A Path Forward

Minnesota has a unique political history with the Democratic party. While many Democrats in Minnesota identify with Democrats, we’re known as the DFL. I grew up believing the principals of the Democrat Farmer Labor party, I still do.

In the early 1920s, the Farmer Labor movement became a powerful political force earning State legislative victories over Democrats and Republicans with their simple message. ‘Agrarian reform, protection of farmers and unions, public ownership of our natural resources, utilities, railroads and a belief in social security legislation’.

Ideals that benefited people’s lives. Ideologies that common folk could understand.

Not only was the Farmer-labor party successful in Minnesota’s legislative seats, from 1921 to 1944 this party elected 3 Governors, 4 United States Senators, and eight United States Representatives.

In 1944, with Hubert Humphry being instrumental, the Minnesota Farmer-Labor party merged with the Democratic party becoming the Democratic Farmer Labor Party of Minnesota.

Today’s Republican party have all but merged with the Tea Party, Libertarians, the Alt-right, and far right Evangelicals giving them a powerful, political voice that drowns out Democrats, Progressives and Liberals.

There’s a history lesson here, and we should learn from it.

Democrats should ask themselves, ‘Why are people who hold our values, our belief in unions, in our environment, in social justice, turning from us, and seeking representation in third parties such as the Progressives, the Green Party, the Independence party, and even Libertarians?’.

We should ask also ‘Why does America have one of the lowest voter turnouts of any modern nation?’.

I don’t have to parse the questions into a thousand data points to find the answer. It’s there, clear, concise.

People don’t vote, simply because there’s nothing to vote for. Nothing new, nothing challenging, nothing that speaks to their future. Not because they don’t care, not because they’re lazy, but because they have heard it all before, with no real-world results.

The Progressive party will continue to grow, as will the Green party, the Constitutional party, the many state Independent parties. So will the Tea Party in some form and fashion, and the Libertarian party, and as they grow, the Republican Party will grow, and become much more of a force than they are now.

At face value, the Democratic Party will claim that they echo the voice of Progressives, that they believe in public ownership of our natural resources, that the Party believes in our labor force, that corporations have grown too large, their influence too great, but if that were all true, Bernie Sanders would have been our nominee.

And here’s the rub, rank and file Democrats, believe in all those things. People in general believe all these issues. Yet, half our nation will not vote.

For the Democratic Party to become sustainable, they must do more than echo repeatedly their concern for issues. They must reach out to people with third party affiliations, bring them into leadership positions, incorporate some of their platforms into theirs, cut ties with corporate donors that contribute to both political parties, and they must learn how to message their belief systems beyond simply attacking Republicans.

While we live in a different world than those of the 1920s and the Farmer-Labor party, some things don’t change. The need to change, the ability to change, the desire to change are always with us.

Politics are, after all, always rooted in being local.

www.robpaxton.me

Return to Point Zero

In the March of 2009, President Obama convened a health summit compromised of doctors, insurers, drug companies, consumer advocates and lawmakers. That July, Democrats presented a thousand-page plan that would become the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Late fall, both house and Senate approved their own versions. The battle was on amid accusations of death panels, grossly high premiums and lost coverage.

Dislike Obamacare or not, we talked, we argued, we fought, we yelled, we screamed, we lied about Obamacare, but it somehow passed.

Is Obamacare perfect? No, a lot of concessions were made to make it law. Would it be a better bill without those concessions? Who knows?

The thing is though, before the ACA a lot of people were using the emergency room as a doctor’s office, premiums were skyrocketing, in some years, by double percentage points, while valuable benefits were being lost, college kids were dropped from their insurance plans, and if you had a pre-existing coverage, chances are, you couldn’t find affordable health care.

Right or wrong, something had to be done. I’ve always considered Obamacare the first step in rectifying our Nations ridiculous healthcare system. I’ve always believed that the ACA would be improved on; identifying problems, fixing problems, always a work in progress.

As I write this, today there are 13 powerful, white, male Republican Senators working in secret to craft a bill to replace the ACA. That’s all we know about it. No discussions, no negotiations, no leaks.

Contrary to belief, this is not how the ACA was passed. In fact, this is not how laws are made, not here in America. Perhaps in some small banana republics, but not in the United States of America. Common sense dictates that the bill has to be somewhat similar to the House bill, in cost and content, otherwise the process starts over.

So why the secrecy? Why are the voices of a multitude of people; women, minorities, doctors, insurance and pharmaceutical companies not allowed to speak to their concerns?

Democrat or Republican, as an American, this is not the democratic process, this is not the American way, this is not who we are, and it should make you mad as hell.

Will Americans wake up next week to find that many once again must visit the emergency room for a child’s cold, that their college student has no access to healthcare, to outrageous premiums, to decreasing benefits and if you have a pre-existing condition, you’re simply too much of a risk for coverage.

A return to point zero on the baseline, where our healthcare industry chugged along, making huge profits for some, and painful decisions for most, a huge step backward that benefits few, and is shamefully problematic for most.

Is this going to be the new standard in America. Bills formulated in secrecy, with out debate?

Are you really fine with that?

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Lost in 140 Characters

If a butterfly flapping it’s wing can create a hurricane, then a Presidents silence can create a void filled with hate.

Two young men dead in Seattle, a young man dead in Maryland, A man in Times Square, dead. All a result of hatred, racial hatred, cultural hatred, religious hatred. Add in the incidents of racial violence across the nation, all in the last few months, my heart sickens. This is not who we are, not the country my father fought to defend. We are better.

But we are not.

Somehow, a 140 word tweet calling out the intolerance of hate is a poor reflection of our Presidents thoughts on the murder and mayhem we’re assaulted with. But it is not just our President, it is our leaders, of both parties, who have failed us. It is they, in their unrelenting posture to hate each other, they, who are intolerant of each other, who refuse to work together for our benefit, it is they who have built the foundation of hate and violence in America. They have set the example. They have created the vile atmosphere we live in.

As Truman said, however, the buck stops here. Trump has vowed, in his inauguration speech, to be the President of all the people, to be a unifying force.

He.has.not.been.

Trump has consistently been divisive, and intolerant, and failed to speak out in a strong, unifying national voice. He communicates with America via tweets that are oblique, insensitive, yet fulfilling to his base. Trump has ridiculed, belittled, and lied to those he disagrees with, to those he fears, and to us, the American people. Instead of unifying, Trump has created an atmosphere comparable to when Black Americans were lynched without fear of repercussion, when it was okay to demean with words such as ‘wetback’. For a President who desires to unify a shattered Nation, his voice has been silent, his actions invisible. His voice allocated to a series of 140 characters every Saturday morning, available to 15 percent of the nation. The rest of us hear about his tweets, spun whatever way our news preferences dictate. Trump is not a great communicator, not even a good one. Trump is not able to parse a coherent voice because he himself is incoherent, evident in his hundreds of tweets that have muddied waters and created confusion.

Who knows where our President stands on anything? Denials of this, accusations of that, self pity, fake news, name calling, character assassination and outright lies comprise his communication style.

I can not accept this for my Nation.

I will not accept this.

Never!

Along a Rural Road

I was driving back from Duluth yesterday, late afternoon. The sky was blue, the rural two lane lined with burgeoning shades of spring green. Small farming communities came and went faster than the elderly old farmer who I was stuck behind, and couldn’t safely pass. I grumbled at the slow pace, deciding I needed a break, and gas. Like any farming community, the next gas station was there, right along side the road, the pumps standing isolated not in pavement, but dry, dusty gravel that my explorer crunched and crushed over, rolling to a stop shrouded in dust.

The convenience store was small, old, and as I walked in there was a group of young adults, farm kids, gathered around the front counter, talking with the tall women who was taking their money. I made my way to the bathroom, and by the time I walked up to the counter, the kids were gone, the store was empty. I gave her my credit card, and while it seemed like an eternity to verify the card, I didn’t mind, I had a nice conversation with a delightful Indian women.

Not a Minnesota Indian. A women from India. East India.

In the middle of nowhere, Minnesota. In the middle of white, Lutheran, Christian, German, Scandinavian farmland.

I do not know this woman’s life story, don’t know if she owned the store.

I do know this, her presence in that small town store exemplifies what America is all about. What we are capable of as a people, as a nation. I love diversity, I love the fact that diversity is creeping into our smaller communities. And it’s a creeping feeling that some people don’t like, the kind of person who hasn’t ventured far outside their own state, much less county. The kind of person who probably has a twenty some year relationship with their bar stool. Might be I’m being somewhat obnoxiously judgmental about some folk, but the thing is, that’s been my experience.

Not a lot of things piss me off, but ignorance shaded in stupefying knowledge usually sets me down the path of obnoxious judgement. The kind of ignorance where a stool sitting, beer drinking man shrouds his ignorance in world affairs and cultures, with knowledge gained from today’s media. The kind of ignorance with out thought, without experience, that leads to some universal knowledge about the world far removed form where they sit. They have become experts in the world, because they have been told about the world. Never studied it, never experienced it, never thought more than half past the news, about the rest of the world, but they are a god given expert about the world.

And that’s why I love America. As ignorant as we can be, as self centered and isolated in our thinking, our humanity, our tolerance nullifies all that. With every Indian woman that works in some dusty rural gas station, change happens. She changes us, she makes us better. Better people, a better country.

 

 

 

…and now we’ve got TrumpCare, and everything will be alright.

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There a lot of things I didn’t like with ObamaCare. The individual mandate bothered me.

The thing is, healthcare up to that point in 2008 was a disaster. Premiums went up annually, and benefits kept disappearing. I was paying more for a lot less. There were years in the early part of the century where my premiums went up double digit percentage points. Nobody was doing anything about the problem, other than blame everyone else for the runaway costs. Meanwhile, the CEO’s of pharmaceutical companies, along with those in health insurance were recording substantial profits, while also pissing and moaning about the pitiful state of the industry. Someone, somewhere with the guts, knowledge, and the power to do something, about a healthcare system that was out of control, had to appear on scene, had to affect change, otherwise we were doomed. And that’s why I credit then President Obama with laying the foundation for that change. Something had to be done, good, bad, indifferent, a path needed to be plowed forward, a starting point to revamp our Healthcare abyss.

And we were teetering on the brink of that abyss.

I wanted this administration of Repubs and Dems to come to the table and fix what was wrong with Obamacare, find ways to reduce costs to those who whose premiums went up. To keep the best of what the law was, and discard/fix what was not working. Back in ’08, I understood the Republicans view on pushing ObamaCare through, without debate, without conversation.. I also understand their bullshit lies prevented any form of debate or discussion. This TrumpCare crap that the Republicans just passed, well, they passed it with out a lot of discussion, without even knowing what the cost was. Much the same way ObamaCare was passed. The thought ‘hypocrite’ comes to mind.

The bill the house passed is unacceptable. The legislation takes us backward. Even using the most simplistic language, this bill does not benefit the a majority, especially you and me. it’s like a great, bold ‘WTF’ finger in our face. I’m going to pay for this shit, and a few, a few who don’t need it, are seriously going to benefit.

The 31st Step

31st-step

I have suspicions!

Emily has said often I’m the suspicious type. Funny, I never thought I was but since I’m stuck here, I’m kinda suspicious of how I got here, better, why I’m here. Lord knows I’ve had plenty o’ time to figure it out, and of course, I ain’t figured much of anything, but like I said, I’m suspicious.

For instance, why 31? Why not two or two hundred? Could be that 31 puts me about half way to that stop sign, least it looks to be. But what’s the reason for that, I mean, everything stopping and starting again cuz I’m half ways to a stop sign. That doesn’t make any sense.

OK Lord, here I am at 30 steps. I can turn my head around and see my front door, my house and lawn, and out front of me are all the houses lined up along the thin gray gravel snake of a road under a nice, warm sky. That damn stop signs so close I can just ‘bout reach out and touch it, but you ain’t gonna let me near it, are ya? One more step…

And I’m back at the beginning, just right outside my door, standing on the stoop, briefcase in hand, heading for the bus stop that I now figure I’m never gonna see. I don’t have to look at my watch anymore. Done that too many times now. I know it says 7.17 and twenty one seconds, AM, but what it is really doing, is saying nothing, in fact, it’s laughing. Laughing at me for being stupid or something cuz I can’t figure out the mess I’m in. No matter what I do or how I do it, I end up doing the same thing over and over again. Start with my left foot, that don’t work, turn around and try to go back in, that don’t work.

So, I’m thinking, this might not be all about me. Mebbe it’s something bigger, after all, every time I end up back here, that there Robins in the same place peckin in my lawn, the sun hasn’t moved near anywhere across the sky. Then again, if it ain’t ‘bout me, why is it the 31st step always sends me back here, so it has to do something with me, but for the life of me, I can’t figure it out.

What I have figured out, is I’ve done this thirteen times now an’ nothing has changed so I’m gonna stand here for a bit and think about this. Now after thinkin’ ‘bout if for who knows how long, all I can think of is to yell out for Emily, hoping that she hears me.

So, I let her name rip here in the early morning air and I’m thinking it’s loud enough to raise the devil and break all the glass because my lungs are achin’ and my throat’s as coarse can be, an’ I can’t scream nothing any longer. I stop and I wait, and I tilt my head just a bit to the right and crane around the corner in that direction as best I can to the large picture window and there stands Emily, staring out like she was a marble statue or some thing.

I sez her name under my breath, and it comes out a hoarse whisper and then I notice her right eye is all healed up and that strikes me as odd. Odd, cuz that shouldn’t be because when I walked out that front door, that eye was as big and as purple as a beautiful dark night sunset. I know that, cuz I gave her that eye an’ before you go off thinking bad about me, thinking I hit and beat Emily, well, that there just ain’t the case.

See, she tried to say she wasn’t but I heard she was out soakin’ up some drinks with some of her friends last week while I was off on the lakes fishing. I know that because Jim Kendall let it slip that his wife said something to that matter. We was setting getting our haircut, when ol’ Jim mentioned he thought the ladies had a good ol’ time down at the Roadway. When I pressed ‘em on it, he didn’t say nothing more, wouldn’t say nothing more and he just outright clammed up like he knew he already said too much.

I jus’ nodded my head, sayin’ “That’s alright Jim, I unnerstand you don’ wanna make no beans about it. That’s all right if an’ you don’t mind you wife goes about ‘hoaring, but mine ain’t gonna…”

So, like I said, I ain’t in the habit of beating Emily but I ain’t no fool for liars and dammit, she had my fist coming, the way she was lying an all. Don’t care what y’ll think, but no wife of mine gonna be out soakin’ and get a reputation for ‘hoaring.

Looking at her standing in the window here, there’s no trace her eye was ever swollen and purple just before I walked out the front door. Now that, I just don’t get. No doubt, it’s figured in with all the general foolishness of this morning, and it is foolishness, of course. Only question I got, is whose foolishness is this, the Good Lords or  the red man down below, cuz it ain’t mine and it ain’t no other man cuz I know no other man can create this here kind of senseless foolishness, making a man walk 31 steps and then go start all over from the beginning. Course, I got my suspicions and my suspicions usually turn out to be right.

OK, I’m gonna try this one more time…

Take a Little Trip with Me

There’s no easy way out!
C’mon take a little trip with me, walk hand in hand through the storm. Might as well,
your house is burning in the rain.
Will you figure it out? It’s what happens when I write and listen to music.

The Clash, Genesis, ELO, Bon Jove, Scorpion, Paul Mcartney, Queen, the Stones, Creedance, Skynard, Supertramp, BTO, The Who, Steppenwolf, Blue Oyster Cult, War, Fleetwood Mac, Fogerty, Zevon, Petty

C’moearsn, grab your rubbers, toss on your rain slick, and follow me as I slog through the storm. You might as well because there’s really no security setting around your warm, dry abode. You need to come with, get wet, live a little. After all, who are you? Wouldn’t you like to know! Aww, now it’s thundering and we’re late for the light show, c’mon, get with it, you’re late. Late I say. You were born to be wild, to run with the wolfs, to surf the solar winds and you still haven’t got you galoshes on, what’s up with that, natures child? Awww man, you’re never gonna see the morning, see the light and I can’t let that ride, my friend. I love ya too much for that so I’m going to do something I should have done a long time ago. I get it you’re content with getting up and taking the 8.15 to the city, taking care of business but man, that can’t be all that fulfilling, there’s more to life than being productive. Why, because I can, cuz that’s what I do, and when I’m done you’re going to be taking the long way home, old man. All I asked is that you spend a few minutes with an old friend and weather a little storm, and live a little. Your choice was not to do so and I’m fine with that but every choice has consequences and you are not going to like what I offer up. So, before I leave tomorrow, I promise you’ll be remembering me and you might want to be looking for a hotel somewhere out California way. And the thing is, really, the thing is, after I burn you house down and wake you up, we’ll be better friends, you’ll be much happier. I don’t expect you to trust me on that because you wouldn’t even trust me enough to walk through the storm. Now I know you can change your face, change you name, thinking it’ll all be the same, you just won’t be able to hide, will ya cowboy?  I’m not buying that ‘you’ll be true’ crap any more, cuz you just leave me blue and ya know I love you, love the way you walk, love the way ya talk. It’s all funky shit babe, funky music, but that don’t change the show because I still have to rewrite the play, from start to finish. Yea, crazy business, walking in central park under the moonlight, but you have to do it every once in a while for no other reason than to remember who you were is responsible for who you are. Yea, didn’t know that did you? That’s why you’ve got blood on your face, why you’re a disgrace and that’s why you’re going to get rocked, ya got too damn big for your britches, and yep, it has everything to do with love, know what I mean? Don’t even start that fight cuz you know I’m a power load, totally t an t, babe, and if you insist, here I am, like a hurricane, ever see fire in a wind? Think I’m going to let you live while I wither and die, it better matter to ya, cuz I do my damn job well and that’s to open your eyes to the possibility that there’s more than what you can even imagine. Sorry that ya thought all was going all right, that  I’m telling you now black is white and white is black and that you can leave but I won’t let you go. Just so you know, evil woman, you have no one else to blame so get your face on the very next train, I hear you crying, scared and all alone, and you don’t have long…, So should I say or should I go? Yep, I get that you want your freedom, but thunder only happens when it’s raining babe so here I go again and there’s a bad moon a rising, so I hope ya got it all together, because you’re in for nasty weather, like a frigging chinese werewolf reading a menu in the rain, a-hoooooooooooo… Sorry babe, gotta stand my ground, can’t back down, there ain’t no way out.

There’s no easy way out!

We the People

We the people.

Not, We the white, the Christian, the Democrat or Republican.

Not We, the rich. We the men, the educated.

Not We, the natural born citizens.

Simply We the People!

We the people of the United States.

There may be many interpretations of our Constitution, but there is one indomitable fact that can not be disputed, or interpreted differently. We are a nation of people! No matter your social status, your religion, your sexual preference, skin color, cultural heritage, or belief set, you are due the same rights as your neighbor, as every other American citizen.

Any intentional act of our Government to deny one American citizen the rights, that another citizen possesses, is traitorous to our way of life, to our founding fathers, to our Constitution. Any intentional act to court disharmony among the American people, to divide the American people, is Traitorous.

Our founding fathers created a Government of people, by the people, for all the people. A new, fragile concept in the annuals of humanity. A grand experiment that many have sought to subvert, for their own profit, their own ego, their own greed. The American people have stood the trials of such men, of petty men who believe their power, their beliefs, outweigh the concept of a Government of, by, and for the people. The American people have stood against foreign governments seeking to destroy us, and from own own, seeking to impose their will upon us.

We are not a perfect nation. We have treated many, less than others, even less then human, and there are those Americans who find no fault in doing so. That belief, blinds the New Colossus, bringing Liberty to her knees, and is nothing less than a perversion of our Constitution. A perversion used to justify that one has rights, and another does not.

Our Government is not sold to the highest bidder, the rich, the powerful.

Our Government is a nation of people. Not Democrats or Republicans.

We are a nation of people.

Not a righteous people, not a god inspired people, not a religious people, not even a well educated people, or even an exceptional people. We are a flawed people. Out of many, we are one. One striving to find something better for all, a place for all to call home, with equal protection, with equal rights, for all people.

We strive to move forward, we try to be better. Sometimes we fail, and the world laughs.

But it is to America the world has come to watch, for in our Constitution, there is something for all humanity.

We the people.