The Top Two Primary

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Amid all the histrionics regarding the Supreme Court’s decisions this week, a little-noticed decision may have the greatest impact upon our democracy. The decision affirmed the people’s right to regulate the rules surrounding elections instead of just state legislatures who naturally wish to keep themselves and their Party in power.

This innovation requires candidates to compete among the entire electorate instead of pandering to their base, and it results in more moderate results instead of the polarization occurring right now.

The reason the decision could create such a transformative effect revolves around an innovation called “top two” primaries. In a top two primary, all candidates of all parties compete together, and instead of one Democrat versus one Republican facing off in November, the two candidates with the highest totals among all the parties participate.

Since the Party structures would inevitably oppose this innovation — it makes them obsolete — only the people as a whole could demand this change. And they have done so, instituting top two primaries in California and Washington.

More moderate elected officials would be willing to compromise with each other instead of mouthing off across a partisan divide. And more bipartisan votes would lead to something getting done instead of the paralysis we are facing today.

Christianity and Obamacare

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Not one to gloat, I still can’t understand how my fellow Christians can support the repeal of Obamacare. Do they not understand how six million people have come to rely on this law and how the number of uninsured have plummeted? The law also prevents denial of healthcare for pre-existing conditions. Would they condemn the suffering who fall into this category?

People would fall sick and die if Obamacare were repealed.

I still can’t understand how my fellow Christians can support the repeal of Obamacare.

Let’s not forget the state of affairs before Obamacare. The law was designed to provide healthcare for those previously unable to afford it. Would these so-called Christians be unwilling to pay slightly higher premiums if it meant that the poor would benefit?

That sounds like a heart of stone, not of flesh.

The Republicans never had any interest in providing healthcare coverage to anyone. They were happy with marauding health insurance firms with no regulations; when Republicans were in power, they never made any attempt to institute healthcare reform. Their current mantra of “repeal and replace,” is a concession at best. And no one thinks the Republicans would be able to get a replacement enacted; they are too split on the issue to pass anything except partisan rants to repeal the current healthcare bill.

So, the American people dodged a bullet when the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare yesterday. And the poor and the downtrodden whom Jesus teaches us to support — how you do to the least of these you do to Me — dodged one, too.

Getting Played by Iran

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The nuclear negotiations with Iran are winding down, and the United States is desperately trying to salvage something from the process. We will fail.

While we froze some of Iran’s output during the process, their research has probably continued, and they were able to forestall tougher sanctions as well as potential military action by the United States or Israel for many months. Moreover, any deal we might reach would be next to worthless because Iran has already ruled out any kind of access to its military institutions. That provides a great big cover for future activities.

Under such circumstances, it is only natural to ask if we were played by Iran. Did they anticipate the collapse of negotiations and the ability to make progress on their project in the meantime?

Five respected military advisers issued a bi-partisan letter expressing these concerns and others, and the signatories included Dennis Ross and David Petraeus. Meanwhile, the Ayatollah of Iran has backtracked on commitments already offered, and it seems like the Republicans in Congress would never approve a negotiated pact in this situation.

Under such circumstances, it is only natural to ask if we were played by Iran. Did they anticipate the collapse of negotiations and the ability to make progress on their project in the meantime? If one contemplates the byzantine Persian mind, it is hard to think otherwise. I’m sure by now they have hidden anything valuable deep underground where it is protected against any bombing raid. At some point, we might have to decide how many more young American lives we are willing to risk for another war in the Middle East.

Fast-Track Legislation

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Amid all the furor about the Confederate flag, something much more important happened and was virtually ignored by major media outlets. Senator Mitch McConnell and John Boehner worked with the President to provide fast-track authority for the Pacific trade deal. Senator McConnell, who previously announced his primary goal to make President Obama a “one-term President,” was able to swallow his pride and work closely with the President to squeak through a narrow victory. This development can’t be overstated. It provides the President with legitimacy from the opposing Party, something every other President has been able to achieve except this one, based partly on racial animus.

If the President is able to take the ball and run with it, he could reverse much of his perceived weakness …

The acknowledgement of the President it entails could open the door for much other bipartisan legislation — a highway bill comes to mind, and maybe even a compromise on boosting the minimum wage. If the President is able to take the ball and run with it, he could reverse much of his perceived weakness and still pass major legislation for the good of the country in his remaining two years.

The fast-track authority is especially surprising in light of recent Republican complaints about his executive actions. It suggests a modicum of trust remains between the two branches of government, and that some of the anti-Obama rhetoric is primarily for voter consumption.

Nikki Haley and That Defiant Show of Unity

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Governor Haley deserves a spot in JFK’s “Profiles of Courage” for displaying what The New York Times has branded “that defiant show of unity,” and leading the way in a party that had seemed to leave the Christian values of love and inclusiveness in the dust. In fact, it took the love displayed by the members of A.M.E. Church for Governor Haley to finally jettison the fig leaf of “states rights” and call for an end to flying the confederate flag on state-owned ground.

Most conservatives, who fail to show any love for those of different political beliefs, and openly scorn Democrats, ducked the confederate flag question.

Most conservatives, who fail to show any love for those of different political beliefs, and openly scorn Democrats, ducked the confederate flag question. However, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Their so-called family values fail to show any compassion for the poor and downtrodden (e.g., illegal immigrants), never mind those who suggest an alternate political vision to helping them.

Surprisingly, Mitt Romney stood out in his refusal to do so, recommending the confederate flag be taken down immediately, and he was followed quickly by Jeb Bush. Most of the other Republican candidates for President tried to duck the question, pandering to their far-right hateful fringe.

Of course, the Democrats have been having a next-generation discussion about racism for some time now, with Hillary Clinton way out in front, addressing topics such as the criminal justice system and other inherent inequities:

— Black are three times more likely to be denied a mortgage;

— The median wealth of black families is $11,000 compared to $134,000 for whites;

— Black children are 500 percent more likely to die from asthma than whites.

Still, Nikki Haley deserves praise for leading the way in such a compassionate and inclusive manner for all of South Carolina, not just white Republicans. She has proven herself equal, in words and in deeds, to the African-Americans of the A.M.E. Church in their extraordinary demonstration of the love of Jesus.

Defiant Show of Unity

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Nothing has been more striking than the display of love by the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in the face of those who would divide us, both Christians and the outside world, into boxes of black and white, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican.

Nothing has been more striking than the display of love by the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in the face of those who would divide us, both Christians and the outside world, into boxes of black and white, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican.

When The New York Times wrote an article this morning titled, “Defiant Show of Unity in Church That Lost Nine to Racial Violence,” it pointed the way forward when confronted by those who are consumed with hatred, misunderstanding and narrow-mindedness, letting it overshadow Jesus’ overriding mandate to love one another.

The new Pastor of the A.M.E. Church, Reverend Norvel Goff, Sr., proclaimed, “… because the doors of Mother Emmanuel are open, it sends a message to every demon in hell and on earth.” Despite the overriding prominence of the Democratic Party in the black Church, Pastor Goff was specific in avoiding polarizing issues such as the confederate flag and gun control, stating that now was the time to mourn the deaths that took place, and several of his parishioners prayed for the soul of that deluded and murderous young man, in an extraordinary bond hearing.

In doing so, they provided a lesson to us all, and especially to fellow Christians. When confronted by hatred, prejudice and those who would divide us, we must respond in love. And by that response, people will know we are Christians.

An American Tragedy

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Evil abounds in contemporary American society, but no strain hits quite as hard as racism. Our unique history of slavery is particularly virulent because African-Americans still struggle to attain equality of opportunity in today’s competitive society. Black Americans are beset with drugs, gangs and poor schools, a trifecta causing one in three young blacks to spend time in jail. Once there, they are further indoctrinated in unproductive behaviors and beliefs, and easily become embittered.

The young man’s statement about blacks taking over the country is not so different from conservatives’ reaction to the Obama administration saying, “we want to take our country back.”

Yet a few events stand out in black history and vividly illustrate their predicament. The recent massacre at a black church in South Carolina by a young gunman, who, in case there was any doubt, explicitly stated he was there to kill blacks, stands out as a tragedy for blacks and all of Americans.

His action was further reinforced by related issues, the “proud” flying of the Confederate flag over the South Carolina statehouse, and the inability of our national institutions to do anything to limit the role of guns in our society.

To speak out against guns is not “politicizing” the issue as Republicans, thrown on the defensive, are quick to say. Nor does the explicit role of racism in the attack require any further explanation as they are desperately trying to do on Fox News.

The young man’s statement about blacks taking over the country is not so different from conservatives’ reaction to the Obama administration saying, “we want to take our country back.”

I’m sorry but my anger at these backward groups has not dissipated yet, and there are people who deserve to share the blame, because they created the atmosphere to make this insane act possible.

Refugee

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The word conjures up a variety of images, fleeing for one’s life, enduring harsh weather, dying at sea. The United Nations put a figure on the human toll yesterday, stating that 60 million people have been driven from their homes and remain displaced as of the end of 2014. The statistic is staggering. And the world’s richest nations are not stepping up to alleviate the situation. Direct immigration points across the Mediterranean to Europe are being treated with disfavor by sanctuary countries who seem more interested in preserving their wealth than showing basic human compassion.

In the end, they show the uneven distribution of resources around the world, when so many people want a better life for their children, they are willing to risk their lives in the process.

Before we start to criticize them, however, we should remember how we felt when there was a sudden surge across our southern border. The numbers of people strain government resources and stretch the ability of humanitarian organizations. In the end, they show the uneven distribution of resources around the world, when so many people want a better life for their children, they are willing to risk their lives in the process.

Perhaps, the most important first step involves recognizing the tragedy of the situation. Faith-based communities can step up to help, but when the problem becomes too big, only the government can provide real relief. The Senate and Congress need to hold hearings about this situation rather than worrying about what Hillary Clinton said or did not say during the unfortunate developments at Benghazi.

Republicans are Trumped

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The Donald entered the race for President of the United States yesterday, and his status as a Republican is a black mark  on that political party.

Mr. Trump is first and foremost a showman, but the positions he takes derive from the mainstream of the Republican party. And by his exaggerations and egotistical manner, he shows up those positions for what they really are.

Mr. Trump is first and foremost a showman, but the positions he takes derive from the mainstream of the Republican party.

The Republican stance on immigration, for example, is based on fear and prejudice, and Trump takes that paranoia to its logical conclusion by proposing to build a wall across our thousand-mile border with Mexico. Branding illegal immigrants as rapists and thieves, he ignores their real economic needs and their hope for a better life for their children.

But the lack of compassion for immigrants represents the mainstream of the Republican Party, and he is only taking the next step in supporting their position.

The Republicans also have a reflexive aversion to the President, and by trying to brand him as an “other,” somehow outside the mainstream of American politics, by his avowed support of “birtherism” and calling for the President to release his college manuscripts, Mr. Trump is making outrageous statements. But, again, just the next logical step driving Republican policy, and one espoused by many on the far right.

On these and so many other issues, Donald Trump appeals strongly to the base of the Republican Party, and by highlighting what their positions really mean, Mr. Trump is doing the Democrats a favor. I can’t wait for the Donald to comment on climate change and the Pope’s acknowledgement of its effect on the poor in his most recent encyclical.

Jeb Versus Hillary

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Jeb Bush announced his candidacy for the Presidency yesterday, and one must make an inevitable comparison with Hillary. Yes, both can be recognized by their first name, but the difference stops there. Jeb Bush represents a real dynasty: father, son and brother all share the same blood line. Hillary Clinton is only related by marriage.

Hillary Clinton is conscientious, works hard and is always prepared for her assignment. When she ran for Senator of New York, there was a lot of blow back about her lack of experience, but when she ran for re-election six years later, she was a shoo-in. There was a reason for that. She worked harder than everyone else, and she represented the state diligently in the Senate. She didn’t do any grandstanding but was content to affect change behind the scenes.

Hillary Clinton is conscientious, works hard and is always prepared for her assignment.

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton understood the value of personal relationships, and she jetted all over the world to develop them. Carly Fiorina can make all the jokes she wants about that, but it takes a lot of energy and commitment. And it paid off in positive results. That’s a lot more than Ms. Fiorina can say, getting fired from Hewlett-Packard and losing a race for Senate.

And Secretary of State is a great training ground for the Presidency, much more than being a former and somewhat rusty governor who has hired the same crackpot foreign affairs staff as retained by George W. Bush.