Thursday, June 15, 2017

Open Letter - How We Got Into This Mess and Can We Recover by Burt Hall, author of The Right-Wing Threat to Democracy







For over thirty years, World War II veteran and author Burt Hall assessed accountability in government and national security. Now, this seasoned, professional analyst delivers a tough account of what went wrong in our politics and system of government over the past two decades and what we can do about it. 

The right wing (not to be confused with Conservatism) has hijacked the Republican Party and wrecked havoc on our nation. It exploited basic flaws in our system to gain power and a series of major setbacks and a weakened democracy have followed. 

The Right-Wing Threat to Democracy lays out clearly what the basic flaws in our system are and how they can be fixed. The danger is that an ongoing shift of political power to the very wealthy and suppression of voting rights is silencing the voice of the average citizen. 

If elected officials do not fix the basic flaws, the American people have alternatives in our democracy and must take matters into their own hands.

OPEN LETTER – HOW WE GOT INTO THIS MESS AND CAN WE RECOVER

         May 17, 2017
Dear Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama,

As Woodward and Bernstein would say, “the best obtainable version of the truth” is in the enclosed article now on a virtual book tour.  It concerns me how we lost part of our democracy, public accountability and America’s exceptionalism. There is increasing concern about external Russian interference with our democracy but not with internal Republican interference that has compromised the integrity and results of our elections for nearly three decades with devastating results.
Historically, the Democratic Party has not stood its ground against Republican assaults on our democracy to achieve a one-party system.  After owning the White House for 12 years, Republicans outraged at the loss of the presidency, began to delegitimize and obstruct performance of Democratic presidents and sought to remove one from office and force another to fail. They declared war on the Democratic Party and their win-at-any-cost strategies are detailed in the enclosure. Nevertheless, the two Democratic presidencies managed to survive the onslaught and are ranked by historians at near the top ten of U.S. presidents.
However, the damage was done – Republicans created a divided country and a dysfunctional government and by rigging our electoral system remained in control of an obstructionist House. If Republicans had accepted the people’s choice of president, the two Democratic presidents certainly would have achieved a lot more and today might be ranked near the top five of U.S. presidents.
A Republican president, sandwiched between the two Democrats, got involved in 9/11, two wars and a great depression. He and his vice-president mistakenly reversed the previous president’s priorities on balanced budgets with surpluses and on combating international terrorism. Unfortunately, both 9/11 and the two wars were avoidable based on information readily available and known to the White House at the time. In other words, a trained ape would have known what to do. Cover-ups followed the breach of national security and reckless war decisions. Neither the Democratic Party, the 9/11 Commission nor the media held Republicans accountable.
The failed Republican presidency was awarded a second term which also failed. The Republican strategy boomeranged. Instead of Republicans causing Democratic presidents to fail, their own president failed twice. As Tom Friedman of the New York Times recently said, the Republican Party “has lost its moral compass”
Republicans also employed a strategy to suppress participation of groups likely to vote Democratic and, for those who did vote, dilute their value or make them worthless. Diminishing the value of the vote was achieved by using a high-tech computer-aided method to draw distorted and partisan voting districts to elect only members of one party. Also, Republican-controlled legislatures are trying to rig future presidential electoral vote contests by using voting districts won rather than popular votes won, as we do today.
 It was these kinds of abuses of our voting rights plus low Democratic midterm turnouts that contributed to the large Republican majority in the House.  Republicans would have you believe that its majority resulted from the public’s desire to repeal Obamacare. Actually, it was derived from rigging our electoral system which the Supreme Court has yet to rule unconstitutional.
Democrats are no match for Republicans who do not play by the rules and use win-at-any- cost strategies. Republicans held Democrats accountable for things they essentially did not do and Democrats did not hold Republicans accountable for things they actually did do. The public was both misinformed and uninformed and vulnerable to choosing a president they did not deserve. By 2016, a grossly uninformed electorate frustrated with a Washington not working for them chose an outsider president. Now, the Republican Party that failed two terms is back in office and headed by someone without governmental experience.
The public must be informed on our deteriorating democracy and what can be done about it. How else can the public hold the people they elect accountable and make well-informed decisions at the ballot box? The bottom line is both parties must assume some responsibility for the current state of affairs and go above and beyond to work together and unify the nation. Should the current administration get out of control, the two parties together must take extraordinary measures to protect our nation and the American people from further devastating results.
If the two parties continue to refuse to work together in the public interest, dramatic action will be necessary. In that event, the enclosed article suggests two options to restore our democracy and deter further interference, whether by a political party or by a foreign power. One involves shutting down Senate business on Republican priorities until they agree to return powers stolen from Democrats over recent decades. This would include enacting major legislation that has been languishing for years in Congress to strengthen and protect our democracy.
The second option involves open public hearings conducted by distinguished statesmen and backed by previous presidents. You three, the media and the private sector would combine to support these public hearings. There are many moderates of both parties and independents who would be willing to participate. The public must be informed on how we got into this mess so it can assess accountability and take ownership of efforts to restore our democracy. History will have a way of repeating itself if the public is left out in the cold on how well the people they elect serve.
A third option is to combine the first two. It might be the most effective one should the current administration oppose democracy reforms. Please give it some thought. You may be our last hope.

Burt Hall
CC:  Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Tim Kaine, Mark Warner, Tom Perez, Keith Ellison


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