Mon, Mar

The Progressive Tea Party Arising


GELFAND’S WORLD--It's starting. All over the country, people are waking up to the fact that the Republican congress wants to take their health coverage away. This weekend, thousands of people demonstrated in several cities. But the more telling event occurred at a library in Aurora, Colorado. As reported by 9 News. 

"When Berthie Ruoff arrived at the Aurora Central Library to meet with Congressman Mike Coffman, she was hopeful to find encouraging answers about the impending changes to the Affordable Care Act. 

"My husband passed away and the only way I was able to get insurance was through the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare," Ruoff said. 

"When she walked in, she saw a crowd she didn't expect. 

"There were hundreds of people here," Ruoff said." 

As the 9News story explains, the crowd was so large that the congressman couldn't (or wouldn't) meet with all of them. What's a Republican to do when a large number of his constituents object to his party's policy? The Denver Post picked up on the story, adding some background including the fact that Coffman had previously announced his intent to overturn the ACA. 

The story was picked up by the website Talking Points Memo and Daily Kos and has found a nationwide audience. 

As people begin to realize that they are being put in peril by the actions of the new congress, they will build a true grass roots movement. Right now the movement is not organized and lacks the spontaneous ad hoc leadership that such movements eventually achieve. But we can expect that some spontaneous leadership won't be long in coming. Anger and fear have that effect. Speaker of the House Ryan's intent to phase out Medicare should inspire even more fear and anger, adding to the movement. 

The one thing that would make this movement most effective is if thousands of traditional Republican voters join in the complaining. There should be lots of them. Considering that there are somewhere between ten and twenty million Americans who have gained access to health insurance through the ACA, the backlash against the congressional actions is to be expected. The only question is how big it is going to become. How many people will make the effort to communicate with their elected leaders? We should expect that the projected loss of health insurance will be powerfully motivating to a lot of people. After all, the prospect of choosing between bankruptcy or your next surgery should get people's attention. 

In the meanwhile, as the movement is building, make sure you do two things. First of all, call your representative's office and make your position clear. Then, follow up with a hand written note. There are plenty of online tools [http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/] that provide phone numbers and mailing addresses. The link I've provided here starts with your zip code. Sometimes you have to narrow the search by also providing your street address. 

Here is a summary of the strategy and detailed instructions. It's called Indivisible


Congressman John Lewis has managed to strike a nerve in the Republican administration with his proclamation that the Donald Trump presidency is not to be treated as legitimate. The moaning and groaning from the Republican Party leadership is hilarious to watch. They can't exactly criticize Lewis for who and what he is -- a true hero of the civil rights movement with the legacy of being physically beaten in defense of human rights -- so they talk about how unfortunate it is that someone is being divisive and blah blah blah. These are the same people who enjoyed watching the birther movement when Obama was first elected. 

The thing is, Trump's legitimacy becomes more and more suspect as the weeks go by. The recent episode of Saturday Night Live circulated the story (alleged, anyway) that the Russians have some incriminating video tape of Trump in a compromising position. When I saw the show, I wondered if the story was something that the writers made up, but no, it turned out that the story is true -- our intelligence services alerted both the Obama administration and Trump about the existence of the claim. The claim may or may not be accurate, but it's out there. 

Why is this so damaging to Trump's legitimacy? That part is clear. The head of the FBI made it a mission to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential run right before the election, but couldn't seem to remember to let us know about Trump's problems. Would Trump have been elected had this latest scandal been exposed at the same moment that the FBI Director discussed Hillary's minor indiscretion? Hillary was accused of being sloppy with confidential material, basically little more than the equivalent of a speeding ticket in comparison to Trump's vulnerabilities both financial and sexual. 

Trump's illegitimacy for having been placed in office by the Russians is compounded by the fact that he actually finished three million votes behind Hillary Clinton. In the past, most of us haven't spent too much time thinking about the Electoral College, but when it screws up this badly -- twice in 16 years -- it's worth thinking about. It would take states with a combined total of 105 electoral votes (in addition to the states which are already signatories) to create the interstate compact that would do away with this slavery-era fossil. 

Addendum and reply 

I don't usually reply to readers' comments. After all, if I haven't convinced you in the first 750 words, then it's pretty much on me. However, one reader provided a detailed response as to why it would be a bad idea to give California the first primary. I will be the first to admit that provoking a fight with New Hampshire and running up public expenses for a first-of-the-season primary has its negatives, as the commenter so deftly stated. In addition, it is possible to come up with various proposals such as regional primaries, although this is not the only way to do things. 

What I was trying to say is that the current system is badly flawed and terribly unfair to voters in other parts of the United States. New Hampshire voters have adopted an attitude that they are uniquely suited to picking presidential candidates, in spite of their northeastern-centric bias and small town attitudes. 

I'm reminded of an interview with a New Hampshire voter just before the 2016 primary. She explained that she had met and talked with ten of the presidential candidates (!) but had not as yet made up her mind. 

I don't fault her for her failure to make up her mind after so many meetings. I do fault the system which conveyed that privilege to the few people of New Hampshire, while millions of other people only heard about such meetings from a distance. 

It's long since time to give people in other states a chance. If we want to go with one or two small states for the first primary/caucus then let's invite applications and pull a name out of the hat. How about Oregon or Delaware? Either one is vastly more representative of the country as a whole than either New Hampshire or Iowa. 

My main point (or it was supposed to be my main point) is that it's time for the Democratic National Committee to take responsibility and do something. The DNC could start with a statement that it will be rethinking the primary process and if nothing else, plans to give other states a chance. 

The point about California taking charge and establishing a primary on the same day as the other first primary was that we have it within our power. It may not be optimal, but it is something we can do and, if nothing else, our discussion of the idea would put pressure on the DNC to finally do something creative.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected])




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