- Glenn Sonnenberg
Musings from the Bunker 9/1/20
Greetings and Happy September!
It’s a big month. Vacation is over—now we return from all the places we went this summer (you know, the gas station, the market, maybe the beach or a restaurant!). The traditional in person school year begins this month and the Autumn Equinox is just three weeks away. Plus the Jewish High Holy Days are just around the corner. As most Jews know, the High Holy Days are a clear indicator that there is one more heat wave in the offing. It inevitably is particularly hot on Yom Kippur, when we’re fasting and the hours seem to drag on. Somehow the blistering heat goes well with the day of atonement. For all my Christian friends, mark down Monday September 28th as a hot beach day with less traffic!
I’ve been ruminating over President Trump’s acceptance speech and the likely themes of the upcoming election…
SAFER, STRONGER, PROUDER
These are words that kept coming up in the Republican National Convention. We can safely conclude that these are the tropes we are going to hear again and again during this election season. Here’s why these three words resonate with a large portion of the population, myself included. But here also is why these themes may be more valid arguments for Biden/Harris than for Trump/Pence.
We are in an era of protests that call for change. I remain convinced that protests will decline as concrete responses are made to the very real concerns that prompt these protests. I also believe much of the violence is the result of fringe elements and criminal opportunists or simply the result of pent up rage. In any event, the President has seized upon the violence and looting that are the peripheral story to authorize aggressive actions by peace officers in response, often creating even greater tension and sparking more violence.
Why safety works. People are scared of their personal safety. It’s what drew our forebears together in camps and settlements. We want protection from enemies from the outside. Fear is a powerful political tool. “Only I can keep you safe” and “American under Joe Biden will be more dangerous.” These are powerful images that stoke fear.
How it can work for Biden. Here’s the thought experiment—will continued aggressive police action reduce lawlessness or heighten the tensions? Biden needs to say:
• The President is arguing that I won’t combat crime. That’s so ludicrous it doesn’t warrant a response.
• I don’t condone violence or lawlessness. But I DO support the legitimate right of Americans to protest and demand change.
• I don’t think we should “defund” the police. What we need is to deploy our resources smarter.
• After months of vetting, I chose Kamala Harris as my running mate because these times require the cool, collected experience that a skilled prosecutor can provide. Justice is our watchword—justice for the underserved and justice meted out to the violators of the law.
Who doesn’t want to be stronger? We all want to be stronger in facing life and the challenges we face. There are good reasons to want to be stronger. The lion fears no one in the jungle. In the context of international relations and defense, American power and the ability to project that power has been an essential aspect of our ability to further democratic ideals and American self-interest throughout the world.
How it can work for Biden. Start with a quote from President Reagan, “Ask yourself…are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Biden needs to say:
• We are in era of declining revenue and we need to be stronger through better defense procurement and deployment.
• To be stronger requires alliances. The President has materially weakened our standing in the world with his bellicose rhetoric and relentless insults. This doesn’t make us stronger—it makes us a laughingstock.
• Alliances are critical. The President has reduced the effectiveness of NATO, has abandoned our friends, kowtows to dictators, and didn’t sign on to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (which now exists in another form without us), and has diminished us internationally.
• The President stood by and allowed China to gain critical footholds in the South China Sea and throughout the world.
Who doesn’t want to be part of a winner? On the flip side, who enjoys constantly being beaten up and abused for the perceived failures of their country, their communities and themselves? The President offers a vision that says that all is right with you and our history. Don’t be ashamed---be proud. But it is possible to be both proud and yet concerned, even ashamed…
How it can work for Biden. Biden and Harris need to take away the mantle of “true patriot”:
• We have a great deal to be proud of as Americans. The American ideal is unique in world history. We stand for ideals to which we get closer each generation.
• But we’re not perfect. We have made great strides in civil rights but there is more work to be done. I want us to be even prouder of ourselves by taking reasonable actions to right the wrongs in society. Some things make us ashamed—we can turn this around and find yet more reasons to be proud.
Let’s see if Biden/Harris can do a ju jitsu move on Trump/Pence. The key is not to combat the opponent through head-on attacks (which for Trump, means getting down in the gutter with him) but through using the opponent’s forward momentum against him.
THE REPUBLICAN PLATFORM
The conventions are over and we are now off to the races, with some 63 days until the election. For the first time of which I’m aware, a major political party has declined to publish a party platform. Instead, the Republican Party, the Grand Old Party, the party of Lincoln, TR, Eisenhower, Rockefeller, Reagan and Bush, decided that its platform is, essentially, to follow President Donald Trump in all things and wherever it takes them. Here’s Bill Kristol’s tweet on this:
The Republicans, in 2020, for the first time, have no platform. Instead: “RESOLVED, That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.” It’s no longer the Republican party. It’s a Trump cult.
Here’s the full text of the party’s resolution. To see it in writing is mind boggling:
IN THE MIDST OF POLITICS THERE IS CHARITY AND GRACE
Finally, Los Angeles Rams star cornerback Jalen Ramsey made a $1MM donation to a K-4 school in his home town of Nashville:
https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2020-08-26/rams-cornerback-jalen-ramsey-makes-1-million-donation-to-school. Nice to read positive news like this once in a while…