BOTTLE IT

1. It’s Wednesday, December 13, 2017.

At the moment, the AccuWeather real feel temperature here in New York’s northern suburbs is zero degrees F.

This is not the only evidence that hell froze over last night.

2. No way does a Democrat succeed Jeff Sessions in the United States Senate from Alabama. No way.

Except that it’s going to happen.

A lot is being made of how bad a candidate Roy Moore was. Starting first, foremost and disqualifyingly, with the accusations about his conduct.

Moore never dispelled or convincingly refuted the accusations that, when he was in his 30s, he pursued teenage girls – to the extent that a mall banned him for being such a predator.

Maybe his true believers accepted his response. His detractors believed the accusations without question.

The people without prejudice weighed the evidence and rendered a verdict.

There are other reasons Moore stinks. Not everybody, even in a state as conservative as Alabama, is willing to put the Ten Commandments over the Constitution in determining what’s law. There were no mitigating factors to slavery.

But here’s the thing: Moore only lost by about 20,000 votes. That’s not a lot when about 1.3 million votes are cast.

That means that Alabama is a state that wants so desperately to go Republican that it’s willing to overlook Moore’s flaws.

3. And that’s where Doug Jones comes in.

Jones, a former federal prosecutor, honed a campaign that blended national Democratic values with the realities of Alabama. And I can’t remember him campaigning against Trump by name.

The idea is to create an identity for yourself. To create the so-called “big tent” that enough Republicans, disgusted by Moore, could get under.

The result speaks for itself. Jones embraced his African-American voters – his record putting some of the 1963 Birmingham church bombers in prison to rot certainly burnished his credentials. And he didn’t scare white people who are naturally conservative but not racists.

Democrats across the country need to look at Doug Jones in Alabama, and remember last month’s gubernatorial winners – Ralph Northam in Virginia and Phil Murphy in New Jersey.

These aren’t flamethrowers. They don’t focus on Trump any more than they have to – Murphy certainly did a little more of that in New Jersey than the others.

They won because they responded to the places where they live and ran. They got to know the people. They embraced them. They didn’t take any group for granted.

One more thing – the winners so far have been decent people. People with a record of doing good by people. Jones prosecuted terrorists. Northam was an Army medical officer and is a pediatric neurosurgeon. Murphy founded a teen helpline.

Democrats must recruit men and women of character and integrity.

Emphasis on women. It’s time. There are so many brilliant, creative, compassionate women in all the major professions – I’ve been blessed to work with so many in 40 years as a journalist.

These people need to be running things. To be shaping society and responding to its needs.

No, no one should vote for someone just because they’re a man or woman. But yes, they should have the diversity of life experience to inform their judgments.

Character, integrity and core beliefs that empower people. Democrats need to put the Jones/Northam/Murphy wins in a bottle and sprinkle the mixture around the nation.

Today feels good, the cold notwithstanding. We need to feel this way more often.

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HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY BROTHER

1. It’s Tuesday, December 12, 2017.

2. It’s the centennial of Boys Town, the charity for troubled children founded by Monsignor Joseph Edward Flanagan, aka Father Flanagan. From what I see on its Web site, it’s no longer solely aimed at helping boys.

Boys Town was into mail donation solicitations in a big way back in the day. It might still be, but I haven’t seen one in decades.

Its famous slogan, of course, was “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother,” and on the little stamps you were supposed to put on your Christmas cards was a drawing of a teenage boy carrying a smaller one.

That slogan, in turn, was the basis of a popular song of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s – among those recorded it were The Hollies, Neil Diamond and Righteous Brother Bill Medley.

The sentiment was that we’re supposed to help our brethren in need, no matter how difficult that might be.

3. It’s a sentiment that seems alien to 2017.

You don’t have to look far to see that.

This morning, Ed Lee, the mayor of San Francisco, died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 65. It must be a terrible day for his family, for his friends and for the people in the city who elected this man twice.

So do yourself a favor. DON’T look at the Twitter mentions for Ed Lee. Because there’s a strong push at this moment of pain in San Francisco to express hatred toward this man.

Lee was mayor of one of the nation’s most liberal cities and supported, as does many other people – including me – the concept of sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants.

The irrational antipathy toward these immigrants so consumes some folks – many of whom claim to be Christian but seem to have no concept about Christian principles – that their glee in the mayor’s death is unbridled.

I don’t know enough about Boys Town to know if it’s true to the ideals it proclaims. I do know it has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the charity evaluator, so somebody believes it’s pretty honest.

4. But what about it that needs to be rekindled in an awful lot of Americans is the idea that we sometimes need to help the people around us. That includes the undocumented.

Sometimes they can’t do it on their own. Sometimes they’re trying to make their lives better.

Yeah, they didn’t file the paperwork. They didn’t wait to starve to death or get savaged by criminals in their native land.

But the reality is they’re here and they’re contributing to our society. They work at a lot of jobs that people born here don’t want to do but need to be done. They pay taxes – which, looking at the Trump tax plan, is apparently something people with multi-billion-dollar hedge funds and real estate developers don’t want to do.

So the hatred is preposterous and sad. The viciousness – which extends toward to life of a pretty devoted public servant – reflects ill on the people who spew it.

And, because it’s virtually encouraged by the occupant of the Oval Office, it diminishes our nation.

No one in need today – not the undocumented, not the still suffering victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, not homeless veterans, not those suffering the ravages of drug abuse or anyone else you can think of – is so much a burden that we can’t bear it.

They ain’t heavy. They’re our brothers and sisters. On this Tuesday – the day before Hanukkah, 13 days before Christmas and about 100 days after the end of Eid al-Adhr – that’s what we need to remind ourselves.

5. On this day before the first night of Hanukkah, I’m thinking fondly of the folks for whom new memories of family and friends will be kindled – and old memories glow warmly – with the lighting of a candle.

Enjoy these eight days: Hanukkah comes once a year, but Hanukkah 2017 – or 5778 – is only now. Best wishes to all.

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HAPPY FOR THE REST OF YOU

1. It’s Wednesday, November 8, 2017.

It’s the first anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history.

2. It’s the day after we started to undo it.

Actually, we is a little bit of an overstatement.

The good people of the commonwealth of Virginia started to undo it. They elected Ralph Northam governor by a pretty wide margin. One of the state’s legislative bodies is either going to be evenly split or very slightly Democratic.

The good people of New Jersey started to undo it. They ended the Chris Christie reign of petulance with a loud coda, electing Democrat Phil Murphy as governor and expanded Democratic majorities in the legislature.

The good people of Maine started to undo it. They told their blowhard minority-elected governor to stuff his five Medicaid expansion vetoes up his ample rear end. About 80,000 people in the state who didn’t have health care coverage can get it now.

Good people around the country started to undo it. In city, town, school board and state legislative elections, they went for the candidate who spoke a message aimed at trying to solve everyone’s problems. Women won all over the place. Transgendered people won. Religious minorities won. Asian-Americans won. African-Americans won. Latinos and Latinas won.

And, for the most part, the good people of my home of New York started to undo the darkness that descended a year ago.

Yeah, Democrats were going to pretty much sweep stuff in New York City. But a Democrat won the county executive’s race in Nassau County, a traditional Republican stronghold – a 1980 book by a former county exec compared the Nassau GOP machine to Chicago’s Mayor Richard J. Daley.

A Democrat captured the county executive’s seat in Westchester, where one of the state party’s great hopefuls had his eyes on challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo next year. It wasn’t even close.

3. Notice, however, that three paragraphs up, I said “for the most part.”

I live in Rockland, across the Hudson from Westchester. Being on this side of the river, most myopic New York City types think I live in New Jersey.

In Rockland, the Democratic wave across the country failed to wash ashore. A really committed and talented woman, Maureen Porette, lost her race for county executive to the incumbent, a slug named Ed Day.

Day has been especially adept at playing the kind of identity politics that got Trump elected in the first place. And Rockland, which is somewhat isolated from the New York City area despite being only 25 miles away, falls for it like a toddler who thinks her uncle really has taken off her nose.

The big issue in Rockland is the impact of a surge of Hasidic Jews in the county. There are things that have happened, particularly the gutting of the East Ramapo school district, that scare the hell out of people here.

And so, there’s a line between trying to figure out a way to resolve the problem and just deciding that this is war. In Rockland, it’s war, and the hostility between the two sides is palpable.

Here’s the problem with that.

Rockland has other issues. The transportation system in this county is abysmal. The only reliable way to get to New York City is to drive – believe me, I’ve lived it – and the world knows how little New York City needs more automobiles.

This is no place for young people. Jobs here are mostly manufacturing, warehouse and retail – no tech companies are incubating here. There is little in the way of entertainment and activity except some sleazy bars in places like Nyack.

This county has some of the most beautiful public park land in the nation. It’s a plus – preserving it is essential to keep families here.

So a county executive should be focused on that stuff instead of identity politics.

And, like Trump a year ago, it plays into Ed Day’s hands. He manipulates that fear rather than address it. Add the orthodox Republican mantra that people who already have resources need tax cuts and you’ve got his formula for winning.

You might think that how to cut through that is Rockland’s problem. To some extent, that’s true – it’s clear that when people in Virginia, New Jersey and the rest of New York State focus on issues instead of fears, they make good choices.

But how do we get Rockland, how do we get the rest of the country, past being afraid of the challenges of the future? Whether they come from people of color, people with different gender orientations, people of different faiths and any other differences? Whether they come with environmental and technological complications?

Parts of the nation took a step toward breaking Trump last night. The trick will be to finally get places like Rockland to go along.

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FIGHT THAT FEELING

1. It’s Tuesday, November 7, 2017.

2. It’s believed to be the 109th anniversary of the demise of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in Bolivia.

No one seems completely sure. There aren’t bodies that have been identified in all these years.

Today is election day in many states.

3. First, and foremost, VOTE!

There’s a tendency to dismiss this particular election and the one two years from now. It’s usually some local politicians, the people who bother you with leaflets as you’re trying to get home from the supermarket on a Saturday.

You’re not even sure what some of them do.

One of the positions up for election today in my county is surrogate court judge. All he – and everyone running is male – does is rule on people’s wills and what assets an orphaned child has.

And, for many of us, the last election day experience still stings. Somehow, we wound up with a jackass as president.

That sick feeling – that elections lead to bad things – clouds our lives.

For a year, it’s been a living nightmare. The world moves closer to conflagration in Korea and the Middle East. The nation reels from unending gun violence and the impact of global warming. The rich try to rejigger the tax code so that they pay less and those with less pay more.

4. But elections bring bad results if we let them.

If we don’t take part. If we don’t encourage our friends and family to take part.

That’s what happened in 2016. Trump couldn’t possibly win, we thought, so we didn’t take the danger as seriously as we should have. Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate, so the enthusiasm for her wasn’t universal.

These local elections determine life in the places where we live. How welcoming our communities will be. How willing they are to tackle the problems of the 21st century.

Voting is an act of commission. You are willing to be counted about the things that are important to you – and maybe some that aren’t.

But if you own a home or rent an apartment or live with your parents, what happens in your community – not to mention your city, county or state – means a lot to you.

Turnout for these elections is never great. If one-third of registered voters show up, it’s a big deal.

Be the one-third that counts. Vote. Get your family to vote. Get your friends to vote.

Fight the feeling you had a year ago. If your side loses, get ready to fight again a year from now.

But if your side wins, realize that we’ve taken a step toward getting rid of Trump and saving our country.

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TURN THE ROCKS OVER

1. It’s Monday, November 6, 2017.

2. It’s the day before the off-year election.

About a week ago, I offered a litany of Trump sins, crimes and abuses against this country.

And I said that for some of us, there’s an opportunity to get back at him and the sewage that surrounds him.

It’s not going to be much. It’s not going to be enough.

But it is an opportunity we need to take. Or else we have no right to complain about the treachery around us.

3. That opportunity is your local or, in the cases of New Jersey and Virginia, state election.

You see, Trumpism didn’t show up on that escalator in June 2015.

It’s been building. It’s been the modus operandi of the Republican Party since at least the Nixon era.

This effort to divide and conquer. This idea that being an American is being white, male and older. The notion that people need to be ruled and not share in their government.

It crops up constantly. It’s an embarrassment to our democracy.

And it leads to the kind of crap that the past few days encapsulates.

A tax plan that’s so rigged toward the wealthy that it equates to making every working person take up a collection for needy billionaires.

An administration so corrupt that its Commerce Secretary is economically tied to Russians who are subject to American sanctions. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/05/world/wilbur-ross-russia.html

An escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula that’s moved the world closer to nuclear war.

And then, of course, yesterday’s demonstration that the sucking up to gun interests puts everyone in danger – another 26 people killed by someone who had no business carrying a weapon as lethal as an AR-15.

It makes you angry, doesn’t it?

4. So do something.

There are obvious targets.

In Virginia, a slimeball named Ed Gillespie is the Republican candidate for governor. Gillespie is prime, grade-A sleaze – he’s the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

In his campaign against Democrat Ralph Northam, he’s pulled out so many dog whistles that he’s turning Virginia from a commonwealth to a kennel. Even the fact NFL players kneel for the anthem – as if that has anything to do with Virginia.

In New Jersey, Kim Guadagno is a reminder of Joe Louis’ great adage – she can try to run away from her record as Chris Christie’s lieutenant, but she can’t hide.

This is a twofer for Jerseyans – not only can they get at Trump by voting for Democrat Phil Murphy, they alsp can stick it to Christie, one of the worst governors in the state’s history.

5. But it’s not just the governors.

Any local politician who wears the Republican label embraces Trumpism and the miserable excuse for leadership we’ve seen in 2017.

So the Republican running for the town board or the school board or highway superintendent is complicit in the arrogance and incompetence.

Where I live is an example.

In most places, when you lift a rock, you find worms and pillbugs slithering about.

In Rockland County, N.Y., when you lift a rock, you find Ed Day.

He barely won election four years ago as Rockland’s county executive, relying on anti-Semitic dog whistles to defeat his Democratic opponent.

This year, he’s up against Maureen Porette, a very determined attorney.

In the process, Day has refused to show up to several debates. And, in a mailing, he released some of Porette’s personal records.

Day’s one of those Republican jokers whose only policy idea is cutting taxes. Working toward making the country more attractive and affordable to young people and families, improving a 19th century transportation system, and helping solve the rising problems of homelessness and poverty are clearly not his concern.

Because that tax cut thing is like the Sirens to Odyssus, Day has a good shot of winning. Young people abandon Rockland, leaving it to older people who fear their limited resources are getting whittled away.

Ed Day shouldn’t. He was Trump before Trump ran. He’ll wring his hands of Trump if it gets him a vote. But his county party actually hosted Roger Stone recently, so don’t worry about fealty to the traitor corps.

And that’s just one of them.

If a candidate – no matter how small the office – embraces the Republican label, he or she embraces Trump.

Make them pay for that. The more Republicans lose local office tomorrow, the more irritated Trump and his tame congressional henchmen will be.

That will be a start.

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OH, TO BE 19 AGAIN. NOT.

1. It’s Friday, November 3, 2017.

2. It’s Lulu’s 69th birthday.

Fifty years ago, she sang the year’s most popular song, “To Sir, with Love.” It was the title song of a film in which she co-starred with the “Sir” of the film, Sidney Poitier, who played a teacher at a London school.

By the way, she’s still at it. According to her Web site(!), she’s performing tonight in Northampton, England.

One thing really stuck out to me about the heinous Republican tax cut proposal unleashed yesterday.

3. Republicans really hate young people.

There are at least two ways in which the proposal these wannabe-archvillain-gangmembers-in- a-bad-superhero-movie stick it to people under 35.

First, as my former CNNMoney colleague Katie Lobosco reports, the plan eliminates a student loan interest tax deduction.

So many young people are in debt – some of them deeply – to pay for their college degrees. This deduction, while it’s about as modest as it gets, gives a little bit of help to about 12 million debtors.

At most, it’s $625 a student. But $625 could be one or two monthly payments a year.

And here’s the thing: We’re taking this away from young people who could use even a little help to lower the taxes of people who already have everything paid for – and then some.

4. The second shaft comes in the form of capping the mortgage interest deduction.

In general, people who are older own their homes already. My wife and I used that deduction for 30 years – and now our house is paid off.

We can’t use the deduction anymore. But we also don’t have any more mortgage payments, so it’s fine.

If you’re a young family trying to buy instead of rent, capping this deduction means is that you won’t be able to take advantage of it the same way we did. At some point, you can’t take the deduction anymore.

That might not be a problem in a place that’s cheap. But if you want to live in the New York area, or near Los Angeles, or Chicago, or Boston, where the cool jobs and the interesting people are, you’re out of luck.

At some point, more of the burden falls on you – probably right around the time when, if you’ve had kids, they’re thinking about going to college.

Young people didn’t vote for Trump. Dynamic parts of this country don’t vote Republican. The two have decided to stick it to them with this tax proposal.

5. As much as this clown is attuned to social media – except for 11 blissful minutes yesterday – Trump has never shown much interest in the problems and issues of young people in this country.

Neither does his base. I suspect it has a lot to do with the fact that most of them are over 40 and live in parts of the country young people flee because they hold so little opportunity.

And don’t think young people don’t resent it. Trump can’t show his puss on most campuses in this country. Even in states that went for him. Can you imagine Trump at Ann Arbor? Chapel Hill? Austin?

So as a Democrat, it’s essential to keep trying to mobilize voters between 18 and 35. Keep hammering the points I made above and others about such issues as women’s rights, social justice and opportunity.

We’re a country that has, until now, prided itself on its youth. On this picture of how young people drive change and make society better.

Now, with Trump and the Republicans, the emphasis is on shielding those who have from those who want. And to make it seem as though those who almost have need to be afraid of those who aren’t quite as close.

I teach, so I believe in the power of young people. I’m looking forward to the day when, again, our government does the same.

 

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GETTING HIM BACK (PART ONE)

1. It’s Tuesday, October 31, 2017.

I’m not a Halloween fan. But if you are, enjoy the day.

2. The past nine months and 11 days have been frustrating if you want to believe in the promise of this country.

It seems as though every day that Trump is in office is either another crisis or indignity.

The Muslim bans.

The war on journalism.

The brink of nuclear war with North Korea.

Gutting health care for millions.

Denying the devastation of climate change.

Relegating women to second-class citizenship.

Giving tax cuts to people who have more than enough.

Forcing American citizens in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to suffer through the devastation from hurricanes.

Equating peaceful protests by professional athletes with being unpatriotic.

Giving comfort to white supremacists and anti-Semites.

Using Twitter to insult people.

I might have missed a dozen or so. You can add them if you’d like.

For these nine-plus months, there has been very little those of us bothered by this could do about it.

We’ve protested in various ways, of course, and some of that has proved modestly successful. The campaign to preserve Obamacare has done about as much as it can.

But a week from today, many – not all, but many – of us have a chance to get back at Trump. It’s small, but it’s hardly petty.

3. Vote.

The temptation in off-year elections is to stay home. “Who knows who most of these people are or what they do?” is the general feeling.

First off, that’s wrong. People in town halls and county governments and state legislatures shape the communities where you live. They can determine if they’re welcoming and thriving or self-interested pockets run for the benefit of those who can worm they way in.

Second, local government is like minor-league baseball. Yes, a lot of these people aren’t going anywhere. But some of them go on to state and national office.

Town halls are the class A farm teams of American politics.

So, especially in 2017, especially as Trump, his minions – like the tame general defending treason last night – and the lemmings following him into abyss, it’s important to get out next Tuesday and vote.

I’ll talk more about specific elections tomorrow.

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