Conservative pundit David Brooks – How Democrats Won the War of Ideas

As an independent and former Republican (and Democrat), David Brooks is one of my favorite conservative pundits and authors. He is a regular participant on PBS Newhour’s Friday recap show with the more liberal Mark Shields. Like other key conservative pundits, MIchael Gerson, George Will, Ross Douthat, Eric Erickson and Max Boot, he is hoping that America votes out the incumbent president.

In his usual articulate and even-handed fashion, Brooks penned the following editorial last week called “How Democrats Won the War of Ideas.” The link is below, but I will highlight a few paragraphs for your review and comment.

“Over the last 100 years, Americans have engaged in a long debate about the role of markets and the welfare state. Republicans favored a limited government, fearing that a large nanny state would sap American dynamism and erode personal freedom. Democrats favored a larger state, arguing that giving people a basic economic security would enable them to take more risks and lead dignified lives.

That debate ebbed and flowed over the years, but 2020 has turned out to be a pivotal year in the struggle, and it looks now as if we can declare a winner. The Democrats won the big argument of the 20th century. It’s not that everybody has become a Democrat, but even Republicans are now embracing basic Democratic assumptions. Americans across the board fear economic and physical insecurity more than an overweening state. The era of big government is here.”

Brooks cites a few survey facts from last week’s New York Times/ Siena poll.

2/3 of Americans support allowing people to buy health insurance through the federal government

2/3 support Joe Biden’s $2 trillion plan to increase renewable energy and build efficient infrastructure

72% of likely voters and 56% of Republican voters favor another COVID-19 relief package

59% of Americans think government should do more to solve problems

2/3 think government should do more to fight climate change

60% support increasing the minimum wage and providing tax credits to low income workers

82% of voters and 70% of Republicans would like to expand requirements for paid family medical leave

Brooks also cites a study by the Mercatus Center which notes that Republicans are also moving left, just not at the pace of Democrats. This is contrary to what is believed by the media.

I have long said that more than 1/2 of the Republican voters are voting against their economic interests and do not know it. This survey indicates many do favor policies that would help them, but are sold a bill of goods packaged to woo their votes, but mask the purposeful deterioration of rights and opportunities.

A great example is the Affordable Care Act. When people are surveyed about the features of the act, the features receive high marks from all, including Republicans. The only feature that did not was eliminated – the mandate to buy coverage. Ironically, this elimination is the basis for 25 Republican Attorney Generals who have case to declare the ACA unconstitutional in front of the Supreme Court after the election, which should not occur as the case is not solid, but one never knows with these things. Sadly, the White House chose not to defend the law, which affects expanded Medicaid, exchange and employer-provided benefits.

Please read Brooks article below. It is very well done, as per usual.

American Utopia – an excellent musical by David Byrne

For those of us who came of age in the 1970s, the name David Byrne may be familiar. Yet, the name of his group, “Talking Heads” likely will ring a few more bells.

For the past few years, David Byrne’s “American Utopia” has been well received on Broadway. Fortunately, before COVID-19 shut down Broadway, Spike Lee filmed a special performance with Byrne and his multi-national troupe. It is a memorable show that is airing now on HBO. Below is link to a HBO trailer.

Dressed alike in gray suits, sans shoes and ties, Byrne and his eleven performers blend their talents in a choreographed marching band of various drum kits, guitars, a keyboard, and various and sundry instruments.

Only two of the songs appear to be popular Talking Heads’ songs – “Once in a lifetime” and “Burning down the house.” The latter sounds better than the released version with added percussion.

He also adds new music and that of others. Byrne explains the songs beforehand and includes an introduction of the band as they build the next song instrument by instrument.

Another highlight occurs when he says he asked permission from Janelle Monae to do her song as a plea for justice for a list of killed black people. This was filmed prior to the terrible deaths this year, but Lee adds a memorial at the end of the song.

Byrne makes observations throughout about our country. In one telling moment, he encourages people to vote, using the audience lights to indicate how many 20% represents that vote in local elections. He also noted in the 2016 election only 57% of Americans voted. To me, this indicates the voting problem in America – it is not fraud, it is not enough people are voting.

Yet, the highlight is the wonderful music coming from the stage produced by many different nationalities, races and ethnicities. That is what America is all about.

https://www.hbo.com/specials/american-utopia

Commercial electric vehicle company opens microfactory near Charlotte in Rock Hill, SC

Per WCNC, a television news station in Charlotte, a report called “Electric vehicle microfactory promises to bring 240 jobs to Rock Hill” was aired. Rock Hill is part of the Charlotte Metro area just across the border in South Carolina. Here are the salient points per a MSN write-up of the piece:

Arrival, a company that produces electric vehicles around the world, announced Tuesday its plans to build a ‘microfactory’ in York County. The factory is part of a $46 million investment in the region and is Arrival’s first American microfactory. The company expects to bring 240 new jobs to the Rock Hill area. 

Arrival, which was found in London in 2015, creates zero-emission vehicles for commercial transportation. The South Carolina facility will utilize a new cell-based assembly method to produce vehicles, rather than the traditional assembly line. This will give Arrival the flexibility to produce any vehicle in its portfolio at the factory, according to a press release from the company.”

This is just more evidence of where future growth will occur. It is good to see our area embracing new technologies to make zero emission vehicles. The train (or in this case, the bus) toward renewable energy has left the station. Communities that are embracing this will see more growth and better cost models going forward, as well as help the environment.

This is is not an outlier story. Solar energy jobs have averaged annual double digit growth and dwarf coal energy jobs. Wind energy is also growing in the US, especially in the plain states with Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma combined getting more than 1/3 of their electricity from wind energy. And, Tesla has branched into electric delivery trucks on top of their cars.

These news stories should be more widely communicated to show the path forward is being taken by states, cities and companies.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/autos/news/electric-vehicle-microfactory-promises-to-bring-240-jobs-to-rock-hill/ar-BB19ZdCG?ocid=msedgdhp

Retired Republican Judge chooses country over party

The following are excerpts from an article written by retired North Carolina Judge Robert Orr, in response to an editorial by a regional conservative columnist who tends to rationalize the abhorrent behavior of the US president. His latest editorial concerned how never-Trump Republicans are being used by Democrats. The rebuttal editorial in Monday’s The Charlotte Observer by Judge Orr is called “Memo to J. Peder Zane: We ‘Never Trumpers’ have chosen country over party.” A link is below.

“Across the country Republicans, former Republicans who’ve left the party and conservative leaning voters have simply been sickened by the unethical, disgraceful and harmful conduct of Trump. As Trump now aggressively lies about voting by mail alternatives in the upcoming election, he refuses to acknowledge the fundamental concept of the peaceful transfer of power after an election. It’s overt threats to the underpinnings of our democratic system like that, that result in so many Republicans and former Republicans making the decision to support Joe Biden – not Trump.

Another delusional statement in Zane’s piece contends that Trump’s involvement with Russia and Russian interference in the 2016 election was a “hoax.” I suppose ‘Mr. Conservative’ Zane is one of those who doesn’t believe our intelligence agencies or the recent Senate Foreign Affairs Committee report with (Republican NC Senator) Richard Burr as chair calling out Trump world’s knee-deep involvement with Putin and his cronies.

The rhetorical question Zane ask of Martin and those of us who have worked building the Republican Party over the years is how we could allow ourselves to ‘be used’ by Democrats in opposing Trump? The legions of Republicans in North Carolina and around the country who have rejected the hate-filled Tweets, trampling of constitutional principles and gross incompetence of Donald Trump can give you more answers than space allows.”

I will say Zane is not incorrect that the words of these anti-Trump Republicans, like The Lincoln Project, Republicans for the Rule of Law, Republican Voters against Trump, former Republican intelligence officials against Trump, etc., are being used. They are being used to tell the pro-Trump folks it is not just Democrats and the media that supposedly “hate Trump” using the president and his sycophants’ own words.

As Judge Orr points out, these are big boys and girls and they have decided this president lacks empathy, decency, competency and ethics. They needed no help in coming to that on target conclusion.

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/article246173145.html

There she blows

Per an article in Power Technology in April, 2019 by Jack Unwin called “Top ten US states by wind energy capacity:”

“Donald Trump’s well-known hostility towards wind power and what he believes is its cancer-causing abilities wind energy is a well-established source of power in the US.

In fact, the US is the second largest producer of wind energy in the world with an installed capacity of over 96GW, and it has six of the world’s top ten onshore windfarms. But progress still needs to be made as a number of states in the southeast from Arkansas to Florida don’t have any wind turbines installed at all.”

Using updated statistics at the end of 2019, the top five states for wind energy are:

Texas (28,843 MW)*
Iowa (10,201 MW)
Oklahoma (8,172 MW)
Kansas (6,128 MW)
California (5,973 MW)

It should be noted, since they are smaller states, the top three by percentage of electricity generated by wind energy are: Iowa (41.7%) Kansas (36.4%) Oklahoma (31.7%). Saying it differently, more than 1/3 of the electricity produced in these three states combined come from wind energy.

The upside remains huge, especially referencing the two states that have no wind mills. The cost of wind energy is compelling and it is does not have the environmental degradation and cost of coal or does not leak methane or use water to acquire like natural gas. And, this does not reflect the huge growth in solar energy that has occurred and will occur.

I take pride that we are moving forward in spite of the efforts of the US president to play up fossil fuel. I would listen to the counsel of deceased oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, who said almost ten years ago, natural gas will buy us time, but the future of energy in the middle of the country is wind energy. It should be noted, Exxon Mobil was just removed from the Dow Jones as its capitalization has fallen.

Please remember Pickens’ words as he noted the wind blows across the plains states. And, the sun also shines across the country. More on that source later.

Note: Oil rich Texas has made a concerted effort to build wind energy. The following paragraph comes from wfaa.com’s website earlier this year.

“In Texas, the wind blows hardest in the West side of the state. But most people live in the central and eastern parts. So, Texas built 3,600 miles of electric transmission lines to carry power out of the most remote parts of the state. The legislature called it Competitive Renewable Energy Zones.Feb 16, 2020”

Dig beneath the sales schtick

It was Bill Maher who mentioned this first, but the words aligns well with what Donald Trump does. Maher, being from New Jersey, said he grew up hearing this kind of talk, so he recognized it early on. Donald Trump is all about “New Jersey schtick.” In his mind, it is a constant banter to make truths better and tell lies to sell anything, including your reputation. In all fairness to folks from New Jersey, this kind of “schtick” can be found everywhere.

From the Free dictionary, the word schtick, which is also spelled shtick, means: A characteristic attribute, talent, or trait that is helpful in securing recognition or attention Salespeople use schtick, but it is unfair to paint all salespeople with this brush. The ones who focus on relationship selling will tend to use less of it, while those who focus on transactional sales, will tend to use more of it. What do I mean by that?

Relationship sellers want to work with you long term, building a relationship. Transactional sellers want to get a sale to maximize profit in short order. The latter represents Trump’s approach, which is one reason he is less concerned with long relationships with other countries. And, since he does not care to be a student of history, he does not place a value on the relationship. So, he focuses on transactions.

To do that, he looks for props to sell from. He needs a very short, bumper sticker solution to a problem. The fact the problem is more complex or the solution won’t really solve it is irrelevant. His transactional focus is to win. It is a zero-sum game – I must win, you must lose. “Build the wall” fit nicely on a bumper sticker. Getting folks to chant it and the response to who is going to pay for it is all about sales schtick. The fact immigration is down the list for why folks are disenfranchised matters not – technology gains and offshoring jobs were the main culprits.

Props work best when they can be used to placate fears that are stoked. The Black Lives Matter movement gave Trump two props that he is using today. The handful of folks who are creating violence is one prop. The “defund the police” is the other. Now, defunding the police does not mean take all of their money away. That would be ludicrous. But, repurposing funding to hire licensed social workers and train police to deescalate crises is important. So, Trump and his sycophants are playing this up just as Richard Nixon did in 1968, the year MLK and RFK were assassinated that led to rioting and violence.

Let’s be clear. Donald Trump will say anything to get elected and to be liked by his base of followers. This is a key reason he does not know where the truth stops and the lies begin. Paula Reid of CBS News noted to Trump at a press conference after he just repeated what he has often said that he signed the VA Healthcare Protection Act, that was not a true statement. He likely had no idea he was lying. The act was signed in 2014. He just signed an amendment to it.

Financial reporters, who have covered Trump for decades, note he is not the best of managers. He does not have the emosthy, patience, temperament or time for it. What he is good at is selling. Make the deal and leave a way to get out when the cookie crumbles. He started selling his name for building developments, but he left himself an out when problems surfaced and he could bail. This was a transactional sales person’s dream – get your revenue without any responsibility.

Unfortunately, this is how he approaches the White House. Get the accolades, take credit for all things good regardless of your role and blame others for any problems, even if your failures contributed to them. He and his sycophants spend a lot of tax payer dollars trying to erase or re-write history to absolve him of any accountability.

So, the way to beat Trump is to define truthful props that can be pounded like a drumbeat.

– Trump admitted to lying about the pandemic and now 200,000 (and growing) Americans have died
– America is less trusted because its president is untrustworthy
– Trump does not even try to unite Americans
– It is hard to put out racial fires when the president is carrying a gas can
– Trump is making it easier for China to ascend to number one in economic clout
– Trump is making it easier companies to pee in your water supply
– America is only one of three nations to not support the Paris Climate Change Accord
– The ACA may be ruled unconstitutional after the election by SCOTUS due to changes made by Republicans
– How does a president take credit for building an economy with 7 plus years of growth when he took office?

There is little hope of changing the mindset of someone wearing a t-shirt that says “Jesus died for you – Trump lives for you.” That is just a load of BS. But, that is the base’s mindset. His one genius is to get people to buy his schtick and not believe anyone else. And, he knows they won’t as, if they start to question him and heed the uncomfortable truths, the cognitive dissonance would be overwhelming. This is why the words of Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney and fixer fell on deaf ears, when under oath he said “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con-artist and he is a cheat.”

Well, what do you plan to do about it? – you must VOTE

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a hero to many, especially women and the disenfranchised. Her career must be celebrated. Like Thurgood Marshall before her, her record of success in arguing cases before the Supreme Court, justified her inclusion in this institution. She served America well.

As for the indicting language directed at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over holding a vetting process and vote of a new SCOTUS nominee before the election, this is the normative process. Yet, we must also understand when McConnell conducted his treachery. It was in 2016 when he chose to not follow normal process to vet and vote on a pretty well respected candidate named Merrick Garland, who won near unanimous consent for his current position. When a politician does not follow normal process, take it to the bank it is political. And, McConnell cannot go to the bathroom without it being political.

Now, we are faced with his pushing the process he is supposed to follow, but it is in direct contradiction to what he did in 2016. Yes, McConnell is a hypocrite. Where I get mad is those crying foul today, who chose not to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 – she had flaws, they were unfair to Bernie, and she ran a poor campaign. She also was one of he best prepared candidates for the office we have ever had.

Trump won because he got folks to stay home, vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, or even vote for him. Now, this unsavory, deceitful and corrupt person (who was all of those things before the election), will pick one third of the Supreme Court in four years. If you did not vote, remedy it by voting in 2020.

Of course it would be respectful to wait and McConnell deserves every bit of criticism he got in 2016 and his hypocrisy now. What bugs me is I want good jurists on the Supreme Court. We could have had a Garland, who Obama knew would also appeal to Republicans as well as Democrats. Yet, he did not get a fair (or any) hearing and that McConnell let the country down.

So, we can bitch all we want, but people need to get out and vote. And, vote for a decent and good public servant in Joe Biden. Climate change, women’s rights, healthcare, civil rights, the environment and our global standing are on the ballot. Plus, the incumbent’s modus operandi is self-serving, untruthful, bullying, and authoritarian in nature. As conservative David Brooks noted, the president has “no sense of decency or empathy.” Yet, Michael Cohen, Trump’s long time attorney/ fixer said it well under oath, “Donald Trump is a racist, his con-artist and his a cheat.”

A sad party run by sad people

As a fiscal conservative and social progressive, I left the Republican Party about twelve years ago. My main reasons for becoming an independent were the Republican stance on climate change, an unhealthy focus on evangelicals and guns, and a tendency to make things up. These reasons still exist twelve years later.

The Grand Old Party is no longer grand and it really is no longer Republican. At the recent RNC convention, they did not vote on a platform, so as one reporter said, “the platform is whatever Donald Trump says it is.” In and of itself, this is the final takedown of the old flag and raising of the new Trump Party banner.

Further, evidence of the dissolution, is an Alternate Republican convention was held the same week. This convention brought together several groups of Republicans bent on the defeat of Trump in November. They include The Lincoln Project, Republicans for the Rule of Law, and Republican Voters against Trump. Two additional groups of former Republican governors and intelligence leaders have also come out against Trump.

The Trump Party is a sad group led by sad people. Here are a few things that seem to be the major tenets in of the Trump Party:

– Truth, decency and empathy are not valued
– Protecting Americans against the COVID-19 pandemic is less important than winning the election. Not informing Americans of known risks is inexcusable.
– Civil rights of non-whites is less important and protestors of all races seeking equality for blacks are “thugs.”
– Soldiers who fight for America are “losers” and “suckers” and if captured, not heroes. It is OK that a country can put bounties on our soldiers without pushback.
– Using the presidency for profit is acceptable and it is OK to extort and use other countries for personal gain.
– Any Inspectors General, whistleblowers or those who testify under oath over legitimate concerns about wrongdoing can be removed without questions.
– Finally, it is OK to say absolutely anything to further the cause. It is OK to malign the voting process without doing a darn thing to make it secure. It is OK to blame any person or group for things that are caused by the president. It is OK to name call any critic. Trump called two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward a “wack job,” but it was the president’s own words that are causing the furor.

These words make me sad for our country. It makes me more sad to know sycophants, rationalizers, and enablers have allowed this to happen. Names like McConnell, Graham, Cotton, Johnson, Nunes, Cruz, Jordan, McCarthy, Meadows, Miller, Kushner, et al should be remembered along with the Trump name as people who led to the demise of the Republican Party, our democracy and our planet. If this corrupt and deceitful person wins again, America will move even more toward an autocracy run by a sad person.

The beat goes on…more GOP names for Biden

In an article by Zack Budryk yesterday called “Jeff Flake, dozens of former GOP congressman joining ‘Republicans for Biden,'” he speaksto the growing list of Republican legislators who have openly stated their support for Joe Biden.

“Former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a frequent critic of President Trump, is endorsing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden along with several other former Republican lawmakers.

The Biden campaign announced the endorsements, first reported by Fox News, Monday morning. The list includes other former members of Congress who had previously announced their support for Biden, including former Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and Gordon Humphrey (R-N.H.), who is now an independent, and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.).

Other former lawmakers on the list include former Reps. Steve Bartlett (R-Texas), Tom Coleman (R-Mo.), Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), Chris Shays (R-Ct.), Alan Steelman (R-Texas) and Jim Walsh (R-Texas).

‘These former members of Congress cited Trump’s corruption, destruction of democracy, blatant disregard for moral decency, and urgent need to get the country back on course as a reason why they support Biden,’ an official with the Biden campaign told Fox News. ‘These former Members of Congress are supporting Joe Biden because they know what’s at stake in this election and that Trump’s failures as President have superseded partisanship.'”

Reviewing the list, in addition to Senator Jeff Flake former Congressman Bob Inglis’ names jumps out. Inglis was voted out several years ago when the fossil fuel industry funded his opponent in a primary in South Carolina. Why? He traveled to Antarctica with scientists to see the data and tests on what climate change was doing. He came away convinced and openly said so. Not so fast, said the fossil fuel industry.

He then filmed a documentary of what he had found and set out to identify the amount of money backing the hoaxers. He was booed at various conventions when he raised his evidence, but it did not stop him. That takes courage.

The list keeps growing. The question we must ask Trump supporters is why are they doing this? And, dig deeper on the answer. A supporter echoing the president’s name calling or denigration is not an acceptable reason. If they do not respond, ask why there is an alternate convention of Republicans against Trump going on in Charlotte this week?

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/jeff-flake-dozens-of-former-gop-congressman-joining-republicans-for-biden/ar-BB18jibV

Is this what a president for the common man does?

Many of the Trump base have no idea they are voting against their economic interests. This advertised populist, common man president, fails to let folks know the following:

– in his first two hours of being president, he repealed a regulation that would have reduced homeowners insurance premiums for securing mortgages with the less than 20% down, that was scheduled to go in effect February 1, 2017. This would have helped about one million low income homeowners.

– he has hobbled the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that was very successful, but banks and credit card companies did not like it. The CFPB penalized these companies for fraudulent and aggressive lending practices, with 95% of the fines going to cheated consumers. In short, the CFPB helps folks who are targeted.

– he eliminated a new requirement that said all investment advisors have to be fiduciaries, meaning they must put your interests ahead of their own. This was done to help investment advisors, paid by the transaction, to encourage sales that may not be in your best interests.

– he passed a tax bill that favored the elites and businesses, under the guise of helping everyone. To keep the bill down to costing only $1.5 trillion in debt, he had to have some pay higher taxes – a sneaky requirement noted that state and local tax deductions were capped at $10,000, so if you owned a house and lived in a state where income tax occurred, your tax bill may increase. Note, folks who do not itemize deductions, tended to come out ahead with the change.

– he failed to tell people (actually lying about the impact routinely) the tariffs would be paid for by consumers when importers passed along the cost. He has routinely lied saying China will pay the tariffs, but that simply is not true. Each time he said this, economists would rebut his lie.

– he also lied about an ACA change he made that increased premiums for people, saying it would only impact insurer profits. In essence, he ceased the subsidy to insurers to repay them for paying deductibles, copays, etc. for members making less than 2 1/2 times the poverty rate. Insurers honored their written commitment (Trump did not) and subsidies went up to pay for the resulting increase in premiums. BCBS of North Carolina said premiums the next year were going to increase by 0%, but with the Trump change, they went up by over 6%. The CBO said the increase in subsidies increased the deficit by $10 billion per annum and unsubsidized folk saw premium increases.

– he has advocated a COVID-19 relief bill which will prevent employees from suing employers for endangering them with COVID-19 exposure.

– finally, environmental deregulation hurts those in poverty more, as they have fewer choices as to where to live.

There is more. With his attacks on the ACA, with a pending lawsuit that would harm it, more of Trump’s base will be harmed. Plus, with his misinformation and mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are being harmed and dying. Of all that I mentioned, his callousness and negligence in COVID-19 handling is the most prominent failure that impacts people.

So, in turn for getting protection over gun rights and attacks on abortion access, the president has largely screwed over his base and they have no idea he has.