Category Archives: Democratic Party

Senators: Leave the GOP for the sake of the nation

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle

GOP senators, now is a time for integrity: leave your party

Photo of Robert Reich
Robert Reich

To: Sens. Jeff Flake, John McCain,
Bob Corker and Susan Collins
From: Robert Reich

Senators, I write you not as a Democrat reaching out to Republicans, or as a former Cabinet member making a request of sitting senators.

I write you as a patriotic American concerned about the peril now facing our democracy, asking you to exercise your power to defend it.

A foreign power has attacked our democratic institutions and, according to American intelligence, continues to do so.

Yet the president of the United States is unwilling to fully acknowledge this, or aggressively stop it.

Most of your Republican colleagues in the Senate will not force his hand. As a result, because your party has control of the Senate, there is no effective check on the president — or on Vladimir Putin.

What is America to do? We will exercise our right to vote on Nov. 6. But by that time our system may be compromised. The president must be constrained, now. Putin’s aggression must be stopped, now.

If just two of you changed parties — becoming independent and caucusing with the Democrats — the Republican Party would no longer have a majority in the Senate.

The Senate would become a check on the president, as the framers of the Constitution envisioned it would be. And the president could be forced to defend the United States, as the framers intended.

I implore you to do so.

There is precedent. I’m sure you remember Jim Jeffords of Vermont, who served as a Republican senator from 1989 until 2001. He then left the GOP to become an independent and began caucusing with the Democrats.

Jeffords’ switch changed control of the Senate from Republican to Democratic. Jeffords left the Republican Party because of issues on which he parted with his Republican colleagues and the George W. Bush administration. As he said at the time, “Increasingly, I find myself in disagreement with my party. … Given the changing nature of the national party, it has become a struggle for our leaders to deal with me and for me to deal with them.”

I knew and admired Jeffords years before he switched parties. We worked together on a number of initiatives when I was secretary of labor. He was a humble man of principle and integrity. He retired from the Senate in 2007 and died in 2014.

I appeal to the four of you to follow his noble example.

The stakes for the nation are far higher than they were in 2001. The issue today is not one on which honorable people like Jeffords may reasonably disagree. The issue now is the fate of our system of government.

All of you recognize the danger. All of you have expressed deep concern about what is occurring.

Sen. Flake recently introduced a non-binding resolution acknowledging Russian involvement in the 2016 elections, expressing support for the Justice Department investigation and calling for oversight hearings about what happened in Helsinki. But Flake’s fellow Republicans blocked that resolution.

Sen. McCain said the president has “proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin”; that Trump “made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world”; and that the president has “failed to defend all that makes us who we are — a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad.”

Sen. Corker has likened the Republican Party to a “cult” and conceded that “it’s not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation as it relates to a president that happens to be of purportedly of the same party.”

Moreover, the three of you have decided against seeking re-election. You have no reason not to follow your consciences.

Sen. Collins represents a state that has had a long and distinguished history of independent-minded politicians. (The other senator from Maine, Angus King, is an independent.) Her constituents will surely forgive her if she leaves the Republican Party.

There is a scene in the Robert Bolt play “A Man for All Seasons” in which Thomas More, having angered Henry VIII, is on trial for his life. After Richard Rich commits perjury against More in exchange for the office of attorney general for Wales, More says: “Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. … But for Wales?”

You have not pledged your souls to the Republican Party. You have pledged yourselves to America. Now is the time to deliver on that pledge.

© 2018 Robert Reich

Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, is co-creator of the new Netflix documentary “Saving Capitalism” and author of “The Common Good.” To comment, submit your letter to the editor at SFChronicle.com/letters.

    Billionaire puts Dems on the spot over Trump

    Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle

    Tom Steyer wants Trump impeached, and he’s mad that many Democrats don’t

    By Joe Garofoli, April 8, 2018 Updated: April 9, 2018 9:20am
    Political activist Tom Steyer speaks during the "Need to Impeach" town hall event at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Friday, March 16, 2018, in Cincinnati. Steyer, a billionaire activist also involved in environmental causes, founded the "Need to Impeach" petition campaign on claims that President Donald Trump meets the criteria for impeachment. The event kicks-off a national tour in an effort to generate support. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) Photo: John Minchillo / Associated Press
    Political activist Tom Steyer speaks during the “Need to Impeach” town hall event at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Friday, March 16, 2018, in Cincinnati. Steyer, a billionaire activist also involved in environmental causes, founded the “Need to Impeach” petition campaign on claims that President Donald Trump meets the criteria for impeachment. The event kicks-off a national tour in an effort to generate support. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) Photo: John Minchillo / Associated Press

    Billionaire activist Tom Steyer is bringing a nationwide town hall tour promoting President Trump’s impeachment to Oakland, but he’s got more in mind than leading a pep rally for Bay Area liberals. He intends to shame Democrats who aren’t cheering along with him.

    “I think there’s a question about what people are willing to say in public that they know is true,” said Steyer, a former San Francisco hedge fund manager who commands attention in left-leaning circles for the tens of millions he’s spent on registering voters and backing Democratic candidates.

    Many Democrats aren’t calling to impeach Trump, Steyer said, “because of political posturing before the midterms.”

    Steyer’s appearance Wednesday highlights a stark divide among the most liberal Democrats: Is removing Trump from office “the most important issue in America right now,” as Steyer insists, or is it premature to move before they have what Dublin Rep. Eric Swalwell calls “an impenetrable set of facts”?

    Some Democrats fear losing the moral and political high ground by backing impeachment before Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into any Trump campaign ties to Russian election meddling is complete.

    It will be impossible to win Republican support for impeachment in the GOP-controlled Congress unless Mueller finds evidence of criminal conduct by Trump himself, Democratic leaders say. Impeachment requires a majority vote in the House, and conviction and removal from office takes a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

    “I don’t think it’s helpful for anyone to be pushing impeachment before the investigation is finished,” Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told The Chronicle’s “It’s All Political” podcast earlier this year. While there is a legal standard for impeachment, he said, there “also a political standard. Can you make the case for impeachment in districts around the country?

    “That case will be more difficult to make if it looks like this is where we wanted to go all along,” Schiff said.

    Last fall, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco called Steyer’s impeachment campaign a distraction from the party’s efforts to retake the House. She declined last week to talk about Steyer’s town hall tour.

    To Steyer, it’s an outrage that in an area with one of the nation’s highest concentrations of Democratic voters, six House members — Pelosi, Swalwell and Democratic Reps. Jackie Speier, Ro Khanna, Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren — voted against an impeachment resolution in January.

    They weren’t alone — only 66 House Democrats supported the resolution. Among them were Bay Area Reps. Barbara Lee, Mark DeSaulnier, Mike Thompson and John Garamendi.

    Steyer hoped for better. Nationally, more than 5.1 million people have signed his NeedtoImpeach.com petition since October, and he’s put seven pro-impeachment commercials on national TV.

    Now, through his 30-stop national tour, Steyer wants to generate public pressure to get Congress to join him, starting with key Democrats near his home.

    James Strickley of Erlanger, Ky., asks a question of political activist Tom Steyer during a “Need to Impeach” town hall last month in Cincinnati. Photo: John Minchillo / Associated Press
    Photo: John Minchillo / Associated Press James Strickley of Erlanger, Ky., asks a question of political activist Tom Steyer during a “Need to Impeach” town hall last month in Cincinnati. Photo: John Minchillo / Associated Press

    He retains a big megaphone in Democratic circles because of the $91 million he spent on left-leaning causes and candidates in the 2016 campaign cycle and the $30 million he pledged to spend on registering 250,000 voters this year.

    “Those who condemn Trump but do nothing to back their words with action are enabling the damage he is inflicting,” Steyer said. “Local Bay Area Congress members have repeatedly chosen to ignore their constituents’ voices by voting no on impeachment. The people deserve elected leaders who refuse to back down on our shared principles, and we will ensure their voices are heard.”

    Steyer isn’t promising to fund primary challenges to anti-impeachment Democrats. Instead, he envisions his town hall meetings as a “two-way conversation” where he can build public pressure against those who oppose impeachment. He’ll hold his Oakland event at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Impact Hub on Broadway.

    Steyer’s target list includes Swalwell, who has shown up regularly on cable talk shows over the past year excoriating Trump for everything from his tax plan to his foreign policy. Swalwell’s House website is filled with charts and videos explaining how “Trump and his team are directly and indirectly tied to Russia.”

    But impeachment? Not yet, Swalwell said.

    “We shouldn’t run or make this midterm election a referendum on impeachment,” he said. “I think the country wants to be assured that if you were to proceed that way, you would have an impenetrable set of facts to prove that it should happen. And right now we don’t have investigations that allow us to do that.

    “I don’t think we should be as reckless with the truth as Trump has been,” he said.

    Speier, D-Hillsborough, sides with Swalwell. She has been one of Trump’s most vocal critics in Congress, calling for him to be removed from office under the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president and two-thirds of the Cabinet to declare a president unfit. She said Trump has shown “erratic behavior and lack of mental capacity.”

    But she is not ready to back impeachment yet, either.

    “I’m not saying it won’t be appropriate,” Speier said. “But I do not believe that we have the appropriate evidence yet that will make a compelling case. Impeachment is a political act. It’s got to be extraordinarily compelling to get Republicans to support it.”

    Steyer counters, “We don’t need any more evidence. The evidence is already there.”

    Trump could be impeached for several reasons, Steyer said, including obstruction of justice and violating constitutional bans on profiting from holding his office.

    Every day, he said, Trump “does something to make you upchuck.”

    Khanna, D-Fremont, said he respects Steyer’s efforts to energize Democratic voters, “but we have different roles. He is a citizen activist and leader. I am a member of Congress who took an oath to the Constitution and (to) follow the legal process that is foundational to our democracy.”

    It’s hard to ignore that Steyer’s town hall tour includes three stops in Iowa — the first caucus state on the presidential campaign trail — and other events in swing states Ohio, Virginia, Colorado and North Carolina. But he said the impeachment tour is aimed at registering voters for this year’s elections, not testing his presidential prospects.

    “We are really, really, really focused on what’s going on in 2018,” Steyer said. “Anyone who is looking beyond (election day in November) is missing the point.”