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March of the Resistance!

I’ve never believed in protest marches. Too often, a march seems only a physical manifestation of an idea of which we are already aware. More often than participants want to admit, it’s simply a ragtag group of fringe activists shouting at the moon, holding up traffic, or occupying street corners that would be better used for public conveyance. The marches themselves seem disorganized, rambling, and end with rhetoric that does nothing but allow participants to vent built-up frustrations and schedule another protest. They are great for getting mom, uncle Bob, and your freaky aunt Matilda out of the house so we can catch up on some “honey-do list” projects. That they return home refreshed with a lot of positive energy is a bonus, I suppose, but I have seen little more beneficial effect than that.

Not that I am against marches or protests. Believe me, I like a good walk, when I can. Nice fresh air, good friends, and the occasion to look at scenery you just whiz past every day in your car. Unfortunately, until the docs and I resolve my physical issues, a forty-yard mosey to pet the neighbor’s dog is all I can muster in the way of a march for now.

Still, marches in protest seem useless and often counter-productive. The protestors are often labeled as freaks, activists and malcontents. The message is often lost in the visuals of the march itself as television stations focus on the video and individuals post constant selfies of themselves and their friends on social media, forgetting to mention the substance of the event. As for the objects of their discontent – usually an individual, frequently a politician – they are unmoved by these actions. Typically, more than 50 years of protest marches on one issue or another has hardened and polished their responses. Even local and state law enforcement agencies have procedure manuals on how to handle protests and protestors, from permitted to unpermitted. Basically, it’s all been done before.

Protest marches are particularly ineffective against politicians. Computer-generated gerrymandering has made all but a few congressional, state, and county seats immune to change, whether of party or politician. So, ensconced in their safe seats, politicians are free to stick to ideological instead of pragmatic positions. Plus, any politician worth his or her salt has already had more protest marches dropped at his doorstep, for and against an issue, often the same issue, than they care to track. They have developed a patter so innocuous and generic for these events, they can inject them into whatever is being protested at the moment without offending any protestor or issue.

But there is something familiar with the recent protest marches, something remembered, something good. On a black-and-white television set many moons ago, I watched as black men and women marched and spoke and resisted their treatment by our country. Citizens they were, but apart, second-class. I again watched closely as young men and women, white, black and all other skin tones, protested in the streets against a war that killed 50,000 of their friends, brothers and sisters. Being part of the “silent majority” at the time, my family firmly attached to conservative values, I abhorred these malcontents who refused to live by our rules. Our guys won the elections. We were right; they were wrong. Why didn’t they understand? Why didn’t they accept what was? They weren’t going to change anything. They were just dirty, filthy hippies, communists, long-hairs that should be run out of the country. Send them back to the continent whence they came! Does any of this rhetoric sound familiar?

In spite of our opposition, these groups continued to protest. Against overwhelming odds, against injury and even death they protested. I saw the news reports of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, not on YouTube, but in real time. Then I saw the actual news videos of the protest at Kent State. I saw our own National Guard kill my fellow citizens. And then, I saw what could never happen, happen. The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were passed by a solidly entrenched and ideologically divided Congress. I saw and lived through a President cancelling the military draft and ending a disastrous and questionable foreign war. I saw him do it against the wishes of those entrenched industries and wealthy businessmen and women who were profiting greatly from its continuation.

I watched this all play out on that little black-and-white TV screen, through Look magazine, and the local evening newspaper. I watched as each group marched and protested, first by themselves, then gradually with others, until it seemed the whole country was marching. They never backed down. Some gave their lives to the cause. Their principles and ideas were that important to them. They protested and marched against what many believed were the wishes of the majority. But they protested and marched so much their voices were eventually heard, above all the opposition, against all the entrenched powers. Politics as usual stopped until their issues were addressed, and addressed with the significance of law.

What I learned and finally saw was that protests work. Protest marches do work. But for that to happen, those who march and protest must have the determination and belief for the long haul, the long run. You have to be willing to sacrifice and bring others to your calling. This cannot be a whim or a fad. The powers that be, your fellow citizens, and above all your politicians, need to know that this, this right now, is important. This we need to fix. You need to march the march of the resistance!

So, for those of you out there walking and protesting, good for you. This is where it begins. Now I have to go find that doc’s phone number. Maybe I can get in 45 yards today! Just need to find the right sign to hoist.

 

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What I’ll Do Next“The Washington Post”

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Twit-in-Chief

Let’s be honest. He wasn’t what the majority in the U.S. wanted, not even among Republicans. He bullied his way through the Republican primaries, barely getting 40% of the vote when faced with any opposition by two or more candidates, and usually receiving much less than 40%. But a technicality of Republican voting allowed his accession to Republican presidential candidate by virtue of the winner-take-all primary voting system. Sixty percent or more of Republican activists wanted someone, anyone, other than Donald Trump. Even a majority of the Republican leadership wanted someone, anyone, else. Many of that leadership denounced the man during and after the Republican primary, often publicly endorsing his opponent.

His ascension to President was dependent on the same primary voting technicality that was in force in most states when awarding electoral votes: winner-take-all. So, even in the face of an overwhelming majority of U.S. Citizens voting for and supporting the opposition, Donald J. Trump, the unlikeliest of candidates and one of the most reviled by even those who supported him, becomes President of the United States. President on a technicality. Still, they were our rules, those each state created. They were not the rules intended by the Founders or ensconced in our Constitution, but the rules by which everyone played the game. And President Trump played it better than anyone before him.

Let’s give him his due in achieving this goal. In the process, let’s also applaud and recognize Kellyanne Conway for her achievement. I doubt President Trump ever believed he would achieve this goal. When he entered the race for the Republican presidential candidacy, it was at most a publicity stunt or, more likely, an ego trip. As he won state after state with less than 20% or 30% of the votes in a field of 17 candidates, the race evolved into a serious effort, not by design but by chance. The strategy, the path to ultimate victory, was determined by other more intellectually informed individuals, those who had researched the chinks and flaws in our electoral system for years and were just waiting for this unique opportunity to strike, men such as Steven Bannon. But even he couldn’t have pulled it off had it not been for Kellyanne Conway.

Most on the left, and many on the right, deride and loathe Kellyanne. More than a few of her sex feel she betrayed their gender. But, I admire her. Sure, her pronouncements are often no more plausible than Baghdad Bob’s of Iraq War fame, but look at the mess she is trying to disguise. You have got to know how to apply a lot of plaster to make that pile smell sweet. It is a serious skill showing technical expertise as well as intelligence.

Kellyanne knows her job is public relations. She doesn’t have to like the person she works with, she just has to promote that person while concealing all the warts and flaws. And Kellyanne did her job so well that voters that didn’t want Trump could hold their nose and steady their stomachs just enough to cast a vote for him. It was a fantastic job of public relations. When many get over the fact that she derailed the election of the first female candidate for President of the United States, they might take time to note that she was the first female to successfully lead a presidential election. No small feat, especially considering with whom she had to work as well as whom and what she had to work against. Maybe it takes a woman to beat a woman. Truly one of the most impressive things she did was take Trump’s phone away from him long enough to allow him to climb in the polls. My God, she actually got the man to shut up!

But winning doesn’t confer competency or capability, and government is not a business. You can’t file bankruptcy and run from your obligations and creditors when things get rough. You have to solve these problems and you have to let the people know how you are going to do it. There is a reason press secretaries and public relations personnel such as Kellyanne have their jobs. Too often, when a client, or in this case a President, speaks off the cuff directly to the people, they create a crisis, especially when restricted to Twitter’s 140 characters.

Uninformed, initial, knee-jerk reactions publicized over social media can affect real lives and change well-established and needed policies, conservative as well as liberal. Incompetent authors with limited vocabulary are particularly dangerous, especially when they believe they’re competent.

That said, Twitter is an excellent way to get past bureaucracy and bring your ideas directly to the people. It allows you to be heard and rally the masses. In the case of a Presidency, it can revive a currently moribund but vital tool of the Presidency, the bully pulpit.

But it is also the problem. When an uninformed and intellectually challenged person tweets an insensitive, erroneous statement or an outright lie, the tweeter becomes a twit, derided and mocked. The communication tool no longer serves as a platform for reaching out, but an object of derision and ridicule. It does not promote the status of the office or win the support of the people, but propels the author toward ridicule.

If President Trump truly wants to succeed in his new surprise role of President, rise above his election based on technical manipulations, forge his legitimacy and win the adoration he so clearly craves, he needs to start by not being the Twit-in-Chief. For the sake of the country and his presidency, Kellyanne needs to hide his phone once again.