Democratic Party

America's Centrists and Crazy Extremists

America’s Centrism and Crazy Extremists                                                                                                                                              Robert A. Levine

America’s citizenry is basically moderate and centrist. This has been confirmed over the years by various surveys that give independents, moderates, centrists a plurality no matter how they are labeled. When moderates and centrists in the two established parties that lean to the left or the right are included in the tally, centrists generally achieve a majority. Yet both Republicans and Democrats appear to be under the control of the extremists in the parties in terms of policies and candidates who are given party support. This merely adds to the rancor and partisanship between the parties and the inability to get things done that benefit the country.

Increasingly, politics has come to be perceived as a zero-sum game. If a bill introduced and supported by the Democrats is passed and becomes law, Republicans see it as a loss for them. And vice versa. The parties give little consideration to whether bills that are passed will be of value to the nation.

A prime example of this zero-sum thinking is the recent passage of the infrastructure bill by the House. The Senate had passed the bill months earlier with bipartisan support, including that of Mitch McConnell, the Minority leader. But the thirteen Republicans in the House who voted for the bill were considered traitors by many of the other House Republicans expecting a straight party line vote on important measures. Many GOP members feel that the dissenting Republicans who voted for the bill gave Biden and the Democrats a victory, without considering that the bill was badly needed and greatly benefits America.

In fact, a number of GOP Representatives asked Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, to remove the Republicans who voted for the bill from their positions on House committees as payback for their votes favoring the bill. Even worse, because of the extremism that has infected the base of the Party, the thirteen supporters of the bill have received thousands of threatening, damning and viciously offensive phone calls. Marjorie Taylor Greene posted the home phone numbers of these members and Steve Bannon gave out the numbers of the 19 Republican Senators who backed the bill. Ex-President Trump labeled them all as RINOs- Republicans in name only. The phone calls not only included threats to murder the Republicans supporters of the bill, but also to murder or torture them or members of their families. How far has extreme tribalism deviated from the moderate center of the electorate to spawn these messages of hate?

Meanwhile, in the Democratic Party, six members of the so-called extremist “Squad” voted against the infrastructure bill necessitating the Republican votes in order to insure passage in the House. These “progressives” do not seem to care about the re-election chances of the moderates in their party and it seems that for them it’s “my way or the highway” in the bills they support. They are willing to lose control of the House if the Democrats do not adhere to their precepts.

On the other hand, Biden’s Build Back Better bill that contains many social measures and has already been cut by more than half, has its passage in doubt because of imaginary moderates in the Senate, Manchin and Sistema who say they are reluctant to spend so much money and increase the national debt. However, in Manchin’s case, it’s probably more about cutting the use of coal to try and contain climate change. Maybe enough has been done to reshape the bill to generate the two recalcitrant Senator’s support.

Tribalism and extremist beliefs in both Parties are a danger to America’s democracy, much more so on the Republican right with its threats of violence than on the Democratic left. America is basically a moderate, centrist nation. How do we control extremism and rabid hatred against political opponents, spread by virulent demagogues over right-wing media and social platforms? It seems to be getting worse rather than better.

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The West Virginia Hypocrite

The West Virginia Hypocrite                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Robert A. Levine

Americans have always known not to trust politicians because they often go back on the words and most of them can be bought. But Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is in a different class. With the Senate split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, every Democrat vote is needed to pass legislation. When the infrastructure bill was passed by the Democrats with both moderate and progressive support, a bill that Manchin favored, he promised that he would support President Biden’s Build Back Better Bill. There were hours and hours of negotiations, phone calls and meetings between Biden and Manchin and their staffs and with Senate Majority Leader Schumer and his staff to shape the Build Back Better bill in a form agreeable to Manchin. He was literally treated like royalty by the Democrats because his vote to pass the bill was essential and he had promised that he would vote for it. This was a bill that would provide great benefits to his constituents in West Virginia and that should have influenced him to pass it without question.

However, Sunday morning on Fox News, he suddenly told America that he would not vote for the bill. He claimed that he didn’t want to increase the national debt and was afraid it would increase inflation. That is all B.S. To appease him, tax increases on the wealthy, which would have made the bill debt neutral, were dropped from the bill. And since the bill covers ten years, it should have no effect on inflation according to economists. The price of the BBB had also been pared down significantly to $2.2 trillion at Manchin’s insistence.

So why did he withdraw his vote in favor of the bill? Probably the biggest reason was the effect that the BBB would have on reducing coal as a fuel because of climate change. The bill cuts down the use of coal, oil and gas with incentives in favor of renewable energy like solar, wind, and perhaps hydropower. It also penalizes power plants that do not switch. In a major conflict of interest, Manchin and his family benefit significantly from a coal brokerage firm that he founded, making hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars annually by selling coal. Now West Virginia has a substantial coal industry, but it has been losing thousands of miners annually with coal mines shutting down because utilities are already starting to switch to clean energy without Biden’s bill. The BBB would have allotted billions of dollars to train laid off miners and the unemployed in clean energy technology, making homes energy efficient and so forth. Without BBB, they lose this benefit. There is an excise tax on coal that pays for miners who develop black lung disease that is coming to an end and would have been renewed in BBB.

A healthy child tax credit in BBB which would have lifted many children in West Virginia and the nation out of poverty was also lost because of Manchin’s refusal to vote for BBB. Coverage for hearing aids would have been covered by Medicare. Does Manchin care about any of these benefits for his constituents? The money he makes from coal is more important. And after signaling his lack of support for BBB, Manchin had the nerve to say that he was against giving poor people money because they would not know how to spend it. Of course, his wealthy friends know how to spend money much better than those impoverished because they have more of it.

Global warming is an existential threat to mankind and carbon dioxide from burning coal and other hydrocarbons are the major cause and Manchin is a major supplier, like a dope dealer. Another important factor in climate change is methane gas which leaks from oil and gas wells. The BBB would have imposed a fee on methane emissions which Manchin also didn’t like.

There is still time for Manchin to change his mind and negotiate some form of BBB. But if he were a decent human being, he would have rid himself and his family of the investments in coal companies and coal brokering which are a blatant conflict of interest. Global warming and climate change is the most vital issue of our time and Manchin just doesn’t give a damn.

www.robertlevinebooks.com                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon and Barnes and Noble


The Democrats Keep Self-Destructing

The Democrats Keep Self-Destructing                                                                                                                                                                                                           Robert A. Levine

Anyone who joins the Democratic non-party and runs under its banner must have a secret death wish or a masochistic psyche. It seems that whenever the party is in a position to control the federal government and enact critical legislation, elected officials cannot get their s—t together to pass the necessary laws. It seems that often times the moderate wing of the Party will not back down on their stances and compromise on what they want, and the progressive wing is even worse in terms of compromising and allowing necessary legislation to get passed. With both wings, it’s my way or the highway, endangering their slim margins in the House and the Senate. The American electorate wants to see things getting done in Washington and rightfully blames the party in power for the stalemate.

Of course, Republicans are not helpful in the least. They act almost as a solid bloc with very few members willing to buck the leadership and do what they might feel is best for the nation. With the GOP it always seems to be party over country when essential votes are taken. But their near unity makes them appear to the nation at large as a party that can get things done, even though the things they do may have a malign effect on the non-affluent majority segment of the electorate.

Because of the Democrats lack of progress on passage of the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better bill endorsed by President Joe Biden, Democratic candidates running for office had a difficult time this year. The situation may even be worse in 2022 when the stakes are much higher. Will the political ramifications of the intransigence of the two wings of the Democratic Party make them see the urgency of the need to act, because the social and financial needs of the populace so far have not made them budge one bit. And the GOP whose fealty to Trump and all his lies are disgusting, are certainly not going to come to the rescue of the Democrats and Americans in need.

What is the answer to the Democrats inexorable drive for self-destruction? A more aggressive Joe Biden would surely help. If he would act more like LBJ and tell the Democrats in the House and the Senate what must be done, perhaps we would see more accomplished. But Biden is laid back and prone to negotiate rather make demands even though he is the supposed leader of the Party. The likelihood is that he is a lame duck president, either by the choice of not running again or by losing the next election. Other strong Democrats need to step forward and tell the Progressive wing and the hesitant moderates what is necessary if the Party is to have any chance of holding on to the House and the Senate in 2022 and the presidency in 2024. The word to remember is compromise, to get things done for the good of the party and the good of the country. Self-destruction for the progressives or the moderates to get their way should not be an option. But both segments of the party see their objectives as paramount and and are unwilling to give an inch. Their stances will only result in losses.

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Why Can't the Democrats Get Anything Done?

Why Can’t The Democrats Get Anything Done?

                                    Robert A. Levine

America is in trouble in the aftermath of the Trump administration and the devastating effects of the Covid 19 epidemic. It is imperative that politicians in Washington recognize this and work to produce the required solutions.

The Democrats control both Houses of Congress, admittedly by small margins, as well as the presidency. Yet on the President’s most important policy issues, the Democrats in Congress cannot seem reach a consensus and pass the bills that Biden wants. The reason is simple. Unlike the monolithic Republicans who virtually all are in fealty to ex-President Trump’s whims, the Democratic Party is really two separate parties: the moderates and progressives. And so far, the progressives have been unwilling to compromise on their wants for the good of the party and the good of the nation.

The progressive’s unwillingness to compromise makes it even more likely that control of the House and probably the Senate will be taken over by the GOP in the 2022 elections. The party out of power is generally favored in mid-term elections and the Democrat’s lack of success in passing Biden’s infrastructure bill and human infrastructure bill gives the Republicans another issue to pile on the do-nothing-Democrats.

One would think that both the moderate and progressive wing would see the necessity of passing both infrastructure bills merely from a political standpoint. But they are even more important for the country itself in this era when our physical infrastructure is old and decrepit. Our physical infrastructure must be fixed if we are truly to remain a first world country and a leader of the West. However, the level of inequality in the United States is also higher than in any other advanced nation. This means that our social infrastructure, health care, education, child care, and so forth must also be fixed to make the nation fairer and to maximize the use of our man and woman power. In a complex world, with continuous competition with China and other autocratic nations, we must use our human resources wisely. And there is also the issue of climate change that is imperative to manage aggressively.

This brings up another problem that the nation has to address. America is not replacing its population base, as women are not having the 2.1 children on average that is necessary. Adequate child care and perhaps increased benefits for children might be an answer to that problem. However, currently, we are in the midst of a blue collar manpower shortage, with not enough truck drivers, mechanics, agricultural workers and so forth. Increased immigration with specific training programs might be able to help with this. However, we also need educated immigrants in the high-tech and biologic fields. The nation needs to open up the H-1B visa program to have more educated, high skilled immigrants come to America to work in these sectors. They tend to produce start-up companies and innovative ideas and are necessary for America to keep its edge. We also require more primary care physicians, especially in rural underserved areas and in the inner cities. Nurses and medical aides are also vitally needed with many having recently retired under the pressure of the Covid 19 epidemic.

As noted, there are lots of problems which the Democrats must solve while they control both Houses of Congress and the presidency. For the good of the nation and the good of the Party, it is time they got their act together with both sections of the Party working together. It would be even better if the Republicans faced reality and worked with the Democrats to solve the pressing problems. But that is a dream unlikely to occur in this era of abject partisanship.

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How Can Republicans Sleep At Night?

How Can Republicans Sleep at Night?

            Robert A. Levine

The Republican Party in seeking power is at the threshold of overturning America’s democracy. After regularly losing the popular vote in most presidential elections in the last two decades, they want to insure that they will win all elections indefinitely by suppressing the votes of the Democratic portion of the electorate. They are aiming to win not only the presidency but control of the House, the Senate and most state legislatures and governorships by changing the rules for voting on a state level.

In states where there are Republican controlled legislatures and Republican governors, they are making it more difficult for minorities to vote because they generally support Democrats. The GOP controlled states are cutting down on voting days and voting hours for in-person voting and eliminating mail-in ballots. They will undoubtedly also increase gerrymandering when the results of the census are confirmed. Sunday voting after church is also being cut since this is the way many Black voters go to the polls. Special IDs are also being demanded in some states which are often hard to get, especially for working people.

On a Federal level, the law HR1 that guarantees voting rights and overrides state laws that suppress voting, is getting no support from Republicans in the Senate, having already passed the House. The Senate cannot pass HR1 unless they have sixty votes or more, or the filibuster is eliminated, neither of which have Republican approval. The GOP is content to allow the states they control to maximally suppress voting by people leaning Democratic, particularly minorities, even though it means that America is no longer a democracy with each person having one vote.

The electorate that favors Republican is both old and white, and at some time in the future will be a permanent minority. The state voting laws being passed by the GOP will be utilized in elections immediately. But it also ensures that old white people will still be able to dominate the country and elect their candidates even when they are a minority. Republican action are a sheer power grab but elicit a poor prognosis for democracy.

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Voter Suppression- Who Wins

Voter Suppression- Who Wins

            Robert A. Levine

If the Republicans cannot win fairly, they will do anything to suppress groups of voters who tend to support the Democrats. This is short term thinking for down the road, the minority groups whose votes they are trying to eliminate will be in the majority and will vote regularly for the Democrats. At the moment, many minority voters are mixing their votes and some are backing Republicans. This is not the time to alienate minorities and drive them to the Democratic Party which voter suppression will do.

Currently, in state legislatures across the land that are controlled by Republicans, hundreds of laws are being introduced to suppress voting by minority groups that provide support for Democrats more than Republicans. But this support of Democrats was starting to change in the 2020 elections where Latino men and women and Black men gave significant percentages of their votes to Republicans. Suppressing the votes of these groups by making it increasingly difficult for them to vote is not going to endear the GOP in the minds of these voters and in the long run will probably dissuade Democratic voters from switching.

In addition to blatant gerrymandering expected after the census results are released, Republican state legislatures are shortening the time devoted to early voting, eliminating absentee and mail-in voting without a good excuse and proof of a problem, demanding accurate IDs when voting in person and limiting what can be used, cutting down on the boxes where absentee votes can be dropped off, comparing signatures very carefully on IDs versus forms that allowing voting, shortening the hours on voting day, cutting down on the number of places to vote, situating voting stations in white neighborhoods that are difficult for minorities to reach, preventing people from collecting the ballots of older or disabled individuals (ballot harvesting) because it is difficult for these voters to hand in their ballots. Any measures that will cut down on minority voting will be considered by GOP controlled legislatures.

While it is likely these moves may decrease minority voting temporarily, there are groups that have formed that will transport these voters to the places where they can vote. They are also being helped to fill out the necessary forms. Voters have long memories and as minorities attain majority status, they will remember how the Republicans used underhanded methods to lessen the importance of their votes or made it difficult for them to vote at all. In the long run, the GOP will pay for their actions.

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Creating a Third Party of the Center

Creating A Third Party of the Center

Robert A. Levine

            “It must be realized that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more uncertain of success, or more dangerous to manage than the establishment of a new order of government; for he who introduces it makes enemies of all those who derived advantage from the old order.”

            Niccolo Machiavelli- The Prince [i]

            The time has come for a seismic shake-up of America’s political system. The nation’s current political parties are corrupt and self-serving, tethered to lobbyists, special interests and their own partisan bases, and unable to govern productively. To bring about change, a permanent third party of the center is necessary to recalibrate the political equation and start the country on the road to reform. This party must not be dependent on PAC financing but derive direct funding from its supporters. The Republican Party is already splitting three ways, with supporters of Trump, true conservatives and moderates. Trumpists have even considered forming their own third party. The Democrats are split between leftists and moderates.                       

The idea of a permanent third party for America is not new, the reasons that argue for its creation having existed for many decades. Indeed, there have been a number of unsuccessful attempts at gestation, resulting in stillbirths or early demises in infancy. Currently, disillusionment with the government and dismay about the ability of the established political parties to fix matters remain at a high level. Unless the nation is able to accomplish a meaningful revision in the way it is governed, the United States is destined to decline. To effect the required metamorphosis, a permanent third party is needed that values moderation, pragmatism and compromise.

Though revolutionary changes in political systems and mass social movements are usually initiated by the left or the right, this revolution should arise from the center, a protest against America’s two entrenched parties. John Avlon in his book Independent Nation remarked- “Centrism frees voters from the false dichotomies that dominate American politics by offering them a third choice between the rigid extremes of the left and right, a commonsense path that acknowledges the inevitability of change while never straying far from fundamental American values or founding principles… Centrism is the most effective means for achieving the classic mission of politics: the peaceful reconciliation of competing interests. Extremists and ideological purists on either side of the political aisle condemn compromise. But inflexibility either creates deadlock or dooms a cause to irrelevance.” 

A Pew Poll in May of 2019 had 38 percent of Americans identifying as politically independent. An NBC News poll in 2013 had 51 percent of Americans considering themselves as moderates, independents or centrists. Most surveys have the percentage of independents between these two numbers. But voters are accustomed to voting for either Democrats or Republicans and starting a new centrist party that is competitive will not be easy. With the current parties holding a duopoly of power, state and federal laws place barriers in the path of any upstart that might challenge their control. And aside from the legal obstacles, there are also emotional impediments that must be overcome in America’s citizenry to allow a new third party to gain traction. But a new permanent third party of the center can be viable, with the opportunity to realize its goals and win both local and national elections. There are new tools and transformative technologies available for an interloper to level the playing field with the two established behemoths, even though their deep pockets are constantly being refilled by the lobbyists and special interests.

The main asset this new entity will have in its favor is the dissatisfaction of Americans with the political climate. There is a vast body of citizens in America who do not participate in the political process or vote in elections because they feel their votes are inconsequential. Some of these men and women can form the base of a new party, along with independents and centrist Republicans and Democrats who hold their noses when they go to the polls, casting ballots because they feel it is their obligation as citizens. These people might flock to the banner of a political organization that pledged to run incorruptible candidates and would try to end the ideological bickering that has precluded action on so much necessary legislation. To be successful in this insurrection, the new party must persuade Americans that it is a real alternative to Republicans and Democrats, will have staying power and will not fold after one election cycle. It must be able to convince average citizens that it is worthwhile for them to cast their ballots for an untested political upstart that has a vision for a new way of governing. And if it is able to gain credibility among the electorate, it will make centrist politicians who are on the fence more willing to commit themselves to this intriguing new player.

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New People, New Parties, New Infrastructure

New People, New Parties, New Infrastructure

                        Robert A. Levine

America is in crisis and undergoing a steep de­cline. Covid has taken the lives of half a million people and battered the economy. Budget deficits and national debt are climbing. The nation’s infrastructure is old and crumbling while much of Europe and Asia enjoy modern highways and bridges, bullet trains connecting their main cities, gleaming new airports, and broadband connections to all sectors of their population. If America is to compete in this world and maintain its position at the top, its citizens will have to acknowl­edge the need for sacrifice and pain, will have to accept higher taxes on the wealthy and more spending on infrastructure. Americans will have to study harder and work longer, knowing that their struggles will allow democracy to flourish and that their chil­dren and grandchildren will reap the rewards. 

In past times, Americans were willing to sacrifice for the good of the nation and the generations that would follow. Sacrifice is again needed. But we need something more. The two-party system has not been working as the parties collude to maintain their hold on power, reinforcing the need for a permanent third party. This could come from the right but is needed from the center with the extreme left and extremists on the right kept at bay. The moderate Democrats and centrist Republicans should join together to give citizens a better option when they cast their ballots.

In America’s formative years, professional politicians were not involved in the creation of its defining documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, nor responsible for governing. These duties were managed admirably by public-spirited citizens: farmers, lawyers, and businessmen, physicians), who wanted to participate in the noble experiment of democracy. Perhaps what America needs now are fewer career politicians and more ordinary citizens like our Founding Fathers to become en­gaged in the processes of government and democracy. When lobbyists and special interests subvert this rela­tionship and the people’s desires are ignored, the system is failing. New parties and new participants are needed.

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The Deep Chasm in American Politics

The Deep Chasm in American Politics

                        Robert A. Levine

The current political divide in America is greater than at any time since the Civil War. In the presidential election of November 2020, Joe Biden received over 81 million votes with Trump accumulating over 74 million. Since the election however, Trump has insisted that he won by a landslide and that Biden stole the election from him. There were over sixty court rulings that declared Trump’s claims invalid, including two unanimously by the Supreme Court where he had appointed three of the nine members.

Trump also went to various state legislatures where the state’s citizens had favored Biden, trying to get the legislatures to overturn the results. No success anywhere. Trump begged and threatened Georgia’s attorney general to find eleven thousand plus votes for him so that he would win Georgia. But the Attorney General Brad Raffensperger insisted that the vote count was correct and could not be changed.

Bill Barr, the Federal Attorney General before he resigned, told Trump as well that the results of the election were right and could not be overturned. When Barr resigned, the acting Attorney General at the Department of Justice also refused to honor Trump’s requests to disqualify enough of Biden’s votes to make Trump the winner. And Vice President Pence declared to Trump that he could not change the vote totals when they were confirmed at the Capitol.

Yet with all the officials who told Trump that he lost the election, both Republicans and Democrats, he would not accept the outcome, insisting that the election was stolen. This led Trump to call his supporters to Washington and to have them march on the Capitol to prevent the voting totals from being confirmed. Tens of thousands of his base including militant white supremacists followed Trump’s instructions. They trashed the Capitol building in an insurrection, searching for members of Congress and Senators who they could kill because they would not make Trump president and looking to hang Mike Pence.

Perhaps it is not surprising that Trump’s most intense acolytes would come to Washington and follow his orders to break into the Capitol and hunt down his opponents. What is surprising is that Trump received 74 million votes in the election and even after he lost, most of his supporters believed that the election was stolen from him. The vast majority of these are not rational citizens, but members of a tribal cult, willing to accept anything that Trump says or does.

Not only are Trump supporters divided from the Democrats, but they are angry at establishment Republicans who they feel did not fight vigorously enough for Trump to remain president. And they want to primary the House members who voted with the Democrats to impeach Trump. These Trump acolytes are uninformed about the true results of the election and are willing to follow Trump wherever he leads, even if it means the end of democracy and the beginning of fascism in America. How do you change the minds of cultists who are uninformed and accept and obey their leader wherever he takes them? Unfortunately, democracy and freedom means nothing to them. They do not understand what Trump is offering.

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