Treating Migrants Humanely On National Radar Following Ron DeSantis’ Racist Actions

Racist tactics by conservatives have always been ugly

We know what plays to approval on Fox News in the evening hours when profoundly ridiculous notions and racist attitudes are presented. We also know those same views will meet strong disagreement and rejection from large swaths of the nation that is not wedded to the absurd network. What makes the FOX crowds giddy does not translate well to the nation as a whole. A case in point would be the plain mean-spirited abuse of migrants at the hands of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. 

This was underscored when a new poll from Reuters-Ipsos was published Friday which showed that only a third of Americans think it’s appropriate for Republican governors to fly or bus migrants to other states. Half of the Republicans polled and only 1 in 6 Democrats said it was something in which they could agree. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats say they opposed the practice. Forty-five percent–including 63 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of Republicans–said state leaders transporting migrants were committing illegal migrant trafficking.

The poll is reflective of the mood in the nation following the awful news of flying migrants thousands of miles across the country to Martha’s Vineyard.  The island off Massachusetts only has 17,000 year-round residents, and as we know from news reports this spring has housing problems for their workers who arrive during the warm months as tourists roam about.  Making a purely partisan point with the lives of migrants was unseeingly, and immoral.

It is truly troubling that some Republican pols are comfortable with the use and manipulation of people–vulnerable migrants—for the single purpose of scoring points with white voters who willingly watch FOX News. That network does not present migrants as human beings fleeing dreadful conditions in their homelands or that they seek to work hard or will find many businesses in every sector in each state wishing to hire them.  (Jobs, it needs noting, those same white FOX News viewers will not fill.)

I noted on my Twitter feed a slice from history that made a strong point about this situation.  The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library posted a tweet comparing the DeSantis racism with the “reverse Freedom Rides” that occurred in the 1960s in our nation. 

“To embarrass Northern liberals and humiliate Black people, southern White Citizens Councils started their so-called ‘Reverse Freedom Rides,’ giving Black people one-way tickets to northern cities with false promises of jobs, housing, and better lives”.

Americans know racism when they see it, and the strong rebuke of DeSantis that was registered across the nation has made one point most clear. Stop using migrants as political pawns.

President Biden Addresses “Battle For The Soul Of Nation”

It was a national address from a President of the United States that the citizenry needed not only to hear but to heed.  While the three main networks did not air the speech the gravitas of the message from Philadelphia was one that echoed from the Founding Fathers about political passions that are not tempered with reason and dangerous autocratic behavior not bridled by citizens.

President Biden spoke from Independence Hall Thursday evening to give a stern warning to the nation about our national democratic values being flagrantly assaulted and undermined by forces of extremism who kneel to Donald Trump. Biden did not mix words when he stated the issue that we face.  This is, he told us, a “battle for the soul of this nation.”

The message is one that the majority of this nation has been aware of since the years when Trump sat in the Oval Office and especially since the end of Election Day in November 2020.  We watched with dread and revulsion as the seditious actions played out at our nation’s Capital on January 6th and since then as Trump deliberately and aggressively has poked and stoked his followers who are easily led to the point they will even aid in the undermining of our nation.   Those followers are willing to add their voices as election deniers and some even have lowered themselves to the point they now call for violence to be unleashed in this country.

So it is readily understood with the facts we have seen play out that Biden was correct when stating Thursday that “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic.”

The others in the nation who have embraced reading and understanding our national story could connect and agree with the historical truth when Biden talked about the “extraordinary experiment of self-government” represented by the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, saying that “history tells us a blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal to democracy.” The Federalist Papers which were taught in high school, and more deeply studied in college alerted many Americans to the dangers the Founders urged us to avoid.

I have advocated for years our nation required a president to undertake the role, though some might think it old-fashioned, of a leader who will stand on the stage and preach the values of democracy.  The efforts of reducing and outright removing liberal democracy around the world have been underway for decades. Autocrats prattle about how democracy is not the way for nations to grow and prosper. Actions from Hungary to Brazil have left many worldwide rightly concerned about the condition of democracy. China has challenged democratic tendencies in places like Hong Kong, while we know all too well that Russia will do anything for wistful memories of an empire.  That battle for democracy is also taking place in the United States.  Right in front of eyes.  The seriousness of the matter makes headlines daily as democracy versus dictatorship, freedom versus authoritarianism plays and we must be engaged as citizens to defend the core ideals handed to us by the Founders.

Our Founding Fathers envisioned several examples of possible dangerous behavior to democracy and placed solutions to them within the Constitution. But they simply could not have fathomed the degree of partisanship and even outright sedition and treason currently running through some parts of the Republican Party. Partisanship is so deep and corrosive that it would harm the nation itself.

It is truly concerning for the politics of our time, and for the very nature of democracy itself, that a rather staggering number of Trump’s most vociferous, foul, and unbalanced followers are proving to be violent and hostile. Conservatives have willingly traded away their credibility by allowing the Republican Party to be hijacked by Trump. Today, no actual conservative party policy idea can surface as the saturation of crazy has dominated every aspect of the GOP. There is no oxygen in the room to talk about ideas as there is a past election outcome to excoriate.

So, it was most appropriate, in fact necessary, that Biden called out last evening the vilest of the Trump base who have seized hold of one of America’s two great political parties.  That element celebrates the violent mob that stormed the Capitol in hopes of overturning an election.  That is what the weak-minded in the nation have opted to do with the ideals and hopes of our Founding Fathers.   As I watched the 24-minute speech it dawned on me how remarkable this moment in our history is, as first, a president has never needed to call out the opposing party for their desire to strangle democracy. But secondly, there has never been a time in the 45 years (since age 15) of my reading American history where that was required. Biden stated it precisely as our nation needed to hear it. “You can’t love your country only when you win”.

Compromise Essential Ingredient To Passage Of Inflation Reduction Act

Long-time readers of this page know I like to see government work. I applaud elected officials who understand the art of governing. I also have a deep interest in history and politics, which underscores my admiration of Henry Clay and his resolve to seek compromises to secure the unity of the country in the first half of the 19th century.  I am again very mindful of those larger issues at play this week, following the votes of United States Senators in passing the Inflation Reduction Act.  That action proved that modern-day pols fully grasp what Clay did, that compromise is the main ingredient in governing.

The House of Representatives will cast votes later this week on the bill, which upon passage will go down in the history books as the most significant climate legislation to date.  That is no small act of legislating, given the dysfunction on Capitol Hill.  In real terms, passage means that nearly $370 billion in spending will be used to cut emissions and promote clean energy.   The end result is meaningful and worthy of our nation’s attention.  President Biden will sign it and another promise to the nation from the 2020 campaign will be enacted into law.

How the sausage is made into such laws is not a mystery.  Well, not so much, anyway, if one has followed the many months of congressional reporting as ideas and wish lists were tossed about, sorted out, scratch-offed, discarded, re-wrote, praised, slammed, praised again, and then finally—finally–efforts joined into a measure that met with a consensus vote.

As the countdown to the House vote nears, environmentalists rightly cheer that bill’s passage and enactment.  Those who have hoped and lobbied for the policy goals in the soon-to-be law can be proud to aim for a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. by 40% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, as well as creating 1.5 million green jobs.  Doctors are pleased with the bill, too, as data supports the measure will prevent thousands of premature deaths from air pollution.

Many will still scorn West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin who stemmed a much more energetic and ambitious proposal by the Biden administration, a plan that, yes, would have pushed more robustly towards transitioning away from fossil fuels. A goal more and more people are correctly embracing. We must not lose sight, however, of what has been achieved by venting anger at one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate. All hands must be on deck now for messaging the many positive aspects of the bill to the public.

We got to this point having the adults in Washington make compromises, the only way large and diverse measures of this type can be crafted and successfully passed. Too often, we need to remind Americans that compromise is far different from capitulation. The fringes of both parties often deride compromise and instead turn up the rhetorical heat for their own self-interests at the mention of uniting on a bill. History, however, shows that compromise is not only often needed, but exactly what the nation requires.

I just know Henry Clay is smiling in agreement today.

Congress Must Codify Same-Sex Marriage, Will GOP Vote For Freedom And Liberty?

Given the ideological ruling from the United States Supreme Court this year, which overturned a 50-year precedent about the right of women to make their own reproductive health care decisions, which also struck at the heart of privacy as an unenumerated right, comes the need to codify same-sex marriage in our statutes.

This week the House of Representatives will vote on the matter, and as news reports questioned this morning, how will the GOP whips deal with the matter among their members?  Can the GOP actually try to gin up opposition to the effort at codifying this fundamental right into law?

With conservatives already seen to be in the extreme seating section of our society, and the majority of the nation reeling from the abortion ruling, will there be an attempt by the GOP to further their distrust among suburban voters and moderates in the nation? Will they provide another log to the culture wars so to play to the angry base of the party, at the expense of their long-term goals?

The reason to have deep concern about this matter rests with the words and actions of the justices, themselves.  Several told the judiciary committee, during their hearings as nominees, of their appreciation for precedent. They convinced enough senators they were sincere. The explosion of the social fabric of the nation, and the threats of more to follow underscore their lack of honesty, regard for the Court, and the laws of the nation.

When they blew up Roe v. Wade it was the words of Justice Clarence Thomas that caught equal attention as the abortion decision, itself. He wrote in a separate opinion that the legal rationale for the decision to overrule the abortion decision could be applied to reconsider other recent landmark cases—including same-sex marriage.

It is truly reprehensible to even need to consider at the margins the loss of rights that a conservative majority on this court might unleash upon the nation concerning same-sex marriage. 

There are hundreds of thousands of couples who have gotten married, adopted children, formed businesses, engaged in legal contracts, and live life in this nation like any other married couple.  We cannot, will not, stand silent knowing, due to presidents who could not muster a mere majority vote from the electorate but still were able to plant jurists on the court, that our fundamental rights can now be exploded and destroyed.

To have anyone tell me that my marriage is not valid, or threatened in any way, or not protected under the laws of this nation is beyond the pale.  That is a line that must not be crossed. 

I have often commented on this blog about sending a positive and reaffirming message to young people who are gay and live in rural and isolated areas.  I grew up in such a place and know the need to have advocates who are fighting in the nation for a better and more just society. I have been a constant voice for gay rights over the decades, and in so doing, trust that it will aid some other young person in this state or around the nation. 

Our nation must not take any action that sends a message to gay youth that their lives do not matter, their individual sexual orientation less important than any other. If conservative Republicans turn their back on freedom and liberty in the congress this week, as it pertains to gay men and women in this nation, then the midterms will be a pitched battle. 

As for me, I walk my talk, and would encourage congress to protect the marriage of Thomas, a black man who married a white woman. As such I would ask that the congress pass legislation to codify Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 decision legalizing interracial marriage, a topic I need to note the conservative justice did not opine about in his abortion opinion.

President Biden Correct About Flag Issue In East Jerusalem

The Middle East trip by President Biden has included a conversation about a wide range of hot-button issues from the threat posed by Iran, global economic pressures from oil production quotas, and the need for movement among the different parties in the quest for Palestinian rights and security safeguards in a volatile area of the world.

It is a good week for the United States when our president can present the issues as the topic of the day, rather than being the topic of the day. It is good to have gravitas not only in the Oval Office and also when presented on the world stage.

Not only do the weighty conversations matter on such trips, or the policy moves and offers of assistance but so do the smaller messages and actions a president takes. The leader of the free world is not a trite phrase that no longer has meaning. The American president matters. That is why a serious person needs to always hold the office.

It was most appropriate, therefore, for the presidential motorcade, when entering East Jerusalem, to no longer bear the Israeli flags. Israeli sovereignty in the entirety of the city will need to be addressed if any meaningful and long-lasting peace accord is ever to be finalized between the two sides. While Israel has long enjoyed the land it seizes, does not mean the military conquests and occupations are geopolitically the best outcome for all the people in the region.

That Israel is not a fair player in the region has long been noted on this blog. The Biden administration has sought from the first days of the administration a reopening of the US consulate to the Palestinians. That office was previously located in western Jerusalem, but as is so typical of Isreal they have utterly refused to authorize the reopening. Diplomatic moves and creating structures for dialogue would further demand accountability from Israel, and that would be so much harder than just shooting and killing a journalist and continually undermining the dignity of the Palestinian people.

Israel, with its military might, has forgotten a truism about global affairs. Without a legitimate political process, there will be no peace. The simple, but meaningful act by President Biden of removing the Israeli flag when entering East Jerusalem underscores that fact.

Grievance Politics In America Needs to End

My favorite radio station, since my years as a teenager growing up in Central Wisconsin, has been WGN from Chicago. It mostly remains the prime example of classic talk that many of us knew before angry politics started to dominate some AM stations. Except for late-night/early morning, a wide array of hosts bring their neighborhood feel to the WGN broadcasting studio and share quality time over the airwaves.

For about the past two years a couple hours of the Jim Bohannon national radio show are simulcast on AM 720, and if there is a better example of airing grievance politics in the nation I am not aware of what it is as of this writing. I rarely listen to that show, given the time it airs, but I recently tuned in thanks to finely ground coffee keeping me too-percolated past bedtime.

While listening to the callers from coast to coast I was reminded that just about anyone at that hour can get on the air. For example, are you aware that all the jobs in our nation are being taken from white citizens by immigrants? Are you aware that socialists want to take away “what makes a man a man” or that gentrification is also a socialist plan for neighborhoods?

Considering what gets on the air one does have to ask what did not make it past the screener?

What I find to be rather sad is what Bohannon now stands for, given he was once the replacement for the famed Larry King on the former Mutual Broadcasting System. He has a super-fine broadcasting voice, the first thing that I noticed, of course, decades ago. But now he calls himself Jimbo….yeah.

But what strikes the listener to such conservative shows is the level of perceived grievances that some people carry with them, almost seemingly, as a badge of honor. They cling to their false narratives and standard rhetoric about conspiracy theories and fear of ‘the other’. Over the years their rhetoric has mostly remained the same, while facts are not to be entertained.

The reason this type of grievance has grown is not surprising. The exploitation of this element of the GOP by those who desired elective office, and helped stir the Tea Party types, and praised the severely dim-witted ones like Sarah Palin are now reaping what they sowed. In one way, the Republican Party can be rightfully smirked at for what they created and now must address. But the smirks can only go so far, as this is our nation we are talking about, and we simply can not function as a healthy democracy with such baggage. Something has to give.

Conservative columnist Michael Gerson wrote a powerful read about this many-year growing grievance trend among the base of the Republican Party.

The party has been swiftly repositioned as an instrument of white grievance. It refuses to condemn racists within its congressional ranks. Its main national legislative agenda seems to be the suppression of minority voting. Trumpism is defined by the belief that real Americans are beset by internal threats from migrants, Muslims, multiculturalists, Black Lives Matter activists, antifa militants and various thugs, gangbangers and whiners.

In a separate column, Gerson states the obvious by writing, “It is absurd to talk about white grievance politics as the wave of the political future……….as “the direction of American society toward greater diversity is not in doubt.”

Then Gerson offers a recollection of the past as to how the GOP can leave their current ‘woe is me’ political lifestyle for something that once worked in America.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Ronald Reagan reorganized the GOP message around the principle of economic opportunity, arguing for the moral achievements of democratic capitalism. Reagan disciples such as Jack Kemp turned a message of economic empowerment into an instrument of outreach.

Nothing in politics moves quickly, and the turning of the grievance mindset which now makes up the GOP will require efforts at strong and persistent messaging from within the party. Will there be a courageous national Republican candidate who will talk of optimism rather than anger and resentment, speak of the diverse array of Americans rather than of travel bans and border walls, and construct a message of economic uplift and truly conservative principles? I fear not for the 2024 presidential election.

But when the GOP is ready for their long-overdue facelift and massive swing away from grievances our democracy is ready to invite them again to the grownup table of politics.

I have to trust that a turn in our politics takes place sooner rather than later.

One-Time Assistant To Sen. Bill Proxmire, Columnist Mark Shields Dead At 85

There was no way not to love the look of Mark Shields, who seemed to have arrived for a television appearance donning his coat and finishing with his tie just as the camera eye blinked for the show to start. He looked very much the part of a newspaper columnist who had too many thoughts rushing about in his head to be concerned if his attire was perfectly adjusted.

When he started to opine on the issues of the day in politics, or the personalities that made for the latest headlines, whatever rumpled look he might have brought to the set was forgotten as his perspective and institutional memory held the audience at attention.

With that being said it is clear how I felt about Mark Shields who died at the age of 85 this weekend. I thought him not only a bright writer and commentator on our times but also fitting that image of an intrepid newspaper columnist and witty conversationalist who would be a perfect dinner guest.

His columns were a must-read for the way he blended current themes within the larger context of how our nation could be and should be. His political views were sharp and clear-eyed. He had, after all, worked in the political cauldron to see the process of politics up close.

His first job in the world of politics was in the office of Wisconsin Senator Bill Proxmire, where he had a desk as a legislative assistant. He branched out as a consultant for the Robert Kennedy presidential campaign, and later among other contenders for a variety of offices.

What he was not able to do with success as a political operative he made up for with a pithy knack for writing columns with verve and style and analyzing politics on television shows such as PBS’ NewsHour.

As we know with each turn Shields knew humor was the best way to connect facts with persuasion concerning the events under discussion.

Of President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Shields said dismissively that “the toughest thing he’s ever done was to ask Republicans to vote for a tax cut.” The House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy was “an invertebrate”; Senator Lindsey Graham made Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s loyal sidekick, “look like an independent spirit.” In both major parties, he said, too many are afflicted with “the Rolex gene” — making them money-hungry caterers to the wealthy.

Asked in a 2013 C-SPAN interview which presidents he admired, he cited Gerald R. Ford, a Republican who took office in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Ford, he said, was “the most emotionally healthy.”

“Not that the others were basket cases,” he said, but “they get that bug, and as the late and very great Mo Udall, who sought that office, once put it, the only known cure for the presidential virus is embalming fluid.”

With the passing of Shields, we have lost not only someone who was bright and talented but also a link to the times when those in government actually wanted to make the trains run on time. A time when, though politics was frothy, it was not all cut and burn and curse your opponents with every term imaginable.

I know people from all points on the political compass feel a loss this weekend. But we also know it was a joy to have had him being part of our political culture.

Godspeed, Mark.

Walter Mondale Memorial For “My Type Of Democrat”, First Political Rally

There was a memorial service this past weekend that did not receive as much notice, given it was held on a Sunday and a year after the death of the person being honored. The pandemic impacted so many aspects of our lives, including the timing of the service for Walter Mondale.

He died in April 2021.

The New York Times wrote a perfectly toned article about Sunday’s gathering.

There was, indeed, a quintessentially “Minnesota nice” quality to the event. Eulogists spoke of Mr. Mondale’s Norwegian stoicism, Midwestern values and dedication to helping others. The marching band from his cherished University of Minnesota played the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Lillian Hochman, a young Minnesota actress, sang “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie,” a Mondale favorite.

You can watch the powerful remarks from Jon Meacham and the emotional tribute from President Biden here.

Mondale was my type of Democrat, my type of politician. Correct on the issues with a strong moral character and manners that would be welcome in any home in the nation. He was also the first major politician I had the chance to encounter.

On Labor Day 1984 I was attending the first major political rally of my life.  It was also the first major political rally that I would report on for WDOR news.

I was young, eager, and so excited that I could barely contain myself.  Days before the event I had gone through a background check to gain press credentials which allowed me onto the risers with the national press.  Knowing I was going to stand alongside some of the journalists I had a deep respect for was as electrifying to me as being at a rally with a presidential nominee.

I had traveled from Sturgeon Bay to Lincoln County Fairgrounds in Merrill, Wisconsin in my light blue Chevet and still recall the feeling that life could not be better.  I was doing what I had always really wanted to do, which was get close to politics and report about it.  I knew then not everyone could say they get to live what they dream, and I recall attempts to slow down to better take in every moment, every detail.

Many broadcasters were questioning whether the traditional start of the presidential fall campaign was best done in a place like Merrill.  If memory serves me right Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro started that Labor Day in New York and encountered rainy weather.  That the sky was gray and filled with sprinkles in Merrill was not lost on those who thought it an omen for the election outcome.

When the music ramped up Mondale and Ferraro took the simple outdoor platform and gave punchy dramatic stump speeches

But Mondale saw it far differently.  With rolled-up shirtsleeves, Mondale told the audience it did not matter whether it was rain, hail, sleet, or snow.  The Democrats would make it to the polls on Election Day!

I knew at once that my political infection was for real.  Never before had I felt so alive.  So in the moment.

Here is the final draft of that speech.

Once at the rally site I climbed to stand with the press and was truly pleased to be about three feet from Lynn Sherr and Brit Hume, both from ABC.  I smiled to myself when Sherr asked Hume how to pronounce “La Follette” and I then laughed out loud later that night when she mispronounced it on the national news.   Everyone has on-air slips, and it was comforting to see it play out in front of me.

To be honest being on the risers with the press could have been the culmination of the day and I would have been totally content.

Geraldine Ferraro was loved by that crowd in Merrill.  The applause was enthusiastic, and the warmth for her was genuine.  Later I went down and recorded some interviews with voters and my thrust of the news story was how they viewed the first female nominee.  Ferraro was breaking new ground and they were glad Labor Day in Merrill was where she spent some of her time.

I shall be forever grateful to Mondale for choosing Ferraro as his running mate.

I will never forget that first major rally, the sense of being young and living life. Or the strong convictions of a man who would have been a far superior choice for the nation that year in the election.

Our country lost a great man who epitomized the meaning of public service. Mondale summed it up best with one line. “Politics is not about power. It is about doing good for the people.”

And so it goes.