Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fighting For The People

Missing In Action: Our Elected Representatives
Taking Action: We the People
photos and words by C.A. Matthews 

I had hoped to give more details about local town hall events featuring "big name guests of honor," but, for the most part, they were no shows. It's not like the distinguished gentleman weren't at home. US Senator Rob Portman had sneaked into the venue at Terra State Community College in Fremont, Ohio several hours earlier than scheduled and never came out to speak to his constituents standing outside. Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH 5th District) didn't show for several events planned in the area during his recess week, but he reportedly did show up for a Republican fundraiser golf tournament. 

Golf balls and rich Republicans tend to garner these two politicians' attention more than "scary" ordinary Americans asking questions about the ACA and why it's okay to dump coal waste into Ohio's streams. At the very least, Congressman Jim Jordan (last week's top story) wasn't afraid to talk with his constituents at the Warren G. Harding Presidential Site in Marion. (Way to go, Jim! I guess you don't golf, or Bob and Rob thought they made a better team without you?)

On Wednesday, February 22, about one hundred activists stood outside the conference center at the community college in Fremont waiting for Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to come out and address the crowd's concerns about health care and other issues. The senator had arrived several hours earlier than announced and was already in the building and wouldn't make an appearance it was later discovered, but this fact didn't deter the activists. They stayed to share information about upcoming events with the public. 

The big story at the Portman Protest was how those who purchased a table at the fundraiser (non-Republican constituents) were told at the last minute they could not attend. These individuals paid the Sandusky County GOP $30 a seat to get into the conference center and hear Senator Portman speak and ask questions. They were told at the last minute by the local Republican party they couldn't attend because the senator's staff instructed the county Republicans to not let in non-Republicans constituents who might act "disruptive."

Almost immediately Senator Portman's staff denied discriminating against these individuals and said they were excluded because the Sandusky County GOP didn't want to include them. So... you decide where the buck stops, since they're still passing it back and forth!

Over 200 attended a rally on "The Future of America's Health Care" sponsored by Our Revolution in Northwest Ohio at Bowling Green State University on Saturday, February 25. Several groups hosted tables as well, providing information about area progressive organizations, petitions and upcoming events. Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH 5th district) was a no show in his hometown--as were US Senators Rob Portman (R) and Sherrod Brown (D) and a dozen other elected officials who were also invited. Only two sent letters of regret stating they couldn't attend due to prior commitments and offered their support--US Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D) and state Representative Steve Arndt (R). 
Ohio state Senator Randy Gardner (R) and state Representative Michael Sheehy (D) attended and gave their insights on American health care, fielding questions along with Dr. John Ross, a local physician/teacher and activist on public health care topics. The discussion was lively and poignant at times. Several participants shared their stories of how the ACA and Medicare has saved their lives and the lives of family members. State Senator Gardner did his best to handle concerns many had about the Republican proposal to abolish the ACA and institute "tax breaks" instead. As low income persons generally do not pay any federal income taxes, what "tax break" would these individuals receive to pay for private health coverage? (He didn't know.) Both Gardner and Sheehy said as state officials they cannot predict what their federal counterparts will do, but they both were in favor of Governor John Kasich's decision to accept the ACA's expanded Medicaid program, as over 700,000 Ohioans have benefited from it.

"Health care is a right," said Representative Sheehy, declaring it to be our next human rights struggle akin to the abolition of slavery and women gaining the right to vote. He noted citizens live longer in countries which provide universal health care. Dr. Ross shared that Taiwan in 1995 instituted a "Medicare for all" health coverage for its citizens after studying the US Medicare system and deeming it the world's best health care delivery system.  Dr. Ross also noted how the idea of the open market doesn't work simply in this case because health care isn't a consumer product: "People don't have two heart operations because they're cheap or on sale." Medicare for all is a smart business decision and would help entrepreneurs start their own businesses and create more jobs for Americans.

The main thread which ran through these town hall events was well stated by Senator Gardner. When speaking with a class of fifth graders, he asked them, "Who is my boss?" They answered "the president" or "the governor" until he told them, "No, you are my boss. I work for you." This is a lesson all Americans need to keep in mind as they continue to speak out and share their concerns with their elected representatives.

And now a look at the man who encouraged us to host town hall events this past week. He's...

Still Fighting For The People

Bernie Sanders hasn't let up one moment since the inauguration. He has led health care rallies and town halls, been interviewed numerous times on mainstream news programs, and published several biting op-ed pieces in large newspapers and periodicals. He hasn't skimped on his message or pulled back on his rhetoric since the campaign trail. If there's one person ordinary Americans can depend upon to speak up for our rights and to fight for a happier and healthier future for our children and grandchildren, it's Bernie Sanders.

A fascinating thing I've uncovered recently is how much Bernie has grown in popularity since the election. It's not only "Berners" who have faith in Bernie's ability to lead the political revolution; voters who supported other candidates have come to know and trust him as well. 

How else can you explain the sudden resurgence of pro-Sanders/progressive Facebook, Google+ and other social media groups? How else can I explain the growing numbers of "hits" on past articles about Bernie's positions I've published on the Our Revolution Continues blog? How else can you explain the large crowds who show up at rallies and marches to show solidarity with oppressed peoples for whom Bernie fights so hard to protect? Bernie Sanders is the man of the hour, and the public is eager to know more about him and support his ideas. 

Nick Brana, a former Sanders campaign staffer, feels now is the time to draft Bernie Sanders into a new progressive party to run for the presidency in 2020. He and several others have started DraftBernie.org and are currently surveying voters about the validity of forming a new party and drafting the Vermont senator as their first presidential candidate. With Bernie headlining the ticket, they feel that other progressives running for state and local positions in 2018 will soon join. Progressives will no longer have to compromise their beliefs and accept corporate money (and the strings attached to it) in order to run for office via an establishment party. They will find a home within a "People's Party" whose stated aims agree with their worldview. 

While others may argue that American third parties have been conquered and absorbed by establishment parties in the past and don't stand a chance in our current system, Brana disagrees. He sees history repeating itself in the same way the nascent Republican Party came into being. The GOP didn't come onto the political scene in a big way until 1856, but by 1860 they had won the presidency.
This remarkable feat was accomplished during a time of much debate over civil rights (slavery), turmoil in the economic system, and threatened succession by several states. Recent news stories of California wanting to leave the union, because of the current administration's violation of civil rights, add a sense of déjà vu to the Draft Bernie movement. Nick Brana may be prescient about the timing and ultimate success of this new progressive party.

However, the establishment party (parties, if you insist) isn't going to take a threat to their control of our electoral system lying down. Already the Democrats are taking actions similar to ones they implemented during the primaries last spring. Bernie Sanders was to speak at a town hall meeting in McDowell County, the poorest county in one of the poorest states, West Virginia, on February 13. It was to be televised and hosted by MSNBC's Chris Hayes, but at the very last minute, the National Guard Armory hall where it was to take place was "unavailable." West Virginia's Democratic governor more than likely was told to cancel the event by the Democratic National Committee to keep Bernie off the air. But why?

The televised town hall meeting Bernie led in Wisconsin  (also broadcast by MSNBC) received phenomenal ratings. You Tube clips of the Wisconsin town hall have received hits in the millions.  The CNN Health Care Debate between Senators Sanders and Cruz got good ratings too. Establishment Democrats (those who take corporate money) can't risk looking "less progressive" to the public they're trying to fool. They are cracking down on what they feel makes them look bad by comparison--Bernie speaking to and about the poor. "Corporate Dems"  shut down this necessary discussion about poverty in America at the expense of millions of suffering Americans who could be helped by implementing Sanders' proposed policies. 

Bernie said in a statement: If anyone in West Virginia government thinks that I will be intimidated from going to McDowell County, West Virginia, to hold a town meeting, they are dead wrong... Poverty in America will be discussed. Solutions will be found.”

The desire to keep "big money" in politics is the establishment's motivating factor to discredit Bernie Sanders yet again. However, this time it might not work. The mainstream media has given more air time to Bernie recently--much more than it did in all of the campaign of 2015-2016--and anxious Americans are looking online for answers to their problems. They're finding the answers in the words of Bernie Sanders. 

The establishment may think they can succeed in silencing one dynamic man, but in the end, they can't silence his ideas. Bernie Sanders' political revolution will live forever. He'll always be fighting for the people.

 Sean asks an important question that many on the left are ignoring at the risk to all we hold dear: In the midst of all the resistance and protest against Trump, are we providing a viable alternative to the American people?
Providing a Viable Alternative
by Sean Nestor 

"Say what you like about Mussolini, but he made the trains run on time."

Many of my friends on the left seem convinced that Donald Trump's excessive abuses will lead to his certain defeat in 2020, if he isn't impeached first. Based on what I have seen so far, I believe Donald Trump has a strong change of being re-elected, and may even successfully push to remove the current restrictions on presidential terms to remain in the seat longer than eight years.

The automatic assumption of many on the left is that most voters will think like them and place civil liberties and social issues before all others--at least when they are threatened to the degree that Trump is threatening them. However, my experience is that most voters, sadly, will place their own economic self-interest above social issues and will accept increasingly brutal conditions toward minorities and resisters if it means they can be allowed to share in more of America's economic pie.

While many on the left are eager to point out the fascist tendencies of Trump as it relates to his treatment of marginalized groups and his constant overreach of executive authority, few are acknowledging the importance of another piece to that puzzle--how he uses economic opportunity as a carrot on a stick to get

away with those abuses.

This is the same strategy Mussolini used in Italy and Hitler used in Germany. By making the argument that the existing government is bureaucratic, ineffective, and corrupt, Trump is able to assert that the solution is a strong executive willing to dismantle that bureaucracy and deliver prosperity to the people directly. As long as people perceive that he is bringing them newfound wealth by creating more jobs at home, they will look the other way on any number of human rights violations.

Trump knows this, which is why he has been busy leveraging his power as president to pressure companies into investing in American jobs. Leftists, focused more on his outrageous behavior toward marginalized groups and unwilling to acknowledge anything positive about someone they find so abhorrent, will downplay and nitpick these advances. But if the largely apolitical masses feel their economic woes lessen even slightly during Trump's administration, they will line up to support him in spite of the reservations they have about his stance on any number of social issues.

This is the price Americans are set to pay for refusing to take income inequality seriously for so long. The leaders of both major parties--whom Trump can claim a victory over through his direct defeat of symbolic titans Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton--have been so feeble at addressing the economic plight of working Americans for so long that they have, in effect, created a powder keg of populist anger that is now set to go off and destroy the very fabric of the nation, and possibly more.

Beyond the obvious costs to minority groups who will be scapegoated and subject to ghastly levels of violence during his administration, the greater threat may well be to the notion of democracy as a viable form of government. Democracy will be equated to ineffective bureaucracy while strong executives (read: fascists) will be equated with prosperity and strength.

Combined with the nuclear stockpiles that leaders of both major parties have failed to eliminate during their many decades at the helm, we are facing an extremely grim future. Meanwhile, many friends of mine, newly outraged at the uncouth behavior of the president, have started to experiment with calling senators and holding protest signs in a vain attempt to right longstanding wrongs. Their approach conveys a sense that Trump himself is the problem rather than the symptom of deeper issues--namely, income inequality and the responsiveness of our government to the needs of its people. Their actions will further increase the likelihood that fascism will take hold while leftists struggle to establish a coherent identity that can provide a viable alternative.

Bio: Sean Nestor is an educator and activist from Toledo. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Single Payer Action Network of Ohio and Co-Chair of the Lucas County Green Party.

Janet Garrett, 2016 Democratic Candidate for Congress in the 4th Congressional District and Administrator of Indivisible Oberlin, issued the following statement:

I Challenge Congressman Jim Jordan to Debate
(Glass Steagall, National Bank, Medicare for All)

If we are going to build the economy, I ask you to co-sponsor HR 790, Glass-Steagall, and join the campaign for a National Bank for Infrastructure, the only way to build jobs and the tax base.

I am hereby challenging Congressman Jim Jordan to step up to the plate and debate me anywhere, any time in the 4th Congressional District.

Congressman, you and I both agree that the national economy is a mess.  We both know there is a crisis in health care.  Due to the collapse of Ohio as a job creator in industry and infrastructure, we are not generating the kinds of productive, high paying jobs the state and the nation need.  Hence, we have a hard time paying for things like health care.

There is an immediate two step solution to this situation.

"First, Congress can pass the Glass-Steagall Act, HR 790, recently introduced by Rep Marcy Kaptur, Rep Tim Ryan, Rep Marcia Fudge, Rep. Walter Jones and dozens of co-sponsors.  This will break up the Wall Street banks, stop their control over credit generation and open the door for productive investment.  Glass-Steagall has been endorsed by the Republican and Democratic Party platforms, so there is nothing standing in the way of you adding your name as a co-sponsor to HR 790.  I hope you support the platform your party adopted at the Republican Convention this summer.

Second, Congress can create a National Bank for Infrastructure, like the national banks that were created throughout our history, which generated the large amounts of credit, without taxpayer funds (!), to build all of our industry and infrastructure.  As a sitting member of Congress, you can initiate draft legislation to create this bank.  The bank can then directly fund or participate in financing infrastructure and industrial development, creating the millions of jobs we need to build the nation and the tax base.

These steps will jump-start the economy and allow us to not only build our overall output, but allow us to pay for Medicare for all, which will solve our health care needs.  Rep. John Conyers recently introduced HR 676, "The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act", which addresses this crucial matter.  I would urge you to co- sponsor this bill as well.

The citizens of our congressional district want this discussion to take place.  A debate between the two of us would certainly frame the discussion in a useful way.  We can set a debate agenda that addresses these crucial topics and others.

Therefore, I am challenging you to debate me on this agenda anywhere in the district.  I will clear my busy schedule to make myself available to engage in this dialogue. I look forward to sharing a podium with you.

Contact Janet Garrett-- 440-724-9981, janet@janetgarrett.com


  1. With the likes of Jordan 'representing' the people of his constituency it behooves all of us with progressive values to oust him from his cushy seat and elect someone with a real desire to serve their constituents and not the Big Business interests.

    1. Spot on, AJ! We need to "train" our elected representatives into knowing that being a "public official" means they are answerable to the public. They can't hind at home or in their cushy D.C. or state capital offices. They have to come out and speak with their constituents from time to time. We promise we don't bite. (Much, except for the actual vampires living in the district, that is.) ;)


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