiage.  His slogans are curt and to the point. And if one tries to take them apart the listener is lost in the weeds of the explanation. This may well be the campaign model of the 21st century.

DO present ideas in clear sloganesque format e.g. Health Care for All; Debt-Free College Education for All; Personal Equality for All; Religious Freedom for All; Pre-K classes for All Children.

DON=T just defend the status quo. Take a lesson from the Brexit campaign in England the very word Remain was passive and satisfied while Leave expressed change and action.

DO expand on popular programs, e.g. Social Security; build on positive ideas that have been around. Trump wants to make America Great Again - rejoinder: Let=s Make a Great America Greater.

DON=T treat Trump and his supporters like ignoramuses, red-necks or the great unwashed. That plays right into Trumps anti-intellectual anti-professional class approach to winning over the 50% of Americans who don=t vote.

DO reach out to every voter -- remembering Thomas Jefferson=s injunction AError of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.@.

Don't let this become a campaign about the character and personality of the candidates. Neither candidate is popular in the Obama/Reagan mold.
And, don't run a campaign of fear of what Trump will do to programs and the world as he runs a campaign about fear of immigrants and terrorists.  
If this becomes a campaign of fear, I believe the anxiety about personal safety will trump concern about losing material benefits.  
Donald Trump could become more than a unique phenomenon.  If he wins he could well be the precursor of what political candidates will be like in the future.  And, the probability of his victory is increased if the campaign against him is based on old conventional wisdom and the political practices of the past.

19 July 2016

Friday, July 15, 2016


So, Donald Trump has chosen his Vice President: the Governor of Indiana, Michael Pence. A former Congressman who when he left the House gave twelve years of his papers and notes and emails and anything else connected with his service in the House of Representatives to the University of Indiana with condition that it be sealed from access by anyone until after 2020.  So the press and more importantly the public must now judge the Trump-Pence ticket without Trump’s tax returns and without Pence’s papers.  Yet, the Republicans continue to misrepresent more and more info from Clinton’s thousands of personal emails which were released to public scrutiny.

Michael Pence has been a run of the mill average pro-life pro-gun pro-business (owned by the Koch brothers) Governor who was in some evident trouble getting reelected this year. The Indiana Republicans are said to be happy that he is now running for VP so they can run a stronger candidate for Governor.

Pence joins a distinguished list of Indiana pols who have served as Vice President of the United States:
                                                            Schuyler Colfax
                                                            Thomas Hendricks
                                                            Charles Fairbanks
                                                            Thomas Marshall
                                                            Daniel Quayle

These Indiana Veeps personified the old adage that a man had two sons one went to sea and one became Vice President and neither was ever heard of again.

Pence is a Ted Cruz ultra right wing Republican whose positions on social issues are far more extreme than Trump’s and where Trump takes non-establishment positions on immigration and trade agreements Pence turns moderate and traditional - including support for the TPP..

Donald Trump the self proclaimed populist who wants to shake up Washington DC makes the safest choice for Vice President.  Trump chooses someone that the right wing Tea party establishment is comfortable with, someone who the donor class is comfortable with and someone who the inside the beltway crowd is comfortable with. Apparently Trump, as he gets closer to the White House and hears the strains of Hail to the Chief, gets more comfortable with being the Republican candidate for President not the Donald. 

  15 July 2016  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


The political pundits and media commentators have found a new conventional wisdom to share.  They are decrying the fact that Donald Trump doesn’t appear to have a solid ground game which they have decided is necessary for him to win in November. And, Democrats especially in states where the Trump campaign seems less organized structurally, may be adding this ground game factor into their already naive “Trump can’t win therefore we can’t lose” belief.

Since most of these commentators, especially those just out of college, have little or no campaign experience it is a wonder that they even know what a ground game is.  Before deciding if a candidate needs one we should ask what exactly constitutes a ground game.

In my experience a ground game, or field campaign, is the organizing of volunteers and paid staff to do a number of campaign actions.  First and foremost to canvass door to door spreading information about the candidate and identifying the candidates supporters. This is particularly important in contests that do not attract media attention and massive television /radio advertising that can spread the message. In today's age, when few voters are interested in reading more than a bumper sticker, literature has lost its value and certainly when your platform is “Make America Great Again” you don’t need to distribute a slogan.

It is also critical to identify supporters if one plans a major pull operation on Election Day to get a maximum turnout.  Trump’s apparent plan to win is to get the angry, the disaffected, the disgruntled, and the disappointed to come out as never before and protest all that they don’t like by voting for him. He has no identifiable bloc of voters he can safely blind pull. And, those secret Trump voters are not going to identify themselves to canvassers or phone callers. Trump’s GOTV plan will be to bombard people with TV ads to generate turnout.

Clinton on the other hand, with an enthusiasm problem, and in a way appealing to those satisfied with the status quo but who would like to see some changes needs a sophisticated ground game.  She needs to “blind pull” minority voters: African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian-American’s to get a maximum turnout from those groups which polls show will vote overwhelmingly for her.  She needs to focus on key states that fit the demographics of her supporters and because of the Electoral College system she needs selective state strategies.
Trump is basing his campaign on a national homogeneity. Not one of ideology but one of similarity.  He is appealing to the masses that become fans of a particular television show and cut across the age and gender and race demographic lines.  These are the very TV shows he has produced and made a name for himself in -- the reality shows.  The 21st century version of the silver screen or the living room tube.    

For some time it has been evident that the Presidential contest gets the greatest voter turnout in our country.  If it were not for the Electoral College, which makes some votes worth more than others and leads to a focus on states that polls show are very close, there would be no need to pull out voters for President. A ground game involves covering polling places - inside to prevent abuses; outside to greet voters and at the doors and on the phones pulling out voters.  I have already explained why you don’t need to pull voters in a Presidential election unless there is clear evidence of closeness of the expected vote.  As for poll overage - few of our precinct officials today know how, if it is possible to alter or affect the results, and our volunteer watchers usually have little knowledge of how to prevent it if they do.  As for poll greeters since the Presidential race is driving the turnout most voters are interested in sample ballot cards for down ballot candidates since their Presidential choice is the reason they are coming out to vote.

Before the electoral debacle of 2000 and Obama’s close wins in North Carolina and Omaha in 2008 the political punditry had been talking more and more about the homogeneity of the American electorate especially when it came to voting for President.  In fact if we look at our recent Presidents, more have won by carrying most of the states, e.g. FDR, Eisenhower, LBJ, Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Clinton in ‘96. In fact what has often been the case was a tendency for a national consensus to develop behind one candidate.  The new use of social media and the predominance of 24/7 cable news may have made the ground game much less crucial to victory in a Presidential general election.

12 July 2016

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


As decades roll by it often occurs that people seemingly forget the trials and tribulations of past years.  In fact the often replace those learned memories with a nostalgia for a time before them which is seen as simpler and peaceful.  Such is apparently happening in the United Kingdom, parts of Europe and in America.

For almost five hundred years the nations of Europe consolidated their borders and warred with each other forming often different alliances based on religion and on national ambition.  With the devastation of World War I, and the almost  total annihilation of populations in WWII, many European leaders began advocating some form of European integration.  With American support first the Benelux nations formed a common market and then when DeGaulle and Adenauer reconciled the two great rival nations France and Germany the European Common Market was born.  In the 1970's with both of those out of power the Common Market merged with a rival European Free Trade Union and created the European Union which the United Kingdom (after a popular referendum) joined. The EU was the culmination of efforts to forge a new Europe one with continental identity and one that would exist in peace. When soviet control of Eastern Europe imploded in 1990 those nations sought entrance into the EU as a sign of their desire to be European.

Almost forty years have gone by since England voted to join the EU.  And it is now over seventy years since the end of World War II.  The causes, the incentives and the motivations for integration in Europe apparently have been forgotten as national economies struggle with  recession and debt. And, a great migration of Middle Eastern refugees (Muslim) floods the EU countries which allow easy entry from one nation to the other. 

In the United Kingdom a coalition of the disaffected and dissatisfied, often inflamed by the fears of the Muslim migration, voted to "Leave"  the European Union.  Despite the support for remaining in Europe which was announced by every major British political party the vote to leave garnered 52%.  There are now increased fissures within the four nations of the United Kingdom and great uncertainty in Europe where right wing groups in other nations are urging withdrawal.

As America watches post war Europe unravel it faces an possible Exit of its own. US foreign policy since the days of Theodore Roosevelt has been based on urging the world to unite to solve problems. The United States was the moving force behind the League of Nations (which we did not join), the World Court (which we also failed to ratify), and after WWII the United Nations, and a myriad of specialized agencies: the International Labor Organization, the Universal Postal Union, the United Nations Children's Fund, the World Trade Organization, and others.  America also led the formation of regional organizations mostly keyed toward mutual defense and collective security: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, The Organization of American States, the Association of East Asian Nations -- and other regions soon copied these models, e.g. The Organization of African Unity, the Arab League, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union the a Commonwealth of Independent States.  America has preached two political philosophical values across the world -- Democracy and Federalism.

In 1940 a non-politician - Wendell Willkie - took the Republican nomination for  President  by  a popular people’s revolt against the party establishment.  Willkie among his many remembered arguments was his belief that we now lived in One World. It was that phrase and his advocacy that moved the Republican Party away from isolationism and began, what Sen. Vandenberg of Michigan completed, a bipartisan foreign policy that lasted almost fifty years.  It also enabled FDR to bring America into the role of world leader - the role it had rejected when sought by Woodrow Wilson.

Now a new non-politician, Republican Donald J Trump, says make America independent again.  Independent  of  What? Of Who?. He would leave NAFTA (a three nation trade agreement). He will rely on the right wing extremists who already  advocate leaving the UN.  Trump says we don’t need NATO.  Apparently he would have America retreat behind oceans and a wall and deal unilaterally with 191 other nations singly and separately.  America is the one economic/military superpower left on the planet. The entire world looks to our every action.  And despite our own negative views of our country, most people still see America as the shining city on the hill that the Puritans opined for.  What Trump is doing is appealing to nostalgia for a simpler time. His make America Great Again and his make America Independent Again are brilliant marketing slogans that appeal to whatever the voter/consumer considers Great  Again or Independent  Again to mean.

The world is getting smaller. New generations, using social media, identify  themselves as people and citizens of the world. They don’t accept  the artificial differences of color, ethnicity, and nationality and gender that the wealthy economic interests have used for centuries to maintain control over the masses of people.

In 1918 the little nations, and the oppressed nationalities, saw the League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles as a harbinger of peace and collective security to come.  It was said that when the United States rejected the League in 1919 “America broke the heart of the World”.  One hundred years later we cannot let a manufactured and manipulated fear of Muslim migration cause us to withdraw behind a Fortress America and leave the world - this time we would not just break its' heart -- we might break the world.

5 July 2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016


I have been a personal friend and political supporter of Joseph Sestak since January 2006 when he first visited with me to discuss his running for Congress. I was impressed that day and have become more impressed over the years with his integrity, and his commitment to and caring for others.  And so of course I supported him for Congress twice and for the US Senate twice.  I believe he would be our US Senator today if a few pols in PA hadn’t stood by allowing the ghost conservative Toomey to win because of personal pique at Sestak’s willingness to take on their long time friend Specter.

This year the entire state party establishment (by that I mean the leaders not the activists and committee persons) decided to stop his so far successful effort to wage a six year campaign for a Senate seat.  They engineered a candidacy and they appealed to those in DC with access to party funds to assist at the last minute in sabotaging Joe’s reputation with scurrilous ads.
The party establishment was successful in winning that primary and we know how much they care about November from their inactivity six years ago.  Incumbent Senator Toomey the conservative enabler, who ideologically believes the kind of things that Trump speaks about, is now poised keep his seat.

The political pundits and the media all focus on -- will Bernie’s supporters vote for Hillary?  The question in PA is will Joe Sestak’s supporters vote for the Democratic candidate for Senator in November.

If those of us who supported Joe allow our personal annoyance, in fact disgust, at the actions of the self proclaimed political giants, to prevent us from voting Democratic for US Senate in the general election then we are allowing the Senate seat to be decided by our personal pique.

I do not believe the Democratic candidate for Senator was the best of the three presented in the primary.  But to allow the incumbent Toomey to be re-elected - NO. Let us be clear in our thinking.  If Clinton is President and the Senate remains Republican we face four more years of non-functioning government in DC.   And, if Trump is President and the Senate is Republican we face a body of enablers who will ratify his appointees to the Supreme Court and accept his nostalgic desire to return America to the age of the Roaring Twenties.

Whatever we may think about the personalities or campaign style of either of the candidates let no one forget that Toomey opposes 99% of what Democrats in DC and Harrisburg offer as solutions to our nation's problems.  If one is in support of the Democratic administration and its current efforts than one cannot allow Toomey to in another term.

We cannot allow Mitch McConnell and the Republicans to remain in control of the Senate. We cannot allow them to block needed gun control reforms, we cannot allow them to continue to block decent SCOTUS appointees, and we cannot allow them to ignore immigration and voting rights problems.  And the replacement of Toomey with a Democrat to work with Senator Casey will be a step in the direction of restoring sanity to the Senate. 

We will not have the opportunity to send Admiral Sestak to the United States Senate but we can retire the man he campaigned so valiantly against these past six years.

I wanted to vote one more time for my friend Joe. I wanted to be there with him the night he won his Senate seat. That will not happen.  But I cannot be true to all Joe has fought for and stood for in the Congress and in his campaigns if I pass on this contest and allow Toomey to get another term.  The United States Senate is the second office on the November ballot just after the joint vote for President/Vice President.  I would urge all those who supported Joe to join me in pressing the Democratic button for Senator.

30 June 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016


The Democratic presidential primaries are over. The contest for the nomination is ended.  It is clear by any method of computation that Hillary Clinton has won the Democratic nomination for President.  She has won a majority of the pledged delegates.  As for the so-called super delegates she has a majority whether you count them by their announced wishes, or by the states won by the candidates, or by a proportion similar to the votes in their state.  Absent an act of God the Democratic convention will nominate Hillary Clinton at its conclave in Philadelphia in July.

There remains the adoption of the party platform which has in some instances, e.g.1896, set the tone and policy of the party for fifty plus years.
There remains the adoption of party rules which in many instances in the past has had both intended and unintended consequences in subsequent nomination contests.  And, there remains the nomination of a Vice Presidential candidate.  

Senator Sanders of Vermont, who has had and continues to have my support, has amassed some 1900 delegates.  He should lead those delegates to fight for a progressive party platform even if that includes proposing and voting for minority reports.  He should lead those delegates in demanding reforms in how nominees are chosen in the future -- no super delegates, no caucuses - open primaries.  He should have his name placed in nomination and a roll call taken.  But his supporters need now to accept that Clinton will be the nominee.  I was a delegate for Gary Hart in 1984.  We fought for platform changes and rules changes and we voted for our candidate as did those pledged to Jesse Jackson.  We knew before we arrived in San Francisco that Walter Mondale would be the nominee.

It serves no purpose for Sanders supporters to put off facing the choice they have in November: Clinton or Trump. It is said that Democrats need to fall in love with their candidate while Republicans fall in line.  Well the Republicans are falling in line behind Trump and those who believe that the Democratic Party can be the best vehicle to accomplish social and economic justice for our people must now do the same for Clinton.

I did not support Clinton in 2008 or in this year’s primary contests.  But there are some important reasons why a liberal progressive should vote for Hillary Clinton in November.
In the next four years it is likely that 3 or even 4 seats on the Supreme Court of the United States will become vacant.  Who fills those seats sets the control of that court for decades to come.  If you believe that most of the decisions of the Court since 1956, e.g. Brown (integrated education), Roe v. Wade (freedom of reproductive choice), Griswold (right to privacy - contraception), Baker (one person one vote) should be upheld and one Citizen’s United overturned then there is only one choice for president -- Hillary Clinton.

 If you believe as I do that world leadership means leading like-minded nations not bullying them and threatening them then there is only one choice for president - Hillary Clinton.

If you don’t want to see one party, the Republican Party, dominate the federal government and all its branches for possibly the next fifty years then there is only one choice for president - Hillary Clinton.

If you believe that America is in the right direction by assuring equality to all regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or life style then there is only one choice for president - Hillary Clinton.

If you believe, as  I do, that we must stop the drift of our country into a society owned lock stock and barrel by a few then we cannot elect the poster child for that style of greed Donald Trump.

Do not assume that I have no differences with Clinton. I do and I have. She is too beholden to Wall Street for me, she is far from a reformer when it comes to political party processes and structure, and she has failed to articulate a vision that our young people can rally behind.

But, neither Franklin Delano Roosevelt nor Ronald Reagan is running in 2016.  We have a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

I will make that choice not as a Democrat but as an American and a grandfather.

As an American I will vote for the continued progress of the country that my father’s ancestors fought for and built ever since they came to these shores in 1607; and the country that opened its’ doors to my mother and her family in the 1920's when they fled the depression in Europe.

As a grandfather I will vote for a future for my country that my grandchildren can thrive in. I want them to be in the middle class I grew up in not a new peasant class that the wealthy would create. In November this liberal progressive is voting for his grandchildren: Elizabeth, Sarah and Joseph

I have voted for every Democratic nominee since Hubert Humphrey in 1968.  I apologize for none of those votes.  I preferred Mo Udall, Ted Kennedy, Gary Hart and Bernie Sanders over the eventual nominees; I make no apology for those endorsements.

To be true to the things I believe in and the values I espouse; to continue the fight to make a Great America a Great Society I will vote for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

17 June 2016