Caution

Dear all,

There are two notes I need to add to my last message:

1. If you want to attend the MVP fundraiser, please let me know at barrydym@gmail.com

 

2. A friend of mine in Los Angeles tells me that a Bill O’Reilly rant somehow got attached to my message–probably only those that went through Facebook.  Please ignore the rant.  It is one of the many disgusting ways that people are using social media to spread false information

Thanks,

Barry

How to Win the 2020 Elections

Dear Readers

You’ve read my essays and know how upset I have been about the Trump presidency, the way that it veers towards autocracy, criminality, racism, and a crass, childish style.  We have two opportunities to stop the bleeding.  One is proceeding in the legislature: the impeachment process.  The other, which we need to pay even more attention to is the upcoming elections.

Many of us have been searching for a meaningful response.  We send dollars to political campaigns.  We prepare to knock on doors to canvas in neighboring states.  But most of us live in a “blue bubble” and worry that these activities won’t have much effect.  But I believe that there is a way to make a difference: by supporting proven grassroots political organizing.  That is, support for those who support local organizations, particularly those located in the battleground states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

By focusing on county and state elections, the Koch Brothers created a vast, powerful network of grassroots political action, think tanks, PACs, and the like, which fueled and sustained the right wing revolution, originating in the Goldwater defeat, and blossoming in the Tea Party, presidencies of Regan, Bush, and Trump, and Congressional dominance leading to a defiant Republican judiciary.

The last time that Progressives experienced a comparable threat was the 1930’s, when the  horrors of the Great Depression overrode political timidity and paved the way for the powerful programs of the New Deal.  I believe that we may be facing a very different but comparable threat now, particularly as William Barr has added the resources of the Department of Justice to try to punish Trump’s opponents.

To fight off these threats, we must win the 2020 elections, local, state, and federal.  Towards that end, let me introduce you to the Movement Voter Protect (MVP).  They provide financial and consulting support to carefully vetted grassroots organizations in battleground states.  These groups are already in action, battle tested, and enduring.  They don’t dissolve every two or four years.  Like the Koch brothers crusaders, they take the immediate and long view.  I believe that support for the MVP provides a highly leveraged way for us, regular citizens, to make a difference.

Here’s one particularly compelling success noted by MVP : “We know that Maggie Hassan won her slim 2016 victory thanks to the votes in Manchester, Nashua, and Concord among people of color who turned out to support her.  Leading that work were four MVP-supported organizations whose staff and volunteers knocked on 85,000 doors in the summer and fall of 2016.  Hassan’s election – by 1,027 votes – saved Obamacare.”

With my friend, Matt Epstein, I will be holding a fundraiser for MVP, where you can be introduced to MVP organizers.  Please join us on December 5, from 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm at Goulston & Storrs, 400 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA.   Light eats and drinks will be served

And if you can’t join us, please donate as generously as you can to the MVP Big Five Battleground Fund at https://movement.vote/.

Thanks,

Barry

Changing your mind is a good thing: Advice for Elizabeth Warren

Dear Senator Warren:

I admire your campaign: your policy positions, your spirit, and your insistence on taking the high ground, even as others begin to dig into the dirt.  I don’t worry about the electability question.  It seems to me that, as people grow accustomed to you, as they hear your story and begin to identify more with it, they will vote for you.  Besides, it is vital to lead according to principle, policy and character, and not to primarily follow imagined pathways of voter preference.

I do have one suggestion, though, and I think it will greatly increase the possibility of victory, which, as we all know, is essential.  Trump must be defeated.  I believe that you’d have a much better chance for the presidency if you switched from a single payer health care system to a program that offers both universal coverage and greater choice.  Not necessarily because that is the very best plan but because it seems to be what the American people want.

You can and should say that you still believe that a single payer system is the most effective, efficient and affordable way to deliver health services.  Having affirmed your analysis and values, you now say that you have listened to the American people—those whose choices are paramount—and, so long as every person in this country is covered, you can accept the will of the majority if, when you are president, Congress endorses a plan that combines public and private health care coverage. 

Here’s my reasoning.  First, the objective is more important than the strategy by which you achieve it.  The objective is effective, affordable coverage for all in a way that people accept. Why not be open to any strategy that reflects your objective and gives you the best possibility of both election and positive, if imperfect, legislative action?

Second, this is an opportunity to affirm the will of the people.  That stance moves you further from criticism that you are an Eastern elitist with no feeling for the popular pulse—or compassion for how “regular” people see things.

Third, it is important to learn and to adapt to circumstances, and to be public about your learning.  FDR practiced this approach to great advantage.  He’d try one thing, see if it worked, and set about discovering how it worked and how to make it work better. If the innovative program didn’t work, he’d try something new.  He was an experimenter at a time when the answers weren’t so clear — like now.

Fourth, it is vital to establish your right to change.  I know that change has become taboo in American politics, that it is considered hypocrisy to begin in one place and end in another.  I know that you will be called a hypocrite or weak.  But you, the working class Oklahoma kid who rose to academic and political prominence, the young Republican who, with time and education, saw the Democratic light—you, of all people, know about change and can say how life-affirming adaptation to new circumstances can be.

Fifth, once elected, you will have a mighty struggle convincing Congress that any health care plan that covers every resident of the United States is a viable idea.  You will be accused of being a socialist, a spendthrift, a starry eyed idealist, and lots more.  You will need to be flexible in negotiations.  All great presidents, from Lincoln to FDR to Lyndon Johnson (before he got caught up in Vietnam) have been great negotiators.  Why not indicate ahead of time that you are so inclined?

That’s it.  I believe that the main policy issue that may currently stand in the way of your election is health care—though there will be a need for more flexibility over time.  Make this change and I think you will be seen as the Champion of the American People — and make us all proud.

 

 

 

Awakening

We were at Yom Kippur services, seated among 500 congregants, some dressed all in white, chanting responsively with the Rabbi: sometimes in Hebrew, sometimes in English.  There were a remarkable number of serene or smiling faces, particularly, it seemed, among the elderly.  And there must have been over 200 people 70 years or older.  The mood was so different, so much friendlier than the synagogue we had attended for over 40 years.

That former synagogue brought out all of my resistance, born of a lifetime’s attachment to secular humanism, to organized religion.  I had attended in order to be kind to the wife I love, but I had always been a stranger there.  I’m sure that every movement of my body, every crease in my face, signaled to others that I wasn’t at home, and as far as I could tell, that’s how they treated me.  Their greetings, like mine, were more grimaces than smiles, more perfunctory than genuine.  I felt like a stranger in a hostile territory, barely pretending to join in.

Without wanting to, I limited Franny’s ability to relax as deeply as she had wanted into the service and a community of Jewish families she wanted for her own.  Year after year, I felt irritated with my own fate, and angry at the way that I had diminished Franny’s experience, which was deep, satisfying, and uninhibited when I was absent.  I was ashamed of myself.

Though the liturgy in our new synagogue was essentially the same, it seemed joyful to me and that relaxed my muscles, mental and physical.  The chanting washed over me and I joined in.  My body, often edgy during services, quieted.  I stopped thinking and simply read the words of the prayers, lending my voice, however tentatively, to the haunting Yom Kippur melodies.  Instead of closing, praying—not the words but the sounds—opened my heart.

We were sitting in the middle of a long row.  There had been a choral group singing on the bima, which is the stage where the Rabbi, the Cantor and, most importantly the Torahs reside.  I had been enchanted with their song and, just as much by the age range of singers.  Of the 12, the youngest might have been 25 and the oldest 90.  When they were done, they came down from the bima and headed back to their individual seats.  As is the custom when one has read from the Torah or given a talk, congregants shook their hands, eyes gleaming, and saying with gusto: “yashar ko’ach!” (something like, “more power to you!”)

One man in particular caught my eye.  He was probably the oldest, about 90 or so, and walked slowly with the help of a cane.  As he shook people’s hands, he smiled, slowly, gently.  And I thought: He’s so dignified.

For reasons I don’t entirely understand, his dignity stunned me.  Much like the blast from the Rosh Hashanah shofar, the ram’s horn, that each year reminds us of the anguish, the yearnings, and the failures of the year, just past, and more importantly, awakens us to the possibilities of the new year.  I needed to understand what that old man’s dignity signaled to me.

Up to that moment, I don’t think I’d given up my desire to be the energizing core of whatever group I inhabited.  I would say to myself and sometimes to others that I had let go of my ambitions, my drive to succeed, to accomplish great things, or to be the center of attention.  I’ve done so because it’s clear that my time is past and it’s time for younger generations to claim that center stage.

And yet, in my mind, and in some of my activity, I don’t think I’ve permitted myself the full understanding and acceptance of this great developmental sweep.  I’ve not truly stepped back.

The old man at the synagogue had stepped back.  He seemed so profoundly at home in that gentle smile.  He seemed to enjoy what he could do and to appreciate the pleasure it afforded others.  His smile said to me, and to the other congregants: I’m pleased to still be here in this place, with these people…to participate, to be alive.

Observing him, I think I felt what he felt.  I understood, if only for a moment, that there is a next stage of life, outside the magic circle of youth and manhood-in-full-swing.  It is quieter, more accepting, filled with appreciation of others, and gratitude for what I have.