Barefoot Days, Electric Nights

https://www.davidbutwin.com/

A GREAT BOOK JUST LAUNCHED!

“Barefoot Days, Electric Nights,” by David Butwin, is a memoir of his life during Hawaii’s early days as the 50th State.

Butwin arrived in Honolulu to become a reporter at one of the city’s two daily newspapers. As a very young, inexperienced journalist from frigid Minnesota, he began with a scant understanding of the people, places, and nuances of island culture. He soon discovered a land of spectacular beauty, where everyone lived near an ocean shore, and islanders from many different places went everywhere barefoot.

David writes of his Hawaii days, with the clear prose of a seasoned reporter, yet creates an intimate memory of his work, the women he dated, and the prominent celebrities he encountered.

He often draws from an unusual documentation source: reams of detailed letters that he wrote home to his family, saved over many decades.

And for part of this memoir, he draws from an even more unusual resource: Me, (Steve Vachss) writer of this review article. Though we came from different work-worlds, we knew each other back then in Hawaii, as colleagues of a sort, and eventually as friends.

Assigned in Hawaii as an Army writer-editor, I became Butwin’s source for military news and background information. As an Army Reservist, David tells a compelling story about an enormous military exercise called Coral Sands II that involved thousands of soldiers, 13 US Navy warships, and the entire Island of Molokai. For nearly two weeks, David and I occupied a press tent on Molokai and created news stories, interviews, and press releases flown to Honolulu.

We later learned that perpetrators of the famous “My Lai Massacre” were apparently with us at Coral Sands on Molokai. A consequence of the operation later involved us both, especially David, in a blockbuster story that may have affected the history of the Vietnam War. With details never previously disclosed, David explains this incredible story and our involvement.

My other cameo appearance in Barefoot Days, Electric nights, deals with an incident of street violence that Butwin calls “my night of terror.” It’s a story we both would prefer to forget but which has lived in each of us forever after.

Notwithstanding my personal connection, I enjoyed “Barefoot Days, Electric Nights,” and highly recommend it. It’s beautifully written in a style that brings the reader face-to-face with a place and a lifestyle that no longer exists. A memoir of paradise.

*****

Full Disclosure: David’s account of the stories around Coral Sands, our potential effect on the Vietnam War, and the “My Lai Massacre” are 100 percent accurate. However, I wrote a more personal detailed novel around the story, “The Victory That Wasn’t,” as an alternate history. Many details in my story are accurate, but some key issues are changed to “how we wish it had happened.”   

 

 

We Are Being Fooled Again!

Why would we ever believe Republican and Democrat statements about their Healthcare plans? Are we really that gullible?

Both the ACA (Affordable Care Act) and the AHCA (American Health Care Act) are frauds, beginning with their respective names. Neither one is about “Healthcare.” They are both about insurance. The ACA is about spending gigantic sums—billions of dollars—moving it from taxpayers’ pockets to poor people. The AHCA is about keeping a political promise made by every Republican for the past seven years: to “Repeal and replace” the ACA.

Neither of these two cynical goals has anything to do with Healthcare. Actual Healthcare is about highly trained practitioners, most of whom work unworldly hours to care for patients. To put a human face on it: Healthcare is about nurses who check on us every hour to ensure that everything is in order and that we are as comfortable as possible. They probably save millions, just being there for patients who may be experiencing the worst moments of their lives. Nurses are Healthcare. But we have far too few of them because we have far too few doctors to treat all patients that need care.

Doctors, of course, are the heart and soul of Healthcare. They diagnose, order tests, and often predict medical issues for patients who are unaware of dangers ahead. Caring for patients, they often raise morale by eliminating worries about non-existent maladies. Doctors are Healthcare.

There are an estimated 810,000 doctors working in patient care in the US, available to 326,474,013 people. That’s one practicing doctor for every 403 people. To improve Healthcare, we probably need to double that number.

SO LISTEN UP CONGRESS! Stop arguing about health insurance numbers. Put your efforts toward real Healthcare. Start with importing more offshore doctors by increasing the H1B quotas, and removing other impediments. We currently have 85,000 doctors from this source. Can we bring the total to 200,000?

Create more educational opportunities by setting up free tuition scholarships, building more medical schools, and training qualified instructors. Let’s build our doctor population to at least 1,500,000.

KEEP LISTENING CONGRESS! Both parties can share accolades from the American people if you actually improve Healthcare. But if you persist with this politically driven insurance numbers game, one party, possibly both of you, will feel the wrath of angry voters.

The ACA passed by a tiny margin in the Senate when the Democrats held a majority in both the Senate and the House. The Republicans now control both chambers but can’t come up with anything that’s much different from the ACA. The winners last time were the Democrats, and the result has nearly destroyed the party.

Republicans: Though they won’t say this out loud, Democrat leaders are praying for you to pass your own albatross, freeing them from blame. They will then flood the cable news shows with scenes from town hall presentations showing angry people whose lives are as bad as they were under the hated ACA.

Be smart. Don’t lie. Solve the actual Healthcare problem. Forget about your lobbyist buddies. They’ll get over it.

The Dirty Little Secret That Destroyed US Politics

PrintbookFinal8Most Americans are sick of hearing about “Polarization in Washington.” Voters are angry, and they demand change. However, neither party has been able to get much accomplished in the past ten years. Cable news channels have built an industry by exploiting the vast and growing gap between Liberals and Conservatives, Republicans and Democrats as the defining feature of politics in Washington.

What has created this apparent hatred that causes elected officials to refuse cooperation with one another? Pundits, retired officials, and long-time journalists all decry the situation and opine different potential causes. Most agree that the complete failure to cooperate with each other is a relatively new phenomenon. Some blame it on specific events, like the impeachment of President Clinton, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Affordable Care Act, Racial tensions, lies or misleading statements by years of White House occupants.

Others blame ideologies, including more than the simple liberal versus conservative beliefs. There are also libertarian, progressive, evangelical and mainstream voters. Each of these has advocates in Congress.

Though any of the cited issues may have had some part in the destruction of our political system, few people realize that one single event was the major driver of government incompetence. Technically it wasn’t a single one-day event like an election. It was an ongoing process that went under the radar. Very few Americans knew it was happening or understood how it would affect us.

The event, occurring primarily in 2010, was Redistricting. At first view, it seems to be a boring, technical, and benign process, but it created the havoc we see in Washington.

What is redistricting and how does it work?

Redistricting is a process of changing district borders in each state, to compensate for demographic changes. Theoretically, every state examines the borders of each of its districts and may make some changes, every 10 years. Some districts may become larger, some may become smaller, some may maintain the same amount of geography but may change shape. Any of these changes may affect demographics in any district. New district outlines typically reflect changes in population size, area ethnic population, average income level, average age, and (most important) voting registration history.

The change of a district’s shape, therefore, may determine which parties and candidates are most likely to win. Either party may gain or lose, according to the newly included and excluded areas.

A key tactic in changing a district is called gerrymandering. It is a process of making changes, usually for political reasons, that are not logical extensions or reductions. To visualize the result of gerrymandering,  consider a district map that was previously nearly round in shape, and changing it by adding a larger oblong area to the east and subtracting half of its previous boundaries from the west.

Though the redistricting process is supposed to be nonpartisan, it’s different in each state. It is almost impossible to detect specific reasons for many changes, but each party seems to have an overall strategy for affecting changes in each district.

In 2010 redistricting, the Republicans apparently wanted to become dominant in the state legislatures by bringing new winning candidates into many small districts.

Democrat strategy was apparently a combination of two things. One piece was to strengthen the voting majority for existing elected seats in the House. The other was to take advantage of immigration and re-shape districts in which they could grow their base by appealing to minority voters.

Both parties got their wishes. Democrats got firm control of the states with the largest voting populations, like California and New York. They made inroads in Texas and Florida, largely by creating immigrant blocs, though not enough to win electoral majorities.

The Republicans won the majority of the governorships, state legislatures, and congressional seats. To the dismay of their mainstream leaders, however, most of their additions on the congressional  level were aligned with the so-called “Tea Party.” This group now dominates a separate group known as the House Freedom Caucus. Though this group publically defines itself as conservative Republicans, it operates much like a “fifth column,” covertly operating against programs supported by moderate Republicans.

How did those results affect Washington? 

Democrat leaders in the House found themselves in conflict with the so-called “progressives,” composed of disaffected young voters, millennial female voters who don’t subscribe to the traditional Democrat talking points of women’s issues, and followers of Senator Bernie Sanders.

House Republican leaders found themselves between two groups that are virtually irreconcilable: far-right conservatives and moderate mainstream members. Every proposed bill is either too conservative or too expensive for one group or the other.

The overall result is that few bills can move through the House since a majority vote depends on support from progressives, mainstream Democrats, far right Freedom Caucus members, and mainstream Republicans.

In the Senate, these splits haven’t had as much of an effect as in the House, because senators are elected for six-year terms, while House members serve only two-year terms before a turnover can take place. If advocates of term limits succeed, however, the Senate will soon face conflicts with newly elected members. 

The Ugliest Result of Redistricting

Finding themselves unable to pass meaningful legislation, both parties have fallen back to name-calling, negative hyperbole, anonymous leaks to the media, and other tactics to block success by either party. This is likely to go on, until the rise of a third party, or the virtual death of one of the existing two.

The press and pundit narrative of “parties that just don’t like each other” is false. Most honest lawmakers would like the situation to change. Some thought that election of a well-liked President might lead to compromise. But we haven’t had a universally liked President since the 1960s.

Are We At War With Ourselves?

Though this article reports numerous ugly statements and inappropriate actions by mass media, political parties, and social media posters, please note that the author of this article is a middle-road Independent with no affiliation or party preference. Negative remarks about President Trump, his opponents, and his critics, are results of public statements, for which this article has no partisan bias.

FullFinal-TVTW071016America has entered a new era that may be more dangerous than anything this country has experienced since the Civil War.

Following the election in 2016, we have had millions of people in bitter conflict with each other. Though most of the conflict thus far has been in social media, mass media, and political venues, we have seen a few ugly street clashes and destruction on college campuses. Unlike political fights of the past, however, the fight seems to intensify and is becoming more violent and hateful.

Of course, our country has had social conflicts before. The anti-war battles of the 1960s and 1970s are good examples, as are the African-American Civil Rights struggles of the mid-1950s and 1960s. Though there were millions of people on both sides of these movements, these fights were different from today’s conflict in one extremely significant way: insurgents in both of these battles were fighting for specific, concrete goals.

The anti-war movement fought to end the Vietnam War. When the war ended in 1973, the angry energy died down. Similarly, the Civil Rights activists fought for specific things: the end of segregation in schools and restaurants, voting rights for people of all races, the end of racial violence, and admission to all-white universities. Once they had achieved these objectives or at least had made significant progress, the violence subsided, and the movement moved to the courts and politics.

Many other protest movements had no clear goals and therefore only mustered luke warm energy. For example, the Occupy Wall Street movement involved millions nationwide but had no leadership and no tangible objectives that middle-Americans could embrace. The movement, therefore, collapsed of its own weight.

The conflict we see today is a new kind of beast. Though political conflict typically has the Far-Left on one side opposing the Far-Right, the bitterness today is not only a political skirmish between Democrats and Republicans. There are splits in both parties. Conservatives fight with mainstream Republicans, and Progressive Democrats on the left remain furious with their party’s leadership and behind-the-scene operatives.

Nasty rhetoric began in the months before the November election, but when Donald Trump became President-Elect, opposition voices became more strident than at any time in recent history. Traditionally, new presidents have a so-called “honeymoon period,” in which mass media and opposition leaders permit the new Chief Executive to begin an administration free of bare-knuckle politics. Most new presidents have three to six months of this respectful courtesy. The honeymoon for President Obama was even longer. President Trump received no such courtesy period. In fact, the bombast against him began during the transition between administrations, long before his inauguration.

Many statements by leaders of the opposition party continuously use name-calling and false narratives with language and depth far worse than we have ever seen. Recently, a long-time Congressional Representative referred to the entire Trump cabinet as “a bunch of scumbags.” Other leaders have loudly called for the impeachment of the President. Despite the fact that there is no evidence of any offenses, other than Mr. Trump’s often annoying statements and tweets, his opponents continue to make nonsensical claims.

How did this fighting develop and continue to grow?

Though this unprecedented bitterness has several different causes, the growth of social media may be its strongest driver. Since President Obama’s victory in 2008, the number of social media users has nearly tripled. Moreover, President Trump’s highly publicized Tweets may have attracted more people to express themselves through this medium. Social media messaging has gained credibility with some people, especially people in the age range designated as ‘millennials.’ Though there is no way to measure this effect, social media users now seem to post or repost statements without any reliable source. In many cases, they admittedly “make stuff up” to fit a narrative, without concern for fact-checking of any kind.

More troubling is the new practice of media reporters—the internet, print, and cable news—to use social media, especially tweets, as support for a so-called news story. With so many different voices adding themselves to the fray, misinformation often takes on an aura of truth and becomes used as proof statements.

Whether antagonistic remarks are from political leaders, media opinions or whimsical social media posts, Americans read them, or hear them from others and repeat them, often augmenting them or using them out of context. Since they typically come from one side attacking the other, the aggrieved side fires back with equally irrational statements.

Why this war from within threatens America

Leaders of every country in the world follow internet reports and form opinions and strategies based on their analyses of America’s strength. Watching our current turmoil, our friends and allies may view the US as being out of control, and view American leadership with great skepticism. Our enemies may see our exaggerated conflicts as an opportunity to ignore America and continue policies that hurt our economy and safety.

For example, opponents of the President have nurtured a storyline that the Trump campaign plotted with Russia to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign and help Trump win the presidency. The so-called ‘proof’ of this story, is that candidate Trump stated in his election campaign that America might benefit from an improved relationship with Russia. Opponents add that Trump hired a campaign advisor for two or three months who once had consulted with the government of Ukraine.  Ukraine, of course, considers Russia to be an enemy of their country. A consultancy relationship with Ukraine has no bearing on a US relationship with Russia. Further, the former US  Director of National Intelligence has stated that there is no evidence of a Trump-Russia collaboration of any kind. Nevertheless, Congressional leaders have kept this allegation alive and begun investigations in multiple committees. Stories like this one shake the confidence that our allies have in American leadership.

Domestically, we will soon have an environment of lawmakers who are unable to vote for or against any issue unless it is supported by a majority of the combatants in their states and districts. This will result in leaders who are unable to lead, in a gridlock that leaves individual Americans suffering in anger.

How can we end this foolish quagmire?

All Americans have the right of free speech, guaranteed by the Constitution. Nevertheless, our leaders and mass media writers have the tools to tamp down rhetoric that makes America look foolish to the rest of the world.

Though social media enhances the viciousness, the White House, Congress, and the mass media are the original sources of it. Following are some recommendations on steps these leaders must take lower the public temperature and create a positive national direction.

Recommendation One: President Trump should limit his Twitter tweets to issues of policy, or significant announcements. Criticism of celebrities and argumentative dialog with critics add fuel to the ongoing fires.

Recommendation Two: The White House should create private dialog sessions with all leadership groups, especially opponents and media leaders. All discussions should be kept confidential. Leaders need to work together to create ground rules for public statements. Ground rules must have mutual agreement and benefit to all parties. This approach will not muzzle anyone from speaking out on their opinions on policy. But it can depressurize the nastiness that has overtaken the country.

Recommendation Three: Unless new bills are likely to become future election issues, leaders of both parties should meet together privately to identify common ground. If possible, they should agree to limit public disagreement to policy issues. Regardless of the gulf between the parties, they should ‘sell’ their viewpoints without personal attacks or implying wrongdoing by the opposition.

Recommendation Four: The White House needs to reach out to the press, to create ground rules to benefit all parties. The President needs to speak with media executives privately and negotiate. Both sides in this kind of dialog have items with which to negotiate. For example, The President can eliminate statements about “fake news” and charges of lying. The White House can offer greater access in exchange for confidentiality. Media leaders can offer advance notification of stories to advise the Whitehouse of major negative stories.

Memo to the White House and Congressional staffers: The foregoing recommendations are seen through the eyes of an outsider. You may have better approaches. If so, we look forward to your success in changing the status quo. You have a responsibility to fix the chaos that is tearing the country apart. It’s not important to select the perfect plan. What’s important is making the plan work.

Memo to Mass Media:  Words matter. Careless words often matter more. Please tell the truth.

“To borrow from the words of Winston Churchill: ‘Never have so many been manipulated so much by so few.’” — Aldous Huxley

 

 

Here’s How the Press Can Regain Its Mojo

Most Americans believe that honest, trustworthy news media is important to keep watch on our government. Nevertheless, poll numbers show a starkly negative picture:FullFinal-TVTW071016

 Only 32% say they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the media

*  Only 14% of Republicans express trust in the media 

The mass media industry can change, however, and it must.

 

Here is an open letter to all members of “the Fourth Estate,” with some suggestions for transformation.

——————–

Dear ladies and gentlemen of the mass media,

This is a sincere message to you, to recommend a positive path forward. It’s not a letter of complaint. You can get that from thousands of other sources. However, the world needs you to return to your historical position of thought leadership and integrity, as a counterbalance to a political world that has lost its way.

Most of the necessary changes needed must begin with print media. Print media perform most of the heavy lifting, finding and reporting the real news. Cable news and Internet news pages copy most of their material from print publications and make a fortune in the process.This one-way relationship requires change.

Recommendation One: Your first step should be to unite the top ten print publications into an agreement to permanently separate straight news from opinion columns. Many readers resent so-called “news stories” that mix a writer’s personal opinions with actual news reporting. Each publication can print a robust opinion page or even an entire opinion section. Nevertheless, readers want to understand the news without integrated lecturing. If and when the top ten (New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, etc.) adhere to this change, most lesser publications will follow. Those who do not will lose subscribers. Cable news channels—most of whom broadcast stories already reported by print media sources—will transform themselves out of necessity. If the top ten publications unite to announce this policy change, they will bolster the reputation of print media within a few months.

Recommendation Two: Media industry leaders should create a new organizational consortium to deliver high-integrity news, somewhat like AP but executed by temporary one-year assignments of senior reporters covering a full spectrum of worldwide information. Assigned reporters would be equally balanced by political ideology. Over time, readers would gravitate to stories from this group, because they would trust the stories as written.

 Recommendation Three: Media companies need to minimize the free use of their work-product by Internet news providers. The free use of material between mass media and Internet news providers like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook evolved from the early 1990s when “more eyeballs” seemed to grow circulation. But the internet turned out to be a competitor and caused massive circulation losses. Media organizations need to work together to treat internet news pages as friendly competitors. One way would be for all of the top news providers to copyright their posted material and charge a small usage fee for each story used. Sites that refused to pay for usage would be legally required to pay court-ordered damages. The content-creation companies could share materials without paying royalties if they operated together as a consortium. Readers could visit the actual sites for each content provider for free.

Mass media companies, as experienced members of your industry, might have better ideas than my recommendations. If so, please implement them ASAP. Operating in today’s status quo environment damages America, and continues to diminish your previously authoritative reporting.

Most Americans are on your side. Are you on our side?

What Did We Learn About the Media Before and After Trump’s Election

A humorous fictional tale passed around the Net claims that Donald Trump hosts Pope Francis on his yacht on a windy day. While the yacht is still docked, a strong wind gust blows the Pope’s zucchetto (skullcap) into the water. Though the Pope’s entourage stares in shock, Trump climbs down the waterside ladder, walks about 30 feet across the water, and retrieves the cap. He then walks back across the water, climbs the ladder and returns the cap to the Pontiff. Even the media reporters are awed at Trump’s feat.

 An hour later, a New York Times reporter tweets, “Trump Can’t Swim.”

(To be fair, a Conservative reporter might tweet, “Pope Praises Trump as his Savior.”)

FullFinal-TVTW071016Unfortunately, this joke’s punchline about the NYT proves the saying that “Many a true word is spoken in jest.” Once famous for the slogan “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” the NYT has chosen, “All the News that Fits Our Political Narrative.” The New York Post and the Washington Times, their conservative political opposites, are equally biased.

With a month of the Trump administration now behind us, journalists, pundits and politicians attempt to sound authoritative about “What Just Happened.” Whether their narratives are right or wrong, they all miss the most important point:

The entire media industry has lost its way. Whether they have a right or left ideology, TV news and print media are no longer information sources trusted by Americans.

  • Reporters, from both the left and right, view events or hear about them through the closed “echo chamber,” then distort them, sometimes unconsciously.
  • Within an hour of any politician’s remarks, millions of people believe and repeat egregious distortions and outright lies passed through social media.
  • To headline-only readers accustomed to stories of 140 characters or less, the headline becomes the defacto truth. However, headlines and broadcast teleprompter lead-ins often differ from the reported story.

Some examples:

In a real world story, millions of people watched and heard Trump reference Mexicans, seeming to say “they are rapists.” It was a horrible, careless, statement, and many opined that it should end his campaign. Though the statement was thoughtless and inartful, his meaning wasn’t as reported. Apparently, reporters couldn’t or wouldn’t differentiate between the words “their” and “they’re.”

The quote was taken out of context. Trump was speaking about the Mexican government, stating that “they’re sending us (their) illegal immigrants, (their) drugs, (their) crime, and (their) rapists. Admittedly, the parenthetical words were unsaid. It was a cringe-worthy moment. Speaking in his unscripted style, he seemed to realize how bad that sounded. So Trump tried to recover by saying, “And some, I assume, are good people.” That non-sequitur wasn’t helpful.

One terrible error like that would be more or less forgotten. But social media magically transformed that scrap of nonsense into, “Trump is a racist.” The word racist is extremely powerful in our country, as we continually struggle with problems of racism. Obviously, calling a politician a racist is as damning to the voting public as calling him a “child predator.” Despite many distasteful remarks by Trump, there is no evidence of his being a racist.

In the most atrocious moment of his campaign, Trump had to confront a lewd hot-mic moment from eleven years ago, “yukking it up” with Billy Bush in comments about women. He apologized publically, calling his remarks about groping women’s private parts while embracing them, “locker-room talk.” Most men laughed at that because locker-rooms are public places filled with strangers, and sometimes, media people. It was more like barroom bragging, though Trump doesn’t drink. Every male over fifteen has heard that kind of talk, usually from men with ego problems who need to tell someone about their conquests. Most men dismiss boasts like these as being untrue. Moreover, they believe that it’s foolish to “kiss-and-tell.”

Nevertheless, reporters pushed it across social media, then printed and broadcasted salacious versions. Within hours, people were calling Trump “sexual predator,” and “rapist.”  This is the result of a culture that often cannot tell the difference between manipulative sensationalism and the simple truth. Media people competing for readers and viewers instead of carefully reporting facts enhance the stories as a way of creating interest.

Hillary Clinton also suffered from distortions and egregious lies on occasion. The public heard that she had a terminal disease, which was totally untrue. Many people wrote or stated that she was under indictment and would be jailed, also untrue. And they heard a flood of untrue statements claiming that her two closest aides, Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills were under investigation for criminal activities.

Clinton, however, was not as exposed to outrageous stories as Trump, because her campaign included virtually no unscripted speaking opportunities and far fewer prime-time debate appearances than Trump.

What is the role of individual media people in perpetuating misinformation like this? Despite Trump’s angry remarks charging the media with “fake news,” reporters commit errors and distortions in more subtle ways. One of these is by word choice. When a politician criticizes someone, some reports will choose “eviscerates,” “blasts,” or “destroys.” When someone charges that a statement made by an opponent is incorrect, reporters may call the challenge “exposing a lie.”

Print journalists make themselves the sole judges of a story’s importance by choosing the page for placement; positioning the story high or low on the page; choosing the number of columns the story gets; and the size of the headline type. If a headline like “Hillary Clinton is Under Indictment,” appeared in Section Two, Page 23, of the New York Times, with a single column, and 24-point headline, few readers would care about it. But the identical story with a front-page banner headline would be earth-shattering.

Similarly, cable news can take a headline story like “Trump has Russian ties,” and lead with it while playing “B-Roll” videos in the background. They can tease viewers with the story at station breaks, and repeat it on every news show throughout the day. Twenty-five-year-old backroom producers can make these decisions, even if they have no background information or training to prove or disprove the basic story.

How did all of this misinformation happen? The simple answer is that all professional media companies face crushing competition with social media and internet news pages that offer their information free to all. The result of this is a need for all news organizations to slash costs and field far fewer professional reporters. These smaller staffs can’t cover all of the stories on any given day. So they copy from each other, change their leads, revise some of the wording, and claim the story as original reporting.  Reporters can be so desperate to meet deadlines that they will make a few random tweets into a story that is entirely baseless.

How can the media resolve these issues? We’ll discuss that in our next article.

The Democratic Party Isn’t Dead But Desperately Needs New Medicine

(Author’s note:  America needs a two-party system, with equal power and participation for both parties. Though this non-partisan article portrays a negative view of the Democrat Party’s current state, it presents the factual disarray with a roadmap for positive change to regain the party’s historical national leadership.)

The last few political years have not been good for Democrats, and Hillary Clinton’s loss in the presidential election is only the latest symptom of a rudderless ship making little or no progress.

FullFinalRepublicans now control the Senate and the House of Representatives. Only 17 states have Democrat governors. Only 13 state legislatures have Democrat majorities.

Although Democratic President Barrack Obama held the presidency for eight years, his personal popularity and a highly favorable media treatment couldn’t stop a slow-but-steady Democrat descent that began long before Obama’s wins. The president had strong support from minorities and young voters. But that support was his alone, and could not transfer to the remainder of the party. Though the hapless leadership of Debbie Wasserman Schultz was part of the Democrat problems, electing a new DNC chair will provide only a tiny uptick.

THE GOOD NEWS FOR DEMOCRATS: THE PARTY CAN STILL CHANGE AND REGAIN MOMENTUM.

The keyword is “change.” The party needs different strategies and different leadership voices.

Democrat leaders need to reposition two or three of their loudest and most embarrassing voices to the ‘back row’ of the caucus. Though people like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Maxine Waters may be effective lawmakers, they are unappealing to the electorate at large. Ms. Pelosi is 76 years old. Mr. Schumer is 66. Ms. Waters is 78. Pelosi has a net worth of more than $70-million. Waters’ net worth is around $5-million, and Schumer is also wealthy, at a bit under $1-million. How can such wealthy senior citizens relate to a Democratic constituency of youth and mainstream workers struggling to pay bills every month?

Strategically, the Democrats have limited their leadership to bashing Donald Trump, just as they bashed Bush 43 and every other Republican they could vilify through identity politics. Though these tactics may energize marginal social media hate-mongers, this strategy turns off moderates and mainstream voters in both parties.

THE PRESCRIPTION

A much stronger way to strengthen Democrat positioning is to get out in front of Donald Trump’s agenda.

  • Stop screaming about Trump’s wall, and come up with a better plan to enforce our borders. You can include e-verify, state-of-the-art electronic detection, drones, increased manpower, and programs to punish employers who hire immigrants without specific licensing. (This can be far more effective than Trump’s wall since it can also be designed to track the estimated 40 percent of illegal immigrants who overstay their visas.
  • Instead of trying to block the inevitable repeal of Obamacare, promote a Democrat program for “Obamacare II.” Write a plan that keeps the framework and theoretically fixes all of the problems. Include a single payer option that will have lower drug prices, that the party negotiates with the pharmaceutical companies. (Remember, Democrats. You don’t have to implement anything. You only have to promote it. Even if it never comes to pass, this program will raise the party’s positive visibility.)
  • Enhance Medicare, and eliminate Republican plans for a voucher system by the following strategies:
    • Fund and implement an FBI task force to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse, thereby lowering Medicare costs.
    • Sponsor and enforce “tort reform” to lower costs for malpractice insurance for hospitals and individual doctors.
    • Implement means testing so that high-income people only qualify for Medicare for catastrophic illness or injury. Negotiate lower drug prices, and lower costs for high-priced diagnostic equipment.

By promoting effective programs that are more attractive than Trump’s, the party can reclaim middle-class voters and begin winning local races all over the country.

And one more thing. Plan strategies to be promoted on a micro-target basis. Don’t fool yourselves into believing that nationwide poll numbers indicate uniform support. The overwhelming population numbers in California, and New York, along with Washington DC influence can make bad ideas seem supportable. Microtargeting can optimize support in Omaha, Madison, and Jacksonville while maintaining the support of the large Democratic masses on the coasts.