It’s President Trump. What Does That Mean?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, commercial use attribution license, by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, commercial use attribution license, by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

What a night. I sat up late, watching the election returns, along with a lot of other people all around the globe. At the end of the evening, it was clear that America’s president elect is Donald J Trump.

Mr Trump was the clear winner in the electoral college, but if this morning’s vote trend continues, Secretary Clinton may end up winning the popular vote. The margin is razor thin, signifying a sharply divided electorate.

Mr Trump signaled a hard turn in his behavior with his acceptance speech. He thanked his opponent in the general election, Secretary Hillary Clinton, for “her service” to our nation. That was a big change in tone compared to what I saw him do in a speech just the night before in which he ranted and raved about how Secretary Clinton belonged in jail. I assume that it’s part of his new “presidential” public personality.

Be that as it may, I am hopeful that he turns out to be a good president for this country. The future of everyone I love is riding on it.

As for me, if he just keeps his campaign promise and actually nominates justices to the Supreme Court who are pro life and who favor religious liberty, it will be enough. We have one vacancy on the court right now. At least one of the sitting justices is elderly and in frail health. What that means is that President Trump may have the opportunity to nominate the justices who will give us a pro life majority on the court. It is possible that Roe might be overturned.

If I could see that happen before I die, it would be a gift.

However, we’ve seen decades of failures of various “pro life” presidents to nominate candidates who actually made pro life rulings once they got on the court. Pro life presidents just can’t seem to do the job of nominating pro life justices whose pro life beliefs will stick. On the other hand, pro choice presidents have a 100% record of nominating people who ultimately support Roe from the court. I don’t know if President Elect Trump will do a better job of nominating than his predecessors, but I hope and pray that he does.

One of the best things about his election is the hope it brings that we may see an end to the legal attacks on Christian business owners and Christian health care workers who do not want to participate in activities such as abortion or same-sex weddings. It would also be a vast relief to see the repeal of the invidious HHS Mandate. Again, I have hope that these are promises that he will keep.

Will President Trump follow through on his promise to build a wall along the border between Mexico and the United States and to deport millions of illegal immigrants? Will he stop immigration into this country from the Middle East? Those promises were two of the reasons why he won this election. However, the first one is highly impracticable and both of them fly in the face of what the big corporations want.

The reason why the illegal immigration problem never changes, even after repeated political campaigns hyping it, is that corporate interests like things the way they are. They want cheap labor in this country and they want cheap labor in Mexico, both.

Congress is pretty much a corporate puppet organization. They seldom bestir themselves to do much of anything except grandstand, pass tax breaks for special interests and the wealthy, create more corporate welfare and enact “reforms” that are laws for and by the corporations and which were often written by corporate entities.

Will a corporate Congress lock up in defense of corporate interests concerning immigration? On the other hand, will President Trump pursue his campaign promises in these matters with the same enthusiasm that he promoted them on the campaign trail? We’ll have to watch and see how this all plays out.

A corporate Congress should make smooth sailing for the massive tax cut to the wealthiest interests which President Elect Trump has promised. I think that is one thing we can count on happening. I say that unhappily. I’ve witnessed here in Oklahoma what bleeding the middle class and working people to give tax cuts to the rich does to an economy.

I think such tax cuts will harm the economy, not help it, for the simple reason that we’ve already transferred an unfair share of paying the costs of our government onto working people. I don’t think they can carry a heavier load. This is ironic, since those are the very people who put President Trump in office, and one of the reasons they voted for him is because they are overburdened economically. Transferring even more of the national wealth to those who are already wealthy will only make things harder on them.

The repeal of Obamacare will probably happen, although I’m not going to hold my breath about seeing President Trump follow through on his promise to replace it with a better plan. I imagine that even the parts of Obamacare that most people agree were good such as making sure that people can get health insurance even if they have health problems will be deep-sixed in service to the insurance companies.

President Trump will be able to follow through on defunding Planned Parenthood, if he wants. But I don’t expect to see him fulfill his promise of paid maternity leave. A plethora of much-needed reforms such as student loan relief and lower higher education costs are now off the table.

I am worried about programs like funding for domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers, and I imagine equal pay for equal work will never happen. I am honestly quite concerned about having a man who assaults, abuses, degrades and insults women for president. Congress is pretty much a boys’ club, so I don’t expect them to buttress women’s human rights in the face of an abusive president. I also don’t expect protests on behalf of women from our religious leaders.

I look at my granddaughter and I wonder what living in a country governed by a frank and open misogynist will mean to her as a person as she grows up. I also wonder how women who are victims of violence and rape will fare in this new world.

As for international interests, I pray that President Elect Trump revises what he says he is going to do there. I do not want a world dominated by Russia and China. I do not want this country to be dominated by them, either.

I hope with all my heart that President Trump is able to control his behavior and be a good president for us. I pray that I will see an end to abortion before I die. I also hope that he will not create a climate where the degradation of women is even more the cultural norm than it is already.

But whatever he does, he is the President Elect. I wish him and all of us the very best.

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Our Vote: Choosing Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Photo Source: Pixabay, cco Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/presidential-election-usa-politics-1336480/

Photo Source: Pixabay, cco Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/presidential-election-usa-politics-1336480/

I’ve been praying almost constantly about both the election next Tuesday and its aftermath. This is the first time in my life that an election has actually scared me, but this one does.

No matter who wins next week, this election is not going to end well for this country or for We the People. That is why I’ve decided to write this post. There are things I want to say now, before the election because there will be no purpose in saying them afterwards.

I realize that anything anyone says right now leads to a lot of craziness on the part of those who read it. These two candidates are, each in his or her own way, so execrable that there is no way to talk about either issues or morality without taking on the appearance of backing or attacking one of them.

It is even impossible to speak out against heinous things like sexual assault, misogyny, racism, incest, pornography and abortion without being attacked for advocating for one of these candidates.

Think about that. These two people are so identified with amorality that a discussion of immoral behavior is not possible without people thinking you are using code to attack one or the other of them.

Christians lost this election a long time ago. We have no candidate for president on the ballot next Tuesday. The fact that so many Christians — including, sadly, Christian religious leaders — have gone as nuts as the rest of the country and jumped down into the trough to sling mud with everybody else is a deep sadness in my heart. It is a failure of discipleship at a critical time in our history.

No matter who wins this election, Christians have already lost. More to the point, We the People, have lost. This will not end well. The reason it will not and can not end well is rooted in the touchstone I used for deciding issues and votes when I was in public office, which leads me to what I want to say.

Let me lay the groundwork with a bit of reminiscence.

When I went back into office the second time, I knew that I would face votes and times when even the most compelling issues and interests would collide with the common good. I also knew that decisions would be forced on me and that I couldn’t duck them. I would not have the option of voting for a third party candidate or just not voting at all. It was my job to decide and I had to do it.

It’s easy, in the pressure-cooker of political debate and decision making, to lose sight of who you are and what you believe. No one who has not experienced it can imagine the weight of the arguments and forces that are brought to bear on individual elected officials in an effort to get them to use the power of their office in a certain way. These interests and arguments collide forcefully, and the psyche and emotions of the person who holds the office tend to get crushed in the process.

People lose themselves in public office. They get so turned around and lost that they no longer believe what they believe or think what they think.

I knew all this when I went back into office the second time. I walked in the door fully aware that I was placing myself in an emotional, spiritual and psychological blender.

It’s important, when you are faced with critical decisions, to know what you believe and why you believe it. It is a critical part of keeping your head to have core values and understandings you can anchor your decision-making on as you wend your way through the maze of deciding that is your daily lot.

I think the American people have been put through an emotional, psychological and spiritual blender these past few years that is very much like a slow-mo version of what an elected official experiences. We have been beaten half senseless with a 24-hour news cycle that focuses on the next terrible thing and actively seeks to keep us whipped up in a frenzy of panic and obsession. That’s because they make their money from obsessive viewing, which is why so much of their programming is trash. It’s why they focus on the negative and the vicious, the amoral and the corrupt. Those things grab us at the lowest level of consciousness, they fascinate precisely because they echo our atavistic disorders and fears.

It’s no accident that we are now faced with a choice between two unsavory candidates for office. It is also no accident that many of the people in the electorate are behaving like crazy loons as the election approaches. The American public has been flogged without pausing for years now. We have been ignored and manipulated, disregarded and used; all without conscience or a sense of responsibility on the part of those who are doing it to us.

I have three things I want to share with you as we approach election day and the life after.

First, I want you to know that this is the kind of public discourse and these are the kinds of candidates you get in a democracy which has turned away from God. We are seeing the dawn of our punishment, and it appears that it will be by our own hands.

Second, I want to reiterate that no matter which of these candidates wins, Christians have already lost this election. We lost it a long time ago. Neither of these candidates is fit for the Oval Office. Neither of them is worthy to lead this great nation. But one of them will. And no matter who it is, We the People are going to pay the price for what they do.

Third, I want to share with you the touchstone that I used to anchor all my decision-making when I was in office. I actually had several basic rules, if you want to call them that, which guided me. I wouldn’t use my power to kill anybody and if I had the chance to save lives, I would take it and I would do it, no matter the political cost to me.

That sounds simple — just don’t kill anybody — but it’s not. A lawmaker can kill on a vast scale for generations to come by putting a comma in the wrong place. Also, how tough is it to decide to save a life? In politics, it can be tough. It can get you reviled and attacked. There is nothing that makes people more vicious than when you tell them that somebody they’ve decided is not human enough to be treated as a human is actually a full human person.

That point is pertinent in this election for one reason. The President of the United States has the power to kill on a planetary scale. He or she can, on their own cognizance and in a matter of minutes, kill everything, everywhere. We are considering in this election whether or not we will destroy the carefully-balanced system of alliances that has kept this world out of nuclear war for over 70 years. That is a huge matter. Enormous.

Which leads me to the basic, bedrock criteria I used for deciding on votes. When I found myself in a conundrum that wouldn’t yield, I based my decision on one truth: A just and stable government is always the greater good.

There is no force in this world more capable of doing great harm or great good than government. Government is the collective power of whole nations of people. In this case, it is the collective power of United States of America and all its capabilities and potential.

Will we end up in a depression that makes the 1930s look like a walk in the park? That question will be decided to a great extent by the actions of whomever we elect next week.

Will we be looking at a world where all nations, from Japan to Saudi Arabia, have nuclear weapons at their disposal? That is a question we are voting on next week.

Will we end legal abortion through the courts, or be forced to change tactics and go for a Constitutional Amendment? That question could be decided by whomever we elect on Tuesday.

Will we be vesting the power of government in the hands of the person who is most likely to ensure that We the People live under a just and stable government that is capable of protecting us and providing for the domestic tranquility?

Insofar as governance is concerned — and that is what we are doing, my friends, We the People of these United States are choosing our government — insofar as governance is concerned, a just and stable government is always the greater good.

No other value, privilege or right can possibly be more important than that for the simple reason that all rights, and the worldly protections of all life, flow from a just and stable government.

The single most anti-life vote anyone can cast is to vote against a just and stable government.

The President of the United States has the power to end all life on this planet. He or she has the power to kill on a planetary scale. He or she also has the power to create an international political climate that predicates toward war, even and including world war, or, conversely, to pull us back from that abyss and lead us past the carnage and into peace.

Think carefully about how you vote in this election. And however you vote, pray.

Because after the votes are counted, we will find that, no matter who won, we Christians have already lost.

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Voting is a Moral Act

File Photo

File Photo

My personal religious leader, Archbishop Paul Coakley, gave Oklahoma Catholics one of the few balanced and honest assessments of this upcoming election that I have read from any religious leader.

I am grateful to him for both his courage in saying the truth at this time when people have become so partisan and enraged that they won’t hear the truth, and for his courage in speaking out against sexual assault and violence against women.

Here is Archbishop Coakley’s letter.

Voting is a moral act

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley         October 30, 2016

The presidential debates are now behind us and Election Day is looming large. One of the most common reactions to the astonishing developments of this election cycle is a troubling question: how did we get here? Are these really the best candidates that our nation has to choose from in electing the next president of the United States?

Our major party candidates are both deeply flawed. One has boasted of his ability to grope women at will simply because of his celebrity status. It is never acceptable to demean and commit violence against women! This candidate’s lack of impulse control has been on display in his failure to stay on topic during debates and refrain from offering crass and outrageous statements to reporters, hecklers and even supporters. These are not reassuring qualities for one who might be entrusted with nuclear codes.

The other major candidate has been a tireless advocate for abortion and same-sex marriage. Her inner circle has been caught strategizing an anti-Catholic campaign to undermine adherence to Church teaching among Catholics in order to advance their own short term political gains at the expense of interfering with religious liberty. This candidate has a problem with truth-telling and transparency.

How did we get here? And, what does this mean for our nation? In 1775, one of our nation’s founding fathers, John Adams said, “Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private virtue, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics.”

We don’t talk much about virtue these days, public or private. That is a big part of our problem. We are witnessing a disturbing lack of public virtue in our national discourse and in the direction that many of our government’s policies and laws are moving. How else can we account for our widespread tolerance of grave challenges to foundational institutions such as marriage and the family, not to mention the sacredness of human life from conception to its natural end?

If this is so, it suggests a failure in private or individual virtue among the citizens of our nation. It was Plato who once described the state as “the soul writ large.” The health of the state, of civil society, of a nation is a projection of the health of the souls and characters of its citizens. If our laws and policies turn a blind eye to the poor, it is because too many of us do the same. All of this is to say that if we find ourselves asking how our nation got here, then we need to look within our own hearts.

During the Maccabean period of Jewish history there was widespread apostasy when the Jews, enamored by the ways of their foreign occupiers, sought to hide the mark of their circumcision. They betrayed their deepest identity as God’s chosen people by being ashamed of the very sign of their covenant with God. Today, we are witnessing a similar apostasy when so many people, believers and unbelievers alike, deny the law written in their hearts by the Creator. Too many people, blinded by sin, make themselves the sole arbiter, lawgiver and judge of what is good and evil, true and false.

This election cycle, perhaps, will serve as a reminder that what we most need is a renewed commitment to the pursuit of virtue, to seek the good and adhere to the truth as inscribed in our hearts by our Creator, elaborated by reason and illumined by Revelation.

Character matters. Unfortunately, as we prepare to go to the polls on Nov. 8 we cannot rely as much on the virtue and character of our presidential candidates as we ought to be able to do.

Still, we have an obligation to vote and our vote ought to be informed by a careful study of the platforms of the parties and the stated positions of the candidates. Voting is a moral act. It ought to be guided by prayer and an evaluation not only of the political, but also the moral implications of our decisions.

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The New Pope’s Schedule for the Next Few Days

Pope Francis will have a busy schedule for the next few days.

  • Thursday, March 14: Visit Santa Maria Maggiore for prayer. Mass with Cardinals at 5 pm.
  • Friday, March 15, officially welcome all the Cardinals.
  • Saturday, March 16, audience for journalists and media representatives.
  • Sunday, March 17, the Holy Father will give his first Angelus as Pope Francis.
  • Tuesday, March 19, Pope Francis will be inaugurated Bishop of Rome in St Peter's Square.

 

 

 

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Singin’ Those Swing State Blues

According to a recent Associated Press story, the upcoming presidential election will come down to how people vote in these seven states:

Colorado

Florida

Iowa

Ohio

Nevada

New Hampshire

Virginia.

The message for residents of these states is clear: Lock up your babies and little old ladies. It’s going to be a bumpy fall.

For the next three months, you and your vote will be the quarry of big-game hunting politicos willing to twist every knob, turn over every rock and crawl down every hole in search of that elusive 51% of the votes in your state.

You and your vote are the object of their desire, the purpose of their actions and the subject of their dreams. The candidates and their campaign teams will become your new best friends. They’ll prove it by never letting a moment of any campaign day slide by without reaching out to touch you in some fashion.

They’ll come to you over the phone with robo calls from the candidate, his wife, the governor, the mayor, your preacher and maybe a Hollywood star or two. Flip on your tv and they’ll blare at you with yappy ads. Go to your mailbox and there they’ll be again. You’ll be observed, polled and think-tanked to smithereens.

The reason for all this attention is simple. You can’t make up your mind.

After what seems like years of campaigning and political back and forth, you still don’t know which one of these two guys you want for your president. I’m not sure what it is about Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia that makes you so indecisive, but it does seem that this happens to you a lot.

While you folks are getting pummeled and pushed, the rest of us who live in the states that made up our collective minds a year ago will watch. We’ll see the “focus groups,” “on-the-spot-interviews” and on election day, the “exit polls” telling us minute by minute what your reactions are to each itty bitty piece of jaffe reporting and the rare actual issue that will come up.

We’ll see you become more tense;  hear your voices as they spiral higher. We’ll watch as the constant hammering from your new best friends Romney and Obama wears away your patience. We’ll listen as you sing those swing state blues.

But we know you. You will not make up your minds. When election day rolls around, you’ll surprise everyone by what you do, including, probably, yourselves.

Until that day (and may it come soon) you’ll just have to suffer your quadrennial punishment while the rest of us watch. Around my house, we’re going to lay in a store of popcorn, soft drinks and snacks so that we can kick back and have a good time at the upcoming three-month-long watch party.

As for those of you in the barrel, you are the front line of active Democracy. You know and I know that the day the election is over, your new best friends will pack up and go back to where they came from. They probably won’t even issue a good-bye robo call. The only way you’ll know they were ever there will be by the tilted campaign signs wilting in the rain and an occasional campaign mail piece hanging out the back end of a trash truck.

My advice to you is to spend the quiet of that day after the day when America chooses its next president unpacking your babies and little old ladies. You can tell them that it’s safe for them to come out now.

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Speaking Swahili in Oklahoma

I was elected to public office for the first time in 1980; the same year John Lennon was murdered and the Moral Majority became a major player in American politics. The country was reeling from the capture of our citizens at the American Embassy in Iran. There were long lines to buy gasoline and interest for a new car could easily cost 15% for someone with good credit. The Cold War and its mind-numbing threat of universal nuclear annihilation hung like the sword of Damocles over all of us.

These were not halcyon days. There was trouble in the world then, as now. But America was still the manufacturing power of the world. There were jobs, good jobs, that could support a family, and a college education was still affordable without living in penal servitude to student loans for the rest of your life.

The biggest difference for me personally between then and now is the difference in the people I encounter on my job as a legislator. Back then, if I wanted to convince a fellow legislator to vote either for or against a piece of legislation, I would talk to them about how the legislation would affect the people of Oklahoma. If I could convince the legislator that the bill in question would hurt people, he or she would vote against it. If they believed it would help people, they would vote for it.

If I try to talk to my colleagues today about how a piece of legislation will affect the people of the state, they look at me as if I was speaking Swahili. Once in a while one of them will turn his head away and not look me in the face, but that’s as close as you can come with today’s politicians to get them to consider how the votes they cast affect the people they represent.

In today’s politics, the only way to persuade a legislator to change their vote is to talk to them about how it will affect their chances of re-election, or how some special interest group feels about the bill. I won’t say that is the only thing they care about, but it is the only thing that will motivate them to change their actions. Even that falls to the way side when party loyalty is in play. Nothing in today’s political world is allowed to trump doing what your party tells you to do.

As with all blanket statements concerning people, there are exceptions. I know a small number of legislators in both parties who will step out and cast their votes based on the way a piece of legislation will affect the people they represent. Some of these people are women, some are men. The Republicans and Democrats in this group are about evenly divided.

It hurts me to say this but it is true; you are just as likely to find a pro-choice politician who will bravely stand up for what they believe as you will one who is pro-life.

This doesn’t happen because all elected officials are evil. A small number of the people I work with are craven opportunists who genuinely do not care about anyone or anything except their own ambitions. But the vast majority of them are good people who were put in office by political machines who recruited them to run, gave them their campaign funds, told them what their positions were based on polls and their political party‘s sell-lines, put out their campaign ads and organized their victory parties.

These elected officials are not representatives of the people in their districts. They are operatives for political parties who have themselves become consortiums of special interests.

They are so utterly out of their depth once they get into office that they fall for every bit of manipulation and flattery (and there is an endless supply of both for the winner in any campaign for public office) that comes their way. They are confused, overwhelmed and, like most people who are in over their heads and trying to hide it, easily angered and given to pomposity.

Most of them signed up to run for office because they had some notion that they could “make a difference” or because of vague beliefs about culture war issues. But by the time they’ve been processed and groomed into a winning candidate, they’ve drunk so much political kool-aid that they think people who talk to them about things like the common good and what’s best for ordinary people are naive lightweights.

A “tough” vote in this legislative environment is not a vote where the legislator is trying to figure out what is the right thing to do. A “tough” vote is one that catches him or her between two competing special interests. The toughest “tough” votes are the ones where they get caught between the power brokers who own them and the lies they told their constituents.

Legislators who are faced with one of these toughest of the “tough” votes tend to become fearful, petulant, bitter and easily enraged.

After that, anyone who tries to convince them that they need to cast their votes on what will be best for the people they represent would be just as effective if they really were speaking Swahili.

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