A turning point?
Updated: Feb 1, 2021
Hello again. How presumptuous of me to think you're returning! If this is your first visit, welcome, it's good to see you.
I spent some time last night thinking of how in a relatively short space of time, the Republicans have come to the realisation that the 2020 election scared many 'traditional' Republican voters into either sitting it out, or taking the huge step to vote for the other guy. It spawned the birth of the Lincoln Project and much soul searching. Just so we can focus on reality, had the pandemic not hit, I can guarantee you that Trump would have got 4 more years. Now whilst I have sympathy for those that might not want to believe that (and I'm one of them), it's the uncomfortable truth.
Of course, there is no question that Biden won the popular vote by over 7 million votes. Please take a look at this piece by Dante Chinni (NBC News). It is a frightening wake up call that against the background of a quarter of a million dead Americans, rampant racism and a rising threat of domestic terrorism. The reality is, that Biden's win was MARGINAL. Now we can talk all day about the electoral college, voter suppression blah blah blah, but under the rules of the game, Joe crawled over the line. Voters of color were the difference between a humiliating defeat and a marginal victory. The Democratic party should worship at the alter of Stacey Abrams and her team of activists that effectively won the election and then went on to hand Joe the Senate. I have no words to say how in awe I am for the work that Stacey and her team have done for years. Registering voters and fighting voter suppression has been a long difficult, sometimes thankless haul. That's democracy in action and is the reward that genuine voter engagement brings. On the upside, I am sure the administration recognises this and will take significant steps to address racial and social injustice.
It appears that yesterday was the day, that the GOP decided, without Trump they can’t survive. McCarthy going to kiss Trump’s ring, seems to me to be a clear sign of intent. Add to that, the unbelievably insensitive appointment to the Education Committee of Marjorie Taylor Greene is another sign that Republican values are deceased, as I had already visualised.
Mitch McConnell is very quiet, but given Matt Gaetz’s trip to campaign against Liz Cheney and the general purge mentality that now exists in the GOP, it seems they will soon be putting on brown shirts with armbands, delivering 1930’s Germany to America in 2021. The Capital is still occupied by thousands of National Guards. Additional military units are on close standby and members of both Congress and the Senate who opposed Trump, are all having to take their personal security really seriously. Anyone who tries to tell you, these are normal times is delusional. At the heart of government, lawmakers feel unsafe in the presence of opposition colleagues. Metal detectors have gone up to prevent weapons from being brought onto the floor of both chambers. It seems that democracy is under siege and that a certain man is sitting in Florida rubbing his hands with glee.
It's very odd that there appears to be no guardrails to stop the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert being elected to Congress or the Senate. Here in the UK we faced a similar problem with far right candidates trying to gain high political office. Our guardrails came in the form of the British public and for that I am unquestionably proud to be British. It's the same reason Trump's friend Nigel Farage has never been able to win a parliamentary seat in the UK. He did though hold a seat in the European Parliament, as did a number of his hard right friends. Could it happen in the UK? Absolutely. Democracy by its very nature, allows for the views of all, regardless of how abhorrent they may be. Thankfully to date, we have not gone down the nationalist rabbit hole.
Returning to the US however, moderate Republicans appear to be in shock, as the ‘night of the long knives’ becomes their nightmare. McConnell, seems to have stepped back and let McCarthy’s ambition, hand total control back to the criminal enterprise that is the Trump family. What’s more, Trump will soon be able to grab back the news cycle when he’s acquitted as he will be, in the impending impeachment trial. Oh and he has a significant proportion of 71 million Americans cheering him on.
Before you reach for the tablets and the whisky bottle, hold on. From here, 'the only way is up. Democracy is holding on by a thread, as it is tested to the limit. Assistance by members inside the two elected chambers, makes it even more of a concern. The challenge is now, is to balance the fight for the soul of the nation with the critical need to help hard working Americans on the edge of fiscal oblivion. On this, I'm with Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders in saying 'just do it'. Use budget reconciliation to get the relief package passed. There is really little to be gained from pandering to Republican objection and obfuscation. The need to act, is greater than the need for bipartisan agreement. I listened yesterday to various Republicans out and about, selling doom and gloom and screaming about the impact of a $15 minimum wage. Frankly, if a business can't pay a $15 minimum wage, then it's not viable as a business. I simply don't subscribe to slavery wrapped up in the fiscal imperrative of a low wage. Even before the pandemic, children in America were going to bed hungry. See this excellent piece from National Geographic. In the richest country in the world, this is simply unacceptable.
The argument from Republicans that $1.9 for the American Rescue Plan is too expensive, actually carries some weight. Not because it's 'about the money stupid', it's expensive because it can't be effectively targeted. That's a system failure and the price you pay for that is, you're going to have to top up the savings accounts of Americans that don't need the relief. Whilst this is not money lost, it is money that will not flow back into the economy until those Americans feel more comfortable about spending again. Putting aside the direct check payments, the money for states to implement effective vaccination strategies and recoup monies spent on Covid 19 mitigation is vital. It is essential that state public services survive intact. I can't speak as to the previous management of state finances, but there can be little argument, that Covid 19 has stressed budgets in every state and if you don't fill that hole, you are just asking for pain further down the road. I would also add, that $1.9 trillion will NOT address the debt that is missed rent and mortgage payments. I have a blog post on that one.
Joe Biden is right to focus on the here and now, as the economy will stay stalled until he can get everyone vaccinated. The human cost in the meantime, is down to governors acting responsibly, in the knowledge that everything is being done to get these vital vaccinations into arms. Sadly, the level of responsibility will likely fracture along party lines which is disappointing to say the least. I estimated back in November that if nobody got to grips with real mitigation, the death toll would be in the region of 600,000 Americans. I hate to say it, but I may have undershot on that estimate, which is heartbreaking. So PLEASE wear a mask and social distance.
I had wanted to spend today on a deep dive on infrastructure, but I don't want it to be a footnote to today's post, so I'm gong to make that my post for Monday. I just felt I had to spend today looking at the implications of the Republicans making clear what their position is, in what many thought would be a post Trump era. Clearly they have decided that they simply can't leave him in the rear view mirror and so, they are embarking upon a purge to remove anyone who is not prepared to swear allegiance to Trumpism. It's hard to say where the GOP is, as fractures appear in Republican politics. There is reasonably clear evidence however, that a number of 'moderate' Republicans are saying 'I'm out' and walking away from what has become a political cult. This for me, is intriguing and leaves the door open for real political progress by Dems.
As I come to the point in my life where I should be thinking about taking it easy and finding time for new hobbies, I find myself absolutely fired up wanting to make a real difference. It's like morning broke, I was surrounded by a small group of friends who like me, believe that there is a better tomorrow out there somewhere and I want to beat down a path to find it. When I joined Twitter back in September, I was on a journey to better understand the impact social media had on the world of politics. Every day since then, with the help of some very smart and committed people, I have learned that it can deliver change in a way that I never thought possible. Trump is probably the best evidence yet, that it can equally be used to spread hate, racism, greed and disinformation. The question is, what can we do to what I'm going to call 'Democratise Democracy'
So what exactly do I mean? If you look at visual political messaging, the GOP set the benchmark when it came to what I call 'messaging of fear'. The likes of The Lincoln Project and MeidasTouch have come along and fought them on their own ground. They created some unquestionably excellent political ads and I have no doubt that they had an impact on the outcome of the 2020 election. My problem is, that the future depends on fighting smart campaigns at state level and building a coherent ground game from the bottom up. If you look at political campaign ads, how many of them have what I call 'soul'. where is the passion? Where is a real grasp of the issue beyond a prepared script? Agencies look at political parties as the golden goose that just keeps laying those golden eggs. They don't give a damn who wins as long as they get paid. The election cycle is the gift that keeps on giving. I'm in danger here of giving away a strategy that someone will run off and make a fortune from, so I won't elaborate too much. However, I would put it to you that passion linked with objectivity is a winning formula.
I'd love to put together a team of impassioned believers in democracy, with social and racial justice at the heart of its mission. People committed to the creation of a more equitable society, through targeted political support and messaging. It should be an entity ideally funded by lots of small $5 - $50 donations from we the people, committed to its political objectives, with no corporate or PAC funding. 2022 is 2 years away. In that time, there will also be state campaigns on which messaging ideas and support concepts can be tested and refined. I'm literally itching to share the big picture, but I just know that if I put it out there, someone will go 'Thanks very much for that' and leave me sat on an empty train platform without a train ticket.
Anyone interested, please reach out and I'll find some way of sharing the vision.