Put Immigration Up Front

The nation will not get out of this impasse we’re living in without first putting immigration up front for discussion.

Trump identified it as a source of deep resentment in dissatisfied sections of the electorate and rode it to victory. That resentment is still there.

Democratic candidates do harm to themselves and the nation by not giving immigration a central position on their agendas.

We understand that addressing inequality will need a long conversation with the country and gradual fixes introduced as we are justifiably distrustful of quick ones.  

But to give immigration less importance is to allow Trump to whip his fans into a frenzy one more time. We cannot afford it.

So long as immigration is left on the sidelines we will not defeat Trump.

Putting immigration up front will ask everyone to look at themselves and examine where they stand.

Immigration has been a powerful force in our nation. It has helped build us. We would not be who we are today without immigrants.

But we need borders too. We need limits. We need to have a say on who gets in and who doesn’t. Americans need to feel that their input has been acknowledged.

To do that we need a national referendum on immigration. A referendum on just that one issue.

Let us set aside a period of time devoted to discussing its pros and cons. Who do we let in, from what countries, with which skills, from what race?

Put every related issue up for discussion, not being afraid to look at ourselves as we know stand.

After such period then the matter would go to the entire country for a vote and then to congress who, having heard the will of the people, will put their wishes into law.

A time limit should be stipulated for the law, so that it can be revised as its effects play out.

But the nation would have had a chance to agree to something as a unit. We all would then need to abide by the results, whether we like them or not.

Why hasn’t this been discussed?

Because of what’s happened in England with Brexit. Because of it, we’re fearful that we will be painfully divided.

But we are already painfully divided. Furthermore, we are not the English.

The world owes much to that accomplished and scrappy people. In economics, in politics, in science. They were once the dominant nation in the world and yet they failed to adapt to changing circumstances and thus began their slow descent. They’re still in the thick of their downward spiral. Soon the Scots will want out of Great Britain, then the Irish, maybe even the Welsh.

The English will surely make a comeback but they have paid dearly for their mistakes. During their long downslide, they had chances to change strategy to better deal with their vast possessions but they did not. Their failures represented a failure of imagination. Let us learn from them and not make the same mistakes.

A national referendum on immigration will allow us an opportunity to examine in detail all the pros and cons of the matter and make a choice.

We are no stranger to failures of imagination in our history. The decimation of Native Americans, slavery, Jim Crow, Vietnam, and in recent history the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stand as examples.

It will take much courage but confronting immigration will give us a chance to square with our truth, and in so doing let our imagination conceive of solutions that free up our energies to create and move forward, rather than to blame and hate.

This will be my last offering on Medium.com

I will continue to post on WordPress.com at oscarvaldes.net

Here’s to Talking to a Trump Supporter

Eleven months away from the election, there’s still ample time to attempt to persuade the Trump supporter that reelecting the president is not in the best interest of the nation.

So why do I think we should not reelect Trump?

1- The president has not worked to build bridges between Americans.

Take immigration.

Over the years, the nation has benefitted enormously from the influx of immigrants. We have benefitted from the very skilled and the not skilled. Once here, the great majority of immigrants have striven to adapt and become contributing members of society. Whatever their color or shape, they yearn for a chance to make something of themselves that their land of origin has not allowed.

Do we need limits? Of course. Like we need borders.

Do we not want any immigration at all? Then let’s do a national referendum and put the matter to all the citizens of the country. We are a nation. We should decide as a nation. Trump is not doing that. He is not seeking consensus. The fact that he was elected is not equivalent to consensus on the matter. He lost the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes.

Instead of trying for consensus, the president has stirred hatred in Americans against certain groups of immigrants. That is no way of beginning to solve this problem. We have to think on it.

Remember, the unskilled immigrant may be our caretaker or landscaper today, but their children will become our soldiers, doctors and engineers tomorrow.

2- Trump’s economic policies have been counterproductive.

His 2017 tax cut overwhelmingly favored the rich. That has not resulted in a benefit for the rest of us.

The tariff war with China has weakened both our economy and the world’s economy.

The president’s impulsive and volatile style has eroded business confidence making it harder for enterprises to plan ahead.

As a result of our tariffs on the Chinese and their counter tariffs, the president has had to spend billions of dollars in subsidies for our agricultural producers. His tariffs have raised prices for all of us.

Has the stock market been higher under Trump than under Obama?

Yes. But economists agree that the stock market is not the economy. Partly due to Trump’s tax cuts for the rich, we have increased our national debt enormously and there’s a lot of money sloshing around that has inflated asset prices.

Trump inherited from Obama a sound economy that began to yield greater fruits during Trump’s tenure. The president has reaped the benefits.

3- Trump has a tendency to surround himself with people who say ‘yes’ to him. As a result he’s not getting the best advice he needs and the nation deserves. Take for instance Syria. Jim Mattis, a distinguished general who was secretary of defense, resigned last year because he objected to the president’s intention to leave Syria where the battle against ISIS was being fought. We were backing the Kurds who were doing most of the fighting.

In the absence of sound advice, the president chose to pull out our remaining soldiers on the border between Syria and Turkey to let Turkey run over and push back the Kurds. In effect we betrayed our allies. Now the area is under the control of Turkey, Russia, and the forces of the dictator al-Assad in Syria. The likelihood is strong that ISIS will again gather strength and once more become a threat to us.

4- Trump has frayed our bonds with our European allies. America has had strong ties with Europe. We went to their continent to help them fight two world wars. They are going through internal struggles in part connected to immigration, the influx of people from Africa and the Middle East. More than ever there is a need for strong guidance from America but there is none coming from the White House.

5- In his preoccupation with personal attacks and building a border wall, Trump has neglected the much needed investment in infrastructure. He has neglected investment in the education and training that his supporters need to become competitive with stronger labor forces the world over.

6- Because of his coarse behavior, Trump has devalued the highest office of our land. Maintaining the prestige of the office is invaluable in the conduct of national as well as foreign affairs.

There is no example of probity coming from the White House and we are the worse for it.

On international affairs, the president recently invited Mr Erdogan, Turkey’s president, to the White House. ‘I’m a fan,’ Trump boasted. This he said to the same man who run over and trampled the Kurdish population on the border with Syria, the same Kurds who had been our steadfast allies in our fight against ISIS.

7- Trump cannot stand up to Putin. In the presence of clear evidence, as carefully documented in the Mueller report, that Russia did interfere in the elections of 2016, our president has not mustered the nerve to say to Putin that he should never have done it, and will be severely penalized if he should attempt to do so again.

8- In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence Trump chooses to deny the ravaging effects of the burning of fossil fuels and then pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accord, where most of the world had gone to seek consensus. In effect, by his actions, he’s said to the rest of the world, ‘the US is no leader to you. We will do what is best for us in the moment. So there. Deal with it’.

I do not recall ever having a president who so willingly chose to surrender the prestige that our nation has worked so hard to attain.

To defeat Trump in 2020, we have to convince his supporters that they are not seeing things for what they are. And that means talking to them.

The better argument we gather, the more likely that we will get a point or two across.

The strategy is not to expect conversion to our position but to sow doubt, any doubt, in the Trump supporter.

Some of Trump’s supporters may not be willing to listen but some will.

Some may have interesting points of view that we need to consider.

Addressing key points with a spirit of civility is likely to foster dialogue and, perchance, reflection.

I’m posting this on WordPress, at oscarvaldes.net. I would like to invite any of you who wishes to contribute to this list to send me your suggestions. Should I choose to add your suggestion I will do so in the next edition of the blog and credit your contribution at the bottom. Or you may wish to write your own blog and start your own talking plan.

Hoping for the best, please join in.

Thanks

Oscar Valdes

I Immigration /E Economy / S Support staff/ A Alliances/  I Infrastructure / D Decorum in office / P Putin / C Climate

I E S   A I D P C

A Vote Against Trump is Not a Vote for Betrayal, but a Vote for Freedom.

It will be up to 20 brave Republican senators to help redirect the course of the nation.

This next week, the full House will vote on approving the articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction of congress – which will then move to the Senate where the president will be tried.

Sixty seven yes votes are needed to convict the president. Being that there are only 47 democratic senators, a full 20 Republicans are needed to switch sides to convict the president.

Can it happen? Odds are that it will not.

But there is always the possibility of a surprise.

Why?

History will not be kind to those who have sided with Trump in spite of the overwhelming evidence of improprieties during his tenure. Not just the articles of impeachment. And the perception of how history will view us matters to decent men and women who have made a long term commitment to the health of the nation.

Only 20 Republican senators are needed to turn out a president who shows no signs of standing up to despots the world over, be them Putin in Russia, Erdogan in Turkey, El-Sisi in Egypt or the Saudi prince.

Only 20 Republican senators are needed to turn out a president who could not stand up against the Saudi royal family after they butchered the distinguished journalist Jamal Khashoggi in their embassy in Ankara, Turkey.

Only 20 Republican senators are needed to turn out a president who, after 3 years in office, has not mustered the mettle to tell Putin that interference in American elections is not allowed.

So here’s an opportunity for 20 courageous Republican senators to take a stand.

Dear senator, will you be putting your career in jeopardy if you do so?

It depends on how you view yourself. If you think of yourself as someone who understands the crisis of values that the president has thrown the country into, and realizes that Trump lacks the capacity to lead the nation in these convulsed times, then you will stand up to him and join those who vote to convict.

If you lack this awareness, then you will bow to the great showman and buy into the great deception that he orchestrates daily.

Do not forget, however, that history will not be kind to you when you side with Trump.

But then, history may not be important to you. Short term gains may be what matters to you most. If so, please consult your conscience and ask, was this nation built by shortsighted men?

When Trump goes on trial in the Senate, you will have the option of choosing how do you want history to judge you.

A vote to acquit is a vote to join Trump in his poor choices and impulsivity and self promotion.

A vote to acquit is a vote to imperil the freedoms that have made us a special place in the world.

Daily courage is needed to preserve it, for freedom does not come cheap.

Will 20 brave, visionary, responsible leaders please stand up to defend our freedoms, or will you choose to pass and have the nation wait for others to muster the courage?

Oscar Valdes

How Trump Helped Biden

Sometime ago I wrote that both Biden and Sanders ought to bow out of the race given their age. I was half wrong.

Biden has shown strength and has begun to appeal to more of the undecided. Part of his gains he owes to gaffes his adversaries are making. Warren shares too many of Sanders’ campaign positions and it has started to hurt. Sanders is overly identified with the Medicare for All concept and has boxed himself in.

But Biden owes much also to Trump himself.

Trump has an abundance of flaws and no reluctance to reveal them, but he also has had sharp political instincts. If not massaged properly, though, they may backfire.

Back in July, when Trump looked at the field of democratic candidates and considered their possibilities, he thought Biden was the one he needed to undermine the most. And so he chose to go after the former vice president with all the craft he could muster. But Trump overplayed his hand and poor judgment got him in trouble.

Trump may survive the impeachment, but there is no doubt that the attempt to pressure Ukraine’s president Zelensky into investigating Joe Biden’s son’s work with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, was a political move intent on defanging Biden as a candidate and rival. That fact is unassailable. So it doesn’t matter if Trump is not found guilty of attempting to bribe president Zelensky with the promise of $ 396 million in military assistance to defend against Russia in exchange for his agreeing to investigate Joe Biden’s son. It doesn’t matter because the damage has already been done.

The impeachment process, playing in congress to great fanfare, amounts to a huge plus for Biden and the democrats.  

Additionally, the damage inflicted by the impeachment process is not limited to Trump himself, but affects the entire legislative representation of the Republican party, which in their shameless surrender to Trump, have chosen to not see the real elephant in the room, the decent people they were appointed to represent.

I was originally opposed to the impeachment of the president on grounds that it would be a loss of valuable time to get the message out to the public that a president bent on dividing the nation should not be reelected. But the democratic legislators have done a great job of moving things along and the matter has now been handed over to the Judiciary committee to draft the charges against the president.

The whole impeachment inquiry process has not been the ‘plus’ Trump boasted it would be for him. Quite the opposite, it has been a resounding minus.

So go, Joe, go! Your stances are appealing to the center. And if Warren and Sanders’s supporters acknowledge that defeating Trump is what is most essential to this election, then it will happen.

So go, Joe, go!

By the way, you keep talking about the pushups you do, so just how many do you do?

Warren the Intemperate

She may well win the democratic party’s nomination but it is looking unlikely that she’ll beat Trump.

In the reaction to Trump’s excesses in office, Warren is waving too frantically the banner of government remedies. Gradualism, which allows for the American entrepreneurial spirit to blossom, is being pushed aside.

In the reaction to Trump’s excesses, the democratic party ends up playing Trump’s game. A game that seeks to antagonize and divide.

Trump knows that there is a constituency in the middle that is unlikely to buy into the Medicare for All plan.

He knows that there is a constituency in the middle that is not ready to say that college education should be free.

Trump knows that the same constituency will not tolerate high taxes on the rich.

And he seems confident in the belief that, though that constituency disapproves of his conduct in many ways, when pushed, they would rather go to the polls holding their noses and vote for him, than to risk the radical changes Warren is now offering.

Will the nation be better off if health care delivery is improved and made more inclusive?  Yes.

Will we be better off with greater access to college and quality schools? Yes.

Will we be better off with tax reform where the richest pay more than they do now? Absolutely.

But it needs to happen gradually.

Warren needs to have two main plans. One plan to get in, the other to gradually begin to make the changes. But she needs to get in first.

She needs to get in and by showing herself a capable president, then begin to persuade us that some of those fundamental changes must be made.

We need to see her being open to compromise, to dialogue. We need to see her open to accept that while the system needs a lot of fixing, there’s also a lot of good stuff that should not be trimmed. And it takes time, sweat and tears, to do all that maneuvering.

We need to see a politician do the politician’s work of horse trading. Simply because that’s the nature of the business. Lots and lots of horse trading. Until she proves herself capable of reaching for the best in all of us.

Telling us that she has a plan for everything smells too much of government overreach. If she stays on that track, she’ll be playing Trump’s game and will not get in.

Trump has no plan and he’s okay with that. Or, his only plan to get reelected is to defend the status quo, stirring up hatred against the incoming democratic socialists.  

Warren the politician needs to step up. Warren the professor and preacher needs to sit down.

It shouldn’t be hard.

Which Way Will the Military’s Guns Point? The Juan Guaido Effect.

2/6/19

By Oscar Valdes.  Oscarvaldes.net

As head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, on 1/23/19, Juan Guaido made the bold move of stepping into the void and assuming the presidency of the country, a void created when Nicolas Maduro, the previous president, fearing defeat at the polls, chose to grab power instead by pressuring the Supreme Court justices into authorizing a sham election.

But Venezuela and the world would not be fooled.

Three million Venezuelans have left the country, an exodus that represents 10% of the population, an emigration forced by the lack of work, food and medicine.

Abhorred by these events, the great majority of Latin American nations, along with Canada, the United States and leading countries in the European community, have raised their cry of protest and the US has imposed economic sanctions.

What continues to prop up the regime is the guns of the military, a military that has been given a strong hand in running industry, to their enrichment, and which has contributed to wrecking the country’s vital oil production.

Juan Guaido has stepped up while Nicolas Maduro refuses to exit. Which way will the guns of the military point?

It is a day of reckoning for that institution, a moment to look at itself and decide how do they want to make history.

The Venezuelan military institution has a noble past, having played a critical role in supporting democracy before allowing itself to be corrupted.

Will they now not see what is clearly before them, a regime that has fallen because of its own actions?

Will they now not see that the Cuban system, which Nicolas Maduro and Hugo Chavez before him sought to emulate, stands as grand failure of statehood?

Will they now not be moved by the pain and misery that most of their compatriots are now enduring?
Sometimes, for a myriad reasons, institutions lose their way, but there’s always a time to find the way back.

Now is such a time.

Now is the time, for the Venezuelan military to recapture its noble past by taking a stand to help their country find its own way.

Now is the time, for the Venezuelan military to redeem itself, by declaring its independence from Cuba, from Russia, from China, and by supporting the actions of men and women who want nothing for themselves but the freedom and wellbeing of their countrymen.

So rise, noble warriors, rise!

This is your time.

Seize the moment and point the guns towards those who oppose Venezuela’s march to freedom.

Trump in a Panic

Let us not join him. Under pressure from his base he feels he must deliver or else. The democrats are coming! Take cover! Build the wall now! Never mind if it means shutting down the government.

Have we ever seen a president so beholden to what a group of people thinks or wants?

The man can’t govern. The base governs him.

The pundits on the right dictate to him. He is the apprentice. Never mind the briefings he gets, he must turn on Fox News to guide him through complexity. All that matters is that he be in the limelight. That’s the guiding principle.

But we’re better than Trump. The nation is better than him. So we need to breathe and the crisis will pass. We will get through.

We must remain steady as the man breaks down in front of our eyes, unable to stand up to his base and govern for all Americans.

Is Trump Guilty of Colluding with Russia?

The Mueller probe may yet find evidence of illegalities but, as far as Trump ever entering into an explicit agreement with Russia to help him get elected, I don’t think he ever did that.

Mind you, I’m no Trump fan, but I did believe that, once elected, and in spite of all the absurdities he had stated during the campaign, he deserved a chance.

Well, he’s had his chance and has proved me wrong.

Trump may not have entered into a deal with Russia to subvert the election, but on other weighty matters he is clearly guilty.

Who would have thought that we would be witnessing an American president choosing to ignore the task of bringing the nation together?

Who would’ve thought that we would be seeing a president willing to grossly manipulate anti-immigrant sentiment?

A man carelessly tampering with trade policies, which carries the grave risk of putting a damper on the world’s economic growth.

A president who routinely violates rules of the most elemental decorum.

A man who devalues women and has yet to apologize for it.

A president who chooses to pull out of the Paris Climate agreement, in flagrant denial of solid scientific evidence.

A man who ignores the considered reports of his own intelligence agencies and shows himself reluctant to stand up to Putin and the Saudi family.

A president whose careless remarks on foreign policy have undermined the alliances America has worked so hard to shape since World War II.

Trump is guilty of all of the above.  

Previous presidents have made serious mistakes during their term but then have shown a measure of contrition.

Trump is oblivious to such notion.

For two years we have seen him in action. Two years during which he has carried on about building a wall on the border with Mexico, an expenditure that is a shameless waste of resources needed for far more pressing matters, such as investing in the education of our citizens.

Two years in office, a parade of tweets and insults and never an apology from the man.

Two years in office and no attempt to bridge our differences. Instead, a sustained effort to accentuate them.

What does that tell me about Mr Trump?

That he is a shallow and self serving man with no true convictions other than what is good for him and his brand. And though intelligent, he chooses to use his capacity to indulge his greed for power and in so doing to mislead us.

What drives the man?

The relentless pursuit for self-aggrandizement.

But the nation can be deceived only for so long.

The results of the mid term elections, a referendum on Trump, stand as a sign that we are collectively coming to our senses, and so the tide is starting to turn.

Americans will make mistakes at the ballot box. Even grievous ones. We have done it before. That we are a democracy does not prevent us from having poor judgment. But what Trump’s 2016 election shows is how costly such mistakes can be.

The Mueller probe may well turn up information to impeach Trump but unless there is incontrovertible evidence for his guilt, the pursuit of that path is littered with uncertainties that may backfire and squander precious energies.

Where I see real hope is in the new Democratic majority in the House. It will be up to them to check Trump’s reckless behavior and do so in a manner that speaks not with partisan zeal but with a goal to unite the nation and recapture our strength.

Let us keep up the pressure.

A National Referendum on Immigration. America Needs One Now.

The NY Times, in an article dated 11/22/18  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/22/world/europe/hillary-clinton-migration-populism-europe.html

reports on a recent interview The Guardian did on Hillary Clinton. She spoke of Europe needing to get a handle on immigration because that is what lit the flame. Responses from the left were critical, while one leader from a far right Italian party stated, “Maybe Hillary has understood the lesson.”

The European Union has had a rough time dealing with the large number of refugees from Syria, the Middle East and Africa. Merkel in Germany was a strong advocate for welcoming them at first but eventually opposing parties forced her to compromise. In time, pacts were made with Turkey, Libya, Sudan and Niger to stem the flow and as a result the number has dropped by about 90% as the article states.

Hillary’s statements were addressed to Europeans but arrived at a time when the worst of the storm appears to have passed for them. For us, however, with dark clouds above us, her words are timely.

Trump would not have won the presidency if he had not seized on immigration – ‘lit the flame’- and run with it. He demonized and mocked immigrants at will, rousing enough voters to gain a narrow and bitterly contested victory. 

To many of us it was clear from the outset that Trump was scapegoating immigrants. We also thought that the tactic would be clear to most Americans. Sadly, it was not.

Whomever composed what came to be known as his base, was willing to ignore the obvious flaws candidate Trump showed. That the economy was recovering nicely under Democratic leadership and promised greater gains did not, in the end, make a difference. That Obama was enforcing immigration rules and deporting people living here illegally, did not either.  

The base was angry and wanted something right away.  

Globalization was browning America.

And there was Obama on our screens every day as a reminder of it.

The base, mostly white, said no.

That Trump is a clever manipulator there is no doubt. He knew that globalization had taken away jobs and that governments – both Republican and Democratic – had failed to institute the needed measures to remedy the damage and that therein lay the problem. But harping on that was not incendiary enough to fuel his campaign. Painting a black and white picture was. For a segment of Americans that had felt left behind and wanted quick answers, it was an approach made to order. “You’re good, they’re bad,” cried the great wizard from his mighty pulpit, “Yeah! We got this!” And emotions were roused. The hustler from New York was in a hurry to get elected. He was 70 years old and running out of time. He needed to act fast.

He’s still doing it.

So why is the democratic party still uncertain as to what to do about immigration?

Is it a problem or not?

How does it break down?

Who should come in and who shouldn’t?

Are immigrants needed?

What skills should they have?

The answers may be obvious to some but not to all. Why, then, not bring the issue directly to the people? Why not hold a National Referendum on Immigration where both sides present their views to the country and then we vote on it?

A National Referendum on Immigration would put the matter front and center and allow all of us to pause, assess the arguments in favor and against and make a choice.

Otherwise, the issue is likely to linger on unresolved and remain a force that the president uses to stir up sentiment and advance an agenda that is not in the interest of the nation.

It is clear that Trump does not speak for all Americans, nor does he seem intent on it. Criticisms of his conduct have been loud and harsh from the start, with his electoral win in 2016 tarnished given the evidence of Russian meddling and his having lost the popular vote.

Add to that the results of the recently concluded mid term elections. The House being a better representation of the country at large than the Senate, is there any doubt that the results were a referendum on Trump?

So now is the time to push forward boldly and bring clarity to the question of immigration.

If the majority of the nation were to vote that, yes, we need to restrict the flow, then that is what we should do. But we ought not to let Trump continue to use the issue to brazenly stir dangerous nationalistic sentiments that if not checked, will divide us further and lead us down the road to ruin.

Presented with the facts – through a rational discussion of the pros and cons of immigration – Americans will do what makes sense for the nation today and help clear the path for the country to come together.

Presented with the facts, we stand a chance to stop tearing each other apart and focus on pressing matters.

A National Referendum on Immigration will help us get there sooner.