Thursday, January 19, 2017

January 2017: The Transition of Power

     It is Martin Luther King Day. I attended a celebration today at North Park University. As I expected, the transfer of power from President Obama to President Trump influenced the speeches almost overshadowing remembering the man in whose honor we gathered. Given the contention the election has left in its wake and the extreme polarization in this country, this is no surprise.

     President Obama: Eight years ago, I voted for Barack Obama. I used Ronald Reagan’s yardstick from the 1980 Presidential Elections to make my choice. Reagan asked, “Ask yourself, 'Are you better off now than you were four years ago? '” I even modified it and asked as second question, “Is the country better off now than it was four years ago?”
     The answer to both these questions was a resounding “No!”
     We were at the beginning of a very serious economic crisis that would eventually be called The Great Recession. The economy began to quickly unravel in September of 2008. It quickly became a campaign issue. For me it was the only campaign issue. I was let go from my job at this very time. It was bad timing indeed. I have never recovered economically and I should be in the middle of the so-called disenfranchised segment of the population.
     I probably would have voted for the esteemed John McCain. I was in the most likely
The Onion still has a sense of humor.
demographic to vote for him. I did not. The main reason I did not was because McCain said there was nothing wrong with the economy. What?! Really!? He lost my vote then and there. Having Sarah Palin as his running mate did not help his case either.
     It was the first time I had voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate. He seemed saavy and was cleary very smart. I thought he woud be able to lead us through this quagmire.
     Note that I have, otherwise, voted for Democrats for House, Senate, and State offices. I believe in voting for the best person and not straight party tickets. I am kind of a centrist. I basically follow my cousin Davids tenet of being a fiscal conservative and wanting social justice.
     Obama was, of course, elected. I have oft used the analogy that he was given the keys to the that was going 150 mph a mere 100 yards from a brick wall. Yes, he was elected the President, the first black… er… half black President of these United States. Unfortunately, for those hoping for the Change they could Believe in, the only thing he and his administration could really focus on was the economic disaster he inherited. Sure, they had a mandate with power in both the House and Senate. Nonetheless, the economy was broken. It had to be fixed. That was Job 1. There were hard decisions to be made. In a crisis of that proportion, the crisis sets the agenda and action plan.
     His speeches in accepting the nomination, his victory speech on election night, and his inaugural address were excellent in my opinion. Barack Obama is a great speaker. He makes sense when he speaks. He is also a great interviewee. This past Sunday he had his last interview as President on 60 Minutes. He was authentic and a gentleman. He did not take the bait.
     I was never an Obama basher. I voted for him in 2008. In 2012, I used the same Reagan yardstick. The country was most definitely better off than it was in 2008. I did not feel I was, so after a bit of grappling I decided to go for Romney knowing it was going for a losing effort.

     I remember Obama’s first inauguration. It was a really cold January day. I am not in the habit of watching the inaugurations live. But this was an historic day for the country. Imagine this country electing a half white half black, who everyone just calls black, President. It was nothing any European country has ever done. So I tuned into the NPR coverage of the inauguration. Yes, I listened to it on the radio as I was off to Newell Rubbermaid’s offices in Oak Brook to sign my termination papers and review my severance etc. It all kind of tied in together in my little mind.

     President Trump: It is now the night before the inauguration.
     Like it or not, Donald Trump will be the 45th Presdient of the United States.
     I did not vote for Trump. I did not vote for Clinton either. I was dismayed that this great country this was the best we had to offer.
     I did vote. Yes… I did vote for Al Leppo. People say I wasted my vote. Maybe. But, there was no way Hilary Clinton was going to lose the State of Illinois. I could have voted for Donald Duck for all the difference it would have made.
     I am not a huge Hilary fan. I could not vote for her. Neither could I vote for Trump given the bombastic things he said and did during the campaign. I could only justify voting for one as it was a vote against the other. Forget it. I voted for the Libertarian.
     Clearly, everyone but Trump underestimated the sheer number of disenfranchised folks out there. When these folks applied the Ronald Reagan yardstick, they were not better off than they were four or eight years ago. Hilary was nowhere close to being the answer. She was the political establishment, the very folks the disenfranchised blamed, right or wrong, for the dimished country we became post recession.
     Along comes The Donald. He runs an unorthodox campaign promising to make America great again and… Voila! We have a populist candidate who defied all odds and got elected. The contrasts with Obama are striking and yet this is the transistion we are making this week. You cannot make this up.

     Term Limits and The Electoral College: There was talk this week that Obama would have been elected to a third term but for our term limits. Term limits are indeed a two edged sword. You hate them when a guy you love has to leave office, but you love term limits when a guy you loathe has to leave.
     The same kind of rationale applies to the Electoral College. Trump is on of the few Presidents to not win the majority of the vote. People are quite OK with the Electoral College when things go their way, and hate it, as the anti-Trump does in this past election. Hence, the feeling that “He is not my President.”

     He is not my President Movement: There will be people protesting in the inauguaration. There was a huge rally this evening, the night before the inauguration, in front of the Trump Plaza in NYC with an impressive list of NY celebrities and politicos speaking. It is all over the news. The protests at the inauguration itself might be unprecedented. People are upset to the core that The Donald got elected. They do not like it and are collectively going to express their displeasure. On Saturday, there is another huge Women’s March planned in several cities simulataneously which is probably more anti-Trump than anything else. I know several folks in Chicago who will be head downtown on Saturday to March. Trump has to be seeing all this. I wonder how he views this fervor.
     Trump has the lowest approval ratings for an incoming President since Abraham Lincoln. I guess Lincoln’s oppostion took exception to his anti-slavery stance. So, the anti-Trump crowd quote the low ratings and the Make America Great Again crowd compare him to Lincoln.
     Sixty Democrats are not attending the inauguration. I heard a talking head congressman today on NPR whose name or state I do not recall. He justification for not going is all the things Trump said and did during the campaign that would have destroyed the campaign of any other candidate. Merryl Streep gave the same kind of message when she received her lifetime achievement award from the Golden Globes. While her words are definitely old news today, the night before the inauguration, they were right on.

But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. ~ New York Times
     Streep was refering to his imitiation of a handicapped reporter that happened to anger him. Then he denied what he did. In my book, that is not what I want our President to behave. He talked about the election as being rigged but when the only rigging appears to have come from Russian hackers to his favor, he is mum about it. He disparged a beauty queen in a twitter rampage. I do not approve of this kind of behavior from a candidate running for President let alone a Presdient elect. It discredits the office, the country, and our people. Obama never would have done that neither would have Reagan or Clinton. It is just unacceptable behavior.
     I am not against his tweeting per se. I am against the President of the United States criticizing people, well, like Meryl Streep, in an open forum like twitter.
     There was a quote floating around on Facebook. It was from Theodore Roosevelt.

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else." ~ Theodore Roosevelt Association
     I respect the Office of the President and whoever is elected. I may or may not agree with their policies but I respect the person and the office. I also believe in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and agree with the 26th President and criticize the President using our very precious right of free speech. This is the only way democracy can work.
     Many folks were not happy with the election Barack Obama in 2008. I heard several people say that “he was not their President.” Many more folks, I believe, shared that sentiment but called his early actions and policies trying to stem the Great Recession as socialist. Not quite communist, but most definitely a socialist. In his second term, most criticism was that he was the most ineffective President ever and comments along those lines. There was certainly a certainly a racial component to this. We can debate the degree of such, but it was most certainly there.
     Black folks looked at the election of Barack Obama a positive sign. It was a sign of hope as in the campaign slogan. With the election of Trump, many feel like the hope was taken away. The world was so impressed that we elected a black President, he even got a Nobel Peace Prize before he did anything.

     Polarization: Donald Trump did tweet something earlier today.

     I agree with Franklin Graham. We are polarized in the contry. I believe the main axes are race, disenfranchised or not, and liberal vs conservative. Most people can’t and don’t think in several factors (using the language of Design of Experiments from Statistics). People get even more confused when there is interaction between these factors. It has stifled the effectiveness of the our government since Obama was elected.
     Trump, however, is not helping. I am allowing a glimmer of hope to see if the office grounds him and once in office he can demonstrate to be a President of all the people.
     People love Trump or hate him. I am a centrist. I try to see the whole picture or use this all as a rationale to be wishy-washy (folks do criticize me for this). Obama has a madate when he was elected in 2008. Trump and his supporters believe they have a mandate with majorities in the House and Senate. The voting public, however, changed their minds and started electing Republicans as early as the 2010 midterm elections eroding Obama’s so-called mandate. I fully believe that the same will happen to Trump if people are not seeing what they want to see in 2018.

     Hrant Dink: This section has nothing to with Trump or Obama except their unwillingness to call what happened a Genocide. Nonetheless, I am compelled to make a few comments.
     Today is January 19, 2017. It is the ten year anniversary of his assassination of Hrant Dink outside the offices of the Agos newspaper. As of the time of this writing, there were no stories of this in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal.
     I was interested to see, post coup, if there were protests in Istanbul. Armenpress from Yerevan had a good article on commemorations in Yerevan and Istanbul including videos. I was a bit surprised to the number of protesters in Istanbul. It was nothing like the numbers 10 years ago, but it was something.
     To me, Hrant Dink is and should be honored as a Martin Luther King of Turkey. With Erdogan’s clamp down after the “coup,” this is not happening any time soon.
     Another blog post on Hrant Dink:  Five Years Later

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