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Monday, August 1, 2016

Take-a-Ways from the Conventions

It is clear that many comments have been devoted to the outcome of the two major conventions recently concluded.  I intend to stick to a few points of inquiry, but not to repeat what has already been discussed in minute detail.  I hope my focus will be helpful to you.

1)      All political conventions are meant to hype-up their followers and appeal to independents.  Interestingly, they were both somewhat successful on that score.

REPUBs: Trump, and his Trumpeteers certainly used every creative construct they could to paint Hillary Clinton as “Crooked Hillary.”    However, there was, as usual, little substance: no documentation, no evidence, no proof for any of the claims of criminal activity.  To make a case for criminality, the Trump campaign would need to prove criminal intent, motivation and personal harm to others.  They did not; and they will not, because careless judgment is not a punishable offence.  Moreover, the items just mentioned, don’t even exist, and that’s why the FBI and the Attorney General declined to bring charges, simply because they would have no standing in a court of law if those three items are absent from the case. 

Nonetheless, Trump followers are not generally swayed by facts as much as they are by fantasy, and the fantastic construct of “Crooked Hillary” has seemed to gain ground with at least 68% of voters who find her untrustworthy, plus a remarkable 8% bump-up in polling for Donald Trump.
While we are on the subject of Hillary’s trustworthiness (and the charges of Republicans regarding her criminality in the ben Ghazi case, in the email “scandal”, and in some undefined activity with Libya, Egypt and Syria, plus the infamous example of her reckless judgment by negotiating a treaty with Iran about nuclear production), let us recall to mind Bill Clinton who chastised the Republicans for creating a cartoon Hillary that does not have anything to do with the real Hillary.  A point well-taken.

DEMs:  it is perfectly clear that the Democratic convention was built around values; mostly American values and progressive values.  It was a valiant attempt to portray Hillary Clinton in a new light: a person with enduring values that relate to the betterment of all and the unity of a nation in all its division working together to create a more perfect union.  It was an ambitious theme, goal and project.  Their success is yet to be determined, but from a partisan point-of-view, it probably succeeded to a positive degree with some supporters and some independents.  It seems to have resonated with some major Republicans who have either endorsed her or said they will vote for her. 

2)   Two very different views of America emerge; two very different visions of what’s at stake

REPUBs: The Republicans believe strongly that America is headed in the wrong direction: over-spending at home, a weakness in promoting our military strength, and promoting a lack of respect for us abroad, violence in our cities (contributed to by Black Lives Matter) leading to murdering policemen.   We are at war with radical Islamic terrorism, climate change is a “hoax,” and regulations, especially on the environment, are hurting businesses and holding them back.  Prisons and other government-operated services need to be privatized.  They see all kinds of problems on the horizon, especially with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Food stamps.  They say we need to either privatize ( get government money into private hands at the banks and on wall street) or devolve programs and services to the states .  They still want to repeal Obamacare and turn all power back to private insurance companies, medical corporations, drug companies. 

Support of the richest one-percent (and of rich and successful corporations) remains a top priority.  They want to  let religion loose and integrate it into the public domain, especially into educational institutions and private enterprise.  There is a general (and sometimes very specific) attitude of discrimination and blame toward minorities, immigrants, women, Muslims, Mexicans, and protestors.  Putting each of them in “their place” seems to be a constant theme, hidden behind “religious freedom,” “blue lives matter,” “law & order” “single mothers are detrimental to maintenance of “family”, and a myriad of targeted actions (such as the cautious mention of getting rid of all social programs on the federal level).

Vision of the future “Make America Great Again” -- includes making us first and standing up for this country.  It means keeping people out or at least controlling immigration beyond everything; deport undocumented aliens; tell allies they have to pay their way; tell enemies they better watch out – we’re ready to put them down if they don’t kowtow.  Use atomic weapons if necessary; withdraw from huge environmental protocol, destroy ISIS.  The real vision: bully, intimidate, act tough, don’t back down, don’t take any crap from anyone (sounds almost like a Fourth Reich-type country).  The Fatherland will be the new face of America, and America will reign supreme!  Part of that is a radical strain of law & order – a code word for keeping certain people in their place.  Trump himself put the seal of approval on this vision – which in its original in the 1930’s and 40’s was buttressed by a very important concept – that of the ‘Fuhrer’ - the strongman leader.  Donald Trump put himself squarely in that camp when he said that he was the only one who could “fix it” (mutual admiration between the Donald and Vladimir Putin is another indicator).

DEMs: “out of many, we are one” and “stronger together” are the slogans that emerged from this convention. “Democrats believe that cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls.” (Democratic Platform Preamble).  And so, the DNC emphasized: an economy that works for everyone, good education is a basic right of all,  women should have equal pay for equal work, Wall Street can’t be allowed to throw our economy into chaos again, the right to vote must be enhanced not restricted, climate change is real; a new energy powerhouse will provide jobs and greater security, believes in power of diplomacy and that we must strengthen ties with allies not denigrate them; as a party of inclusion Dems must realize the promise of diversity, provide comprehensive immigration reform, protect civil liberties, and guarantee certain rights for women, workers, LBTG community and for people with disabilities.

Vision:  a united diverse and dynamic nation bringing together all people; build economy where good jobs are available to everyone; competence and stability; equality; justice; prosperity.  Do what’s right!  The Democratic Vision is of a Party and country where we work together to perfect our union and our governing apparatus.  The speeches by The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President of the North Carolina NAACP and Khizr Khan whose marine son gave his life in Iraq, put it all in perspective when, in different ways, each reminded the Party and the country that doing the right is what we are called to do.  We are not totally defined by political, governmental, economic, or social questions and issues.  We are more fully defined by involvement in moral principles and ethical living.

In other words, all that we do in relation to others comes down to morality.  Another way to look at it: morality is not so much what one does about oneself but what one does for someone else.  Morality (or doing right) is not primarily what one does not do (avoiding drinking, swearing, smoking, perversity, etc.) but all about what difference you make for others.  Let us not miss the importance of communal principles and values that underlie our political life.  It is not so much religion – which is the hobby-horse of fundamentalists who have great difficulty thinking in terms other than laws and rules; restrictions and order.

The progressive moralist believes there is more to religion.  Personal morality is not to be dismissed but is important to be seen in the context of community well-being.  Maintaining personal goodness and obeying certain laws is important for the health of a society which is exactly why our Judeo- Christian scriptures emphasize the nature of community as an interactive body.  We live in a society that depends on the right seen as the moral imperative to act responsibly and powerfully for others; to thereby strengthen and enhance the entire community.  Yes, politics is meant to be an expression of morality – doing right to benefit others. 

3)      The morality of the Party Platforms is more important than the hype of the candidates or of the Party ideology -- the time has come to take a serious look at what is being pedaled as important by each Party Platform.  It is much more important to see those platforms in the context of communal morality. 

If the country is headed in the wrong direction, what direction should it take?  That is a fundamental question that all political parties must answer.  The Rev. Dr. Barber suggested that it is the direction of communal morality – that is, that our words and actions should reflect the morality of our ancient heritage and not just the ideology of a political party.  The point is, if this is a country fundamentally based upon certain inalienable rights that come from a Divine Source, and if this nation has at its base the biblical imperatives of a Divinity that created people in the image of that Divinity (likeness of being; given life by the breath of God known as inspiration) then this country has little choice but to go in a direction that puts into society the defense and maintenance, the inspiration and the practice, of those rights and begin to reflect within our society the attributes that have been created in us.

Our own founding documents attempt to spell out for us some of those inalienable rights, some rights bestowed by law, and some of those internal inspirations that are essential to our governing, and to our construction of our lives and the life of our society.

Inalienable (or ‘natural’) rights: “those rights that cannot be surrendered, sold or transferred to someone else”
--life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (U.S. Declaration of Independence)

UN Declaration on Human Rights (just a few of which are):
--right to life, liberty and security of person (All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood)
--No one shall be held in slavery or servitude
--No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
--Entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law
--No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
--The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State
(NOTE:  In spite of Republican opposition to most of the UN work on Declarations and Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 General Assembly resolution 217(III) A as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected)

Legal rights   are those bestowed to a person by a given legal system (i.e., rights that can be modified, repealed, and restrained by human laws). Among these are:
--Free speech, free press, right to assemble and to a redress of grievances
--Freedom of religion (within the context of no establishment of one form)
--Right to bear arms,
--Right to a speedy trial,
--Right to vote

It is widely observed that the two types of rights are often confused, and the result can be rancor and division.  It could be rightly said that agreement on what is inalienable is not 100% anywhere on this globe.  Nonetheless, it is pertinent to say that certain rights are based on what is perceived as fundamental to the well-being of individuals and a society and that those rights appear to have their fundamental underpinnings in the great religions and cultures.

So, my point in all this is to ask: is this not the direction toward which we should always be headed?  Is not our moral imperative to see to it that both types of rights – Inalienable and Legal – are preserved, protected, defended and enhanced not only because it is for the good of citizens and for society, but because it is the fundamental imperative of our government as enumerated in our founding documents?  I can see no other direction worthier of our attention, consideration and commitment.     

Therefore, it is extremely important to ask ourselves, before we vote for political office nominees: who best represents the moral imperative to protect and strengthen our inalienable as well as our legal rights?

Based on the two candidates and their records, plus the platforms of each major Party, I have already made my decision, and in future posts will offer more detailed analysis of what is at stake.  Here is a sample guide to some of the moral considerations:

Repub. – Donald Trump                                                      Dem. – Hillary Clinton
-denigrates individuals & groups                                                +works to bridge divides
-personal attacks: candidates, women, Muslims, Hispanics        +champion of women, children; immigrants
-will repeal ACA; undo coverage for 20k people                        +build upon ACA; CHIPS
-supports Citizens United decision                                             +opposes legal bribery of Cit. United
-deport undoc. aliens; hold up Muslim immigration                     +Immigration Plan w/citizensp. Path
-law & order; protestors and BLM demeaned/denigrated             +fix just.syst: policing, prisons; habil.  
-climate change a hoax; repeal regulations; Elim. EPA                +reduce emissns; fund alt.fuels & jobs
-protect richest 1%; lower taxes; provide tax loopholes              +1% to pay fair share from recent gains
-appt. Justices to repeal ACA; Roe-Wade; supp.Cit. United          +Justices who support just the opposite

-NRA supports him; favors guns in schools;                                 +bkground cks.; ban semi-automats; over-sized clips