Sometimes I write elsewhere. h/t Andrew Sullivan and Rachel Maddow for this one.
During Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine wrote The American Crisis, a series of pamphlets, the first of which was published on December 23, 1776. It’s a lengthy piece by today’s standards, detailing the trials of the early battles of the War and Paine’s thoughts on the Tories (the loyalists to King George).
I was reminded of Paine’s essay this week. Nancy Pelosi alluded to it on Tuesday, “the times have found us,” she said, citing Paine. Yesterday, David Rothkopf, author and commentator, tweeted:
“We need to stop a moment and recognize the stakes, the grievous nature of Trump, McConnell & Barr’s crimes, the preciousness of the institutions and values they are defiling, and the unspeakable damage to America and the world that would be caused were justice not to be done.”
Rothkopf’s initial tweet was followed by a substantial thread, all of which is worth reading.
But for me, Paine’s 18th Century language says it best. I’ve excerpted from his full essay, which then General George Washington thought to be so inspiring that he ordered it to be read to the troops at Valley Forge:
THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. …
…I turn with the warm ardor of a friend to those who have nobly stood, and are yet determined to stand the matter out: I call not upon a few, but upon all: not on this state or that state, but on every state: up and help us; lay your shoulders to the wheel; better have too much force than too little, when so great an object is at stake. Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and to repulse it. … It matters not where you live, or what rank of life you hold, the evil or the blessing will reach you all. The far and the near, the home counties and the back, the rich and the poor, will suffer or rejoice alike. The heart that feels not now is dead; the blood of his children will curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole, and made them happy. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death. … if a thief breaks into my house, burns and destroys my property, and kills or threatens to kill me, or those that are in it, and to “bind me in all cases whatsoever” to his absolute will, am I to suffer it? …Let them call me rebel and welcome, I feel no concern from it; but I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man. …
There are cases which cannot be overdone by language, and this is one. There are persons, too, who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them; they solace themselves with hopes that the enemy, if he succeed, will be merciful. It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war….. men must be either rogues or fools that will not see it. I dwell not upon the vapors of imagination; I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as A, B, C, hold up truth to your eyes.
…By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice and submission, the sad choice of a variety of evils …. Look on this picture and weep over it! and if there yet remains one thoughtless wretch who believes it not, let him suffer it unlamented.Thomas Paine, The Crisis, December 23, 1776.
Paine’s essays appear on a website owned by the Independence Hall Association, a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1942. Copyright © 1999-2019 by the Independence Hall Association. Publishing electronically as ushistory.org. On the Internet since July 4, 1995.
I continue to spend my writing efforts on Democratic politics. Here’s my latest post to the website of the Coconino County Democratic Party:
I’m starting to hear that self-defeating refrain, “I will not under any circumstances vote for X.” Embarrassing himself, David Brooks of the New York Times wrote the morning after the second night of debates an opinion piece entitled, “Dems, Please Don’t Drive Me Away”
It’s your civic duty to vote. No candidate is going to perfectly match your special interests, but one candidate will surely be at least slightly better than the other. If you don’t carry out your duty, democracy will fail. Full stop.
I’m hearing people like David Brooks complain that our candidates are too left-wing and that progressive activists are “nasty” or “too persistent.” Brooks wrote, “The progressive narrative…is dominating because no moderate wants to bear the brunt of progressive fury by opposing it.”
What? Moderate candidates are too weak to stand up to progressives? If moderates can’t do that, how can we expect them to stand up to Russia, China, Iran? Mitch McConnell? Trump?
I think the progressive narrative is dominating because it is the forward-looking narrative. It’s the one talking about real problems. If the moderates’ only platform is that we go back to “civility,” they are in trouble.
The Democratic Party has a responsibility to do more than defeat Trump (though we certainly must do that). We must do more than go back to pre-Trump, Obama-Era policies on climate, heath care, economic opportunity. Yes, we need to stay with the Paris Climate Accord, preserve access to health insurance, and reverse the Trump tax cuts.
But that’s not enough. We need to save the planet, stop bankrupting people with medical problems even when they have insurance, and restructure the tax code to assure everyone pays his fair share. We need to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create innovative infrastructure for the future. We need to educate a workforce that can do that. We need to reclaim our role as a moral leader for human rights on the world stage.
What’s the moderate plan to reach those goals? I’m listening. So far, all I hear is “bipartisanship” and “civility.” I’m all for that, but not at the expense of giving more ground on the issues that are necessary for species survival and preservation of our Constitution and its ideals.
If a moderate prevails in this primary process, you bet I’ll vote for him or her because the alternative of not doing my civic duty is unthinkable. I hope all other Democrats will do the same, including any disappointed moderates who may be stuck with a choice between a progressive and Donald Trump.
I published my latest essay on another blog because of my position as Communications Chair for the Coconino County Democratic Party. You can read it here:
There was a brief, shining moment:
In the beginning, the President (a Republican) sought to preserve public lands and break up monopolies which were oppressing the people. During this time, citizens, acting through their townships and states, established and spread free public education for all American children.
Another President (a Democrat) sought to secure the basic welfare of the people with Social Security.
Another President and Congress welcomed our GIs home from a war that saved the world from fascism by giving them help to attend college, buy homes, and healthcare for life.
Another President (a Republican) enforced desegregation of our schools and connected our country with a great interstate highway system.
Another President (a Democrat) guaranteed healthcare for the elderly and extended health care to the poor while also enforcing voting rights and nondiscrimination in the commercial sphere.
Another President (a Republican) signed laws to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink.
Another President (Republican) signed a law to bring the disabled into fuller participation in our society.
All of that took place over about 90 years.
More recently, for a briefer moment (not 17 years, but 8), another President (a Democrat) extended health care to millions, starting with children and then even more recently to adults.
But to some of our citizens, all of these are simply “costs” not moral imperatives. The power of this minority of citizens has grown while the indifference of the majority has swelled. It’s not clear to me that the majority can be rallied to continue the greatness of 20th Century America. The crass minority has been very good at providing circuses while getting slowly more miserly with the bread they provide. The majority needs to rally or one day they will wake up to find barely enough to live, and many of them will find death.
America is at a crossroads, do we go back to paying for public goods because this is the moral thing to do. Or, do we follow a false slogan? #MAGA is a lie.
Inspired by: The End of the American Experiment
The Women’s March(es) last Saturday were fabulous. Over three million Americans marched in opposition to Donald Trump, and millions more around the world. What are those people doing today?
The Women’s March should not become the new Occupy Wall Street. Instead, it must grow if we are to rescue ourselves from Trumpism. Peaceful revolutions take time, but they are more likely to be successful than violent ones. (Engler and Engler, This Is an Uprising.) To be successful, however, we must recruit many more to join us. Three million marchers (some say it was four) is an impressive number; however, we need 11 million activists to achieve a successful uprising, according to Engler and Engler’s historical research. (3.5% of a nation’s population.) That’s what it took in India and Serbia. Don’t be discouraged by this. Be challenged. If each Marcher enlists just four more people, we’re there.
And, we Marchers must be patient. The first wave of feminists fought for more than 70 years before they won the right to vote; their original standard-bearers — Anthony and Stanton — were dead. African-Americans fought for generations to achieve what they have. And both groups are still fighting to obtain true equality. LGBT citizens fought for decades for the right to marry, but they still don’t have the right to work in most places. We must be patient, but we must act.
So, do you think the first of the March Sponsors’ “Ten Actions for the First 100 Days” — sending postcards — is enough? I certainly don’t. The March webpage devotes many beautiful graphics to urge March participants to buy postcards from iTunes for this first “action.” They will tell us about the second action in 10 more days.
The group “Indivisible” seems to off to a more aggressive start. Tuesday, January 24, is deemed a National Day of Action where Indivisible and MoveOn followers are urged to visit their senators’ offices and demand that Trump’s cabinet appointees be rejected. Indivisible also has three actions listed for the week — all involving keeping the pressure on Congress with phone calls and emails.
Phone calls, emails, and even postcards and tweets are important — note how the destruction of the Ethics Office was called off under pressure and how the confirmation hearings for Sessions and DeVos have been postponed. But these actions do very little toward recruiting more activists to join and work for the cause. People may notice a demonstration and decide to join, but the very best way to recruit more people to our cause is to ask them, directly, in person.
I know that’s hard and that’s scary, but you do want to be effective, don’t you? You can start by talking with your friends and neighbors. Don’t assume everyone is as attuned to the blitzkrieg of horrors that are issuing daily from the Trump Administration. The first step to fighting tyranny is disseminating correct information. Friends don’t let friends succumb to lies. We’ve let too much of that go by in the last campaign.
The next step is getting your recruit to act, to join in the emailing and postcard sending and marching. And, most importantly, voting. Until we turn out the Republicans who control Congress, the White House, and most of our State Houses and Governorships, the country is under threat.
Did you know that it takes three-quarters of the State Legislatures to amend the U.S. Constitution and the Republicans are just one state shy of that number? Imagine an amendment removing The Right to Free Speech from the First Amendment and limiting Freedom of Religion to State-Approved Churches? Does that sound extreme? Did you think it would be too extreme for an Administration to order the EPA and the USDA to stop issuing public health warnings? That happened on Day 1 of the Trump Presidency, we discovered it on Day 4.
The Election of 2018 can’t come soon enough, but we must be ready for it. The Republicans control the U.S. House of Representatives today because of work they did in 2009 in reaction to the election of Barak Obama. If we want to control the House of Representatives in two years and the Presidency four years from now, we must do the work beginning now. We must not only register voters, we must convince them to vote. Trump won with only about 25% of the eligible voters. Most people didn’t vote against Clinton, they just didn’t vote. If we let that happen in 2018, much less 2020, our country as we’ve known it will be gone. I really believe this is not hyperbole.
Did you hear Michael Moore’s speech at the Women’s March on Washington? He said everyone can run for office, “Shy people, there is an office for you. Precinct delegate. Run for precinct delegate.” In Arizona, the “delegate” is called “committeeperson.” We have a lot of open slots for precinct committee persons in Coconino County. We’re training new committee persons now. March on over and join us. It may seem like a long way to 2018, but compared to the 70 years the first wave of feminists waited for the 19th Amendment, it’s no time at all.
The Republican-controlled Congress, in conjunction with Mike Pence and Donald Trump, plan to execute Blitzkrieg next week. Blitzkrieg means “lightning war,” a term from German military tactics in World War II. The object was to disorient and disorganize the enemy with overpowering multiple and simultaneous attacks. The Republicans are about to execute Blitzkrieg politics. To help sports fans understand, the Washington Post has described the plan as the “no-huddle offense.”
As a prelude to the Blitzkrieg coming next week, this week we have a mini-Blitzkrieg going on:
- Revival of the “Holman Rule,” which allows Congress and the President to reduce the pay of any federal worker to $1.00. Thus, if any federal employee attempts to abide by a law that Trump disagrees with, his pay gets slashed. (Perhaps we now understand the Transition Team’s request for specific names of employees involved in enforcing certain policies.)
- Congress made it easier to sell off federal lands, a boon to anti-environmentalists.
- These were part of a package of Standing Rules for the upcoming Congress that can’t be changed for the next two years. Initially, they included eliminating the independent House Ethics panel — and that drew all the fire and press attention so other ugly things slipped through.
- Trump’s battle with Lindsey Graham and John McCain over credibility of the U.S. Intelligence Service. In what world does a President-Elect side with Julian Assange over the combined opinion of the Defense Intelligence Agency, CIA, and FBI? In Trump World, that’s where. “Every American should be alarmed by Russia’s attacks on our nation. There is no national security interest more vital to the United States of America than the ability to hold free and fair elections without foreign interference,” McCain said in his opening statement at Thursday’s hearing.
- Speaker Ryan announced the Republicans will defund Planned Parenthood as part of the budget process they are using to dismantle Obamacare.
Next week will be this week on steroids, as the Washington Post laid out in Thursday’s “202” column. Wednesday will be Blitzkrieg Day:
- Trump gives his first press conference since last summer. This is distraction, period.
- Mitch McConnell has scheduled a “vote-a-rama” on budget bills, including bills related to the repeal of Obamacare (it’s a complicated law, they can’t repeal it in one vote).
- The Senate Hearing to confirm Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (racist, homophobe, misogynist, liar) is set to start. Here’s a handy, more diplomatic summary of his history: https://www.aclu.org/report/report-confirmation-sessions This is the guy who said in November that he wouldn’t characterize grabbing women “by the pussy” as sexual assault; “I think that’s a stretch,” he said.
- The same day, Secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, with his ties to Vladimir Putin and long tenure as CEO of ExxonMobil, will appear before the Foreign Relations Committee to begin his hearing for confirmation as Secretary of State.
- Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Mike Pompeo, appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee to begin the confirmation process. How much media scrutiny can this confirmation hearing get, with important questions about slashing CIA staff numbers and, perhaps, reducing the pay of analysts who criticize Putin (see Holmes Rule, above) on the table?
- The Senate Education Committee will kick off hearings on the confirmation of Elizabeth DeVos, even though she hasn’t yet returned the committee’s written questionnaire or submitted financial disclosures — usually grounds for delaying a confirmation hearing.
- John Kelly’s confirmation hearing to run the Department of Homeland Security, which will have jurisdiction over Trump’s proposed deportation force and crackdown on illegal immigration, begins before the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee.
- Wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Elaine Chao, will appear before the Senate Transportation Committee to begin her hearing as Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Transportation.
In the face of all this activity in one day, it’s hard to imagine that Sessions, Tillerson, and DeVos will get the scrutiny the country deserves based upon their shabby (should I say despicable?) records. Much less will Senators have the opportunity to pin down Pompeo’s plans for disarming the CIA in the face of Putin’s threat. Or John Kelly’s plans for building walls and private prisons.
It’s likely that the process of dismantling Obamacare will begin unnoticed. Once people start getting notices that their insurance is canceled or premiums skyrocket, Trump, Ryan, and McConnell will have free-rein to blame the Democrats for creating the system in the first place.
The night before the Blitzkrieg begins, President Obama will deliver his Farewell Address to the Nation at McCormick Place in Chicago. We can hope he’ll have something useful to say. Perhaps something along the lines of Ike’s warning against the coming “military-industrial complex,” though that hasn’t done us much good. Perhaps he will issue a call to arms that will inspire protests on Blitzkrieg Day. I’m not betting on it. The danger of Obama’s timing is that news coverage of his address will further clog the airwaves and headlines the next morning, distracting the nation from the takeover that is going on.
What can we do? Remain vigilant, remain focused. Read and quote credible news sources rather than inflammatory, discreditable ones. Organize, protest. Demand that your Senators and Congresspeople represent YOU, not the oligarchs. Note that this week that when Congress was flooded with calls and emails about their action to get rid of the House Ethics Office, they reversed course.
Now would be a good time to start composing your phone and email messages to be part of the flood that, I hope, will overwhelm Mitch McConnell’s Leader Office and Kentucky home state offices next Wednesday, Blitzkrieg Day.
In World War II, Blitzkrieg caused shock and disorganization among the Germans’ enemies, enabling the Germans to defeat the opposing forces with minimal resources. Let’s not become shocked or disorganized.