Our Disgusting, but not Unprecedented, Closed Doors

If you read me regularly, you probably know how I feel about AOC- I am not a fan. I think she is ignorant to much of reality, not serious about legislating, craves attention, and generally over the top in her rhetoric. I don’t hate her, I think it’s at least admirable that she is all of these bad things in defense of “the little people.” I just think she is a better packaged version of her awful mentor, Bernie Sanders.

So in our warped reality that we live in, of course I agreed with AOC’s characterization of the government as running “concentration camps” for migrants being picked up at our border. We are keeping people who’s only “crime” was seeking asylum in our country (their human right) in detention centers on the site of our infamous former Japanese internment camps from World War II. I may not be a fan of AOC, but objectively I don’t see how you can say she’s wrong. This administration is setting up internment camps, running ICE raids around the country, banning Muslims from traveling in and out of our country, and closing off ports of entry for asylum seekers. At the same time we’re cutting foreign aid to poor countries in our hemisphere, ignoring our responsibilities to treaty partners, and ignoring human rights abuses in places like Syria. The United States is not just failing to speak with moral clarity, we’re making sure to do the opposite.

I’ve heard people say they don’t recognize our country anymore. They must not study history much. My great-grandparents came to Ellis Island from present day Slovakia in 1922 and 1923. Literally months after my great-grandmother and her eldest daughter arrived in America, the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed, closing Ellis Island and other ports of entry, setting quotas based on nationality and race, and providing funding for targeted enforcement. Asian immigration was largely banned. Italians, Jews, Greeks, Poles, and Slavs were largely banned because the quotas were set based on a 30 year prior census- 1890- for the purpose of keeping America white. The law existed unchanged until 1952, and wasn’t fully replaced until 1965.

Let’s also not pretend we haven’t been brutal to “outsiders” before. African-Americans obviously faced slavery and Jim Crow, not to mention systemic racial oppression since. The “Trail of Tears” treatment of Native Americans is a dark chapter in our country’s history. Of course, the Japanese internment camps I mentioned above were terrible. We turned away Jewish asylum seekers during World War II and it’s run-up as well. What’s going on at our Southern border isn’t exactly “new.”

I don’t like AOC or people who spend all their time “blaming America”- I think this country is far more great than it isn’t. We’ve done some amazing things as a nation and countless nations around the world hold us up as an example. Let’s not lie about our past, or present, in the interest of defending bad behavior. Xenophobia regularly pops up throughout our history, usually with ugly consequences. Ripping children away from their mothers and putting them in concentration camps is not out of character.

Our government is currently arguing in court that children in detention do not need soap, toothbrushes, beds, and blankets. We’re detaining people seeking asylum in our country for the sake of protecting children. We’re putting detention sites on the former site of Japanese internment camps, an ugly moment in our past. While I find AOC to be annoying and generally a net-negative in our government, I don’t think she’s the person we should be yelling at right now.

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The Crisis at the Border? It’s Who’s There.

Evergreen Statement- Donald Trump is going to argue a false case tonight. There is absolutely no crisis at the Southern border. Illegal entry at the Southern border has been going down for the better part of a decade. There aren’t terrorists walking across the border. People applying for asylum is not a new thing. Most people in the United States with an illegal immigration status over stayed visas. Almost all the “terrorists” stopped at the “border” are people stopped at airports who have names that match someone on the no-fly list.

Donald Trump knows there is no crisis at the border. It’s why he let the first 22 months of his Presidency, with a fully Republican House and Senate, go by without pushing for his border wall. It’s why he turned down $20 billion for his border wall in exchange for DACA when Senate Dems Leader Chuck Schumer offered him it. It’s why he pulled back the troops he deployed to the border right before the election last year. Donald Trump knows there is no crisis at the Southern border. When his 2020 campaign kicks into high gear, I’d even venture a guess that he’ll praise himself for “less traffic at our Southern border.”

Let’s not kid ourselves into believing Trump thinks there is a real “crisis” at the border- the issue is that Trump’s base feels there is a “crisis” because of who is coming to that border and where they are from. If this was genuinely a debate about real fears at the border, Trump would take fencing and technology, and probably even more manpower at the border. He’s not though. This argument over a wall, which won’t work. It’s about deporting the DACA kids, because it’s cruel. It’s about putting children in cages and separating them from their family, because it does send the desired image and message to Central America.

Xenophobia has a history in America. The Irish and Italians were once treated as undesirable immigrants. When Eastern Europe, and worse yet Asians were coming here for work, Ellis Island was closed, and quotas were established. We turned away many Jewish asylum seekers both before and during Hitler’s Holocaust and World War II. So much of Trump’s base seem to have forgotten the plight of their ancestors. They now want to slam shut the doors to the “Land of Opportunity” in no small part because of who those seeking refuge here are. They don’t want kids from Honduras in this country, because they think they will change the nation’s identity- away from them. Their fear is that these immigrants coming here, seeking asylum, might not agree with their retro world view. This is all nothing more than white identity politics.

That’s the actual crisis here.

One Month of Christmas, Day 2

Good day and Happy Monday, November 26th, 2018. Today is 29 days until Christmas. Here’s today’s random thoughts…

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Our Immigration System Has Been Broken for a Century Plus, but Trump is Creating a National Disgrace

What’s happening at our Southern Border Right Now is a disgrace. Trump sent several thousand troops to the border in a basic political stunt, to pretend he’s getting tough on illegal immigration. The reality? It was a publicity stunt. Now he’s violating American and international law by not allowing asylum seekers to enter our country while their claims are investigated and decided. This is not supposed to be something up for discussion- it’s long-standing law. To make matters worse, he’s literally having us tear-gas people on the Mexican side of the border, for some unknown, indefensible reason. In the ultimate sign that their isn’t intelligent decision making going on here, he might just close some border points altogether, making things inconvenient for Americans who cross the border on the regular.

I’m reminded throughout this mess that we are a nation of immigrants, and that my family has immigrant roots too. My great-grandfather Joseph, from my father’s paternal side of the family, came to the United States with his brother from Poland, immigrants who would not become citizens for years after their arrival. My great-grandmother Julia and her husband, from my father’s maternal side of the family, came to Ellis Island from Czechoslovakia, and also took years of working here and raising a family before getting citizenship. None of these relatives were high-skilled “desirable” workers, in fact some of the family members who came here had been gassed in World War I and were what I would call insane. They were all welcomed here to work though, and they built a life a world away from places in Europe where they no longer felt okay with staying. It’s the best side of America that they were allowed in.

In 1892, Ellis Island began processing immigrants as a port of entry. In 1924, just months after my Great-Grandmother Julia Kravchak arrived from her village of Udol, in present day Slovakia, the Immigration Act of 1924 shut down Ellis Island as an immigration entry processing center, and turned it into a detention center for undocumented immigrants in our country. That law created quotas for immigration, largely racist quotas that favored immigrants from white nations over people from non-white nations (at that time, largely aimed at Asian nations). While the law has been amended since then, these same quota systems have largely survived in American law. They have caused much of the backlog of those waiting for entry from Mexico, Central America, and South America, while making it easier to come from “more desirable” places. Our asylum system, our system of refugees, and our educational visa system have all worked fairly decently though, and have been good for our society and economy. Or, at least they were. Now Donald Trump’s border policy has become to fire tear gas and rubber bullets at families trying to flee violence and oppression. There is nothing to be proud of here. This is our Immigration Act of 1924, except that this time we’re actually being violent.

I’m not arguing that we should have an open border, because I don’t think we should. I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t deport criminals, because I think we usually should. I’m arguing we should be a humane people, because I think we always should.

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The Eagles Still Suck

Yes, they won a football game yesterday. Yes, they’re 5-6, and one game out of first place. Yes, three of their final five games are against the two teams in front of them, so they just need to win games to win the division. Yes, someone has to win the division, host a playoff game, and then has the same shot as everyone else in the NFC. With all of that said, the Eagles stink. They have guys literally coming in off the street playing in the defensive secondary. They have no deep threat, aren’t committed to the run, and have a quarterback who still seems just a little bit off this year. Oh, and they’re not as good in the trenches on either side of the ball. And the coaching is worse. 

Who are they really going to beat though? New Orleans? The Rams? Kansas City? The Patriots? The Chargers? Please let me know, because I don’t see a contender they can beat, right now. As a result, my enthusiasm is low.

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Climate Change, Climate Change, Climate Change, and yes, more Climate Change!

I don’t think we can scream loud enough about the U.S. Government’s report on Black Friday the climate change is an imminent problem that will hurt our society across all demographics and income levels. The report, mandated by law across many agencies not only said climate change is real, or that it is man-made, but also that it is dangerous. Of course the Trump Administration tried to release it on Friday of a holiday weekend.

Democrats, but also really any people who care about Earth’s future, need to scream bloody murder about this. I may think less of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Pelosi protest stunt than an outdated can of spam, but she is absolutely right to be calling for a “Green New Deal” right now- Democrats need to latch onto this, party wide. First off, in nakedly politically potent terms, jobs. Second off, we have to move towards a more green economy, now, to avoid disaster. The fact is, there’s no sane argument *not* to move towards a green economy.

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So You Think You’re Smarter Than Your Dog?

This really isn’t a long post here, but let’s dive in here- are you smarter than your dog? Sure, dogs can’t build the intricate society we have, with houses, currency, relationships, and entertainment. On the other hand, who cares? Dogs don’t care about all of that. They like to eat, play a bit, go outside a few times a day, and sleep. In many ways, I envy them.

Today though, I was talking to my dogs and it hit me- when I talk at them, they seem to grasp my language and know what I mean. When they bark at me? I have no idea. So their brains managed to evolve enough to understand another species, but mine didn’t.

Who saved who again?

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Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid are the Best Sports Entertainment in Philly

No, for real, fight me on this. Jimmy Buckets has been here for like two weeks and has two walk-off baskets. Joel Embiid is throwing himself alley-oops off the glass. Embiid is playing like an MVP, leading the league in 30 pt., 10 reb. games so far this year. I realize maybe Ben Simmons isn’t quite leaping forward as hoped, but he’s your third scoring option now- does he need to? Not in November.

And since I know you’ll bring up Markelle Fultz- relax. He’s 20. He should be in college yet. Yes, it’s possible he has a debilitating nerve injury and is shot. Maybe he’s a head case. Or maybe he’s just young, and has been snake-bit by injuries and an impatient fan base. Why trade him now, at pennies on the dollar? Put him on the bench, get him safe minutes, and hope he turns into 70% of what you hoped in a few years.

But for now, just watch The Process and Jimmy Buckets amaze you.

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Run DMC’s “Christmas Time in Hollis, Queens” is a Better Christmas Anthem than Mariah’s Song

Hear me out- I don’t hate Mariah Carey. I don’t even hate her over-played “All I Want For Christmas.”

But the reason for the season is “Christmas Time in Hollis, Queens.” It’s getting overplayed, in NBA and car commercials. But it’s just better, more authentic, and didn’t play to the fantasy land Christmas love story narrative of millions of teens in my generation. They just wanted you to know they loved their mom’s cooking.

And I do too.

17

Hey there, happy Saturday, October 20th, 2018. There are 17 days until the 2018 Election. Pictured above is the welcome sign over the South Carolina border in York County. Rock Hill is the main city in those Charlotte suburbs to the South. Next year, when the Presidential campaign begins, they will get a lot of attention.

Today’s post after the jump…

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Stories from the boiler room? Well, losing power in the middle of the day is certainly an interesting one. It’s a damp, dreary day in Charlotte, and there must have been a car accident or something. This is a unique experience to say the least.

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I’m going to weigh in on a major North Carolina debate- Dale Earnhardt (Sr.) vs Richard Petty. They’re arguably the best two drivers of all-time. They both drove iconic cars, symbols of the sport. And they both come from North Carolina.

I’m not going to weigh in on who’s better (I always was an Earnhardt fan), but I will say this- Dale Earnhardt was more working class, North Carolina. He drove hard, to the point that it killed him. Petty was great, but he was flashy and not that blue collar. I’m taking Dale Sr. as the NASCAR icon of North Carolina.

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Today’s candidate of the day is Pennsylvania State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski of Wilkes-Barre. I’ve worked with Eddie for a long time now, and he is truly one of the best representatives of his district that you could ever find. He’s worked hard to secure access affordable, quality health care for his constituents. He’s defended public education. He’s voted to lower property taxes and keep seniors in their homes. He’s been a steadfast defender of unions. He fits the needs of his blue collar district, and he fights hard for them. As the Democratic ranking member on Agriculture, he fights hard for sustainable farming.

Eddie’s district is in Luzerne County though, the capitol of Trump Democratic country. Trump swung the county by 42,000 votes from 2012 to 2016. In that kind of environment, Eddie has to fight to keep his seat. You can donate to help him here.

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The Republicans have been in danger of losing the House virtually since day Donald Trump was elected. The question all along is what the Democrats path to victory would look like. It’s becoming clearer now.

Democrats are building their wave in suburbia, with educated white voters who are turning on Trump. Suburban Philadelphia could produce as many as six seats between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Suburban New York could produce in the neighborhood of five. Seats in suburban DC, Charlotte, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, and plenty of other major markets are in play. This election was less about our base, because we have those seats already, and mostly about new converts we made.

The other thing about the Democratic path to victory is that it clearly is requiring a heavy lift out of Pennsylvania and California. Those two states could provide a third of the seats that Democrats need to win the House.

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I’m missing Moravian Homecoming. The only part of me happy about that is my liver. I love football games at Steel Field, with that old grandstand, and the South Mountain looming over the visitor side. Today’s a day I’m missing home.

Also, shout outs to Easton High School for beating Parkland last night. That was surprising.

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Democrats need to ignore the Trump Administrations push to make immigration central in the closing of this election. While morally right, the Democratic position on immigration has not shown itself to be an electoral winner. Democrats need to keep talking health care and wages. Stay in the winning lane and actually win.

Just my two cents.

American Politics 2040

Things change. The trajectory of things change. Nothing is set in stone that has not happened yet. This does not mean that you can’t take an honest look at your current trajectory and figure out where you are going. America could use that right now, but it’s leadership is simply unwilling or incapable of doing so. After the 2016 election, we need to really consider where it is we’re headed.

The Republican Party of Reagan and Nixon is changing, morphing before our eyes. They will become a more hard-line nationalist party, one that identifies heavily as white and traditional. They are still for low taxes and de-regulation, but are a more populist party that can support government “welfare” for those who they deem as “American.” They want to back away from being the world’s active superpower, particularly on matters of climate change and trade policy, and instead pursue a more isolationist world view on those matters. They are certainly not George W. Bush in his view of American leadership, instead agreeing more with Vladimir Putin’s regionalized powers view of the world. They reject the 20th Century, post World War II “western order” with our traditional allies in Western Europe, in part because they reject the globalist view of those countries. They’ll spend big on defense, but not to play “global policeman.” The Republican Party is becoming an “America First,” hard borders and isolationist economics party, one that embraces white identity and traditional values, is pro-military spending, dismantles collective safety nets in favor of arbitrary ones, and who opposes taxes and regulations to protect the public.

Democrats are on a trajectory that is quite different. The Democrats are becoming a fully globalist party. Global trade, collective action with our Western allies on global issues, a pluralistic identity, a more open immigration policy, and a very science driven policy process are some of the hallmarks of the Democratic future. Democrats are embracing more socialistic concepts and collective actions and solutions. Democrats embrace a more active global voice, a softer “national identity,” particularly on matters of race and language, and more integration with the world.

Over the next twenty years or so, the two parties will battle over this “America First,” traditional-nationalist view of the world, versus a more globalist, collective, Civil Rights driven world view. Election cycles will be volatile, and leadership will change more often. Primaries will push both parties more clearly into their corners. The current divisions in this country will be more stark. The need for money in our campaigns, along with gerrymandering and voter sorting, will produce more “pure” parties in terms of their differences and positions.

About twenty years from now, half of America will live in eight states. The most important two data points in determining if a state, district, or county is red or blue will be:

  • The percentage of non-white voters. This is fairly simple, straight forward, and easy to understand. If there are a large percentage of African-Americans, or certain groups of Latinos or Asians, you can expect Democrats to do well. If not, expect it to be red. The exception comes out of the second point-
  • The existence of major metropolitan markets that are “winning” in the global economy. If you have a New York or San Francisco, you’re blue. If you have a failing regional urban market or ones that are too small, you’re red. This is they key delineation point among white people. White people in large, successful urban places like Philadelphia or Washington are usually Democrats. White people in white collar suburbs near those kind of markets are swing voters who will lean left. White voters everywhere else are trending the other way. The higher education and earning white people will live in the bigger, successful job markets, and trend Democratic.
  • What does this mean in the long haul? By 2040, I have these states as blue:
    • New York
      New Jersey
      Massachusetts
      Delaware
      Maryland
      DC
      Virginia
      Georgia
      Illinois
      Texas
      New Mexico
      California
      Hawaii

    If you’re trying to think out loud on how many electoral votes that is, it should be about 220. Assuming Democrats win all of the Senate seats in these states, it’s 24 (If DC isn’t a state). Interestingly, these states should have just under 200 House seats, under my math, meaning the “friendliest” branch of the government for Democrats to win elections might be the House.

    What other states could be in play? Well, you’re looking for one of two things- major metropolitan areas that are attracting new economy jobs, and non-white voters. You need some sort of coalition between non-white voters and white voters who are “winning” in the 21st Century economy. What states have this?

    • North Carolina- I almost put this state with the group of blue states, because of the “Research Triangle” and Charlotte areas, but there are large rural swaths in this state that can and will probably keep it competitive. This will become to Democrats what Pennsylvania has been, a “must have,” in order to win.
    • Florida- I’m not overly bullish on Florida’s long term prospects for Democrats, in part because the Latino population is simply less liberal leaning than those in the West- in part because they come from different places and are less connected to the immigration issue. Florida will remain a competitive state though, because it is diverse, and has the Miami and Tampa areas that fit the bill as metropolitan areas.
    • Pennsylvania- Pennsylvania will not be the Democratic lock for national candidates that it was from 1988 through 2012, but it’s not going the wrong way completely anytime soon. Why? Philadelphia is a giant market, and to a lesser extent the Allegheny County (Pittsburgh area) will remain relevant. The state won’t remain cleanly “blue” though because Northeast PA is increasingly behaving like Central and Northwest PA already were. Democrats need to dig into the Lehigh Valley and Pocono regions in order to win statewide contests in the future. The polar opposition behavior of the rest of the state will make those areas the key.
    • Minnesota- In 2016, one of the under-reported stories of the election was how Minneapolis-St. Paul and their suburbs had to bail Democrats out. That is looking like the new norm. With some of the “generation Mondale” Democrats leaving the more rural Congressional seats, Democrats are at risk of atrophying further in those parts of the state. The “Twin Cities” will increasingly be pitted against more rural, conservative areas in competitive races.
    • Connecticut- How is Connecticut a swing-state in 20 years? I’m not very bullish on Democrats future hopes in New England right now. If you look right now, Democrats only hold two of the six Governorships. They could lose Connecticut this year. The region is very white. The only state with a mega-market in it is Massachusetts. What keeps this state from going away from Democrats? Suburban New York and Boston voters. Higher education centers and highly educated voters. Hartford. Even with those things, New England is quite white and not huge fans of taxes. Expect this state to be competitive.
    • Colorado- Put this state next to North Carolina as a state that I almost made Blue. Educated millennial voters have moved to metro Denver at a fast clip. The Latino vote should grow in Colorado moving forward. Even so, it’s a “Denver vs. the world” effect out there. In large sections of the state, Democrats probably won’t be overly competitive. This state, like Pennsylvania and Minnesota, will constantly come down to turnout in their largest metropolitan market. Denver isn’t as large as Philadelphia, so their margin of error will be a little smaller. Fortunately the state’s demographics are a little better than Pennsylvania’s in 20 years. It will still be a battle.
    • Nevada- There’s Las Vegas and the “rest of Nevada.” Democrats aren’t going to win much in rural Nevada, meaning their margins in Clark County will need to continue to decide elections. Democrats should continue to win the Las Vegas market, but they don’t win it as crazy big as one might think. Lots of older white people live in Clark County, which narrows the margins. Democrats are held up by a sizable Latino voter shares and organized labor’s considerable strength in Las Vegas. If Republican sabotage of labor weakens Vegas labor, this state may be red. Labor’s strength may decide this state’s political future.
    • Washington- If you remove the Seattle market from Washington, it’s already red. That divide probably won’t lessen in years to come. As long as Seattle remains a destination for young workers, Washington will remain blue. Still, this state’s political future will entirely ride on Seattle’s turnout, so it’s not a safe bet in twenty years.
    • Rhode Island- Either Rhode Island will continue to perform like a well-educated Boston suburb, or it will perform like an extremely white, Catholic state. Like Connecticut, I like the chances of Democrats better in the southern part of New England than the north. I still think Democrats will have to fight for it.
    • Oregon- Take everything I wrote about Washington, and put Portland in the place of Seattle. While this state is traditionally liberal, it’s also largely rural and white, which I’m predicting to be the data points that matter. Can Portland keep it Blue? Maybe. It’s not a lock though.
    • Vermont- How can I put Vermont here? The home of Bernie Sanders as a swing state? Well, there’s a few things to consider here. First, they have a Republican Governor right now, which isn’t terribly odd for them. Second, it’s very rural. Third, it’s a very pro-gun state. Vermont’s perceived liberalism may not be as “baked in” as others think, especially as the parties shift. Burlington is not a mega-market that can keep Vermont “blue” on it’s own.
  • So how important are those states in 20 years? About 125 electoral votes worth. 22 Senate seats worth. Another 100 or so House seats. If Democrats do well in these states, they can cobble together Electoral College victories and small House majorities. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a Senate majority between these states and all the ones in the base.
  • What this means of course, is that Democrats will need to keep several states competitive enough to win sometimes that I did not put into this mix. Perhaps Arizona will belong in this group, or Mississippi, or South Carolina, none of whom are on my current list. I’m not bullish on the current trajectory of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio- mostly because their major urban markets have seen major population declines, and I am not certain they can overtake the declining returns of national Democrats in their more rural areas- but Democrats will need to compete in them and occasionally win to build governing majorities. I should include New Hampshire and Maine here, two rural, white New England states that don’t feel like they trend with us in this re-alignment. These states moved far towards the Republicans in Trump’s 2016 win and have Republicans as Governors currently. Even so, Democrats probably can’t check out on them.
  • Obviously trends can change. The middle-aged and elder Trump voters and their brand of politics will begin dying during the next 20 years, and young Republicans could make the party more libertarian. That may calm some of the white-nationalist rhetoric- though I’m doubtful, and I know that doesn’t drastically change their policies. The internal Democratic fight- of identity vs. ideology- isn’t over yet. Things can happen. Changes will happen.
  • No matter how much I shift things though, I keep coming back to the same two definitive data points- non-white voters and major metropolitan, global marketplaces. No matter how I apply those, the future for Democrats, on the current trajectory, is threading a needle in every election. The Democrats may never lose another popular vote for President in this country, but have many repeats of 2000 or 2016 in the future. Because Democrats win many of their House seats with more than 75% of the vote, even in a country where the majority want a Democratic House, Democrats May never see majorities the size of the one they had in 2009-10. Because half the country will live in eight states in 2040, and most of the non-white votes will be in those states, the Senate may very well simply exist to thwart the desires of the nation’s majority through a safe, conservative Senate Republican majority.
  • Here’s the part though that is most concerning. The open antipathy between the bases of the two parties may create a situation in the future where the minority of the country, the rural white states, rules with an iron fist over the majority of the country in those eight big states. I’m not sure if it will rise to the level of apartheid South Africa, or Saddam’s Iraq, but the Trump era must make you concerned about it. If “owning the Libs” is the motivating factor of the Republican Party, rather than governing an increasingly diverse country and improving outcomes for even those across the partisan divide, our union will be severely tested in ways not seen since the Civil War. That’s a dark future to look forward to.
  • Politics Ain’t Working in America

    Sixteen years ago this month I got involved with politics and the Democratic Party. Politics were pretty different then. Republican moderates held more urban seats, and Blue Dog Democrats held rural seats. George W. Bush was reaching out to Latino voters as best he could, and his electoral results showed that it was helpful. Democrats were still competing in Missouri and in the parts of Western Pennsylvania not calling themselves “Pittsburgh.” Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson worked with Democratic President Bill Clinton, while Democratic Senator John Breaux worked with Republican President George W. Bush. I guess I’ve now been involved long enough by age 35 to opine for the old days.

    None of that stuff is remotely relevant in 2018. There was no Alan Simpson for Barack Obama, and there sure as hell isn’t a John Breaux for Donald Trump. Frankly, that kind of bi-partisanship gets you primaried out of office in 2018. The interest groups basically run the two parties, which has forced most elected officials into their ideological corners. Gerrymandering and outside money force ideological conformity that didn’t even exist fifteen years ago. Bi-partisanship is essentially dead, not that the era of Donald Trump is really making anyone long for it anyway. Trump’s existence is to troll his opponents, and some of his supporters even will tell you they don’t care if he got Russian help- at least he stopped Hillary. I think most Democrats would tell you we don’t care how we beat him in 2020 either, it’s a moral imperative at this point.

    More than anything though, the changes in our politics are about sorting. Democrats have lost almost all of their rural seats in Congress, besides those that are majority-minority, and are essentially an urbanized party now. Save for a few urban enclaves like Staten Island, the Republican Party doesn’t exist at all in urban America. Congressional elections are decided in suburbia now, but neither party’s messaging really reaches them- because most Congressmen represent gerrymandered, base districts, and fear primaries. These voters often find themselves disgusted and disinterested in politics, and end up just voting against one side of the other. The overwhelming majority of districts are decided ahead of time, the other districts are full of disgusted voters, and we wonder why Congress can’t get much done? We used to think we all had the same goals, and different routes there. That’s just not true anymore. The America each side wants is no longer the America the other side wants.

    From a political standpoint, we can work around this- the majority rules. Whoever wins the election does what they want and governs for their side. Of course, this constantly leaves the minority party’s voters discontent with America. It leads to fluctuations in policy as Congress and the Presidency go back-and-forth like a yo-yo. A Democratic government passes a comprehensive health care bill in the ACA, and the succeeding Republican Congress and President do everything they can to sabotage that bill. A functional, consistent government that works is nobody’s goal. Achieving ideological victory is the motivator for Congress.

    America’s great achievements- the interstate highway system, landing on the moon, Civil Rights legislation, and others- were bi-partisan, collective victories. That seems like pie-in-the-sky now. While I think both sides have become very ideological, I have to say I don’t assign equal blame- today’s Republicans literally questioned Barack Obama’s citizenship, and generally treat Democrats, particularly minorities, as lesser or non-citizens, and question their patriotism. In this kind of environment, things don’t get done. Infrastructure crumbles. Thirty or forty million people don’t get health care. Our students fall to the middle of the pack in education outcomes. A broken immigration system doesn’t get fixed. Our children get mowed down by madmen with machine guns. Common-sense energy policy that protects our environment can’t get passed. Just partisan fixes that favor major funders of the majority party can pass. Problems can’t get solved.

    Our constitutional system was not drawn up to deal with a country literally divided along identity lines. Racial, gender, urban vs. rural, education, and other divisions have created a country where we don’t have shared goals. Globalism has moved so many of the good jobs to population clusters, or big cities. Self-sorting among the people has made a situation where most of the Democrats are in the big cities, and most of the Republicans live in exurban or rural areas. Our federal system, particularly the electoral college and Congressional re-districting, gives one side an advantage on the other. In twenty years, half the country will live in eight states. We are heading towards a divided society not unlike those in third world countries, or at the worst case scenario, apartheid-era South Africa. If we continue on this path, Donald Trump may end up being the calm before the actual storm.

    The Schizophrenic American Soul

    I’ve always tended to view America as an exceptional place. We’re a great nation. Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution have inspired nations around the world. We put the first man on the moon. Our great cities lead the world in commerce, and in awe-inspiring skylines. We defeated The Nazis and communism in our world. Our national parks are beautiful. Our streets are safe, our economy booming, and our people are living in relative peace. We created suburbia and the Middle Class. The Interstate Highway system that President Eisenhower created was visionary. America is an incredible place. Millions of people want to come here. My ancestors picked up their lives and came here. I’m thankful every day that they did.

    Every once in a while though, we’re reminded that there’s more to America, sadly. We enshrined slavery in that great Constitution. The brutality of the “Trail of Tears” is one of our worst offenses. While Ellis Island is a beautiful part of my American story, the racial quotas and crackdown on immigration that was enforced after Ellis Island closed is a black mark on our history. Jim Crow existed here, and with it segregation, for a century. The Japanese internment camps of World War II were real. Bull Connor and George Wallace are a part of our DNA.

    The same country that elected JFK, also elected Richard Nixon. The same country that elected Barack Obama, then elected Donald Trump- in fact some of the same people actually voted for both. The same country that welcomed my Slovak great-grandmother and her family at Ellis Island would close their borders and enact racist immigration rules just months later. We can be great, and terrible, almost in the same breath. Our friends, our families, our neighbors can be the nicest people today, and rationalize unspeakable atrocities tomorrow.

    I have tried to remind myself of this throughout the national debate over taking children from their parents at our border, but it’s not quite working. We are taking babies away from their mothers as a “bargaining chip” for the President to get his border wall. We are arresting people in violation of international treaties when they seek asylum at our border. What we are doing to these people, people who are not violating our laws by simply asking for asylum, is barbaric, inhuman, and unjust, even if they were violating our laws (to be clear, any asylum seeker is not). I’m struggling to remember the good things about our country right now, because we elected this barbaric regime.

    I got into politics during the time of George W. Bush, and I thought the Iraq War was the atrocity of my time. That war pales as a wrong next to what we are doing right now. We are destroying the lives of children, damning refugees coming here seeking our mercy, and once and for all proving that our supposedly religious nation is very good at being soulless and heartless.

    I think back on my great-grandmother often. She died when I was nine, and we were very close. Her English was broken until the day she died, she had no higher skill to offer her labor, and she certainly didn’t come here rich. How would Donald Trump’s America have treated her? Would my friends who voted for Trump have wanted to “send her back” in 1925? It took her almost 20 years to become a citizen then, but would she have ever now? I’m very afraid of these answers, and if these hypothetical questions bother me, surely the pictures of actual babies taken from their moms must bother me now.

    In a strange twist of fate, I find myself in support of the voice of former First Lady Laura W. Bush right now. She is standing up as a moral leader in our time, challenging the Trump Administration on this moral question. If only more Republicans would follow her lead, and show as much fortitude in this moment of moral reckoning, maybe America could stand up and be a moral leader again.

    Immigration, Democrats, and Elections

    There was no one in my childhood years I felt closer to than my great-grandmother. Julia Kravchak died when I was nine years old, but she left a huge impression on me. One of the values her life instilled in me was my support of immigrants in our nation. She came over in one of the last ships before the more exclusionary immigration laws of 1924 went into effect, a dark moment in our history, joining her husband who had come here for a chance to find work, and flee communism in Czechoslovakia. I thank God every day that they made that decision, and that America welcomed them. My current existence can be traced to them.

    My political career has been influenced by these values. I’ve worked for candidates who largely have supported immigrant rights. A few years ago, I worked for a young woman in Iowa who came here as a war refugee from Bosnia. Getting to know her story, I’ve grown to admire it. The best of the United States is shown when we open our doors to refugees and those who need sanctuary in our nation. When we are a welcoming people, we are a great people.

    There are limitations though to anything. Whether we’re talking about Ellis Island, or refugees, they come to the United States via a legal process. Much of the political debate around immigration in 2018 centers around people who did not. I think most fair people agree that we don’t want to go down Donald Trump’s road for immigration- deportation squads, walls, deporting veterans, and destroying families. I think most decent people agree that we want ICE and other federal authorities to follow laws, show compassion, and treat undocumented immigrants with humanity. Literally almost all of us support allowing the DREAMers to stay in America, they came here as children and never willingly violated our laws. There is broad agreement for us being a decent and humane country. There is not broad agreement for lawlessness and “anything goes” enforcement though.

    The United States is still a nation, and nations have borders and laws. I support “sanctuary city” laws personally, only because I think it helps law enforcement do their job, but I’m conflicted there. If someone is arrested, be it for murder, rape, drunken driving, gang activity, theft, or any other felony or serious misdemeanor, I am for that person being thrown out of the United States. I also think you have to enforce penalties and sanctions against employers who knowingly are employing undocumented immigrants “off the books.” For one, it’s exploitation of them as workers. Secondly, it’s unfair to everyone in the legal employment market, who’s wages are often undercut by workers who are forced into low wages because of their immigration status. Immigration should not endanger a community or hurt legal workers. We have to enforce our laws.

    Most decent and honest people in this country can see the nuances and understand the challenges we face. We don’t want an immigration policy based on the racist concept of “white identity,” but one based on fairness, decency, and law. Republicans have done a good job though at making Democrats appear to be extremists, a political party willing to support lawless behavior and crisis to win an election. It is not true, but as long as the perception holds, it will hinder Democratic chances at victory. Make no mistake, Republicans will use every caravan from Central America, and any bad people on it, to scare their base into showing up in 2018. It is unfair and unjust, but it is reality.

    Democrats need to stand up and be clear, beyond just supporting DACA. Democrats need to be humane, fair, and reasonable on immigration, arguing for a solution to the problem, but also supporting our workers and keeping our communities safe. Don’t support bad actors, but call out the absurdity of the American right’s position on immigration. If we do that, I believe most Americans will hear us, elect us, and let us comprehensively solve the problem. If we let ourselves become extremists in the other direction though, we will probably lose.

    The GOP on DACA- The Japanese Internment Camps of Our Time

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    The Republicans in Congress are about to shut down the government because they don’t want to pass DACA. To be clear, that is the only real way to read this situation. Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House, and between them, they can’t bring themselves to pass DACA into law. They have a solid majority in the House, but they have only 51 Senators, meaning they need 9 more Democrats to get this government funding bill. Democrats demanded CHIP funding (children’s health care) and DACA (Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals) in exchange for help getting to 218 House votes and 60 Senate votes. Republicans are incapable of making the deal, basically at this point because of DACA.

    What DACA does and doesn’t do is critical to understanding this issue. DACA deals with 800,000 undocumented immigrants out of the estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in this country. The key terms of being eligible for DACA:

    1. You arrived here as a child, essentially saying you were too young to make your own decision to come here, or act as your own agent.
    2. You’ve been here more than 5 years as of the dates set in the programs. You’ve been here long enough to be a part of our society.
    3. You have no felony convictions, no “major” misdemeanors, or any combination of three misdemeanor convictions. In other words, you’re not a criminal element making trouble in our society.
    4. You’re working or going to school here. You’re a productive member of society.
    5. Program eligibility was set as of 2012, so you couldn’t have come here since then thinking you’ll get DACA protections.

    In other words, these people came here as children, they’ve lived here for years, they’re law-abiding citizens, they’re productive, and they didn’t come here since the program started, looking for amnesty protections (in fact, this means they’ve been here considerably longer than 5 years at a minimum, at this point). These are basically people who had no criminal intent, and are productive in our society.

    Here’s the worst part- these DACA program members stepped out of the shadows and handed over their personal information when they applied for the protections. So now that we’re going back on the promise of protection, we’re using the information they handed over in trust to our government to deport them.

    Why are we doing something so inhumane? Basically because Tom Cotton and David Perdue seem to have won out over Lindsey Graham in the battle to influence the President on this subject, and the President then killed a bi-partisan deal to handle DACA. They did this because they want to pass some white nationalist immigration bill that stops a lot of legal immigration from non-European nations, because their base of support wants to keep America “white.” Of course, Donald Trump who promised to build a wall along our Mexican border is eager to stand with them.

    We are going to kick Americans out of their home country and send them to countries they have never really known to appease a bunch of white nationalists. We’re going to do so despite the fact that these people are productive members of our society. We’re going to do so using the information they willingly provided to our government. It will take generations to regain the trust of people in immigrant communities. It will ruin lives. It will break up families. It will please people who still believe in a “dominant race” theory of nationalism.

    Now I know how decent people felt about the Japanese Internment camps in World War II.