Archive for the ‘California Politics’ Category

National News Media Must Call Out Trump’s Lies

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

trumpatciaThe unhinged fabrication that Donald Dinky Hands and his bootlicker mouthpiece Sean Spicer spouted on the Trump Regime’s first full day in office, preposterously claiming that his inaugural crowd was bigger than any before, would be laughable if it weren’t such chillingly clear evidence of the 46% 45th president’s Big Lie strategy.

It’s easy to make it a joke. Size matters. Ha, ha. But it’s not funny. It’s deadly serious.

Herr Trump showed that on something as photographically and measurably obvious as the size of the meager crowd he attracted to celebrate his inauguration, compared not only to the multitudes that feted Barack Obama but also to Saturday’s D.C. Women’s March protesting his vile politics, he is unable to accept any reality in which he is diminished.

“This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer — surely under orders from the boss — told the White House press corps on Saturday. “Both in person and around the globe.”

He accused the news media of “deliberately false reporting,” not just with crowd estimates but with its photos as well.

spicerAre you gonna’ believe me or your lying eyes? Spicer, in a yelling, madman performance in the White House press room, said 420,000 people had used the D.C. metro on Trump’s inauguration day, compared to 317,000 for Obama’s 2013 inauguration.

But, according to the Washington Post, Metro said 570,557 people took trips on Friday in total, compared with 1.1 million trips at Obama’s 2009 inauguration and 782,000 at his 2013 inauguration.

Here’s one Twitter post from Metro itself: Metro Ridership: As of 11am, 193k trips taken so far today. (11am 1/20/13 = 317k, 11am 1/20/09 = 513k, 11am 1/20/05 = 197k) #wmata

Trump harangued officers assembled at the CIA with a totally inappropriate and fantasy declaration that his inaugural crowd was about 1.5 million, compared to most estimates that topped out at 250,000.

Complaining about one TV report, Trump said, “It showed an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people. Now that’s not bad. But it’s a lie.

inauguralpix“We had 250,000 people literally around, you know, in the little bowl we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20-block area all the way back to the Washington Monument, that was packed.”

But live television shots, videos along the parade route and other photographic records proving this was a lie were easier to read than any evidence the intelligence analysts he was addressing might use to target ISIS encampments.

Help us Obi Wan Kanobi. You’re our only hope.  The national news media – especially the network and cable White House press corps – must not laugh this off.

We are relying on them to make a HUGE deal of it because it was a first-day-in-prison test: Will Trump and his press secretary get away with standing up and lying through their teeth, denying what is happening in the real world, without urgent pushback from the Fourth Estate?

Push back now or get rolled and bitch slapped for the next four years.

ciawallAnd that’s not the worst of it. Trump’s CIA visit, which was expected to be a kiss-and-make-up session for intelligence agents he in recent weeks called “Nazis” and mocked for erroneous recommendations and information gathering about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; instead it was a debacle, not only because of his lies about his crowds, but also due to a rant that blamed the media — “the most dishonest people on earth” — for his recent attacks on the Agency. He couldn’t even resist delivering a whopper about the inauguration day weather, as the WashPost, to its credit, did not let pass.

Trump also misrepresented what happened to the weather during his swearing in. He said he felt a few drops of rain as he started delivering his address, but then, “God looked down and, and he said we’re not going to let it rain on your speech.. . .The truth is it stopped immediately.”

Light rain continued to fall through the first few minutes of the speech — and VIP’s at the dais took out ponchos, including former president George W. Bush — and then quit. Trump said there was a downpour right after he finished, which did not occur.

John Brennan, the president's assistant on homeland security and counterterrorism, on Monday, May 2, 2011, spoke to the press about the raid and subseqent killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden. This is a file photograph of the Deputy National Security Advisior John Brennan made as he talked to the press about security during the holiday season.  He is with White House press Secy Robert Gibbs in the White house briefing room.Brennan steps up. Trump’s rambling diatribe was so egregious that John Brennan, a CIA lifer, and its just-resigned director, called it “despicable,” speaking through a former top aide.

“Former CIA Director Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes,” Brennan said via former CIA deputy chief of staff Nick Shapiro. “Brennan says that Trump should be ashamed of himself.”

Both the Post and the NYT deserve credit for soberly calling out Trump on some of his lies. (He even lied about how many times he’d been on the cover of Time magazine, a subject that only a brazen narcissist could bring up in remarks to the CIA.)

“With False Claims, Trump Attacks Media on Turnout and Intelligence Rift,” the Times headlined its story. The Post reported Trump’s statements straight but followed each falsehood with a sentence or graf pointing out his untruths.

But it’s not enough.

Even if the national papers used stronger disclaimers, which they should, the fact remains that newspapers increasingly are read by well-educated elites who already oppose Trump. The networks and cable outlets (excepting of course the lickspittle “reporting” on Fox delivered by Trump pal Rupert Murdoch) must refuse to be intimidated and hammer away in tough, direct and uncompromising language that refuses to normalize what clearly is unbalanced person and a dangerous tyrant.

It also wouldn’t hurt to point out that he’s clinically mentally ill.

Trump: “Amerika Zuerst” as Regime Takes Power

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

trumpbobbyfistsThe raised fist — an insult to the patriotic Americans who protested racial discrimination and the Vietnam War decades ago — conveyed the spite and bile Donald Trump unleashed in his inaugural address on Friday.

But to understand what Herr Trump was actually saying, it helps to see what David Duke tweeted out: Trump Inauguration Speech Declares War on the Neocons & Promotes Our Slogan “America First!”

trumpasnaziPast is Prologue. The former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan conflated Trump’s attack on Washington elites with neocons, but he got the essential point: That the new president had vowed that he was issuing “a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward a new vision will govern our land,” he said. “From this day forward, it’s only going to be America first, America first.”

The use of Charles Lindbergh’s anti-Semitic slogan from 1941 is no coincidence. It perfectly invokes the retrograde, authoritarian government Trump plans to establish based on the false grievance that President Obama has left behind “American carnage.”

Before a savior can be sanctified, he must first establish that the people need saving. So Trump painted a false vision of America that was purely dystopian:

Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential…

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.

(Here’s a good WashPost fact check of the speech, with a subhed that read “President Trump painted a portrait of the United States that often was at variance with reality.” Surprise, surprise).

Donald Trump Is Sworn In As 45th President Of The United StatesHe Alone Will Fix It. The key to restoring America, of course, is Trump himself.I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never, ever let you down. America will start winning again, winning like never before,” he said, as if a wedding vow.

When even the loathsome George Will declares your speech “the most dreadful inaugural address in history,” you know it was truly horrible.

Had Trump had his way, his parade would have included missiles, tanks and masses of soldiers, marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. The idea was thwarted by cooler heads in the military command. But that was his totalitarian vision.

“We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny,” said Trump, sending chills down the spine of anyone who ever listened to a speech by Adolph Hitler.

Fascism will not come to America in a coup. It will insinuate itself, masquerading as patriotism and nationalism. We are on the razor’s edge.

Jan. 20, 2017: The Madness Is About to Get Real

Friday, January 20th, 2017

upside down flagWhatever lies, jive and tripe ooze from the filthy mouth of Donald J. Trump at today’s Inauguration, the plain fact is this: the U.S. is about to embark upon a destructive, dangerous and chilling new era led by a mentally ill, ignorant and authoritarian kleptocrat.

The national media still is in thrall to a political narrative that seeks to explain the rise of Trump largely with sentimental, Joad-like tales of woe endured by rural and blue collar males  – conveniently looking away from the racism, misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia that Trump has set loose.

Although there is a kernel of truth to the economic resentments of a working class left behind by globalization, Trump’s first, poisonous acts as President Elect make clear that his phony populist act was always in service of fleecing the rubes. Just to name a few: smashing every time-honored norm of civic decency and proper political behavior; assembling an administration of know-nothings and corporate plutocrats; ignoring conflict of interest rules and constitutional requirements; positioning his personal financial interests to burgeon while he’s in the White House; spurring the takeaway of health insurance from 18 million Americans; smooching Putin’s behind; claiming a “landslide” victory, denying Russian hacking and the intimidation that led to the nation’s internal security agency to intervene in the election.

Far beyond the implications of economic policies to be enacted by a compliant Ayn Rand Republican Congress, however, the most menacing prospect of the nacrissistic Trump is that he is — there is no way to soft peddle it — a nascent fascist. The political strategy for building his kakistocracy, concocted by such dangerous advisers as the white supremacist Steve Bannon and the pathological liar Kellyanne Conway, among others, rests on three key features:

chaosChaos. Trump’s vicious tweets, ever-shifting, shallow statements about crucial substantive issues and domination of every news cycle combine to create media bedlam and constant confusion about where he stands.

Despite the best efforts of outfits like the NYT, WashPost and WSJ to corral his lies and misdirection, the whirl of puzzlement he generates simply is too fast and ceaseless to catch up. And the notion that rational argument and fact-checking can make a dent in the emotion-based commitment of his raging and resentful political base is delusional.

As author Masha Gessen, a biographer of Vladimir Putin, wrote recently.

Mr. Trump (much like Mr. Putin) thrives on cacophony, in an environment of ever-shifting realities that makes other people feel disoriented and helpless.

And this from the Post’s Dana Milbank, whose snark and flippant observations appear to have been sobered by the clear and present danger of Trump (we know the feeling):

Some suggest that there is a method to Trump’s madness, that he is trying to make would-be adversaries think he is irrational and capricious, thereby making foes and rivals wary of pushing him too far…

On a lesser scale, this also underpinned Richard Nixon’s “Madman Theory” during the Vietnam War: If he appeared to be crazy enough to use nuclear weapons, the theory went, North Vietnam and the Soviet Union might back down.

But in Trump’s application of the Madman Theory there seems to be less theory than madman.

goebbelsText book propaganda. Trump’s whole cult-of-personality communication style bristles with the classic techniques of authoritarian propaganda: big lies, fear mongering, simplistic slogans, exaggeration, personal attacks, stereotyping, scapegoating, the incessant repetition of disinformation and more.

A good case study by Jack Shafer, Politico’s media critic, notes:

Like the propagandists, he intends to erode the public’s ability to distinguish what is true from what is fantasy.

freedom-of-expression-1rubdo1First Amendment erosion. Trump’s embrace and misleading use of the “fake news” trope, and his vow to “tighten up” libel laws, are just two examples of his demagogic efforts to meld fact and opinion, while discounting, demeaning and demolishing institutional media’s traditional role of serving as trusted arbiters of what is accurate, documented and true. In doing so, he normalizes blatant fabrications and the sensibility summed up by the old saw – what are you going to believe – me or your lying eyes?

Following Trump’s recent whack-a-media press conference circus, the Russian journalist Alexey Kovalev published at Huffpost a scary essay headlined “A Message to My Doomed Colleagues in the American Media,” comparing him point-by-point to Putin:

This man owns you. He understands perfectly well that he is the news. You can’t ignore him. You’re always playing by his rules  —  which he can change at any time without any notice…

Your readership is dwindling because ad budgets are shrinking  —  while his ratings are soaring, and if you want to keep your publication afloat, you’ll have to report on everything that man says as soon as he says it, without any analysis or fact-checking, because 1) his fans will not care if he lies to their faces; 2) while you’re busy picking his lies apart, he’ll spit out another mountain of bullshit and you’ll be buried under it.

xavierbacerraGlimmers of hope. To be sure, the structure and culture of democracy cannot and will not be transformed overnight; more insidiously, it may happen slowly but steadily as the nation and a weakened media become inured to constant falsehoods and daily small acts of political violence he and his GOP handmaidens inflict on historic touchstones of governance; this until the very atmosphere of conversation and debate is purged of truth and the endless false assertions of his legion of paid liars — up is down, black is white and neighbors are enemies in disguise – begin to seem normal, as memories of how things were before Trump begin to fade.

Your Calbuzzards confess that we’re still struggling to formulate and put forth strategies and tactics for individuals and communities to fight against what we foresee is coming.

It is true that California state government already has taken important steps in preparing to become a bastion of resistance to Trumpism. Our Golden State cajones will be tested almost immediately if, as soon-to-be EPA chief Scott Pruitt testified in his confirmation hearing, the new Administration refuses to allow California to set its own pioneering limits on greenhouse gases. Not to mention whatever can be done to maintain health care for millions of our citizens who only have it because of the Affordable Care Act.

Trump’s conflicts of interest, ethical and constitutional violations will commence the instant he is sworn in. His mere ownership of the lease to operate the Trump International Hotel in Washington violates not only the lease with the GSA but also the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits the president from receiving financial benefits (not just gifts) from a foreign government. But who will hold Trump accountable? His own Justice Department? A GOP Congress delighted to have a president who won’t veto their worst legislation? If a case makes it to the Supreme Court, will the new conservative majority dare challenge Trump? Don’t hold your breath.

Of course, it’s possible that Herr Trump’s words and actions will become so foul and scandalous that a mass movement, on a scale that helped end the Vietnam war, will materialize. Perhaps national Democrats will — as they must — erect an effective wall of obstruction to the effort to roll back decades of progressive reforms, as Republicans did in a largely successful effort to delegitimize Obama’s bid to enlarge them. Or maybe some of Trump’s bevy of right-wing congressional enablers will get tossed out in the mid-term elections and weaken the reactionaries’ iron grip on Washington.

If there are mid-term elections.

Villaraigosa: California Must Spread the Wealth

Monday, January 16th, 2017

villaraigosa-500pxThis post is the first in an occasional series based on interviews with the 2018 candidates for Governor of California.

In one of the first in-depth interviews about his 2018 campaign, Antonio Villaraigosa told Calbuzz that the next governor must focus heavily on creating economic opportunities in areas of inland California that have not rebounded along with prosperous coastal cities.

“I think the folks in San Francisco and Los Angeles care about the people in San Bernardino and Fresno. I care about them,” the 63-year-old Democratic former mayor of Los Angeles and speaker of the Assembly, told Calbuzz.  “I think the best way to move forward is to move forward together. If we’re going to govern this state with a goal of restoring the luster to the California dream, we’ve got to restore it for more people.”

Speaking to and for the more conservative Central Valley and Inland Empire, where Villaraigosa in recent months has been active and visible, might not, by itself, be a winning strategy for a Democrat in a general election. However, it could prove a formidable game plan in an open primary, where the goal is to make it into the statewide top-two runoff.

Having collected more than $2 million in campaign funds since announcing his candidacy in November ((name brand contributors include Michael Eisner, Ryan Seacrest, Reed Hastings, Eli and Edythe Broad, Molly Munger, Fabian Nunez, Stewart Resnick and Monica Lozano, to name a few), Villaraigosa appears to be confronting the key question about his strategic plausibility as a candidate in what will likely be a crowded field.

“I believe strongly that the next governor has got to focus on the parts of the state that aren’t reveling in the rebound,” Villaraigosa said. When asked how this message would work for people in cities along the coast, Villaraigosa had both an idealistic and practical response: “You speak to peoples’ better angels but also to the notion of what we need to be successful” as a state that grows when prosperity is more widely shared.

Romualdo PachecoFirst Latino since 1875? Villaraigosa is, thus far, the only Latino in the 2018 race to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown – a contest that to date includes poll leader Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Treasurer John Chiang and former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. Other potential candidates whose names have been floated include San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (a Republican elected to non-partisan office), businessman environmentalist Tom Steyer, former Controller Steve Westly,  Secretary of State Alex Padilla, not to mention Silicon Valley zillionaire and the Trump quisling Peter Thiel.  

During statehood, California has not had a governor of Mexican ancestry since the brief term of Romauldo Pacheco in 1875 – and he was a Lieutenant Governor who filled out the term Gov. Newton Booth who had been elected to the U.S. Senate. No truth to the rumor Calbuzz covered that race.

While he would be the first Latino elected governor, however, Villaraigosa contends he will not make his heritage a central argument of his campaign.

“I realize everyone’s watching and as a first you have a unique responsibility to do a good job,” he said. “I want to be a governor for all of California,” he added. “I’m not focused so much on breaking that glass ceiling. I never have – not when I was speaker, not when I was mayor. I wanted to focus on governing.”

hamletBE governor or govern? Your Calbuzzers, who’ve posed this question to gubernatorial wannabes for decades, asked Tony V. if he wants to be governor or if he wants to govern and, if the latter, specifically, what he wants to do. His reply:

I’m not looking for a job. I’m not looking for power or fame or privilege. I want to do something with the job. I’ve been majority whip, majority leader and speaker of the Assembly … My 20 years in political life has been about wanting to do big things … [When running for mayor] I told people, dream with me and I tried to do big things around education, transportation, infrastructure, jobs, the environment, public safety. And that’s what I want to do as governor. I want to govern. I want to take on the big challenges that this state faces.

He said he recognizes the enormity of the challenge. “My buddies make fun of me – in fact some of them have actually questioned my sanity,” he said. “You gotta take risks and you gotta be willing to fall on your face.”

He declined to say why he’s better for the job than his competitors.

They’re all good people and I don’t have any negatives to say about anybody, particularly so early in the race. I would just say this: I think what I bring to the table is that I’m a leader and a risk taker … I don’t want to compare myself to the others. But I’m willing to speak truth to power and take on the tough issues and I’ve had a knack for bringing people with me.

Yes and no, actually.

As our friend, the indispensable Seema Mehta wrote in the LA Times when Villaraigosa was considering running for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat: “Though Villaraigosa began his career in labor, he made enemies in that camp while he was mayor, notably by questioning the power of teachers unions. They are a critical group in a Democratic primary with the resources to shape the race — and to go all in to block his effort.”

trumpfaceCalifornia resistance. We asked Villaraigosa about the unprecedented dominant issue facing California: what the state must do in the face of the Trump Regime and GOP control of Congress.

I don’t want to spend my time screaming at Washington, DC. We need to double down on what we do well…expanding our economy, improving our business climate, creating jobs … [especially] in parts of the state that are not benefitting from that job growth and that economic success … not just lead the nation and world in setting climate change goals but double down on creating green jobs that provide a double bottom line for improving our business climate and improving our climate …

[California also should] use the courts where we are being threatened in a way that violates our constitution or our state prerogatives and use every tool at our disposal to challenge where we have to. But I think the best way to fight them is to double down on our success, to deepen it and to broaden it, to focus on what has worked for California …

We have to double down on what we do well, make the economy work for more people, lift more people into the middle class, train more of our folks for the jobs in the new economy, create more jobs in the places where the California rebound is non-existent or barely existent.

That’s a lot of doubling down on doubling down.

On more specific issues, Villaraigosa was clear on some and squishy on others.

HSR1High Speed Rail:

There are 16 countries that either have high-speed rail or will build it. We have to get into the 21st Century. There’s no question that there are various technologies available but ultimately the notion that we wouldn’t make an investment in high-speed rail is not a notion that I’m willing to accept, not in California. So I support high-speed rail.

However, he added, we need to “value-engineer” it and “leverage it” by, for example, making investments in housing and job creation near train stations in Fresno and other parts of the Central Valley.

Gov. Brown’s twin tunnels water project:

Before I’d be supportive of that project I think we need to do a lot more to recycle, capture water runoff, clean up our underground aquifers, store water, look at the two dams that were promised in 1999… an all-of-the-above strategy that doesn’t require that kind of investment first – then the tunnels are an option.

jerrygandalfKeeping MediCal under Trump:

The last time I looked there’s only one governor and it’s Gov. Brown … [Villaraigosa notes he wouldn’t take office until Jan 2019] … The state will have made some decisions long before that. I’m well aware that what we’re looking at right now, Jerry is facing somewhere between a 20 to 40 billion dollar cut. I think most people think it will be, at a minimum, the elimination of MediCal. So we’ve got our work cut out for us.

Our goal has to be to provide care for them, understanding that we’ve got to pay for it…And that $20 billion hole on top of the $1.8 billion (projected deficit) that he announced – we’ve got our work cut out for us. I certainly support the notion that that’s what our goal has to be…That’s why these policies [Trump’s] are such a threat because we have expanded health care to a greater degree than any state in the country.

We’re not sure a guy who wants to be the next governor can just stand aside and hope such a massive problem, with tragic human consequences, will be cleaned up before he takes office. (Devil’s advocate here, but maybe he should advance a strategy that could make him stand out when he’s actually in a multi-candidate campaign for governor. But, hey, if we were smart we would have become political consultants making 15 percent on every multi-million dollar campaign TV buy).

We also asked Villaraigosa to boil his campaign down to a simple bumper-sticker theme. He said he hadn’t thought about that although maybe it would be “Giving Voice to Every Californian.” Pretty big bumper strip or really small type.

He might do well to just accept the Calbuzz moniker we gave him years ago, based on his birth name,  Antonio “Tony” Ramón Villar, Jr., as in Voz Para Mi: Tony V.

Obama Farewell: The Demands of Democracy

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

obamatwoshotPresident Barack Obama delivered a powerful parting address Tuesday night in Chicago, calling on Americans to play their vital role — as citizens — to perfect America. Here is the text of the speech as written.

It’s good to be home.  My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes we’ve received over the past few weeks.  But tonight it’s my turn to say thanks.  Whether we’ve seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people – in living rooms and schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant outposts – are what have kept me honest, kept me inspired, and kept me going.  Every day, I learned from you.  You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.

I first came to Chicago when I was in my early twenties, still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life.  It was in neighborhoods not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills.  It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.  This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.

After eight years as your President, I still believe that.  And it’s not just my belief.  It’s the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government.

It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that We, the People, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.

This is the great gift our Founders gave us.  The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination – and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a greater good. For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation.  It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom.  It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande, pushed women to reach for the ballot, powered workers to organize.  It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan – and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.

economic-recoveryA look at the record. So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional.  Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow.

Yes, our progress has been uneven.  The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody.  For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.  But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.

If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history…if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, and take out the mastermind of 9/11…if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens – you might have said our sights were set a little too high.

But that’s what we did.  That’s what you did.  You were the change.  You answered people’s hopes, and because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.

“The decency of our people.” In ten days, the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy:  the peaceful transfer of power from one freely-elected president to the next.  I committed to President-Elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me.  Because it’s up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face.

We have what we need to do so.  After all, we remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on Earth.  Our youth and drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention mean that the future should be ours.

But that potential will be realized only if our democracy works.  Only if our politics reflects the decency of our people.  Only if all of us, regardless of our party affiliation or particular interest, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.

That’s what I want to focus on tonight – the state of our democracy.

A few Actual Facts. Understand, democracy does not require uniformity.  Our founders quarreled and compromised, and expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity – the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.

There have been moments throughout our history that threatened to rupture that solidarity.  The beginning of this century has been one of those times.  A shrinking world, growing inequality; demographic change and the specter of terrorism – these forces haven’t just tested our security and prosperity, but our democracy as well.  And how we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids, and create good jobs, and protect our homeland.

In other words, it will determine our future.

Our democracy won’t work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity.  Today, the economy is growing again; wages, incomes, home values, and retirement accounts are rising again; poverty is falling again.  The wealthy are paying a fairer share of taxes even as the stock market shatters records.  The unemployment rate is near a ten-year low.  The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower.  Health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in fifty years.  And if anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we’ve made to our health care system – that covers as many people at less cost – I will publicly support it.

That, after all, is why we serve – to make people’s lives better, not worse.

poverty“A new social compact.” But for all the real progress we’ve made, we know it’s not enough.  Our economy doesn’t work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class.  But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic principles.  While the top one percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many families, in inner cities and rural counties, have been left behind – the laid-off factory worker; the waitress and health care worker who struggle to pay the bills – convinced that the game is fixed against them, that their government only serves the interests of the powerful – a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics.

There are no quick fixes to this long-term trend.  I agree that our trade should be fair and not just free.  But the next wave of economic dislocation won’t come from overseas.  It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes many good, middle-class jobs obsolete.

And so we must forge a new social compact – to guarantee all our kids the education they need; to give workers the power to unionize for better wages; to update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now and make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and individuals who reap the most from the new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their success possible.  We can argue about how to best achieve these goals.  But we can’t be complacent about the goals themselves.  For if we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.

“Hearts must change.” There’s a second threat to our democracy – one as old as our nation itself.  After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America.  Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic.  For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society.  I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago – you can see it not just in statistics, but in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum.

But we’re not where we need to be.  All of us have more work to do.  After all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.  If we decline to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we diminish the prospects of our own children – because those brown kids will represent a larger share of America’s workforce.  And our economy doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.  Last year, incomes rose for all races, all age groups, for men and for women.

Going forward, we must uphold laws against discrimination – in hiring, in housing, in education and the criminal justice system.  That’s what our Constitution and highest ideals require.  But laws alone won’t be enough.  Hearts must change.  If our democracy is to work in this increasingly diverse nation, each one of us must try to heed the advice of one of the great characters in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

For blacks and other minorities, it means tying our own struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face – the refugee, the immigrant, the rural poor, the transgender American, and also the middle-aged white man who from the outside may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but who’s seen his world upended by economic, cultural, and technological change.

For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ‘60s; that when minority groups voice discontent, they’re not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness; that when they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment our Founders promised.

For native-born Americans, it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today were said, almost word for word, about the Irish, Italians, and Poles.  America wasn’t weakened by the presence of these newcomers; they embraced this nation’s creed, and it was strengthened.

So regardless of the station we occupy; we have to try harder; to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.

Facts“A common baseline of facts.” None of this is easy.  For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions.  The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste – all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable.  And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.

This trend represents a third threat to our democracy.  Politics is a battle of ideas; in the course of a healthy debate, we’ll prioritize different goals, and the different means of reaching them.  But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible.

Isn’t that part of what makes politics so dispiriting?  How can elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on preschool for kids, but not when we’re cutting taxes for corporations?  How do we excuse ethical lapses in our own party, but pounce when the other party does the same thing?  It’s not just dishonest, this selective sorting of the facts; it’s self-defeating.  Because as my mother used to tell me, reality has a way of catching up with you.

“A faith in reason.” Take the challenge of climate change.  In just eight years, we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, doubled our renewable energy, and led the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet.  But without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change; they’ll be busy dealing with its effects: environmental disasters, economic disruptions, and waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary.

Now, we can and should argue about the best approach to the problem.  But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations; it betrays the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our Founders.

It’s that spirit, born of the Enlightenment, that made us an economic powerhouse – the spirit that took flight at Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral; the spirit that that cures disease and put a computer in every pocket.

It’s that spirit – a faith in reason, and enterprise, and the primacy of right over might, that allowed us to resist the lure of fascism and tyranny during the Great Depression, and build a post-World War II order with other democracies, an order based not just on military power or national affiliations but on principles – the rule of law, human rights, freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and an independent press.

That order is now being challenged – first by violent fanatics who claim to speak for Islam; more recently by autocrats in foreign capitals who see free markets, open democracies, and civil society itself as a threat to their power.  The peril each poses to our democracy is more far-reaching than a car bomb or a missile.  It represents the fear of change; the fear of people who look or speak or pray differently; a contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable; an intolerance of dissent and free thought; a belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right.

“Vigilant but not afraid.” Because of the extraordinary courage of our men and women in uniform, and the intelligence officers, law enforcement, and diplomats who support them, no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years; and although Boston and Orlando remind us of how dangerous radicalization can be, our law enforcement agencies are more effective and vigilant than ever.  We’ve taken out tens of thousands of terrorists – including Osama bin Laden.  The global coalition we’re leading against ISIL has taken out their leaders, and taken away about half their territory.  ISIL will be destroyed, and no one who threatens America will ever be safe.  To all who serve, it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your Commander-in-Chief.

But protecting our way of life requires more than our military.  Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear.  So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.  That’s why, for the past eight years, I’ve worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firm legal footing.  That’s why we’ve ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, and reform our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties.  That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans.  That’s why we cannot withdraw from global fights – to expand democracy, and human rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights – no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem.  For the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression.  If the scope of freedom and respect for the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, and our own freedoms will eventually be threatened.

So let’s be vigilant, but not afraid.  ISIL will try to kill innocent people.  But they cannot defeat America unless we betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight.  Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world – unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors.

The threat to democracy. Which brings me to my final point – our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.  All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions.  When voting rates are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should make it easier, not harder, to vote.  When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service.  When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.

And all of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power swings.

Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift.  But it’s really just a piece of parchment.  It has no power on its own.  We, the people, give it power – with our participation, and the choices we make.  Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms.  Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law.  America is no fragile thing.  But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.

In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but “from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken…to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth;” that we should preserve it with “jealous anxiety;” that we should reject “the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties” that make us one.

We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character are turned off from public service; so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but somehow malevolent.  We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.

It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.  Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title:  Citizen.

“What democracy demands.” Ultimately, that’s what our democracy demands.  It needs you.  Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.  If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life.  If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing.  If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.  Show up.  Dive in.  Persevere.  Sometimes you’ll win.  Sometimes you’ll lose.  Presuming a reservoir of goodness in others can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you.  But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire.  And more often than not, your faith in America – and in Americans – will be confirmed.

Mine sure has been.  Over the course of these eight years, I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers.  I’ve mourned with grieving families searching for answers, and found grace in Charleston church.  I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and our wounded warriors walk again.  I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks.  I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us of our obligations to care for refugees, to work in peace, and above all to look out for each other.

That faith I placed all those years ago, not far from here, in the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change – that faith has been rewarded in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined.  I hope yours has, too.  Some of you here tonight or watching at home were there with us in 2004, in 2008, in 2012 – and maybe you still can’t believe we pulled this whole thing off.

Some words of thanks. You’re not the only ones.  Michelle – for the past twenty-five years, you’ve been not only my wife and mother of my children, but my best friend.  You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor.  You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody.  And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model.  You’ve made me proud.  You’ve made the country proud.

Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion.  You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily.  Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.

To Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware’s favorite son:  you were the first choice I made as a nominee, and the best.  Not just because you have been a great Vice President, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother.  We love you and Jill like family, and your friendship has been one of the great joys of our life.

To my remarkable staff:  For eight years – and for some of you, a whole lot more – I’ve drawn from your energy, and tried to reflect back what you displayed every day: heart, and character, and idealism.  I’ve watched you grow up, get married, have kids, and start incredible new journeys of your own.  Even when times got tough and frustrating, you never let Washington get the better of you.  The only thing that makes me prouder than all the good we’ve done is the thought of all the remarkable things you’ll achieve from here.

And to all of you out there – every organizer who moved to an unfamiliar town and kind family who welcomed them in, every volunteer who knocked on doors, every young person who cast a ballot for the first time, every American who lived and breathed the hard work of change – you are the best supporters and organizers anyone could hope for, and I will forever be grateful.  Because yes, you changed the world.

yeswecan“Yes we can.” That’s why I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this country than I was when we started.  Because I know our work has not only helped so many Americans; it has inspired so many Americans – especially so many young people out there – to believe you can make a difference; to hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourselves.  This generation coming up – unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country.  You believe in a fair, just, inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, something not to fear but to embrace, and you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward.  You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.

My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you.  I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain.  For now, whether you’re young or young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your President – the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.

I am asking you to believe.  Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.

I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written:

Yes We Can.

Yes We Did.

Yes We Can.

Thank you.  God bless you.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America.