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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

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Remembering McCain, America’s Political Elite Rebukes Trump in Unison

It is hard to maintain one’s cynical detachment while watching an event like the memorial service for Senator John McCain.

Like almost everyone who watched, I was moved by most of the speeches – including those by Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Meghan McCain, and even Joe Lieberman (although not Henry Kissinger’s self-referential spiel), as well as the music (especially Renee Fleming’s rendition of “Danny Boy”).

In planning the service before he died, McCain understood the significance of the imagery of both Bush and Obama delivering eulogies. It required us to think about public service and patriotism. But the bipartisan event was not only a celebration of McCain’s life and legacy. It was also a rebuke to Donald Trump.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen people applaud during what was essentially a state funeral. But there was the assembled gathering of America’s political elite — present and recent past, Republican and Democrat – applauding after Meghan McCain said: “The America of John McCain is generous and welcoming and bold. She is resourceful and confident and secure. She meets her responsibilities. She speaks quietly because she is strong. America does not boast because she has no need. The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.”

It was a remarkable moment – a rebuke to Trump by McCain’s daughter before both an international TV audience and a crowd of McCain’s friends, family, and colleagues. Their applause was like a wave at a baseball game. It started with a handful of people, but quickly expanded to a much wider group, eventually enveloping the entire audience in the National Cathedral.

The other speakers, including Bush, Obama, and Lieberman, were less overt than Meghan McCain, but they, too, used their eulogies to criticize Trump, whose involuntarily absence was deliberate and conspicuous.

McCain was hardly bipartisan during his political career. He was a conservative Republican who supported the Republican Party-line vote 87 percent of the time. But he was occasionally willing to buck his party on some key issues — including campaign finance reform, the use of torture against political prisoners, immigration reform, the regulation of tobacco, and, mostly famously, his decisive thumbs-down vote in 2017 against Trump’s top priority, the repeal of Obamacare.

Not a single speaker mentioned Trump’s name, but they all found ways to put the differences between the two men in dramatic relief. Unlike Trump, McCain was widely admired and respected, even among those who disagreed with him politically. Unlike Trump, who used his family ties and a phony physical excuse (“bone spurs”) to avoid military service during Vietnam, McCain demonstrated bravery and courage in combat. Unlike Trump, whose character is dominated by racism, selfishness, and an instinct for humiliation, McCain is remembered for his basic decency. Unlike Trump, whose entire life was spent seeking wealth, McCain devoted his life to public service and patriotism.

But when the camera panned on Mitch McConnell, I couldn’t help reminding myself that starting on Tuesday, things go back to normal. McConnell will still do Trump’s bidding on getting federal judges and Kavanagh approved, obstruct investigations into Trump, avoid commenting after Trump threatens to fire Sessions in order to fire Mueller and squash the investigation, and roll over on Trump’s statements and executive orders dealing with trade, immigration, and other issues.

I would like to believe – but strongly doubt – that this televised moment of national unity will persuade even one Republican in the House or Senate to do anything differently.

But perhaps the new Washington Post poll released on Friday — showing that 60% of registered voters disapprove of Trump and that an unprecedented 53 percent STRONGLY disapprove, while only 24 percent STRONGLY approve – will give some Republican politicians pause. Perhaps they will have second thoughts about kowtowing to the racist, neofascist megalomaniac who sits in the Oval Office (when he isn’t on the golf course).

Of course what matters most is what those poll numbers look like in their respective states and districts. But clearly the size of Trump’s following – not the hard core cultists, but other Republicans – as well as those independents and Democrats who voted for him with reservations – is shrinking.

McCain specifically prohibited Trump from attending the service. He knew that the president would be seething in anger, invisible to the global audience, forced to watch the event on TV, wallowing in self-pity.

No doubt Trump’s handlers had to work hard to restrain him from going on a Twitter rant during the ceremony. My friends and I were taking bets on when Trump would release his first Twitter rant and what it would say.

Trump is clearly panicking because he knows the walls are closing in, that many of his former close allies have turned on him and are cooperating with the Mueller investigation, that a blue wave is likely in November that will usher in a Democratic majority in the House (and perhaps the Senate) which will embark on tough hearings and perhaps impeachment proceedings, humiliating him even more.

I imagine that this is what Trump was thinking as he watched John McCain’s memorial service on Fox News from his Virginia golf club.

 

 

United: Perez And Ellison Move Democrats Toward A Progressive Future

I was hoping that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) would win the Democratic National Committee chairmanship because of his experience as an organizer, but former Labor Secretary Tom Perez — who won a narrow victory at the DNC’s Atlanta meeting today — is also a great choice. He’s progressive, pro-worker, an accomplished advocate for civil rights and social justice, and the first Latino in that job. He immediately asked Ellison to serve as deputy chair — a smart move to bring the party together.

Importantly, the delegates at the Atlanta meeting also elected union organizer and immigrant rights activist Maria Elena Durazo — who supported Ellison for the top post — as DNC vice chair. The daughter of migrant farm workers, as head of UNITE HERE’s LA local and then leader of the 800,000-member LA County Federation of Labor, Durazo helped elect progressives throughout the state and helped transform the California Democratic Party into a voice for the disenfranchised, including immigrants.

We now have a Latino and an African American at the top of the DNC, a moderate Democratic minority leader in the Senate (Chuck Schumer) being pushed to the left by the grassroots resistance movement, a democratic socialist (Bernie Sanders) with a large and energized base within the party, and a charismatic and principled progressive woman (Elizabeth Warren) as the strongest voice within the party and the most likely candidate for president in 2020. These are all positive signs.

The battle between Ellison and Perez was often portrayed as a struggle between the party’s “progressive” and the “establishment” wings. That’s a mischaracterization. Both Ellison and Perez are long-time progressives. Perez is hardly a corporate Democrat or a tool of the party’s Wall Street wing. His entire career has been devoted to fighting for civil rights, workers’ rights, and social justice.

Perez is certainly the most progressive DNC chair since Oklahoma Senator Fred Harris occupied that post in 1970. Since then, the position has been held primarily by corporate fundraisers and moderate-to-liberal politicians, including Larry O’Brien, Jean Westwood, Robert S. Strauss, Ken Curtis, John C. White, Charles Manatt, Paul Kirk, Ron Brown, David Wilhelm, Chris Dodd, Donald Fowler, Roy Romer, Steven Grossman, Ed Rendell, Joe Andrew, Terry McAuliffe, Howard Dean, Tim Kaine, and the recently deposed Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

It would be a huge mistake for my fellow Ellison supporters to diss Perez and threaten to leave the Democratic Party. No doubt a handful of Ellison supporters will feel the need to go on the warpath. I hope the media don’t manufacture a phony party crisis by giving a megaphone to the small number of Ellison supporters who think that Perez’s victory is a defeat for progressives. It isn’t.

After he lost the primary fight, Bernie endorsed Hillary. Some of Bernie’s followers attacked him for doing so as a sell-out. A few drifted over to embrace Green Party candidate Jill Stein. But the media exaggerated the extent of the desertion. In fact, about 95% of Bernie supporters voted for Hillary. We need that kind of unity now.

As my friend Gerry McDonough, a long-time progressive activist in Massachusetts, observed: “We’re in a war against fascists. There’s no time for infighting.”

Ellison echoed those sentiments. “If you came here supporting me, wearing a Keith t-shirt, or any t-shirt, I’m asking you to give everything you’ve got to support Chairman Perez,” he said after the vote. “You love this country, you love all the people in it, you care about each and every one of them, urban, rural, suburban, all cultures, all faiths, everybody, and they are in need of your help. And if we waste even a moment going at it over who supported who, we are not going to be standing up for those people. We don’t have the luxury, folks, to walk out of this room divided.”

The task ahead — which Perez supports — is to rebuild the Democratic Party as an organizing party that can take advantage of the growing grassroots resistance movement that has emerged since Trump’s inauguration. That means raising money to hire organizers and put them in states and Congressional districts where liberal and progressive Democrats can win governors’ seats, state legislative races, and the House and Senate races. It means working in collaboration with unions, community organizing groups, environmental and LGBT groups, the Dreamers and other immigrant rights activists, Black Lives Matters, Planned Parenthood, Indivisible and other groups that are already mobilizing on the ground.

The anti-Trump resistance movement is way ahead of the party. The five million strong Women’s March, the battles at airports against Trump’s travel ban, the recent wave of town hall meetings all over the country where angry voters (many of them politically involved for the first time) confronted Republican members of Congress, and the 7,000 local groups galvanized by the Indivisible website all happened without Democratic Party involvement. But we need the party to help expand the protest movement and channel that energy into an electoral movement to put progressive and liberal Democrats in office.

Let’s get behind the Perez/Ellison team, strengthen the progressive movement, and defeat the pro-Trump Republicans in 2018 and 2020.

Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books). This essay is reprinted from the Huffington Post.