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Friday, August 02, 2019

What a Democrat should say

The Democrats in this week's debates focused mostly on one another, making appeals to the most vocal and committed Democratic constituencies as they understand them in an attempt to make headway in the long struggle for the nomination.  They essentially ignored, in my opinion, the broader and more critical task of laying the groundwork for a successful general election campaign.  Count me among the many commentators who feel that they, and the nation, may pay very dearly for that approach next year--even though it is a sadly understandable result of the primary system that the late 1960s bequeathed to us.

Like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren (my candidate at this moment), and some of the others, I too want to return to the principles of the New Deal and mount a real attack on inequality.  I fear, however, that after eight years of an Obama presidency that failed to make much progress on those issues, such plans are going to ring rather hollow. More importantly, I think that, with our political system in a state of nearly total collapse, policy advocacy puts the cart before the horse.  Before our government can do meaningful things, it must start functioning again at all.  And to illustrate my point, I have written a draft speech, below, that I would like to hear a Democratic candidate deliver.  I don't know if this may reach the eyes or ears of any of the campaigns, but let me take this opportunity to renounce any copyright over these words and to donate any or all of them to anyone who wants to use them in the hope of getting the United States out of the awful mess that it is in.

"Like other Democrats, I have many hopes and plans for a better future for us and our people—hopes and plans that I will immediately begin working with Congress to achieve if I am fortunate enough to be elected.  Yet for us to focus on such plans, it seems to me, risks obscuring the most important stakes of next year’s election, the reasons that it is truly vital—a matter of life and death for the nation—that the Democratic candidate, whoever it may be, defeat Donald Trump.  The nation faces an unprecedented crisis because no man remotely comparable to Donald Trump has ever occupied the White House.  That is not primarily because of any of the policies his administration is implementing, but rather because he is utterly unfit, and he shows us nearly every day, to perform the duties of the great office, the tasks upon which the proper functioning of our government, economy and society depend.  He has no personal managerial skills.  He has no idea where to get real information and how to use it.  His foreign policy, as a result, has been disastrous. At home, he has utterly failed to turn most of his proclaimed goals into reality.  His rhetorical style cannot possibly bring the nation together for a common purpose.  He was elected largely because both major parties failed to provide the nation with more inspiration and better candidates.  Whatever our political views, though—and here I speak from my heart both to my fellow Democrats and to the nation’s Republicans, who I know care just as much about our country as we do—we simply must remove him from office in the next election in order to get the United States back on track.

"No President, of course, can run the United States government by himself.  Every President’s success or failure depends on the men and women that he appoints and his ability to work with them.  Two and a half years into his  administration, President Trump has left no doubt that he cannot trust men and women with experience and competence, that such people rapidly find it impossible to work with him at all, and that he has no idea how to make use of the vast human resources at his disposal.
Simple statistics tell the story.  The President has already had three White House chiefs of staff.  He has had two secretaries of state, three secretaries of defense, three attorneys general, three secretaries of homeland security, two ambassadors to the United Nations, and three national security advisers.  Discarded officials include a former CEO of one of the world’s leading corporations, three senior retired generals, and a former senior US Senator.  The President has often berated his own appointees in public, something that I cannot recall any other President ever doing.  He has no sense, clearly, of the processes that make government work, and he has allowed his current National Security Adviser to stop holding the regular meetings that have generated and approved our foreign policies for decades.  Meanwhile, he has given unprecedented foreign policy authority to his son-in-law, and given security clearances to a number of people whom the security authorities had denied them.  As so many of us know from our own experience, the style of a top manager inevitably infects his whole organization, and that has happened in Washington now.  An extraordinary number of senior governmental positions still remain unfilled more than two year’s after the president’s inauguration.  All of us, of course, complain periodically about specific acts of our government, and Americans have different views of exactly what it should do, and how it should do it.  Yet very few Americans deny that we need it to function effectively. That it cannot do as long as Donald Trump remains President.

"Foreign policy in our system is largely the responsibility of the President and his subordinates.  This President has conducted most of his foreign policy singlehandedly, basing it, apparently, on his personal esteem for certain authoritarian leaders around the world, including Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and others.  The steps that he has been taken on major issues have therefore been inconsistent and ineffective. Nuclear proliferation remains a pressing problem around the world, and the Obama Administration had scored a remarkable success by reaching an agreement with Iran that stopped its progress towards a possible nuclear weapon. President Trump repudiated that agreement without having anything to put in its place. Meanwhile, after threatening North Korea with destruction if it did not halt its nuclear program, he has twice traveled halfway around the world to meet with the tyrant Kim Jong Un, signing a meaningless agreement that did nothing to halt his program the first time, and failing to make any progress the second.  The President has blocked bipartisan proposals from Congress to punish the Saudi government for murdering a journalist residing in the United States at its consulate in Turkey.  He has insulted many friendly foreign leaders, and even singled out local foreign officials in countries that he was visiting, violating the diplomatic norms that make international relations possible.  The President frequently rejects the judgments of professional intelligence officers on matters vital to national security, such as Russia’s interference in our elections.  Were Donald Trump a thoughtful and well-informed man, he might at times be able to substitute his own judgment for the bureaucracy’s, as other chief executives have done—but he is not.  He is probably the least curious and worst-informed man ever to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

"In his career as a developer, Donald Trump continually announced magnificent projects, projected enormous profits for all, took out huge loans, failed to make good on them when his forecasts proved illusory, and had to declare bankruptcy.  A good deal of what has happened during his presidency fits the same pattern.  He railed against the federal deficit, which had shrunk steadily under President Obama, during the campaign—now he has more than doubled it, even though the economic growth begun under President Obama has continued.  He railed against illegal immigration, which has suddenly increased.  He is already blaming the Federal Reserve Board, loudly, for anything that might go wrong in the future.  He has no understanding of how the international economy works, and continues to insist that foreign countries pay for his tariffs, which in fact foreign exporters simply pass on to US consumers in the form of higher prices.  His trade war has hurt American farmers badly.  The United States cannot expect genuine economic progress under a man who insists, again and again, that two plus two make five.

"Having failed repeatedly as a businessman, the President discovered his true calling in our new century, hosting a reality show where he bullied contestants before a huge audience and further propagated the myth of his genius.  That was a harmless diversion, but we cannot afford any more of the same spectacle coming from the White House.  Presidents cannot fire their fellow citizens.  They owe us all honesty, respect for our views, and a genuine, sincere attempt to do the nation’s business well. That, this President cannot provide.  He continually insults large segments of the population in inflammatory terms.  He has demanded investigations of many political opponents, as well as officials of the federal government.  He delights in dividing us by race and national origin.
Today, as always, Democrats and Republicans disagree, both with each other and among themselves, on the future course of the nation.  Yet we can surely agree that the nation has no chance of steering a sensible course and working together for sensible aims as long as Donald Trump remains President.  Our system was not designed for, and cannot function with, a man like this in the White House.  Let us begin to restore some of our great traditions as a nation with a free government, re-establish respect and trust among us, and see, once again, what we can do.  We can start that process in the fall of November 2020 and get it underway full speed ahead the next January.  It is up to us."


Energyflow said...

The odd thing being that your speech seemly does what Trump wants all along, focus on him, getting him publicity and winning him the election. I prefer Tulsi Gabbard as she is for bringing the troops home and for this the Mccarthyite media, who invented the rssiagate controversy, are tarring her similarly. War is America's bipartisan business. If candidates would focus on issues and have a broad, realistic plan then one would be able to vote for them. The worst candidates will undoubtedly be supported by the media in a previously agreed manner as in the Clinton candidature. I mean candidates who are clearly out for personal poer at all costs with no personal morality or deeper convictions. Trump is very much a bloodhound in this regard, being from the swamp of NYC businessmen. Who could get past Trump's attacks? First of all one must be supported by the media but only people of weak, evil character, beholden to the military industrial complex and its forever wars and other forms of internal or external exploitation of Americans and foreigners will get this support. Trump would and will destroy these people winning easily. Eery lie like Biden in Ukraine or Warren's permanent assertion of native American ancestry will be uncovered. Harris has already been revealled by Gabbard. I suppose one would have to outdo Trump in blunt spokenness to defeat being a Boris Johnson or Duterte of Phillipines. Having no fear of finding real dirt on him while having either a perfect record plus a clean vest and a perfect sense of propaganda control. Seems unlikely and hopeless. The mob in America wants to see old style politicians hanged. Barring that they get to have their revenge and get a polit-clown in their place. Everyone knows the presidency has little weight for change as lobbyists and media control everything and laws are written by corporations, hardly read before being voted on by bought up politicians(campaign finance). As long as eldctions are a farce why not elect the court jester? Ike's speech warning of the military industrial complex remains true. I read an article that revealed the ineffectiveness of military spending as such companies must turn a profit. No bids are competitive as there is exactly one contractor for any ship, plane,etc. Since orders are so infrequent expertise among engineers(nuclear subs, etc.) Is dying out in specialty areas. The enemy will easily speed past and needs no profit margin so that they can beat us at 10% of the budget for defense. America massiively overspends for higly overdesignd ineffective equipment and is on the brink of bankruptcy. Essentially this system is corrupt. The public see that as well as post 2008 socialism for banksters and the Obamacare bill which health management organizations and pharmaceutical industry wrote for congress. Universities support layers f high paid bureaucrats using govt based student debt for soft degrees. The underlying basis of all of this is the broad based dollar usage denoted by Saudi oil prices whom we protect militarily at al costs, regardless of human rights atrocities. So from top to bottom nothing is clean here. If a cynical nonpolitician thumbed his nose at this to reveal the unreality of the matrix then ok. Only a second Lehman style collapse or a series of rapid sinking of US Aircraft carriers by unknown torpedoes globally could stop this. I hold little hope for serious change but in 1989 the fall of the Berlin Wall seemed a miraculous event.

Bozon said...


I have to agree with Energyflow's account, such as it is, especially "...your speech...focus on him...".

Having skimmed the speech, I don't recall a party platform plank in it except a negative one: defeat Trump somehow. Maybe I missed them amid the anti Trump diatribe.

Part of the reason for that is that the party is so fragmented that it would have great difficulty putting one plank next to another, a difficulty not shared, for example by Lincoln Republicans, who were basically a single issue anti slavery sectional party. Neither Democrats nor Republicans, now or recently, enjoy that kind of platform issue focus.

All the best

mike said...

I, too, would prefer Tulsi. And, Mr. Kaiser, it is surprising that even now you suggest russiagate is legitimate.

Larry said...

Actually I think these comments on Trump have a useful purpose. Anyone who has watched the recent Netflix documentary "The Great Hack" becomes aware that Cambridge Analytical and Russian bots used personal data from FB, Google and other tech sources to manipulate and influence people referred to as "persuadables". These are the people that seldom vote, if at all. It is the term that operatives at Cambridge Analytical used asserting these were the 70,000 voters that swung the states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania for Trump.

It is possible that once these "persuadables" realized they were dupes by Cambridge Analytical and Russian bots and that have now seen the true side of Trump are less likely to vote at all in 2020 which of course would hurt rump more than the Democratic contender

Bruce Wilder said...

There is a split in the Democratic Party, a deep fracture really that has opened up in the on-going process of partisan and ideological re-alignment enveloping both Parties.
Whether the Party should prioritize the defeat of Trump over the achievement of fundamental reforms of either governance or economic policy reveals and highlights the deep divide within the Democratic coalition, at both the elite level of partisan activists, operatives and politicians and within the somewhat fluid electoral base of probable and possible voters.
The Democratic Party is in trouble for the same reason that the political system as a whole is in trouble: the political system is massively unresponsive to what we used to call the Will of the People. Public Opinion counts for very little when it comes to policy enactments, which scholars have demonstrated are shaped almost entirely to conform to the needs and expectations of giant business and financial corporations and billionaires.
The Democratic Party establishment, made up largely of media consultants and campaign consultants alongside politicians, is deeply cynical about policy and deeply invested in a business model that focuses on delivering voters in ways that do not interfere with the policy preferences of mega-donors. The Democratic Party establishment is systematically moving the Party to the Right, promoting Congressional candidates with backgrounds in the military and security services and seeking the support of erstwhile suburban Republicans alienated by Trump's style and manner.
Those seeking as a priority, policy reform, whether in domestic economic policy or with regard to the insane foreign policy of perpetual war and economic financial sanctions using the reserve currency and international payments status of the dollar, are outsiders to the Democratic Party.
On the whole, I think an objective observer would have to see that the outsiders are losing the contest for the Democratic Party. The appetite in the country as a whole for Sanders' rhetoric of class war from below remains very limited; even if Warren's quite different base of support for policy change is added to Sanders' it is not clear that either or both in reluctant alliance can carry the day of nomination or wrest control of the Party apparatus from the nearly dead hands of those who hold it now.
A political realignment does not happen in one Party alone. It is quite possible that the Democratic Party outsiders will eventually exit the Party for a new establishment. And, in the meantime, the Republican Party -- which has, if it is possible, an even more severe discontinuity of ideology and policy preferences between its elite politicians and operatives on the one hand and its voters on the other -- is experiencing its own stresses and strains.
It seems quite possible to me that this period of partisan realignment will end with the collapse of both Parties. If the actual operation of government is in the unshakable grip of an economic oligarchy of giant business corporations and billionaires, it is hard to see what the point of Parties is if they must elect only spokesmodel-politicians who will speak the talking points handed to them by PR hacks and corporate lobbyists.
Setting up a stab-in-the-back narrative with which to blame those who seek urgently needed economic and foreign policy reform for a failure of the Democratic Party to displace Trump on a platform of upper-class complacency and indifference seems superfluous as well as analytically vacuous.