Phil Murphy's Fundamental Lie- sources

We are living in a time where getting accurate information is a challenging task.  All day we are bombarded with advertisements, social media, poster boards, phone notifications, and more, all seeking to persuade us with information.  Processing it and sorting the true from the false is a task you can get easily lost in.  So much of what we see is smoke and mirrors, is it really any wonder our political candidates are as well? 

In times like these, we must elect people who are getting accurate information and also relaying accurate information to us, both about the world and themselves as leaders.  Phil Murphy fails this test because a fundamental part of his campaign, that he is a political outsider, is a brazen lie.  When a candidate lies about the very core of who they are in presenting themselves to us, everything they say is suspect.  If our democracy is to flourish, these types of people must be disqualified from holding office.

Murphy leads with the claim that he is not a political insider on his biography and often makes the claim in town halls.  Even just a slight scratching of the surface here lays bare how dishonest this claim is.   

While Murphy has never held elected office, but he is well enmeshed in the highest rungs of the Democratic Party establishment.  He became ambassador to Germany after donating $100,000 to Barak Obama’s inauguration committee.  He also served as Finance Chair of the DNC, which is a position that exists to raise and spend money.  He has had Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager as his overnight guest, he is on intimate emails with Democratic State Chairman John Curie dating as far back as 2015, and he is so well-connected, he was able to request President Obama’s presence at the launch of his non-profit.  Someone so close to the highest rungs of political power in the country trying to sell himself as a political outsider is, quite frankly, offensive to our intelligence.

Phil Murphy’s entire political career is built upon raising money and donating money.  While that’s not in and of itself a bad thing, to me, it’s very troubling given the overall issues of inequality in our economy and the fact that that inequality has created a severe power imbalance in our democratic institutions between the very wealthy and everyone else.  In short, the very wealthy are able to exert a disproportionate impact on our government, which is not very democratic.   

The veneer of Phil Murphy’s campaign has been carefully constructed to hide the fact that he bought the Democratic Party machine and, thereby, hopes to buy the governorship. 

The core of the machine is party bosses who control local turfs with patronage jobs, contract steering, and shady civic associations funded by special interests.  Phil Murphy bought this part of the machine by donating more than $1 million to local Democratic Party bosses.  In exchange he has secured the endorsement of every county chairperson in the state, all unelected party bosses, both Senators, and all visible members of the state democratic committee.  That is the core of the Democratic machine. 

Once the bosses fall, the leaders of special interest groups scramble to get behind the selected candidate for fear of not having a seat at the table if they don’t fall in line early enough.  These are primarily unions and Democratic-leaning PACS.  I want to be clear, that I’m not criticizing these groups for getting behind Phil Murphy, because I know the people leading them are good people who want the best for their fellow citizens, the environment, and progressive causes.  But they do become part of the machine, especially when a candidate has spent more than $18 million to make his nomination inevitable. 

Finally, the actual product of the Democratic machine are the unwitting participants who owe the party bosses for their jobs or trust the local Democratic leaders and the leaders of the special interest organizations in their endorsement of the machine-backed candidate. They make the assumption that because that candidate is being backed by a group they trust, that that person is the best candidate for them.  

The usual way to turn the machine on is to insert money….which Phil Murphy has done in spades. And this year, the entire Democratic machine has been turned on.

Phil Murphy has been fundamentally dishonest about who he is and the fact that he has purchased the Democratic machine.  He is, quite clearly, not a political outsider as he claims.  His mutual endorsements of all of New Jersey’s most notorious political bosses, including Steven Sweeney, Brian Stack, Lou Stellato, Joe DiVenczo,  Vinny Prieto, and more are premised entirely upon his explicit purchase of “insider status.”  He is telling them he is with them, and he is telling us he is not.  Both of these things cannot be true.  Murphy is the very definition of inside, and he has paid massive amounts of money to be there. 

Not only has Phil Murphy been dishonest about his purchase of the Democratic machine to advance to power, his ostentatious spending of his wealth has made it impossible to know what kind of person he actually is and what kind of governor he would be.  His platform and positions have been carefully curated and distributed by a veteran staff of political insiders and consultants, many of whom cut their teeth with the last mega-millionaire to buy the NJ Democratic Party- Jon Corzine.  The $18 million he has expended so far has allowed him to manufacture a pristine image, but it is impossible for us to know his actual positions.  How can you trust such a carefully constructed illusion? How can you trust someone whose fundamental image as a political outsider is a lie?

I don’t know who Phil Murphy is, and neither do you.  He’s poured more money that most of us will make in our lifetimes into crafting an image of himself and selling us on it every chance he gets.  Even if he were all the things he claims to be, and even if everything I’m were a wild exaggeration, I fundamentally object to Phil Murphy becoming the governor in this manner.  It is undemocratic.  I don’t want a benign ruler selected by the party bosses and Democratic machine.  I want a robust, competitive election where voices of all candidates are elevated, not drowned out by one candidates’ extreme wealth.  I want a healthy democracy.  Phil Murphy’s elevation to the governorship would not be a cure to our sick democracy, it would be a further symptom of an unhealthy democracy.  We, the people, are the cure.

 

  

 


Progressive Issues Already Enjoy Broad Popular Support

Here are the links supporting the statistics from the "Electoral Reform Now!" video.  If you have an issue that is near and dear your heart, research what the general support for that issue is and post it in the comment section!


Maternity leave- 74% favor paid parental leave

Prison reforms (various types) ranging from 60% to 85%, depending on reform

Closing gun show loophole: 90%

Legalizing marijuana: 60%

Getting money out of politics: 84%

Taxing high income earners more: 61%

Using federal funds for universal prek: 70%

Path to citizenship for illegal immigrants: 84% of Americans, including 76% of Republicans.

Healthcare: 60% of Americans favor replacing Obamacare with “a federally funded program providing insurance to all Americans.”  


New Jersey Corruption and New Jersey Awakens' Mission

New Jersey is a corrupt state.  You could write a book about it. In fact, this reporter did.  This reporter did as well.

If you grew up here, like me, then government corruption is just part of the landscape of New Jersey politics.  We tend to normalize certain things, such our U.S. Senator being indicted on corruption charges and the Democratic establishment proudly signing on to say they are “with him.” Or the county bosses getting to decide who your legislators will be based on the power to award “the line” to their favored candidate (a power that has no basis in law). 

This corruption costs us, the taxpayers, an enormous amount of money.  How much is impossible to say, a conservative estimate might put it over $1 billion a year between the 565 municipalities, 599 school districts, 21 county governments, scores of local “redevelopment” and “economic” agencies, housing authorities, and all the executive branch agencies.  Consider that in 2013 the state comptroller suggested that corruption in the public insurance industry alone wastes $200 million a year in taxpayer money.  Add in pension schemes, pay-to-play, general waste, lost tax revenue, abuse of power, and all the other creative schemes politicians and their funders come up with and it’s easy to see how the money adds up quickly.  It’s your money.

The craziest thing about this is that New Jersey has the strongest anti-corruption laws in the country.  So what gives?

The corruption is self-perpetuating and the electoral system is the lynchpin.  When a corrupt politician attains power, they use that power to further corruption, halt investigations, and shut down dissent.  This can be seen in efforts to limit good government measures, such as repealing pay-to-play laws, rolling back the Open Public Records Act, or preventing an anti-corruption bill from even leaving committee in the legislature.  The best way to tackle corruption is to have an election system that promotes competition, fair elections, and the ability for constituents to oust politicians that aren’t doing their job. That is why the electoral system must be addressed first and that is what New Jersey Awakens is doing with our five election reforms. We need a whole new legislature and a governor who will back up those reforms. 

We are in the midst of building a campaign infrastructure to support all candidates running on the New Jersey Awakens platform.  You will be getting an email later this week asking for your support and detailing our plan to proceed forward.  I hope you will join us and I hope we can count on your support.

In the meantime, here are some more examples of blatant corruption from just the past few weeks:

1)      Yesterday, Paterson Mayor Jose Torres and 3 of his employees were indicted on corruption charges. He was elected to office after his predecessor pled guilty to corruption charges as well.

2)      Also in Paterson, the FBI is investigating a scheme whereby municipal workers accepted cash 0 bribes in exchange for letting a private company drop off tires without paying the required fees, which the taxpayers then had to pay instead.

3)      The day before that, David Samson, the former chair of the Port Authority and close associate of Chris Christie, was sentenced to probation for coercing an airline to reinstate an airline route he liked to fly, known as the “Chairman’s flight.”

4)      A former assemblyman from Bergen County was sentenced to 8 years in prison for using his position as an elected official to further a pyramid scheme.

And here is a detailed article on the story of Camden, where half of $1.1 billion invested “over half has gone to companies that the Norcross family has a financial interest in or have donated heavily to their campaigns.”  

Please like us on facebook, share this blog post, and spread the message that an anti-corruption election reform ticket slate is in the works for this year’s NJ elections!

Dana Wefer

New Jersey Awakens Founder and Republican Candidate for Governor

 

 


Why I Am Running For Governor- As A Republican

Democracies are not the normal order of human civilizations.  Throughout history, and even today, people are far more likely to live under monarchies, dictatorships, and authoritarian regimes than they are to be self-governed.  Our democracy was inspired by an era of enlightenment that recognized the importance of individual freedom and human dignity. Maintaining it requires vigilance and direct participation when things have gone awry.



Things have gone awry.  The Republican Party, the strongest political party in the country by far, has been abandoned by moderates. Congress and state legislatures have been gerrymandered so successfully that after the 2020 redistricting, Republicans may achieve a permanent majority in Congress, putting us in true danger of becoming a de facto one party state.  In the meantime, the Democrats are feuding and the plurality of voices, those who do not wish to affiliate with either of these parties, are being drowned out and held hostage by the two party system.    

Our political system is the pipeline that feeds who will run our government.  If the political system is feeding unaccountable, extreme, and corrupted politicians into the government, then our government will soon become unaccountable, extreme, and corrupted too.  If we wish to address the issues in the government, we must first fix how we choose the people who represent us there.  The five election reforms that I am running on, and that all New Jersey Awakens candidates are pledging to adopt, can be found here.  These reforms go far beyond band aid solutions- they would fundamentally alter the choices available to us and give us greater flexibility in making those choices.  These would constitute a genuine political revolution. 

But how do we, regular people, gain power to get these election reforms accomplished?  We must disrupt the system itself.  
  
Harvard Business Review defines disruptive innovation as: 

"a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses. Specifically, as incumbents focus on improving their products and services for their most demanding...customers, they...ignore the needs of others. Entrants that prove disruptive begin by successfully targeting those overlooked segments, gaining a foothold by delivering more-suitable functionality...Entrants then move upmarket, delivering the performance that incumbents’ mainstream customers require, while preserving the advantages that drove their early success.

Sound familiar?  The incumbent politicians have been servicing their most demanding constituents, the ones who vote in primaries and the special interests that fund their campaigns, while neglecting the needs of the rest of us.  The opening is there for candidates with fewer resources to target those being left out of the two-party system and to displace incumbents.  Donald Trump's candidacy and election disrupted the political system, but instead of enacting reforms he and the Republicans are eliminating safeguards that protect our democracy and public resources. We need to take a page from his book, but we need to elect people who are truly reform-minded.  

That is why I am running.  

I am running as a Republican for two practical reasons and two idealistic reasons.  

The practical reasons are: 1) The New Jersey Democratic Party is too corrupt to give regular people like you and me a voice or platform (Phil Murphy has spent more than $10 million of his own money to try to buy the Democratic nomination, and he'll most likely succeed) and 2) Running as an independent carries a risk of vote splitting because the Democrats and Republicans have worked together to put laws in place that prevent third party challenges to their power.    

The idealistic reasons are: 1) I hope that my running as a Republican will raise awareness about the fact that across the country, most elections are decided in the Republican primary, not the general election, so we need regular people with moderate views competing and voting in those elections and 2) I hope that my candidacy will refocus our attention away from labels and towards the candidates and issues themselves. We should not treat our politics as a team sport; our democracy is at stake.  We hurt ourselves when we defend a bad candidate just because they are on the same team and we hurt ourselves when we ignore good ideas or new voices just because they are on the other side.  

This is a post-partisan movement stuck within the confines of a two party system.  This movement, my candidacy, and the candidacies of the other New Jersey Awakens candidates are beyond party labels and inter-party fights.  The answers to our collective problems will not be found in overly simplified platforms that are rich in buzz words, but poor in ideas.  The answers are to be found in a dialogue between us all, regardless of what label you assume.  We must move beyond the Democrat vs. Republican mindset and unite to preserve our democracy as People v. the System.   Even if we disagree on everything else, representative democracy is our common bond, so we must work together to restore that.    

Please like our Facebook page, share our website, and spread the word.  Our success depends on getting our message out.  

Dana









 

 






The Offense

This is the final essay in a series describing the 3 movements of The Resistance.

The first, The Defense: Watchdogs and Emergency Response, details the professionals who keep an eye on the government and press our rights through their organizations as well as the grassroots organizers who are mobilizing us to action on a daily basis.

The second, The Garrison, discusses the role that our already elected officials must play in The Resistance using their power and influence to prevent further erosion of our Democracy and Civil Liberties.

This essay proposes a strategy for The Offense- Winning Elections

When I speak of “we,” I am speaking of everyone who values the integrity of our elections, the preservation of our civil liberties, the stability of our government, and the value of our vote. I am speaking of everyone who sees that we are headed on a path away from democracy and that we urgently need to get back on course.

Our founding fathers understood that those who hold the right to vote, hold power. Through a civil war and subsequent hard fought political battles to amend the constitution, eventually that power was extended to all people. The power of our vote, however, depends on competitive elections that have actual consequences, and we no longer have competitive elections in our legislatures. Money in politics has corrupted both parties and aggressive gerrymandering has insulated politicians from accountability. Only 8% of Congressional seats and 14% of state legislative seats are competitive.

This is a bipartisan problem. Both parties have worked to make their elected positions less competitive in an election. The Democrats just haven’t done it as well as the Republicans. Consequently, gerrymandering has put the Democrats at such a disadvantage that they consistently win more than 50%of the vote in the House of Representatives, but cannot come close to winning a voting majority in the House. The system itself is undemocratic.

Next year 33 Senate seats, the entire House of Representatives, 36 governor seats, and 46 state legislatures are up for election. The people who win those seats will redraw the state and federal redistricting lines after the 2020 census. The Republicans openly state that they believe they can “create” 20–25 more safe Republican congressional districts through the redistricting process.

This year, NJ is one of only two states that have elections; our entire state legislature and the governor are up for election. We have an opportunity, perhaps an obligation, to be the spark that sets off a national movement to bring democracy back to our government.

So how do we do it?

The Democrats Cannot Save Us

If your thought process after the election was anything like mine, or these people’s, or these people’s, then you thought “we have to take over the Democratic Party!” However, after much consideration, I’m convinced that the Democratic Party is not situated to mount the kind of offense we need.

The Democratic Party is extremely weak compared to the Republican Party. Over the last 8 years, Democrats have lost almost 1000 elected positions across the country. Republicans control nearly 70% of state legislative chambers. Republicans have complete control of government in 25 states; Democrats have complete control of government in just 5, the lowest number since the Civil War. Republicans have supermajorities in 22 legislative chambers. Congress has not been controlled this lopsidedly by Republicans for nearly 100 years, since the Great Depression. The Democrats let Donald Trump become President despite the fact that 53% of voters had a strongly unfavorable opinion of him. Bluntly, the Democrats have not had a good offense for a very long time.

The Democratic Party is also internally weak. It is internally feuding and the average age of top House leadership is 76; the bench is shallow. More than that, the Democratic Party brand has been, perhaps irreparably, tarnished because the Democratic Party is no longer seen by large swaths of the electorate as the party of the People. Additionally, it’s not clear that the Democrats in power are actually motivated to rebuild the party or do the soul searching necessary to right the ship. They are beneficiaries of the status quo. Their seats have been safely gerrymandered as well and many have happily sidled up to corporate donors and special interests.

Even if all these issues didn’t exist, the Democrats would still be in no position to mount an offense next year because 1) numbers wise, they are defending more Senate seats, including 10 Democratic Senators in states that Trump won, and 2) the system has been rigged against them through Republican gerrymandering.

Personally, given all of these issues, I am not willing to gamble on the Democrats alone, especially given the short timeline.

How About A Third Party?

After concluding that the Democratic Party is unlikely to mount the kind of offense we need, I started to think about alternatives, such as people running as third party candidates. However, that has practical issues. First, there is the fundamental issue of building an entirely new organization, which is a massive undertaking that may take too long. Second, the “winner take all” system generally makes third parties unviable. Third, the Republicans and Democrats have protected themselves against third parties by making it difficult to create a third party; it’s tough to get on the ballot as an independent political party. For example, in New Jersey an aspiring political party cannot be qualified as a political party, with all the attendant benefits, unless it first wins 10% of all the votes for General Assembly in the prior election cycle. In other words, to become a political party in New Jersey, you must already be a political party. Finally, independent parties do risk splitting the vote with Democrats, which should be avoided given the position our country and state are in.

So What Do We Do?

How do we infuse democracy into a system that has become undemocratic? We compete where the democracy is left.

Most elections are now decided in the primaries- 92% of Congressional seats and 86% of state legislatures. More specifically, by the math, most elections in the country are decided in the Republican Primary, elections in which only a small, and extremely motivated, segment of the population votes. By sitting those elections out, we are allowing the system to be rigged against regular people. We must compete in and vote in Republican primaries.

Political parties evolve- remember, Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. Parties go through realignments every 30–40 years, generally once a generation. We are overdue and many observers have floated ideas of what this realignment will look like. But, in the end, only history will tell what actually happens. We must make history.

There is very little downside to this strategy because:

1) The Republican Party is apparently up for grabs; Donald Trump is not a typical Republican.

2) It will force the Republican Party closer to the center to compete for votes that we pick up (disillusioned conservatives) or bring newly into the party. If we can turnout just 15% of New Jersey’s unaffiliated voters to vote in the Republican Primary, we would have more voters than all the other Republican candidates combined, even based on last year’s high turnout.

3) It will help the Democratic Party rebuild faster because they will be forced to run better and more progressive candidates to compete- they will no longer be the only game in town for people who value civil liberties, a strong social safety net, preserving our natural resources, common sense gun regulations, and policies that support the 99%.

4) This is a strategy that is applicable across the country, is easy to understand and implement, and could therefore be the template for a national movement in 2018;

5) In NJ, a movement towards participating in the Republican Primaries would allow fresh candidates to compete in races that are usually wrapped up by Democratic party bosses long before any election (ahem);

6) It doubles our chances of removing far right extremism from office. We’re not competing directly with the Democrats (so no risk of splitting the vote) and they’re still there as backup if we lose the Republican primary. We’re competing in different elections that don’t directly affect each other. To the extent that we end up competing against each other in general elections, see point 3.

Think of it this way: if your neighbor’s house is on fire and you leave it to burn, it’s going to take down the entire neighborhood. The Republican Party has been on fire for awhile, and now it’s threatening to take down the entire government. We only have two parties, if we abandon the one with the most power to to extremists and corporations, we may very well be abandoning our democracy. We must run toward that fire and get it under control. It’s time for a political realignment.

What I’m proposing will only work if we build a movement. Every movement is driven by the creativity, optimism, and courage of the people fighting for it. I don’t know what the world is going to look like in 10 years, but personally, I’d rather try something new than look back and wonder “what if.” If you feel similarly, join our movement.

If you’re interested in becoming a candidate, email NewJerseyAwakens@gmail.com.


The Garrison

We are under siege from all sides and decisively on the defense.  We are fighting desperately to preserve civil rights, preserve Our Democracy, and preserve peace with the world.  Collective action engaged in by the Watchdogs and Emergency response is powerful, but we need those with actual power in government to lead the way.  They are the last line of defense. 

 

In war, The Garrison are the troops who guard the base.  Here, our base is the Constitution, our Congress, and our Democracy.  The Democratic elected officials, the Democratic Party and decent Republicans, are The Garrison.  They have more know-how, more influence, more outlets to make their case, more connections to other people with influence, and a larger voice in government than we do.  They are the last line of defense between us and Trump and the Republican Congress.  Their job is to preserve the status quo as much as possible when it comes to civil liberties and the erosion of Our Democracy. 

 

History of the last decade shows us that Democrats have not been good at standing up to the Republicans.  They must be pressured to press their case.  As such, the Watchdogs and Emergency response must not only show up to keep Trump and the Republicans in check, they also must keep an eye on our own Garrison to make sure they are fighting every fight that matters, pushing for impeachment, and actually coming up with ideas to mount legislative attacks and use procedure to their advantage, just as Republicans have been doing so expertly.  

Up next: The Offense.  


Where We Are: Executive Orders, Potential Escalation With China, and Movement to Impeach Trump

It’s only been 4 days since my last blog post, but the news cycle has already changed several times.  Since my last post the most impactful story has been the executive order on immigration and The People’s subsequent revolt. As I’m getting ready to send this out, the Monday Night Masscare is unfolding.  

 The swift and powerful outcry to the Immigration executive order was inspiring, a perfect demonstration of what the Watchdog/Emergency Response movement can accomplish.  People showed up by the thousands at airports across the country.  The ACLU, one of the professional Watchdogs, quickly leapt to action and secured several victories in court staying implementation of the ban.  However, implementation of the court orders has been chaotic with border agents and the Department of Homeland Security first saying that they were still enforcing the ban in direct defiance of the judicial branch of government’s ruling on the matter, but then rolling it back.  There are conflicting reports of whether the ban is currently being enforced.    

 Either Trump and his administration are completely incompetent or they are intentionally forcing a constitutional crisis. I agree with this author and this author that they are testing boundaries to see what tolerance there is for the executive branch consolidating power to itself.  This aligns with the fact that last week’s executive orders set the groundwork for expanding executive power, granting more discretion to Trump and his cabinet members, and requiring frequent reports on a wide range of subjects that Trump and his administration will use to justify further actions, perhaps even “emergency” actions in the future.  This includes a weekly report on crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, which may provide a weekly stream of propaganda used to fuel anger towards all immigrants and further divide us against each other so we do not notice they are dismantling our democracy. 

 There are very difficult times still ahead for us.  Other items that dominated the news cycle since Thursday are that Trump essentially demoted the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of National Intelligence from the National Security Council and replaced them with Steve Bannon.  Several other items that in normal times would dominate the news cycle, like the sweeping expansion of the definition of criminal in Trump’s executive order concerning building the border wall or any of these other alternative facts offered up by the Trump administration almost pass without notice today.  Additionally, depending on where you are getting your news, you either know that a right wing terrorist (and Donald Trump fan) attacked a mosque in Quebec, or you believe that an Islamic terrorist attacked a mosque in Quebec. 

 New Jersey Awakens is in the middle of rolling out its plan to take part in The Resistance.  Last week’s Thursday post discusses the role of the Watchdogs and Emergency Response.  This week’s post addresses the role of already elected officials and the Democratic Party as The Garrison.  Next week will lay out The Offense, because we cannot overcome this if we are acting on defense alone. 

 

Escalation With China

 

Much of the last few weeks focused on domestic issues, but we should all try to be aware of international issues as well.  Donald Trump’s phone call with Taiwan’s president before he was sworn in was widely reported in the media; it was a radical departure from decades of U.S. diplomacy with China that threatened to sour relations between the two countries.  Then, China’s seizure of the U.S. drone, and Trump’s tweeted response, made it into the news cycle for a bit. 

 

However, since then, little has been reported concerning U.S. relations with China, which is strange because the Spratly Islands have been the subject of more recent sparring between the White House and China.  On January 24th, Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated that the U.S. would be defending its international interests as it relates to the islands, prompting the New York Times editorial section to run a column titled “Trump Injects High Risk Into Relations With China.”  This followed a January 11, 2017 statement by proposed secretary of state Rex Tillerson that the United States must “send a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops” and that “access to the those islands is not going to be allowed.”  Following through on this statement would almost certainly precipitate war because enforcing it would require confrontation.  China’s state run newspapers have said unequivocally that they would regard such an action as an act of war.  It’s important to note that these tensions are not completely new; indeed they were building during President Obama’s administration, but Trump’s assumption of the presidency has accelerated the course towards potential confrontation. 

 

Some news outlets, particularly right wing or right of center publications, have begun to talk about the possibility of a war with China.  Forbes ran an editorial a few days ago arguing that a U.S. Blockade with Philippines would be justified; the title of the article is “Is War Against China Justified?”.  The Washington Times also ran an editorial concerning an impending war between the U.S. and China. Russian and Chinese media are reporting that China has moved intercontinental nuclear missiles to the Russian-China borderBrowsing through a search for “China” on Briebart demonstrates that the far right media is very focused on these developments. Watching what is in these publications is important because they may broadcast Trump’s future actions.  Is the right wing softening up its base to the idea of a war with China the same way they softened them up to an alliance with Russia? 

 

I’m not trying to stoke fears and the reality is that an actual confrontation with China would be against the interests of both the United States and China, which mitigates against its likelihood.  However, personally, I am not confident that our current government is working in our interests, and war, military confrontation with a foreign power, or national emergencies are reliable tactics that would-be authoritarians, fascists, and dictators use to seize control of a country.  Here, we have a President who is severely conflicted, a cabinet that is extraordinarily wealthy and some whose families made much of their wealth through prior wars, and a Secretary of State who made his fortune on oil and is closely connected to the oil industry, which could be directly benefited by a war with China over control of the south sea.

 

In short, this is a cabinet and administration who may benefit from war with China, so it’s a situation that merits careful attention from the media and us.   

 

Impeach Trump

We need our Democratic leaders, especially those in the House of Representatives, to lead the way in getting Trump out of office as quickly as possible.  He and the team around him are a danger to the United States and to all of us. 

 

Two activist groups Free Speech for People and RootsAction have done a lot of the heavy lifting for them.  They are updating the actions that Trump takes that support his impeachment, have drafted model legislation that could be used to impeach him, and are working to gain a groundswell of grassroots support.  Their website, www.ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org, is experiencing some problems, but the homepage is up and you can sign the petition.  As we move forward, we must use pressure our Democratic Leaders to take this up.  Rep. Jaime Haskin, a freshman legislator, vowed to take this up as his cause; we should stand behind him and propel him into the headlines.  

 

If you run an Indivisible Group or another group that is doing daily calls to action, please pass this petition around your members and lets get cracking on those Democratic officials. 

 

This is not a drill. 

 

Dana

 

 

 

 


The Defense: Watchdogs and Emergency Response

We know the system is broken.  79% of Americans disapprove of Congress, near historic highs, but we can't seem to get a better Congress. And a big part of the reason for that is that aggressive gerrymandering and massive amounts of special interest money have helped the politicians rig the system to perpetuate the power of those who already have it.   

Every day, state legislatures are trying to enact new laws that further impede people's access to democracy.  We’ve grown familiar with the laws intended to make it harder to vote.  Now there’s also proposed legislation in 10 states that is specifically intended to chill public protest and give the state discretion to jail protesters.  In December there was the North Carolina Republican legislative coup, a coup staged by a legislature that was elected through a system so gerrymandered that a court ruled the lines were unconstitutional and ordered them to redraw them- an order which the legislature ignored.  In another brazen disregard for the democratic process, the North Dakota legislature is trying to repeal an ethics reform package that was just passed by the voters.  Their justification is that voters were “hoodwinked” and that the legislators are actually “squeaky clean” despite the fact that the state has earned an “F” in ethics from the Center for Public Integrity.  


Speaking of politicians who lie…


The Trump presidency is turning out to be much worse than I imagined, and I had imagined things would be pretty dire. It’s hard to keep track of the avalanche of executive orders.  Just as chilling are the gag orders on federal agencies, the continued attempts to discredit the media, and the apparent alignment between Trump and the Koch Brothers.  

Simultaneously, Congress is rushing us down a road towards destruction.  The aggressive agenda to gut social welfare programs, including the ACA, secure giveaways for the supremely wealthy, and assault civil liberties is just the opening shot across the bow.  

We are under siege.  After a steady drumbeat for the last 30 years, which has accelerated in the last 10 years, the Republican Party is now formally engaged in an all out war against the very people they are supposed to serve.  And Donald Trump is president. And we are losing badly.  


How do we turn things around?  

In my last email, I shared my analysis that The Resistance must be 3 movements working in concert.  The first movement is the Defense.  Below are organizations in NJ that are acting in this capacity.  We will be launching a webpage on www.NewJerseyAwakens.com  to feature organizations and will update it as we get more information.  

The Defense: Watchdogs and Emergency Response

The first line of defense is ordinary citizens and the dedicated groups who will keep an eye on the government.  These are professionals, advocacy groups, and regular people on the front lines shining a light where the politicians seek secrecy, showing up at congressional town halls demanding accountability, and fighting for civil liberties and voting rights in the courts.

 

                                                                         The Professionals

The professionals are the people whose lives and careers are dedicated to government accountability and service.  These include individuals, such as journalists, whistleblowers, and rogue scientists and agencies.    It also includes advocacy groups, such as the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the NAACP, and other organizations that have doggedly fought for our rights even when we weren't paying attention. They are leading the defense, and we should support them with contributions, subscriptions, and showing up.  

                                                                              The People

There is power in numbers and our defense requires that we show up in numbers. Nationally there are several organizations putting out regular calls to action.  These include moveon.orgIndivisibleDemocracy for America, and the Women’s March on Washington.  Statewide, some previously existing organizations, such as Blue Wave NJ, are organizing with renewed fervor.  

Action Together New Jeresy (ATNJ) is the leading organization putting out calls to action, connecting organizers with each other, and giving people the tools they need to be activists.   Their website is here.  Their public facebook page is here.  Through the public page, you can message and ask to be added to the secret group, which is where most of the action is.  ATNJ provides daily calls to action you can complete in a short period of time.  They are also coordinating with national movements to participate in events taking place nationwide, such as the Save Healthcare Rally and Resist Trump Tuesdays.

There are also several groups that formed to focus on specific geographic areas.  

        11th Congressional District: NJ 11 For Change, a nonpartisan constituent group is a leader in this area.  They have set their focus on Rodney Frelinghuysen, an eleven term Republican who supported Trump.  They have had enormous success getting people to the office, getting press for their efforts, and making a habit of activism with regularly scheduled events, such as Fridays with Frelinghuysen.  

         7th Congressional District: Westfield 20/20 is another group that has success with showing up to Congressman Lance's office, especially to protest the ACA.  Blue 7 New Jersey is another group in the 7th district, but focused solely on fundraising for the future race. 

         4th Congressional District: In the 4th Congressional District, there is a group inspired by Indivisible that is targeting Chris Smith.  

         South Jersey has the South Jersey Progressive Women for Progressive Change, a group that is almost 4,500 strong.  

One of the challenges that I have found in trying to locate these groups is that many of them are actually “secret” groups on facebook.  The organizers chose to go this way for various reasons, but it does present a logistical challenge in finding the groups and getting involved.  It also means that groups may be duplicating efforts without knowing that their neighbors a few towns over are working towards the same goal.  We don't have time to reinvent the wheel for each of these groups, so it's important the leaders be connected with each other.

We will be creating a page on our website to feature any groups that want to be included so organizers can connect with each other, share ideas, and support each other, and so volunteer activists can find NJ resources easily in one place.  If you know of another group, or if you start your own group, email NewJerseyAwakens@gmail.com if you want your group's details included.  

Coming Next

The Resistance Movement Two: The Garriso.

Yours,


Dana    

 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 





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The Resistance: A Movement in 3 Parts

America has become unstable.  Democracies derive their stability from the fact that power is spread out among the people, through our vote.  Our vote is supposed to be a source of power and through elections we exercise our power to decide who will represent our interests in government.  Competitive elections ensure that we can vote them out if they are disregarding the well-being of their constituents. But our votes have lost the power they once had; an increasing number of people live in districts where there are no challenges to the incumbent or where such challenges require massive amounts of money to launch, and even then are unlikely to succeed.    

 Over the last 10 years we have accelerated down a path away from democracy and toward one party rule.  Money in politics has corrupted both parties and aggressive gerrymandering has insulated politicians from accountability.  Only 8% of Congressional seats and 14% of state legislative seats are competitive.  Is a democracy still a democracy if the election outcomes are almost always assured? 

 Donald Trump and this Congress are symptoms of a much deeper problem, a fundamental crack in the foundation of our political system: we are losing our democracy. 

 In 2010, the Republicans instituted the program REDMAP, short for the “Redistricting Majority Project.”  They were very candid about their purpose; Karl Rove wrote about it in the Wall Street Journal.  The purpose was to take over state legislatures and governorships, which control congressional redistricting, and then gerrymander congressional districts to ensure perpetual Republican control.  Even now the website, www.RedistrictingMajority.com, is optimistic about the Republicans’ ability to make their majority in the House of Representatives even more lopsided.  At the top of the website a 2010 message brags that over the next 5 election cycles (2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020) they can “create 20-25 new Republican Congressional Districts through the redistricting process…solidifying a Republican House majority.”  Note the use of the word “create” not “win.”  This is not about inspiring people to vote for them because of their ideas; they are unable to win elections that way.  It’s about rigging the system, and they are very good at it.

 The 2018 elections will decide the future of this country.  33 Senate seats are up.  All 435 seats of the House of Representatives. 36 governor seats. 46 state legislatures.  The people who win those seats will get to redraw the state and federal redistricting lines in 2021 and will decide whether our country continues as a democracy or whether we accelerate the dangerous slide toward uncompetitive elections and one party rule.

 Since the election, I have worked to connect with leaders from other grassroots organizations in NJ, I’ve spoken to hundreds of people about what direction they believe we should move in, and I’ve given a lot of thought about the different paths we, the people, can take to reclaim our democracy and, thereby, our government. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that The Resistance must be 3 movements working in concert.  1) We need a Defense: The Watchdogs and Emergency Response. 2) We need our elected officials fighting at their stations in the government: The Garrison.  3) We need an Offense: winning elections.  Everyone has a role to play.  Coming next week: The Defense. 

 

Yours,

 

Dana


On Trump

What can we do? 

 

Every day feels like an assault of new and scary information.  Trump's appointments demonstrate a determination to hasten the transfer of public wealth and resources to the private sector, dismantle important areas of government, and solidify the power of government in the hands of the extraordinarily wealthy. 

 

Moreover, our current government leaders are sounding alarms about Russian interference in the election. As are foreign leaders in their own democracies.  The FBI and CIA are giving differing accounts of Russia's interference in our election. President Obama has ordered a full report to be released before January 20th.  A bipartisan group of Senators is also calling for a further probe of Russia's involvement in the election.    

 

Additional news just this weekend:

 

Trump is reportedly seeking to appoint Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobile, Secretary of State.

 

The Trump transition team has sent a disturbing questionnaire to Department of Energy employees seeking a list of names of all employees who have attended climate change conferences and worked on climate change research and policies.  

 

The NY Times has reported that the Russians hacked the RNC, but did not release the information.  Some writers have speculated that, if true, this could lead to Republican officials being blackmailed - a scary prospect.

 

In the meantime, Trump supporters remain distrustful of President Obama's commissioning of a report to get to the bottom of what happened with Russia and the election (see the comments section).  

 

We are drowning in information, and it can be overwhelming and confusing, but it's absolutely vital we keep paying attention.  We cannot afford to get caught up with distractions like we did during the election.  We must work on winning elections.  

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