If you follow politics, have read a newspaper or heck, been alive over the past few years, I am sure you have heard the name George Soros. You've probably heard it in connection to yet another right wing conspiracy theory promoting Soros as the man behind all evil in the U.S. He is spoken of in right wing circles as the anti- Christ using his money and influence to disrupt governments and financial markets the world over. He has been referred to as a puppet master and the invisible hand behing many progressive movements of late. Most recently, Soros was credited with supporting and funding the protests opposing Brett Kavanaugh's appointment to the Supreme Court. Soros has been called out by Donald Trump as funding the majority of protests against his presidency and somehow funding the caravan of refugees fleeing a brutal Honduran government, headed for the United States. Believe me Mr. President when I say that critics of your administration do not need any encouragement or funding to oppose you.
I have been reading quite a bit lately about this all powerful puppet master pulling the strings trying to form a world government with open borders and lawlessness. Please. As best I can glean from my reading, George Soros is a Hungarian born Jew who escaped the holocaust during World War II as a teenager and received his degree from The London School of Economics and eventually made his way to the states. He found he had an aptitude for financial markets and created one of the most successful hedge funds in history. At one time his net worth stood at about 25 billion dollars but has given roughly 17 billion to his charitable foundation, The Open Society Foundations promoting such radical theories as human rights, women's rights, education, criminal justice reform, public health and promoting democratic ideals throughout the world. Shocking!
I suspect that a familiar tactic is at work with the demonetization of George Soros. The "right" and now the "alt-right" are masters of this deception. It is the tactic of deflect and re-direct. What the right and alt-right won't talk much about is the amount of money and influence weilded by republican donors, most notably Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers. Adelson made his money in the casino business first in Las Vegas and later in the Pacific rim. The Koch brothers control the second largest private company in the U.S. Adelson's net worth is estimated to be upwards of 38 billion and the Koch's are worth 53 billion each. Both Adelson and the Koch's have funneled millions of dollars into the political process through direct donations and funding of super pacs and conservative think tanks. These charts might give you a little perspective of the scope of wealth and funding of candidates.
To the best of my research abilities, what I can say is that the motivation behind these billionaires funding of conservative causes is not a benevolent desire to improve society, quite the opposite. Their motivation seems to be rooted in self-interest. Tax cuts and less federal regulation seems to be the driving force behind their largesse. They have been very successful in convincing the middle class to vote against their interests for over twenty years.
There is a Biblical quote that comes to mind when studying about these censervative benefactors and they would do well to study the verse and take it to heart. The quote comes from an original Greek manuscript of the Bible and translated into the Latin phrase "Radix malorum est cupiditas" which translates to English as "the root of all evil is greed".
Finally, I would like to point out that no matter how much money these billionaires pump into the political process on either side of the aisle, when it comes to election day, they have just as many votes as you or I do. One.
I was reading a New York times article this morning and came across a word I did not recognize. Not terribly unusual I grant you but curiosity got the better of me. The word is of Greek etymology and was popularized in the seventeenth century. The word did not receive much usage for the next two hundred years or so but has been in regular usage recently. The word is "kakistocracy" and is similar to more commonly used words like aristocracy, plutocracy meritocracy and democracy. Kakistocracy is defined as a system of government which is run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens. Is it any wonder why the word has become fashionable again?
It's easy for those of us on the left flank to point to world leaders we don't like and don't agree with and call them out as the "worst" people. I refer to leaders like Erdoğan in Turkey, Duterte in the Philippines and Maduro of Venezuela. While we may not like their politics and may consider them the "worst" people in their societies, let's face it, all of these leaders have political education, previous experience and a certain "standing" to be where they are. The elections over the weekend in Brazil again calls in to question the concept of the word kakistocracy. Mr. Bolsonaro may not align with my politics but he has served in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies since 1991. He received 46% of the vote in a free and fair election over the weekend and is poised as the leading candidate in the Presidential runoff election in the next few weeks. I think he is a dangerous man but is that not what elections are about? I'm not sure I could point to any of these world leaders as representing a kakistocracy.
Now let's get to the elephant in the room. I think it is fair to say that Donald Trump does indeed represent the word and the concept in the truest form. Trump has had no formal training in the political realm, no history of public service and with what the "free press" in America has uncovered, is proving to be the cheater and con man many of us suspected he was. Trump has appointed many people to positions they were wholly untrained for on a single metric of qualification, loyalty to Donald Trump. His outlook on society is antiquated, and out of step with the majority of the American people and his views can be politely described as misogynistic, xenophobic and he has displayed strong tendencies toward racism. The primary reason Trump was elected was his ability to harness and manipulate the press and his command of mass media to popularize himself instead of any real policies or any particular political ideology.
Politics is a funny business. Many believe that anyone can do it but I often compare it to other professions. As complicated as the political process is these days, it takes certain skills to navigate the landscape. You would not hire an electrician to fix your plumbing so why in the world did we hire an entitled con artist and failed business executive to run our country and when are we going to figure out that the electrician has clogged the pipes? Being President of the United States is the very first "job" Donal Trump has ever held. Since the age of three he has been earning massive amounts of money and never had to go on a job interview in his entire life. His lack of real world life skills should have been enough to disqualify him from the Presidential fray but through his standing as a TV star and frequent talking head about topics he had little knowledge of, he was able to convince enough people to vote for him. Or perhaps, like Fred Trump in his early years, Donald is now beholden to another "father-figure" to help guide him and bail him out of a jam. Perhaps the Mueller probe will reveal who that might be. Stay tuned.
I have a message this morning to everyone who was upset by the choices in the 2016 Presidential election. To the thousands or hundreds of thousands of voters who were upset by Bernie's defeat or to those who were skeptical of Hillary's motives and chose not to vote, yesterday's event is the very reason many of us were imploring people to get to the polls in November of 2016. Let's face facts; House members are elected for a two year term, Senators for a six year term and a President serves for four years, (realistically only two years effectively) so the damage these elected representatives can inflict is, in reality, pretty limited. Nothing a President or Congress can do in a two year period can't be undone in pretty short order. In 2016, however, we seemed to lose the concept that a President has the power to appoint justices to the Supreme Court which blows my mind in light of the fact that at that time, Mitch McConnell and his band of thugs were holding a seat hostage. In my mind, the 2016 Presidential election was all about the Supreme Court but very few Democrats were talking about it.
More than any other governmental branch, The Supreme Court can set the course of our society for generations. Think about the landmark cases that to this day guide our daily life. Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Obergefell v. Hodges and yes, Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court chooses which cases are brought before the court and an activist, clearly partisan member can affect our society in ways that can surprise you. Now that Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed and sworn in as an associate justice and cemented a conservative majority on the court, get ready for some changes. This conservative wing of the court is arguably out of touch with the majority of the citizenry and their desire is to reverse some of the freedoms we take for granted and return our society to "the good old days" of the 1950's when men were men and women and minorities had little say about the course of their lives.
I don't mean to paint an overly grim picture of life in these United States but I truly fear what this court might do to many of the rights and privileges we enjoy in this country. Despite what Susan Collins might believe, Brett Kavanaugh does have an agenda and he will no doubt begin its execution as early as tomorrow morning. For those of us located left of center, I cannot stress this point enough. The time for sitting on the sidelines is over. We must take action and that means contacting your local representatives about issues that are important to you, protesting issues and positions with which you don't agree and above all else, for the good of the country, get to the polls on each and every election day and vote. It is the only real power we have and too many of us willingly and knowingly surrender that power every time we do not vote.
If I knew nothing about American politics and came to this country, I would suspect from looking at the media that this country is tearing itself apart. The reality, however is much less dire than might be suspected. In reality, if you look at the major issues confronting this country a fairly large majority of the people are in agreement on what to do. If you believe in scientific polling, 71% of Americans believe that the Federal minimum wage should be raised, 75% believe that a single payer healthcare system for those of us who want it is a good idea and roughly 70% of adults believe that stronger gun control measures would be good for this country. In addition, nearly two thirds of Americans support a woman's right to choose and 63% of Americans are concerned about global warming and the environmental challenges facing the country.
So, if the polling is accurate, why does this country seem so diametrically opposed? Is it the issues or is it simply politics? If you drill down into the minutaie of the problems, what you find is astounding and goes against every principle on which this country was founded. By the end of "Reagan's revolution" in the late 1980's, party elders in the Republican party realized that their base was shrinking fast and something had to be done in order to keep the Republican party alive. So, if you are a shrinking party, what can you do to assure your survival. Those of you who said "cheat" get a gold star. Beginning in the early 1990s and continuing on to today, with every chance available, Republicans have redrawn Congressional maps and disenfranchised thousands of voters. If you look, for example at states like West Virginia and Arkansas, both state legislatures are controlled by Democrats but their Congressional delegations are completely Republican. How does that happen? Are Democrats in Arkansas different from Democrats from anywhere else? I think not. The Republican party has systematically changed the way American representative government works and time has come to seriously examine the problem.
Take the case in North Carolina. The Congressional districts were redrawn in 2011 in a state that splits pretty evenly politically. The delegation went from a 7-6 Democratic majority to a 10-3 Republican majority in the next Congressional election. David R. Lewis, a North Carolina state representative who helped lead the remapping process said, "I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and 3 Democrats, because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and 2 Democrats". Lawsuits ensued and the NC legislature was ordered to redraw the maps in 2016 but as of today (October of 2018) the task has still not been accomplished and a Republican Congressional delegation is almost assured in North Carolina no matter how the votes go. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson are rolling in their graves. This is not what America is or should be.
To say that American politics is at a stalemate is an understatement. Tribalism has infected the electorate and until we have a candidate who can truly reach across the aisle and embrace and evaluate the ideas of his or her political rivals, I fear we can hope for nothing but the same in years to come.