The Year of the #T_Rump

The Donald wasn’t the worst thing about 2015, but he was the most irritating.

Donald KaulIs 2015 over yet? Is it safe to come out now?

What a bummer. Mass shootings, cops using unarmed civilians for target practice, the Middle East in rubble, terrorist attacks, Donald Trump.

Trump wasn’t the worst of it, perhaps. But he certainly was the most irritating.

It was a spectacle worthy of Tennyson — “Trump to the right of us, Trump to the left of us, Trump in front and behind. Into the valley of Trump rode the 300 million.”

A year ago he was a loud-mouthed reality show host who moonlighted as a developer of ugly buildings. Now he’s the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

donald-trump-immigration-racism-xenophobia-statue-of-liberty-cartoon

Statue of Trumperty, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

To any patriotic American with a sense of history, it’s embarrassing. We are a country of 320 million people — many of us smart, some informed and reasonable. And the best we can do is Donald Trump?

I used to marvel at the Italian propensity for electing ludicrous buffoons to high public office — people like Benito Mussolini and Silvio Berlusconi. How could so civilized a place treat the vote so lightly?

But, I reasoned, the Italian national pastime is the opera: the province of great, outsized, slightly ridiculous characters. Their politics seemed to be an extension of that.

Trump’s supporters don’t suffer traditional opera gladly. They’re more the Grand Ole Opry type, a different thing altogether.

It’s as though the Republican Party, a year ago, took an ad in The Wall Street Journal which read:

“Wanted: energetic self-starter to run a large, diverse organization. No experience necessary. As a matter of fact, experience is probably a disqualification.

“Nor is any knowledge required, particularly in the fields of science and arithmetic. A complete ignorance of history would be welcome, too.

“What we’re really looking for is someone who believes. The specific content of the beliefs required will be given to the applicant once he or she wins the job, but a passionate belief in God and the free market will be paramount among them.

“The job offers a handsome six-figure salary, free housing, and a liberal vacation allowance (that’s the only thing liberal about it), as well dynamite retirement benefits.

“Candidates must be prepared to spend the better part of the next two years telling people what they want to hear. Integrity is optional.”

It’s as though they ran the ad and, lo and behold, applicants began crawling out from under their rocks all over the country. And the loudest, most outrageous of the rock dwellers was Donald Trump.

So-called political experts like myself have been predicting Trump’s demise ever since he flashed upon the scene insulting war heroes, women, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, the mentally ill, and worst of all, journalists.

We all thought that, politically speaking, he’d be sleeping with the fishes by now, along with more plausible candidates like Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, and that Democrat from Virginia whose name no one bothered to learn.

Well, to make a long story short, that’s not the way it rolled.

Ted Cruz, the meanest kid on the block, is gaining in Iowa, but the Donald is still leading in national polls.

Is it possible that, against all odds, this joke goes on into the general election — with Trump carrying the Republican banner into battle with Hillary Clinton?

I still say no. Not possible. We are not Italy. I refuse to believe that one of our major parties — the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower — would pick a clown like Trump to represent it. Ronald Reagan was bad enough, and Trump makes him look like Thomas Jefferson.

I don’t know who the GOP candidate will be, but not Trump.

On the other hand, one of the pluses of last year was Barack Obama awakening from his six-year slumber to begin acting like the president we elected, actually doing things despite the relentless opposition of the Republican Congress.

It wasn’t nearly enough. But, in the land of Trump, every ray of sunshine is welcome.


OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. OtherWords.org.

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Border Boondoggle

The GOP’s “just build a wall” simpletons don’t know what they’re talking about.

Jim HightowerGood fences, wrote Robert Frost, make good neighbors.

But an 18-foot high, 2,000-mile wall? That’s another story. It just antagonizes your neighbor — and shows your own fear and weakness.

Yet this is what self-described conservatives running for president propose to build to stop migrants from coming across our country’s southern border. Simple, right? Just fence ’em out!

Haven’t we already tried this?

In 2006, Congress mandated the construction of a wall along the 1,954 miles of our border with Mexico. A decade later, guess how many miles have been completed? About 650. It turns out that erecting a monstrous wall isn’t so simple after all.

U.S.-US-Mexico-border-crossing-fence-wall

Tony Webster / Flickr

First, it’s ridiculously expensive — about $10 billion just for the materials to build from the tip of Texas to the Pacific, not counting labor costs and maintenance.

Second, there’s the prickly problem of land acquisition: To erect the first 650 miles of fence, the federal government had to sue hundreds of property owners to take their land. Odd, isn’t it, that right-wing politicos who loudly rail against government overreach now favor using government muscle to grab private property?

Third, it’s impossible to fence the whole border. Hundreds of miles of it lie along the Rio Grande’s flood plain, and more miles cross the steep mountainous terrain of southern Arizona.

Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and the other “just build a wall” simpletons either don’t know what they’re talking about or are deliberately trying to dupe voters.

Before you buy a 2,000-mile wall from them, take a peek at the small part already built. Because of the poor terrain and legal prohibitions, it’s not one long fence, but a fragment here and another there, with miles of gaps. Anyone wanting to cross into the United States can just go to one of the gaps and walk through.

But when they’re just trying to stir up fear of foreigners, what’s honesty have to do with it?


OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower LowdownOtherWords.org

2016 Nevada State Democratic Party Precinct Caucuses

WHEN:  Saturday February 20, 2016

TIME:  11 a.m. PST 

What are the Nevada Caucuses?
The Nevada Caucuses are gatherings of neighbors, organized by the Nevada State Democratic Party (NSDP), where Democrats join others in their precincts to begin the process of  registering preferences for Democratic candidates running for President. With our First-in-the-West status, Nevadans will be the third state to share our recommendations on the Democratic Presidential nominee to the rest of the country. The Precinct Caucuses are also the organizational foundation of the NSDP.

Who can participate in the caucus?
Any person who is eligible to vote in the state of Nevada and will be at least 18 years old on Election Day, November 8, 2016, may participate. You must reside in the precinct in which they wish to participate, and must be registered as a Democrat — you may register or change party affiliation on caucus day.

Where are the caucuses held?
Generally your caucus site will be close to home, neighborhood meeting points such as schools, community centers, churches are used as caucus locations. The exact location for each precinct will be announced in the winter.

How do the Democratic Caucuses work?
Eligible caucus goers divide to form Presidential preference groups. If a preference group for a candidate does not have enough people to be considered “viable,” a threshold set at the beginning of the day, eligible attendees will have an opportunity to join another preference group or acquire people into their group to become viable. Delegates are then awarded to the preference groups based on their size. Caucus day will also feature the opportunity for anyone interested in being on the county central committee to sign up as well as the submission of resolutions for the county platform.

At the end of the day, who is determined as the “Winner” of the Nevada Caucuses?
On caucus day, Nevadans in each precinct elect delegates to their respective county conventions, but the winner of the caucuses will be the candidate who accrues the most delegates.

Any caucus participant may stand for election as a delegate to the county convention.   Anyone who wants to be elected a national delegate must participate in the precinct caucuses, and each subsequent event –county convention on April 2, 2016, and the state convention on May 14 and 15, 2016.

How are results reported?
Results from each of the precincts will be reported to the Nevada State Democratic Party by precinct chairs.

Can press attend?
Yes—all caucus locations are open to the public and press.

Link to the Delegate Selection Plan

The GOP’s Unaffordable WeDon’tCare Act

The GOP’s belated solution to the nation’s health insurance challenges just makes working families pay more.

— by Emily Schwartz Greco

Emily Schwartz Greco

Remember when it looked like the Republican Party could do nothing but stamp its feet and shout about the Affordable Care Act’s shortcomings without coming up with any alternatives?

OK, there was former Sen. Jim DeMint’s suggestion last summer that having the uninsured continue to abuse emergency-room services due to a lack of options would work better than President Barack Obama’s health insurance reform. And conservatives enjoy boasting about how many ideas for overhauling the nation’s health insurance system the GOP has lobbed over the years into what it might call the marketplace of ideas.

The Unaffordable Health Care Act, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

The Unaffordable Health Care Act, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Since none achieved any traction, the Republicans in Congress are trying again.

Maybe this escaped your attention. After all, Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010 and it’s now being implemented regardless of those 47 House repeal votes. Perhaps you heard about its rocky roll-out? Warts and all, major government programs are as easy to revoke as it is to get toothpaste back into the tube.

Plus, four years is a long time, especially when news cycles are so short that blinking means missing out on key developments like Justin Bieber’s latest travails.

The GOP is moving ahead anyway with new plans to replace the Affordable Care Act that are sure to go nowhere in our gridlocked Congress. A trio of Senate Republicans is leading the way with a new approach that upholds the party’s unofficial allegiance to the “WeDon’tCare” creed.

That’s the term Jim Hightower has used to describe Rep. Paul Ryan’s dream of converting Medicare into a privatized voucher scheme.

WeDon’tCare also serves as the Republican approach to many other urgent problems dogging the United States. Intractable unemployment? Rising hunger? Pollution? Climate change? The GOP just doesn’t care.

Maybe you do care and wish Republicans would too. But this policy does have plenty to offer. It’s versatile, consistent, and great for time management.

The GOP’s WeDon’tCare policy is very attractive for lawmakers who might have better things to do with their time than get bogged down in petty problems. Rather than grapple with issues that are making the lives of millions of Americans who can’t afford to make campaign contributions miserable, lawmakers free up time for other activities. Like golf. And taking free trips to France.

The new Republican plan probably won’t save any more tax dollars than the Affordable Care Act and might actually save less. It won’t shock you to hear that it’s structurally very similar to the system often called Obamacare except that its subsidies would be financed more by working families and less by taxes on corporations and the very rich.

Under this new plan, outlined in legislation introduced by Republican Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, insurance companies wouldn’t have to cover preventive care any more. Once again, insurers could charge women more than men. Unlike with the Affordable Care Act, the vast majority of Americans insured through their workplace would start paying more for their coverage. And if that isn’t enough, there are also, plans in motion to set some seriously low caps on amounts for which patients who’ve been harmed can sue the one or ones who did the harming.

I bet there’s a good chance that it will matter to you, personally, should this ever manage to get enacted. You might even get angry.

What about House Republicans? Majority Leader Eric Cantor says they’re on it, with Representatives Dave Camp and Fred Upton — both with Michigan seats — and John Kline of Minnesota taking the lead. If you’d like some specifics, you’ll have to wait a bit longer since apparently they need more time.

Why are they even bothering?

“Pointing and laughing at the failures of Obamacare will not be a sufficient governing vision,” conservative Michael Gerson observed in one of his recent columns.

Something more, in other words, is required to win back the White House. Having a presumed front-runner for the Republican nomination who isn’t embroiled in a career-killing scandal would be helpful.

But if the GOP really wants to fare better in the 2016 presidential election than it did in 2008 and 2012, Republicans will need to ditch their WeDon’tCare platform on health insurance and other issues voters care about.


Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords.org