THE HAT TRICK

It’s Tuesday, January 1, 2019.

I didn’t have any problem writing that 2019. And now that we barely use checks anymore, the problem of writing the wrong year on them has abated.

Oh, yes, Happy New Year!

Elizabath Warren yesterday became the first well-known Democrat to throw her hat into the ring for the 2020 presidential nomination, in the first of several times I’ll use that cliché in order to justify the headline on this post.

She formed an exploratory committee, which allows her to do all the stuff candidates need to do in order to become full-fledged candidates. 

I suspect the only real exploring the committee will do is find the fastest route from Boston to anywhere in New Hampshire and the most direct flight from BOS to DSM. 

She’s running – the first one out of the gate. I mean, there are a bunch of other people who have said they’re running but who are not real contenders. John Delaney and Andrew Yang can take all the offense they want – they ain’t in the same league as Elizabeth Warren.

Their hats in the ring are like the ones you get at the paint store when you’re getting ready to roll the living room walls. Hers is an Oklahoma 10-gallon deal.

I like Elizabeth Warren. She speaks her mind and advocates for those in need. She understood what happened a decade ago when the nation’s economy came this close to collapsing and did everything she could to prevent it from happening again. 

If she had run in 2016, I probably would have supported her over Hillary Clinton. That’s not hindsight – I’ve always thought she was better equipped to stand up to Trump and the Republicans.

But there’s one thing wrong with her – and it’s a big strike as I consider 2020 candidates.

She’s 69 years old. On Election Day 2020, she’ll be 71.

Yes, I’m ageist. I don’t want the next president to be older than I’ll be – which is 66.

And yes, that eliminates a bunch of other people. Joe Biden, who’ll be almost 78. Bernie Sanders, who will be 79. Even Sherrod Brown, who’ll be less than a week away from 68 on Nov. 3, 2020.

These are guys who really need not to throw their hats in the ring, because they need them to keep their heads warm and stay healthy.

It is time to turn this country, once and for all, to younger people. 

Not that other candidates are all that young. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand will all be well into their 50s in 2020. Beto O’Rourke, who’s quite in fashion among Democrats even though he lost the Texas senate race, will be 48.

But the salvation of this country can only come when younger people begin to gain control.

Younger people are not wistful for some America that never existed. In some ways, they’re far more realistic.

They’ve grown up knowing what it’s like to have your country actually attacked. Many of them have been fighting battles in the Middle East or have friends who’ve gone to Iraq and Afghanistan. They’ve taken on more debt than imaginable to get an education.

And they’ve seen and felt the cruelty of Trump and Trumpism. A president and philosophy that has never considered young people in its thinking. 

A younger candidate will not, as happened last time, fail to get climate change on the presidential agenda. 

Younger candidates can see the virtue in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s push for a Green New Deal – a solution to save the planet and create jobs. Younger candidates can make the case for Medicare for All, as their peers struggle to figure out how to stay healthy without going broke.

They are not stuck on a manufacturing economy that’s not returning. They know how the Internet works and how to make it better.

But that’s just my thinking. The campaign will shake out the pretenders. There isn’t any Democrat listed above – even John Delaney and Andrew Yang – who wouldn’t be a quantum leap better than what we have now.

Here’s when it starts to get tricky.

The forces that gave us Trump will soon be trying to give us Trump again.

You can bet that social media will soon start seeing memes trashing Elizabeth Warren. The effort to diminish her in the eyes of Democrats could already be brewing in some St. Petersburg boiler room. 

They’ll find what they perceive as what we perceive as negatives in her record and try to exploit them. They’ll pick on her appearance. They’ll pick on the native American DNA test – which was a dumb thing on her part, but has nothing to do with her qualifications for the White House.

Then they’ll make stuff up – and it will be in a corner of your Facebook feed for the next year.

And then the trolls will start in on any other Democrat perceived to have a shot at beating Trump. Anyone except the candidate they think is the weakest. 

So how should we start this new year – the one before the election – when it comes to the hat throwers.

Cautiously, but enthusiastically.

The Democrats running for president in 2020 need our protection. They need us to be very selective about how we get our information about them. 

To disregard any hatchet job that appears on a Web site we’ve never read before. 

To get our information from sources we trust. To scrutinize even those sources if something seems unfair or imprecise.

They need us to watch the debates on TV – and to see and hear how they answer serious questions from serious journalists in interviews.

They need us to make sure they make their positions clear on the issues we care about.

We don’t need to know if their navels are innies or outies. We do need to know how they’ll confront cyberterrorism, reform immigration and build a 21st century infrastructure. 

In the 2020 election, we need the Democratic candidates to succeed – to make America honorable again. #MAHA, if you will. 

Put that on a purple hat in 2019 and throw that in every ring you can.

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A DAY ALL ITS OWN

It’s Thursday, November 22, 2018.

It’s the 55th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination. 

November 22 can be other days – it’s Thanksgiving this year. But to people my age and older, it can never not be the assassination anniversary – thus retriggering the memories of a nation united in shock and sadness.

But – as I said – it’s also Thanksgiving.

Up until a few years ago, I tended to downplay this holiday. 

A lot of that had to do with the fact that I worked the following day. Let me restate that: I worked starting in the middle of the night and into the early part of Friday afternoon.

That day is, of course, Black Friday. I organized coverage of the irrational shopping frenzy that caused people to line up at stores to get one of maybe four big-screen TVs at a megaretailer for a giveaway price. Or to stagger through a Toys R Us – RIP – to get one of the few remaining manifestations of that year’s hot holiday toy.

I’ll admit it – it was a blast. I worked with great reporters. We tried to create a party atmosphere in the newsroom, and we put up story after story starting at 6 a.m. It was slightly different from the usual assignment – and they all looked for and found the fun of what they were doing.

But now that I’m not doing that any more, I’ve had time to think about the Black Friday phenomenon.

The fact that, in recent years, it has diminished the prior day. 

Stores opening at 6 p.m. on Thursday – or even all day – make Thanksgiving less of its own holiday and more of a Christmas pregame place holder.

Now that I’m out of the maelstrom, it seems like a shame. 

Christmas will be the focus of every single day for the next 33 days. Why can’t Thanksgiving have Thanksgiving, and Black Friday wait until, let’s say, Friday?

I have fond memories of my Black Friday days in journalism. 

But I also have fond memories of Thanksgiving.

I’ve thought a lot about them in the past few days leading up to this one.

I’ve thought about Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house was this amazing ritual meal, starting with chicken noodle soup from a box mix – Mrs. Grass, which I guess still exists. 

I’ve thought about the fact that few of the people at that meal are still here – and how much I miss the ones who aren’t.

I’ve thought about my first Thanksgiving as a college student. How I was obsessively homesick and practically kissed the ground at LaGuardia when I got home. 

I’ve thought about the fact that I never went home for Thanksgiving again. How I found friends in my dorm and spent great weekends hanging with them. How a friend from my college radio station met me on the night before at Union Station as I visited Chicago from my newspaper internship in Michigan.

I’ve thought about working on Thanksgiving Day and covering the Macy’s parade for the AP. One year, I took my little brother because a colleague who was doing a story about carrying the  balloons got tickets.

I’ve thought about my daughter’s first Thanksgiving and the fact that it coincided with the two weeks she actually liked Gerber strained green beans. And how that fact bothered my dad, who so wanted to feed her turkey and mashed potatoes.

I’ve thought about my mother-in-law’s fried shrimp. If they didn’t seem like Thanksgiving food when I first saw them, they sure seemed like it after about the 15th one.

I’ve thought about my two kids making their way home from college. How neither of them is spending the day with us because they’ve got other lives. One of them is 7,000 miles away working in Incheon, South Korea, where it isn’t Thanksgiving at all.

I’ve thought about the food my wife and I prepared for tomorrow, and how it’s something we’ve done in various iterations since 1985.

After all that thinking, I’ve realized something this year that I overlooked for a long time working all those crazy hours in the predawn darkness.

Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving. It’s not – or it shouldn’t be – Black Friday Eve. 

The idea of being thankful – for family and friends who are here, who are away and who have passed – should get its own space in our spirit. 

It’s just a nice idea. It feels good to remember loved ones and friends, and to know there are people in your life who matter more than the weirdness of the day-to-day.

So this Thanksgiving, I’m thinking more about being thankful. 

For my grandmother making the Mrs. Grass soup, and Jared, Michela and Mom for sticking around. 

For my dad getting me at the airport. 

For Andy who went to dinner with me in Evanston and Jonathan for being at the train station. 

For Seth being a awestruck little kid at the parade and Susana for the tickets. 

For Megan for loving green beans those exact two weeks. 

For my mother-in-law making those shrimp – and that sweet-and-sour sauce that went with them. 

For Parija and Jessica and Hibah and the rest of the team on those crazy Black Friday mornings at CNN.

For Aaron hanging in there in South Korea.

For Angela making the stuffing and laughing along the way.

And to everyone else who has given my life its fullness.

Christmas – which I also love – will come soon enough. 

Today is Thanksgiving – and for that, too, I’m thankful.

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THERE’S GOT TO BE A MORNING AFTER

It’s Wednesday, November 7, 2018.

It’s the 105th birthday of Albert Camus. 

Or was it yesterday?

There’s always a temptation the morning after the election to think about what it all means. I’m not going to resist it.

But I just want to do a few short takes. See if you agree or disagree.

— Democrats got about 70% of their wish list. It’s that 30% that makes them feel sad.

The most important thing was to take the House. It looks right now as though the Democrats captured 34 seats when they needed 23. 

That means Trump can’t railroad stupid legislation through Congress. 

It means there will be hearings on some of the most odious things about this administration – there should be as many into family separations as there were into Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

There are also lots of other bright spots. Gains in governor’s mansions and state legislatures are a big deal. The fact that women and minorities are closer to the amount of representation they should have is a big deal.

But the fact that Democrats may lost a net of three seats in the Senate.

The gubernatorial losses in Florida and Ohio are bummers. Especially Florida – Ron DeSantis is a giadriolo. I’m not giving up on Georgia yet, but any Kemp win won’t be  according to Hoyle.

So I’m happy. But after the last two years, I wanted more. I wanted Trump to lose big – he did a little, but not enough.

— So what should this Democratic House do?

Simply put: I want legislation that addresses the priorities of the American people. And don’t talk about impeachment.

The best way to stick it to Trump is to pass legislation that he and the Senate Republicans can’t stand. Make them bottle it up or veto it.

Address health care costs and availability, including consideration of Medicare for all and a prescription drug bill.

Devise a sensible infrastructure rebuilding program.

Come up with ideas to address the student loan crisis.

Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Think about a tax bill that actually cuts what middle- and lower-income families pay and raises the taxes on those who got the benefits of the Trump measure.

Expand Social Security. There’s no good reason that people who make $120,000 or more a year stop getting FICA taken out of their paychecks. 

Take on issues like cybersecurity and election hacking. 

And let’s start going after what we’ve considered pipe dreams: statehood for Washington, D.C., and – if the people want it – Puerto Rico. For other territories, the chance to vote for president and be represented in the Electoral College.

For that matter, revising the election system. We’ve done it before.

There’s little chance any of that stuff gets signed into law by Trump or even gets past the Republican zombies in the Senate. 

But put it out there so the American people know someone is standing up for them.

— Some new ideas about who the Democrats might run for president emerged. 

One good thing about last night is that hopefully some of the sillier names that were bounced around might be put to rest. 

Why would you even consider Michael Avenatti when there’s a Sherrod Brown?

Brown’s interesting. He keeps winning in Senate races in Ohio even as Republicans do well for governor. Does that appeal to national Democrats or what?

Amy Klobuchar won big in a Minnesota that is turning very red in parts. She was one of the few Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee who stood toe to toe with Kavanaugh.

Three of the four Democrats with good chances to flip Republican House seats from New Jersey were successful. Cory Booker campaigned for all of them.

Beto O’Rourke lost his Senate race to Ted Cruz, another big disappointment. But he definitely sparked enough excitement that Texas doesn’t seem as daunting to Democrats. That excitement could be national.

There are others who did well last night. Sen. Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin. Gov. Gina Raimondo in Rhode Island. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in New York.

I want to see the party put up a strong, intelligent candidate. 

Yes, it did that every other election in my lifetime – and sometimes got beat badly. There are times when I think George McGovern might have been the best president in American history.

But now we’ll start looking at these men and women more closely. The ones who have proven themselves in electoral contests – Brown and Klobuchar, especially – really deserve a strong look.

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IF YOU WANT IT

— It’s Monday, November 5, 2018.

— It’s Guy Fawkes Day – the 413th anniversary of the discovery of Gunpowder Plot to blow up the British Parliament and King James I.

Fawkes is the guy – so to speak – who was found with the gunpowder under the House of Lords. He and those plotters who didn’t die in the process of being captured were executed by being hanged, drawn and quartered.

The big lug was lucky. According to Britain’s iNews, after the hanging and drawing part, Fawkes jumped from the gallows and died instantly. 

He was spared the worst parts of the execution, having his bowels removed and burned in front of him before having his heart ripped out.

The British celebrate all this with bonfires and fireworks on the night of the fifth. Because nothing says whoopee like a good disembowelment.

And so it’s the midterms.

And what have you done?

Two Trump years are over.

And two long ones left to come.

OK, I just might have tipped off one of the tracks on the holiday music compilation I make for my family and friends every year.

But the fact is that, ever since the morning hours of Nov. 9, 2016, there are those of us who have counted the days until tomorrow’s election.

To be sure, we’re also counting the days – 729 – to Nov. 3, 2020, the day of the next presidential election. But thinking that this midterm election might bring some relief from what we dreaded was in itself a star to fix upon.

Sadly, what we dreaded mostly came to pass. I’ll get back to the mostly in a bit.

Instead of bringing the nation together, Trump and the pliant Republicans have attempted to rule in heavy-handed fashion. On issues such as the environment, immigration, racial relations, women’s rights and health care, they have tried with the all the might they can muster to set back progress and reward their enablers.

They have picked fights with the countries with which we have traditionally the best relationships. Instead, Trump cozies up to the world’s worst – Putin, Kim Jong Un, the Saudis.

And then there’s the worst of it. The dismembering of families in his effort to appear tough on people trying to come to this country. The attacks on news organizations that lead the even more warped among his followers to attempt acts of murder. The winks to racists and religious bigots that led to such horrors at Charlottesville and, a week ago, Pittsburgh.

Trump himself is a walking sac of creepiness. His self-congratulatory rallies. His classless trashtalking on Twitter. The self-enrichment that goes on at his properties while he occupies the Oval Office.

A presidential term is four years. So no matter happens tomorrow, this jerk has still got a second half.

But tomorrow is the chance to make sure he knows the next two years won’t be so easy. It’s a chance to make sure he doesn’t have at least one house of Congress that’s in awe of his ersatz glitz and will hold him accountable for once. It can ensure that the Russia investigation – a plot to subvert our country – doesn’t die.

It’s also a chance to affect elections in the states, where a lot of the groundwork for Trumpism was laid over the past decade. We can start to reverse that, just in time for the 2020 Census.

— And so it’s the midterms. And what have you done?

I have one friend, Karen, who has been working on tomorrow for two years. She took her gloom on Nov. 9 and turned it into positive energy.

She’s been active in every local election. She’s tracked candidates all over the country – statehouses, county legislatures, special congressional elections. She’s raised and donated money, made people aware of the candidates and the issues, called out lies, protested, campaigned.

If the Democrats take the House tomorrow, we’ll have Karen and scores of people like her to thank. They believe this country is better than Trump. 

And like a bunch of guys in Philadelphia 242 years ago, they’re willing to put their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor on the line to prove it.

If the Democrats fail tomorrow – if they make gains in the House but come up short of a majority – it will be our fault.

Did we vote? Did we make sure everyone we knew voted? Did we make people aware of what was at stake? Did we give money? Did we give time? Did we ring doorbells and write postcards and make phone calls? 

I can’t answer “Yes” to all those questions. The people who can – like my friend Karen – shouldn’t feel as though they’ve let America down – they tried. 

The people who can’t do.

— What could stop the Democrats from a position to thwart Trump?

One thing, frankly, is the economy.

On the morning of Nov. 9, I would have sworn that the economy was heading for the crapper. Obama had done what he could to turn the nation around quickly after the financial crisis – and there had been seven years of economic progress.

Trump got a break from that. There was going to be some carryover. But it’s lasted longer than I would have imagined – there’s no getting around the fact that the employment report that came out Friday was good for the country.

The economy isn’t the only thing, but it’s a big thing. If the economy had faltered as we thought, there would be no question about who would win tomorrow.

And there’s still reason to worry. The tax cuts created deficits that are starting to affect homebuying. There’s been no effort to tame the student loan crisis – on the contrary, efforts have been made to phase out programs put in place by the Obama administration. 

Finally, why the hell would anyone pick a trade war with China for no good reason?

But the economy is not the disaster some of us expected. And that helps Trump somewhat.

The other thing that could stop the Democrats is their traditional inability to mobilize their supporters.

Younger people are overwhelmingly Democrats. But they don’t vote. They focus on their issues, as they should, but they don’t see how government can do much to address them.

People of color have to vote in big numbers. Women have to vote in big numbers. LGBTQ people have to vote in big numbers.

— So tomorrow is a mini day of reckoning.

The Democrats need a gain of 23 seats to take control of the House. Gaining control of the Senate may be out of the question – the Democrats have to pick up two seats, but they’re defending so many more than the Republicans that holding them all is a daunting task.

There’s probably more we all could have done to make sure tomorrow is a success. But it’s here. And our efforts now face the test.  

Do we really outnumber the creeps who support Trump, as we all believe? Or are they just dogged about going to the polls and proving us wrong?

I believe the former. I believe we can make Trump almost over – if we want it.

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1. It’s Tuesday, July 17, 2018.

2. It’s the 64th birthday of Dr. Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany.

It’s between her and Oprah Winfrey – and maybe Denzel Washington – as to who is the most prestigious member of the Birth Class of 1954.

I do have a special interest in that class!

3. Few people under age 50 remember Norm Crosby.

Crosby – no known relation to Bing – was a Borscht Belt comedian who frequented the talk shows and game shows of the pre-cable TV era. His schtick was malaprops – he would make statements peppered with words whose meaning is confused with other words.

Writing it out won’t help you. Here’s a clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnX-EPaAIdU

Of course, Crosby is – he’s 90 years old and was performing a few years ago – a wizard at this sort of comedy.

Donald Trump isn’t.

The reason I thought of Norm Crosby today is, of course, Trump’s inevitable attempt to ameliorate (yes, I look some words up to make sure I don’t pull a Norm Crosby with them) yesterday’s debacle in Helsinki. When, in essence, Trump betrayed his country by indicating he accepted Vladimir Putin’s denial of interfering with the 2016 election over U.S. law enforcement and intelligence screaming he did.

The blowback from that news conference was so intense that even Republicans criticized him. OK, maybe they lacked a certain force. House Speaker Paul Ryan, still devoid of moral backbone, didn’t mention Trump by name.

But, yeah, what he said wasn’t good, some Republicans whispered, trying to get out of the way of the media folks who had to tell the truth about the disgrace before their eyes.

Anyway, Trump apparently was shocked that people weren’t showering him with rose petals as the still-just-blue-and-white Air Force One deposited him at Andrews Air Force Base.

So today, before meeting with Congressional leaders, Trump tried to walk some of it back.

One of the many egregious statements came after he said that his intelligence people had told him Russia interfered with the election and Putin strongly denied it. At the time, he said “I don’t know why it would be Russia.”

Well today, he said, oh no, he got the double negative confused. He meant to say “I don’t know why it wouldn’t be Russia.”

Trump also tried to say that he believed his intelligence people. But he couldn’t help himself – he ended up saying ““I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could have been other people also. Lots of other people out there.”

4. There’s two ways of looking at this.

One is that he could have gone the full Norm Crosby by pointing out 20 other times he misspoke.

The whole thing with the DNC servers could have been chalked up as a big malaprop. It’s certainly not all that understandable – unless there’s some Fox News decoder ring I’m not using.

The other way is this: I’ve lived through presidents I’ve loved and presidents I haven’t.

And all of them – until now – understood that the words used by the President of the United States mean something. That what he – and, someday soon, she – says reflects on the nation and gives pause to the world.

A misused word is about as lame an excuse for what happened yesterday as saying Trump was distracted by a fly in the room.

Trump couldn’t stand in the same room with Putin without showing the Russian dictator obeisance. And now he’s trying to turn the last word of the previous sentence into “obesity” in order to obscure or slough off what he did.

It works for Norm Crosby. It sure as hell shouldn’t for Trump.

NORM CROSBY TIME

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LUCKY DAY

1. It’s Wednesday, July 11, 2018.

2. Leon Spinks turns 65 today. That’s one of those that makes someone of my era feel really old.

3. Today’s a double treat for those of us into numbers.

Of course, it’s 7-11, so it should be lucky. Although obviously not if you’re English.

It’s also one of just two times in the 21st century when today is mathematically correct. The next time is July 11, 2077.

4. Here is what i’ve concluded 537 days into the Trump administration: It is a waste of time, breath, electrons and anger to expect this presidency and its band of rogues to spontaneously combust from unmitigated evil.

My 85-year-old mother – an unapologetic, unrelenting, unwavering Democrat – keeps asking me when Trump will be impeached. Last week, she wanted to start a pool on when the House would vote.

As much as I hate disappointing my mom, I told her this: It ain’t gonna happen.

Impeachment would be an awful solution to the Trump problem. Not quite worse than the actual problem itself, but too close to it to make it worthwhile.

Unless it can be conclusively proven that Trump’s conspiring with Russia actually altered 2016 election results that tipped the Electoral College in his favor, there’s no way impeachment can be justified.

As of right now, Trump won the 2016 election by the rules in place. And while most leaders of any stature would have done something, anything, to appeal to the 2,904,897 more people who voted for Hillary Clinton, the fact is they gave him the keys to the White House legitimately.

And, even if the votes were there – and they’re not – all impeachment would do is exacerbate the fissures in our society.

Which is what Putin has wanted all along. He probably couldn’t give a damn whether Republicans or Democrats run the country. He just wants the outcome that weakens the United States. He knew the Republicans were pliable and he took advantage, but impeachment would just divide the country even further and weaken it more.

Yes, Trump is awful. I want to prosecute him for what his administration has done to people seeking refuge in this country from the horrors of Central American violence. I want him to serve time in a federal penitentiary for that.

And if he and his minions collaborated with Putin, they deserve to rot in hell.

But merely getting angry doesn’t help. It just emboldens the pillbugs. They see the anger – not to mention the pain and hardship – Trump policies cause as “liberal tears” they can drink. It’s a joke to them.

It’s also a waste of bile to get riled up by congressional Republicans. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell wanted what they wanted – their agenda, enacted.

It doesn’t matter what Trump did. It doesn’t matter what the Russians did. They are single-minded in their mission – undoing everything Democrats and even Republicans have done since the start of the 20th century.

5. So what should Democrats do?

They don’t control the presidency, the Congress, the Supreme Court or a majority of state governments.

The idea is to change that.

That can’t really happen until the midterm election in November. And even then, it’s a crapshoot. Republicans, through gerrymandering, have rigged some of these states so that it’s incredibly difficult to win even if they win.

But the midterms are where it’s gotta start. And Democrats have to win as many House, Senate, gubernatorial and state legislative races as they can. They shouldn’t concede any of them because the district or state is too historically “red.” You can’t win if you don’t play.

And here’s the other thing: Winning won’t happen if all Democrats do is say they’re not Trump.

I still believe people vote FOR things, not against them. For the Democrats to win as convincingly as they need to – to begin the task of rescuing this country and restoring its place as a leader among nations, and not Vladimir Putin’s chewtoy – they need to stand for stuff.

They need to show that they are thinking about the 21st – and even the 22nd – century world.

George Washington believed that the best defense is a good offense. He proved that at Trenton in 1776, crossing the Delaware on Christmas night in a surprise attack that set the British back just enough. This was after he got womped through most of the other 358 or so days of the year.

The Democrats need to remember this. For the past three years, Trump’s nihilism has dominated the national conversation. The whole idea of making America great again implies that the solution to the nation’s problems lies in doing what we did 75 or 100 years ago.

That’s not how progress is made. That’s not how great nations stay great.

We need to excite the imaginations of the American people. We need to tell them there are other things we can do to restore our authority as a leader in the world.

It isn’t trashtalking Angela Merkel.

It isn’t keeping those who truly seek freedom for entering our country.

It isn’t making women subserviant to the whims of the religious right.

It isn’t limiting health care to those who can afford it.

It isn’t trying to restore coal as a way to power modern technology.

And it sure as hell isn’t turning the necessary task of protecting our nation into Gestapo-lite tactics that leave parents terrified that they’ll never see their kids again.

Democrats must – absolutely must – spell out what they want to do to make this country better. And they need to sell those ideas. Every day. A tag team of party leaders making themselves visible online and on the air. 24/7/365. 

The ideas don’t have to be perfect – what plays for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York might need to be different for Doug Jones in Alabama. And then you work out the differences.

But Democrats need to stand for something substantive. Not for the people who support Trump – they’re not listening to anything we say. This is their bonfire of the vanities and they’re too busy dancing around the blaze they’ve set to everything great this nation has done since World War II.

This is for the people who actually care about this country and what it stands for. Or who want to care and haven’t been engaged because it hasn’t affected them – until now. We outnumber the Trumpistas. We did on Nov. 8, 2016 and nothing that’s happened since then will change that.

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I am no expert on public policy. I’m barely knowledgable about journalism, a profession I’ve worked in for 40 years.

But I have some ideas. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share them. And what I hope you’ll do is think about what you want Democrats to do besides get angry at what Trump and his people do.

Because getting angry isn’t making things better. Winning might.

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PROTECTING FRIENDSHIP, NEIGHBORS AND KIDS

1. It’s Tuesday, February 20, 2018.

2. It’s the 226th anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Postal Service. Celebrate by going to a post office and buying the stamp commemorating Mister Rogers, whose TV show started 50 years ago celebrated neighbors of all color, shape, size and mindset.

3. It’s the 56th anniversary of the flight of Friendship 7. John Glenn, a real-deal hero and man of integrity, became the first American to orbit the earth.

Talk about making America great. Who didn’t love Mister Rogers or John Glenn?

4. In 2018, someone wouldn’t.

Somewhere in St. Petersburg, formerly Leningrad, trolls would stop their promotion of Trump to make up trash about both of them. Stuff like: Mister Rogers wasn’t deferential enough to white men. John Glenn was a crybaby about the danger he faced or his flight was really just him acting in a Hollywood studio.

And then their fanboys, the Jack Posobiecs and Jim Hofts and other aggrieved brats who pollute social media, would try to make John Glenn and Fred Rogers into hoaxes and conspirators and whatever else they could.

That’s what 2018 is about. It’s about people with chips on their shoulder who can’t stand a happy, proud, united America. People still shuttering from the fact we let one of them become president for eight years. And that people who aren’t like them find success.

You’re seeing that now with the reaction to the kids who survived the Parkland high school shooting.

Most of the people in this country have every reason to look at these kids with pride. They’re smart and they speak their mind. They’re in pain – that’s what happens when 17 of your peers and the adults you admire are murdered in cold blood – and they’ve articulated that so well in the past six days that they’ve inspired anyone with a still-functioning heart or brain.

Alas, it was only a matter of time until the NRA got its message to its whores in media and Congress.

The message:

These kids have been coached. Yeah, that’s it. One of them has a father in the FBI who’s trying to cover his tracks about failing to stop the killer while investigating this phony Trump-Russia scandal. Yeah, that’s it.

(I refuse to link to the stories or tweets this scum has put online. I refuse to give them the traffic. They’re not hard to find if you want to see them.)

5. This is our crucible.

If we’re not willing to stand up for our children, if we cower when confronted with the people who spit out warped Constitutional interpretations and say gun violence isn’t a problem improved by legislation, if we let the trolls control the narrative, the NRA – a group complicit in more American deaths than ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Taliban combined – wins. Again.

And this nation, this supposed citadel of democracy and freedom, will have failed. We will be exposed as a banana republic, run by a schemer trying to repay his debt to his masters in Moscow with the help of their gun-loving henchmen.

We will have not proven ourselves worthy of Mister Rogers or John Glenn or the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

We have to do better.

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