A Modified Look

Notes from the Administrator:

Over the past months you may have noticed some appearance problems at our blog-site. These were caused by software incompatibilities with the widgets. Today I changed WordPress themes in order to fix those problems. Everything other than the look should be the same. All previous blog posts, comments, media, and site contents are retained. If you run into any problems, please let me know.

I came across this pictue that I thought was interesting. It shows our torch logo as it originally appeared. This is a flyer for the Social Democratic Party in Peekskill, New York in 1900. Compare it to our current logo on our home page.

And finally, a reminder that Subscribe and Unsubscribe functions are User-Controlled on our home page in the right hand column.

In solidarity,
Rick

 

Massachusetts Social Democrats Kicks Off Web Site, Seeks Members

Following a successful tabling at the Democratic convention in June, Massachusetts Social Democrats unveiled its new web site and Facebook page last Saturday. Eldon Clingan, Chair of the Bay State group, said that its purpose is to disseminate social democratic ideas to the progressive movement and to provide space for their discussion. “We welcome social democrats from several activist groups in our state,” he said. “We don’t seek to supplant such groups but to supplement their efforts with education and advocacy.” He said that MSD is planning future distribution of social democratic printed materials, in addition to its web site, and that the group is hoping to sponsor a conference on the future of progressive politics after the fall general election. He pointed out that MSD has made arrangements with Dissent Magazine to provide each member with a digital subscription, normally a $19.95 value, as a member benefit. “Since member dues are only $20 a year, we think that’s a good deal,”. Clingan said.

MSD’s Secretary/Webmaster is Michael Passarini, a student at the University of Massachusetts- Boston. The web site can be found at masocialdemocrats.org.

Most Republicans see nothing wrong with Trump’s collaboration with Putin–why?

It would be easy to say that the Republicans are “disloyal” to America, but I think the truth is much more complicated than that. Because the very meaning of loyalty has changed.

I remember back when the movement against the Vietnam war was in full swing, NIxon called on the “silent majority” to strike back and indeed there was a period when the majority did support the war, including some Democrats who later became “Reagan” Democrats. The silent majority regarded themselves as the patriots and many of them regarded the protesters as traitors outside the pale.

What has changed today is that the grassroots Republicans have a new definition of what it means to be an American, and hence of what patriotism, as well as loyalty, involves.

Many whites–not just the white working class but many who are college educated and in middle class jobs, as well as many small business people and farmers–have come to see THEIR America, white America, as under siege by hostile invaders: blacks, Hispanics, other nonwhite people, immigrants either undocumented or documented, the LGBT community, and women who refuse to be dominated and mistreated.

Over the eight years of Obama the lurking bigotry in the minds of Republicans turned hard and cruel–Obama became the symbolic focus of their hate, which was cynically brought to a pitch by skilled racist operatives. Now Trump’s Republican followers deeply feel that THEIR America is being taken away from them. This is far more important to them than any cerebral issue of national security, the Atlantic alliance and NATO as defined by the Washington “elite.” They want THEIR America back–the America they delude themselves into thinking they once controlled, as if the banks and the billionaires never had, or don’t still have, the upper hand.

The Christian Right feels the same way but they have a pop-theological overlay to it: They believe that not only is America being taken away from whites but it is being taken away from them AS Christians. They too want America back, they want THEIR Christian white America back, and many of them want Dominion over believers and nonbelievers alike.

So when they are told by the media “elite” that Trump is collaborating with Putin, that is not a negative thing to them. Trump is giving them what they want. And Putin is helping Trump to do it. Putin is supporting their patriotism (as they define it) by helping Republican candidates win elections. Putin is helping them keep their guns and he’s helping them outlaw abortion and gays, and he’s helping Trump stay in power. Thus many Republicans will say openly that Putin’s a great guy and others will think it privately.

Most of them are not going to change on this point. Supporting Trump and defending Trump’s collaboration with Putin is “patriotic” and “Christian.” It is the immigrants, the blacks, the gays, and the liberal women who support Planned Parenthood who are the REAL enemies of white America and of the Bible. Not some guy thousands of miles away in Moscow.

The Trump base has upended the traditional meaning of patriotism so that the Democrats and progressives, not Putin, are the true enemies of America.

Expect no help from the Republicans in taking steps to stop Russian interference in the November elections. Trump’s base will not allow it; indeed his base will regard doing so as the very OPPOSITE of protecting America.

Dan Rather said after Trump’s election that some day there will be better news. He didn’t say “soon,” he said “some day,” like we had entered an extended period of travail. But there is a window of opportunity to lessen that period. All Americans alarmed about the future of our country under Trump and his far right allies need to turn out this November (and make sure their friends and family turn out and get the ID they need not to be turned away at the polls) to help take back Congress. Likewise we should all donate to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and to groups such as the NAACP, Planned Parenthood and the labor movement that are rallying the public in support of the issues and values traditionally defended by the Democrats. And if you know people who are unable to get to the polls, either because of illness or because their boss won’t let them take time off to vote, make sure they send in a ballot by mail.

If we take advantage of this brief window of opportunity, we will have a fighting chance to take back at least the House. But this will require a turnout like never before, because the Russians and the Mercer family’s newest tech crew will be cherry picking districts for ballot deletion and the Christian Right will be mobilizing on a huge scale to kill Roe v. Wade.

If we do win back the House and make big gains on the state level, the other side will still have the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the millions of assault rifle owners and the money of billionaires such as the Kochs, Mercers and Murdochs. But we’ll be able to start limiting Trump’s damage, in some policy areas, thanks to the Democrats gaining this toehold of power.

And toeholds, if they are held tenaciously (as in a rather obvious example from 1944), have a tendency to eventually burst the doors wide open.

Will the Russians help the GOP again this year? What can we do about it?

The Democratic lead in the race to control the House has lessened in recent months, and it is unclear if the Dems can mobilize core voters on a level that will compensate for the advantage the GOP has gained from recent gerrymandering and racially targeted voter suppression laws. I have a suspicion that the Christian Right, thanks to Trump’s Supreme Court picks, is going to mobilize its base this November in the most spectacular manner ever seen in midterms–the 20 percent asserting its Dominion over the 80 percent while the 1 percent laughs all the way to the bank.

As to the rest of the Trump base: even their idol’s appalling performance in Helsinki, operating like Putin’s lapdog, is unlikely to have a sobering effect. It is obvious from the performance of the crowds at recent Trump rallies that they will for the most part be unmoved by appeals to the national interest or to patriotism and the importance of the Western Alliance in the wake of Helsinki. For they have replaced national interest in their minds with the white nativist interest, patriotism with white nationalism, and the Western Alliance (insofar as they have any knowledge of the outside world) with the insurgent Putin-financed international movement known as “populism.” And most other Republicans stand and will continue to stand with Trump on the basis of an ersatz conservative ideology, desire for higher profits resulting from deregulation, or a cowardly conformism.

The race will probably be close. All Democrats should therefore be concerned that Russian government hackers will find a a way to influence the outcome in swing districts by just enough to maintain Republican House control and even help the GOP increase its majority in the Senate. Already the Russian GRU intelligence agency has attempted to hack the computers of  Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), who is one of the chief targets of Trump and the Republicans in their fight to maintain control of the Senate.

Our intelligence community keeps warning that Russian cyber warfare in this country continues on a massive scale, but no one is doing much about it. The majority of states are expressing little concern over the possibility of new electoral attacks. And in many states there are no paper ballots, so no easy way to challenge suspicious results.

The Russians may do the hacking directly or provide cover for the Mercer family to once again use its own mercenaries with a little outside help. The hacking may eventually be discovered (or may not, as in the case of the suspected ballot machine tampering in the 2000 Presidential election) but before that the Republican candidates who benefited will be safely occupying their seats–and no one will be able to unseat them (or indict those in the United States who were involved) since the Republicans, flush from victory and continuing to control all three branches of our government, will support Trump in firing Mueller and dismantling the Russia investigation, and in dismissing questions about the November results as “fake news” or a deep-state “witch hunt.”

The GOP leaders may already anticipate that Putin will bail them out, but they don’t frame it as unpatriotic or treasonous to accept Russian support, because they think the Democrats are FAR WORSE than Putin. Same with the Christian Right, which has been allying with Russian Orthodox rightists (backed by Putin-linked oligarchs) for years.; it is more concerned with taking away a woman’s right to control her own body and the right of LGBTQ people to marry–issues more important to them than any abstract and relatively trivial (as they see it) national security or integrity of the ballot issues. For both the Republican legislators and the Christian Right fanatics, the enemy of our enemy is our friend and the Constitution is to be interpreted as whatever keeps the Trumpublicans in power.

The federal government under Trump is not going to ride to the rescue on ballot security this November. Nor will Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department. Nor will the intelligence community. And certainly not Kirstjen Nielsen’s Department of Homeland Security.

The hour is late, but perhaps not too late for the following measures:

1. The Democratic National Committee and/or civil rights groups should file suits in every state without paper ballots, demanding immediate steps to protect the integrity of the computerized elections in those states; and where a state board of elections is not moving in an aggressive manner on this danger, the plaintiffs should ask the court to appoint an outside trustee to manage the election process.

2. The DNC should encourage computer scientists and highly skilled programmers, specially those with expertise in security issues, to join in a volunteer Save the Vote Corps to help any state board of elections in protecting its computer system. (Something similar is already being done to help protect the computers of Democratic congressional candidates.) Microsoft, Google, Facebook and other tech giants should be asked to provide experts for this volunteer corps.

At the least, these measures would help us to accumulate more knowledge of the background of any suspicious results, and thus make it easier to challenge such results in the courts, in the media, and in the streets.

Report from the Left Forum

On Sunday, June 3rd, Patty Friend, Sheldon Ranz, and I got ready to present our second panel of the weekend: “Domestic Violence: How Capitalism Fails Survivors.” This panel was a little different than most that were offered at Left Forum. Following this year’s theme of “Towards a New Strategy for the Left,” the SD, USA decided to present a series of panels that focused on real, pressing issues and how, as leftists, we can rally to find solutions. Domestic Violence, though not a new concern, is finally gaining national attention. We felt that a discussion about how American Capitalism protects abusers and falters survivors, and to outline some practical solutions, would be a fitting addition to the conference.

Well, it seems we were wrong. Fifteen minutes after we were supposed to start, we were looking at an empty room. While some panels, debating obscurities of leftist purity were packed to standing-room-only, no one showed up until we had already broken down and called it a loss.

The day before, we had a good turn out at our panel “Mental Health in America: The Capitalist Crisis and Socialist Solutions.” We were booked in a day-long series of healthcare related panels. We had a surprising amount of doctors, social workers, and mental health professionals in attendance and we were able to facilitate some great discussion. We also had the opportunity to see a panel, moderated by Howard Waitzkin (author/editor of the book “Health Care Under the Knife”) which offered an array of insight into America’s long-broken health care system.

Coming out of the first day, we were hopeful that the engagement we experienced would continue, but I started seeing the growing bark of sectarian squabbles first thing Sunday Morning. I went to a panel that morning entitled, “What’s left of the Left?” hosted by a delegation from the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). They discussed the current state of affairs in Germany and parallelled them with what is going on here, suggesting that anti-establishment conservatism is on the rise.
One of the speakers also suggested that a huge base of support for people like Trump and Merkel are more interested in finding people from “outside the system” and that is why Trump and Bernie had a lot of the same supporters.

Here is where people in the audience began to push back. For some reason, a “revolutionary” in the audience was so angered at the mention of Bernie Sanders as an outsider, he interrupted them to tell them “Bernie is not an outsider! He is a part of the system, too!” Regardless of your opinions of Bernie as an outsider (and I definitely have some) this outburst speaks volumes about the revolutionary left: they are much more concerned with calling out enemies within the left than they are with actual enemies from the far right. The man had no issue with Trump being seen as an outsider, worthy of popular appeal, but someone who speaks about socialism from a two-party podium could not be stomached.

Someone asked the panel “Why not participate in a REAL leftist party? Isn’t the SPD a bunch of neoliberals?”

To this, the panelist said “Because, I want to get shit done!”

I clapped. Alone.

The point of the conference was coalition building, to connect and strategize so that we can move “Towards a New Strategy for the Left.” I believe the conference was run well and that the organizers are in the right place. The big-ticket panels, featuring Kali Akuna, Ajamu Baraka, and Jane Sanders, were productive and featured a variety of approaches and suggestions on how we can all move forward together. Unfortunately, this message was lost on petty protestors who took these opportunities to grandstand instead of listen and disruptors who had no intention of contributing to the conversation, but came to take away from it.

I commend Left Forum on the unyielding amount of dedication they put into this and I appreciate the opportunity I had to participate. I also plan on attending in the future. Hopefully, as the need for unity and actual progress becomes more apparent, more of the attendees will come in the name of Solidarity.

Audio of the Mental Health panel: https://youtu.be/fK43xHFItJA