The extreme agitation and polarization of our nation’s politics—though exacerbated by Covid—has mostly to do with a feverish political “right” that exists almost exclusively to pursue power and whose only consistent “values” are its hatred for the “left”—which it defines as Democrats regardless of these Democrats particular views—all of whom it seeks to tar with the labels “socialist” or “Marxist” or “communist.” One plays into the hands of these people by failing to recognize them as the utterly unprincipled opportunists that they are, at least at the level of their leadership.
The Democrats were in trouble long before “woke” politics existed precisely because they have been “Republican lite” since Reagan and have not been seen by the general public as standing for anything other than technical competence at pursuing what were once Republican aims. What had previously been a strong social democratic New Deal consensus in this country was frittered away by corrupt Democratic politicians who were unwilling to fight for social democratic principles. The resulting shift to the “right” in national and state politics was not inevitable but rather the consequence of a series of bad choices over decades starting with Jimmy Carter’s failure to fight for the original Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill.
As Reaganism turned into Bushism and its utter bankruptcy was revealed to all in the immoral and incompetent invasion and occupation and uniformly unsuccessful war in Iraq, and in the 2008 crash, the Democrats had the opportunity to demonize George W. Bush the way the Republicans had demonized Carter (and run successfully against him for years). Bush could easily—and accurately—have been portrayed as a vile apologist for torture, as ignorant when it comes to economics, and as an immoral and muddle-headed aggressor in international affairs who had destroyed the prospects for peace with a foolish and unnecessary war.
Obama was too much of a gentleman to choose such a course and, instead, pursued bipartisanship, appeased the financial sector with Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary rather than prosecute malfeasance on Wall Street, and put almost all his eggs in the inadequate Affordable Care Act basket. Obamacare improved healthcare in this country, but it was far from enough. When the racist backlash against Obama was combined with revulsion at the technocratic and entitled approach of Hillary Clinton, Trump squeaked into office. Since then—and increasingly after January 6th—most Republican Senators and Congressmen have shown themselves to care for nothing other than power and greed.
There is no consistency to the Republicans whatsoever except for their hatred of “the left.” But this consistency wins them support among many voters who see such as “firmness” rather than Democratic “softness.” This, and not “wokeness”—is why the Republicans can portray the Democrats as “soft” on crime and make political hay out of their own unprincipled “support” of the police (just ask the capitol police where the Republicans really stand). Indeed, this is why the Democrats can be attacked as “soft” on almost any issue. As someone who supports “defunding” the police, but thinks the slogan a bad mistake, I want to emphasize that there is no slogan that would prevent scurrilous Republican attacks. Nor is it really the substance of what we are asking for: investing in our communities—and especially in social workers to handle nonviolent conflicts rather than expecting wrongly trained police officers to do this work (and as a result seeing people with mental illness routinely killed by the police)—that motivates Republican attacks. They simply perceive a Democratic vulnerability and respond accordingly regardless of what would actually serve the common good. Without a foundation of mutual concern for the common good, bipartisanship is simply not viable. There are still a handful of Republicans with a measure of civility in their politics, but not enough to ensure the future of democracy in this country or to make much bipartisanship more than a pipe dream. The Republican party will have to be decisively defeated in a series of national elections to break its fever and bring about any real change.
My hope is that Republican fanaticism and intransigence is finally starting to be recognized for what it is, at least by Democratic Congressional representatives who must deal with the unruly incivility of their counterparts and who have at last censured Paul Gosar for a not so subtle death threat against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
It takes two to fight. Maybe the Democrats will generate enough fire in the belly between now and next November to fight and win in 2022—it’s a long shot but the future of “civilization” seems to rest on it. I have plenty to criticize the Democrats for. Failing to put such criticism in its proper context is irresponsible. The proper context is that the Democratic Party is the primary institution that stands between all of us and a completely fascist attempt to destroy what is decent in America.
Biden’s Build Back Better—even in it’s watered down version—contains much to be strongly supported including desperately needed climate investments, universal pre-K, limiting insulin costs and lowering drug costs generally, providing four weeks of paid family and medical leave, and expanding the child-tax credit. Like Obamacare, this is inadequate but still well worth doing.
Having offered the above as context, I would like to share a criticism that falls almost equally on Democrats and Republicans alike and that has to do with the United States’ historic and present day oppression and exploitation of the Native Nations. Much of our current problems are rooted in what might be called bad karma—in the consequences of our failure to treat others as we would wish to be treated.
Biden, with his historic appointment of Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior, represents an improvement on Trump—but that is a very low bar. An understanding of “federal Indian law”—a law that is not made by the Native Nations but rather one imposed on them—is hard to reach and most Americans do not realize the depth of its immorality. There is a widespread sense of revulsion at the memory of the Trail of Tears but little recognition that the arguments for that genocide continue to determine the law, policy, and conduct of the United States toward the Native Nations to this day while the arguments of the opposition to that genocide have largely been forgotten. This video (https://vimeo.com/588633863
), and the text with endnotes (available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/354060889), are part of my current effort to set the record straight.
The rest of this page are leftovers from my 2018 campaign for Congress that will certainly be updated if I choose to run again at some point.
>> Video Interview with Steve
>> Radio DePaul Interview
>> Q&A with the Chicago Tribune
>> Q&A with the Chicago Sun-Times
Here are the five top issues I emphasized in 2018:
(with links to newsletters on each)
✔ Universal Health Care
✔ Massive Infrastructure Investment
✔ A Foreign Policy for Civility
✔ Respect for Tribal Sovereignty
Please download the joint statement issued
with Jeff Ballinger, Congressional candidate
in the Massachusetts 3rd District …
Joint Statement on Tribal Sovereignty (2762 downloads)
✔ A Freedom Budget for the 21st Century
But there are many reasons to vote for social democratic leadership for the Illinois 5th District:
✔ Montessori-style Pre-K for All
✔ Invest in Kids’ First Five Years
✔ Invest in Public K-12 Education
✔ Free Public College
✔ Decarbonize Our Energy System
✔ Overturn Citizens United
✔ Guarantee Family/Medical Leave
✔ Raise The Minimum Wage to $15
✔ Support Union Organizing
✔ End the War on Drugs
✔ Abolish Monetary Bond
✔ Restore Eisenhower Era Tax Rates
✔ Stop Endless Military Spending
✔ Support Civil Rights
✔ End Anti-LGBT Discrimination
✔ Expand Social Security
✔ Train the Police in De-escalation
✔ Demilitarize the Police
✔ Give the Police More Time to Sleep
✔ Bust up the “Too Big to Fail”
✔ Abolish I.C.E.
✔ Welcome Refugees and Immigrants
✔ Support Planned Parenthood
✔ Follow Australia’s Example on Guns
The artwork above, “The Valley,” is a painting by Nick Fisher. It presents a hopeful view of a peaceful, prosperous, just, and ecologically-sound community.