Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The unmeasurable factors in the 2020 elections: fear and disgust

Last night's Democratic Party presidential candidate debate was an in-depth discussion about health care policy, but one candidate put her finger on something I have not been able to express. It is the underlying unease and disgust with Donald Trump that is hard to measure or to grasp in polls or even to express verbally. Marianne Williamson, the only non-politician on the stage, said it. is the "dark psychic force of hatred ..racism and bigotry".. Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough, on MSNBC expressed it another way: Donald Trump is scaring people.

I see it as the inevitable fallout of Donald Trump's demagogic techniques of governing by fear and hate, his personal attacks of people of color, his scoffing at the law to which he should be beholden, racist pot-stirring that disturbs civic peace, his unpatriotic welcoming of foreign governments to help him get re-elected, and his disgusting history of amorality in his approach to women.

We should also put some of this in terms of fear that our democracy is under attack from a president who aspires to be like his peers, dictators, and strongmen he admires in the world. Obvious to the public is his willingness to push aside the guardrails of checks and balances and an independent judiciary, to yearn for the end of term limits on the presidency, and to surround himself with only yes men with business and economic self-interests, or extreme ideological agendas,. While we whine the system we have now is not fair enough, dictatorships find fairness a challenge to their power to gain, control, and to keep their power. Those political science elements are one of many aspects of the fear Trump generates with his love of dictatorship and his disdain for democracy. Those are not the kind of changes so many expected in their bargain to vote for him in 2016 and choose a "strong leader", but they are disturbing to those who care about democracy. My fear is that these anti-democratic (small d) transgressions are not as disturbing as they should be to more. Yet the repercussions and damage to the freedoms we have taken for granted to dissent or speak out, or to have a peaceful regime change, are profound and insidious as they creep up on the unaware until it is too late to reverse them.

Other kinds of fears are so strong that many excuse his amoral, lying, and bullying behavior because Trump serves some personal, religious, or economic purpose or channels their own angst. Those fears are also real, caused by the economic turmoil in the manufacturing sector, the rise in power of other nations enough to challenge our once existence as the sole power survivor of World War II, and the changing racial makeup of the nation they see different from those existing years back. They see Trump as slowing down the changes they fear, even if he cannot roll it back. Instinctively Trump plays to these currents to win elections. He is both a symptom of their times and the fanner of the flames of hatred and the validation and inspiration to holders of such fears.

In the wake of the El Paso and Dayton mass killings a week later, Joe Biden spoke in Burlington Iowa addressing the moral issues and leadership in an epic and important address fleshing out his meaning that we are engaged in a battle for the soul of America. Pay attention to the latter half of his speech regarding this.

Aug 11, David Frum of the Atlantic put the unmeasurables in other terms, including shame..


Friday, July 26, 2019

The art of free speech meets the Fraser sign code

The art of free speech met the Fraser sign code: result, a lawsuit

Update: 9 18 19

A version of this was published by the Sky Hi News July 29, 2019

Local governments and municipal code enforcers across Colorado must have taken a second look at their sign code regulations lately. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the town of Fraser in July claiming the town "silenced clients simply because it does not approve of what they have to say or the way in which they choose to say it... The Constitution  (state and US) does not allow this kind of government censorship of expression. The Town's sign code is a content-based regulation of speech that violates the First Amendment".   Aside from the free speech and due process issues, the age-old question is "what is art"? That will not be resolved by this suit, but art has been a vehicle for political protest throughout history. Per the July 25, 2019, Sky-Hi News report, the Town is reviewing the matter.

 I cannot predict how the suit will be resolved, but I assume it is connected with the Town of Fraser's goal of turning this old logging town into an art center, therefore giving preference to content that is "art". At issue per the ACLU is that the Fraser sign code exempts art from adhering to physical restrictions such as size, numbers, and placement, in effect exempting one kind of content but not exempting other content like political expression.  The ACLU  also contends Fraser's ordinance was written so vaguely, those governed could not understand how to comply, depriving them of their right of due process.  The issue arose when Fraser residents erected signs on their private property within the town criticizing Donald Trump and climate change policies that exceeded the size and other physical restrictions placed on nonart signs. The residents then tried to make their signs into more artistic looking in order to comply and still were told they were subject to penalties and fines.

Throughout history, art has been used as a form of political protest.  In fact, in recent times, one work of art has been credited with ending a civil war.  Pablo Picasso's 1937  stunning "Guernica", an eleven by twenty-five-foot painting of disjointed figures in stark black /white/gray/blue cubism,  depicted the terror and horrifying results of a Nazi bombing of innocent civilians in a Basque, Spain, town.  Picasso was commissioned to paint the subject by the anti-fascist forces fighting the Spanish civil war.    Of course, this bombing of civilians in Spain was only the precursor to modern warfare and the widespread death and destruction of innocent civilians in World War II.  Nonetheless, it has also been taken as an anti-war message. One does not have to be a Picasso to paint what we would consider "art".

  • I wonder what would happen if I displayed a full-size replica of Guernica with a caption: Stop selling weapons to the Saudis who use them to kill innocent civilians in Yemen. To put the shoe on the other foot, what would happen if a neighbor erected a very large sign replicating Andy Warhol type pop art style with multiple MAGA hats in the place of Campbell Soup cans, with captions exhorting support of Donald Trump? My neighbor may live in Fraser, but it is a hypothetical question: my home borders the town of Fraser, but I am in unincorporated Grand County, so the question regarding my sign would not arise from Fraser authorities.  The Town of Fraser has opened a can of worms.

 A personal note: my paths have crossed Guernica more than once: While I was a student at Northwestern, Guernica was on display at the Chicago Art Institute in the latter 1950s. Before it was returned to Spain in 1981, and during World War II until then, it was housed in New York's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). I lived in NYC and then visited New York and MOMA often. Each time I saw it, it got me in my gut.  Some call it the Mona Lisa of modern art, it is so iconic and compelling.  I am privileged to have seen the original of both. Andy Warhol's Campbell Soup cans are also on display at MoMA and I have seen them, too.

From the Colorado ACLU press release
“The Town of Fraser has silenced our clients simply because it does not approve of what they have to say or the way in which they choose to say it. The Constitution does not allow this kind of government censorship of expression. The Town’s sign code is a content-based regulation of speech that violates the First Amendment.”
From the court filings:
1. Plaintiff Alan Jensen, a resident of Fraser, wishes to display three pieces of political art designed by Plaintiff Melinda McWilliams in his front yard to protest President Donald Trump and call for action on global warming. In response, the Town of Fraser has threatened to enforce its unconstitutional sign code (“Code”) against Plaintiffs, chilling their protected speech. 2. The Code is expansive and applies to all signs erected on private property within the Town. It prescribes myriad regulations for certain signs, including limits on the size, placement, type, duration, and a number of signs. 3. Yet even while substantially restricting certain signs, the Code exempts particular categories of signs based on their content and fails to narrowly tailor the restrictions to any compelling or substantial interest. Therefore, the Code is an unconstitutional content-based restriction that violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and article II, section 10 of the Colorado Constitution, both on its face and as applied to Plaintiffs. 2 50277851.3 4. The Code’s categories are also poorly defined and substantially overlap, leaving residents in the dark as to whether a desired sign or artwork will trigger threats of prosecution. Therefore, the Code is also unconstitutionally vague, in violation of the Due Process Clause and article II, section 25 of the Colorado Constitution.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

No, Mr. President, the Mueller hearing was not the final chapter

The significance of Mueller's testimony yesterday is that Democrats got the sound bites they sought. Those damning sound bites will be replayed again and again that exposed the Trump party line relaying Mueller's findings as lies and deception to non-Trump media viewers and listeners. The proceedings and House Democrats reading directly from the Mueller report and Mueller's oral verification and confirmation are now part of the Congressional record forever available to the public and future historians.
The fat lady has not sung on this chapter of the Trump era. Mueller revealed FBI investigations into Trump and his circle concerning financial crimes and other counter-intelligence issues are still ongoing. House Democrats have already seen legislation to improve security measures against foreign nations attacking voter systems defeated by Senate stonewalling, but they may yet double down on their efforts to craft more legislation. House Democrats are weighing options about launching an impeachment inquiry in order to force key administration officials to obey their subpoenas. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi believes there is still a need to develop an even stronger case for impeachment than just relying on the evidence of the Mueller report. As it stands now, any impeachment referral to the Senate dominated by the GOP would find a dead end with votes along party lines.
The GOP House members in the July 24 hearing failed to contradict the facts and evidence of the Mueller report, but they tried to paint a picture of an anti-Trump bias of Mueller's staff that portrayed the negatives and neglected offsetting information,. They were attempting to "kill the messenger", if not the message. The GOP will be diverting attention from the substance of findings via Senate probes into the origins and bias of the Mueller report. Given the credibility of Mueller himself as just the facts person and his 400 plus pages of well-documented evidence, the GOP approach will appear as self-serving if they fail to find substantive evidence to show how any bias affected Mueller's fact-finding.
That Fox listeners will get these damning sound bites is yet to be seen, but for viewers of other media who may be fence-sitters and still questioning who is telling the truth, this may have some impact in helping them realize Trump and his supporters have misled or lied to them about what was in the report. Mueller directly contradicted the White House party line in six critical areas:
Mueller, a reluctant and no-drama witness, answered most questions in monotonous tones and one syllables as the Democrats read passages from his written report .and asked if Mueller agreed with his own words contained in the report. Mueller, when he did not confirm those contents with a yes or no, avoided drama by referring the questioner to the written version or refused to answer within the muzzled boundaries of the Attorney General's edicts. The advantage of one-syllable answers, though, is that there were no shades of gray and few modifiers attached to the answers. However, confirmed much which contradicted what Trump and his devoted followers have been told. Chief among them1) Trump was not exonerated of obstruction; 2) Per Mueller, the investigation into Russian active measures in 2016 was no witch hunt or a hoax; it was sweeping and systematic; 3) The Russians could do it again in 2020; 4) there were many examples of Trump and his cohorts lying about contacts with Russians, evidence and facts that went unchallenged by the GOP; 5) Russians interfered on behalf of electing Trump; 6) Examples of Trump's attempts to obstruct justice and the facts and evidence were not challenged by the GOP, but Trump was never indicted due to a rule against indicting a sitting president.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Robert Mueller sets off alarms for 2020 with his truth telling

The July 24, 2019 House hearings featuring Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his report gave Democrats a chance to push back against the Administrations' twisted spins. 1) Trump was not exonerated of obstruction;  2) Per Mueller , the investigation into Russian active measures in 2016 was no witch hunt or a hoax; it was sweeping and systematic; 3) The Russians could do it again in 2020; 4) there were many examples of Trump and his cohorts lies about contacts with Russians, evidence and facts  that went unchallenged by the GOP ; 5) Russians interfered on behalf of electing Trump; 6) Examples of Trump's attempts to obstruct justice  and the facts and evidence were not challenged by the GOP, but  Trump was never indicted due to a rule against indicting a sitting president.
Update: immediately after the hearings, the Senate GOP blocked bills protecting us from Russians and other foreign actors from hacking and sabotaging election results.  The message to Russia et al? Bring it on in 2020. The door is open.

Some wag called Mueller's afternoon testimony before the House Intelligence Committee as his "red bull moment" and he seemed to have a bit more passion and was quicker to understand and respond to questions than in the morning House Judiciary committee which focused on "obstruction". The headline phrase is that the Russian interference in 2016 was no hoax and no witch hunt. It was sweeping and systematic, causing long term damage to the US that must be addressed. and "they are doing it in the next campaign". He agreed with a questioner that he feared other candidates would work with foreign hostile forces to get help in a campaign and this could be "the new normal" Rep. Adam Schiff , Intelligence Committee chair, concluded the session with "accepting foreign help (in a campaign) is unethical, disloyal..and a crime." A point made was that it opens up the candidate to blackmail,..
. While Mueller claimed he did not investigate the term "collusion" because it was not a term in criminal law., as was "conspiracy", he affirmed numerous contacts and coordination with Russians by other Trump associates.
The most damning to the Trump administration was Mueller's confirmation with his findings that Russia intervened to help Trump (not Clinton), and that Wikileaks was indicted as a hostile foreign intelligence operation. Mueller verified findings that Trump and Don Jr welcomed the leaks and boosted Wiilileaks's dumping stolen hacks of the DNC. He called Trump and Don Jr.'s actions on this " understatement". The GOP's main defense was regarding the Steele Dossier as an origin of the Russian investigation.. This was not a refutation of Mueller's findings, but an attempt to try to divert attention to the Steele Dossier as the reason for the investigation into Russian active measures., which Mueller refused to "speak to the Steele Dossier" because other agencies are looking into it. Another point made in the afternoon intelligence committee session by Trump was that Trump was seeking a lucrative deal in building Trump Tower. even as Trump was the party nominee in June and that numerous lies were made by Michael Cohen, Trump's personal attorney.. Mike Flynn and others in Trump's orbit also discussed sanctions relief with Russians, Mueller confirmed. Trump's party line had been he had nothing to do with Russia. .What was instructive was Mueller's affirming his report of the numerous contacts of Trump's associates with Russians: Manfort sharing polling data with  a suspected Russian agent, the Trump Tower meeting to get dirt on Clinton, various emails by Don Trump Jr. with Wikileaks and Trump's strategy to make use of Wikileaks dump of DNC emails, and mysterious meetings with Russian oligarchs in the Seychelles..Also, Mueller revealed that the FBI counter-intelligence investigations are on-going, including money laundering and blackmail and more.

Initial reaction to Muelle.r's testimony in the morning on obstruction issues was really sad: Democrats did get Mueller to state  Trump was not exonerated from the charge of obstruction. He either refused to answer questions or appeared to either have a hearing problem or was stalling to make sure he understood the question. If he had read his own report, it was not clear because evaded so many questions and appeared to fumble page references in spite of being told page and volume cited by the Democrats. His most frequent response was to refer to the report, while not reading the words of his own report aloud. What the Democrats did establish was that the President was not exonerated of obstruction of justice, a violation of law which included attempts to fire and influence witnesses, even if they were not executed. In the afternoon session, the GOP tried to claim Mueller did not have the power to exonerate anyone because exoneration was not included in the DOJ rules or legal interpretations or was a legal term. Trump was not charged because of a legal opinion and Department of Justice policy that a sitting president cannot be charged. However, Mueller clarified later that the investigation did not even determine if a crime had been committed because of that rule. The facts and evidence in the Mueller report of attempted obstruction were not attacked in any substance or with counter-evidence or counter-arguments by the GOP but they based their attack that the DOJ was full of anti-Trumpsters and Democrats so the findings were tainted.. The GOP failed to dent the evidence that Trump did indeed attempt to obstruct justice with corrupt attempt, regardless of whether he carried out his orders. If the few basic exchanges between Democrats and Mueller on these key points are highlighted, Democrats can make lemonade of this lemon.
The reason Mueller never interviewed the President was addressed by Mueller in the afternoon session when he insisted it would take too much time to fight his subpoenas so the investigation could not be brought to a quick close.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The GOP's vote on Trump's racist tweet will haunt the Republican party

Updated: July 18, 2019 and Aug 3 2019

Let us not forget  the reason why our Constitution was established, reads " We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. "   Donald Trump is doing all he can do to disturb domestic tranquility and undermining the blessings of liberty by becoming our racist in chief, stirring the pot of racial and immigrant hatred, to promote his own re-election.  The unintended consequences of his recent racist tweets are to leave the GOP branded as a racist party and to give a gift to Democrats of unity in a common cause to defeat him.

In response to the President using a known and long old racist attack  in a tweet s."..these four women of color should go back to where they come from"(all are American citizens, 3 or 4 were born here)..we now know .he has now come out of dog-whistle racism into the light as openly racist.    All Democrats and four Republican members of the House voted for the resolution to condemn his tweet as racist. It passed on a vote of 240 to 187 on party lines. Those opposing the resolution now have their individual votes on the record supporting a known racist insult and its tweeter. There is no longer a debate if the president was racist; it is clear he is.  It is no longer a debate if the GOP supports racism or aids and abets white nationalism.  It is a matter of record in the House of Representatives.

It is also now a matter of record that many of Trump's core supporters are also racists.   In a scree of chanting from Trump rally-goers July 17, 2019, his audience attendees have also now come now out of the shadows of suspected racial bias into the light of identified racists. The rally chant yesterday confirms suspicions that white nationalism was at the root of Trump's appeal. So now it is politically correct to tell everyone with whom you disagree who has different ethnic and racial roots, darker skin than yours, to send 'em back to where they came. whenever they rub you the wrong way. No longer is the Trump phenomena of Make America Great Again's meaning a question mark, the "again" refers to when America was all White and everyone else was a second class citizen to be suppressed or abhorred, whenever that was. America has always been a nation of immigrants from all over the world. . . Of course, if those Trump rally fans tried this in the workplace, they could be subject to legal action because the phrase is specifically identified as a term of discrimination and harassment by federal rules of the EEOC and the US Department of Labor.

The reason that the EEOC has specifically mentioned the "go back to where you come from" as an example of anti-immigrant, anti-race, anti-ethnic discrimination is because it has been used so often by those who are discriminating and harassing those of backgrounds different than theirs in the workplace.  My doctor immigrant husband was told that many times as well German-born, US citizen friends of mine.  Even in my own circle, I saw hatred against immigrants expressed by this phrase.

Donald Trump has a history of racial discrimination in his family's real estate rental property., hH rose to media prominence on the back of racism..from the Central Park 5, birtherism, African nations..shit hole countries, Mexicans are murderers and rapists, Muslim ban, his  "fine people" comments about neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville..  Really?. He's color blind? He's a con man from Queens, the home of iconic Archie Bunker. Those who believe he is color blind are the ones who are blind. 

 For those who claim the reason Trump tweeted as he did was because he objected to socialism or other public policy issues taken by the four freshmen, is a ruse since the phrase he used was one identified as and example of discrimination by federal agencies and often used to harass immigrants and "others" because of who they were, not because of ideological differences. Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) attempting to quell the outrage, only added to it the next day saying for proof if a Samali refugee wore a MAGA hat, he/she would be welcomed in the White House.  So now we get it: pledge allegiance to the Trump instead of to the United States of America and you will not be discriminated against.  So forget the first amendment that protects those who dissent?

Is Donald Trump a racist himself? To paraphrase Andrew Gillum, a candidate for Florida governor whose opponent had used racist tactics against him, he answered the question of whether his opponent was a racist. He responded that he did not know if he was a racist, but the racists think he is a racist.  Substitute the word white nationalist for racist, and that is the answer. The former head of the Ku Klux Klan and a candidate for office in Louisiana as a white nationalist, David Duke, said on the election of Trump,  it was a great victory for "our people". and the New Zealand killer cited Trump and his "common purpose" in his manifesto. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham called Trump tied with. the most racist president (Andrew Johnson)  in US history. Either Trump is the most successful demagogue in history if he does not believe what he orates and tweets or white nationalism comes from deep in his gut. The latter is most likely true given his record throughout his adult life.

For Democrats, the House vote condemning. Donald Trump for his racist tweets works.  For those Republicans in purple and blue districts, their Democratic opponents in 2020 will have more ammunition they did not have before.  It will be a rallying cry by those wanting to defeat Trump in 2020, unifying for Democrats. It should help Democrats retain or increase their control of the House. Those who swallow right-wing media claiming Trump is color blind are those who were going to vote for him anyway per polls taken after the House vote. This does not expand Trump's base, but only guns their engines, as the talley broke down mostly by party affiliation.

 Trump's approval rating among Republicans rose 5% after the House vote on condemning him for his racist tweet. It works for Trump in the short term. He had begun a strategy of trying to paint all Democrats as the same as the four outspoken freshmen.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi had even distanced them from the rest of the Democratic caucus.  For the future of the GOP,  it will forever now be known as the party of racism, either as white nationalists or those who accept and support Trump. As the demographics shift in this country to more people of color, the long term impact of the GOP with this vote will be harmful.  You will hear those who voted against the measure claim the rules were violated, they saw no evil, heard no evil in the president's comments, or hem and haw.  Some did not have the guts to vote yes for fear of being primaried. Whatever their excuses, their vote was their vote and will forever be on their record and the GOP will forever be branded with racism.

Friday, July 12, 2019

In spite of Donald Trump, Democracy won one, a big one.

On July 12, 2019, Democracy as we know it got a boost.  The President of the United States, Donald Trump acknowledged the supremacy of the rule of law and a constitutional crisis was averted.  The Supreme Court had ruled that his administration's proposal of putting a citizenship question on the 2020 census was unconstitutional because the reasons for their actions presented by the administration were bogus and they sent the question back to the administration to come up with a better reason.  In a press conference, President Trump bowed to the Supreme Court ruling, announced the citizenship question would not be on the census form.  He had formerly declared he would put the citizenship question on the census form in defiance of the Supreme Court ruling.  The rule of law and the checks and balances of another branch of government prevailed.

The Administration had argued that the purpose of placing a citizenship question on the census form was for ensuring the integrity of the election process restricted to citizens only and they were responding to a question from one of their agencies. That argument did not fly.

To put their best foot forward, Trump and his Attorney General Bill Barr contended there was not enough time to deal with other challenges in lower courts and to get the census forms printed in time by June 30.  To appease the white nationalist part of the base, Barr and Trump tried to appear to be their radical, anti-minority old selves and said they could get the information from various government departments about the count of non-citizen inhabitants and make policy decisions based on those estimates.

Of course, the number of House representative districts per state would still be based on census data, not guestimates made by federal agencies. The argument made by opponents of the administration's actions presented evidence that the motivation for the question on the ballot had little to do with election integrity but had much to do about partisan politics. It would have decreased the count of both citizen and noncitizen minority inhabitants. Hispanics, in particular, feared they or non-citizen members of the family would be subject to deportation by the Trump's administration ambition to deport non-whites, especially Hispanics, who were not citizens,  and information collected by such a census would be used to hunt down, target,  and deport them. The Census bureau had estimated that the count of families with at least one undocumented member would be reduced by 8%.

The impact of an undercount of minorities had widespread implications on partisan politics, as well.   It would have changed the electoral college vote and representation in Congress in favor of GOP for at least ten years, until the next census. New evidence had come to light that disclosed the administration's political consultant had advised the administration to put the census question on the census form specifically to increase the GOP's political power and representation. 

It also would have changed the distribution of federal aid to disaster relief, and other federally funded services flowing to states used for all of their inhabitants regardless of their citizenship status.  Not so coincidentally the losers were mostly blue states, like Colorado, who has large Hispanic populations. It would have resulted in a flawed census as a significant undercount of the portion of residents of the US since citizens and non-citizens would fear to respond to the census takers. In addition, it would have added more election districts dominated by a single party due to gerrymandering based upon the warped findings tilted to whites.  There is still fear the issue will result in an undercount of Hispanics who still do not trust the census process and may not respond to mail in forms or answer a knock at their door.  The administration may have bowed to the rule of law, but still, they may have reduced the number of minorities willing to respond to census takers because of their distrust of the Trump regime.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The treatment of immigrants: a shameful blot on the 4th of July celebration

The DHS internal inspector put to lie the official Trump administration who denied these conditions were happening, calling reports as "unsubstantiated". Last year there was a bipartisan proposal for increased border security that was delivered to the White House...who instead rejected it and decided to launch a policy of cruelty to children and humans in order the scare away migrants. Their policies backfired, not only because bungled execution and administration, the numbers of immigrants increased instead as coyotes told their "customers", this would be their last chance to escape poverty and violence before Trump builds his wall and calls up the military and the numbers of desperate migrants increased instead. This will forever be a shameful blot on the history of a nation that was built to protect humans from government inhumanity, something to contemplate the meaning of why our country declared independence from England as we celebrate this 4th.

Children and adult migrants detained at the US-Mexico border are subjected to “dangerous overcrowding” conditions that represent “an immediate risk to the health and safety” of border agents …

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Democratic candidates smell and draw blood on health care

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News, July 5, 2019.

 Democrats smell blood when it comes to health care as a winning issue. The danger is that the loyalties to various kinds of proposals and their partisan proponents become such a  divisive issue, it loses in 2020. Any hope to improve health insurance to any degree during a Trump second term would be lost as well. 

 Democratic candidate debates last week have renewed the national focus on health care policy because nearly all of the twenty on stage put it on or near the top of the issues they addressed. It is no wonder. A Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll in June 2019 before the debates found that 87% of Democrats put health care at the top of the list for candidates to discuss. The various candidates touted their approaches and criticized their opponents' health care plans with enough passion and drawing blood with criticism to give rise to the fear that the party is seriously divided.

 Both Republican and Democratic strategists will be sharpening their swords on the issue. In the 2018 midterms, coverage of pre-existing conditions was the hot button topic, even forcing Trump and some GOP candidates to pledge to protect pre-existing condition coverage without even providing a plan of how to do it or its cost.  

 What we can expect is for the GOP to claim that any plan with Medicare for All in its title or any variations thereof is nothing but socialism, a term that frightens GOP voters, but it does not scare most  Democrats,  especially younger ones, per a recent Pew Research Center poll.  The GOP has a grand old historical tradition of calling "socialism"  any government provided assistance to seniors such as Medicare and Social Security and they have begun beating the war drums against Medicare for All now with the same fire breathing tactics of yore. They would benefit from seeing the health care debate becoming lost in a socialism v capitalism controversy.

In taking sides of the various health care proposals,  Democrats could lose sight of who are the real enemies. They are the GOP who failed in their first attempt to repeal without replacing Obamacare and the Trump administration who would sabotage Obamacare out of existence, making it either unaffordable for many consumers or economically unsustainable.  Using executive orders,  Trump has eliminated the mandate for all to be insured and now permits employers to provide junk and cheaper insurance plans without all of the essential benefits.  Both of these  Trump actions are undermining the balance in the  "pool" of potential claimants. Increasing the numbers in the pool of those who use the benefits more than those who do not, leaves more of the sicker more expensive to treat in the pool,  increasing the costs for all of the participants and taxpayers associated with Obamacare.   There are fears that if employers offer poorer quality insurance plans,  they will dump the underinsured or uninsured sicker into Obamacare, unbalancing the pool even more.  Trump will want voters to buy his promises to repeal Obamacare with no comparable replacement proposals. Trump voters were pacified by those empty promises in 2016 and again in 2018 and may believe him again in 2020. 

There are several fundamental issues that may decide which plan comes out on top. One is the cost of the total replacement of Obamacare with Medicare compared to the public option method that allows consumers to buy into Medicare as a choice within or outside of Obamacare exchanges. The cost to taxpayers or to consumers of any Medicare for All plan at this stage is speculative and subject to self-serving claims. In fact, we may never get the official nonpartisan actuarial cost projections until the Congressional Budget Office weighs in on specific legislation being proposed in Congress. 

 The cost factor is not the only a worry to taxpayers, but it is also Important to consumers who fear they still have to pay too much out of their own pockets in co-pays and deductibles in any plan. Bernie Sanders proposed to replace all health insurance, Obamacare, employer or union provided, or private plans with Medicare for All. Sanders will have to convince voters higher taxes will be offset by the elimination of premiums and lower out of pocket expenses.  An issue that may scuttle the Sanders type proposal is the loss of union or employer-provided insurance, private plans, or supplementals. being proposed by him and some Democratic party candidates. The issue is fluid.  What was revealed in the KFF poll is that voters currently do not have a clear picture of the differences between the various Medicare for All proposals. The majority feared taxes would increase, there would still be deductibles and co-pays,  and 55% thought employer health insurance would still be provided. 

 Sen. Kamala Harris has supported both Sanders' plan and public options in the past and clarified her position after the debate to permit private insurance to exist in any case.  Julian Castro and Andrew Yang along with Sen. Kristen Gillibrand in the debate, and/or in prior public statements supported Medicare or Medicaid for All closer to the Sanders' model, but still permitted some limited private insurance.  The remainder of the debaters, including former vice president Joe Biden, supported the public option approach to some degree or another and would not eliminate private or employer insurance.