An Uplifting American Story: Gay Immigrant Congressman

Rep.-elect Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), center, arrives at an orientation meeting Nov. 14, 2022, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. | Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Our political leaders should reflect the diversity of the nation. Our legislatures should be a mirror of the diversity of our people, and our growing ethnicity.  It is repugnant when there is open disdain for the inclusion of all within our elected class, or when rancor is churned up within the populace for the partisan aim of excluding the largest possible makeup within our legislative bodies.

This year with all the bombast and willfully created chaos in the midterm elections so as to ram through several seriously flawed Republican candidates, comes uplifting news from the other side of the political divide. Robert Garcia, the 44-year-old former Democratic mayor of Long Beach, California won his election to the House of Representatives.  That, in and of itself, would not be remarkable enough to garner a post on this site.  What makes him a real American story is that he is gay and came to these shores as an immigrant.

He came to this country at the age of 5 from Peru and will now sit in Congress.  This week I heard him speak in an interview and was most taken with this portion of the broadcast.

“Too many people think that patriotism is about individualism or about taking care of your family or this whole ‘America First’ mentality. What being a true American patriot is, is making your country a welcoming place.”

“There’s a lot of things I am: Yes, I’m gay. And, yes, I’ve been a mayor. But there’s nothing that makes me more me than being an immigrant. I’m very proud to be an immigrant, and that has defined me more than anything else in my life.”

It is most apparent that I love politics and the percolating issues of the day.  But I admit this election cycle to feeling very dismayed about the messaging from too many candidates who spoke against democracy and threatened to undermine future elections by enacting new laws and holding key offices in states that could undermine Electoral College procedures. I come from an understanding, using a rather extreme and perhaps odd example, where South Carolina’s Senator John Calhoun was terribly wrong about his theories of Black people in the 19th century, but he was a well-written and learned man about the formation of the nation and the ideas surrounding our national purpose. Contrast that with what passed for acceptable candidates within the GOP primary process this year, ones who were not only wholly wrong on the issues but dreadfully lacking in any fundamental education about the office they wished to be elected to or the basic constructs and ideals of our nation. So, yes, the election left me feeling rather uneasy about where we find ourselves in 2022.

And then, I learned of the election of Robert Garcia.

Against the grievance mindset which now makes up the GOP is this fresh and strong personality from Gracia with his sure-footed understanding of our nation, our purpose, and our ideals. I like the theme of optimism in our politics and gravitate towards that uplift. Give my sails a lift in the wind about inclusion and the greater good and the many months of anger and resentment from baffling candidates floats off and away. Our nation has always done better, much better with an array of Americans who know the real purpose and value of our nation. Travel bans and border walls are flawed concepts that are poison to the root story of our nation. This story of one man underscores why our nation needs to secure the future of young minds who arrive in our country, allowing them to become a legal part of our national fabric, and end the shameful antics of those who harbor bigotry.

The midterms did have a hopeful ending.

Republicans Stunned At Polls, Voters Not Willing To Swallow Donald Trump Or His Trashy Candidates

The midterm elections were going to be a red wave akin to something we had not seen in decades, or so we were told by conservatives who were measuring curtains for new offices and lining up impeachment proceedings while shining up their gavels for new committee chairmanships. Some even were tossing out the word tsunami when making their predictions about the outcome following the counting of the ballots. But come the light of Wednesday morning many GOPers were experiencing the walk of shame. Oh, they were screwed all right, having spent huge amounts of cash for the experience of being rejected by the voters in congressional districts and states coast-to-coast. A form of sadomasochism on a national scale that made the majority of the nation feel good. Thus, it was a good night for democratic politicos, but a better night for the nation and democracy, itself.

Early this morning the boorish and vacuous Wisconsin Republican nominee for governor, Tim Michels, conceded his race to Governor Tony Evers. Without any actual governing experience and clearly not able to articulate a policy proposal or add any meat about pertinent issues asked of him, Michels thought bombast and reckless regard for our democracy would carry him over the finish line. I asked myself over and over during the race who exactly schooled him on the issues or offered coherent responses to questions. Clearly, Michels is not a good student. Meanwhile, voters are not policy wonks, but they sure know an empty suit when one is presented to them.  Michels proved to be the epitome of a weaselly candidate that sought out any crevice—state–that he could crawl into and seek power.   

What happened to Michels was also what Mehmet Oz was dealt by the voters and Dan Bolduc and Tudor Dixon and Paul LePage, and the list goes on and on and on and….. Complete bottom dwellers who proved to be short on policy but long-winded on right-wing crazy rhetoric or angry white male lingo while demonstrating a severe lack of regard for democracy.

Late last night and all-out today reasoned Republican Party voices—and there are some within even that debacle of a political party—stated with clarity what happened to the national wet dream of conservatives.

A former speechwriter for George W. Bush, conservative Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen, did not hold back on Fox News Tuesday night, as the Republicans failed to produce the outcome they thought they had conned their voters to produce. He said what the majority of the nation has been warning Republicans about for years. The rubes have aped Donald Trump, but the nation just decided to flush the toilet in many cases.

“That is a searing indictment of the Republican Party,” he said. “That is a searing indictment of the message that we have been sending to the voters. They’ve looked at all of that, and looked at Republican alternative and said no thanks. That is–the Republican party needs to do a really deep introspection look in the mirror right now because this is an absolute disaster for the Republican Party and we need to turn back.”

That means the Republican Party will need to cut the cord with Orange Mussolini. Or keep being rebuked by the vast majority of voters.

Jacqui Heinrich, Fox News correspondent reported a GOP source told her following a very bad night for Republicans at the ballot box, “if it wasn’t clear before it should be now. We have a Trump problem”

This morning National Review lanced the Trump boil on the Republican Party.

“No excuses, Republicans. Everyone thought you had just about the ideal issue environment for a midterm election, and the exit polls verified it. Seven in ten Americans said they were ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘angry’ about the state of the country. Around three-quarters of voters nationally characterized the state of the economy as ‘poor’ or ‘not good,’ and the same amount said that inflation has caused them severe or moderate hardship. About two-thirds said that gas prices have been causing them hardship. You had parents livid about the learning loss in schools because of the long closures for Covid-19 and inappropriate materials in the curriculum. You had an unpopular president, who was such a liability that Democrats couldn’t let him go anywhere near a swing state.”

“And the nation, deeply dissatisfied with the way the Democrats were running things, looked at what the GOP offered as the alternative and concluded, ‘Nope, I’ll stick with what the Democrats are giving me’ in a lot of key places.”

The nation is rightly concerned that the Republicans ginned up the Tea Party crowd and egged on, for their partisan benefit, the Sarah Palin types which then softened the terrain for the ilk of Donald Trump to swamp the party. Vile, nasty, no real education, coarse, not ready in most cases for polite society. It was expected the nation was just supposed to accept this rush into the ditch with a smile. The political landscape should have offered the opposition on Tuesday one of the most fertile cycles in decades. But that nation was instead offered by the Republicans trashy candidates, empty platforms, and just plain bad manners. And we said to them, NO!

Election Day Tradition In The Oven: Country Jam Cake

There is an Election Day tradition at our home, other than voting of course, and that is making Grandma’s Country Jam Cake.

Monday afternoon I proved my capabilities in the kitchen as I measured and mixed and upon noticing I had no buttermilk…..which is the only time I yelled “James”….OK, the second time as the first was not being able to locate measuring spoons. James wings cooking with no such devices, but I am old school.

He made buttermilk the way Grandma might have done had she needed some, too. Or she would have thoroughly read the recipe beforehand!! Details, details.

The cake started to be our traditional election dessert in 2004, and it has never failed to bring smiles, even if the returns are grim. Now the cake is in the oven and I can still hear Mom tell me to go outside and do my jumping around so the cake will not ‘fall’. Aw, yes, traditions never grow old.

Coming Sunday: 2022 Midterm Election Predictions

Every two years since 1980 I have put my thoughts and predictions into writing about the November elections. That decades-long tradition continues this weekend.

Voters Should Be Aware Of GOP Tax Scheme, Higher Inflation Would Follow

Here is why I have a clear difference with Republicans who desire, should they gain the majority in congress, to make the tax cuts and adjustments enacted in the 2017 overhaul of the tax system permanent in the country. I know these wild-eyed Trumpsters with one car and a mortgage cheer, not knowing the tax scheme under the single term of Donald Trump was never aimed to assist them. FAR from it!

What high school Econ 101 taught us in classrooms is that such a move would further stimulate the economy at the same time the Federal Reserve is trying to rein in demand against 40-year-high inflation. The tax cuts in the 2017 law added $1.9 trillion in government debt through 2028. The method of paying for these cuts will be deficit-financed, and as such those ideas chased on the campaign trail with rabid fervor about tax policy will play into inflation. I thought the GOP voters were asking for inflation to be dealt with by voting for Republican candidates!

Readers of Caffeinated Politics know I have been closely following British pols for much of this year, and from the day Boris Johnson imploded, applauded the words of Rishi Sunak. He comes to mind again as the midterm elections draw near. It was his reasoned tone and views on not committing to tax cuts and playing to the lowest common denominator that caught my attention and respect. He refused to play to the Conservative Party, and while they opted for Liz Truss and her fanciful ideas about fiscal policy, he had the last laugh. I say this as the Brits found out a great deal about what deficit-financed tax cuts can do. In their case, it brought down an entire government!

Measures of such enormity should be discussed with more seriousness by the GOP rather than just playing to the lowest level of the conservative base. They may not care to be serious about issues with the Trump base, (they have proven to fall for anything) but the majority of the nation is aware of the dangers and harm that the GOP can do to the national economy.

Wisconsin Assembly Candidate Adam Steen Demeaned Campaign Volunteers, A Lack Of Common Decency

Candidates across the nation who have staunchly supported Donald Trump, and those he then rewarded with an endorsement have all followed the same path.  Making headlines that no reasonably sound or serious-minded candidate would ever desire. As an example, we likely had our fill of news stories about Herschel Walker and Mehmet Oz.  Even if not living in those states where they are seeking office, we are hopeful of not needing to hear their names anytime soon following Election Day.

In Wisconsin, however, we have a Trump-backed write-in candidate for a state assembly seat who is garnering the type of headlines that no one wishes to be made with only a few weeks left in the campaign.  Further troubling is how a group of voters is being so easily played and then so disparaged after showing political support. It does not matter what party or which candidate is central to this story as the bottom line is what occurred is just plain wrong.

Leaked phone call recordings allegedly show a write-in candidate for the state Legislature from Racine County, Adam Steen, making misogynistic comments, calling some of his own supporters “stupid,” openly considering breaking election law for a stunt, and agreeing with a statement that his own volunteers “are legitimately barbaric.”

It is not so much that a phone call was taped or that it was released, as that is just the rugged world of politics in which we live.  What I find unsettling about this story, is how cheaply held political support is for Steen.  Though I have never been a candidate for any office I am most certain of my respect for, and humility toward those who would support me and volunteer on my behalf. I cannot fathom mocking those who provide political support!

Steen is in a three-way race to represent Wisconsin Assembly District 63 against the incumbent, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, and Democrat Joel Jacobsen. On Election Night this one will be fun to watch just for the theatrics that has taken place since the primary when Vos won with 260 votes.  But that should not detract us from feeling unsettled about the lack of value that supporters and political volunteers are now feeling.

Whenever he talks about Donald Trump in public and with reporters, Steen speaks highly about how important the former president’s endorsement has been to generating support for the Steen campaign. But according to WisconsinRightNow’s reporting of the recordings, Steen said voters are “stupid” to have been swayed to support him solely because of the Trump endorsement.

A journalist can report, and a blogger can opine and offer perspective about the role Trump plays in Republican circles or the control he has over a wide swath of the GOP base.  Reporters can show the states where Trump has endorsed candidates and bloggers can make a case for why democracy demands higher standards with party nominations.  But a candidate themself should never, ever belittle, demean, or devalue citizens who show support and offer to volunteer for a campaign.  To do so is seriously shallow. 

Over the decades I have walked countless miles knocking on doors and making a case for the person pictured in the political brochure that I offer to the stranger on their front steps. I have known the candidates and was fully aware of their genuine gratitude for the hours of volunteer efforts. Therefore, I cannot unravel the mindset of Steen who would toss aside the hours spent, the efforts made, or the trust that was given from a volunteer to one seeking office. 

We can all disagree about public policy and the best way to move our state forward, but I suspect we all agree that common decency is something that once traded away is never able to be recovered.  The story about Adam Steen is not about partisanship, but rather what we truly should not want in our politics.

Why Does GOP Accept Candidates That Tell Bold-Face Lies?

Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate for Senate in Georgia, is at it again with his inability to be forthright.  Let me put that another.  He simply seems unable to be truthful.  Well, let me phrase that even more directly.  He lies. 

The latest collision with the truth by one of the four most absurd and horrible senate candidates the Republican Party has put forth for the 2022 mid-term elections concerns money that was supposedly donated to charities. (The other three states with dreadful GOP senate nominees are in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.)

Walker, a former football star, pledged that 15 percent of profits would go to charities, a promise the company said was part of its corporate charter.” For years, Mr. Walker’s company named four specific charities as beneficiaries of those donations, including the Boy Scouts of America and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.But there is scant evidence that Mr. Walker’s giving matched those promises. When The New York Times contacted those four charities, one declined to comment and the other three said they had no record or recollection of any gifts from the company in the last decade.

While human nature at times allows for fabrications and embellishments, and on a campaign trail when talking is a non-stop task, it is not hard to fathom how stretching of the truth might occur.  ‘I was an early supporter of that legislation or ‘You will always find me riding in a car made in America’.   But when it comes to Walker he seems to fail at telling the truth at every turn about the big events in his life when talking.

Walker, who is facing Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, in his first bid for public office, has been dogged by repeated instances in which he was found to have given misleading or outright false details about his life story. He falsely claimed to have graduated “in the top 1 percent” of his class at the University of Georgia, when in fact he had not graduated at all: He left the university after his junior year to play professional football. He also said he had “worked in law enforcement” when he had not.

His candidacy was never taken seriously by any politico, as there is no intellectual substance to Walker. Zero. Zilch. None.  It was almost as if the GOP needed a court jester and Walker was more than happy to play the role of national dupe.  Trump was won over because Walker said something nice about him and the followers of the cult leader said, ‘Well, sure, let’s make him a nominee for the senate!’  The bar is so very low for much of the modern Republican Party. Walker is proof of that fact.

I strongly suspect most Georgians want a credible and honest senator who has not had their brain punched about on a football field for many a year. I just know voters believe that a candidate should be able to honestly recall if he graduated from college.  Or how many illegitimate children call him ‘the one who sends the checks’.

GOP Mid-Term Hopes: “Tsunami To A Puddle”

Following the 2020 elections, too many Republicans wanted to keep their arms around Donald Trump, further undermine democracy, and thwart the will of women to make their own health care choices. Well, the nation has been watching and is about to send a message this fall. I contend the majority of the nation simply does not want Trump 24/7 in their living rooms or being the non-stop topic of discussion going forward. That will need to be tempered, of course, with the law and order process which must continue as Trump and others are held responsible for their actions. Democracy absolutely demands a response to what he and his followers did in the weeks following the last presidential election.

Rational voters do not want the crazy and utterly absurd candidates Trump is pushing from Arizona to Georgia, those nominees his cult followers voted for in primaries. The steam is building for a strong blowback in state after state concerning the Trump-fueled antics this year, just as the results proved in 2020. Ron Brownstein writes where the nation is heading and what the GOP must reckon with come November.

It was a referendum. Now it’s a choice.

For political professionals in both parties, that’s the capsule explanation for why the Democratic position in the midterm elections appears to have improved so much since summer began.

When the election looked to be primarily a referendum on the performance of the Democrats who control the White House and Congress, Republicans were optimistic that a towering ‘red wave’ would carry them to sweeping gains in November.

But with evidence suggesting more voters are treating the election as a comparative choice between the two parties, operatives on both sides are bracing for a closely contested outcome that could include an unusual divergence in results for the House and those in Senate and governor races.

The political evidence of what faces Republicans can be best viewed in how some are now changing their tune and tone about abortion. But if conservative men who were doing everything in an effort to undermine the ability of women to decide their own health care decisions think they can now whistle a different tune at the mid-term elections—well, voters will have something to say about that waffling.

Republican candidates are shifting their message on abortion after several recent elections have shown the issue energizing Democrats.

Some candidates for House, Senate and governor have either reworked sections on their websites or released ads that have sought to downplay, reverse or clarify some of their anti-abortion stances.

The shift started over the summer following the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, but the change has become increasingly noticeable as more and more signs have emerged showing abortion can be a galvanizing issue for Democratic voters in key states.

“I think the concept that for decades, you know, a Supreme Court fight energized the conservative base because they wanted to overturn Roe, right?” Republican strategist Barrett Marson, who previously worked on Arizona Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters’s campaign, said.

“I think you’re gonna see a flip on that, that the liberal base will get more energized about this issue because they got it taken away from them,” he added.

Voters in the red state of Kansas earlier this month resoundingly rejected a ballot measure that would have given the legislature more authority to restrict the procedure. And last week, Democrat Pat Ryan won a New York special election seen as a bellwether after focusing his campaign on abortion rights.

In three other special elections since the Supreme Court struck down federal abortion protections, Democrats outpaced expectations even though they ultimately lost. And states such as Pennsylvania, Idaho and Wisconsin are seeing larger gaps open up between new female and male voter registrations since the Supreme Court decision, according to TargetSmart, the Democratic data services firm.

Taken together, the developments have seemingly pushed Republicans to reassess how they approach an issue that has already shown it can help swing elections and for some to step back from support for outright abortion bans.

Between Trump carping and storming about how unfair it is to need to abide by laws and due process in the nation while the harshest elements in the GOP strike out at abortion rights means that politicos can now start to gauge the efficacy of the strategy being employed by the Republican Party in the mid-term elections. With about nine weeks to go the cake is getting baked.