Can We Save our Freedom?

Our Freedom … the core of our Nation; the very reason the United States of America was created … is under attack. On September 11th, 2001, it looked as if the main attack would come from outside. Little did we know that the seeds of our possible enslavement were planted decades before when Donald J. Trump began his rise to fame and power.

Donald J Trump 02 250There is no question that Mr. Trump won the 2016 Presidential election. He won 304 Electoral votes. The popular vote is irrelevant. He is the President of the United States of America.

For the purpose of this article, I’m not concerned about how he won. Certainly, his manner of campaigning brought him a lot of free publicity. Both positive and negative news generates name recognition. Certainly, Hillary Clinton’s campaign made mistakes … not the least of which was using civility and rationality against an opponent who is neither civil nor rational. Trump and Putin 100Maybe he colluded with Russia … or WikiLeaks … or a 400 pound person lying in bed eating pizza. Vladimir Putin 75Maybe he unwittingly benefited from outside agencies interested in undermining our electoral process or creating more general worldwide chaos. Much less important than how Donald Trump became President is whether his presidency threatens everything our country is meant to be.
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President Trump’s Personality and Qualifications

I am an educator; not a psychiatrist. In the list below, I can support Mr. Trump’s qualifications with objective information, but his personality traits are mostly “my less than humble opinion”.

  1. Donald Trump is a compulsive liar.
    Contradictory Tweets 250.jpg
    I have never encountered anyone whose history of statements … on Twitter and Television …  is more internally inconsistent than our President’s. Contradictory tweets are common. On television, he acts as if there’s no such thing as “videotape“. Maybe his TV career has led him to believe that all video recordings are, by definition, edited.
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    Even when President Trump isn’t contradicting himself, he and his administration tend to gravitate toward interpretations that deviate from those of the majority of Americans. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway has called their ideas alternative facts. The President and his most avid supporters call any views that deviate from theirs fake news.
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  2. Donald Trump is a racist.
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    In 1973, the Justice Department accused the Trump organization of discrimination against prospective black tenants. In the same Trump buildings, applications from black testers were denied while those from similar white testers were accepted. As they have often done, the Trump organization avoided prosecution by means of an out of court agreement.
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    Birth Certificate 300In 2011, Donald Trump became one of the most prominent advocates of the “birther conspiracy“. After becoming the Republican Presidential Candidate in 2016, he recanted saying, “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period.” … and blaming Hillary Clinton for starting the conspiracy. Recently, rumors from “Trump advisors” indicate that the President’s birtherism tendencies have returned.
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    When he announced his candidacy, Mr. Trump said,  “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people who have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with [them]. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
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    Among the undocumented immigrants in the United States, there are an estimated 600,000 people from Europe and Canada and another 1,400,000 from Asia … 2 million individuals … almost 18% of an estimated 11,200,000 undocumented immigrants. Do we ever hear anything from the President about them?
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    We do hear a lot about “Mexicans” and “Middle Easterners”. To Mr. Trump any brown-skinned person crossing our southern border is a “Mexican” … whether that person comes from Mexico, the Caribbean, or a country in Central or South America. He also thinks that only Muslims live in the Middle East. In May of 2017, after traveling from Saudi Arabia to Israel, our President told the Israelis, “We just got back from the Middle East.”
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  3. Donald Trump is a narcissist … possibly a sociopath.
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    Narcissist 02a 200There is only one important person in the President’s world. His name is Donald John Trump. Everything must be about him. If he has a Presidential duty that’s not about him, he finds a way to make it about him … no matter who he insults along the way.
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    In a recent ceremony to honor World War II Navajo Code Talkers, President Trump said, “I just want to thank you because you’re very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who, they say, was here a long time ago. They call her ‘Pocahontas.’ ” They don’t call Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas”; he does. Many consider the nickname a racial slur by one who is totally ignorant of Pocahontas‘ real place in our nation’s history. In the context of this particular ceremony, the remark is indefensible.
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    Name calling is common among egomaniacs. They think they can make themselves more important by denigrating others. Our President is a master of the technique. Remember “Low Energy Jeb”, “Little Marco”, “Lyin’ Ted”, “Crazy Bernie”, and, of course, “Crooked Hillary”. The list continues to grow.
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  4. Donald Trump is a hypocrite.
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    Hypocrite 01 Mod 150Before he became President, Trump often criticized the frequency of President Obama’s golfing. Since taking office, President Trump’s golfing count has exceeded President Obama’s … during his 1st year … by 45.8% (Obama: 24; Trump: 35).
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    He claims to have “tremendous respect for women”. The “Access Hollywood” and “Howard Stern Show” recordings tell a different story. Even if it were “locker room talk“, Trump’s statements do not show “tremendous respect for women”. During his own campaign, at least 15 women accused Candidate Trump of unwanted physical contact and other forms of sexual harassment. Recently, President Trump  threw his support to a senatorial candidate who was accused of child molestation.
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    In May of 2017, with most of the House Republicans standing behind him, the President praised the just passed American Health Care Act (AHCA). A month later, he said that the same bill was “mean“.
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    Trumps Mom Cropped 150Separated at Birth - Ivana Marla and Melania Trump Cropped 150He seems to hate immigrants to the point of xenophobia … even though his mother was an immigrant and two of his wives are immigrants. Does he hate only brown-skinned immigrants? Does he have some sort of “Mommy Issues“?
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    During his campaign and since becoming President, Mr. Trump has repeatedly promised that Medicare and Social Security would not be touched. By all estimates, the Republican “tax reform” … that is really a tax cut … will increase the national deficit. Corporations and the rich are most likely to benefit most from the tax cuts. The House is considering finding the money to cover the deficit by changing or eliminating “entitlements“.
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  5. Donald Trump is an ignoramus.
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    Separated at Birth - Archie Bunker and Donald Trump 150Like Archie Bunker, Donald Trump is an ignorant bigot who has no problem with demonstrating his ignorance at any opportunity. Donald is not only shameless regarding his ignorance, he seems to take pride in it. (I may be defaming Archie.)
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    During the Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the President said, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” Am I part of the group “Nobody“? Are you? If universal healthcare weren’t complicated, why didn’t Congress pass it along with Medicare in 1965? Why did it fail to pass in 1994?
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    In a launch of Black History Month in 2017, the President held a “listening session” with black leaders. Frederick Douglass 150At the beginning of the meeting, he said, “I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Rev. King, so many other things. Frederick Doug — Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.” From what I learned in high school, I’d guess people have been “recognizing” Frederick Douglass since before the Civil War.
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    Mr. Trump sometimes brags about his college years at an Ivy League University. Donald is about a year younger than I. We acquired our baccalaureate degrees at about the same time. Apparently his school, the University of Pennsylvania, didn’t have a basic English requirement like mine, the Pennsylvania State University, did. (Yes, they’re two different institutions of higher learning.) Maybe Donald wasn’t paying attention. “Bigly” is, in fact, an archaic English word, but he doesn’t use it correctly. (I’d never even heard of the word before 2015.) Some have suggested he’s saying “big league”. What educated person uses a term like that?
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    Those who follow @realDonaldTrump on Twitter … and who choose to distinguish between the President’s lies and his ignorance … have their work cut out for them. What he says is confusing enough. His tweets are mind-boggling. Trying to make sense of them may be hazardous to your health.
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  6. Donald Trump is a bully.
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    Separated at Birth - Donald Trump and Biff 150His demeanor is reminiscent of the character Biff Tannen in “Back to the Future“. The idea of a win-win situation is totally alien to our President. He succeeds only if someone else fails. If he fails (e.g., supporting a bill that doesn’t pass or a candidate who loses), it’s someone else’s fault. If you praise him, he’s your friend. If you criticize him, you’re vehemently demeaned and slandered in Twitter and in portions of the Press … especially if you’re a woman, a minority, or a Democrat.
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    If you subcontracted to perform development work on a Trump property, don’t expect full payment. You may not get it. If you work for him in a professional or governmental capacity, expect to be the subject of one of his rants. Ask Jeff Sessions or Rex Tillerson. If you’re the judge for the lawsuit against Trump University, you’re accused of bias because you’re a “Mexican”. (Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel was born in East Chicago in 1953. His parents were naturalized citizens … just like Trump’s mother. Judge Curiel is as much Mexican as President Trump is Scottish.)
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    If you’re a dictator, a despot, or one who attacks the weak and helpless for his own aggrandizement, expect his praise. One of his favorite presidents is Andrew Jackson, the man who signed the “treaty” responsible for the Trail of Tears. (After all, there was gold in the Cherokee’s Georgia homeland.) When the treaty went into effect, Jackson’s successor, Martin Van Buren, forced 16,543 Cherokee to move to what is now Oklahoma. At least 2,000 of them died along the way. (How fitting that President Trump “honored” the Navajo Code Talkers in front of Jackson’s portrait.) I wonder why Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn’t make President Trump’s list of honored ex-Presidents for ordering the Japanese Internment during World War II. Maybe Trump considers being a Democrat to have been FDR’s real atrocity.
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    Like all bullies, President Trump is a coward. When he meets a bigger bully … like Russia’s Vladimir Putin or China’s Xi Jinping …, he heaps praise on him. He’s sparring with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to see who fits where in the bully pecking order. He’s so frightened of strong women that he’s still campaigning against Hillary Clinton. (Don’t worry, Donald. The Presidency won’t automatically go to her when you lose it … and the 22nd Amendment prevents Barack Obama from getting it.)

Donald John Trump was never qualified to be President … and, he’s starting to show signs of dementia.
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So, let’s just get rid of Trump …

The Constitution provides two ways to get rid of an unfit President … Impeachment and the 25th Amendment. We can save our freedom by getting rid of Trump, right? Wrong! The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 would pass the job to others who may be worse.

Mike Pence 02 150Vice President Mike Pence is first in line. If you believe President Trump, White House spokespersons, and Vice President Pence himself, the Vice President is both lied to by others and produces a lot of half-truths himself. Nobody seems to have known less about what’s going on around him since Sergeant Schultz in “Hogan’s Heroes” said, “I know nothing, nothing!” Compared to our last three Vice Presidents … Al Gore, Dick Cheney, and Joe Biden … Mike Pence is a bit of a shadow figure. I suppose that’s not too surprising. His boss isn’t fond of sharing the spotlight.
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One talent that the Vice President possesses in abundance is pandering … especially to his boss. Besides parroting the President’s latest lie du jour, Pence showers Mr. Trump with lavish praise at every opportunity … and the President wallows in it. Maybe he forgets that Pence wants his job someday … and, has a way to get it. Et tu, Michael?
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Before becoming Vice President, Pence was Governor of Indiana. In that office, his  ultra-conservative values brought him into conflict over Religion, LGBT Rights, and Abortion; battles with the Press; and attempts to ban Syrian Refugees from his state. He even committed the Republican Ultimate Sin … using his private email account for government business. A President Pence might be worse than a President Trump.

Paul Ryan 150Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, is next in the line of Presidential Succession. Speaker Ryan is a numbers man … and the numbers have dollar signs in front of them. He’s a disciple of supply side economics … the idea that reducing taxes grows the economy so much that the lower tax rates get the government more money than before. Sounds good, doesn’t it? The only problem is that most economists believe that it doesn’t work. In practice, supply side economics does not produce sufficient revenue. It increases the federal deficit and financial inequality.
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Paul Ryan has the answer … Entitlement Reform. That sounds good too. Our economy is based on gain through hard work, isn’t it? Why should anyone get a free ride? What many opponents of entitlements don’t realize … or don’t care … is that federal entitlements include Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.  I was fortunate. I never needed Medicaid but, since retiring, I definitely need Medicare and Social Security. Like most other retired persons, I paid a tax for these “entitlements” throughout my career. I am entitled to the benefits provided by the Social Security Administration. Separated at Birth - Eddie Munster and Paul Ryan 100I am offended that the government’s financial promise might be reduced or eliminated by some “kid”. (Ryan is younger than one of my daughters.) I guess there’s a reason that Paul Ryan looks like a grown-up Eddie Munster. He’s a blood-sucker.

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Orrin Hatch 150Orrin Hatch, the President pro tempore of the Senate, is next. With Senator Hatch, I finally find someone who I like … most of the time. I don’t agree with all of his political positions, but he is not trying to destroy the Constitution like the President is. Though a member of the conservative Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, he does not support legislation that imposes his beliefs on others like the Vice President has. As a fiscal conservative, he thinks that a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is needed, but has not focused on entitlements as unnecessary expenditures like the Speaker of the House tends to do.
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Senator Hatch favors conservative judges, but did recommend Ruth Bader Ginsburg to President Clinton. He wants to see stronger enforcement of our Immigration, but did propose the DREAM Act. He does support stem cell research. He did not support the Federal Marriage Amendment, but did endorse equal rights for LGBT persons under civil unions. (My less than humble opinion is … if marriage is sacred as so many religious conservatives contend …, it’s between the couple, whoever administers their vows, and God. Government should keep its nose out.)

Recently, the Senator did one thing that bothered me. The way that he “gushed over” the President at the Rose Garden celebration of the passage of the tax bill seemed rather excessive. Hmmm … Senator Hatch was up for re-election in 2018, but on Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018 …, while I was giving this article its final tweaks …, he announced his retirement. We’ll have to wait until the Senate convenes in 2019 to find out who becomes the next President pro tempore of the Senate. Each new Senate elects its own President pro tempore. Senator Hatch was likely to be re-elected by the 2019 Senate, but it’s anybody’s guess who will be chosen now.
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Can we get rid of Trump, Pence, AND Ryan?

Even though “high crimes and misdemeanors”  … the Constitutional basis for impeachment and conviction … means almost anything that Congress decides it means, it’s unlikely that the President, Vice President, and Speaker of the House could be successively and successfully removed from office using that process.

Similarly, the Vice President and Cabinet could use the 25th Amendment to declare the President unfit for duty. The President could protest, of course, but it shouldn’t be difficult to convince 2/3 of the members of each house of Congress to uphold Trump’s unfitness. Vice President Pence would become Acting President … and Donald Trump would probably spend the rest of his life tweeting threats of suing the Federal Government (or blaming his “creators of all evil”,  Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the “fake news”).

Even if Acting President Pence were then quickly Impeached, we’d still be stuck with Speaker Ryan. Let’s face it. Beyond the Vice President taking over the Presidency, the Presidential Succession Act is designed to cover a catastrophic situation. In 1947, Global Nuclear War was considered to be a real possibility. (With Donald Trump as our President, some think that threat is real again.)
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CAN We Save our Freedom?

American Eagle 04 150Is there ANYTHING we can do to protect and nurture our Freedom and the Constitution? Yes, there is. We can pay attention; we can protest; we can VOTE … and, we do not have to wait until 2020.

Every four years, we treat the Presidential election as if the Executive is the most important branch of our government. It is not. There are three branches in our Federal Government. Article I defines the Legislative branch (the Congress). Article II defines the Executive branch (the President and his bureaucracy). Article III defines the Judicial branch (the Courts). There is a reason that the Legislative Article is the first (and the longest) of the articles. The Framers of the Constitution believed that Congress was the instrument that would create a democratic republic based on law.

They had reason to define Congress first. As a verb, congress means “to assemble together”. Assembling together is how the Founders of the United States got started … first, in taverns and homes; later, in the Continental Congress; finally, in the Congress of the United States of America. On the other hand, the verb administer … the root word of administration … means “to manage or supervise the conduct, performance or execution of”. Congress assembles to define the rules; the Administration manages those rules.

All Presidents except William Henry Harrison, who died 31 days into his term, have issued executive orders.  With President Theodore Roosevelt, executive orders began to get out of control. He issued 1081 executive orders … 95% of the sum of the 25 Presidents before him … about 145 per year. Over his 12.2 years in office, Teddy’s 5th cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, issued 3522 executive orders … about 289 per year  … 3.26 times as many as Teddy. Our past 3 Presidents … Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama … issued 308 (about 39/year), 291 (about 37/year), and 276 (about 35/year) respectively. As of December 22, 2017, Donald Trump had issued 55 executive orders. If he continues at this rate, he will issue 238 (about 60/year) in his first (and hopefully last) term. Over time, our Presidents have used executive orders to usurp a lot of the power that the Constitution intended for Congress.

For over 100 years, Presidents have been stretching and overstepping their authority, but the power still lies with the people and their representatives. When members of Congress keep the good of the country above the good of their respective parties, no President can seize control. When Congress is in disarray, locked in partisanship,  and/or enthralled by a President, we totter near the brink disaster. We risk conquest by an authoritarian leader. It happened in Germany (and almost in the United States) in 1933. It came even closer to happening in the United States in 1969.

Over the past quarter century, Congress … and our culture in general … has become more and more polarized. Now, even though a single party is in charge of both houses of Congress and the Presidency, only one major piece of legislation was passed in nearly a year. The Republicans can barely agree with themselves. The Democrats can only agree that they oppose everything any Republican says or does.

Every two years, all members of the House of Representatives can be re-elected or they can be replaced. 2018 is an election year for the House of Representatives. (Thirty-three Senators are also up for reelection.) This is an opportunity to begin restoring the balance within Congress and between the Legislative and Executive branches of our government … but, restoring the balance between political parties and government branches is not enough. We need to move away from the political extremes and toward the political center.

There was a time when bipartisanship was the norm rather than the exception in Congress (and it wasn’t “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away“). Many of the most important plans and decisions in our country’s history were the result of bipartisan efforts … within Congress, within Presidential Administrations, and between Congress and the White House.

Otto von Bismarck said, “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.” Author Ben Dupré wrote, “The only common agreement, in a politically open society, is an agreement to tolerate difference, so politics is the art of compromise.” Both imply the same thing. When there are competing interests, “You can’t always get what you want.” If each side gives a little and each side gets a little, the group … the people … get a lot. If you oppose compromise, you oppose the intent of the Constitution of the United States and those who wrote it.

If you want to help Save our Freedom:

  1. Find out who your Representative is. This website will help:
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    https://www.house.gov/htbin/findrep
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  2. Click on her or his name. Most have websites of their own. Some have Facebook, Twitter, and/or YouTube.
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  3. Find out if your Representative is running for re-election. (All House seats are open, but some choose not to run again.)
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  4. If your Representative is running, review his or her stands on issues and voting record. If your Representative is not running, review the stands and opinions of whomever is running instead.
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  5. Review the stands and opinions of anyone else running for the same position.
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  6. (Here’s the hard part.) Think about the candidates’ positions. Do they agree with yours? Consider how their ideas will affect your life and those of others … keeping in mind what you believe to be right as well as convenient.
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  7. Pick the candidate you believe is most likely to represent you … while actually getting something done. (If you’re an extremist nutjob, someone who is most likely to represent you will probably resist compromise and contribute to another do-nothing Congress.) If all candidates are awful, select the least worst. If you just can’t bring yourself to choose any of the major candidates, plan to write in “None of the Above” rather than voting for a candidate who has no chance of winning. If “None of the Above” gets a lot of votes, it will at least send an obvious message. If “None of the Above” wins, the courts will sort it out. (Some countries and at least one U.S. state list the equivalent of “None of the Above” on their ballots.)
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  8. Vote! It is not only your right and privilege; it is your duty.

Of the 33 Senators up for re-election, one could be yours. You can find your state’s U.S. Senators at:
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https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

If one of your state’s U.S. Senators is up for re-election, you can apply the above procedure to that vote.
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Tell Us How You REALLY Feel

I can’t close this article without explicitly expressing “My Less Than Humble Opinion”.

I am deeply concerned that our Freedom … guaranteed by the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 20th, 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 26th Amendments … is under attack … both from without and within. The without is relatively clear. Before, during, and since the 2016 election campaign, Russia has been meddling in our politics and public opinion. The within is a bit less obvious. The 1st Amendment is under particular attack. It is a single sentence that states our most basic Freedom.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Executive branch is doing everything it can to bypass the Legislative branch and directly or indirectly attack most of the 1st Amendment. Anybody who disagrees with the President gets shouted down or shut down. Trump calls the Press the “enemies of the People” and sides with White Nationalists over counter protestors at Charlottesville. The Vice President interjects his religious views into political discussions whenever he can. If anyone is bothering to petition the Government, they’re probably being ignored.

Were any parts of the without and the within working together? Only time will tell. Is Donald Trump conspiring with Vladimir Putin or just a useful idiot for the Kremlin? Whichever is the case, I believe this:

  1. President Trump’s tweets and statements make it clear to me that he believes that he alone is the government … but takes no responsibility when something goes wrong. Whether he’s a megalomaniacal sociopath or a narcissistic ignoramus with growing dementia, Donald Trump is not fit to be President of the United States of America.
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  2. Mike Pence is a latent theocrat who would eliminate religious freedom if given the chance.
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  3. The Executive branch is trying to undermine Department of Justice, the State Department, and any other department that protects our welfare and national heritage.
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  4. Congress is supporting all of the above as long as it supports their efforts to favor corporate and right-wing extremist donors.

They can’t “Make America Great Again“. (Trump has made a lot of America “grate” again.) It never lost its greatness … Freedom. Together we can maintain that Freedom. Some of our representatives and senators are polarized, partisan, and totally unable to compromise. We need people who can reach across the aisle and deal with our problems. Together, even though we may disagree, we can get the people we need by thoughtful discourse and thoughtful voting. Together, we can help each other be who we really are.
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