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!

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

Read More

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.

President Trump

downloadTwo days after Trumps election, I’m still reeling. While believing his election a possibility, even a probability, I’m still, simply astounded. Unlike a lot of people, I’ve pretty much remained silent in my thoughts. Politically, I’ve been reserved for the last couple of years. I don’t have a reason for being so, other than I just got tired of the insanity, the stupidity of people attacking our setting President.

It’s hard to point out the world is round to someone who can only see as far as the horizon.

I don’t know what Trump is actually going to bring to the table. I don’t know how Republicans are going to heal their divide with him. I don’t know how Democrats are going to deal with their newly found lack of leadership. I do know none of this bodes well for the Nation.

First and foremost, I’m scared the alt-right will have a seat at the Trumps table. They certainly did in his campaign. What I think is going to happen, is that Trump doesn’t truly understand what he has created in legitimizing the alt-right, and he’s going to find out that he’s unleashed a monster that he can’t control. You and I will suffer for that, and so will American civil liberties. I’m not as concerned with repealing Obamacare, it evidently needs some overhauling. The question is, are they going to change the ACA to benefit American citizens, or Insurance and Pharmaceutical
companies. Last, the dream of a Liberal majority on the Supreme Court is dead. Liberals need to frame their activism around that reality. I’d mention Global warming, but everything we’ve done to address it will probably unravel.

There are some bright spots. This is a great time for progressives to rise to leadership positions within the Democratic party. Bernie Sanders proved that people want to hear that message, want a scent of that future, and are willing to fight for it.

Another bright spot is personal for me, and I hope it is for most men. I’ve learned how some men are just flat out creeps when it comes in their associations with women. Trumps own words add a lot of weight to that accusation, and I hope men everywhere reassess their relationships with the women who are in their lives, be that woman their wife, or their bartender. For me, there’s a bit of shame in my past, not that I was horrible, as much just stupid. An apology is never enough.

I don’t know what the world is going to look like two years down the road. I do know this, people who believe that America will have a new wall to equal China’s great wall, will be disappointed. People who believe that American Companies around the globe will pack up, and return home with high paying jobs, will be disappointed. People who are war wearied, and want an end to perpetual wars are going to be extremely disappointed. People who believe their wages are going to skyrocket, are going to be disappointed. People who believe that people of color, people of different cultures, people of different religions will soon know their place, will be sorely disappointed. People who believe Trump will dissolve the National debt will be disappointed, People who believe Trump will decrease Government, and return power to the states, will be disappointed.

Am I wrong, might be, we’ll see. But I’m predicting more taxes, huge taxes, high unemployment, deregulation, erosion of civil liberties, and get this, gun control.

I actually do hope I’m wrong.

But I haven’t been yet!

Maybe it’s time for people to listen.

Police Town, USA

I believe the only way to begin this piece is with a disclaimer. I live in a small town,  a bedroom community of St. Cloud that has a population of some 50,000 people. The Mississippi is what sepposter1arates us for the most part. Here on my side of the river, there’s a small town feel where everyone knows you and your neighbor. You lose that the minute you cross one of the four  bridges. Here in Sauk Rapids, I’ve met several of the police officers, worked with one, even consider Troy a friend.

Going back a bit further, as a young stud in the mind blowing sixties and seventies, I was influenced, and influenced deeply by the mantra that cops were pigs. I believed that  based on my experience growing up in Brainerd. Some of the officers back in the day  hated us, and by us, I mean anyone that was 18 or younger. Some of the names are remembered with vile. I remember my sister, a Jesus freak at the time, being taken down to the ground for no reason other than walking across a park. I, myself was harassed, arrested and charged several times on bullshit. As the years passed, one of the most hateful, ended up paying a high price for his behavior and another simply grew up, to the point where ten years after the fact, we were able to talk like sensible adults (and yes, I grew up as well).

Today, I have nothing but respect for our police officers. They put up with shit that I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. They are way underpaid, always under public scrutiny and always second guessed and 99.5 percent of them are decent people. Hardworking, with families, like you, like me.

But something is wrong!

Police brutality is spiraling out of control. In 2006, a report was issued by the United Nations Human Rights committee that stated plainly, that after 911, our war on terror  “created a generalized climate of impunity for law enforcement officers, and contributed to the erosion of what few accountability mechanisms exist for civilian control over law enforcement agencies. As a result, police brutality and abuse persist unabated and undeterred across the country.”

I’m fighting to take issue with that report and I’m finding it harder to do so as I do more research. First and foremost there are not a lot of verifiable statistics, believed to be because most instances of police brutality go unreported. I’m also struck by my own observation that since 911, Police forces seem to have become militarized.

The Rise of Technology
With the advent of the surveillance state, the police are finding out, that they too are being watched, even in the security of their own work environments. Officer Michael Hart could tell you more about that. So could Deputy Keller, or Corrections Officer Graham. Than there’s the 16 LA County deputies who thought they were safe in their own private world. Mind you, these are instances that happened in their own police stations, jails and the security of their own.

We too have Cameras.
The average American Joe and Josephine  are finding out quickly that their voice is amplified by pictures, and even more so by with moving pictures. Our smart-phones are providing us with an unprecedented voice we’ve never had before, and we are learning how to use that voice, effectively! We’ve came a long way from Rodney Kingand the California Highway Patrol can attest to that.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know there’s a growing problem and it’s evident, evident as hell.

Government by Fiat

gburgWe, the American people have become something that I am not very proud of. For a Nation that once held it’s individuality, sense of fairness, and Democratic process in high regard, we all should be ashamed. We no longer possess those attributes. Worse, there are many who accuse, who hate, who divide while the rest of us just set back and accept it. We have become a nation that rails against itself, against our government, against ourselves while serenading the overt greed of capitalism. Greed is indeed, good. No matter what camp you fall into, you’re part of the problem. Shout and deride as long, and as hard as you can, or set back quietly, giggle and laugh, or turn your head in shame, we are all the problem.

We are ravaged by war, our lives warped by fear, our thoughts manipulated and we have learned to hate our neighbors, to trust no one who is different. There are those who believe this is exceptional.

I do not.

Many find escapism in their self perceived luxury; the ability to fish, to shop, to drink, to travel. Those luxuries come at a cost, a cost that demands others have to pick up the tab.

Democracy is based in patriotism, patriotism is based in participation. Participation is based in knowledge. Without participation, you cannot be a patriot, you cannot have a democracy. What you have left is rule by Fiat, a government that has no intrinsic value, no substance to produce working infrastructure, no will to secure it’s foreign policy, no need to pursue equality and goodwill. The government has become secondary to the needs of our global Corporations and Military powers. The populace is left in a state of perpetual fear, endless confusion,and mass ignorance of facts. Knowledge is replaced with the singularity of thought provoking headlines, attentions are held by celebrity gossips and social media rumors and misdirection turns our attention from facts.

We have become fat, lazy, intolerant, and stupid. So much so that we look in our mirrors and believe we see the rugged, individual American our fathers and our mothers were.

We are far from that!

American Choices

American ChoiceThe Great American Process

American greatness has been defined in several ways; by our choice in leaders, our thinkers, scientists, by events, by our times, and by our populace, citizens, you and me. Be it Washington, Kennedy, Einstein, World War, Activism or Moon landings, we have been a great nation defined by who we are, and what we can accomplish. Yes, we have had some not very-bright spots along the asphalt path, a couple of things that we’ve been ashamed of, but the thing is, all those things, they are put out there for the world to see. We’ve talked about how fucked up our government can be, experimenting on it’s own citizens, inciting wars and little revolutions for the benefit of business and Democracy alike. Good God, google Operation Northwoods!

Nothing in the last 240 years have threatened the continuance of our Nation. Civil war, Depression, Riots, Activism, giving women the right to vote, the civil rights act; nothing has came close.

And now we find ourselves in a most peculiar position.

A position that requires us to vote for a woman nobody likes, an orange haired buffoon, a reincarnation of Joe McCarthy, a little Cuban boy, a man that should be married to the woman nobody likes, and an old white haired hippy activist socialist. Are you waking up from the nightmare with a loud, WTF?

Me? I kinda like the old hippy trippy guy, he kinda reminds me of… me, but when I was younger, a lot younger, or what I’ll be like when I’m older, much older.

Yep, I’m on the Sanders bandwagon. Hillary’s time has come and gone, and it’s time for this nation to move on, literally. Trump will never win a national election, with his three marriages, gargantuan ego, and his golden locks just ain’t attractive to most normal thinking Americans. Cruz has a lot of baggage, lot of it hasn’t been talked about yet, but most have caught on to the fact that he’s not only free and loose with facts, he’s also full of shit, a lot of shit. Marco, sorry! You have those boyish good looks but that’s just not enough, you actually have to show up at least once in a while to work and it’s kinda evident you’re still thirsty, we’er just not sure what you’re thirsty for. Jeb, like Hillary, you’re time has gone. Do us a favor and ride off into the sunset. Use the same horse your brother rode outta town on. Better, when Hillary’s political career is over, marry her and start a new dynasty, maybe in Kenya. That’s a good place to live and grow. Kenya has also produced at least one great President.

While any one of these above candidates might not destroy our Democracy, might not send our Nation descending into the turmoil of degenerative hell, (well, Trump might) not one of them will make it better.

So? Who’s left?

Bernie will make it better.

The Bern.

Vote for the Bern!

American Angry

Amwp americanangryericans are angry. Black Americans, American Latinos, Native Americans and of course, White Americans. The poor are angry, as are the rich and middle class, right along with second amendment and gun control advocates, pro-lifers, pro-abortionists, Southerners, Northerners, Christians, non-Christians, the Police, the old, the young, the general public, and just about everyone else in America.

We should be!

I am an old, not quite withered man of 58, and I am angry. I am also tired.

In my lifetime, I cannot remember a time when this Nation was not on a war footing. Wars; big, small and even inconsequential have been the thread of our existence.

What does a legacy of war say about this exceptional Nation?

An exceptional nation that honors our solders as great heroes, greater patriots in our media, in our entertainment media. Heroes that have given their lives to protect our freedom, yet our Veterans, with no better phrase to state it, are treated like crap by the Government they protect and by the very public which hails them as heroes. I’m angry about that, angry that the Veteran suicide rate is so fantastically high, almost one every hour, and angrier that few claim to even be aware of that fact. I’m angry that we have a civilian population of young and ageing vets that are damaged.

I’m angry at what we have become as a people, as a nation. I’m angry at what our priorities have become. I’m angry at those, without knowing who they are, who have driven a huge wedge between myself and my friends, and even family members. I’m angry at myself for allowing that wedge to exist, and I’m angrier at those who refuse to comprise, much less listen, and relish driving that wedge deeper into the soul of all Americans for their personal welfare, their personal agenda, and their personal view of what this Nation should look like.

As a white man that once woke uncomfortably up, the only white man in a cell, I get that racism exists. That’s on the individual, that feeling of being uncomfortable wasn’t the result of humans that were born a darker shade than I, it was because of my feelings, my fear, my sense of being uncomfortable.

We no longer ask why we are uncomfortable, we just blame it on minorities, the poor, the mentally ill, anyone who we can claim as a scapegoat. I’m angry that is who we are.

For a Nation of Christians, we fail miserably at being good stewards of our earth, good keepers of our brothers, in being compassionate of our judgement of others. Indeed, religion as a whole has become a divisive wedge, not bringing people together in brotherhood, but instead driving people apart, in horrible, terrible ways. I’m angry at what Christianity has become, fractured, divisive, political, fearful, and even, hateful. What was once a deeply personal experience has become fodder for those who wish to propagate their beliefs, interpreting the aged words of God as their own, personal belief system.

Indeed, we do not celebrate age, wisdom and experience in this Nation, we shutter our elders away in retirement communities, assisted living and nursing homes, and most visit their mother or father on a holiday or birthday. Gone is the generational connection of having your elder living in your basement, or nearby. Gone is the honor of passing in your own home, your own bed. Gone is the tradition of inheritance, because the state, the government takes everything to pay for your parents lives lived in retirement. They will takes yours as well.

Just as we fear diversity, just as we do not celebrate our elderly, we fear and we ignore the mentally handicapped. They are shunned, outcasts and forced to live with a stigma that you not only don’t understand, but don’t want to understand.

Neither Christian, American, much less humanistic.

I was taught we take care of our own, clearly we do not.

Not only do we take care of our own, we’re not good stewards of our home, a living, breathing ecosystem in the cold darkness of space. While we’ve raised awareness, raising that awareness doesn’t do much if major corporations can continue to spill billions of oil into our oceans without serious consequence, if game and fishing industries can continue to hunt and fish our companion species into extinction, if shipping can continue to create a huge garbage dump of our oceans, all without serious consequence. Without even tagging the fact of global warming, we’re destroying our planet. Add in the dire warnings of climate change, our future looks dismal.

All of us have reasons to be angry. We live our lives in the midst of violence. Be it from our police, a mass shooting, a riot, a single murder or on the screen of our television, we almost relish it for the entertainment it brings us, until it is our son, our daughter, whose corpse we are invited to identify. We don’t even have the intelligence, the compassion, the honor or gall to even address the issue much less talk about it unless we’re blaming our neighbor for the violence. It’s always someone else’s fault.

I’m also angry that I bought into a lie my father preached to me as a young son. Work hard, be honest and you’ll find success. I don’t measure success by living paycheck to paycheck at 58. Yes, I made some bad decisions, and I take ownership, but I’ve held down a job since I was eleven. My wife, since finishing nursing school. We’ve both worked hard, decent jobs. I had almost 20 years with my last employer, and Theresa has 25 with hers. Never been poor, but this is the thing, when we get a paycheck, it’s gone, mostly to bills, groceries and benefits. We’re not poor, but we’re certainly aren’t going to have the golden years we once thought we would. Yea, I’m angry about that. Angry that I’m part of that vanishing, working class American.

There is a lot to be angry about. We are not the exceptional Nation that you believe we are. Yes, we might be full of piss and vinegar, we might beat our chests in triumph, we might bleed red, white, and blue but none of that makes us exceptional to anyone else, except those doing the shouting how great we are.

Greatness is born of respect, and we lost that when we made the collective, National decision that to be feared is exceptional, that to be respected is to be minimal.

There’s a lot to be angry about. A lot left unsaid.

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