Editorial March 25, 2016

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

There are people who cannot tolerate another opinion if it does not agree with theirs. The right to disagree is sacrosanct but there is more and more a tendency these days to do so with anger. Not that there has not been angry, violent, protests in this country’s history, we do that here, but it seems that angry and violent protests began to be the new normal beginning in 2000.

In the time surrounding the 2000 vote recount, on which I worked, I was in West Palm Beach when Republicans bussed in people who were referred to as activists. The depth of their anger and how they expressed it was scary. There was a NAACP march scheduled for that day and it was redirected due the rage of the activists that translated into the potential for violence. Prior to that demonstration the vote recount in Miami was eventually shut down due to the threat of protesters.

In 2010, or there about, the Tea Party was established giving a voice to its members’ frustrations and anger with the Federal government. One of the places those frustrations were expressed was at town hall meetings by shouting down the speakers. Eventually law-makers stopped having the meetings. The rise of the Tea Party resulted in an estimated 30 or 40 Members of the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) promoting unyielding resistance to spending increases and a commitment to tax cuts.

It seems as though expressing anger towards the Federal government and the current Administration became common and accelerated during this presidential election. Republican candidate Donald Trump has received the lion’s share of angry protests recently as Trump supporters and Trump protestors clashed violently at Trump rallies. And now a group calling itself Anonymous has entered the fray encouraging hackers to hack Donald Trump wherever he is cyber-vulnerable.

Anger about government policies or the lack thereof is understandable in the sense that the activity presupposes a serious commitment to an issue on the part of the protester, or at least it should. But is that what it is really all about?

The West Palm Beach protests supported George W. Bush whose campaign was threatened by the recount. The Tea Party protesters at town hall meetings had a general distrust of all government but eventually focused on the Obama Administration. The 30 to 40 Tea Party-favored representatives in Congress are quite specifically there to protest tax and spending increases on behalf of their Tea Party constituents.

With the Trump protests, though, we enter a new world of protesting that raises the questions of whether or not the protesters have a goal consistent with their mission philosophy and, if not, what are they doing there?

It has been reported that the principal protesters at Trump rallies have been Moveon.org (Moveon) and the new Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), both liberal organizations. Naturally, their chosen candidates would be Clinton or Sanders and one of them will be squared off in the general election against Trump, Cruz, or Kasich. The last two have the savvy to express a foreign policy in detail or has extensive experience in government, respectively. It would seem that that the weakest candidate, one who would be outgunned by Clinton on all things foreign policy and experience in government is Donald Trump. The protests at the Trump events, then, would seem to entrench Trump supporters and seems to increase his support. While supporting an opposing candidate you don’t want elected may seem counter-intuitive it makes strategic sense. Apparently sense has given way to letting off steam.

The Trump protests also introduce us to protesting anonymously. While we may  agree that angry, threatening protests are a path to  violence at least we know who the protesters are. Not so with the hacker group Anonymous that has come out encouraging its members and associates to cyber-attack Trumps vulnerabilities.

Anonymity in the election process is not new after Supreme Court decisions allowing large donations anonymously and identifying spending the dollar as a form of self-expression. These things we have to live with for now but wasn’t there a time when expressing your opinion publicly required you to state your name before giving your opinion? Well, yes, and it is called ‘going on the record’.

Maybe the current day’s tendency towards anonymous protesting is because the reason for ‘going on the record’ has changed or never really existed. ‘Going on the record’ is a way of legitimizing your opinion by sticking your name on it. Maybe thisprotesting phenomena has progressed to the point that there are no intentions of ‘going on record’, just a desire to let off steam. Standing up with your opinion, saying where you stand, taking a position, is sure to open you to criticism. But the depth of anger and how it is expressed; to the extent of committing a cyber-crime, tends to dampen the spirit of standing up for your beliefs. One’s opinion becomes a target, so just raise hell; you’ll feel better.

How this phenomena has spread to the legislative process is seen in the House Freedom Caucus as an example of what it looks like to have significant influence on the process of getting laws debated and passed, the budget deals in particular, but without identifying who is doing what. The HFC does not identify its members. It should so each can go on the record and take responsibility for their actions.

Se we have become a nation that borders on violence over disagreements and people in the game seem more and more willing to do so from behind a veil of anonymity that blocks us from connecting the person to the action. Not exactly what Representative Democracy is all about. Nothing good will come of this.

*****

 

Quotes on the Issues

Supreme Court Nominee

““I believe that we should follow the regular order in considering this nominee. The Constitution’s very clear that the president has every right to make this nomination, and then the Senate can either consent or withhold its consent.” [Sen. Susan Collins, NPR 3/16/16]

““I have nothing against the nominee. Mr. Garland seems to be well qualified and would probably make a good judge—in some other court.” [Sen. Chuck Grassley, 3/19/97]

““’It isn’t about the person, it’s about the process, it’s about the principle,’ [Sen. Chuck] Grassley told reporters after the Garland nomination.” [Washington Post, 3/16/16]”

*****

Debt Crisis: Puerto Rico

No help in sight

“…earlier this year Speaker Ryan promised to address Puerto Rico’s debt crisis by March 31. With the House in session only three days next week, it is clear that the House will not meet the deadline set by the Speaker. Puerto Rico is an integral part of the United States and its citizens are citizens of the United States. Congress ought to act soon to provide Puerto Rico with broad authority to restructure its debt, and I urge Republicans to work with House Democrats to do so quickly.” House Minority Whip

*****

Cuba

Extending a Hand

““I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas, I have come here to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people.” I want you to know, I believe my visit here demonstrates that you do not need to fear a threat from the United States,” Mr. Obama said. “And given your commitment to Cuba’s sovereignty and self-determination, I’m also confident that you need not fear the different voices of the Cuban people and their capacity to speak and assemble and vote for their leaders.” New York Times

 


Belgium ISIS Attacks

30 Dead

“At least 13 people were killed and dozens more wounded at the Brussels international airport on Tuesday after two explosions rocked the departure area, collapsing part of the ceiling and spreading chaos. The attack — which Belgian authorities said was a suicide strike — came at the same time as another bomb went off at the city’s Maelbeek subway station. Belgian officials are reporting 15 dead and 55 injured in the subway blast. All flights and train service in and out of the country have been cancelled.” – Reuters (Video)

Israel

Obama – Netanyahu: no love lost

“Israeli-American relations are at an all-time low. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to meet President Barack Obama, as suggested by the White House, prior to the AIPAC conference on March 20 is another unprecedented blow to the relationship. Obama does not mince words when describing his views of the Israeli prime minister.”…”There is not a single issue on which Obama and Netanyahu see eye to eye.” – Al Monitor

Yemen

Is it over yet?

“”The parties to the civil war in Yemen have agreed to implement a ceasefire in the run-up to peace talks set to begin next week. The arrangement was brokered in talks in Sanaa overseen by U.N. Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. The de-escalation comes after a particularly bloody weekend in which 57 people were killed. Half of those died in fighting between Houthi and loyalist forces in Taiz…c State. Saudi Arabia announced last week that it would be winding down its intervention in Yemen.”” AP through al Arabiya –

Syria

Russia: gone or not gone?

“In a surprise announcement on March 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that the major part of his country’s forces would be pulling out of Syria because Moscow had succeeded in enabling Syrian government forces and their allies to turn the tide of the conflict in favor of the regime. “It will pressure the Syrian regime … and create some trust. The Russian intervention had strengthened the regime.”“What is sure, I think, is it will reopen the way for other actors to step in, mainly the Iranians, the Turks and the Saudis,” al Monitor


 

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