Monday, April 10, 2017

Regardez la France!


Immediately following my Climate Reality training in Denver, I found myself being inundated by email communications from both the organization and excited fellow members of the new class of CR leaders.  I managed to adjust some preferences in order to quell the flood, but I still receive one daily summary of traffic on the organization's main site - Reality Hub - which gives me a glimpse of the activities of CR's thousands of activists.

From what I can determine, the vast preponderance of these activities involve meetings, group activities, and educational outreach.

All of which, no doubt, will be highly gratifying to the sort of folks I met in Denver - earnest, educated, middle-class folks who love to be on the right side of the issues.  Folks who will happily drive hundreds of miles to march or attend a rally.  Folks who will gladly gather to discuss the things that must be done, and deplore the fact that they are not being done.  Folks who regard it as supremely important to educate people - particularly children and young people - about the reality of climate change.

Folks, in short, who love getting together with others who already believe what they believe, or teaching people who are not that likely to argue back.

Folks who, in the personal lives, are trying very hard not to be part of the problem - by recycling, driving hybrids or EVs, and reducing their carbon footprints - or buying carbon offsets when they cannot.

Folks who will, at election time, vote for Democrats.  Perhaps even get out and campaign for Democrats.  Because Democrats say the right things about climate change.  Because Democrats are not, thank Heaven, Republicans.

Since Denver, I have been thinking a good deal about doing my bit as a Climate Reality leader.  I've started working my way through the massive, two-hour PowerPoint "slide show" we've been trained on - editing it down to lengths suitable for presentation to groups of interested adults.  I suspect I'll end up with three versions - 15-20 minutes, 30 minutes, and 45-50 minutes.  But this will take some time.

As for the rest of the things which seem to excite my new colleagues - attending marches or getting together for meetings - I've pretty much ruled that out.  At 66, I'm not looking for new ways to spend my free time.  I'm looking for ways to maximize my remaining years (I hope) in getting things done.

With regard to combatting climate change, that boils down to one thing:  Working to create a third party.

A third party which is neither particularly liberal nor conservative; which focuses on what the Founders called "the general welfare", or the "commonwealth", rather than the interests of particular groups; and which places a high priority on combatting AGW (anthropogenic global warming) as the greatest challenge facing the United States and the world.

I have written before, on this blog and elsewhere, about my complete lack of confidence that the Democratic Party will do anything meaningful to address climate change.  I need not waste time or space arguing that the Republican P.arty will not.

For me, only a third party will do.

It is a truism of American political science that third parties cannot succeed - despite the historical evidence that one third party (the Republicans of Abraham Lincoln's time) managed to take a newly-organized third party and make it a governing party in just over six years.

If history is not sufficiently persuasive, I urge my readers to consider that - at a time when discontent with the political and economic Establishment is higher than at any time in memory - other countries are seeing established parties suddenly crumble into the dust.

In Britain, for example, the Labour Party seems on the verge of shattering into two or more small, ineffectual groupings.

And in France, where the first round of the Presidential election is less than two weeks away, the current favorite to win, Emmanuel Macron, is a 39-year-old who started his own party little more than a year ago.

And the rising challenger, whose last minute surge makes him a contender, is Jean-Luc Melanchon - a sort of French Bernie Sanders, who is likewise the leader of a new organization.

Meanwhile, the candidates the two major parties, the Socialists and the Republicans, seem increasingly irrelevant.

Watch France.  There are lessons to be learned there - especially by those who have any interest in doing something about climate change in this country - before it is too late.

The only reason we are stuck with the Democrats and Republicans is that we have not yet found the energy to say what the French are saying, "A plague 'o both your houses!"

It's time we did.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

A New Beginning

I have been plugging away at this blog for a number of years, now, without reaching a widespread audience.  To be sure, I haven't tried that hard.  Until last year, I had my newspaper column in the Village News - a hyper-local paper, to be sure, but one which reached thousands of people who were my actual neighbors.  In eleven years, I think I managed to penetrate the thick layers of habitual Republicanism in the Chester (Virginia) area - at least a little.

But now, I want very much to reach a wider audience with the core message of this blog - which is that America desperately needs a third party.  Not a third party of the left or right.  And not, as many would urge, a third party committed to some vague, ever-shifting notion of "the center".

A party committed to the greater good, to principled citizenship.  A party of people who put the public interest, if not absolutely first, at least somewhat ahead of their own personal interests or the interests of whatever demographic group they happen to fall into.

A party dedicated to what the Founders called "the general welfare" or, in term I love, "the Commonwealth".

My reasons for advocating a third party are of long standing.  Having grown up in a political family, I have been involved in politics since my childhood.  (I first worked the polls as a nine-year-old, helping my Dad hand out literature for a congressional candidate in the early morning hours of November 8, 1960 - the day JFK defeated Richard Nixon for the presidency.)

I grew up a Democrat, because my parents were moderately conservative, Southern Democrats.  My Dad served as Attorney General of Virginia and, for eighteen years, in the Virginia General Assembly.  But when I came of age, I realized that I was not, at heart, a Democrat.  The Democratic Party seemed to me too much an awkward coalition of ill-sorted groups, held together with duct tape and bailing twine.

The Republican Party - and, specifically the moderate-to-liberal "citizen" wing of the Republican Party - seemed to me far more appealing.  So I joined the Republicans, working in the inner circle of John Warner's 1978 campaign for the US Senate (against a hard-core right-winger, Dick Obenshain).  I was even appointed to a political office - Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia - by Republican Governor John Dalton.

But my days as a Republican lasted only briefly.  With the nomination of Ronald Reagan, it became clear to me that the GOP had been transformed in its essentials, overwhelmed by a flood of refugees from the Democratic Party - Southern segregationists hostile to civil rights and Southern and Midwestern evangelicals horrified by Roe v. Wade.

The "citizen wing" of the Republican Party was swept away by this tide.  The GOP became, in effect, a second Democratic Party - another coalition of aggrieved demographic groups - losing all touch with its original commitment to the national, general welfare.

I became politically homeless.

Over the years, disgusted with what my former party had become, I tried to reconcile myself with the Democratic Party.  But the things which frustrated me in my twenties continued to trouble me as I matured.

The Democratic Party remained what it has been since its founding.  Whether you trace it back to Andrew Jackson or to Thomas Jefferson, the Democratic Party has always been a lose coalition of demographic groups and special interests, held together - whenever possible - by one charismatic leader.  Over the years, it has occasionally stood for worthwhile causes, but none so central as the cause of winning the next election.

Its preference for charismatic leadership has assured that the "next election" that mattered most was the presidential election - which is why Democrats have seldom made full use of legislative power.

And, since the Republican Party had become, in my judgment, a second, right-wing version of the Democratic model, I had nowhere to go.

So I became a reluctant independent.  Occasionally, I supported a maverick in one party or the other - Gary Hart in 1984, John McCain in 2000, Howard Dean in 2004, Bernie Sanders in 2016.  In 1984, I actually presided over the Hart caucus at the Virginia Democratic Convention.  In 2003, I spent my Christmas vacation in Manchester, New Hampshire, knocking on doors for Howard Dean.

But I remained essentially homeless.  And I sensed that millions of other Americans felt the same way.

In ordinary times, I would probably have been content to remain where I am - without a political home, but free to lend my energies, skills and experience to the occasional maverick.  Nearing 66, I could certainly get away with living out my life as an eccentric political curmudgeon.

My problem is climate change - what I call AGW (anthropogenic global warming).  I take climate change seriously - seriously enough that, earlier this month, I flew to Denver for three days of intensive training with Al Gore and his organization, Climate Reality.  Now, as a duly accredited Climate Reality leader, I am tasked with spreading the word through local presentations of Mr. Gore's justly famous "slide show".  I'm looking forward to that.

But my concern is this:  In Denver, I met many of the 950 other volunteers there for the training.  Nearly all were Democrats, or independents who reliably vote Democratic.  And that worries me.

Because I don't trust the Democratic Party to get the job done when it comes to saving the planet from AGW.

A party built as a coalition of special interests isn't well-designed to put an issue of the greater good high on its agenda.

A party which clings to its ties with big-money contributors, big-city machines, and old political dynasties isn't likely to break with the corporate or political Establishment on energy policy.

A party identified primarily with an agenda focused on racial, gender, immigrant, and other identity issues is not well-positioned to advocate a cause which requires the united commitment of the great majority of the American people if it is to succeed.

A party built largely on rewarding its member constituencies will never be comfortable with calling for sacrifice for the common good.

I don't trust the Democrats to get the job done, and clearly, no one in his or her right mind can trust the Republicans, who seem to live in an alternate world which could only be called "reality" in the sense of "reality television".

So the answer, by default, is a third party - a party of the general welfare, of the Commonwealth.  A party in the tradition of Hamilton, Clay, Lincoln, and the greatest of all American environmentalists, Teddy Roosevelt.

Establishing that third party is the program of this blog.  I will try, very hard, to post more regularly.  I invite you to read and share anything I post here - as well as my old posts.

I welcome your comments.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Climate Change and a Third Party


In terms of present-day American politics, it seems clear that progress toward combatting climate change, at the Federal or international level, has come to depend almost entirely upon the Democratic Party.

One need only glance at the willingness of Senate Republicans to confirm nominees like Rick Perry for Secretary of Energy and Scott Pruitt for head of the EPA - or the lack of outcry from either the Senate or House majorities at proposed cuts to the EPA's funding - to understand how entirely the modern Republican Party has become unreliable as a steward of the environment.  Or really, as being on the side of planetary survival.

Curiously, however, the Republican Party's official obtuseness on AGW does not mean the Democratic Party can be counted on to step up on climate change.  To begin with, as our two-party system is currently configured, each party relies less on visionary leadership than on fear-mongering.
Consider the Election of 2016.  Both parties nominated severely flawed candidates.  To be sure, Hillary Clinton offered an impressive resume, while Donald Trump was, by historical standards, one of the most unqualified candidates ever offered by a major American political party.  That said, Mrs. Clinton was disliked or distrusted by nearly half of the electorate - nearly as many as disliked or distrusted Mr. Trump.

The strategies of both parties came down to, "Vote for us.  The other candidate is far worse."

And indeed, at the presidential level - and increasingly, at all levels - this gun-to-the-head approach has become the default strategy of each major party.  Each party in the American two-party system relies on a form of fairly primitive blackmail, and the result is that neither has much incentive to lead.  What matters is to be measurably less dreadful than the opposite party on enough issues of importance to the decisive groups of uncommitted, undecided, or uninformed who decide elections.

Now that, in itself, would be bad enough.  A party committed to a strategy of being not quite as objectionable as the other party has little incentive to lead.

But on the issue of climate change, the problem is multiplied by the fact that the issue is not rated highly by most voters.  In other words, since climate change is not an issue most voters understand to be vital, there is no particular reason for the Democratic Party to raise the visibility of the issue in any election campaign - i.e., no reason to engage in educating the public.  From a practical standpoint, Democrats need only campaign by means of targeted messages to identified environmental voters - without making climate change a major issue before the broader public.

And this is even more true as the Republican Party has grown so extreme on the issue that the Democrats really need say almost nothing - even to pro-environment voters - to assure themselves of those voters' support.

To sum up, then, the realities of the two-party system dictate that the only party with a sane position on climate change has little or no practical incentive to adopt an aggressive stance on this issue - and every reason to keep its advocacy on the "down-low", whispering encouragement to identified environmental voters, but doing nothing to risk alienating voters for whom climate change is not yet a major issue.

Now, to be sure, organizations such as Climate Reality (to which I belong), the Sierra Club, and 350.org can do something to raise consciousness about climate change - gradually moving the issue up from its current place on Americans' list of priorities.  But we live in times when a plethora of issues must compete for public attention.  The educational efforts of climate groups can hardly compete with the sort of media coverage and citizen attention accorded to candidates and parties during an election campaign.

Which is why third party with a strong stance on climate change makes sense.  It could run candidates for office, thus claiming voters' attention when it is most available.

But wouldn't this be the Green Party, one asks?

Hardly.  For all its efforts, the Green Party is essentially a party of the Left, competing directly with the Democratic Party for the votes of those who don't regard the Democrats as liberal enough.  We've seen the results of that.

What's needed is an environmentally-aware party closer to the center - a party informed by the Progressive Republicanism we might associate with Teddy Roosevelt.  Such a party could compete, not just for voters who usually - if reluctantly - vote Democratic, but also for voters who usually - often disgustedly - vote Republican.

I'll elaborate on this theme in future posts.  For now, the important point is to understand why the Democratic Party is not a safe repository for the hopes of those who are committed to doing something serious about climate change.

The Democrats might come to this someday, but by then, it could well be too late.  For the present, the realities of two-party politics give them little incentive to embrace this issue - and many reasons to avoid it.

Monday, March 6, 2017

After Denver


After attending Climate Reality's three-day leadership training in Denver, I have a certificate, a green lapel pin, a few new friends, a dozen or so friendly acquaintances - and a much greater commitment to becoming active in the cause of combatting AGW.

AGW.  Anthropogenic Global Warming.  My choice of terms, not anything official from Climate Reality.

Because, while I have taken the training and signed on with the organization to spread its message, I've never been much of an "organization man".  Climate Reality is an impressive group, as is - I can now say - its founder and chairman, Al Gore.

But I'm still my own man.  Always will be.

But about Al Gore.  The Denver event was Al Gore's event.  I'd expected him to give a welcome address and drop in occasionally to cheer us on.  Not a bit of it.  Of all the speakers, teachers, and panelists we heard over our three-day training, Al Gore shouldered the greatest part of the burden.  He did give a welcoming address, as well as a moving "commencement" speech at the end.  He also chaired several panel discussions.

But the main thing he did was to train us in adapting and presenting of own versions of his famous, and constantly updated, "slide show" - the original of which was featured in the film that won him the Nobel Prize, An Inconvenient Truth.  

Mr. Gore has built a sophisticated organization around this slide show, which has trained some 11,000 volunteers to spread the word about Climate Change, and is rapidly ramping-up its operation.  There were just under 1000 of us at Denver, culled from nearly three thousand who applied to attend.

Two more training sessions will be held in 2017.  The effort is global.  Climate Reality is an impressive organization.

I came away from the Denver training with two main thoughts.  First, I want to do my part as a Climate Reality "leader" - essentially, as a teacher and public speaker.  I want to present a personalized version of the "slide show" - which is what we're mainly asked to do - to as many groups as possible in my part of Virginia.

But second, I want to work outside Climate Reality on the one thing I believe will do the most good - building a third party of the progressive center.

This, in truth, has long been my hope for America.  At the Denver training, as I expected, an overwhelming majority of the attendees were Democrats, or at least, outspokenly anti-Republican.  It would be fair to guess that an overwhelming majority were politically liberal.

For sure, most of them looked at the issue of combatting climate change as a partisan, left-vs.-right battle.

And I don't.

I can readily agree with my fellow Climate Reality members that Donald Trump's administration will be a disaster for America's role in the struggle to maintain a livable planet.

I just don't agree that electing Hillary Clinton would have been a great deal better.  Eight years of Barrack Obama got us a little closer to doing something real about AGW.  Mr. Obama certainly said the right things, and there were some important executive actions - if mostly too little, too late, and too easily reversed by his successor.

But the problem is, the climate fight has become bogged down in partisan trench-warfare.  Democrats embrace the issue of climate change, so Republicans feel obliged to deny its reality, or its urgency.  And that leads to Congressional gridlock.

But not even the Democrats place the issue high on their list of priorities.  Maintaining entitlements, better pay for teachers, equal pay for women, abortion rights, child care, blue-on-black violence, tax breaks for the middle class, infrastructure projects, and a half-dozen other issues - all demanded by one or another of the Democratic Party's constituent tribes - outweigh doing something about a planet which is rapidly warming to a point where really bad things will happen to us all.

And keep happening for centuries, because irreversible processes will have been set in motion.

Now, I don't for a minute believe that America's political paralysis will doom the planet.  Other countries - less troubled by corporate-funded denialism - are moving forward rapidly on this issue.  As are many American cities, a handful of states, and more than a few forward-looking corporations.

We will - as Al Gore believes and argues - save the planet.   The rapid pace of technological change, coupled with market forces and the leadership of the EU (especially Germany and the Scandinavian nations), many developing nations (which will skip right over the fossil fuel stage), and China, will likely save the day.

But in the process, America will cease to lead the world - politically and economically.  We will fall behind, yielding our place of prominence to those who offer real solutions to a grave existential problem.

History works that way.

For me, the answer has long been a new party.  A distinctly nationalistic party, embracing American exceptionalism and American leadership in the world.  A party that sees leadership on AGW as both a noble cause and as an opportunity to extend this nation's influence - for the good - for another half-century or more.

I'll keep writing about this.  And presenting the Climate Reality slide show.  Because to me, the two things go together.

We'll probably survive America's partisan political gridlock.  Just not as the world's leader.

And that shouldn't be.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Off to Denver


Next Wednesday, I'm off to Denver for three days of training by Al Gore's group, Climate Reality.  I'm very much looking forward to the scientific and public policy aspects of the training, because I can put these things to good use.

I'm also looking forward to meeting my fellow trainees, especially the twenty or so with whom I share a Climate Reality mentor.  Since we've been encouraged to introduce ourselves and begin a conversation, it seems logical that we'll function as a group within the much larger mass of trainees.

Since, thus far, everyone seems to be from either Virginia or Nebraska, it also appears that there's some expectation that we'll continue to cooperate - at a state level - after our training.

All of this seems fine.

Two things, however, concern me.  First of all, the organizers have asked about our menu preferences for the lunches we'll be served during training.  There were two options:  Vegetarian and Vegan.

Now, my concern is not that I won't have meat for lunch.  At 65, I generally eat meat only once a day, and not more than four ounces or so then.  Besides, Denver is famous for its steakhouses, and we'll be getting out every day in time for dinner.

What concerns me is this:  If this organization, after many previous training sessions, assumes that all its trainees are either vegetarians or Vegans, that suggests that the demographic of Climate Reality is pretty far to the cultural left.

My second concern comes from the introductions my colleagues have shared with each other.

Now, please don't misunderstand.  I'm going to be training with some incredible people.  A former career attorney with the DoJ's Civil Rights Division.  A former state legislator.  A media company executive.  A career Foreign Service officer.  A career leader in an NGO which operates in a dangerous part of the world.  Several military veterans, including a combat veteran.  Several entrepreneurs.  Several teachers and academics.

I'm honored and humbled to be among such remarkable people.

What troubles me is that, when I read their ideas about how to get America moving toward a rational policy on anthropogenic global climate change - and with all due respect to Mr. Obama, we've yet to have one - I get the sense that nearly everyone in the group (besides myself and one other Virginian) tends to see this fight as lying along the left-right, liberal-conservative, Democratic-Republican "spectrum".

In other words, the good guys are the liberals and Democrats.  The bad guys are the conservatives and Republicans.

And if that's the way things are, right away we're back in the two-party trench warfare which has paralyzed our country since I cast my first presidential ballot, 'way back in the Vietnam-haunted Election of 1972.

If climate change must be won through two-party trench warfare, I really hope those newly-discovered exoplanets around Trappist-1 will support life.  And that someone invents a warp drive during the next few decades.

Because if we have to wait for one side or the other to win America's entrenched, and increasingly extreme, two-party war, the world's only remaining super-power will remain indefinitely on the sidelines in the global effort to respond to planetary warming.

And if America doesn't lead, the job probably won't get done.

For some years now, I've been writing - here and elsewhere - that the only rational solution to our national paralysis lies in creating an effective third party, representing the largest politically-homeless group in the country.

That group does not, as many believe, consist of the "undecided", the "moderates", or the "centrists".  Undecided people, congenital moderates, and those who don't like taking sides, seldom turn into effective political soldiers.

The group I'm interested in consists, for the most part, of people who once considered themselves Republicans - moderate, liberal or progressive Republicans.  Folks who were driven out of the GOP when their party was inundated by two groups of former Democrats: Southern segregationists and Southern and Midwestern evangelicals.

The Strom Thurmond folks and the Jerry Falwell folks.

The influx of these former Democrats, in response to the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and Roe v. Wade, effected a change in the very DNA of the Party of Lincoln, transforming it into a second, very conservative, Democratic Party.

Which proceeded to take power under President Ronald Reagan, a former Democrat.

Political scientists marvelled that so many "Reagan Democrats" had been persuaded to vote Republican.  In fact, the "Reagan Democrats" were smarter than the pol-sci types.  They saw through the labels, and realized that, in voting for Reagan, they were still voting for a version of the Democratic Party.

And the decent, public-spirited, patriotic folks who traced their political heritage back to Hamilton, Clay, Webster, Lincoln, and TR found themselves without a political home.

As one of those people, I'm often asked why I didn't just become a Democrat.  The answer is, I tried.  But it wouldn't take.

The Democratic Party is a coalition of interest groups - mostly demographic groups - each with its own agenda.  It always was - right back to the 1791 "northern tour" Thomas Jefferson and James Madison took to forge an alliance with George Clinton's New York's faction and similar groups in New England.

Things didn't change when Andy Jackson reformed the party as a coalition of slaveowners, expansionists, and northern bankers who didn't want to be regulated.  The Democrats have always been a coalition - as parties born in opposition tend to be.  And coalitions are usually long on log-rolling and short on principle.

The Old Republican Party was another matter.  From its founding - in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and in favor of free soil - it stood for something.  It stood for a vision of the national interest, the general welfare - what the Founders called the Commonwealth.

There are still a great many Americans who would rally to such a unifying vision today.  Many vote for Democrats.  Many more vote for Republicans.  But mainly, we homeless Old Republicans loathe both parties because they represent coalitions of special interests.  Both seem more interested in scoring political points than in governing the nation and moving it forward.

Which brings me back to where I started.

In the battle over climate change, the cause of saving the planet seems to have gotten identified with liberalism and, strangely, with the Democratic Party - which has done precious little about the problem, even when it was in power.

The cause of climate change deniers has, similarly, been embraced by the  Republicans.  And a lot of people who should - and probably do - know better, still vote Republican because they can't bring themselves to vote for Democrats.

Which is why a nation in which most people understand that climate change is real and serious can't form a majority to do something about it.

The only way to win this fight is to understand what Winston Churchill saw in World War I.  In trench warfare, nobody wins.  You need to break the deadlock - either by outflanking your enemy, or by bringing in a huge new source of soldiers - in WWI, the Yanks - to break the stalemate.

Now, whether you consider it a flanking attack or a new source of troops, a new party - essentially the left wing of the Old Republican party - would break the deadlock.  Such a party represents the best chance we have to end the trench warfare and swing America into its rightful place as leader of the global effort to save the planet.

When I get to Denver, I hope to find a few folks - at least - who aren't so locked into the two-party, left-right mentality that they're open to the third-party idea.

If I find a few such people, maybe we can get together for dinner after training one night and make a start.

Perhaps at a good steakhouse.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Resolved


Since the Election of 2016, I have received - in an ever-growing flood - a cascade of email appeals from liberal, progressive and human rights organizations pleading for additional funds with which to fight the incoming Trump Administration and its allies in Congress.

I'm sure many who read this will have received similar appeals in an even greater torrent.  After all, I rarely give much to issue-oriented groups, while many have given them reason to hope for new or added contributions.  I'm rather a dubious prospect, but still, they write.

It's not that I don't appreciate the causes many of these organizations represent.  It's just this:  These organizations, individually and collectively, don't constitute an effective political force.  They may have moral authority.  They might be able to mobilize vast numbers of on-line petitioners, or even put tens of thousands of feet on the pavement.

But they don't run candidates for office.

In a society where power is wielded by elected legislators and executives - and by judges largely chosen by those elected officials - these noble, or at least noble-sounding, organizations asking for year-end contributions don't play in the game that really counts.

They aren't political parties.

To be sure, many of these organizations are doubtless on more-or-less friendly terms with the Democratic Party, but the Democratic Party has long since demonstrated its inability - or downright reluctance - to embrace solutions to problems which go against the vested interests which constitute that party's core coalition.  Or, really, vested interests which are just too big to oppose.

For example, Democrats will fight for Obamacare, but not for any sort of single-payer system or non-profit insurance system.  They dare not oppose the big health insurance companies and Big Pharma,

Nor will they take steps to increase the supply of physicians - a powerful way of lowering costs - by enlarging existing medical schools; building new medical schools; or liberalizing the ways in which foreign doctors, immigrating to the US, may qualify to practice medicine here.  The AMA wouldn't stand for it.

Democrats will advocate better K-12 and early childhood education, but not if a proposed solution in any way offends the teachers' unions.

They will demand action on climate change, but not if the answer annoys Big Oil, the automobile industry, the UAW, or unions engaged in building pipelines.

As an old, established party, the Democrats will do what they must to remain one of the two viable, major parties in the American duopoly.  They won't take risks.  They won't offend the powerful.

Oddly enough, the greatest potential for moving America forward on most issues belongs - at present - to Republicans.  Or rather, to former Republicans - moderate-to-progressive citizens who once belonged to the "citizen" wing of the GOP.

And to young voters who may never have seen a living, breathing moderate or progressive Republican, but who share many of the attitudes once common among that nearly-extinct species.

To put it simply, America needs a new party - a party determined to re-occupy that part of the political spectrum once occupied by the party of Lincoln, before it was hijacked by bigots, theocrats, know-nothings, and thugs.

The causes most liberal and progressive Americans believe in will probably never be accomplished by the Democrats.  They can best be accomplished by a new political party which comes at these issues - not from the traditional left - but from a place more associated with nationalism, even patriotism.

A party which would recognize someone like Teddy Roosevelt, as well as Lincoln, as its ancestor.

Such a party would probably be somewhat politically incorrect.

It would almost certainly be uncomfortably assertive in the international arena.  Which isn't all bad, considering it would probably also be very aggressive on combatting global climate change.

Almost certainly, such a party would not offer free college tuition to young Americans - except in exchange for several years of serious national service.

But then, such a party would probably demand sacrifice from all of us, in order to pursue the good of all of us.

One thing, for sure.  Such a party would not pander.  And thus, it would be far more politically effective than the Democrats have become.

What America needs is not more fund-raising lobbies and advocacy groups.  It needs an organization ready, willing and able to run and elect attractive candidates.  It needs a party which can oust the worst of the neo-con and alt-right politicians who now dominate the Republican Party, replacing them with genuine patriots interested in progress for all.

Such a party, once it exists, would be an organization I'd consider sending money to.

Wouldn't you?

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Celebrate


In just nine weeks, Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.

It's an astonishing thing to contemplate.  An embarrassing thing.  But there it is.

Now, I cannot join wholeheartedly with those who regard the results of November 8 as a national disaster.  For me, and for millions of other Americans, disaster of some sort became a foregone conclusion once the two major parties had nominated their candidates.

A lot of us didn't want Mrs. Clinton either.

But there's no getting around the fact that, while Mrs. Clinton would likely have continued, cautiously and gradually, down the path to destruction, Mr. Trump offers us the potential of an express trip to that destination.

It's going to be a long four years.  I hope we survive it.  I can almost hear Bette Davis advising us to fasten our seatbelts.

A lot of people are already mobilizing to oppose the worst of the prospective Trump appointees, and the most destructive of his policies.  We should all consider joining one or another of these groups because the fight is worth fighting.

And organizing - meeting people, finding common ground - will help a lot in two years, when we have a chance to take Congress away from the Republicans and turn Mr. Trump into a premature lame duck.

For those who seriously desire to transform the United States - to make it genuinely great again - the best bet remains, as it has long remained, a third party.

The Democratic Party is a disaster.  Only the Democratic Party could have arranged to lose to Donald Trump.  Only the Democratic Party could have reduced itself to a party of, for and by the urban coastal elites, while letting the rest of the map turn bright red.

The biggest bloc of entirely unrepresented Americans today is - as it has been for the past 36 years - patriotic citizens who are conservative in the old, honorable sense of believing in gradual, evolutionary change - rather than brilliant departures from tradition, with all their unforeseen consequences.

Citizens who share the values of the old Republican Party, before it was taken over by white bigots and evangelical theocrats, are without a home in today's two-party system.  Their former home, the Republican Party, has become a second, more sinister version of the Democratic Party - another coalition of those who place the tribe ahead of the nation.

What America needs is the genuine Republican Party - the party descended from the Federalists of Washington, Adams and Lincoln, and the Whigs of Webster and Clay.  The party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and George H, W. Bush.

But that's a long, complex story - for another time.

What America needs in just under nine weeks is an alternative for those of us who can't bear to sit at home while the Trumpets are dancing the night away at a dozen Inaugural Balls.

Some years ago, when George W. Bush being inaugurated, one of the local Democratic Committees in the Richmond, Virginia, suburbs rented the beautiful old Byrd Theatre for the night of January 20.  That night, they showed two films - The American President and Dave.  Officially, it was a fundraiser and membership drive - but it also gave a lot of folks a chance to escape, for that one night, the horrors that confronted the nation.

And munch some very good popcorn.

I suggest that good Americans all across the country find a way of doing something similar.  Rent a movie screen if you can. Show The American President, or Dave, or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  

Or Chaplin's The Great Dictator.

Or Spielberg's Lincoln.

Or gather in someone's house and pop in a DVD of The West Wing, or John Adams.

Or listen to a CD of Hamilton.

Or, if you're younger and more technologically up-to-date than I, do something more savvy.  Stream something.  You'll know.

Have a great time, in congenial company, on January 20.  Get a good night's sleep.

And then, get back to work.