The Republicans’ RACE CARD

(But do they have a full deck?)

The GOP’s not-so-subtle play of the race card in the 2012 campaign has just become three of a kind. It’s been their game since the 2008 election handed the White House to someone who wasn’t white male.

They played their first card in the president’s first month in the White House. In the spirit of bipartisanship he offered to meet with House Republicans to explore issues of common interest. How audacious of a black boy in the White House to think they’d be open-minded! They met all right, but in a vote taken in advance, the Republicans voted unanimously to reject anything he might propose.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky gave the same card another flourish. With no reservations whatsoever, he said his agenda had only one aim: to make sure the black boy in the White House served only one term.

In light of such partisan posturing, one can only wonder whether the voters have forsaken the principle that in a democracy the first duty of every elected official is to serve the greater good.

The Republicans’ second race card has been the steady drumbeat denying the validity of the president’s Hawaiian birth certificate. Its sole intent is to tweak Americans into feeling that the president “isn’t one of us.”  If they can’t prove the lie that he was born instead in Kenya, they at least can spread the bigotry that he’s one of those island people that our only island State has yet to fully Americanize.

Now, the third race card is being played in an orchestrated purge of voter rolls, led by Republican governors, who want to deny minorities, the elderly, and the poor their right to vote — wherever they can get away with it. They want every voter to carry a photo ID, knowing that the target groups are the folks least likely to have driver’s licenses or any other form of such identification.

The Democrats could counter by getting friendly notary-publics to walk neighborhoods and punch out ID that shows both address and photo for every citizen who asks for it. It would be an herculean effort, but it would make the Republicans wish they’d never started the purge. But sadly, the Democratic National Committee has not so far come up with an offensive of its own making to nullify the purge. It’s much too late to expect the courts to act before the election. The purge clearly holds the promise of putting Romney in the White House and a GOP majority in the Senate and House. Such an outcome would leave the future of the noble American Experiment entirely in the hands of the One Percent oligarchs and the global players who do their bidding.

The election will tell us whether the GOP played a winning hand of three aces, or were bluffing us with three deuces.  It will also tell us whether we’re truly ready for anything but a white male in the White House. Should Mitt win, it will mean that just about any white boy will do, as long as the opponent is a black or a woman.

– Frank Mensel, June 2012


“Money is not people.”

That summation came to me from a senior federal judge, who was expressing his blunt dissent from the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United (CU) ruling. He remarked, “It’s at least the second worst decision in the Court’s history, and I don’t immediately recall one that was worse.”

Will this ruling, which allows corporations the same First Amendment right of free speech that it gives people, become the fatal blow to the democracy that the Founding Fathers envisioned, government of, by, and for the people, as Lincoln phrased it? It is surely playing that way in the politics of 2012, from Wisconsin’s failed attempt to recall the governor, which was buried by a $30 million flood of out-of-state money, to the bitter campaigns being waged for the presidency and Congress.

These campaigns are awash in money already piled far higher than any previous campaigns have cost. Will they prove that money is indeed the root of all evil? Or, will our voters soon grow smart enough to defend their turf and autonomy by voting against any candidate backed by out-of-state money? The alternative is government of, by, and for billionaires.

The irony of the CU ruling, reached on a 5-4 vote, lies in the makeup of the Court, which allows an unelected jurist to stand as the most power official of our government. The Constitution ought to require that any decision that changes or discards existing law must come by a 6-3 vote, the same majority by which treaties are ratified by the Senate. The import of the former is easily as great as that of the latter.

A lawyer who is a veteran of Congressional staff work and private practice believes that the Founding Fathers crippled the Constitution by the oversight of leaving to the States the authority to form corporations, which bear no responsibility for the Preamble’s promise “to promote the General Welfare,” and whose sole purpose is to make money.

That being their sole purpose, it is mind-boggling that the highest Court would confuse them with people. Money is not people!

The bills that propose to dismantle this wreckage could easily become the most significant legislative battle of the 21st century in Congress. It will be a titanic struggle. The nation’s capital and Capitol are heavily painted in the color of money, spread by the so-called Special Interests, which essentially are the lobbying arms of the multi-national corporations.

The multi-nationals live less and less by the rule of law. Thanks to the Supreme Court, they live mainly now by their own rules and the multi-media reach of the propaganda their wealth buys. When challenged by the laws of any nation, their wealth can also swamp any court proceeding, tying up it for years through the maneuvers of the most influential lawyers, themselves members of the One Percent who can easily confuse self-interest with the Preamble’s promise “to establish Justice.”

Will the Ninety-Nine Percent find the unifying theme and the cohesion by which they can prove, once and for all, that money is not people?

– Frank Mensel, June 2012

Open Letter to President Obama


The President
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President;

Your goal for education, to lead the world again in undergraduate degrees, BS and BA, by the year  2020, is too simplistic to overtake global competition.  Even if it should come to pass, it would not regenerate our flagging middle class or our manufacturing base. There’s a costly disconnect between higher education and the workplace that more traditional degrees won’t fix. We can’t allow higher education itself to think that they will. That’s living in lalaland. The disconnect has always been there, but it glares at us now in the light of nagging unemployment at home and the market economics that are shrinking the world.

You’ve made remarkable strides in turning back the economic doom that the Bush-Cheney neocons left at your door. Who can forget that you got the banks off a cliff, got Wall Street off its knees, and pulled our giant of the 20th century, the automakers, from the grave? The last alone is enough to win my vote.

The weakness that worries me is your counting too heavily on top staff from the Ivy League. As esteemed as these schools are for their academic wealth, they are not the real world. They nibble at it, but only at their own pleasure. They do not have the pulse of greater America. It’s a weakness that works against your agenda for education. The elite quality of an Ivy League education hardly touches the perspective and reality a classroom teacher must have to succeed in the typical elementary or secondary school. The League’s preeminent school of education, Columbia Teachers College, is hardly free of this elitist isolation. It is similarly handicapped by location in inner-city New York, whose schools are a laboratory quite different from school districts elsewhere.

Teachers College prides itself on graduate work for community college administrators. But again its local and state environment are not typical of the larger community college family. As it teams with major foundations to beef up transfer education, it misses reality. Today’s community colleges are not meant primarily to fatten university enrollment; their larger mission is to build still more bridges with the employers in their quest for a globally competitive workforce.

That’s a mission the Ivy League and the university family must take more to heart. In teaching itself, the mission can’t be left to colleges of education alone. Too often they are shortchanged in university budgets that favor the more lucrative professional disciplines. We can’t compete in the 21st century without world-class teachers. We need look no farther than two of our dearest trading partners, debt-free Canada and South Korea, to prove it. Their schools lead the world in student performance in math and science.

The majority of today’s teachers start college in the community colleges. Universities must tackle transfer as the responsibility of the whole institution, especially for the profession of teaching, if our public schools are ever to become world-class again.

Respectfully,  Frank Mensel
— June, 2012