From The Vaults

Note To Fred Strahorn: To Fix Our Republic, We Need To Build An Infrastructure Of NonPartisan Civic Communities

Fred Strahorn, representative for OHD-39.  (This pic was taken from Fred's Facebook page.)

Fred Strahorn, representative for OHD-39. (This pic was taken from Fred’s Facebook page.)

I had an opportunity to have a short conversation recently with Fred Strahorn who represents Ohio House District 39 — most all of Dayton. I first met Fred a number of years ago when he spoke at the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial and gave special mention to my childhood friend, Guy LaPointe, who lost his life in Viet Nam and won the Congressional Medal of Honor. I was impressed by Fred’s words and spirit at that time, and Fred evidently has had a positive impact on a lot of Ohio Democrats. Fred is the leader of the 33 Democrats in the Ohio House. (There are 66 Republicans.) This is the email that I sent to Fred.

Fred — Enjoyed our conversation and the purpose of this email is to expand on the theme I started to develop.

I agree with you that we need to think in terms of systems. (My interview with W. Edwards Deming is here and here.) Our republic is a system as outlined in our constitution. The mission of this system is to produce a government of, by and for the people. As it is, our republican system is in dysfunction and is far from realizing its mission.

Extreme partisanship and sharp divisions encumber the system. The system is being controlled by what separates us, not what unites us. Increased partisanship will not help. Quite the opposite. A long-term answer to fixing our system will require a big increase in nonpartisanship, cooperation and unity within the system — more peace, love, and understanding.

Groups that have found a way to excel often are good models of nonpartisanship and cooperation. Such groups owe their success to the fact that they are organized as communities where members know and have affection for each other, where everyone has a voice and where everyone is seeking to advance a common purpose. Families, churches, clubs, schools and businesses where members are empowered in such a community demonstrate cooperation, unity, harmony — and success.

My observation is that there is a big lack of civic communities — groups of citizens who are focused on giving service to their local towns and cities — and that establishing such groups would be one strategy for increasing cooperation and unity in the system. The idea is that these communities would have a civic purpose that would unite its members regardless of views or politics that would divide them. Politics is all about building relationships and within a relationship political views that are seemingly unreconcilable have less power.

My thought is that the current energy of charged politics should be channeled into building civic communities. My POV comes from education and my thought is that the mission that could unite individuals of diverse views and backgrounds is the mission to increase theirs and the public’s understanding of civics. “Understanding” is a very big concept and a huge goal. The idea is to create groups of citizens who are committed to working together as a community advancing a common purpose. Part of that purpose would be to understand each other’s points of view. The idea is that such groups — seeking to act as civic communities — would have such a positive purpose and impact that they would be encouraged and supported by churches.

Anyway, this is a little more explanation of topics in our conversation. My conclusion is that To Fix Our Republic, We Need To Build An Infrastructure Of NonPartisan Civic Communities. I’m thinking through a specific proposal that I will share with you soon and then we’ll have more to talk about.


Message to Tom Perez: The Democratic Party Is An Oligarchy — It Must Reorganize and Become “The Party of The People”

As part of a fund raising campaign, the new leader of the Democratic Party, Tom Perez, sent this email message to Democrats, “Over the last couple of months, I’ve talked with party leaders, local officials, and supporters like you all across the country. And like many of you, when it comes to how we build a Democratic Party for the future, I have as many questions as I have answers. That’s why I want to hear from you today, Mike: what do you think our priorities should be? What are the most urgent challenges we need to meet?

Mr. Perez:

Building a strong Democratic Party requires systems’ thinking.The success of every system depends on these two factors:

  • a well defined mission and
  • an organizational structure thoughtfully designed to best accomplish that mission.

Please reconsider your words about mission. You are quoted in The Blaze as saying, “The DNC’s mission has to be to elect people up and down the ballot — from the school board to the senate.” You would not consider it adequate for a GM spokesperson to say, “The GM mission is to make a lot of money for our stockholders.” The mission that the leaders of GM advertise is that the mission of GM is to produce high quality automobiles at a competitive price. The outcome of successfully advancing that mission is selling cars and making money. Electing Democrats should be the outcome of a successful mission — not the mission itself.

If “electing Democrats” is not an adequate mission, then what is? In the same Blaze article you state,  “The message of economic opportunity — jobs, good jobs, retirement security — that’s a message that resonates in every zip code.”  Yes, but Republican candidates have the same message — evidently delivered more effectively.

Here is a daring thought: Suppose the Democratic Party becomes dedicated to actually being the party of the people. Right now, the notion that we are the party of the people is contradicted by the fact that the Democratic Party is still organized like the Republican Party — as a “political boss,” oligarchic system. In Ohio our party chairmen, David Pepper, was elected by a committee of 148 insiders — only 66 members of the group were directly elected in a Democratic Primary — regardless that 1.3 million Ohio Democrats regularly vote in Primaries. It’s pretty laughable that the Ohio Democratic Party wants to send every Ohio Democrat who donates money to the ODP a “membership card,” but this card gives the holder no vote, no say-so, in the party organization.

Rather than saying, “The DNC’s mission has to be to elect people up and down the ballot,” I’d like the leader of the party to emphasize that the DNC’s mission is to strengthen the structure of our democratic republic. I’d like to hear our leader say that political parties have a big role to play in empowering citizens so that their government is truly of the people, for the people and that the Democratic Party is changing its organization structure so that ordinary Democrats are in charge of the party — not the insiders, not the big-money people.

Oligarchy was once defended as the only practical method of making decisions because difficult transportation and slow methods of communication hindered the effective use of large groups. But now, Ohio could have a Democratic Party of thousands or hundreds of thousands of individuals all connected through the internet and this party could function as an on-line deliberative democracy.

The party’s 2016 platform included these words, “Cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls. It’s a simple but powerful idea: We are stronger together.” Yes, but these are just words, words, words without an organizational structure that gives meaning to those words. Right now, the Democratic Party is an oligarchy, much like the Republican Party.  It should be the party controlled by the people. The organizational structure of the Democratic Party that could accomplish that mission would be one that would empower many more people, one focused on the local level and focused on engaging and informing the public.  My suggestion is that as chairman of the party that you find county organizations that are exemplary in empowering and engaging Democrats as voters and participants in the local organization and that you publicly praise such groups and encourage other county groups to emulate these exemplary counties.

The Democratic Party should be inspired by the vision and should rise to the challenge that its transcendental mission is to promote and empower democracy. If the Party could actually fulfill such a mission — by abandoning it oligarchic structure and by educating the public, and by facilitating opportunities for political participation — then, of course, Democrats would win elections in droves.



Note To Hoy:  My FB Actions Are A Feeble Attempt To Respond To Trump’s Big Wake-Up Call

My church friend from years ago, Hoy Fellure, posted this message on Facebook in response to my article: The Trump Has Sounded: “I’m concerned about you Mike. Your daily negative post about our President is over the top. You hardly ever posted anything on FB until after the election in November. Now you are relentless in opposing the actions by President Trump. May I suggest that you promote the positive points of the Democrat Party and how it can improve the conditions of America instead of the so called negative points of the Republican Party.”

Hoy — you are correct that recently I’ve been very active on FaceBook. Below are my posts from just the last two weeks. None of this is “fake news.” It is all mainstream news. This is not stuff I’m making up. I get that you may be irritated that I’m filling your Facebook feed with material that you’d rather not see. But this is a pretty good record of what I’ve read that I think is worthy of sharing.

Posting items on Facebook is a pretty feeble way of “opposing the actions of President Trump.” But when Trump’s actions are focused on destroying the ACA or funding private prisons, or appointing billionaire cabinet members whose agenda is to destroy their agencies, or denying climate change — even feeble opposition is better than no opposition.

You are failing to understand the urgency of my point of view that the election of Donald Trump is a huge wake-up call that our democratic republic is in a dangerous state of dysfunction. The tires are coming off. That someone like Donald Trump, a person of his values and history, could be elected president is shocking — as Mitt Romney and George H and George W Bush and many other reputable Republicans all emphasized prior to November 8. Now, for forty days and forty nights, Trump has been reminding us again and again how truly shocking it is that such a man should become president.

I get that you want to normalize Trump’s election. You need to consider why many people see his election as shocking and why so many are looking for an effective response. In my POV, the only hope I can see is for a revival of the citizenry — a great civic awakening. You are assuming that my flurry of posting on Facebook and my comments on FB are all about pushing a partisan point of view — that I’m all about advancing the Democratic Party. Wrong. My point is that we need to be pro-democracy, not pro-Democratic Party, nor pro-Trump. We need to create civic harmony, not civic division. In my “The Trump Has Sounded” post, I wrote: “The big question is: What is the root cause of our republic being so weak? Here is the sad fact: our democratic republican system of self-government is dysfunctional because it is lacking the informed and engaged citizenry that it needs in order to function as it should.”

Thanks for you concern for me. As Christians we need to pray for each other. All Christians need to find a way to work together to strengthen our citizenry so that our republican system of government will begin to work as it should. Partisan politics is destroying us. We need to find a common ground from which to work. I’m thinking that what should unite Christians is our sense of community. How could our Christian values unite us as a community — a community devoted to making our republican system work as it should. Here is a good question that I am dithering with: How can Christians transcend partisanship and work together to build community? How can Christians work together to make politics emerge from communities that are guided by Christian values?

These are the twenty-five posts I’ve made on FB in just the last two weeks. I can see why Hoy may be irritated that I’m flooding his feed with material he’d rather not see. Only four of these articles — shown in bold — were written by me and posted on my website The other articles are from mainstream news like the Washington Post or the New York Times. You can find the links to these articles on my Facebook page here:

  1. The Trump Has Sounded — Will The Dead Be Raised Incorruptible?
  2. Trump Embraces ‘Enemy of the People,’ a Phrase With a Fraught History
  3. AP fact check: Trump claims Affordable Care Act covered ‘very few’ people
  4. Under Mr. Trump, Private Prisons Thrive Again
  5. Bannon Admits Trump’s Cabinet Nominees Were Selected To Destroy Their Agencies
  6. Trump’s Big Agenda — Privatize Everything In sight
  7. Eulogy For My Friend: Rosie Hardin
  8. ACTION ITEM — Mail postcards to Paul Ryan
  9. ‘Medicare for All’ Only Way For Trump To Keep Healthcare Promises
  10. Should Bannon Resign? He and Milo Fake-Newsed Hillary As Pedophile
  11. 100 days of Trump claims
  12. Note to William Wild: Build Structures Outside of Public Schools To Bring Excellence In Civics
  13. Mandel defends spending $1.3 million in public money on TV ads
  14. Humans causing climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces
  15. Don’t Dismiss Trump’s Attacks on the Media as Mere Stupidity
  16. Kasich: It’s a ‘bad idea’ to phase out Medicaid expansion
  17. Climate Change Denial is the Original Fake News
  18. Quit Calling Donald Trump and Isolationist. He’s worse than that.
  19. Senate vote to repeal transparency rule for oil companies
  20. China grants Trump a trademark he’s been seeking for a decade
  21. Trump Science Adviser Candidate Calls Climate Science a “Cult”
  22. Robertson: Opposition To Trump Is ReVolt Against God
  23. Trump lots keep Palestinians Stateless forever
  24. Congress Says, Let the Mentally Ill Buy Guns
  25. America Needs A Great Civic Awakening

The Trump Has Sounded — Will The Dead Be Raised Incorruptible?

Names mean something. Maybe the name of our current president was foretold. Handel’s “Messiah” quotes 1 Corinthians: “For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

Donald Trump is a huge wake-up call. His election produced that stunned feeling when you first wake up like you are disorientated from reality. You must have been asleep — or maybe you were dead. Trump’s wake-up call has now been going for forty days and forty nights.

To wake up is to realize that our democracy is in a state of dangerous dysfunction. The evidence was clear long before Trump’s election. What do you call a government in which 90% of the members of its House of Representatives are embedded in “safe” seats, who never are questioned by their constituency, who never are required to give an accounting of their activity?  I don’t think you call such a government a democracy, because it is not.

If Trump doesn’t wake us up, what will? Trump’s election is a symptom of a deeper problem. In the big picture, the problem is not the Democratic Party or the Republican Party or gerrymandering, or big money in politics.  These are all aspects of system dysfunction. The big question is: What is the root cause of our republic being so weak? Here is the sad fact: our democratic republican system of self-government is dysfunctional because it is lacking the informed and engaged citizenry that it needs in order to function as it should.

To be raised incorruptible is to see the truth. The election of Trump should make informing and engaging the citizenry a big campaign. Here is what we need to envision and pray for:  a great civic awakening that will refresh our republic — a movement focused on civics education — focused on building an informed and engaged citizenry.


Eulogy For My Friend: Rosie Hardin

Rosie Hardin

Rosie Hardin

Rosie Hardin passed away this last Monday.  She was born in May and her middle name was Mae. This next birthday, she would have been 95. Her services will be on Saturday. You may read her obituary here: George Martin Funeral Home

When Rosie was in the nursing home in Vandalia, she had one big worry. Rosie wanted to go home and one big reason was that every day she fed a squirrel on her back porch. She made a pet of that squirrel and named him “Hoppy.” She said he was very ornery.  When she was in the nursing home in Vandalia she was worried about Hoppy. She knew that squirrel loved her and counted on her and she loved that squirrel too.

Rosie loved animals. She loved plants and flowers. She loved children. She loved people. She loved her family. She loved me. And I’m sure she loved everyone in this room.

I enjoyed visiting Rosie — in her warmth and love, she reminded me a lot of my mom. One day I decided to tell Rosie that she had come to mean a lot to me. As I was preparing to go, I took her hand and said loudly, so I was sure she could hear, “I love you Rosie” and she said “I love you too.” And she gave me a big hug.  I tried to visit every week and every time after that day, that is how we said goodbye.

Rosie thought a lot about God. She wondered what heaven will be like. She talked about the great supper in heaven and wondered what the food would be like. Will we have bodies up there? Would she have a chance to fish? Could she sew something beautiful that God could wear?

Rosie loved to tell about the nice times she and Cecil had when they went fishing. She enjoyed catching the fish, but she never liked to eat fish. She repeated many times that she was so happy that Pastor Paul had helped Cecil to be saved and she was looking forward to seeing Cecil in heaven. She talked about the last cigarette she smoked and how she became so happy when she accepted Jesus. She marveled, “What do people do who do not have Jesus in their lives? How can they get along without Him?”

Rosie pondered the idea that God is spirit. She asked me, “Will we see God?”  I thought about it and finally told her:  Yes Rosie —  Jesus told us that “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” and, I told her: Rosie you are pure in heart.

In Rosie, I saw Christ — pure in heart, full of love —

Rosie, I’m so happy that we became friends and I’m so happy that we will meet again. In my spirit, I can hear you answering me back one more time when I say:    I love you Rosie