Marianne: “A US president in the 21st century should have as much understanding of the internal dynamics that cause people to change, as of the external dynamics that cause policy to change. We must treat more than symptoms; we must also treat cause. Otherwise symptoms simply morph into new ones.”
Chadwick Moore, journalist and Constitutional conservative: “I gave a speech last night to about 300 Republicans. I started off cracking mean jokes about each of the Democrat contenders. When I got to Marianne Williamson (who I praised), she got a round of applause. I was not expecting that.”
This Saturday, 9/21, millions of people across the globe will be celebrating the UN’s International #PeaceDay. Let’s create a world in which every day is that. Join me for a deep dive. #MeditateForPeace.
I want to talk to you about waging peace.
From millions of chronically traumatized children to mass incarceration to family separation at the border, the United States has no more serious problem than the problem of violence itself.
And yet, even as the current administration starves the international peace-building capacities of the State Department, we have no federal platform from which to seriously wage peace domestically.
We need both.
Through support of my candidacy for president of the United States, you can help alter the course of our nation and model peace for our world.
When I become president, I will establish a U.S. Department of Peace.
This campaign to establish a U.S. Department of Peace is the first step in dismantling our systemically entrenched perpetuation of violence. And it is critical.
Our current administration actively cuts peace-building programs that are statistically proven to increase the incidence of peace and reduce conflict, despite their efficacy. These programs represent expanded economic opportunities for women, expanded educational opportunities for children, reduction of violence against women, and the amelioration of unnecessary human suffering wherever possible.
We should see large groups of desperate people as a national security risk. In doing right by our fellow human beings, we will pave the way to a better world.
I believe Americans are ready to do the right thing.
Our country’s priorities are clearly reflected in our budget. The Defense Department has a military budget of $718 billion – almost larger than that of all other nations combined – while our State Department budget – including all peace-creation agencies – is $40 billion. The independent U.S. Institute of Peace has a budget of only $36.8 million.
As president, I will make the relationship between the State Department and the Department of Defense a robust partnership. And I will build up the peace-building agencies within the State Department in a major way.
Domestically, we need to similarly disrupt patterns of violence. Join me in support for building a U.S. Department of Peace to address issues of peace-building here at home – trauma-informed education, community wrap-around services, restorative justice, conflict resolution, mindfulness in the schools, violence prevention programs, and more.
When I am president, the world will know that America’s greatest ally is humanity itself. Let us restore our position as a moral leader both here and abroad. Far more Americans love than hate, but we must display our love with a renewed commitment and serious conviction. Together, we can and we will. -Marianne
This Saturday, September 21st, is the International Day of Peace.
‘As the candidate for president described as a “peacemonger,” I want to make sure we participate in a worldwide embrace of the idea that peace is possible and war is not inevitable.
Please join me this Saturday live in Fairfield, Iowa, or via livestream, as we speak of, reflect on, and meditate for peace. The power of the United States of America is an awesome responsibility for all its citizens, and nowhere more so than in the area of war and peace.
Let’s join together and make it so. Please join us for the livestream on Saturday and spread the word to all your friends.
To me, being a Democrat means standing up for justice, fairness, tolerance, and truth. It means being compassionate and empathetic to our fellow citizens. It means fighting for our voting, religious and human rights. It means protecting freedom of speech and striving for equality among the races and sexes. It means following the Constitution and honoring our American ideals and principles. It does not mean tearing someone apart for their spiritual beliefs and political ideas just because they don’t jive with mine or ignoring their voice because they don’t hit an arbitrary number on an artificial poll sample. Everyone has a voice and deserves to be heard.
The 2020 Election is perhaps the most important vote we will ever make in our lifetime. We must reject hate, racism, bigotry and corruption and vote in responsibility, transparency and unity before we do more damage to each other and the planet. Unfortunately, many in the Democratic Party have viciously turned on their own.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.
-Mary Oliver, The Jouney
Dayle’s Community Cafe is on hiatus until September 18th.
The aftermath of every mass shooting follows a now-routine pattern: Feverish coverage will be followed by politicians and pundits engaging in a predictable conversation about gun-safety legislation. All of which we know by now. Of course, we need universal background checks; we need to close all loopholes; we need to outlaw bump stocks; and we need to outlaw assault weapons and the bullets needed to shoot them. But politicians trotting out various forms of I-will-do-this-or-that neither gets to the heart of the matter nor breaks the logjam that has made this horrific and uniquely American problem so intractable.
It is not just our gun policy but our politics that fails to free us of this insanity. Until we override the nefarious influence of money on our politics, it will not be possible to break the National Rifle Association’s chokehold on our society. It is not the will nor safety of the people but the profits of gun manufacturers that is given primacy in our gun policies. Legislation that establishes public funding for federal campaigns should be the battle cry of our generation.
But even then, Americans will have to look deeper for the causal layers of our epidemic of violence. We will have to look beyond politics. We will have to look at ourselves.
As individuals, Americans are not a violent people, but it is undeniable that we’re a violent culture. Regular mass shootings are not societally normal. And until we face this, the situation will not fundamentally improve.
Most politicians stick to a discussion of symptoms only. Politics should be the conduit for our most expanded conversation about societal issues, not the most superficial one. Conventional politics does not lend itself to a discussion of the deeper issues that plague us. Yet go deeper we must.
America does not just have a gun crisis; it has a cultural crisis. America will not stop experiencing the effects of gun violence until we’re ready to face the many ways that our culture is riddled with violence.
Our environmental policies are violent toward the Earth. Our criminal justice system is violent toward people of color. Our economic system is violent toward the poor. Our entertainment media is violent toward women. Our video games are violent in their effect on the minds of children. Our military is violent in ways and places where it doesn’t have to be.
Our media is violent in its knee-jerk shaming and blaming for the sake of a better click rate.
Our hearts are violent as we abandon each other constantly, breeding desperation and insanity. And our government is indirectly and directly violent in the countless ways it uses its power to help those who do not need help and to withhold support from those who do.
The darker truth that Americans must face now is this: Our society is not just steeped in violence; we are hooked on violence. And in area after area, there are those who make billions of dollars on deepening the hook. Until we see that, we will just have more violence. Our minds must awaken so we can see all this. Our hearts must awaken so we can change all this. And our politics must change so we can discuss all this.
Though gun-safety legislation should be fervently pursued, a political establishment so steeped in the ways of brute force is hardly equipped to be the purveyor of a solution to the problem of violence in this country. With a nearly $740 billion military budget but only $40 billion proposed for the State Department budget, our outsize commitment to brute force and ever-withering commitment to soul force is obvious. With the Air Force seeking 100 stealth B-21 Raiders, each with a price tag of $550 million and each equipped to carry both nuclear and conventional weapons, while 12.5 million children in the United States live in food-insecure homes — the idea of politicians who allow this to happen being the ones who are going to save us from the epidemic of violence in America is almost laughable.
We will not break free of dysfunctional realities until we are willing to embrace more functional ones. I propose a U.S. Department of Peace to coordinate and harness the powers of conflict resolution; restorative justice; violence prevention; trauma-informed education; mindfulness in the schools; child and family wrap-around services; social and emotional learning; and a world-class peace academy to train and to deploy thousands of peace-builders, plus national conferences and a presidential task force for peace creation. We will make every effort to promote a culture of peace both at home and abroad. We will address the root causes, not just the symptoms of violence in America. And in time, we will transform our culture from one of conflict to one of peace.
Nothing is going to fundamentally change until enough of us are willing to take a stand for fundamental change. And no change could be more fundamental than for the United States to transform from a culture of violence to a culture of peace. From the frequency of attack to the frequency of forgiveness. From a land of fear to a land of love.
“By then, she was beginning to wonder if this system was broken — if, in fact, a presidential campaign was designed to keep outsiders out, which is the opposite of democracy. “People would say, ‘You’re out of your depth,’ ” she said. “I feel I’m in my depth. A deeper conversation is in the depth. I’m the only one who mentioned American foreign policy in Latin America. I’m the only one who mentioned that our health care system is basically a sickness care system. I’m the only one who mentioned what Donald Trump is actually doing, collectivizing fear, and what it will take to override that. So was I out of my depth? Or is the conversation that was being promoted there not chronically superficial? And any conversation which is in fact of depth is made to appear silly?”
Do spirituality and self-help have a political constituency?
he first problem with Marianne Williamson is what do you call her. The other candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination lead with their impressive elected titles: “Governor,” “Senator,” “Mayor.” She’s a lot of fancy things herself: a faith leader, a spiritual guide on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” a New Age guru. But she knows that when people use terms like that outside the nearly $10 billion self-help industry, where a person like her is sought, they mean it to dismiss her. So while everyone else has dignified titles of experience to stick onto their lapels and on chyrons for the debates (all except Andrew Yang, who is a “former tech executive,” but it doesn’t really matter what he’s called because he’s running on a platform of giving each American $1,000 per month for life), she settled on, simply, “author.” Author is accurate, if not the whole story.
Williamson is also a politician now, and on the weekend after Independence Day, she was doing what politicians do, which is visit citizens gathered at people’s homes (and on peach farms and at ice-cream socials) and make a case to the American people, one group of interested voters at a time. There she stood, tiny and regal, on the breathtaking porch of someone else’s breathtaking home in New Castle, N.H., right on the river, giving a civics lesson not about her specific policies; those were all on her website, under the label “The Issues Aren’t Always the Issue.” She was talking about how she could beat Donald Trump.
She told the crowd the story of David and Goliath, about how she’s going to be like David and defeat Trump with just a slingshot. “We’re going to get him right between the eyes,” she said. “David got Goliath in his third eye, where he wasn’t prepared — where he had no defense.” The third eye, she explained, was Trump’s ego and his inability to see clearly. It was his instinct to divide the country along the old fault lines of hatred and greed and apathy toward suffering. The slingshot, which was small but mighty, was, of course, love. Love was her entire platform. She believed that if we were to look at all the country’s problems through the prism of love, we could undo everything from poverty to climate change to the immigration crisis.
Everyone talked about the issues. She wanted to talk about how we could have prevented these issues — how we could undo them if we got to the root of all these problems. “People who are so depressed because they don’t know how they’re going to ever get out of this college loan. People who were so depressed because they don’t know what’s going to happen if they get sick. People who are so depressed because they don’t know how they’re going to send their kids to college. People who are so depressed because they’re so afraid that their child is going to get picked up by the policemen and there’s absolutely nothing they can do no matter how much they try to raise a good kid and even have a good kid. People working with refugees, people working with immigrants, veterans, traumatized children, drug addicts. Everything I just mentioned has the fingerprints of public policy — irresponsible, reckless public policy.”
She has a patrician, mid-Atlantic accent that she has taped over her Texan accent — she was raised in Houston. She talks so fast, like a movie star from the ’40s, no hesitations, as if the thoughts came to her fully formed with built-in metaphors, or sometimes just as straight-up metaphors in which the actual is never fully explained. (“Am I pushing the river? Am I going with the flow? Am I trying to make something happen, or am I in some way being pushed from behind?”) She is prone to exasperated explosions of unassailable logic (“The best car mechanic doesn’t necessarily know the road to Milwaukee!”). A thing she loves to say is: “I’m not saying anything you don’t already know.” This is the self-help magic ne plus ultra, a spoken thing that rings inside your blood like the truth, a thing you knew all along, like ruby slippers you were wearing the whole time.
She finished her speech in New Hampshire to great applause and asked for questions, but nobody wanted to know how “a politics of love,” as she called it, would handle, say, President Vladimir Putin’s annexing Crimea, or how it would prevent a mass shooting, which were things she had thought about deeply and had specific and elaborate plans for. They didn’t want to know about her Department of Children and Youth or her Department of Peace. No, they wanted self-help. A woman raised her hand and said she didn’t know what to do about her trauma and her rage these days — how she couldn’t find forgiveness for the people who voted for Trump, even though those people weren’t exactly asking for it. “It’s like I’ve been infected,” the woman said. “How do I manage that?”
Williamson told her she has no time for people traumatized by the election. She asked the crowd to consider the trauma of the suffragists, who were force-fed through tubes when they were put into jails. She asked them to consider the trauma of the black protesters who took their lives in their hands when they marched in Selma. And she has even less time for people who think that anger is a productive emotion. Anger, she has said, is the white sugar of activism. It’s a good rush, but it doesn’t provide nourishment.
“Your personal anger depletes you,” she told the woman, her X-Acto-knife jaw jutted outward and her head high. “Trump isn’t the problem. The system of complacency is the problem.” The problem was apathy toward the entire revolutionary nature of this country — the radicalism of the Constitution, the power that it gave every single American. “Don’t hate Trump,” she beseeched the woman. “Love democracy.”
Self-help made Marianne Williamson, who is 67, famous. It was the number of selves she had helped in her 38-year career, and after selling over three million books, that made her feel she was qualified to take on the world’s problems. Rather than solving suffering one theater full of self-selecting audience members at a time, she could focus on alleviating suffering on a much larger scale. She was not concerned by the scoffings about her inexperience. Every time I heard her speak, she said: “I challenge the idea that only people whose careers have been entrenched for decades in the limitations of the mind-set that drove us into this ditch are the only ones we should consider qualified to take us out of the ditch.”
Some say it’s naive to think we can turn love into the governing principle of our civilization; I say it’s naive to think we’ll last another 100 years on this planet if we don’t try. Swords into plowshares: we can to turn a war economy into a peace economy. Where [he] has harnessed fear, we must harness love.-Marianne
Where there is charity and wisdom there is neither fear nor ignorance.
Those who live in love have a wisdom about them, particularly in their sense of priorities. They know what is important.
Day by Day with St. Francis:
Those who are fearful see things that aren’t there, and tend not to grasp the truth when it is presented to them.
In love there is no fear; indeed, perfect love casts out fear.
1 John 4:18
‘Occasional churchgoing and the recitation of has prayers have no power to cleanse this purulent wound.’ -Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island
‘Lord, the great cities are lost and rotting.
Their time is running out…
The people there live harsh and heavy,
crowded together, weary of their own routines.
Beyond them waits and breathes your earth,
but where they are ti cannot reach them.
They don’t know that somewhere
wind is blowing through a field of flowers.’
-Rilke, The book of Hours III, 4/5
My campaign for the presidency is dedicated to this search for higher wisdom. Its purpose is to create a new political possibility in America — where citizens awaken, our hearts and minds are uplifted, and our democracy once more becomes a thing about which we can all feel proud.
This is a new time, and we must bring forth something new within ourselves in order to deal with it. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
“I have learned that it is what you put in your mind mentally what you think and do, that makes your person. And you can put any mental object in this mind and it will bring it into reality. So this means, we can program ourselves to be the people we want to be whatever the subject matter is, live in it by a mental physical program, a system of learning and doing, studying all the greats in that field and becoming greater. My program consists of _____________________________________.
You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. Angela Davis
Be a sacred warrior…say what few are willing to say. And act.
‘Emerson said that we see what we animate and that we animate what we see. How careful then we should be to guard our thoughts, not only to keep them straight, expecting only the good, but equally we should consciously expel every thought that denies good.
❧ Ernest Holmes, Science of Mind
‘A person experiences life as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. Our task must be to free ourselves from this self-imposed prison and, through compassion, to find the reality of Oneness.’ Albert Einstein
‘As I fan the divine spark within me, my desire is that my life is a great flame, igniting another and another until the world is glowing with love.’
Most people believe that physicists are explaining the world. . . . They are only dancing with it. —Gary Zukav 
Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation:
The more ways of knowing we use, the closer we come to understanding, and yet the full picture will always elude us. In this way, mystery is endlessly knowable.
From our own experiences we know that reality is not a seamless whole. Multiple realities rise, recede, and eclipse on our cognitive horizons as subuniverses that we inhabit from time to time. . . . The portals to these universes are not always cognitive. Perhaps they can be entered through dance and song and story.
The superstring theory provides useful analogies. . . . Physicist Brian Greene says, “If string theory is right, the microscopic fabric of our universe is a richly intertwined multidimensional labyrinth within which the strings of the universe endlessly twist and vibrate, rhythmically beating out the laws of the cosmos.”  The theory speaks of universes coiled into infinitesimal loops that may hold the secrets of all forces in the cosmos. The beauty of the theory is that it is dynamic and rhythmic. It is a resonant and dancing universe that invites us to view its mysteries. . . .
Hopi elders engage multiplicity by referring to the ineffable as “a mighty something [a’ni himu].”  Wisdom instructs the elders that one cannot stake life on limited human perspectives; there must be more. And so the elders inquire into the nature of ontology, social location, and the universe with the humble acceptance of an abiding wonder for “the thing not named.”
 Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics (Morrow Quill Paperback: 1979), 35.
 Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (Vintage Books: 1999), 18.
 See John D. Loftin, Religion and Hopi Life in the Twentieth Century (Indiana University Press: 1991), xv-xvi.
We’re reaching a fork in the road; two paths are diverging on planet Earth, and the one we choose will make all the difference for the life of the planet. Shall we continue our medieval religious practices in a medieval paradigm and mechanistic culture and undergo extinction? Or shall we wake up to this dynamic, evolutionary universe and the rise of consciousness toward an integral wholeness?
-Ilia Delio, a Franciscan sister and scientist
From Fr. Richard Rohr
We are called to make the paradigm shift to an utterly new cosmology and worldview. I believe, even unbeknown to themselves, many are leaving organized Christianity now because these two cosmologies no longer coincide.
Today, August 26th, the U.S. president who called himself an environmentalist, addresses climate change:
“I feel that the United States has tremendous wealth. The wealth underneath its feet. I’m not gonna lose that wealth on dreams, on windmills, which frankly aren’t working too well.”
Jane Mayer [Staff Writer at The New Yorker/author of Dark Money]:
“Lee Fang, who was the first to report on the Kochs’ covert Tea Party role, argues that far more than appreciated, David Koch’s legacy includes electing Trump.”
DAVID KOCH’S MOST SIGNIFICANT LEGACY IS THE ELECTION OF DONALD TRUMP
Many obituaries published in recent days examine Koch’s history of polluting the environment and political system, how the donor network he helped lead mobilized opposition to addressing climate change, transformed our election laws to allow unlimited secret spending by the very rich, and systematically fought any regulation, labor reform, or tax viewed as a threat to the corporate power elite.
Yet Koch’s most visible accomplishment is the current occupant of the White House — a legacy largely unrecognized, and one that goes well beyond any other single triumph in his life.
“You cannot be a (wo)man of faith unless you know how to doubt. You cannot believe in Gaia unless you are capable of questioning the authority of prejudice, even though that prejudice seems to be religious. Faith is not blind conformity to a prejudice–a ‘pre-judgment.’ It is a decision, a judgment that is fully and deliberately taken in the light of a truth that cannot be proven.”
-Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
[G7 in France]
But deliver us from evil, past, present, and to come.
We must strive to overcome evil, but even our best efforts will require Gaia’s help.
The Lord said to Evil, “‘Where did you come from?’ Evil answered, ‘From prowling about on the earthmovers going back and forth on it.” Job 1:7
Cosmology: Part I
The Change of a World View
Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
Today, every academic, professional discipline—psychology, anthropology, history, the various sciences, social studies, art, and business—recognizes change, development, and some kind of evolving phenomenon. But in its search for the Real Absolute, much of Christian theology made one fatal mistake:
It imagined that any notion of God had to be unchanging, an “unmoved mover,” as Aristotelian philosophy called it.
There’s little evidence of a rigid God in the biblical tradition or the image of Trinity—where God is seen as an active verb more than a substantive noun. But many Christians seem to have preferred a stable notion of God as an old white man, sitting on a throne—much like the Greek god Zeus (whose name became the Latin word for God or “Deus”)—a critical and punitive spectator to a creation that was merely a mechanical clock of inevitable laws and punishments, ticking away until Doomsday.
We need a new way of thinking about the universe and our place in it. To begin our two weeks on this theme, I offer a clear and concise description of our changing worldview from Australian theologian Denis Edwards (I waited in a long line once just to thank him for his fine work):
Our theological tradition has been shaped within the worldview of a static universe. The great theological synthesis of St. Thomas Aquinas [1224–1274], for example, was formed within a culture which took for granted that the world was fixed and static, that the Sun and the Moon and the five known planet stars revolved around the Earth in seven celestial spheres, moved by angels, that beyond these seven spheres there were the three heavens, the firmament (the starry heaven), the crystalline heaven, and the empyrean, and that there was a place in the heavenly spheres for paradise. It was assumed that human beings were the center of the universe, that Europe was the center of the world, and that the Earth and its resources were immense and without any obvious limits.
By contrast, we are told today that the universe began with a cosmic explosion called the Big Bang, that we live in an expanding universe, with galaxies rushing away from us at an enormous rate, that the Earth is a relatively small planet revolving around the Sun, that it is hurtling through space as part of a Solar system which is situated toward the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, that we human beings are the product of an evolutionary movement on the Earth, and that we are intimately linked with the health of the delicately balanced life systems on our planet.
The shift between these two mindsets is enormous. It needs to be stressed that most of our tradition has been shaped by the first of these, and even contemporary theology has seldom dealt explicitly with the change to a new mindset. . . .
We have no choice but to face up to the ecological crisis which confronts us. Religious thinkers . . . are searching for a new synthesis of science and faith, a new cosmology, and a “new story.” 
☆ ☆ ☆
 Denis Edwards, Jesus and the Cosmos (Paulist Press: 1991), 3-5.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Evolution Is Another Name for Growth,” “Evolutionary Thinking,” Oneing, vol. 4, no. 2 (CAC Publishing: 2016), 111-112.
Image credit: Starry Night Over the Rhône (detail), Vincent van Gogh, 1888, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
May our prayers and our altars come together to calm the spirits of the fire in the Amazon – Sacred Temple of mystery and native jungle, lung of mother earth, place of power, home of ancestral tribes!
May our songs call the sacred water of rain, which are heard by the guardians of this place!!
Let human beings open the heart, to wake up and not sleep, to honor mother earth with each of our acts and not allow this to happen more times. Let’s send love, strength and peace to the peoples, to the animals, to the ancient trees…
Let us know in every way possible to listen to us, we need to echo the order of so many indigenous peoples who have already been giving alarm signs on the atrocities that are committed in the name of development.
How many more places have to be devastated for the ” good of humanity “, for the ” well being ” misunderstood of societies? Shattered by the policies of incapable governments! Let’s ask our authorities to act in favor of life and not against it!!
Let us act to the extent of our possibilities!! from our prayer, from our altar, from our sacred matrices that give life..
Let us remember that we are one being… that we are the extension of mother earth and what happens in it, anywhere happens in our body!
Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation:
Nonviolence is the universal ethic at the heart of creation.
The bias of white males is typically power and control. From this perspective nonviolence and love of enemies makes no sense whatsoever.
-Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation
A letter from Lawrence Lessig.
I’m writing to tell you about a critically important decision in a case of ours by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that could advance substantially our campaign to reform the Electoral College. At a minimum, it will get us a hearing in the United States Supreme Court, so that the fundamental question that our case raises can finally be resolved.
That question is this: Can presidential Electors within the Electoral College be forced to vote one way or another?
For most of my legal career (I won’t pretend to have thought much about the question before becoming a lawyer), I thought the answer to this question was easy: Of course they can! But in 2016, when Electors (and others) started raising the question, I began to look at the issue closely. To my surprise, I came to the view that the answer is actually no: That states cannot, constitutionally, control how their electors vote.
This conclusion is a bit terrifying: Can it really be that the choice for president could ultimately hang on the decision of a handful of electors? But terrifying or not, it seemed clearly to be what our Constitution prescribes. And after a record number of electors chose to vote their conscience in 2016, and not how they were pledged, we at EqualCitizens.US determined to get the question resolved finally before it creates a constitutional crisis.
Because remember: We know Electoral College contests are going to be closer in the future than they have been in the past; and as they get closer and closer, even a small number of electors could change the results of an election. Whether you think that’s a good system or not, we believe it is critical to resolve the question before it would decide an election. That means getting the Supreme Court to hear the case outside of a particular presidential contest, when they can answer the question without worrying about which candidate would benefit from their decision.
It now looks like that’s exactly what will happen. As I’ve written to you before, we’ve had two cases moving through the courts addressing this question — one in the Washington state courts, and one in federal court in Colorado. In Washington, three electors were fined $1,000 each for voting contrary to their pledge; in Colorado, one elector was removed, and two threatened for their decision to vote contrary to their pledge. We took the Washington case to the Washington Supreme Court and lost. Yesterday, we learned that we won in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. This conflict now pretty much guarantees that the question will be before the Supreme Court next year.
When I describe this case to people, their first response is usually something like this: Why would you ever try to get the Court to say that electors are free? The answer is that if indeed they are free, we should know that before the next election. If the Court decides as the 10th Circuit did, then that means that we as a nation need to decide whether we want to keep this system, or replace it — either through the National Popular Vote Compact, or through an Amendment to the Constitution. Or if the Court decides as the Washington Supreme Court has done, then at least we don’t need to worry about this instability within our presidential election system.
My bet is on the 10th Circuit. You can read its incredibly thoughtful opinion below. And when the Supreme Court affirms that result (in the Washington case — for technical reasons, that’s the case we’ll bring to the Supreme Court), then the race will be on to decide whether we keep the system the framers gave us, or decide as a nation — finally — to adopt something new.
Congratulations to my colleague, Jason Harrow, who argued the case before the 10th Circuit. And thank you to all the plaintiffs in both cases — Micheal Baca, Polly Baca, Robert Nemanich (Colorado) and Bret Chiafalo, Levi Guerra, Dove John (Washington) — who both did what they believed was the right thing to do in 2016, and have continued to fight in the almost four years since.
Stay tuned for the next episode. Meanwhile, we’re turning to the petition to ask the Supreme Court to take up this case for review.
A Vindication For The Hamilton Electors
Jason Harrow, Equal Citizens Executive Director and Chief Counsel
What are the powers of individual presidential electors in the Electoral College? Believe it or not, through over two centuries of history across 58 presidential elections, most lawyers are still not sure, and the U.S. Supreme Court has not definitively weighed in. But, because of an amazing group of electors we’ve been representing and a remarkable decision released yesterday afternoon by the federal appeals court in Denver, that is very likely to change before the election of 2020. And whatever way the Supreme Court goes, it’ll be a good thing for our country that, at last, the Supreme Court will be forced to grapple with the constitutional role of presidential electors.
Back up a few steps. We all know that the president is not directly elected based on popular votes but is instead elected by the votes of members of the Electoral College. The members of this most unusual College are appointed by each state following the popular election, and electors are real people who cast individual votes that may — or may not — be for the presidential candidates that they are expected to vote for.
In the 2016 version of the Electoral College, there were more of these independent electors than there has ever been in the modern era: there were seven official anomalous electoral votes for president and six for vice president, and several more electors tried to cast such votes but were prevented by state officials. Each elector had his or her own reason for casting a vote for someone not named Trump or Clinton, but many presidential electors were no doubt responding either to evidence of electoral interference that may have ensured Donald Trump’s election or to the historically large mismatch between the popular vote and the predicted outcome of the electoral college.
The issue of whether those independent votes must be counted, or whether states may intervene and tell electors who to vote for, has been percolating in the courts since then. Yesterday, a federal appeals court, for the first time in history, definitively ruled that presidential electors have the constitutional right to vote for the candidate of their choice. That’s huge.
The case arose from the actions of three brave electors in Colorado — Micheal Baca, Polly Baca, and Robert Nemanich — who were threatened with removal if they failed to vote for Hillary Clinton, the winner of the popular vote in Colorado. Mike Baca was undeterred even by threats of serious punishment (including potential criminal perjury charges) and voted for John Kasich, in the faint hope that a few dozen Republican electors would join him and send the election to the House of Representatives, where a Republican other than Trump could be elected. His vote was never counted, though. Instead, after his vote was revealed, he was removed as an elector and replaced with another elector who voted for Clinton.
We filed suit to defend these electors in 2017. Yesterday, the federal appeals court in Denver agreed with our argument the Constitution protects his right to vote for president. It did so in a remarkable opinion that dug deeply into the constitutional text and historical practice — so deeply, in fact, that the opinion is 114 pages long. But there was a lot for the court to get to, and it’ll be a gripping read for those who appreciate careful judging and wise constitutional analysis.
We at Equal Citizens also represent a separate group of electors from Washington state, and in May, the Washington Supreme Court went the other way and said electors could be penalized for casting these faithless votes. Now that there is a direct split between these two appellate courts, it is very likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will accept one of the cases for review in the coming months and, at long last, definitively resolve the issue of the freedom of presidential electors.
Finally: A win is, of course, a win. But some may be wondering why we are still pursuing this case, long after the election of 2016 has been decided. If we really believe in democracy — and, at Equal Citizens, we really do — should we really be pushing for 538 presidential electors to have the constitutional discretion to take the presidential election into their own hands?
Of course chaos and unpredictability is not the end result what we want; instead, we want to make presidential elections better, not more random or uncertain. And this litigation is consistent with that mission, for several reasons.
First, the current situation of uncertainty among increasing numbers of faithless votes is simply untenable. There have been only 58 prior elections, but we’ve nonetheless had our fair share of oddball results. We have had elections decided by a single elector (1876); we’ve seen the Supreme Court halt a recount in a swing state (2000); we’ve had a tied election thrown to the House for decision (1800); and we’ve even had an entire state shift its vice-presidential votes to throw that race into the Senate (1836).
This just shows that crazy things happen more often than we might predict, and the current situation — where about 30 states have laws purporting to bind electoral college votes, but no one knows if they’re legal — could lead to the most destructive crisis of them all: a situation where there is disagreement over the validity of one or more key electoral votes. What if the election hangs in the balance and an elector votes one way but a state official says it’s invalid? That crisis just cannot happen; it could tear the country apart. We need to know in advance of the next election whether it’s legal to bind electoral votes.
Second, whether we like it or not, we don’t think the ultimate question is even close — which means that if it were litigated in the middle of a presidential election, it could change the outcome. If America doesn’t like this result — and even some of us don’t like this result — we should have a chance to avoid it before the next election. Those who wish to change the system — as we do, and as our clients do — should therefore want this question resolved now. If the Supreme Court agrees with us, it would give real momentum to real alternatives, whether a constitutional amendment or the National Popular Vote compact. . And even if we lose in the Supreme Court, that would make clear that states in the National Popular Vote Compact could legally bind their electors and ensure there are no dissents there. Either way, this case will provide an important improvement over the status quo.
Bottom-line: next stop, Supreme Court. Exciting times.
God’s will being done on earth looks like everyone being good to each other.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, that we may love our neighbors even as ourselves, redoing in the good of others and giving offense to no one.
-St. Francis, Day by Day
The society that is imaged in the mass media and in advertising, in the movies, in TV, in best-sellers, in current fads, in all the pompous and trifling masks with which it hides callousness, sensuality, hypocrisy, cruelty, and fear. Is this ‘the world?’ Yes. It is the same where you have mass man–the same spiritual cretinism which in fact makes Christians and atheists indistinguishable.
-Contemplation in a World of Action
Contemplative practice teaches us to honor differences and also realize that we are all much more than our nationality, skin color, gender, or other labels which are all aspects of the passing and thus false self. Contemplation brings us back to our True Self, who we are in God.
At this place of both poverty and freedom we have nothing to prove or protect. Here we can connect with everything and everyone. Everything belongs. This cuts violence at its very roots before there is any basis for fear, anger, vengeance, or self-promotion—the things that often cause violence.
Many activists I knew in the 1960s loved the nonviolent teachings of Jesus, Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948), and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968). But it became clear to me that theirs was often a mere intellectual appreciation rather than a participation in the much deeper mystery.
People on the Right tend to be perpetually angry, fearful, and overly defensive, and people on the Left tend to be perpetually cynical, morally righteous, and outraged.
Activist [based in spirit] are themselves “a new creation” (Galatians 6:15) and the lightning rods of God’s transformative energy into the world.
-Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson (center) confers with Sens. Hubert H. Humphrey (left) and Sen. Richard B. Russell in 1954. Johnson was elevated to majority leader in 1955 and rapidly grew into the job.
It wasn’t the Founders who wanted centralized power in the Senate. That came about a hundred years later. And then, in the 90’s, Mitch McConnell, a master diabolical political manipulator with one goal.
How Does One Man Have So Much Power Without Being President?
by Ron Elving
Mitch McConnell, the Republican senator from Kentucky.
The man who calls himself the “Grim Reaper” — of signature Democratic initiatives.
McConnell’s status stems from his office as the Senate majority leader — elected by his party colleagues to lead their conference in the chamber. But few who have held this office have been able to wield it with this kind of results.
In today’s Senate, McConnell can decide virtually by himself what the chamber will do — and even what it will consider doing.
Control of the Senate was very much up for grabs in the 2016 cycle, and, at times, it appeared likely Trump would lose to Hillary Clinton and depress Republican turnout in the process. That was seen as damaging or even fatal to the prospects of several Republicans in close races.
McConnell could see his status in the majority slipping away after having it just two years. So he calibrated his responses to campaign events carefully. At one point, he simply refused to take any questions at all regarding the party’s presidential nominee.
Nonetheless, when Trump won, McConnell was right there to offer his full-throated support. And within days, the new relationship was cemented by Trump’s appointment of McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, as secretary of transportation. (Chao had been secretary of labor for all eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency.)
While their backgrounds and lifetime experiences are worlds apart, McConnell and Trump share an approach to politics that is more transactional than ideological.
The Founding Fathers saw the Senate as a small body (initially about two dozen) that would largely govern itself, under the watchful eye of the president of the Senate — a job assigned to whoever happened to be vice president of the United States. If the veep was unavailable, the task of presiding passed to a senator designated as the Senate president pro tempore — the presiding officer for the time being.
As the Senate evolved, the idea of the presiding officer atrophied in importance. The vice president stopped attending Senate sessions except for ceremonial occasions or to cast a tiebreaking vote. The Senate was largely run by its strongest personalities and committee chairmen.
The Trump era, at least on Capitol Hill, is best understood as the Trump-McConnell era.