Have You Had Enough Yet?


Have you heard enough yet?

It should have been enough after he spent years advancing the ludicrous story that President Obama wasn’t born in this country – a narrative he continued long after the President’s original birth certificate had been made public . . . but it wasn’t enough for some people.

It should have been enough when he proposed his impractical wall on the Mexican border, when he painted Mexicans with a broad brush, saying they were rapists and murderers who bring in drugs and crime, but it wasn’t enough for some people.

It should have been enough when he said that people should be excluded from this country because of their religious beliefs, but it wasn’t enough for some people.
It should have been enough when he mocked a reporter with a disfiguring disability, when he said that Senator John McCain was no hero because he had been captured, when he said that President Obama founded ISIS, and when he praised the Russian dictator as a “great leader” and said he was a much greater leader than President Obama.

It should have been enough when he called on the Russians to hack into his opponent’s email.  It should have been enough when it became know that he had used loopholes in the tax laws that allowed an almost billion-dollar loss from his businesses to flow down to his personal returns and therefore avoid paying taxes for almost two decades.

But none of this was enough for some people.

It should have been enough when he said that the federal judge hearing a case against him should be disqualified because his parents were from Mexico, when he attacked the Goldstar parents of a United States Army Captain who died fighting for this country because of their religion, when he stated that he had actually seen “thousands of Muslims” in New Jersey celebrating the World Trade Center attacks when this was not true, when he suggested that “Second Amendment People” should “do something about” Hillary Clinton, when he offered to pay for the legal defense of someone who sucker-punched a protester at one of his rallies.

No, even this was still not enough.

It should have been enough when he made crude sexist remarks about Carly Fiorina during the primaries, when he said that Hillary Clinton’s use of the bathroom during a debate was “disgusting”, when he said that Megyn Kelley had “blood coming out of her . . . wherever”, when he repeatedly attacked women too numerous to mention as “fat” and “pigs” and “ugly” . . .

But no . . . it wasn’t enough.

And now we have heard him say, in the most vulgar terms, that it is okay to grab women by their genitals if you are a celebrity. We’ve heard him say in incredibly disgusting language that he, a recently married man, tried to have sex with a woman he knew was married, and after he said that she had turned him down, and then after disparaging her looks when they arrived at where they were going to meet her he said that he needed “Tic Tacs” in case he started kissing her because he was “automatically attracted to beautiful (women)”

And this is a person that 40% of the voters say they want to be President?

Is this enough?

And then this “apology” . . .

“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong and I apologize”.

Actually Donald, you have told us that you are a perfect person . . . many times over.  You have pretended to be someone that you are not . . . your entire life is a lie.  And any rational person who has paid the slightest bit of attention to your repeated behavior and actions knows that those words reflect precisely who you are.

Yes, you said it.

Enough is enough.

The Media Needs A Horserace


If you are not feeling thoroughly manipulated yet, you’re just not paying attention.

The shock and dismay expressed in the aftermath of the NBC “Commander-in-Chief Forum” on NBC last week was, for lack of a better word, “touching”.  Does anyone with half a clue as to how a media organization like NBC Universal operates actually believe that the decision to grille Secretary Clinton for the first ten minutes on the grotesquely over-flogged dead-horse of her email server was something that Matt Lauer came up with on his own?  Do you actually believe the continual interruptions of Clinton during her responses was Lauer’s idea, or might he have been prompted by his producer to keep the questions coming?  Were the softballs lobbed at Trump an unwitting acquiescence to the notoriously clueless GOP nominee’s obviously limited grasp of the issues, and Lauer’s failure to challenge him on his numerous factual lapses simply a lack of preparation on the part of NBC’s prized 28 million-dollar a year King of morning infotainment?

Are we really that gullible?

Over the weekend the story broke of how Secretary Clinton became faint and stumbled getting into her van after a 9/11 observance in New York, and predictably the media was abuzz with theories and questions as to her overall health and fitness to serve, despite a diagnosis from her physician that she was suffering from pneumonia.  Why had the media not been informed of this immediately?  Is there a deeper darker tale that is not being told?  Why has she not submitted to an in-depth health screening and released every detail for popular scrutiny to be considered and speculated on and theorized on by the media’s appointed medical experts?  Is Hillary Clinton on death’s door?  What could she be hiding? Is this part of a master plan to install Tim Kane as President following her almost assured demise?  Oh my God!  How could we consider someone so frail to be commander-in-chief?

Or could it be that Hillary Clinton has pneumonia and needs a Z-Pak and a couple days of rest?

Of course not.  That story doesn’t drive the media’s need for this campaign to stay as competitive as possible and feed the media money machine given that in reality her opponent shouldn’t even have survived the first few weeks of the primaries, let alone be polling within single digits of her nationally at this point in the campaign.

Donald Trump is our first truly made by TV, made for TV candidate.  He rose to electoral prominence by playing the media’s game, a game he knows all too well.  Trump is the goose that lays a golden egg for the network media machine with every toxic utterance that issues forth from his lips, every revolting tweet he twitters, every vapidly preposterous policy pronouncement he pompously proposes.  The Trump phenomenon has propelled the political ad spending in this election cycle to an estimated 14.6 billion dollars – up from an already astounding 9 billion in the 2012 election, and that doesn’t count the drag dollars from advertisers who sponsor election events like the over-hyped “Commander-In-Chief Forum” fueled by this media driven feeding frenzy.

I hear people ask every day how it is possible that Donald Trump stands a chance – albeit still a rather slim one – to be elected President.  The answer I fear is found in the phrase apocryphally attributed to Watergate informant Mark Felt, aka “Deep Throat”:

“Follow the money.”

The media, to meet the demands of its bottom line, needs this election to be a horserace, and if Donald Trump were to be held to a scintilla of the accountability expected of Hillary Clinton he would be already put out to pasture for stud.

And given what we know of his history he would probably be quite happy in retirement.


Could the Elephant be Replaced by A Porcupine?


Republicans are now waking up to the worst hangover imaginable in the aftermath of their rather unconventional “convention” in Cleveland last month.  The brain-fog may be clearing but the terrible pounding headache resulting from the bizarre party “party”, the likes of which could only be attributed to a combination of cheap moonshine bourbon, kitchen-sink amphetamines, and some form of really weird acid, will linger for the rest of this election cycle.

With his poll numbers falling faster than a ball-bearing in the vacuum of his vapid policy proclamations and Putin pandering it is becoming increasingly obvious that Donald Trump has little chance of victory in November.  Real Clear Politics numbers show Clinton having a comfortable and growing lead in every battleground state, and the books in Vegas are now giving Clinton 76 / 24 odds.   Most polls are also pointing to at least a 50/50 split in the Senate (Vermont independent Bernie Sanders and Maine’s Angus King caucus with the Democrats) and the very strong possibility of this becoming a 51 or 52 seat majority.  Only the House seems safe for the party with the Republicans securely gerrymandered into control until at least after the next census in 2020.  The GOP itself is in disarray with some leaders still offering a tepid support of Trump’s candidacy for the sake of whatever semblance of “party unity” remains as they try to seize control of their speeding locomotive rapidly approaching its inevitable head-on collision with reality.  Others have distanced themselves or outright declared that they will not vote for the party’s standard-bearer in November.   Only the true-believer neoconservative lunatic fringe remain as his actual allies, and the question becomes one of what happens to the GOP come January now that the most fractious election in modern times has laid bare the wide gulf between pragmatic party regulars and the various far-right factions.

One beneficiary of the looming Republican train-wreck is Gary Johnson and the Libertarian movement.  With no real chance of victory this November despite his beyond-unlikely strategy to seize sufficient electoral votes to throw the election to the House, Johnson and the Libertarians may be the new face of a viable center-right party in the future.  Some have suggested that Johnson might actually capture the six electoral votes in Mormon dominated Utah this year, a normally solid red-state where The Donald is as popular as a chlamydia outbreak in a monastery, and perhaps a couple more in Nebraska, one of two states which allocate electors by Congressional district.

With its philosophy of individual liberty and small-government friendly politics, the Libertarians are a natural refuge for disaffected GOP voters and center-right independents fed up by the party’s pandering to social conservatives and race-baiting xenophobes spouting anti-immigrant rhetoric.  If many disaffected Democrats are “feelin’ the Bern” in the aftermath of revelations that the DNC rigged its nomination process in favor of the establishment candidate, even more Republicans and center-right independents are fried to a crisp over the meltdown of the GOP and its complete abandonment of principle for the sake of pandering to the worst instincts of its most extreme elements.

Political historians are not in solid agreement as to whether the party alignment we have been working with since the mid 1960s represents a “sixth party system” or a continuation of the “fifth party system” that emerged with FDRs New Deal, but by whatever designation it becomes known it is almost certain that a new party alignment will emerge in the aftermath of what is clearly the most disruptive election since the end of the gilded era and perhaps since reconstruction.

The Democratic Party has some serious soul-searching to do, and its leadership and direction will doubtlessly be shaken up in the wake of the duplicitous behavior confirmed in the recent email leaks. That being said, the Democrats will emerge in an evolved form as they heal the internal infection and work on the long overdue integration of  the more progressive stance represented by  the ongoing Bernie Sanders revolution.

The GOP faces a far more existential challenge, and who ends up owning the Republican brand remains to be seen as does how much that brand continues to look like the elephant we have come to know or how much it begins to resemble the staunchly independent and individual-affirming Libertarian porcupine.

This will be a story for the history books.

Stay tuned.

Stuck With a Two – Speed


Dissatisfaction with the candidates of the two major political parties in this cycle has focused even more than the usual attention on the idea of third party candidates and how we can escape from our money-dominated two party nightmare.  Technically speaking there is nothing in the Constitution giving either the Democratic or Republican parties an official position in our politics, nor does the Constitution limit us to a choice between two parties.  We as voters have the power to elect the candidates of our choosing whether they claim a party affiliation or not.  We as voters are free to choose leadership from between two, three, four, five, or as many different parties as we wish.

I have friends who, like me, supported Bernie Sanders in his primary bid and who likewise are frustrated with the bias shown by the Democratic National Committee in favor of the establishment candidate (not to mention the mass-media which appeared to do its bidding) – all of which probably prevented Sanders from achieving the nomination.  I like most of those I know in this category are resolved to support Hillary Clinton in the general election because we understand that the only realistic alternative is unacceptable.  (And honestly, she’s really not the evil cartoon character her opponents have made her out to be.)  You can choose to disagree . . . that’s fine by me . . . and that’s not what this article is about.

There are a significant number of supporters of Senator Sanders who maintain that they cannot vote for Secretary Clinton and cannot support the Democratic Party after what was clearly a rigged selection process.  I get that.  I truly understand their anger.  Some of them say they will stay home (self-disenfranchisement) or who will either vote for the Green Party candidate Jill Stein or write in Bernie Sanders.  Your call.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again . . . making the case that choosing Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump is a decision between the “lesser of two evils” is like saying that you can’t stand the taste of Pepsi, and because you are presented with the choice of a glass of Pepsi or a glass of gasoline you can’t make up your mind even though at the end of the day not only will you be force-fed one of the two – the rest of us will also.  I would rather have a hand in the choice.

Likewise, I have friends and co-workers who typically identify as Republicans yet who cannot bring themselves to vote for the nominee of their party for many reasons, most of those boiling down to what I have already discussed here and elsewhere.  I have a number of friends who identify as Libertarians and who, like many disenfranchised Republicans say they will support Gary Johnson this year.

At the end of the day you will vote your conscience.  I have my opinion and if you’ve been following this blog or my Facebook postings you are quite aware of where I stand.  I’ve had many interesting discussions with friends of all political leanings about whether or not voting for a third-party candidate is “throwing your vote away” – I’ll allow you to make that decision for yourself.  (See my Pepsi / gasoline analogy above, and decide which candidate is which, according to your own leanings.)

The reality is that on November 9th either the nominee of the Democratic Party or the Republican Party is going to wake up with the title of President Elect.  The reasons have to do with culture, history, tradition, mathematics, the structure of our electoral system, and the realities of the selection process as enshrined in the Twelfth Amendment – a piece of our foundational document which in my humble opinion is in serious need of amendment itself – and that’s where I’m ultimately headed.

This article is about why we are stuck in this binary system and what, if anything, we the people can do about it.  This is a bit involved, but so is our process and the history behind it.  The solutions are not simple, but a clear and cogent understanding of the facts and the history of how we got to where we are is essential if any of us are to make an informed decision about what we do in November, and how we fix this ugly mess in the long term.

What I am going to lay out here boils down to the following.

  • The Twelfth Amendment essentially makes anything other than a two-party system impractical at best and (more likely) disastrous at worst.
  • The Electoral College as established in Article II of the Constitution and as modified by the Twelfth Amendment favors entrenched, established political entities.
  • The gerrymandering of Congressional Districts, practiced by both major parties (and which has benefitted both at various times in our history) exacerbates the distrust of government – and should the House be called upon to render a decision in a tie the result would most likely be devastating civil unrest.
  • The solution to this will require major re-thinking of how we elect not only our Executives, but the way we elect the House of Representatives and perhaps the very structure of that body.

Let’s start with the Twelfth Amendment which specifies how the President and Vice President are elected.  This amendment was ratified in 1804 in the aftermath of the contentious and bitter election of 1800 (more on this in a moment), and revises the original selection method established in the third clause of Article II Section I of the Constitution.  Pay close attention to the parts underlined.


The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate.

The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.  (Last sentence superseded by the Twentieth Amendment)

The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

The current distribution of congressional districts (plus 3 from the District of Columbia) gives us a total of 538 electors, and as we just read it takes 50% of those plus 1 (270 electoral votes) to win.  Should no candidate achieve this number of electors the House of Representatives decides the race between the top three vote getters with each state’s House delegation having one vote.  (Seriously, you can’t make this shit up.) Among other things this means the lame-duck House that may have just been tossed out gets to choose the President.  What’s more, states with tiny populations like Alaska, Montana, and Vermont have as much say in selecting the President as heavily populated states like California, Texas, and New York.  If you think the dissatisfaction with the outcome of the 2016 primaries was intense or the decision in the 2000 “hanging chads” dispute was divisive, it should be pretty obvious that this situation would be a recipe for a huge national crisis given the current polarization of our politics.

Here’s where the fun begins.

Now, a brief look at history.

In a system dominated by two political parties the likelihood of an electoral tie (both candidates receiving 269 votes) is extremely low.  It has really only happened once under the current system and that during a brief period where there was only one dominant party (Democratic-Republican).  This was in 1824 with 261 electors up for grabs.  The election of 1824 was a four-way race between Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay and William H. Crawford.  With none of the four achieving an electoral majority (pretty much a given with that many candidates in serious contention) the election was thrown to the House with Jackson, Adams, and Crawford being the top vote getters.  Clay, left out of the race,  cut a deal with Adams to be the Secretary of State if Adams were elected and  used his influence in Congress to tilt the election to Adams even though Jackson had not only won more electoral votes, but an overwhelming majority of the popular vote (153,544 to Adams’ 108,740).

Think ugly politics is a recent development?  Think again.

On one other occasion the House was called into the mix due to a dispute over the validity of electors in 1876.  To make a very long but interesting story short (you can read the details of the compromise of 1877 here if you are so inclined) the House commission appointed to resolve the dispute awarded all of the disputed votes to Rutherford B. Hayes – igniting what came very close to being a second Civil War.

It is worth mentioning the one other time the Presidency was chosen by the house [1], which was the election of 1800.  That race was decided under the original terms of Article II Section I of the Constitution where the largest vote-getter was elected President, and the runner up Vice President.  Once again in a four way race the decision went to Thomas Jefferson.

In all of the above examples the popular fallout was disastrous.  The decision in 1800 was the catalyst for the passage of the Twelfth Amendment subtly but significantly altering the election process and setting the stage for what ultimately evolved into our two-party system today.  The extremely ugly side-deal between Clay and Adams in 1824 cast a cloud on the legitimacy of Adam’s presidency and resulted in Jackson winning by a landslide four years later, and in 1876 a new Civil War was only barely avoided by the compromise of 1877 with the echoes of animosity and distrust between the politics of the north and the south lingering to this day.

Next, let’s do some math.

Are you a burned Bernie Supporter, fed up with the shenanigans of the DNC?  Are you a Republican who feels the soul of your party has been coopted by the unprincipled actions of the party elite or the clever machinations of a slippery smooth-talking charlatan?  Are you a Libertarian or Green forced to choose between candidates whose philosophy you espouse or a nauseating compromise of principles?   Do you long for a serious set of options?

I’m with you.  Really . . . I’m truly with you.  That being said, the math doesn’t work for us given the reality of how the Twelfth Amendment lines up the spreadsheet.

Consider this . . .

In the essentially binary system we have today a decision by the voting public (as represented by the Electoral College) is almost assured with few scenarios resulting in an electoral tie.  Even the existence of minority parties like the Libertarians and the Green Party don’t matter much as electors are allocated on a “winner take all” basis [2] The realities of tradition and the power of the entrenched Republican and Democratic parties make it essentially impossible for a minor party candidate to achieve enough votes to win any electors. Even if there was a situation where, let’s say the Libertarian Gary Johnson was to win Utah as some have suggested might be possible this year, the resulting shift of 6 electoral votes would only make a victory for the Democratic party more likely and very slightly increase the odds of a disastrous electoral tie.

Putting aside the above, let’s assume that there actually was a strong enough movement to make one of the two minority parties a contender, thus creating a three-way race with all three parties in contention.   This is not going to happen this year, there is far too much momentum (and dollars) behind the major parties and like it or not all of the cards are stacked in their favor.   But for the sake of argument let us assume that we did have three parties in contention and to be realistic that each of the three parties had a roughly equal base allowing them to count on 15% of the electoral votes (roughly 45% of the total) leaving the remaining 55% up for grabs.  In this scenario, if the two lowest vote-getters were able to amass just 54 electors each over and above their base – a very likely outcome – the decision would go to the House of Representatives with each state delegation getting one vote.  At this time the Republicans hold a 33 to 14 advantage in state delegation majorities and would almost surely hand the election to the Republican candidate.  The choice of the Vice President, with the Senate being split far more evenly, could result in an equally if not more contentious situation.  Currently the Republicans control the Senate with a majority of 46 to 54 (Independents Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine caucus with the Democrats and are counted with them for likely voting purposes.)  While there is a the very real possibility that control of the Senate could pass to the Democrats this fall, it is the incumbent lame-duck Congress that would make these choices – once again setting the stage for widespread chaos and further erosion of faith in the fairness of our system.

In a race with four parties (or independent candidates) in serious contention only 9 or 10 additional electors  would need to be amassed by each of the three lowest vote-getters to hand the decision to Congress and probably unleash an uprising the likes of which none of us have seen in our lifetimes – at least not in this country.  I’d rather not go there and I think there are better alternatives.

Are you part of the problem – Or part of the solution?

I’ve talked a lot about history here – and history is important from the standpoint of historical perspective.  It gives us context.  Part of this context is the fact that the process we use to elect the President is a relic from a different time and a different reality, that being the reality of our nation as it existed at the end of the 18th and the early days of the 19th centuries.


Total US Population:  5.3  million
Voting Population: (“Free white males” over 21):  roughly 1 million (Approximate number as 1800 census data did not clearly delimit those of voting age.)
Ballots cast in 1800 election:  67,282

America in 1800 was a fledgling nation experimenting with the then radical concept of self-government – the notion that government serves the will of and is answerable to the people.   The concept of the presidency was not what it is today.  The system used to select the holder of that office is simply no longer applicable, and the idea that this selection should ever be surrendered to a body that while elected, is subject to partisan loyalties over the will of the governed is no longer conscionable.

Fast forward to the twenty-first century.  The United States of America is the most powerful and prosperous nation on the planet and the most powerful and prosperous nation in the history of human civilization.  We are the world’s most diverse nation being made up of every race and nationality. The passage of the Fifteenth Amendment giving suffrage to those of all races, the Ninetieth giving suffrage to women, and the Twenty-sixth giving suffrage to those 18 and older has extended the power of self-government to almost a quarter of a billion people giving this country the ability to be the most democratically governed nation on earth – although sadly only about 55% of us exercised that right in 2012, a right for which so many have paid for at high cost, including the cost of their lives.

We live in a radically connected world that our founders could not have even dreamed of in the closing days of the 18th century.  This connection presents opportunities, and it presents challenges.

The bottom line on this lengthy post is that if we are going to change the system that we have we need to own the reality of how it works, and figure out how we work within it as we are working to change it.  The urgency of this transcends politics and party identity.  The moneyed powers behind the two entrenched party systems rely on our staying divided in order to maintain control.  When we fall for this, when we define ourselves as Democrats or Republicans, conservatives or liberals or progressives first, forgetting that we are all Americans and all in this together we are playing into the hands of those who are deeply invested in the status quo.

The recipe for changing our system is a Constitutional Amendment which accomplishes the following.

  • Replaces the third clause of Article II Section one of the US Constitution and the Twelfth Amendment.
    • Abolishes the electoral college in favor of a system honoring the principle of one person, one vote. [3]
    • Prohibits giving official or favored status to any political party, and eliminating the corrupt system of publicly funded political primaries.
    • Provides for a run-off system in the event that no individual achieves a clear majority, and removes the unfair and dangerous possibility of a lame-duck Congress disenfranchising the electorate.
    • Places all elections for national office which impact the nation as a whole, including those for President, Vice President, and Congress under a uniform set of federal standards, and eliminates the ability of states to enact laws advancing voter suppression.
    • Places uniform non-partisan standards on the drawing of congressional district boundaries eliminating the practice of gerrymandering.
  • Clarifies the intent of the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment as applying to natural persons, not corporations thus invalidating the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.
    • Provides for a fair, publicly funded campaign system in which large private donations are prohibited.
    • Requires federally licensed broadcast media to provide equal time to all candidates who meet reasonable standards of voter support.

In order to achieve the above, we need to focus on more than the Presidential race.  Yes, having a President in the White House who is willing to support real election reform is important – but the President has no direct say in the amendment process.  That role is left to Congress and the state legislatures, and that is where we need to focus.

We have the ability, using the power of social media and personal connections to start this change.  It is not happening between now and this coming November – it’s a much longer term process – but the time to start is now.  Become part of a local effort to elect legislators in your state who support real election reforms.  Be a voice demanding that candidates for the House and Senate state their positions on election reform, and encourage an environment where THIS becomes an essential criterion for voter support.

In the meantime, I encourage you, if you are considering staying home this November to re-think this.  There is a difference between the two candidates for President, and the down-ticket elections are just as important if not more so.  This includes both the elections for your Congressional district, any Senate seats that are up for election, as well as elections for your state legislature.

If we are to move beyond a two-party system we need to stop thinking in terms of party, and we need to change the transmission.

It’s a big job – but this two-speed is getting pretty clunky.

Are you in?


Footnotes from text:

[1] Some sources include the Presidency of Gerald Ford as having been made by Congress.  Ford was appointed Vice President by Richard Nixon and his appointment was ratified by both houses of Congress under the terms of the Twenty Fifth Amendment upon the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1973 when Agnew was convicted of tax evasion.  Less than one year later Ford assumed the Presidency when Nixon resigned on the eve of what would have been his certain impeachment by the House and conviction in the Senate for high crimes and misdemeanors in the Watergate scandal.  While extra-electoral in nature, Ford’s ascendancy to the White House is extraordinary and falls outside of the scope of our discussion.  Gerald R. Ford is unique in American history as the being the only person ever to serve as President having never been elected as either President or Vice President.
[2] Maine and Nebraska are odd-ducks in electoral politics as they allocate electors by Congressional districts with the two additional electors going to the candidate with the overall majority.
[3] The Electoral College was created to prevent highly populated regions of the country (particularly the Northeast) from exerting undue control over less populated regions.  In reality there has only been four times in this nation’s history where the winner of the popular vote has not also won the electoral vote.  Two of these were the disputed elections of 1824 and 1876 mentioned earlier in this article where the final outcome was decided by Congress.  The other two were the badly lopsided election of 1888 when Benjamin Harrison won the electoral vote by 233 to 168 over Grover Cleveland, despite Cleveland’s 90,000 popular vote majority, and the infamous “hanging chad” election of 2000 in which George W. Bush squeezed in a bare electoral majority when the Supreme Court halted vote recounts in the disputed Florida election – giving Bush the win with 271 electoral votes to Al Gore’s 261 – even though Gore won the popular election  by over a half-million votes.   Clearly the downside of this system – including the cynical playing of “swing state” mathematics by candidates giving undue power to relatively small states outweighs any theoretical leveling of the playing field by region.  We are no longer 13 colonies loosely tied together in an experimental system.  It is time to lose this vestige of our post-colonial past.

The Rise of the Trumpist Party



Now that the Republican and Democratic conventions are behind us we begin gearing up for the general election.  The tone and tenor of this election has, up to now, been disturbingly substance-free.   Focused on personalities rather than policies and minutiae instead of the crux of the issues at hand, the primaries consisted almost entirely of inter-party and intra-party ad-hominem attacks, dirty tricks, and manipulation.

The Republicans have, on the surface, been fighting a Trump vs. “anybody else” battle where Trump has emerged as an icon for everything wrong with the GOP.  While the Democrats are fighting for the soul of their party, the Republican Party has already lost its soul.  That struggle is over.  The zombie party that remains may be reincarnated as something else – but clearly it now exists in the land of the undead with Trump serving as a placeholder candidate for a party unable to nominate their own from deep inside a mausoleum of their own creation.  Torn apart by the internal power struggle between the party establishment, tea party conservatives, economic libertarians, and the religious right, these factions dug their own graves and in the final abandonment of principle have unleashed a political Jacob Marley to wander the earth dragging their chains behind them.

Donald Trump is not undead, he is very much alive.

Donald Trump is not really a Republican.

Donald Trump is not a conservative.

Donald Trump is something different.  Donald Trump is the first candidate of the “Trumpist” Party.  What will be left of the Republican Party in the aftermath of this is anybody’s guess – but it will look nothing like the GOP of the past.  Regan’s big tent is down and the elephants are being retired from show biz, no longer useful in the one-ring circus that is the party of Trump.

It’s certainly not lost on anybody who doesn’t have their head firmly up Donald’s derriere that Trump doesn’t have anything resembling a developed philosophy of governance, a handle on policy, a fundamental grasp of economics, or the basic understanding of international affairs we would expect of an eighth-grade schoolchild.  He does not understand the Constitution nor the separation of powers that lie at the very core of our system of government.  He lacks any respect for an independent judiciary, freedom of the press, due process, or the rule of law itself.  He also has no regard for facts and doesn’t care if anything he says is true.  Just Google “factcheck trump” for confirmation of this.  None of these assertions are idle conjecture on my part, they are clearly evidenced in statements he has made and continues to make on an almost daily basis.   His recent call for the Russians to hack into Hillary Clinton’s email which has brought his deep ties to the Russian oligarchy into focus is just the latest example.  There will undoubtedly be more.

One of the first orders of business at party conventions is the passing of the party platform.  The platform of a political party states its undergirding philosophy, aspirational goals, and sets forth its intended policy initiatives.   While it is not uncommon for a party’s nominee to pay little more than lip-service to some of the platform, typically the standard-bearer will at least sign on to its core initiatives.  If you have read the platform passed at the RNC which calls for turning back the clock on just about every social initiative and advancement in economic justice you might consider this a good thing.  Rebranding “trickle-down” as “economic freedom”, calls to once again deregulate Wall Street (“freeing financial markets”) and selling LGBT+ discrimination as “religious liberty” among other outrageous positions, one might consider Donald’s overall lack of interest in this platform to be a good thing although that may be more due to the fact that his now infamously short attention span would likely prevent him from getting past the second paragraph of this ponderous 58 page prescription for returning America to the stone age.

Donald Trump has his own platform.  It’s not written down anywhere because much if not all of it comes from his head as he thinks about it, but Trump’s platform is not the Republican Party’s platform.  It’s the Trumpist platform.

Welcome to the age of the Trumpist Party.  Formed by the genetic engineering of the Tea Party with a desire to return to a bygone age of simplicity and lack of structure, the Trumpist party is in the process of procreating in a political Jurassic Park of fearsome creatures long thought to be extinct.

The Trumpist party doesn’t have a written platform because writing things down makes your positions less fungible. The ability to change ones stance for the audience you are trying to please is far more difficult if you have to answer to a written statement making it much harder to claim that you were just joking.  The Trumpist Party doesn’t have a written platform because writing things down holds one accountable.  A quick review of Mr. Trump’s history shows just how much he believes in accountability – at least for himself.

The Trumpist party doesn’t have a written platform because writing a platform requires that you have a plausible philosophy that will withstand logical scrutiny and is somehow based on facts.

Most of all, the Trumpist party doesn’t have a written platform because Trumpism appeals to people who only care that someone is telling them what they want to hear.  That what you are saying has absolutely no basis in truth doesn’t matter, and the bigger the lie and the more frequently repeated the more likely the masses are to believe you because, in the words of one of the most notorious demagogues in history . . .

“All this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true within itself—that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.”     – Adolph Hitler . . . Mein Kampf (Vol I, Chapter X)

We have clearly seen that the Trumpist Party has fully adopted this philosophy and used it to its advantage, and like the party created by the despot who defined “the big lie” the Trumpist party appeals to the masses by validating their fears, providing an object for those fears, and offering itself up as the only salvation from being assimilated.  It extols the virtues of nationalism and national exceptionalism while promising to make a once proud nation “great again”.

Where will the Trumpist Party take us?  With any luck we will never find out, but with a compliant congress and the ability to nominate multiple justices to the Supreme Court we might find liberties we take for granted impotent to save us from the intentions of a leader whose only aim is power and control.

An Existential Danger


Over the past several months I have tried to put into words the reasons why Donald Trump should not be the Republican nominee, and the level of existential danger his candidacy poses to this nation and to the world. I have explained this to friends and acquaintances who were or are on the fence either about Trump himself or whether or not they should/could/would vote for the only individual who, based on the reality of electoral college mathematics, stands between us and this unbelievable peril.

This editorial by the Washington Post lays it out far better than I can.  As they put it:

” . . .  In an ordinary election year, we would acknowledge the Republican nominee, move on to the Democratic convention and spend the following months, like other voters, evaluating the candidates’ performance in debates, on the stump and in position papers. This year we will follow the campaign as always, offering honest views on all the candidates. But we cannot salute the Republican nominee or pretend that we might endorse him this fall. A Trump presidency would be dangerous for the nation and the world.”

Cutting through the smokescreen of falsehoods and fallacies the Post editorial board has written an indictment of this man who must be prevented from coming anywhere near 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Regardless of your party affiliation please read this, and if you share anything of a political nature please share this on Facebook or on your Twitter feed.


Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy
The Washington Post


Bridges and Walls


I’ve had several requests to share the text of the sermon I delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Meriden (Connecticut) on July 10th.  By way of explanation, lay-led worship is a long-standing tradition in many Unitarian Universalist congregations and the sense of shared ministry runs deep in our roots.  The idea for this sermon came to me in the aftermath of the Brexit vote to sever the ties between the United Kingdom and the European Union as well as in the context of the current debate in this country about building walls and excluding those who are not “like us” and who are perceived by some as posing an existential danger.

I had no way of knowing at the time I began preparing the sermon of the events that would take place between then and when I was to deliver it, particularly the police shootings of two more black men and the subsequent massacre of five police officers in Dallas Texas just two days prior to this service, leaving those in attendance this Sunday feeling wounded and raw.

Early in the service I shared the poem, “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost.  For those not familiar with this work it might be helpful to read it first HERE as my words refer back to his idea that, “Something there is that does not love a wall, and wants it down.”  and to his questioning the need for the walls we erect.

“Bridges and Walls” – Jeff May
Delivered July 10, 2016
The Unitarian Universalist Church in Meriden


“. . .  But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.”           – (Robert Frost)


The house I grew up in had an old stone wall in the back yard.  It was a pretty substantial stone wall, and it ran quite a distance, marking the boundary between not only our yard but the yards of our neighbors and the land beyond, some overgrown former pasture, some wooded with evergreen and oak that my mom used to call “the deep dark green forest”.

Like the wall in Frost’s poem this one had gaps from frost heaves no doubt, and those from children like myself.  Like Frost’s wall it no longer served the purpose for which it had originally been constructed.  Mr. Hunter, who apparently had once owned all of the land including that on which our neighborhood had been constructed and whose name the street we lived on, “Huntervale Avenue” bore – had long since passed away by the time I came along.  The cows that had once roamed his pasture beyond the wall were gone and in their place thickets and brambles had grown, stands of pine and scrub maple in which we would create our make-believe fortresses and villages, wild blueberry bushes – tall shrubs and low ground plants ripe for the picking in the summertime.  Here there was a stream passing under an ancient rock bridge along a winding path.  We used to make “boats” out of sticks placing them in the water upstream, then moving quickly to the other side to watch them emerge from beneath the giant stones as the lazy stream took them on its journey toward Eel Pond and the ocean at Sawyers Beach.

Bridges and walls.

When a wall is constructed it is generally put there for a purpose.  Our houses have walls marking the boundary between inside and out, between dry and wet, warm and cold or hot, and surely walling out insects, mice, mischievous chipmunks and squirrels, and marking the private place that is our castle – our space for family and into which we sometime invite friends.  Inside our walls we make the rules of how we work and play, how we interact with one-another, when and what we eat, when we rise and when we sleep.

Ancient cities often had walls.  The oldest we know of was the wall around the Neolithic city of Jericho dating to some 8000 years before the common era – long before the other wall by that name central to the story in the Biblical book of Joshua – and probably built, according to archeologists, for some combination of flood control and defense against hostile tribes, but like all such walls whether after decades, centuries, or millennia it fell into disuse and disrepair and like the later wall in that place of legend, like the wall in Frost’s narrative, like the walls around pastures and fields, the walls around states and nations this wall came tumbling down, stone by stone until finally it was no more.

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.”

As Frost suggests, when we build a wall it is important to consider what it is we are walling in, what it is we are walling out, and whom as he asks, we are likely to offend.  In our current political debate there are those who call for the construction of a great wall between this nation and our neighbor to the south – a wall to keep out people who apparently are so different from us, so frightening, such a threat to our way of life.  I shall not bother to repeat the vile characterization of our neighbors used by the most vocal of these current wall proponents.  It is, we are told, because these neighbors will come to take our jobs.  I have friends in California who insist that this is so, but is it really about jobs or economics?

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.”

Are those who live beyond this boundary to be walled off, on the other side of the Rio Grande or that sharper, more arbitrary line with a few angular jogs between El Paso and San Diego – are those people so different from ourselves?  And what threat do they pose that we should build such a wall?  Is it actually the taking of employment desired by “worthy Americans” we seek to protect, or is it really something else, something harder to define?  Is it really a wall of economics or is it more a wall of culture constructed out of fear that “our way of life” is being threatened by those who speak another language, whose customs differ from those passed to us by our European forebears?

We build walls – real and virtual, communal and personal, physical and psychological to mark the boundaries between safe and threatening, me and thee, mine and yours, us and them.  And certainly there is a need for boundaries – for a safety zone within and around our own skin defining our personal space.  But when we build walls we really need to ask – and be honest with ourselves what it is we are actually walling in or walling out and if the wall we are building is likely to be successful or be filled with gaps.  In a world ever more connected by technology enabling easy travel and technology facilitating instant communication of ideas, the notion that we can build a wall like our Neolithic forebears to preserve the comfortable and familiar against the different and the alien is both ludicrous and futile.  These walls have been breached ere they have been constructed and are porous from their conception.  Our cultures are merged and continue to merge, our ways of life are evolving as we ultimately realize and experience our common humanity.  As dark as it may seem right now, this is a step along the way to the aspirational Sixth Principle of Unitarian Universalism, “The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all”.

The Rev. Sean Parker Dennison, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Tree of Life congregation in McHenry, IL writes,

“The sixth Principle seems extravagant in its hopefulness and improbable in its prospects. Can we continue to say we want ‘world community’? ‘Peace, liberty, and justice for all’? The world is full of genocide, abuse, terror, and war. What have we gotten ourselves into?

“As naïve or impossible as the sixth Principle may seem, I’m not willing to give up on it. In the face of our culture’s apathy and fear, I want to imagine and help create a powerful vision of peace by peaceful means, liberty by liberatory means, justice by just means. I want us to believe—and to live as if we believe—that a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all is possible. There is no guarantee that we will succeed, but I can assure you that we will improve ourselves and improve the world by trying.”

I began writing these remarks several weeks ago – born of frustration with the current political dialog and what I believe to be the preposterous notion that we are better when we are separate.  It gained focus in my mind with the vote of Great Britain to sever the bridge so carefully constructed with the rest of Europe; and like the proposed wall between this country and Mexico ostensibly to protect Britain from the threat of refugees that might carry the seeds terrorism and threaten jobs and the economy, but likewise really an attempt to retain a sense of autonomy – the way it used to be.

Make England great again.

Make America great again.

But in reality is this really possible?  Can we really turn back the hands of time to the days of nation states containing tribal members who look alike and whose habits and language and cuisine and religions are uniform and unquestioned within the secure walls of national identity?

And to what would we go back?   Back to a day when black people were enslaved and treated as property?  Back to a day before workers had rights?  Was America greater when those who are gay and lesbian lived in the shadows and were denied the right to marry who they love?

What great America would we return to?

What great Britain would they return to?

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.”

In the past week our senses have been violated yet again – and multiple times by more of our black brothers being killed under the guise of law enforcement, and by those whose uncontrolled anger causes them to strike back and kill those whose job it is to protect and provide security.

So frequent are these atrocities that we can scarcely name them all.  We wake up each morning wondering what form of brutality we will hear about, what innocents will have perished, what children will be fatherless, motherless, botherless, sisterless.

And then we log on to social media, we watch our Facebook feeds streaming with memes bearing slogans defending one side or the other of the social debate – attempting to claim that Black Lives Mater is an affront to other lives or an attack on law enforcement, smearing half-truths and outright falsehoods across the digital landscape in an effort to stake sides in the battle between the way the world is and must go, and the way it used to be, or at least our romanticized imagination of a better time now lost.  And in our frustration and out of our own fear and rage and desire to feel safe we burrow ourselves in our own safe psychological wall – shouting back across cyberspace, friending those with whom we agree and viscously lashing out at those on the other side, fortifying our walls of difference and tearing down the bridges of connection.

“If you talk about that again, I’ll unfriend you!”

Until about six months ago I was not a Facebook user – I somewhat famously avoided it, and in the interest of time I won’t relate the journey that brought me to that platform right now, but as a consequence of becoming a Facebook user I have renewed connections with family members I haven’t spoken with in years, and friends and acquaintances from long ago.  One such acquaintance – a woman named Barbara – was a girl I went to school with from the time I was in first grade.  Now living in California she and I have reconnected, and while most of our exchanges have been cordial we differ significantly in our political and religious outlooks, she rather conservative in both regards and I, as most of you are aware quite liberal and progressive.  Last week in response to a meme she shared regarding the FBI decision in the supposed email scandal. I responded that I differed in opinion, posting a link to an article I had written on my blog a few days before, addressing this particular issue.  She posted the following on her timeline:

“A fellow FB friend posted today about moving on with the conversation regarding the political arena. 
This is what I have say.

You may not agree with me, you may not like what i have to say and you have that right as I have the same right to say…

Power To The People

My ancestors came over to this Country for purposes that this Country is so far away from that they are rolling over in their graves! How is it you are willing to say move on!

For the people, by the people!

We have been so complacent over the years that we/I, actually think my “Voice Matters”! Not

And to my original comment on her meme she replied, “Jeff I’m sorry –  I don’t see things the way you do.”

I responded:

“That’s quite okay . . . we’re allowed to differ.

And to a point I saw you post elsewhere, I didn’t say “move on”, and I am not implying that people shouldn’t speak up for what they believe in. I’m also not suggesting we ignore the problems and challenges. I believe you finished that post with the imperative, “Say what you mean, mean what you say.”


I went on to explain how the debates that we were having struck me as superficial, and that what we seemed to be arguing about was not really what we were arguing about, and then continued:

“My point is that there are very real challenges we face both here and abroad and instead of talking about those challenges in a meaningful way we (as a society) are expending most of our energy arguing about peripheral issues trying to inflict wounds on the “other side”. I don’t care for either of the two major candidates we are presented with. I believe America can do far better and I believe we need far better – but the system we have in place leaves us with the choices we have, in no small part because we allow our dialog to be limited to partisan barbs that can fit in a 140 character tweet or fit on a 300 x 400 meme.

All of this is a long way of saying that I’m not suggesting that we move on, I’m suggesting that we move deeper.”

Her response was heartening –

 “Thank you Jeffrey for sharing. I better understand now what your post meant. Thank you God for bringing further answers to that of which I was needing. I appreciate your words Jeff.”

No, Barbara and I still don’t see eye-to-eye, but now we are talking – building a bridge where there was the potential of having a wall.  Continuing the type of connection and conversation we need to have with each other in these unsettling times.  Conversations we all need to have if we are to move through these unsettling times.

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.”

We move closer to the vision, aspirational and inspirational of our Sixth Principle when each of us, takes the risk to reach beyond our individual perspectives, place ourselves in the heart of another – not surrendering our own identity or our own truth – but allowing the other person space within their own personal wall for their truth.

In the words of a benediction familiar to some of us here:

“Despite our differences and beyond our diversity there lies a unity that makes us one and binds us forever together, in spite of time and death, and the space between the stars.”

There is hope.  We are hope’s agents.

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.”

Each of us can choose to build a wall, or build a bridge this day and each day.

Let us be conscious in each moment of how we make that choice.

And may you live in blessing.

It’s time to Change the Conversation

change conversation

Hillary’s email kerfuffle.

Donald Trump’s hair comb-over.

Is Bernie really a socialist . . . or even a Commie?  Oh my God, a COMMIE!!!!

And speaking of “oh my God”, Oh my God . . . Melania was a . . . nude model – how . . . how . . . outrageous.

But we all know what Bill did  (tee…hee…hee)  . . .  how could Hillary have stayed with him?

And speaking of “God”, who believes in God the most?

And what are we going to do about people who don’t believe in God the way I do?  (Let’s kick them out, they’re not really Americans.)

Why doesn’t Bernie just concede for the good of the party?

How could anybody in their right mind even consider voting for . . .  <the name of your most despised candidate goes here.>

No matter what [HE] [SHE] does, I will defend <my chosen candidate>  till election do us part.

It doesn’t matter that Hillary is on the payroll of the Oligarchy, she’s a liberal.

It doesn’t matter that Trump is a wannabe cog in the Oligarchy . . . he’s a Republican – that means he’s for America!!!!

I support Hillary because she’s for the little people.  Pay no attention to that banker behind the curtain.  (Toto! Stop biting his ankles! Shame on you!)

I support Trump because he’s going to change things . . . even though he clearly hasn’t got a clue about how anything works.  (But he’s a wiz of a wiz if ever a wiz there was.)

If Bernie isn’t nominated I’m gonna vote for someone who has less chance of winning the election than I have of hitting the Powerball jackpot  (Out of principle, ’cause I really don’t care about reality.)

Hillary is a liar.

Trump is a liar.

Bernie is unrealistic.

The system is rigged against <my candidate>

The problem is those damned <liberals, conservatives, democrats, republicans, greens, libertarians, gays, Muslims, Mexicans, foreigners, transgenders, atheists>




We’re talking about stupid shit, people . . .

It’s time to change the conversation.

How do we start?




No, You Can’t Compare Hillary and Edward Snowden


My Facebook feed is exploding with memes and articles implying that the government is applying a double-standard in its treatment of the Hillary Clinton email mess and the Edward Snowden case.

DISCLAIMER: The following is not a comment on the character of either individual nor a judgement of what either one of them has done.  It is not my intention to defend Hillary Clinton nor condemn the actions of Edward Snowden.

My intent here is to point out why these are not similar cases, and why comparing the two is totally invalid.

Let’s consider the cases of Jack and Susan as an example.

If Jack drives a car into a crowd with the intent to kill or injure someone, he is committing a criminal act. Regardless of his justification for what he did, he’s going to end up in jail.

If Susan drives a car with worn out tires which may result in the car going out of control and injuring somebody she is being careless, especially if her mechanic says, “Susan, you really shouldn’t drive on those tires”.  If she gets pulled over and a cop sees the tires she’s probably going to get a ticket for a motor vehicle infraction. If she does have an accident she may get sued, and her insurance company may end up paying out some bucks . . . but Susan is not committing a crime.  She’s not doing the same thing Jack did.

Trying to equate these two situations is known as a “Faulty Comparison”.  Attempting to use what Jack did as an argument to imply that Susan should be subject to the same consequences is illogical.  The question of law in this case revolves around an intent to do injury.  Jack intended to do injury.  Susan did not.

The argument at hand It is a similar example of the same fallacy of logic. Whether you agree with the actions of Mr. Snowden or not, what he did was to intentionally and without authorization divulge thousands of classified documents directly to individuals who were not cleared to possess that information in direct violation of 18 U.S.C. 37.  Again, you may feel that his motives were justified, or you may not . . . but what he did was a direct and (one more time) intentional violation of the Espionage Act of 1917.

What Mr. Snowden did was done with intent to divulge the information to someone other than ” . . . an officer of the United States entitled to receive it.” (18 U.S.C. 37 § 793.d).  Not even her worst critics accuse Secretary Clinton of such intent.

What Hillary Clinton did was to use a non-government and non-secured messaging server (which may have been subject to compromise) to exchange sensitive State Department information, some of which was classified, with other individuals who had authorization to view that information. What she did violated State Department policy (but actually as it turns out, not common State Department practice.) What she did not do is violate the law as it existed at the time. She did not knowingly nor intentionally share that information with people who had no clearance to see it. What she did was careless – but totally different from what Mr. Snowden did.

It’s a faulty comparison.

How about changing the conversation to something that really matters?