Monday, June 12, 2017

George Washington’s Warning About American Despotism: A Cautionary Tale for Today

Although known as his Farewell Address, the words Washington selected were never spoken to an audience. The president arranged with David C. Claypoole, editor and proprietor of the Daily American Advertiser to print his letter in the Philadelphia newspaper in September of 1796. As one reads Washington’s words in his Farewell Address, an adept reader may be astounded at how remarkably prophetic they are. Some of what Washington conveyed to his countrymen about the divisiveness of political parties reveals the president’s genuine wisdom:

The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

President Washington expressed genuine concern in that “the alternate domination” of one political party over another, thereby allowing one party to enjoy temporary power over the government that would use it to obtain revenge on the other. He seriously felt that this tendency toward atrocities directed at the party out of power “…is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism.”

Washington understood what America would become if “a wise people” did not do their duty to discourage and restrain the over-zealous development of political parties.
Unfortunately, it may be too late to restrain the hunger for power evident in America’s political parties in this day; such power now seems entrenched as it has become evident that both major political parties have a hard time yielding to the will of the people.

The presidential election of 2016 had offered some hope as a “wise people”  to have wised up, and the antics of the 2016 election have helped many a naïve American citizen awaken to the realities of what “We the People” have allowed over several decades as the two major political parties  “ran the show.” Americans trusted the political process, but now realize the political system is broken – and it threatens the existence of the very nation Washington and those of the founding generation had fought so hard to create.

If enough Americans can awaken in this time, they may begin to realize that it is not just one political party that is the problem, it is both political parties that have led to the state of politics that allows an aristocratic political elite to ignore America’s founding principles and values. If enough Americans can awaken in this time, the nation may be able to avoid the “frightful despotism which can lead at length to a more formal and permanent despotism.”

Friday, January 27, 2017

Report Card: The First 100 Days

The massive recent massive rallies in Washington D.C. (500,000 women, men, and children) and the rallies all across the country and globally are evidence that the majority of people are very concerned about the new administration’s increasing radical agenda. They are concerned about losing health care, the freedom of the press, the economy, women’s rights, our global relationships with other countries, the Russian interference in our election, Trump’s illogical admiration of Putin, and our general well-being and safety. They are concerned about the attempts to undo all of the good that President Obama did for us and our country in his two terms. They are concerned about protecting the Obama legacy. I share those concerns.

The first amendment is meant to protect our freedom of speech, freedom of press, and our right to assembly to petition the government to redress citizen concerns. That is why we are seeing increasing efforts to have our voices heard and to resist the Trump agenda.

There is also great alarm in America about the “twilight zone” aura that being an American impacted by the new administration seems to evoke. Trump’s thin skin, ignorance of issues, his lack of experience, his hubris, his  penchant for revenge, his need for constant acclamation or praise, his blatant disregard for fact in favor of his own alternate facts that make up his own bubble of his own reality.

Even some Republicans, according to Veteran Beltway journalist Carl Bernstein share such concerns for Trump’s emotional stability. Bernstein told CNN recently that discussions in Washington this week have been, "unlike anything I have seen in 50 years as a reporter." Bernstein further stated, “I am hearing from Republicans, and other reporters are as well, that there is open discussion by members of the President of the United States’ own party about his emotional maturity, stability. People are saying that his psyche is driving the news cycle. We are in uncharted territory here and we ought to talk to some of our colleagues about what they are hearing. [I think it’s a really fruitful area because] I’ve never heard [people] talking about a president… the way this subtext is now a talking point.”

Do the masses of people who gathered all across our country and globally in attempt to voice concerns and to resist Trump’s agenda have that right? Ryan and the Republicans are complaining about the failure of Democrats to play the role of a “loyal opposition” that willingly compromises and cooperates with them and the wrecking crew the incoming administration has assembled to destroy essential programs—beginning with Health Care—while redistributing wealth to the billionaire class that is its core constituency.

The Speaker of the House claims Trump “earned a mandate” for a "go big or go bold", while Trump “counselor” Kellyanne Conway is not just claiming a mandate but complaining that critics of the billionaire are “attempting to foment a permanent opposition that is corrosive to our constitutional democracy.”

I would argue that the 3 million people who voted against Donald Trump in favor of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party do have a right to resist. Fifty-four percent of Americans voted for someone other than Donald Trump. He has earned no political honeymoon.

If D.J. Trump’s first week in office is indicative of his first 100 days, let alone four years of his administration, he receives a failing grade on his report card. 
I am quoting an article, “President Trump: The Normal, the Abnormal, and the Truly Alarming” by Georgia Logothetis to explain why Trump gets a failing grade:

“We begin today’s roundup with The New York Times and its editorial on Donald Trump’s “tantrum” on Mexico:
Less than a week into the job, President Trump on Thursday raised the specter of a trade war with America’s third-largest partner, Mexico, as the White House warned that the United States could impose a 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports. [...]
Sending the Mexican economy into a tailspin is the surest way to reverse that trend, which historically has been driven by market forces, and has never been deterred much by fences or walls. Besides, a tax on Mexican imports would be paid by American consumers and businesses that buy those goods. Americans would pay for the wall, not Mexicans.

Tim Mack at The Daily Beast breaks down Donald Trump’s “word salad” at the GOP retreat:
When he arrived Thursday, he delivered a word salad of a speech—a rambling, self-aggrandizing set of remarks characterized by vague promises, questionable claims, and confusion. Notably, Trump pledged to Republican lawmakers that he would investigate voter fraud—an issue driven almost entirely by himself, and based on no evidence—prompting a dull silence from Republicans in the crowd, many of whom wish the topic would just go away. [...]
Trump’s opposition isn’t just going to get used to it. Protests erupted outside as Trump addressed the Republican faithful. It seems that the City of Brotherly Love doesn’t have much love for President Trump—thousands gathered to demonstrate against the newly sworn-in president.

Ed Kilgore added:
The congressional Republican retreat in Philadelphia this week was supposed to foster highly efficient private discussions and briefings, and let the solons emerge from their labors revealed as a lean, mean, legislating machine. From reports at the end of the first day, however, they looked more like lost sheep, disappointed at the inability of their leaders to provide clear direction on how they would negotiate the tangle of health care, budget, and tax legislation they’ve committed to enact. There is particular anxiety about the very first item on everyone’s agenda: the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

Adam Gopnik at The New Yorker on “1984”:
The blind, blatant disregard for truth is offered without even the sugar-façade of sweetness of temper or equableness or entertainment—offered not with a sheen of condescending consensus but in an ancient tone of rage, vanity, and vengeance. Trump is pure raging authoritarian id.
And so, rereading Orwell, one is reminded of what Orwell got right about this kind of brute authoritarianism—and that was essentially that it rests on lies told so often, and so repeatedly, that fighting the lie becomes not simply more dangerous but more exhausting than repeating it. Orwell saw, to his credit, that the act of falsifying reality is only secondarily a way of changing perceptions. It is, above all, a way of asserting power.

Steven Rattner, writing in The Washington Post, warns on an under-the-radar Trump nominee:
[W]ithin the Trump team, the views of Representative Mick Mulvaney, Republican of South Carolina, his little-known choice to lead the important Office of Management and Budget, rank as among the most reactionary.
Only slivers of this were visible in Mr. Mulvaney’s uneventful confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
In fact, Mr. Mulvaney — a founding member of the Freedom Caucus with an almost perfect conservative voting record — spent his six-year congressional career leading the charge against federal spending and borrowing, voting against everything from Hurricane Sandy relief to reopening the government after the 2013 shutdown.
His intransigence placed him well to the right of Republican leadership, including former Speaker John Boehner, whom he repeatedly opposed for — get this — being excessively soft on 

Catherine Rampell points out Trump is running the government like he ran his failing businesses:
One week into the presidency, we’ve gotten a taste of Trump’s management style. And so far it’s been plagued by many of the bad habits common to poorly run businesses. Take, for example, his administration’s clear indifference to — or outright rejection of — good measurement and analytics. [...] Needless to say, there are major differences between running a business and running a government; it’s a myth that aptitude at one necessarily translates to aptitude at the other. But with ineptitude, maybe it’s a different story.

And, on a final note, Damon Linker breaks down “the normal, the abnormal, and the truly alarming”:
For the first time in my life, I genuinely fear for the future of the nation's democratic norms and institutions. But that doesn't mean that every single thing the new president does or says is an occasion for full-bore panic. More than ever, all of us need to keep our heads and not fall into a pattern of issuing hourly alarms about the imminent demise of democracy and advent of a fascist dictatorship in the United States.

Some of what we're seeing is truly alarming — direct challenges to liberal democratic norms. But other moves are typical early actions of post-Reagan Republican presidents, while still others go much further than previous administrations but should be considered acceptable (if perhaps deeply worrying) efforts to shift policy direction in a dramatic though not democratically illegitimate way.

It is crucially important to distinguish among these different types of moves. It's the only way to maintain some sense of equilibrium and orientation in a profoundly destabilizing and deranging moment in American political history.

In conclusion, I think it is necessary for the media and the masses to be on a persistent Trump watch, hold him accountable, and resist his radical and damaging agenda.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Voting Your Conscience in the 2016 Election: What Keeps Me Awake at Night

John F. Kennedy wisely said, “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” The words of our beloved former President Kennedy, whose life was tragically taken by the assassination of a madman in 1963, are especially prophetic for the 2016 United States Presidential election. So were the words of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, in saying, “The only danger that America really needed to fear would come from within: If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
The importance of being informed this election year and voting wisely is more important than at any other time in our country’s recent history. What is at stake is stark! I have tried to think like Trump supporters in an attempt to assess why they would support such a candidate, but I have found that task impossible and incomprehensible.
I feel that voters have a moral imperative to become more informed about the actual facts about the real Donald Trump and not just swallow his hype and attention-getting sound bytes. To do so would mean that voters should study the policy differences of both candidates and become informed about the Constitution of the United States of America - ( at least more informed about the U.S. Constitution than Donald Trump, who apparently believes it has 12 articles in it, seems to be ). It would mean reading reliable sources and viewing universally trusted and more non-partisan news media on television and radio and on the Internet rather than limiting themselves to the bias and frequent misinformation of the pundits on Fox News (an apparent favorite of Trump supporters).
Below are some actual facts about Donald Trump, based upon his own words and behavior displayed in his rallies and other public appearances. These are facts that voters need to know:
Mr. Trump’s style, personality, racism, and insults are not patriotic, much less presidential. Such style does not lend itself to the ability to govern, to accept compromise, or to understanding the viewpoints and objectives of others. As a representative of the US, he engenders more an image of distrust, win at any cost, and selfishness.
Mr. Trump’s personal criticism of one American-born citizen and its extension to an entire population is the epitome of class racism. In addition, it reveals a basic flaw in Mr. Trump’s childish bullying practices and paranoia: the rulings that are deemed as “unfair” because he didn’t get what he wanted.

Mr. Trump’s proposal to build a wall separating Mexico “and have Mexico pay for it” promotes a first step toward isolationism, a tactic that will, without a doubt, cause harm to the US economy, citizenry and our country’s image throughout the world. His position for non-support of NATO is another step toward dangerous isolationism.

Mr. Trump  has spoken of global warming as a hoax, but seeks permits to build a(nother) wall to protect his golf course in Scotland (citing coastal erosion and a rising sea level). This is a prime example of his hypocrisy.

Mr.Trump changed his position on gun control, especially in regard to assault-type weapons. While once supporting an assault weapons ban and longer waiting periods, his recent switch is an effort to gain NRA support and paint Mrs.Clinton as one who would “abolish the Second Amendment”.

Mr.Trump made an extraordinary plea for a foreign power to continue cyber espionage against America. In Donald Trump’s own words: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said at a press conference in Miami, Florida on Wednesday. “I think you’ll be rewarded mightily by our press!”
Many have questioned whether such a call by a presidential candidate is a crime or is treasonous. At the very least, it is a statement that makes it apparent that Mr. Trump lacks the judgment and temperament to assume the role of the president of our country.  Federal law does say that it's illegal to "counsel or induce" someone else to commit a crime, and a former federal prosecutor says Trump's statement "approaches the line."
Mr. Trump’s persistent criticism of Muslims and his suggested ban on immigration are counter to long-established values and practices that are inherent in the Constitution and in the American experience. His brash blanket statements reveal the wrong things about American character.

 In the poignant appearance of Muslim lawyer Khizr Khan and his wife whose son, Humayun, an Army captain who posthumously received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery after he was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004, is a testimony to the cruel injustice of Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim ban and his ignorance of the U.S. Constitution  and to his apparent lack of awareness of what really makes America great already.  
As his wife, Ghazala, stood silently by his side, Khan held up a copy of the Constitution and asked Trump if he had ever read it and said, “You have sacrificed nothing.”

You can view, by clicking the link provided here, the heart wrenching appearance of this intelligent, patriotic, and grieving Muslim mother and father in their DNC convention appearance talking about the loss of their son and passionately addressing  Mr. Trump for his Muslim discriminatory statements.

Quoting Tony Schwartz, the ghost writer of The Art of the Deal, a man who learned a lot about Mr. Trump during his writing process, "People are dispensable and disposable in Trump’s world. If Trump is elected President, the millions of people who voted for him and believe that he represents their interests will learn what anyone who deals closely with him already knows—that he actually couldn’t care less about them.

The possibility that Donald Trump could be elected as President of the United States of America is a frightening one. If that were to happen, it would be a constitutional disaster for our democracy and a catastrophe for our country’s  freedoms, safety and security. I am paraphrasing the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, when she stated that the fact that anyone who can be baited with a Tweet has no business anywhere near the nuclear codes. And to think that, as a nominee of the Republican Party, Donald Trump will soon be given, as is traditional, National Intelligence Security briefings! These are all the types of thoughts that keep me awake at night.

Note: My various blogs are, not only meant to be informative for various types of reading audiences on various subjects, but are also intended to be promotional and lend public exposure to my published books.
I am the author of three award-winning children's books that aim to advocate for the well-being, education, and entertainment of children. The books include What Would You Do? A Kid's Guide to Staying Safe in a World Strangers (published by Headline Books, Inc.), Scary Ghosts and Playful Ghosts: Children's Tales of Fright and Delight (published by Crimson Cloak Publishing), and The Bully and the Booger Baby: A Cautionary Tale (published by Write Solution Ink).

Readers may also access book information, as well as useful information and resources that advocate for the education, well-being and entertainment of children by visiting my book website, Melissa Harker Ridenour Books.

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