Black Lives Matter and Bernie Sanders

by Alan Eggleston

Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Photo by Wikimedia in the public domain.

No doubt about it, there’s a conflict between interests here. Black Lives Matter, the group bringing attention to the slaughter of innocent Black lives and systemic racism in America has a point: The problems persist and the major candidates aren’t adequately addressing them. But so, too, are they attacking the wrong candidate: Bernie Sanders has been a staunch ally in the fight for Civil Rights and a champion against bigotry and racism.

So I am conflicted.

On Saturday, two women who said they represented Black Lives Matter in Seattle took over the podium at an event in which Bernie Sanders was about to speak. After being allowed their time to address the crowd, they then wanted to confront Bernie Sanders over their issues. Attendees at the event who were there to hear Bernie Sanders booed the Black Lives Matter protesters. Bernie Sanders left the stage and went into the crowd to greet attendees. No one got what they came to the event for.

So this begs the question: What good did the protest do? More than anything, it alienated the people at the event. Of course, it engaged the whole nation in a debate, but the debate wasn’t over whether the candidates are addressing the issues Black Lives Matter find important so much as was Black Lives Matters right in grabbing control of the podium and then, when they were allotted some time at the podium, confronting Bernie Sanders and then not allowing him to address the crowd?

Black Lives Matters has legitimate issues. Things aren’t getting any better and Black lives continue to be at risk. And it is time for all presidential candidates, especially Democrats, to address this issue in their campaigns.

But Bernie Sanders of all the candidates in the campaign isn’t the one to pick a fight with. He may look like the cranky old white guy you’re used to hearing call you names and yelling at you to get off his lawn and stop cheating on welfare, but he’s not that guy. He’s been there for you in the past and he will be there for you in the future. (Bernie Sander’s history on race issues.)

If Bernie Sanders and his campaign staff were smart, they would address this quickly and be the campaign that addresses this now. NOW! Not just to save themselves from the challenges of groups like Black Lives Matter from seizing the podium in the future, but because those groups have just cause on their side and Bernie Sanders is on their side already. It’s time that the right guy address the issues rightly.

Now let’s all get back on the same side of this issue instead of arguing over who is listening to whom. We all agree that Black lives matter and that it’s way past time to do something about it.

© 2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.


Correcting Donald Trump on Political Correctness

by Alan Eggleston

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Photo by Michael Vadon under Creative Commons license.

Powerful business mogul Donald Trump complained during the first Republican presidential debate on the Fox (Republican) Propaganda Channel Thursday that the problem with America is political correctness. We aren’t allowed to say things that hurt other peoples’ feelings, he was implying.

Let me correct Mr. Trump for the record.

As with most conservative tropes, he begins with a false assumption.

Political correctness is a dog whistle term for conservatives suggesting their right to offend is being abridged. “PC” is not about not saying things that hurt other peoples’ feelings, it is about not saying things that show disrespect for other people. Conservatives just can’t help themselves when it comes to disrespecting others. You see it on Twitter, on Facebook, in online forums, in news comments sections, almost anywhere they interact with people. Yet when it comes to others interacting with conservatives, they are quick to play victims: For instance, when it came to shutting down the government a couple of years ago, one of their stated negotiation points was to be shown some respect.

To set the record straight, it is PC to not call Black people “nigger,” to not call mentally disabled people “retard,” and to not call ethnic groups by slurs like “chink,” “jap,” or “gook.” Why? Because those are all derogatory words. They show disrespect. And don’t give me any crap about them just being everyday terms used to describe people. Not in today’s world. Not ever.

So, Donald Trump, is calling Mexicans rapists, which besides being an over generalization and inaccurate is a show of disrespect. And so are all the things you have said about women that Fox’s Meghan Kelly called you out on Thursday.

Donald Trump is all about bluster and bull-dozing not just his opponents but anyone within hearing range. He says absurd things and when challenged, he runs over the challenger with more bluster and more absurd rants. That’s the way it is with conservatives. They don’t feel the need for accountability. They don’t believe they should be challenged. And that’s a problem for someone who wants to be president or, for that matter, any kind of leader.

No, Donald Trump, America’s problem isn’t with political correctness. America’s problem is with people like you and the people you court who think showing disrespect of others is an OK thing. You stand corrected.

(c) 2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.

Election 2016: Unite or Fail

The Democratic Party is a coalition of interests. The Republican Party is against every one of them.

  • Civil Rights/Black Lives Matter
  • LGBT Rights
  • Immigration Policy
  • Equal Justice
  • Reproductive Rights
  • Abortion Rights
  • Environmental Issues
  • Clean Air/Clean Water
  • Climate Change/Global Warming
  • Voting Rights
  • Human Rights
  • Animal Rights
  • Sustainable Energy
  • Infrastructure Upgrades
  • Progressive Tax Policy
  • Consumer Protection
  • Banking and Investor Protection

This isn’t an exhaustive list, just what comes off the top of my head as I write. The important point is that these are issues we are all talking about on social media and in email campaigns right now. They’re making the news nearly every evening in the news.

And while we are busy dissing this Democrat or that Democrat because he or she hasn’t sided on our particular important issue or issues, we can be sure that Republicans are united against all of them. When election time comes, Republicans will try to divide us over them in an attempt to divide us over them. Green Party candidates will likely try to chime in on many of them looking for support, even though they don’t have an organization to win nationally.

The only way we are going to gain on these issues is if we unite as a movement around a party and then pressure them to act on our issues. And when I say act on our issues, I mean all of our issues.

A coalition of interests is no coalition if we are splintered by our individual interests.

You can be sure that if we let the Republican Party divide and conquer, none of our interests will be represented in their government. That’s how it’s been in their control of the various levels and houses of government so far: local, state, and federal. Don’t expect it to change in the future.

It’s time for those who consider themselves progressives and liberals to smarten up and unite. When Democrats are nominated and run for office, before you hold your nose in disgust because one or another haven’t rallied around your cause, just remember that the alternative candidate will do worse if elected. And that means at all levels of government.

First rally around candidates in the primaries who do rally around your cause. If they don’t get elected in the primary, support the Democrat who is nominated. (Voting for an alternative candidate who won’t be able to get anything done accomplishes nothing.) Then support Democrats when they are elected but put pressure on them to act on your cause and all progressive/liberal causes: Be vocal, be active, and be organized. But above all, don’t sit out an election, because that’s how Republicans get elected, and that’s a guarantee that your issues will be ignored.

Come on progressives and liberals! 2016 is the time to unite … or fail.

Trump: Might He Run as a Third-Party Candidate?

by Alan Eggleston

Donald Trump said in an interview with The Hill that he might consider a third-party run for president if the Republican party doesn’t play nice.

Playing nice as in not throttling him in what he says to juice up support among the base. As in treating him like a real candidate, not like some schmuck looking for attention while the “real candidates” dog paddle behind in his considerable wake. As in getting support from the party elite who fear the effect of his rhetoric and would prefer someone in the lead who didn’t alienate potential voters.

Donald Trump on the campaign trail.

Photo by Gage Skidmore under Creative Commons license.

Donald Trump says a lot of things, and you don’t really know what to take seriously. For instance, he says he is paying for his own campaign, yet he elicits contributions on his website. He says he’s worth $10 billion, yet he’s changed that number over time and Forbes magazine recently listed him as being worth $4.1 billion. He says that Senator John McCain isn’t a war hero, but well, he’s a war hero because (sarcastic remark to save his face). Trump is a loud mouth who likes the sound of his own voice, and as long as people are willing to listen to him, he’s going to speak. What gives him oxygen is his bluff — if anyone challenges him, Trump just charges ahead relentlessly, like a bull charging through the red cape and the swords. What he says doesn’t have to make sense, charging ahead without regard to their objections gets him out of the problem. Steamroller Trump.

So when Trump says he might consider a third-party run, how seriously can you take him?

The problem for the Republican party is that they can’t afford not to take him seriously. If they nominate another candidate and Trump is still popular with as many of the base as he is today, he could siphon off a lot of votes as a third-party candidate, potentially handing the presidency to the Democrat. If the race is close, which it likely will be.

Why will the race be close, considering the tough field of Democratic candidates and the irresponsible field of Republican candidates? Because roughly a third of voters regularly vote Republicans regardless, just like a third of voters regularly vote Democratic, and it takes a pretty amazing standard candidate, a defining issue, or a very popular third-party candidate to change that.

Democrats might have had that very same problem in 2000 when Ralph Nader threatened to split off voters from Al Gore, potentially handing the election to George W. Bush. You might argue that those who voted for Ralph Nader would never have voted for Al Gore, and we will never know. But you could also persuasively argue, those who voted for Ralph Nader would never have voted for George W. Bush and had Nader not run, not wanting to hand the election over to Bush they would have voted for Al Gore rather than not vote. Looking at the data, however, shows that the percentages of those voting for Nader were small and wouldn’t have affected the election in any of the states where the election was close.

Now the problem with third-party candidacies is that third parties are small. None are organized nationally. To win the election, you need to build a national organization to compete enough to win. That takes talent, money, and a ground game — thousands of troops experienced enough to engage in a campaign and dedicated enough to help you win. And you have to wonder, if Trump decided to run as a third-party candidate, would he be able to organize that kind of campaign? Especially without the support of experienced talent.

There is no doubt a chunk of the Republican party — tea partiers — would join Trump. How many are experienced enough in campaigns is a big question. But they are enthusiastic.

I personally would love to see Donald Trump start a third-party campaign, split the Republican vote, and as a result, make it harder for Republicans down the ballot, too. That’s certainly a possibility. What I wouldn’t like to see is a Democrat win the White House with a small majority and Republicans be able to say that he or she doesn’t represent the will of The People.

So there’s good news and bad news in Trump’s idea. The bigger question is, is this just more of Steamroller Trump or is this real?

© 2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.

“The Star Spangled Banner” Is the Progressive’s Anthem, Too

by Alan Eggleston

Happy Independence Day. Most progressives and liberals don’t get mushy over holidays reserved by conservatives for breast beating. But I think we have pause to consider Independence Day one of our own.

I ask you to consider the words of the U.S. National Anthem. Far from a battle cry or a song of empty boasting – as the conservative narrative would have you believe – “The Star Spangled Banner” is an anthem of hope. And considering the battering our America has been under at the hands of conservatives and oligarchs since 2010, what America and its people need is an anthem of hope.

Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” in 1814 after watching Fort McHenry suffer heavy bombardment by British naval forces. Keep in mind the British Navy of 1814 controlled the seas at the time, and no other navy could resist them. Not Spain. Not France. And certainly with its meager few frigates, not America. Worst still, the British Navy used the heavy artillery aboard its ships to pummel forts and towns along the coasts and in bays and inlets. Not unlike a conservative Congress and conservative state legislatures Hell bent on forcing austerity and their religious zeal and bigotry on the rest of the nation.

So when morning came and Francis Scott Key saw the American flag was still flying, he was inspired with hope. He wrote his poem, which is actually four verses, and it was published first in Baltimore and then in newspapers up and down the East Coast, inspiring this then small nation.

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

The American Flag

Photo by DVIDSHUD on flickr under Creative Commons license.

It should inspire us on the left today. Still through the perilous fight against the extremism of the right — despite their relentless attacks on personal freedom, their endless fights to limit the rights of women and minorities and the lgbt communities; though they continue to suppress the vote and deny the poor and disenfranchise the lowly immigrant and their families — yet in the light so gallantly streaming is the hope of seeing that the battle is not lost. Through rhetoric’s red glare, “bombs” bursting in air, our flag is still there.

Fifty stars for the fifty states, thirteen stripes for the original thirteen. White for purity and innocence; red for valor and bravery; blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
U.S. Consolate Hong Kong and Macau

It’s still our America, not theirs. It’s ours to take back. It’s ours to win back.

Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave? You bet it does, if we but keep hope. It yet waves over all who seek justice and equality and fairness. It waves over the land of the free and the home of the brave – all who fight for it.

So when you hear “The Star Spangled Banner” played this weekend and sung at ball games and other public events, that’s our anthem too. That’s us seeing that under threat and under constant bombardment by relentless foes, there is yet hope. And another day is coming. Our day.

Happy Independence Day friends. Happy Fourth of July.

© 2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.

Time for a Democratic White House with a Matching Congress

by Alan Eggleston

I commented yesterday about the long primary season ahead with Republicans. We have a different problem for Democrats.

Our list of candidates, so far at least, is short with just five (former Senator Jim Webb just announced). At least two of those candidates are solid, popular candidates. But the problem for any candidate who runs for the presidency isn’t just winning, it’s bringing along enough in his or her party who win elections for the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to be able to accomplish what is promised during the election.

Imagine a Bernie Sanders winning the presidency but because Republicans label him as a Social Democrat, Republicans re-win majority rule in the House and the Senate (or of either institution). That would make it incredibly difficult for a President Bernie Sanders to accomplish anything of substance.

The same scenario could work against Hillary Clinton. Imagine if Republicans are able to taint her accomplishments or her history enough that they sway voters to counter her election as president by re-electing Republican majorities in Congress. Again, that would make it very difficult for her to accomplish anything of substance.

Republicans are really good at throttling Democratic presidents from accomplishing worthy goals. Just look at what they did to President Obama throughout his time in the White House, after the relatively short time Democrats actually (despite conservative embellishments on the timeline) had “control” of Congress. Thank goodness there was that short window of opportunity when they passed the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and a slew of other legislation, before Republican obstructionists slammed the brakes on everything — and I do mean everything — the president and Democrats in Congress (and the American people) needed to get done.

Ultimately, as progressives we need to ensure that for 2016, regardless of who gets nominated as the Democratic candidate for president, we must make sure he or she gets a Congress that will work with him or her. A Democrat in the White House needs a Democratic majority in at least one house of Congress but better both of them. As was true with President Obama, a president without a collaborative Congress is allowed to accomplish very little.

That’s not to detract from what President Obama has accomplished by acting on his own during the last two years of his presidency. That has been amazing. But imagine what he could have done if progressives and liberals had gone to the polls in massive numbers in 2010 and 2014 and given him a Democratic majority with which to work in Congress instead of a Republican majority that has obsessively worked against him.

Pick your poison, progressives and liberals. Sit out the election because you hold a grudge against a candidate or because a candidate doesn’t perfectly align with your ideals — thus handing Washington over to anti-democratic Republicans — or get to the polls and elect candidates who at least work together for a more humane America. Pouting in the corner while the world slides into a pit isn’t going to solve any of our problems.

Let’s bring Democrats back into control of the White House, the House, and the Senate. In fact, let’s also sweep state elections, too. Are you in?

© 2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.

It’s Going to Be a Long – Very Very Long – Primary Season

by Alan Eggleston

As of this writing, fourteen Republicans have declared their candidacy for the presidential election in 2016. Rhetorically, they are all in a horse race to the bottom of the moral barrel, embracing bigotry and all the base emotional issues that bring their fans to the polls and cash to candidate coffers. (Who is running.)

So where do Republican candidates have to go but up in that stinky barrel?

We have yellers like Christie and Trump. Whiners like Huckabee and Graham. Color-blind racists like Carson, Jindal, and Rubio. Corporate failures like Fiorina and, again, Trump. Governors with questionable records like Bush, Perry, and Pataki. And out-and-out flaming crazies from the Senate like Cruz, Santorum, and Paul. Not to mention many who are under criminal indictment. And they all think they qualify to not only reside at the White House, but also make the decisions that daily come into the Oval Office.

We face months of endless partisan debates on television giving these ideologues a platform to spew hate and intolerance and lack of any real policy substance. Their base will tune in just to hear them say what they like to hear. One commenter on a news article recently remarked that he liked a certain candidate because, “He said just what I wanted to hear.” The candidate didn’t offer any brilliant solutions to America’s most urgent problems, he simply kept saying the things this guy liked to hear. And that’s the problem with the Republican party in general: All they say and all they have to offer is what their base wants to hear — problem-solving be damned; all Republican politics today is rhetoric and sound bites.

Democrats currently have four declared candidates for the presidency in 2016. The top two, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, talk about solutions to problems. I’m sure Chafee and O’Malley do the same or soon will. Democrats are the party of substance. And once uncommitted voters actually start paying attention — say, Labor Day of 2016 — that’s going to make a big difference.

In the meantime, we have to put up with the Republican race to the bottom of the stinky barrel. It’s going to be a long, very very long, primary season.

©2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.

Pulling the Confederate Battle Flag: What Have We Won?

by Alan Eggleston

So what have we won?

After nine innocent African Americans were gunned down in the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina Church by a young man seen in photos brandishing guns and the confederate battle flag, pressure was raised for the State of South Carolina to remove the flag from its Capitol Grounds. The legislature, which is the only governmental body that can make that call, said it would study the question.

Demands came in for the same decision to be made in other states, and soon other states did take down their flags showing the confederate battle flag. Meanwhile, businesses and organizations stopped selling merchandise glamorizing the confederate battle flag. Here in Michigan, a local flag maker has decided to simply stop making the confederate battle flag.

It’s a moral victory for those recognizing that the confederate battle flag isn’t about honoring Southern heritage but glorifying racism and Southern secession from the Union. But did it really accomplish anything more?

A half dozen Black churches in the South have been burned to the ground by arsonists. The Klu Klux Klan (KKK) still dares to show its ugly face, brandishing the confederate flag when it appears in public. And rusty old pickups still drive around publicly flying over-sized confederate flags in a display of defiance – I’ve seen it even here in Michigan. The hate is still there, the defiance still lives. The Civil War, long ago lost by the South, is still a war wound looking for revenge.

But at least removing the confederate battle flag from government edifices and land removes official state sanctioning of this symbol. It pushes back unspoken support for the cause. It removes the pulpit that fuels the racist’s rage and daily and unjustly intimidates every victim.

So what have we won? The moral high ground, the proof that public pressure can get results, and at least a beginning to pushing racists back to the margins of society. The battle wears on, but the war will be long. Yet with their most potent symbol pulled from official public view, the old confederate secessionists have fewer and fewer battle flags to rally around. And that’s a good thing. Maybe one day we can finally call this war over.

©2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.

You About Done Trashing Our Candidates?

by Alan Eggleston

We are in for a very long 2016 presidential campaign season. The horse race has already begun and the primary season is still just under a year away. And the sniping at candidates is in full swing, even among partisans within each party.

This isn’t new. It happened that way in 2012, and as near as I can remember, it happened that way in 2008. Partly, it’s driven by a media eager to create a narrative that drives traffic and builds audiences. And partly it’s driven by politicians eager to detract as much as possible from their opposition. But some of it is also driven by those partisans so pumped up from battles with the other side that they often take on battles with those on their own side.

I can’t speak for the conservative side. Let them police their own partisans. But I can speak from experience on the progressive and liberal side.

Every day on Twitter and Facebook I see “political junkies” on the left dissing Democratic candidates. “Hillary is too corporate,” they moan. “Bernie is too Socialist to win,” others complain. “Chafee is too Republican,” others snipe. “O’Malley is milquetoast” some others weep. I can’t wait to see what they have to say about Jim Webb if he should jump into the race.

I don’t know why we can’t let the caucuses and primaries sort out the field and stop all the verbal battering of our candidates. Maybe you don’t like all the candidates, but what the eventual candidate doesn’t need is to start her or his ground game with potential voters who have read messages by people who should be supporters dragging the candidate down before she or he gets a chance to explain their case before voters.

Of course you have opinions. Of course you have a right to express them. But how are you helping progressive causes if expressing your doubts ultimately elects a Republican, who will act against your best interests? You may not go out and vote (the more who choose this option, the more likely a Republican will win, as shown in midterm elections), but undecided voters will go to the polls, and the doubts you have expressed early on and even during the election may swing their votes.

Not only that, but you may be giving Republicans fodder for the actual election. Do you really want to be responsible for that?

Hillary Clinton has taken a much less corporate line in her campaign so far, championing more progressive themes. Bernie Sanders is drawing huge crowds early in the campaign and his themes are highly popular. Chafee has just begun his campaign so it’s too early to tell what his themes will be. And O’Malley deserves to be heard.

I plan to listen closely to what these candidates have to say and what they offer as solutions to our problems, not what wannabe pundits say. I’ll vote in the primary and when a candidate is picked in the nominating convention, that is who I will support and vote for. Because regardless of who the Republicans pick out of their circus tent, so far none of them will be good for our nation. None of them have a progressive perspective. And I won’t give any of them an edge by denigrating any Democratic candidate.

We can discuss candidate policies without dissing the persons.

In countries like Canada and the United Kingdom, elections for the top political spot (Prime Minister) are held in a couple of months, not over two years. It’s a shame we can’t do that in the United States. It would make the process cleaner and less traumatic. But then, monied interests at every level wouldn’t get to shuffle cash and influence like they can running out the election over two years. The system really is broken. And the temptation to tear apart candidates is passed down the political chain as a result. None of us is the better for it.

©2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.

Who Backs Our Black Communities?

by Alan Eggleston

An article in Tuesday’s Washington Post suggests that Black voters feel let down by President Obama and that if he couldn’t affect the changes that Blacks need in their lives, what are the chances that Democratic (and frankly, current early overall) front-runner Hillary Clinton can? The article headline says they’re asking, “Is it even worth backing Clinton?”

The article further suggests that many Black community leaders think that Hillary Clinton is focusing on the right issues, but if President Obama couldn’t get the job done, what can she do?

What I have seen voiced on Twitter is that while the Clinton campaign is hitting high notes on the economy, economic inequality, joblessness, injustice, and voting rights, she isn’t addressing the issue of “living while Black” — unarmed Black Americans being shot by police, harassed by police, and generally still being targeted by the white-entitlement movement. But these same voices are complaining about that for all current Democratic candidates.

So if Clinton isn’t their candidate, who is? Is there a Democrat out there who could be?

Let’s be clear about one thing: There isn’t any Republican or Libertarian or Tea Party candidate out there who has the interests of Blacks in their hearts. Ben Carson is a brilliant neurosurgeon, but that doesn’t automatically qualify anyone to be president, and his conservative credentials suggest he doesn’t side with the economic or justice interests of most Blacks.

What about the Green Party candidates? They may side with many of the interests of Black citizens, but none of the green parties have the organizational reach to win a national presidential election. And even if they did, they don’t have the organizational reach within Congress to get major legislation enacted.

Then what is the Black electorate to do? Sit out the election? I would ask, how does that serve their best interests? That would likely hand the presidency over to a Republican, likely a very conservative Republican, who would never side with the interests of Black citizens. Republicans have already attempted to send America back to pre-Civil War days — it wouldn’t get any better with a  Republican president, which would be disastrous for Black Americans.

But the answer also isn’t for Blacks to simply vote for Hillary or “any old Democrat” anyway. Although Democrats most have the interests of Black Americans at heart, Democrats have also been lax in promoting and acting on them.

No, the better answer is for Black Americans to become more politically active in running for office, showing up at rallies and protests, and demanding answers from candidates. When candidates don’t act in the interests of Black Americans, then Black Americans need to actively back candidates who will do a better job. In essence, they need to do more like the Tea Party did in the Republican Party, starting at the grass roots level, running for office locally and at the state level and capturing the offices that most affect their lives. School boards, town and city assemblies, county commissions, mayorships and county executive offices, state legislatures, and governorships. Especially in communities where Blacks have majority populations.

And progressives and liberals need to support the Black community in their movement to empower themselves in this way. Many have been at protests supporting movements like Black Lives Matter, but we need to show up for election campaigns and fundraisers, too. Just as important, we have to show up at the polls and vote for progressive Black candidates.

I can’t blame the Black community for being disheartened. Much of the progress that once appeared to be gained in their lives has rolled back. If we don’t want them to sit out at election time because they think “elections don’t matter,” we need to have their backs — now! Show them that elections do matter because their participation matters.

©2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.