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.

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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.

 

How Do Congressional Reps and Senators Become Rich?

US Senators and Congressional Representatives commonly refer to their positions as “Public Service.” Perhaps the annual salaries of $174,000 for Senators and Representatives may seem to be self-sacrificing to them, but a deeper dig tells a different story.

Congress is a club composed of millionaires. The average net worth of our 535 lawmakers is $1,000,000. To be fair, that is a statistical average. A few Senators and Representatives arrive in Washington as wealthy people who have earned or inherited their fortunes before assuming office. And a few, at the other end of the income spectrum, are still paying college loans. But most stay in Congress for multiple terms and become millionaires.

A more interesting statistic, however, is the average annual growth rate of a lawmaker’s net worth. Regardless of their starting level, how much does his or her net worth grow per year? Does it grow at the same rate as the rest of the country?

The average American citizen saw his or her household net worth decrease from 2004 to 2012 at about one percent a year. Meanwhile, members of Congress experienced an annual net worth increase every year. While the net worth of most Americans shrank the net worth of Congressional members increased by more than 25 percent for the same period.

FullFinal-TVTW071016For the top 20 members of the “Congressional Millionaires Club,” the increases were much sharper. They ranged from a net worth increase of 93 percent a year to 1,707 percent a year. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) had a much higher percentage of net worth growth, at more than 73,000 percent. Congressional statistics exclude her annual net worth increase because it resulted from a multi-year marital settlement. Also excluded are increases in the value of homes and other non-investment real estate.

No matter how we position the statistics, nearly all members of congress significantly increase their net worth during every year that they serve. The increases are usually much more than they could save or have invested for them at an annual salary of $174,000. For example, a congressional member with a net worth of $1,000,000 will have an average increase of nearly $16,000 a year after taxes. So an average senator who serves two terms will increase his or her net worth by $192,000 while serving. Some, however, accumulate an increase of $1,000,000 or more during their multiple terms.

What is the source of that additional wealth? Required public disclosure forms don’t answer the question. Until recently, a legal loophole provided Congressional members immunity from “insider trading” laws. For example, they might be privy to information unknown outside of government circles that would impact the stock markets. Examples might include an impending decision that would crush a company’s stock values or accelerate them based on a huge defense contract funded or canceled.

Sixty Minutes investigated this practice and showed how Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had profited by $100,000 on one stock transaction. This was based on her advanced knowledge of a change in banking laws. Ms. Pelosi and her husband also profited from eight IPOs that year, based on inside information. The Minority Leader is among the richest members of Congress. Her estimated net worth of approximately $58 million makes her the twelfth wealthiest member of the “millionaires club.

Generally speaking, members of Congress use devices like “blind trusts” to eliminate conflicts of interest. However, laws in this area appear to be open to interpretation. The wide range of Congressional member contacts with outsiders—especially lobbyists and their staffs—makes it impossible for potential investigators to follow thousands of communications threads.

Moreover, there are many ways for a Congressional member to help people who are willing to pay handsomely. And there are many ways to pay for favors, without money directly changing hands. For example, the sensitive information mentioned casually to a friend or relative may be repeated to a “blind trust” administrator. If the information isn’t classified by a government agency, those conversations may not break any laws.

Few Americans know or care about these practices. They don’t respect Congress, because of many other things, such as failure to improve economic conditions or broken promises. The “Congressional Millionaires Club” depends on voter apathy to hold onto its seats.

When we vote for a new member of Congress, we seldom if ever elect the mythical, hard-working champion of the people we expect. In fact, Congressional members don’t work full-time. They are usually in session less than four days a week. Moreover, they take numerous long breaks, bringing the average number of days in session per year to 139. Stated another way, Congress is idle for 226 days a year. If we don’t count the usual 104 weekend days, and 11 national holidays, Congressional members still have an additional 111 days off or about 20 weeks of free time. Every sixth year, Senators use some of that time running for re-election. Representatives must run every second year of their term. Most members miss additional weeks of in-session work to attend to this electioneering.

In addition, many junior Senators and Representatives spend more than half of their time, “dialing for dollars.” Administrators from both parties escort these members to non-government locations, from which they must perform telemarketing to lists of potential donors they don’t know. House and Senate leaders support the parties in ensuring that members meet their time, call volume, and donation quotas. If members rebel, they risk the loss of their committee positions and party funding and support for their next campaigns.

Many concerned Americans believe that the answer to improving the performance of Congress is to impose term limits. Perhaps term limits would force some Congressional members to be more productive. Nevertheless, these institutions require a major overhaul. Conscientious media people should expose the process. And frustrated voters should demand reforms.

Will Our Next President Be A Woman?

The Presidential Election of 2016 is now history. Behind the scenes, however, political leaders have already begun positioning candidates for the next election, whether in 2020 or 2024.

Regardless of party or ideology, one or both of the next nominees should be women.

Despite rhetoric claiming a glass ceiling and anti-woman bias, the voting public has been ready for a female president for at least 20 years. Ironically, the primary roadblock to potential female presidential candidates has been Hillary Clinton. Other women, potentially more electable candidates, have been on the sidelines since the end of Bill Clinton’s term. The big-money power brokers have done everything possible to insist that the former Secretary of State be the first woman President. All other women have had to wait for their turn.

Mrs. Clinton had two opportunities and therefore blocked chances for other women, since 2001. Her mantra was “Vote for me because I’m a woman.” That makes little sense to most voters. Tens of millions of Americans have voted for women and elected them as governors, senators, and big-city mayors. Many other women have been leaders of some of America’s largest and most successful companies. America has become very comfortable with female leaders in virtually every profession.

We don’t want a political candidate to say “Vote for me because I’m a woman.” We may be inspired, however, if she says, “Vote for me because I have the vision, leadership, policies, attitude, and capability to run the US Government.” Her gender is not an issue, any more than it would be for a man.

Both parties have excellent female candidates, any of whom could be the next president. Following is a list of twelve women, all strong leaders. Any of them could win the presidency with a powerful campaign. They range widely in age, but all are “in the ballpark.” The youngest woman in the group will have more government experience in 2020 than Senator Obama had when he ran in 2008. The eldest has a long resume of leadership positions and is approximately the same age as Hillary Clinton.

In alphabetical order:

Senator Maria Cantwell
Senator Joni Ernst
Former CEO Carly Fiorina
US Representative Tulsi Gabbard
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Maggie Hassan
Governor Nikki Haley
US Representative Mia Love
Governor Susana Martinez
Former Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg
Senator Elizabeth Warren

FullFinal-TVTW071016This group of twelve includes six Democrats and six Republicans. Ideologically they extend from the Progressive Left to the Conservative Right. This group includes two African Americans, one Pacific Islander, one Latina, and one Indian. As a group, they “look like America.”

America needs to elect women like these to serve as our President. Voters should send a signal to the rest of the world that we don’t marginalize any group because of gender, race, religion, or ethnicity. It’s time to assure every American child, male or female, that she or he has an equal opportunity to be heard and to lead.

Insights from Inside the Bunker July 30, 2016

Handicapping the Polls

Polls, polls, polls! In our hearts, we know they’re probably bogus, but we still pay attention to them. News media and pundits transform polls into news stories. Then campaign spokespeople cherry-pick numbers that are supposed to portend positive futures for their candidates. But what do the polls tell us?

Polls typically focus on numbers indicating the widest margins. For example, polls show both Clinton and Trump distrusted by more than fifty percent of voter respondents. That data appears to offer hope to both sides since one candidate will win despite the negative numbers. For those of us with emotional investment for or against a candidate, we hope that they forecast the future, but only if they lean our way.

The best way for any of us to truly understand polls is to clear our minds of everything we hear, and forecast results based on history and common sense.

Start with history.

  • Bill Clinton, seen by many as the most popular President since Ronald Reagan, never won 50 percent of the vote. In 1996, his most successful Presidential election, Clinton won 49.23 percent of the vote, indicating that 50.77 percent of the voters voted for someone else.
  • Barrack Obama an incumbent President in 2012, won only 51.06 percent of the vote.
  • Because 2008 was an historic election, with enthusiasm for the first African American president, voting patterns were slightly different but began returning to their historical patterns in 2012. In 2008, Obama won 95 percent of black voters, with black voter participation rate at it’s highest ever. That resounding victory, however, gave the President a plurality of only 53 percent of the vote. Though black participation was a bit lower in 2012, 95 percent of black voters still voted for Obama. Without them, Obama would have lost.

The lesson from history, therefore, is that candidates win elections on very small margins, despite polls predicting “landslide” pluralities.

What else do we know with reliable accuracy?

Despite both campaigns claiming that they are winning, most states that vote strongly for either party will vote for the same party again and again. That fact gives us the well-known model of red (Republican) states and blue (Democrat) states. Though campaigns must maintain a presence in all states, each party cedes states other than their traditional “color” and works on those states in their traditional base. That fact can take 45—48 states out of consideration, leaving three to five so-called swing or battleground states that elect the winner.

ElectoralMap

Note: As in every election cycle, experts disagree on whether some states are the Swing States. This map, therefore, shows more purple states than the probable number.

Pollsters and news media typically report results based on the entire US-wide voting public. Pundits can then select statistical nuggets that supposedly favor their candidates. For example, Democrats will say, “Trump has a problem with young female voters.” Maybe he does, but the poll proves very little. Presumably, young women in California strongly reject Trump. But the California population is so large that it statistically overshadows the other states. Do young women compose a nationwide bloc so homogeneous that voters in swing states like Michigan and Ohio are in lockstep with their California counterparts?

FullFinal-TVTW071016Of the 50 states, there are usually four or five that become swing states, AKA battleground states, because people who are most likely to vote seem to be equally split between the two major parties. Though some states will no longer be swing states in the current cycle, other states will be “up for grabs.” Swing states usually include Ohio and Florida, though some pundits claim that Florida may no longer be evenly split. Other swing states for this cycle seem to be Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Colorado. The candidate who wins three or four of these will probably win the election.

Polling in the swing states may be meaningful, but most people in these states have already chosen their candidates. Nationwide, 28 percent of likely voters are registered Republicans, 31 percent are Democrats, and 39 percent are Independents. Though Independents are the largest group, many aren’t truly Independent. They are people who don’t like either party but repeatedly vote for one party’s candidates. Others pay little attention to politics and vote according to advice from friends or family. A few vote whimsically, according to irrelevant issues such as gender, ethnicity, race, good-looks, or “the kind of guy or women I’d like to have a beer with.” Few of these voters care about any election issues.

Filtering through these factors, it becomes obvious that each race will depend on a very small group of voters in swing states, many of whom know little about issues or candidates. Broad polls can’t measure this group.

How important are the conventions to winning swing voters? About 25-million people DiceOnFeltwatched the first night of the Democratic National Convention, a very high audience size. Most, however, were committed Democrats. Many others watched hoping for extensive clashes between the Sanders and Clinton camps. Relatively few watched to learn about Hillary Clinton. Like the Republican convention, the DNC offered very little new information about the issues, strengths, and weaknesses of the candidates. For TV watchers in the battleground states, please accept our condolences. You are about to suffer through a blizzard of political commercials: as many as campaigns can purchase for $2-Billion.

Bottom line: The polls we see are as dependable as a roll of the dice.

 

Hillary Trains Tim Kaine
Fresh from his nomination for vice president, Senator Tim Kaine met with his new boss, Hillary Clinton. Hillary wanted to ensure that Kaine understood his new role. And the VP Kaine2nominee learned that the campaign trail could be rockier than he had anticipated. Here’s a peek at their post-convention conversation.

Hillary: “Tim, do you now why I chose you as my running mate?”

Kaine: “Of course. We’re compatible on the issues, and I’m capable of being President if you were unable to serve.”

Hillary: “That’s not exactly accurate. I chose you because you were the only viable candidate who is too dull to overshadow me. Lizzie is much more lively and articulate. And her only bad mark is imagining that she was born in a teepee. Compared to someone with my baggage she’s as clean as Mother Theresa. So she was out.”

“My other possible choices included two cool minority guys—one Latino, the other African American. Both make me look as white and old as yesterday’s cottage cheese. Then there was Tom Vilsack. Somehow his name sounds like a Slovakian porn star. So you were the last man standing. And you bring with you the greatest gift of all. You’re as bland and forgettable as Al Gore was to Bill. Congratulations, on being my best choice!”

Kaine: “Thank you, Hillary. As always, I live to grovel.”

Hillary: “Now let’s talk about ensuring that we always agree on the issues.”

Kaine: “Great. Does the campaign staff have documents listing your positions on all issues?”

SunHillary: “Of course not! Don’t be ridiculous! I sometimes have as many as five positions, depending on which audience I address. You’ll have to adapt your remarks to mine.”

Kaine: “How do I do that?”

Hillary: “Follow my rules. First, use a lot of extra words to confuse listeners on what you said. Second, never be too specific. Third, begin every position with a bland statement that everyone can accept: something like ‘Secretary Clinton has always fought for middle-class Americans.’”

Kaine: “What if I disagree with something you say?”

Hillary: “Here’s a gift for you, Tim. Put this gold chain on.”

Kaine: “Thanks, Hillary. How thoughtful! I love it!”

FullFinalHillary: “OK. Now try to take it off.”

Kaine: “YEOWWW!!!  ARGHH!” (moan) “What just happened?!! Was I tasered?”

Hillary: “That’s what will happen if you try to remove it before November 8. And I can activate it from my smartphone if you ever disagree with me. Shall I demonstrate it again?”

Kaine: “No! No! Please! I’ll never disagree!”

Hillary: “Great! By the way, Bill has worn a similar taser-chain since 1998, but not around his neck. Hah! I LOVE technology.”

 

Pense Gets Trumped

While Tim Kaine met with Hillary Clinton, Mike Pense, Republican Vice Presidential Candidate, was in Trump Towers to meet with Donald Trump.

PenceTrump: “Congratulations, Number 10!”

Pence: “Number 10? As in Number 10 Downing Street in London?”

Trump: “No. Number 10 as in your being the first to accept my offer of VP running-mate after nine others said ‘No Thanks.’ No worries, though. They were all losers. Of course, you might be in a tough spot if we lose. You could be persona non grata at any future GOP events. Your political career could be in ashes. But I’ll take care of you. Maybe you could run one of my golf courses in Dubai.”

Pence: “I’d rather not think about that. Right now, let’s concentrate on winning the election. Does the campaign have a complete list of the important things you’ve been saying?”

Trump: “There might be a list, but you won’t need it. Besides, some of the things I’ve said were months ago, and don’t count anymore.”

Pense: “How do we decide what to say?”

Trump: That’s easy! Just say anything that comes to mind. Even if it seems crazy. No
matter what it is, a lot of people on social media will repeat it, enhance it, and believe it. SaySomethingWhen the press challenges it, you explain it as though they’re five-year-olds, and they won’t know how to handle it. Then you restate it ambiguously, and it will become a major news story that attracts new voters. Go ahead, Mike. You try it.”

Pense: “OK. Uh, Hillary is a liar!”

Trump: “That’s not good enough, Mike. It’s too simple. Besides, a lot of people already believe it, so there’s no news story. Try again, more outrageous this time.”

Pense: “OK. How’s this? Bill Clinton had an affair with Gorbachev’s wife Raisa  in 1995 and nearly restarted the Cold War. Then, when the press questions me, I can say this: I read about it in a story translated from Pravda.  It was left on the Congressional trolley by Harry Reid. And I can call for a Senate hearing on Harry Reid’s ties to Russia.”

Trump: “Not bad, Mike. I might even use that.

“But for your next lesson, work with the phrase, ‘No, no, no! What Mr. Trump meant was—, and fill in a confusing version of the latest negative story. Practice that with my ban on Muslims.”

“One more thing: How do you spell Pravda?”

Insights from the Bunker This Week

June 11, 2016

History Question:
Other than being President, what does President Obama have in common with every POTUS since Lyndon Johnson?

The answer: They all claimed that the President controls the US economy. They all know it’s a lie, but they have all perpetuated it as part of politics. Liar-MeterIf we take a closer look, we know presidential wannabees who run for the job blame the incumbent for bad management. But when they win, and economic problems persist, they blame the economy on others. When Senator Obama ran in 2008, he blamed President Bush for running the debt up to $10.6-trillion. He accused Bush of being unpatriotic regarding the debt. After being elected and theoretically managing the economy for nearly eight years, the debt is approaching $20-Trilion. But…IT’s NOT ENTIRELY THE PRESIDENT’S FAULT. Most of the ballooning debt was inevitable due to actions of previous Congresses going back to the 1970s. Presidential power to give us more jobs and a better economy is a crazy myth.

 

We’re Looking For One Honest Person

Diogenes was an ancient Greek philosopher who traveled, carrying a torch day and night, in search of an honest man. Note: He specified “man,” DiogeneseApparently PC language had not yet reached Greece. Or perhaps honest women were common, while honest men were rare. There is no recorded history on whether Diogenes found one or more honest men.

Nevertheless, in his spirit, we are searching for someone even rarer. He or she is an active user of social media. We’re searching for someone who viewed a graphic on Facebook touting the opponent of their favorite candidate. But noting how good the graphic appeared he-she said, “I’m so impressed that I’m ditching (Clinton, Trump or Sanders) and embracing the other party. I’m so excited! I’ve supported my old candidate for a few months and knew that he-or-she represented my issues. But that wonderful graphic with the black background and white text just got to me. And despite the misspelling of ‘voter,’ I’m switching!”
If you know such a person, please let us know. Then handle him-her with great care!

 

And finally…We wonder how the Donald would react to breaking a gender barrier. Would he emulate Hillary?

Trump Wins the Presidency

Donald Trump has become the first man in history to become president of TrumpCryN.O.W., the National Organization for Women. An emotional President Trump sobbed that he was proud of finally breaking through the Glass Ceiling.

“I owe everything to the pioneers who almost got here. Courageous men like John Kerry, Dan Quayle, John Edwards and Al Gore. They all wanted this so much. But I am the first man to win this office, and it’s an historic moment.

FullFinal“I’ve dreamed of this victory since I was a little boy. Our family was very poor, but my parents kept the dream alive. The great Betty Friedan was President then, and everyone on our block worshiped her. We owe her so much! She helped the world answer a crying need by proclaiming rules for politically-correct language. She added words like misogyny and chauvinism to our new vocabulary. And she pioneered demands for college courses like ‘Elements of Feminism,’ and ‘Our Bodies, Our Choice!’ Those are big shoes to fill, but color me ready to serve!

“And tonight I have an announcement. I have invited Senator Ted Cruz to be my vice president. I love Senator Cruz! Of course, I called him ‘Lyin’ Ted, during the N.O.W. primaries. He did lie a lot, but hey, we all did. Who among us is perfect?

“This victory is for the millions of little boys out there, who dream of a better world. Someday you might be just like me!”

Have You Ever Received a “Bedbug Letter” from Washington?

Do our leaders in Washington work for us? Do they understand their roles as our representatives, or do they think of us as annoying customers?

To be fair, some political leaders do their best to act on our behalf. Nevertheless, many others act like businesses who couldn’t care less about individual customers. The following cautionary tale serves as a metaphor that elected leaders should note:

Top managers at one of New York City’s best-known hotels had become concerned about losing repeat business from their previously loyal guests. To determine how they could regain their top-flight image, they hired a consulting firm to survey lost revenues from long-time repeater-guests.

One former customer, a business executive who frequently visited New York, had abruptly chosen a competitive hotel for all future visits. He explained that he had noticed a few bedbugs during his last stay and wrote a letter to the hotel general manager. The general manager had replied promptly with a letter of apology, assuring that his staff had identified and corrected the problem, and proclaiming that the hotel maintained the city’s strictest standards of hygiene. Hotel management also invited the customer to a future stay, free-of-charge. Though the letter seemed sincere, a yellow post-it note had accidentally adhered to the back of the letter:Bedbug-note

Unfortunately, many of our elected representatives respond to their constituents with an attitude akin to a bedbug letter, creating the narrative that “Washington isn’t listening.” A few months before their next re-election campaign, incumbent office holders portray interest in feedback from individual voters. Until their next election, however, we often hear only the sounds of “bedbugs.”

Personally, I seldom write to my elected representatives but have done so a few times over the years. Because I live in California, my senators and representatives are usually Democrats. Nevertheless, friends from other states have assured me that Republicans manage their relationships with constituents just as poorly.

I have written my elected representatives on two occasions in the past five years. In each case, I have labored to keep my comments brief and to-the-point. One communication was to insist that the Secretary of State re-open negotiations on the Iran Nuclear Agreement to leverage greater control. The other was to request that Congress and the President create a bipartisan plan for switching the country to renewable energy, with specifically timed goals over the next twenty-five years.

Following are assessments of the responses from my leaders in Washington:

Representative Eric Swalwell’s office sent a timely, well-written email, crafted to seem like a personal response. That’s the best treatment I can expect, and I appreciate Mr. Swalwell’s attitude and professionalism. His positions disagree with mine. Nevertheless, that is fair and not unexpected. My only issue is that he used some of the exact word-for-word phrasings of Speaker/Leader Nancy Pelosi, making his message seem a bit like a “hostage video” in which he is affected by implied party-line pressures from Ms. Pelosi’s office.
Grade: A-

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office sent one-page position statements on each subject, book-ended by “Thank you for your message,” and general well-wishes. As a senator from a very large state, she obviously can’t give personalized treatment to every message. Though her staff’s treatment of responses is a bit cold and impersonal, they demonstrate the senator’s concise thinking on the issues in question.
Grade: B-

Senator Barbara Boxer responds with true “bedbug letters.” Her office takes so long to respond that a voter may forget the original reason for contact. Moreover, her messages don’t often relate to the subject to which she is supposedly responding. Instead, every message seems to inspire the identical narrative about how wonderful she is, along with a list of subcommittees and bills on which she is purportedly working. Few or none of these relate to the issue at hand in any way.
Grade: F

President Barrack Obama sent a warm, personal message with White House letterhead thanking me for supporting the Affordable Care Act, (i.e. Obamacare). There were two perplexing issues, however. First, I have never written to the President, so this was a response to a question or statement I never initiated. Further, I don’t support the Affordable Care Act. However, I did post to an unsolicited online query from AARP, though I am not a member. (Note: My post said that it is dangerous to shift billions of dollars from Medicare to the ACA because fewer Medicare funds will result in fewer doctors and longer waiting times before appointments. Longer waits may result in more deaths that could be avoided with prompt care.)

Grade: D-(Would have been F if he said, “You can keep your insurance, and you can keep your doctor.”)

The previous examples are evidence that many of our Washington leaders have evolved into a “political class” that collectively believes that the people they represent are less than important. We are all familiar with speeches by politicians who say something like, “Just last week, I chatted with an unemployed single mother in Muncie, Indiana, who said that her 10-year-old daughter cried herself to sleep in fear of Climate Change (or losing second amendment rights).”

Memo to Republicans and Democrats: We’re not that stupid. We don’t believe you anymore. You’ve got to win us back, or we’ll send you home. Start by telling the truth. Then attack the things we care about. “Compromise” isn’t a dirty word. In government, it’s a synonym for pragmatism. And stop spending money we don’t have. We don’t need a new bout of inflation, just to feed your egos and buttress your positions.

My book “The Victory that Wasn’t” offers a fictional alternate history with a different kind of Military, and better outcomes for all Americans. It’s available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/1GUL8oX

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