Redefining Security during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Covid-19 crisis should change our country’s consciousness when it comes to how we define security. 

It’s revealed our flaws in terms of defense spending and the conflict between private profit and the public good. The working people of America, first responders, healthcare workers, and retail workers deserve much credit. Information technology, partially developed in our country’s technology centers but also built on the back of government-sponsored research and development, has also played a positive role in the crisis. It would be a much tougher crisis without personal computers, cell phones, and internet access. Some are even able to work at home and earn a paycheck using these technologies.  

The internet is so important that it can’t be left in the hands of the private sector. It’s a public good and using it shouldn’t depend on one’s ability to pay for it.  The digital divide has been a political issue in our country for some time.

The Covid-19 crises makes municipally owned WiFi more important than ever. Some cities, New York City and Tampa, Florida in the United States, and Paris in France and Tel Aviv in Israel, have already introduced municipally owned WiFi. A reporter who is delivering important information on a pandemic or a health care worker who must communicate with a superior quickly shouldn’t have to worry about how or if they can connect to a WiFi network.

A segment of the old Socialist Party, Socialist Party of America, defined themselves by a program called “sewer socialism.” This approach supported city-owned sewers, water systems, public parks, public libraries, and improved education systems. The aim of the sewer socialists was to make city life livable for the industrial working class. Mayor Frank Zeidler in Milwaukee and Mayor James Maurer in Reading, Penn. represented this school of politics. A new sewer socialism would provide public parks, libraries, and city owned WiFi for the expanding class of service workers.  Internet access will be a right and not a privilege.

During President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, the government created the Rural Electrification Administration and the Lower Colorado River Authority. These agencies started cooperative utility companies for rural Americans, many didn’t have any electricity at the time. A new Municipal and Rural WiFi Administration would set up consumer cooperatives for cities and rural areas and deliver public WiFi. The security of Americans depends on this public good.

Some will wonder how our government will pay for something like this. Lt. Col. Daniel Davis recently penned a wonderful story “How Covid-19’s Fiscal Impact Might Ironically Strengthen National Defense.” Lt. Col. Davis said that cutting back on our obsolete defense structure – designed to fight a ground war with the Soviet Union in a post-Soviet world – is essential to fund the war against Covid-19. He warned that the defense industry, sometimes filed under the category military-industrial complex, will use the weapon of fear to try and prevent this from happening. He also advocated ending the foreign wars our county has been engaged in for so long.

Fighting the power of private interests – the military-industrial complex and private interests that oppose municipal WiFi – and defending the public interest will be a priority in the fight against Covid-19!

Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis.

Sara Nelson and AFA shut down the shutdown

In 1986 I was working at Detroit Metro Airport when one of our MD-80s crashed during takeoff. About 150 people were killed instantly, except for one infant (still an unexplainable miracle). The accident investigation revealed that the pilots did not properly set the flaps for take-off. That’s a routine step in their procedure, but they missed it because they were distracted. Our airline was going through a merger at the time and the pilots were all nervous about how they would fare. Our industry is heavily unionized, and seniority will make or break your life. The pilots on this particular flight were discussing the merger in the cockpit while they were awaiting takeoff clearance from ATC. Fifteen minutes later, they would all be dead.

Very professional workers can still make mistakes. In the airline industry we refer to the causes of these errors “human factors”. These factors include poor communication, fatigue, distraction, etc. Human error analysis and correction is a major focus in aviation. We don’t have a choice; mistakes are deadly. We have worked during the past 30 years to imbed safety into every facet of our operations. And it shows. U.S. airlines transport 885 million passengers a year. During the past 10 years only one person has died due to an accident. Compare this to the 250,000 people who die each year in the U.S. due to medical error. No other industry comes even remotely close to our safety record. It’s something we are very proud of.

Union workers have been central to developing this safety culture. They have developed error reporting and analysis programs with management. Workers must be free to say “I made an error” without fear of losing their job. That error has to be analyzed so that it can be prevented from happening again. Other industries could learn much from observing airline processes. And while I would say that all the unions in an airline work together in accomplishing these safety goals, they don’t usually work together on other matters. Airline unions have varying history and missions. Unions that are not grounded in workers rights and socialism view their mission as simply representing their members for their collective benefit, not part of a wider movement. From my personal experience I can say that the IAM has always done a stellar job standing up for all workers, not just their members. I remember union leaders telling members that both the janitor and the mechanic have to pay the same price for bread, even when mechanics wanted to throw the baggage handlers or stock clerks under the bus during contract negotiations. I always gave the IAM leadership credit for teaching the stewards these basic lessons. We don’t historically see this in flight attendants and pilots unions.

That’s why I have been so encouraged by Sara Nelson and the Association of Flight Attendants. When the Federal shutdown idled employees and caused others to work without pay, Sara recognized the threat to the flying public caused by a human factors error. At the same time, President Trump dismissed the impact by saying that these workers would all get their back pay and they should be able to go for a month without a paycheck. But the threat is real. Very professional workers, when distracted from their duties by outside factors, can and will make errors. Sara and her coworkers exhibit a safety consciousness that informs everything they do. Further, a new assertiveness by women has allowed her to take the lead on this matter in an industry still dominated by men. It wasn’t the pilots who publicly alerted the nation to the danger, and it wasn’t the mechanics who ended the shutdown, it was the flight attendants. This is something inconceivable when I hired into the airlines in 1980.

Sara is today calling for a nationwide day of action by all flight attendants if the government is shut down again. You should follow Sara on twitter @flyingwithsara. The AFA-CWA are members of AFL-CIO.


A potential spoiler effect in 10 close races for the House, the Senate and Governor’s seats

Over 200 Green candidates are running in the midterms in at least 30 states. A large majority of them are running either for local or state legislative office or for higher offices that are not competitive, because either the Democrat or Republican has a very strong lead over his or her chief opponent. There is no reason, this year, for any special concern about Green involvement in such contests.

But there are three Senate, five House and two gubernatorial contests—all very close—in which a serious Green Party spoiler effect could occur. Even if this effect is manifested in only one or two cases, it could have a pivotal effect on who controls Congress if the Blue Wave is less than expected or the Red counter-wave is stronger than expected.

Note: Green Party members and people who sometimes vote for Green candidates—and often vote Democratic in a particular race if there’s no Green on the ballot or if they think the Democratic candidate is better than the Green candidate—should think twice before voting Green in the below races. This is not because these Green candidates are bad people, or that you should automatically discount them in an ordinary election season. But this is not an ordinary election season. We are, from now through the 2020 presidential election (and perhaps beyond), in a “special period.” As most liberals, progressives, and moderate Democrats—as well as the majority of voters in most minority communities—are now painfully aware, each in their own way, we need to focus on stopping Trump, his Congressional puppets, and their horrific agenda. This is clear to leading progressives such as Bernie Sanders, Rev. William Barber, Jr., Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I would hope that many Green activists and voters are also beginning to understand the clear and present danger we face. 

10 Candidates, 10 Conundrums 

Some of the contests below are fascinating in what they reveal about the Greens, about the Democrats, and about the vagaries of the spoiler effect. I have thus inserted some commentary (and a dash of polemics) into the descriptions. The basic facts of each race and the polls thereon are taken mostly from Ballotpedia.

In three of the cases below, the Green is the only minor party candidate on the ballot; in others, the ballot includes at least one other minor party candidate and/or non-party independent candidate. This is spelled out in each case. When the Green is the only one, his or her spoiler effect would be easy to recognize whether or not it succeeded in providing the full margin of victory for the Republican candidate. There is one case where the combined votes of the Greens and a pro-medical marijuana party (or in another case, where the combined votes of the Greens and an independent candidate) might together take enough votes from the Democrat to produce a Republican margin of victory.

U.S. Senate:

In Missouri, incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill is neck and neck with the state’s Republican Attorney General, Josh Hawley. The Cook Political Report and Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball (hereafter, “Cook” and “Sabato”) both judge the race a toss-up as of Oct. 30. McCaskill is the type of moderate that some progressives scorn, but if she and other moderate Democratic Senators lose their races, stopping Trump’s dismantling of our democracy will remain extremely difficult even with control of the House. The minor candidates are Jo Crain of the Greens, Japheth Campbell of the Libertarians and also a non-party independent. Crain, a retired Sprint technical services worker, mother of three and grandmother of six is also a longtime political activist and the organizations she’s supported are not very different from those backed by tens of thousands of progressive Democrats who’ve thrown themselves into this year’s fight to take back Congress. (Cain’s positions on issues that appear on her web page, however, are pretty much the same as those of any Democrat running in a relatively conservative state or district.) With the Green label and her personal commitment to activism, she could siphon off enough votes from progressive Democrats and left-leaning independents to provide a tiny margin of victory for Hawley if the difference between the two main candidates narrows to a razor’s edge.

In Arizona, where the possibility of picking up a Senate seat became possible for the Democrats after Jeff Flake announced he would be retiring, the race between Democrat Kyrsten Sinema (currently the House member for Arizona’s 9th CD) and Republican Martha McSally (House member for the 2nd CD) has been close from the beginning. Cook and Sabato both called the contest a toss-up as of Oct. 30. Sinema was once a Green but after joining the Democrats she became more moderate and in the House she has sought to work with Republicans on some issues. The Greens who scorn her for this, might ponder her words on universal health care in a 2014 interview: “I used to say that I wanted universal health-care coverage in Arizona, which went over like a ton of bricks. Turns out, Arizonans hear the world ‘universal’ and think ‘socialism’…But when I say that I want all Arizonans to have access to affordable, quality health care, Arizonans agree wholeheartedly. Same basic idea, different language.” Some of the Green candidates profiled here use a not dissimilar semantic caution from time to time (like Michael White in the Wisconsin gubernatorial race).

Angela Green, a mortgage loan officer who was going to run for Lt. Gov. with gubernatorial candidate Angel Torres, became the Green’s Senate candidate after the petitions of a former candidate were successfully challenged. The platform on Green’s campaign website is quite good: net neutrality, more financial help for Arizona teachers, organic farming tax breaks, defense of freedom of the press, and a nuanced position on gun control. I was taken aback, however, by her statement claiming to represent those who are “tired of having to deal with the antics of Red and Blue,” as if the Democratic resistance to Trump can be equated with the President’s politics of hate and fear. But on Nov. 1, according to Ballotpedia, Angela Green “withdrew from the race and endorsed Sinema.”

I am keeping this example on my list since Green’s name is on the ballot regardless of her announcement; early voting has been in process since Oct. 10; and many if not most voters will be unaware on Election Day that Green has withdrawn her candidacy. Polls in October gave Green 1% to 3% of the vote—that might just be enough for a classic spoiler effect. Even if not, the results for the Green Party, as the only minor party in this race, may be useful in studying the Greens’ potential for triggering a spoiler effect in the Presidential and Congressional races in 2020.

In New Jersey, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez is in a close battle with Republican Bob Hugin, a pharmaceutical executive. As of Oct. 30, Cook says it’s a toss-up, while Sabato says it’s likely Democratic. Menendez’s reputation was tarnished by a federal indictment on corruption charges (2015) and a trial (2017) that resulted in a hung jury and a mistrial followed by a Justice Department decision (January 2018) to drop all charges against him. Hugin has hit Menendez hard on the corruption issue, and voters may not listen to the Democratic public figures now rallying to Menendez’s support. The Green candidate is Madelyn Hoffman, recently retired director of New Jersey Peace Action, in which capacity she long worked with New Jersey Democrats and admired Menendez for his vote against the Iraq war. (She also has a long relation to the Greens, having run as their candidate for governor in 1997.) In an August interview with Insider NJ, she expressed a jaded but not especially hostile attitude to the Democrats—and she supports ranked choice voting (a proposed system under which Green voters could choose to have their vote go to the Democratic candidate once their first-choice Green is bumped for insufficient votes).  Also on the ballot are Libertarian candidate Murray Sabrin and four independents with the non-party designations “New Day NJ,” “Make It Simple,” “For the People,” and “Economic Growth.” Polls show that the percentage of voters in this race who are willing to expend their vote on a minor party is down around one percent. But in an extremely close race, that might be enough (remember Florida in 2000). The choice for voters in Blue State New Jersey is clear: cast your ballots based on allegations of corruption in a single race (as the Republicans wish you to do) or vote to win a Senate majority that could put a check on the most corrupt administration in U.S. history—an administration that Hugin, not Menendez, is pledged to support.

U.S. House of Representatives:

In New York’s 19th CD (Hudson Valley and the Catskills), Green candidate Steve Greenfield, a professional musician and a resident of college-town New Paltz, where he is a former school board member, may siphon votes away from Democrat Antonio Delgado, who is challenging incumbent Republican John Faso. As of Oct. 30, the race between he two main candidates is regarded as a toss-up according to both Cook and Sabato. The Monmouth University Polling Institute regards the 19th as a “pivot” district—it voted for Obama in 2012 but then voted for Trump in 2016. Faso won it by 8 points as an open seat in 2016 against progressive Democrat Zephyr Teachout, and is attempting to defeat Delgado via coded racist attacks on his past in hip-hop music. Greenfield, a professional musician as well as a former local school board member, demolished Faso’s “dog-whistle attacks” in an essay on his website that also included a restrained dig at Delgado’s record as a corporate attorney. Greenfield’s platform includes standard Green policy goals (single-payer healthcare, a “Green New Deal,” cutbacks in defense spending) but he also appeals to his district in a manner not very different from a moderate Democrat; e.g., he’s described as a leader in the “fight to eliminate property taxes as the primary source of public education funding.”

Greenfield is an example of the quandary that will face many independent-minded voters (both this year and in 2020) when faced with an appealing Green candidate in a neck-and-neck Democrat-Republican contest where there’s just too much at stake to vote Green. The same might be said regarding the independent non-party candidate on the ballot, TV actress Diane Neal, who is best known for her roles in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and NCIS. Neal says she’s disillusioned with today’s professional politician class and stated on a Ballotpedia questionnaire that she wants to turn NY19 into the “Silicon valley of renewable energy resources” and that her heroes are RFK, MLK and Carl Sagan. Judging solely by their public statements, I would say that if Greenfield and Neal haven’t found a home in Democratic politics, the party has only itself to blame.

In New Jersey’s 7th CD, Democrat Tom Malinowski is challenging incumbent Republican Leonard Lance for a seat Lance has held since 2008. Cook and Sabato both call the race a toss-up as of Oct. 30, but a Siena College poll (Oct. 28-31) of the likely electorate found that 14% of voters are “undecided/other.” The other candidates on the ballot are Gregg Mele, the “Freedom, Responsibility, Action” candidate (endorsed by the Libertarians) and Green Party candidate Diane Moxley, a Legal Services attorney in Newark for over 14 years. Moxley told the New York Times at the national Green conference in July that she thinks there’s “no difference in New Jersey, between the two major parties.” Her Facebook page depicts a campaign utilizing door-to-door canvassing and yard signs for herself and Madelyn Hoffman, the Green candidate in the Menendez-Hugin Senate race. She also publicizes her campaign through live-streaming with Real Progressives, a video community. Malinowski, the supposedly no-different-from-the-Republicans candidate from whom she will be siphoning votes, was the Washington director of Human Rights Watch from 2001 to 2013, fighting to end the Bush administration’s use of black sites and torture. From 2014 to 2017, he served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in the Obama administration, working to help religious minorities brutalized by ISIS, defending LGBT communities around the world, and pushing human rights sanctions against North Korean and Russian officials. (The point here is not to compare Malinowski with Lance or even with Moxley, but to show the difference in this case between the real candidate and his extraordinary track record, on the one hand, and the stereotype about Democrats in the heads of so many Greens, on the other.)

In a Nov. 1 statement on her campaign Facebook page, Moxley presented a list of all the good things she’d fight for and urged the reader to “give serious consideration to voting for your values instead of from a place of fear.” Moxley’s use of “fear” (aka “hysteria”) is Greenspeak for the Democrats urging people to vote for their candidates—not Green candidates—to win back Congress from Trump’s control. But the people who are really using fear are the Republicans, and they are doing it—through their bigoted attacks on minorities and immigrants—to polarize the country and keep power. The Democrats have a rational message: what the Republicans and Trump are doing to America needs to be fought back against hard with the most effective weapon we have at this point—our vote at the ballot box to achieve a Democratic majority in Congress. Any clear-headed progressive should be fearful—for the survival of democracy in our country. If the Greens aren’t, it suggests they have a narrow cultish focus on their own organization’s unrealistic ambitions at the expense of everyone else.

In Illinois’s 12th CD, Democrat Brendan Kelly—a prosecutor and former Navy officer—is challenging Republican incumbent Mike Bost, a former Marine and owner of a nail salon business. Before Bost’s election in 2014 (which was preceded by redistricting in 2011), the seat had been Democratic since 1993. Cook and Sabato both rated the contest a toss-up through mid-October but as of Oct. 30 rate it “Lean Republican.” A New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll of the likely electorate taken Oct. 18-22, however, found 11% of the likely electorate still undecided. On Oct. 27, Trump staged a rally in the district, at Murphysboro, to help Bost and several other Republican candidates. Democrat Kelly presents as a moderate Democrat and emphasizes fixing up and expanding the district’s infrastructure; he pledges to go after “Big Pharma” and its lobbyists in Washington, holding the drug companies responsible for the opioid epidemic and giving Medicare the power to negotiate prices of medications. The only minor party candidate in this race is the Greens’ Randy Auxier, a professor of Philosophy and Communication Studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale who has written or edited several books in philosophy, also writes on popular culture and Protestant theology, and is a United Methodist Church Sunday School teacher. In his replies to a Belleville News-Democrat profile questionnaire, Auxier goes into considerable depth on the local and national economy, focusing especially on the steel industry and trade policy. On healthcare, he’s for replacing the ACA with a single-payer universal healthcare system, which he believes would make it easy to get a handle on the opioid epidemic. Auxier says, “I’m running and I aim to win.” But there is no Illinois B in which he might actually win. The moderate Democrat Kelly is at this point the only choice for those in the 12th CD who want to take back our real Congress.

In Iowa’s 3rd CD, the race is a toss-up between Democrat Cindy Axne, a small business owner, and incumbent Republican David Young. Young has held the seat since 2014. Obama won the district by 4 points in 2012, Trump by 4 points in 2016. A New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll of the likely electorate conducted Oct. 25-27 puts Axe ahead of Young by two points with 11% percent of respondents undecided. Cook and Sabato both say the race is a toss-up as of Oct. 30. There are four minor candidates on the ballot: Rev. Paul Knupp of the Greens, Mark G. Elworth Jr. of the Legal Medical Now Party, Bryan Holder of the Libertarian Party, and an independent who ran unsuccessfully against Young in a prior election. Knupp is a Protestant minister who has lived in Iowa for over 40 years and has served 11 churches in the state, seven of them in rural settings. He has also worked as a mental health counselor at public hospitals. He grew up in a “union family” and is a strong supporter of the labor movement and an advocate of the social gospel and liberation theology. According to his Ballotpedia survey responses he is in favor of “Medicare for all,” “unions for all” and “clean water for all,” and pledges to “caucus with the Democrats” if elected.

Democratic candidate Axne is a fifth generation Iowan, a parent and a community activist. She and her husband own a small business but she also has a decade of experience working in state government. Her platform includes a plan for moving towards universal health care while protecting the ACA. She says climate change is real and Iowa can best help combat it by developing renewable energy industries. She also calls for overturning Citizens United, standing by our unions, protecting social security and Medicare, defending the LGBTQ community, and halting the closure of hospitals in rural areas. She supports equal pay legislation and a National Paid Family Leave Act. I read this platform and wondered: why would the Greens want to target her? If she were an incumbent with a secure seat, I could see them running one of their educate-the-voters type campaigns and prodding her on her failings. But why now? Do they really think there’s no difference between her and the Republican Party of Trump?

Ohio’s 12th CD, as of Oct. 30, is a tossup according to Cook and leans Republican according to Sabato; however, two polls earlier that month (Oct. 11-13 and Oct. 20-22) showed 6% of the likely electorate as “Undecided/Other.” In the special election last August, Republican Troy Balderson narrowly won against Democrat Danny O’Connor. Green candidate Joe Manchik, a self-employed telecommunications engineer, was the only minor party candidate. He gained 1,129 votes, 436 votes short of providing Balderson’s margin of victory. Such can be the effect of the “Green” label, even with minimal campaigning. Although the Manchik vote amounted to only 0.6% of the total vote, it should be compared to the 3.6% (13,474 votes) he won in 2016 for the same seat. In that year, however, Republican incumbent Patrick Tiberi had a huge lead over his Democratic opponent—just the kind of race that has none of the sense of urgency (on either side) that usually prevents voters in a tighter race from “wasting” their votes. Manchik is also on the ballot in November’s replay of the Balderson-O’Connor battle and is again the only minor party candidate. He says in his platform that “we need to overthrow the corporate-capitalist and corporate owned Democratic-Republican Duopoly Party” (as good an excuse as any for letting Trump continue to control all three branches of government). Manchik won brief notoriety after the special election because of a statement on his Facebook page that he had “distant relatives” who “originally came to planet Earth from a planet orbiting a star in the Pleiades star cluster located in the constellation of Taurus.” I personally regard that view as benign and relatively sane in comparison to the utterly unhinged beliefs of the Christian Dominion dystopians, white supremacists and Alex Jones-loving conspiracy addicts who flock to Trump rallies.

Gubernatorial races:

These contests are important because a Democratic governor will hopefully be able to rally the party and many independents for the Democratic candidate for President in 2020, and can offer strong resistance to Republican attempts at voter suppression. I do not include races in which a Green candidate for governor is running in a state that is safe-Democratic-incumbent or safe-Republican-incumbent on the gubernatorial level (e.g., New York and Maryland, respectively). Lack of time prevented me from examining races in which the Greens have offered candidates for Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and other statewide offices. As we can see in what’s happening in Georgia and Kansas now, Republicans in positions such as Secretary of State are not above using their power to engage in egregious voter suppression.

In Ohio, the governor’s seat is open, because term limits prevent popular Governor John Kasich (R) from running again. As of Oct. 30, Cook and Sabato both regard the contest as a toss-up between Richard Cordray (D), former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau so hated by the Right (prior to that, he was Ohio’s Attorney General from 2009 to 2011) and Ohio’s current Attorney General Mike DeWine (R). Drawing votes away from Cordray will be the co-chair of the Ohio Green Party, Constance Gadell-Newton, an attorney who practices criminal defense and juvenile law. Probably drawing from the Republicans will be Travis Irvine, the Libertarian candidate. Gadell-Newton’s “Constance for Ohio” Facebook page shows evidence of vigorous campaigning at parades, forums and house parties, and at county Green Party events to whip up the faithful, as well as through canvassing and getting supporters to put up yard signs. The energetic Gadell-Newton may do unusually well for a Green, especially via campaign planks such as universal, single-payer health care, clean energy to combat global warming, and protections for low-income workers. But articles in the Toledo Blade and Cincinnati Inquirer suggest that her main aim is to get 3% of the vote in order to keep, under Ohio law, the party’s status as a recognized minority party and thus its guaranteed ballot access in Ohio elections. But if Gadell-Newton ends up in a spoiler role, she may destroy something far more important than her party’s ballot status. For it is Cordray, not the Green candidate, who is poised to break up the Republicans’ trifecta control of the state and squelch their plans to (a) intensify their voter suppression efforts and thus guarantee that Trump wins Ohio in 2020 and (b) gain an unbeatable gerrymander advantage from the 2020 census. And what will Gadell-Newton’s 3% of the vote give us? An opportunity for the Greens to repeat their 2016 spoiler role for Trump in 2020?

In Wisconsin, incumbent Governor Scott Walker is in a very close race with Democratic challenger Tony Evers, the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. Cook and Sabato both rate the race a toss-up as of Oct. 30. The Green candidate is Michael J. White, a former U.S. Air Force physician now in private practice in La Crosse. The ballot also includes two other minor party candidates, Phillip Anderson (Libertarian Party) and Arnie Enz (Wisconsin Party) as well as an independent candidate. From an interview with White that I watched on YouTube, he comes across at first as an impressive candidate with detailed mastery of the issues facing his state, pragmatic, willing to work with both major parties, agilely fielding questions on property taxes, gun laws and fracking—for all the world a Democratic moderate. On opiates he acknowledges that “we physicians” are a big part of the problem. On global warming, he recognizes the “existential” nature of the threat and has proposals for what could be done about it in Wisconsin.

But when he gets on the question of spoilers and the 2016 election, suddenly we’re in Jill Stein country: the Democrats want us to “vote our fears” [precisely what Trump is doing, and with the implication that we should be more concerned about the Democrats than Trump]…the Democrats and Republicans are like two “tribes” and “I don’t belong to either tribe…” [note the implication that both parties are equally responsible for the tribalism that in fact evolved from Fox News and rightwing Republican politics and was brought to a head by Trump, not the Democrats].

It would appear that White, in spite of his ability to package his message for maximum effect among voters who are far from being radicals, is trapped in the cognitive box that for three decades has doomed the Greens to ineffectualness in U.S. politics, except in the one thing they are in denial about—how their plague-on-both-houses ideological stance has steered them into being unwitting Republican enablers at the worst historic moments. He admits he can’t win, so what is he doing siphoning votes from Evers in a manner that could only help produce a third term in office for Scott Walker—the infamous union buster and driving force behind some of the harshest voter suppression measures in the nation?


It may be that the Blue Wave will be larger than I think and will render the spoiler effect of the Greens, Libertarians, etc. in the above races meaningless (I certainly hope so). But whatever happens, I want to make it clear that (a) I’m concerned here with potential Green spoiler effects under the emergency conditions of this election and of the elections in 2020 and thereafter until the Trump regime of hate is brought down, not with what the Greens might do thereafter or in any races today or in 2020 that lack a clear potential for a spoiler effect; and (b) I don’t think the Greens sat down and plotted to help Trump by entering the races described above. The Greens are a federation of autonomous state organizations each of which makes its own decisions about who to run (often it boils down simply to who is willing to run) and for what office. Some of the state Green organizations, as in Florida, did not put up candidates for the Senate or the House, and almost certainly many if not most of their members and voters will vote Democratic in the Congressional races and gubernatorial races, while voting Green in local and state legislative contests.

The problem here is a set of beliefs that, although not universally held in the Green movement or among its voters, is influential among many of its leading activists. The central belief is that the Democrats and Republicans are equally bad and corrupt, and to vote for the Democrats as the lesser evil is to sell out. Thus if the Greens put up a particular candidate for Congress they may simply not care if their candidate is going to undermine the Democrats’ fight to win back Congress. They don’t share the urgency the rest of us feel about achieving this goal. Green Party national co-chair Gloria Mattera, in a telephone interview with me, referred sarcastically to “Blue Wave hysteria.”

Green activists who have absorbed this mindset are not helping their party. They are keeping it blind to the possibilities of joining the vast movement now uniting liberals, progressives, centrists, minority communities and women across this land to save our democracy, and instead are retreating into a tunnel focus on how to position their candidates to win just enough votes in a particular state to gain or keep automatic Green ballot access for four more years. Not much different from what the Greens have been doing in the U.S. for the past 30 years and never really gaining much traction (Jill Stein with all her media attention in 2016, got only 1.07 percent of the national vote).

After Nov. 6, I’ll post a follow-up article about the views that motivate the Greens and why they continue to set themselves apart—in a strange ideological bubble—from the huge and exciting mass resistance movement to take back America, step by step, from the increasingly authoritarian Washington trifecta.

There is no Planet B.

There is no America B.

Green supporters should vote Democratic in all close congressional and gubernatorial races on November 6.



Hate Crime Visits Pittsburgh, again.

April 28, 2000. I’m sitting in the lobby of the Gatwick Airport Hilton having a cup of coffee with colleagues. It’s early morning— it would be early afternoon back in my hometown of Pittsburgh. A co-worker walks over to me and says, “you need to call home right now”. I looked puzzled. She continued, “someone just shot up your synagogue. I just saw it on CNN”. What she heard was very much true. A white supremacist named Richard Baumhammers had gone on a shooting spree, driving to various locations around the city and killing people— a Jew, an African-American, two Indian-Americans, and two Vietnamese-Americans. On his very methodical and mapped out tour, he took time to stop at our little shul in the Borough of Carnegie and shoot out all the plate glass windows in the building entrance. No one was in the shul at that time of day. (Note: I prefer to use the Yiddish word “shul” instead of “synagogue”)

I have always held an opinion that this kind of crime was not really predictable or preventable (Baumhammers used a hand gun and had no prior interactions with police). To me they were like lightning striking. These horrific events were random in nature, occurring at various places around the country at various intervals. They’re horrific when they visit your doorstep, but you have no choice but to deal with it and move on. I subsequently argued against locking down the shul during services or having an armed guard. I’ve never wanted to live in a cage or avoid public life out of fear. After all, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. But. But. But. In just the past week we’ve had pipe bombs sent to 14 people including two former presidents, two African-Americans were murdered for no other reason than they were black, and 11 Jews were murdered here in Pittsburgh at Tree of Life Congregation. (Tree of Life is in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, not in my borough). White nationalist violence now clearly has a green light from President Trump and the Republican Party is solidly behind him. I’m afraid the violence is just getting started. Because the Tree of Life shooting occurred just two days ago, I don’t have a coherent message about what I expect in the future (other than more building security). But here are some thoughts that were going through my head this weekend.

  1. The shooter, Robert Bowers, didn’t just pick Tree of Life at random. He got the name from HIAS’ list of congregations participating in a special program to welcome and assist refugees. In one of his online postings, Bowers actually thanked HIAS for giving him a list of targets. HIAS is an old organization that does noble work. Living nearby to me are a young couple with a small child who are Syrian Kurd refugees. They are grateful to be here in America. I am a donor to HIAS and will continue to be.

2. Leaders of our neighboring Muslim community reached out to me immediately after the shooting. I value their friendship and camaraderie. Pittsburgh Muslims and Jews have a mutually supportive relationship. That might seem strange to some, but there are a lot of white supremacists in Western Pennsylvania. Jews and Muslims have learned to look after each other. Watch this clip to the end.

3. Too many Jews are under the impression they are white. Can we just stop that please? Just stop. If you know your history, then you know that “whiteness” was invented by the klan to establish the white power structure that we still live with today. Jews are not included, no matter how white your skin may appear. Robert Bowers obviously doesn’t think you’re white; that should be a clue.

4. Trump says he’s coming to Pittsburgh. I’m not sure that a white nationalist president will be welcome at a Jewish funeral. And Israeli PM Netanyahu says he’s sending Naftali Bennett to Pittsburgh as an outreach. I don’t think Israeli Trumpsters are any more welcome than Trump himself. But we’ll see.

5. The Tree of Life shooting reminded us that if you see news reports like, “active shooter. officers down. suspect under arrest.”, that means the shooter is white. Brown or black people do not survive shooting a police officer.

In peace and solidarity.

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.