November, 2016

Looking Ahead While Looking Back

For quite a few people, even though the national election took place almost a month ago, it seems that the division within the country will continue for some time to come.

No matter where I travel these days, I overhear arguments between husbands and wives, mixed groups and grown children over the results of the election.

Having been a student of history, an elected official and a commentator at the national and state levels, I have seen quite a few elections where the country was polarized by the two presidential candidates, but not to the extent of this one.

I have endured the losses of Walter Mondale, Hubert Humphrey, Al Gore and enjoyed winning quite a few.

But, when those elections were over, the country went back to work paying little attention to the aftermath of the campaigns.

The 2016 election will be seared into the memory of millions of people for a number of reasons.

At the top of the list is the impact of social media and the news media.

With so many people on Facebook, the universal use of cellphones and the easy flow of communication, negative news spreads fast and it feeds into how the public forms its opinions about the candidates.

The mass media was the source of a torrent of news about the candidates.

For 16 months we were subjected to day after day of so-called “breaking news,” which in quite a few cases was either inaccurate or was on a number of occasions retracted by the anchor, too late to catch up with people who had already spread the word.

Facebook is also enduring a heavy share of the criticism over the fact that it is alleged to have been the spreader of false news, paid for by the Republican candidate.

At the beginning of the campaign many in the media treated the candidacy of Donald Trump as some type of circus act that would help drive ratings and increase advertising dollars.

On each and every occasion that candidate Trump was willing to offer an opinion on something, he would get top billing.

In most cases, the media reports on Hillary Clinton were often negative and repetitive.

The irony of the mass media’s addiction to Mr. Trump was when they decided that he might actually win, they changed their tone from positive to negative.

The end result was that the general public became more and more confused and unable to figure right from wrong.

All elections are battles about issues and ideology.

This one left us with a nation in a state of mass uncertainty about the future.

The winners get congratulated and the losers get condolences.

But going forward we must follow political events and news with the same degree of attention as we did during this campaign.

We will be exposed to four years of heightened coverage of the new administration, and the good news is that in the blink of an eye it will be 2020.



An Election Season We Can All Be Ashamed Of

An Election Season We Can All Be Ashamed Of

We can be thankful that the 2016 election nightmare is officially over. There are almost no happy observations we can make, but I’m compelled to talk about the bad, which has outweighed the good. The best thing that happened during the entire election cycle was the Cubs-Indians World Series. At least we had a few moments of relaxation thanks to the battle of two underdogs.

I’m not sure which disappointment to list first, but let’s start with the influence of big money. The race between Todd Kaminsky and Chris McGrath for a State Senate seat in the 9th District is reported to have cost $7 million. If that’s true, and I believe it is, it’s not only obscene, but outrageous. The fate of every Long Island Senate seat is a big deal, because they affect control of the Senate. But $7 million?

When you look around the country and hear how much money was spent on House and Senate races, you’ll find that, collectively, they cost over $1 billion. Add to that the battle for the White House, which easily cost over $1 billion by itself. The good news is that as far as New York state is concerned, we generally know where all the money came from. When it comes to national races, however, we had no idea where the big bucks came from, and that’s the scandal.

Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, corporations are considered people, and they can give — and give freely. The Citizens United case opened the door to uncontrolled spending in federal races, and the targets are now both Republicans and Democrats. Republican candidates were happy (for a short time) that all that mystery money would pour into their campaigns. Lately, quite a few Republicans I know are complaining about the amount of money their Democratic rivals are spending, so the through-the-roof spending is finally bashing both parties.

My second great disappointment in this election is what it did to personal relationships. Once upon a time you could have an intelligent conversation about your favorite candidates, no matter their party, but not this year. I have witnessed, with shock, dozens of verbal battles between husbands and wives, fathers and children and total strangers on the street. It’s fine to clash over which candidate is best qualified, but calling people crooks, perverts and other obscenities is way over the line of protected free speech.

The tone of this year’s battle has been disgraceful. It started during the Republican primary debates, when Donald Trump had a name for all of his opponents, from “Little Marco” Rubio to “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz to “Low Energy” Jeb Bush, all of which were uncalled for. I can’t imagine what happened during the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates, but I don’t think Abe Lincoln called for his opponent to be locked up. What’s worse is that we encourage our students to pay attention to the election, and they see things like a grown man mimicking a disabled person and talking about attacking women.

As the father of four daughters, I very much resented Trump’s verbal assaults on women based on their body types, looks and real or imagined stamina. What’s terribly sad is that elections don’t automatically stop people from doing obnoxious things. Women have a hard enough time competing with men; they didn’t need Trump to raise the glass ceiling even higher. Hillary Clinton may have called Trump supporters “deplorables,” but at least she apologized. Trump doesn’t apologize for anything.

My last and greatest disappointment is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As far back as I can remember, it was the gold standard for law enforcement. I can still envision Elliot Ness locking up the bad guys and putting the FBI on the map. In recent years, the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency have been feuding instead of cooperating on the challenging issues of the day. The recent conduct of the FBI raises the issue of whether it’s an investigative agency or a political club.

Let’s all hope that the next national election will be conducted at a higher level. Unfortunately, the next 12 months promise to be more of the same ugly stuff.



Looking Ahead To More Gridlock

Looking Ahead To More Gridlock

It’s time for us to breathe a collective sigh of relief as the 2016 presidential election cycle ends. Any national election that strains friendships and puts us all on information overload is not a great experience for the country and the world around us. There is no doubt that the final results will not placate a large number of people whose needs have to be addressed. The question is, who is going to take on the challenges that we face?

For the past eight years, the United States Congress has been in a state of political paralysis. Many of its leaders spent their every waking hour trying to undermine President Obama and by all measures, they did a very good job. By and large, the two legislative bodies, our House and Senate, have spent most of their time doing nothing but arguing over power and process. I often wonder why these 535 members take the trouble of traveling to Washington, D.C. every week just to return empty handed.

Occasionally, we read the announcement that a federal grant has worked its way down for an important local project, but that doesn’t solve the problem of why aren’t big things getting done. Obamacare has been in existence for six years and all the House of Representatives has done is vote 62 times to repeal it. Repeal it and replace it with what? The rise in premiums has been the subject of a lot of talk, but how do we protect the 20 million people who now have health benefits and make the system work?

I am tired of seeing budget bills tied up and major programs being stalled because a handful of empty suit members want to show the people back at home that they are fighting for some narrow interest group. We all know that our highways, bridges and tunnels are in a state of major disrepair, but in the end, all that the Congress can accomplish is pass a bill that provides the same amount of money as in all previous years. It is hard to imagine that setting aside money to fight the Zika virus can be held up indefinitely because some narrow-minded members think the money will go to Planned Parenthood.

Looking back at the battle to provide medical care for the 9/11 first responders has to make the average voter nauseous. We know that the Southern legislators don’t like the people from up north, but 9/11 was an American tragedy and not some local incident. So the question going forward is will the United States government start working in behalf of its people or are we going to experience another two years of gridlock?

In the old days, we used to say that a national election helps settle a lot of issues. That won’t be the case this year, and if things continue along the same path, the real question is do we really need a Congress at all?



Picking Up the Pieces of the GOP

At one time or another you may have passed the scene of a car accident.

As you drive by you see possible victims, broken glass, skid marks, metal shards and other types of debris.

Once the police have left the scene it is up to the on-site workers to clean up the mess.

The whole occurrence reminds me of what the American political system will look like the day after this year’s election.

The major victim of this year’s ugly national contest will no doubt be the Republican Party.

After years of running candidates that almost all looked alike and sounded alike, the party this year was stuck with Donald J. Trump, who in no way fits the mold of the party of Lincoln.

Donald Trump should have never been the party’s candidate if the few remaining money people and so-called leaders, had been awake during the presidential primary process.

For a long time Donald Trump’s desire to grab the national spotlight was the worst kept secret in politics.

When Trump launched the “birther” movement attacking the right of President Obama to serve as president, he didn’t do it just to sell more condominiums.

Trump was carefully analyzing the mood of the public and testing which messages would resonate with the voters.

Once 16 candidates entered the race, all Trump had to do was make himself the voice of the dissenters and he did it artfully.

Come Election Day the Republican Party will be licking its wounds, but it can’t be healed when there are three separate paramedics giving different medical advice.

Can you imagine the Trump people, the right wing nut jobs and the mainstream Republicans, all getting together to smoke a peace pipe?

It just isn’t going to happen that soon, if at all.

How about some other election casualties?  Women!

For years the Republicans were home to a large number of conservative and moderate women, all of whom were true believers in their party.

The Trump campaign will have erased all of those gains and if anything, the Trump effect may linger for the next ten years.

Most of the candidates waiting in the wings for 2020 are people like Marco Rubio,Ted Cruz and Michael Pence, all of who are also a threat to thinking women.

Race relations? You can argue all you want as to whether they got better or worse under President Obama, but the Trump campaign has fired up a large group of racists who will not go silently away after the election is over.

The hidden groups of haters have found a voice through Trump and even if he disappears, they will have been emboldened.

Immigrants? Donald Trump decided early on to attack the immigrant population as it was a way to build up his base.

Even though a large majority of his own employees are immigrants or from immigrant families, these often voiceless people were an easy target.

Trump’s supporters have decided that their lifestyle has been destroyed by “those people” and people of immigrant descent will be targets for many years to come.

The Constitution?

This is a great country and there is abundant proof that the vast majority of Americans have benefitted from all the opportunities that were available to them.

Facing a possible wipeout at the polls, Trump continues to spread the myth that the election is “rigged.”

There is no doubt that in Putin’s Russia the election is rigged, but Trump does America a disservice with his continuous whining about the election process being tainted, unless, of course he wins.

The media? For over 18 months, media outlets of all political sides, treated Donald Trump like some kind of circus act who would never be able to win his party’s nomination.

It boosted their ratings. Once Trump was the party’s choice, the left and the right went into a state of shock.

The common Trump complaint now is that the media is stacked against him.

Just like they made him they decided to break him. It’s time for the national media to do some soul searching and read some history books about the 1930’s.

Like Colin Powell says, “once you break it you own it.”

There is a lot more damage on the political roadside but that is best saved for another day.

This year’s election is very much like those messy accidents on your way home.

There is a lot of broken glass, debris and the cleanup.

The real cleanup starts on Nov. 9.