Posts Tagged ‘election’

GOP: A Party of Distraction, not Action

Friday, September 17th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

64B6273B-ABBF-4252-AB3C-3D7FC5AA28C7    And now it’s abortion. Again.

    The Republican Party, as predictable as ever, has reached deep into its bag of political strategems and come up with its old standby. When nothing else works, ban abortion.

     Also predictably, the media, especially TV,  swarmed all over this story as if it has never happened before. TV commentators (I cannot call them newscasters) breathlessly rushed to say everything they always say when Republicans do this, acting as if it is the only important story in America today. Social media, of course, greatly amplified the reaction.

      It’s a distraction. Precisely what Republicans want.

      It’s a proven way to take people’s minds off the failures of the GOP. It’s a proven way to rile up the voter base growing weary of Covid and wondering whether or not that presidential election really was stolen. It’s yet another way to pit Americans against each other, even though Republicans are on the wrong side of this issue as far as the majority of Americans are concerned

    A majority of Americans are pro-choice. Republicans are pro-choice when it affects them personally. End of story.

..    i’m not saying that the right of a woman to control her own body and to choose abortion if necessary is not important. The Supreme Court has already decided it is. So yes, it is disappointing that the current court chose not to consider a challenge to the outrageous Texas law effectively banning abortion. But the law will of course be challenged in court by all the groups that usually challenge such misbegotten legislation. And the Justice Department, free of the shackles of the Trump administration, not surprisingly said it will challenge the legality of the Texas law.

      But meanwhile, let us not forget a budget bill, an infrastructure bill, a voting rights bill, all proposed by Democrats and waiting for congressional approval. Again, the majority of Americans approve of the proposals of the Biden administration, all of which have been opposed by Republicans. Opposing Democratic initiatives is the entire GOP playbook.

      Let’s also not forget the ongoing Covid pandemic, exacerbated and extended in this country by the politically motivated statements and actions of Republican governors, especially those from Texas and Florida. Republicans would rather have Americans argue over abortion than notice people dying in overwhelmed hospitals in Texas and Florida … and Mississippi and Louisiana.

      Of course, there was also Afghanistan. Republicans tried to paint President Biden‘s removal of troops and evacuation of Americans and allies from that country as a total failure. It was not. Again, most Americans are glad to be out of Afghanistan and recognize the fact that the Trump administration created the situation in that country which guaranteed a messy withdrawal. Biden did not apologize for his decision, nor, by the way, did he send out a Twitter storm blaming his generals for the poor advice they gave him on the evacuation.

   With even some establishment Republicans declaring that the 2020 election was fair, not stolen, party leaders have tossed out such distractions as “woke,” cancel culture and critical race theory. Remember them? They all got traction for a brief while in the media until people realized there were more legitimate issues, more important things going on in this country, none of them being addressed by Republicans.

     The most important of those is the congressional hearing into the insurrection of January 6. Republicans in Congress have disgraced themselves trying to convince Americans that nothing serious really happened. Or if it did, Trump was not involved. Or if he was, they personally were not involved.

     This is the important story in America today. The very foundation of this nation is at stake. TV commentators talking about abortion need to ratchet down the emotion a bit, stick to the facts and history of the issue and remember all the challenges this president faced when he took office. He is tackling those challenges methodically and with a calm sense of purpose. I might suggest a couple of other things that ought to be done:

  1. Those three pieces of legislation need to be passed by Congress. Also kill the filibuster. Biden needs to call West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, supposedly a Democrat, into the Oval Office for a serious man-to-man, president-to-senator, Democrat-to-Democrat taking. Something reminiscent of LBJ.
  1. That special commission the president appointed to consider any changes that might be necessary to the Supreme Court needs to be told to wrap up its work quickly with a recommendation to expand the court from 9 to 13 justices. Now. Enough playing nice. And yes, it’s something Republicans would actually do.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

Wear a Mask; Don’t be Like Rudy

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

 

  By Bob Gaydos

   Rudy’s got Covid.

Rudy Giuliani has no use for masks. Rudy got Covid.

Rudy Giuliani has no use for masks. Rudy got Covid.

  “Hallelujah!” Scream millions on Facebook and Twitter. Also, “Karma;” “Serves him right;” “He probably spread it over half the country;” “Stupid spreader;” and, “I don’t wish anybody dead, but …”

      How far the mighty have fallen. How sad the daily sight of the onetime “America’s Mayor” making a fool of himself in court and anywhere he can arrange an audience in public in order to symbolically and delusionally prostrate himself at the feet of a man who doesn’t care about him and who will never pay his legal fees.

      And all without a mask. Everywhere. Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, the White House. Rudy’s got it. Jenna Ellis, one of his equally delusional “co-counsels,” has it as well. Where’d they get it? Who knows? Who’d they give it to? No idea. No contact tracing as well as no social distancing.

      And no masks.

      What is it with Americans — especially a lot of Republicans — who won’t wear a mask? It’s the easiest and best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, along with proper social distancing. If everybody does it, fewer people get it, fewer people die, the sooner we can go back to work and we don’t have to wear masks. That’s not even new math. It’s just common sense and decency.

     We’re approaching 300,000 dead from Covid-19 in this country, a great many of those deaths the result of a total lack of planning and caring by the Trump administration. Criminal negligence writ large. Trump doesn’t care anymore. He’s focused on raising as much money as he can with his phony “the election was rigged” campaign. The one Rudy was in charge of until he got Covid. Inconvenient.

      Also embarrassing: The world found out about Rudy and Covid in a tweet from Trump. It’s a surprise the news didn’t get lost in that Twitter chaos.

      It’s hard to know what happened to Rudy. He took his 9/11 fame and prominence, conducted a half-hearted campaign for president a while back, then apparently decided to be a lackey and legal errand boy for Donald Trump, a job with great visibility and occasional perks, until you cross him. Spread the conspiracy theories. Make up new ones every day. Ukraine today, Philadelphia tomorrow.

       And whatever you do, don’t wear a mask. Not because there is no Covid. We know there’s a virus — Trump even got it — but because we can’t let all those people coming to our rallies know that it’s real. We can’t let them know that we ignored it and let tens of thousands of people die. We don’t wear masks whatever Fauci says. We were robbed! Help us fight it! Give us money! Don’t wear a mask! Only liberals, Democrats, socialists, communists and coastal elites wear masks! Real Americans don’t wear masks!

        Tell them, Rudy.

        So Rudy’s got Covid. I don’t wish him dead, but a little suffering might be good for him.

        Once upon a time I might’ve started this column by writing, “Rudolph Giuliani, lawyer for President Donald Trump, has contracted the COVID-19 virus. The former New York City mayor apparently was exposed to the virus in the midst of his last-minute campaign to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election, which was won by Joe Biden.”

          But I spent four decades writing for tabloid newspapers and when a once-prominent political figure makes a fool of himself on a daily basis, that boils down to, “Rudy got Covid.” In bold type. He’s got the notoriety, but no longer the respect. He didn’t wear a mask.

         Now, I am not a Covid guerilla. In fact, I have even been chastised for occasionally being a little too casual in my own mask-wearing and social distancing. But I am of an age and I don’t like being considered expendable to the rest of the herd. So I learned. I try always to wear my mask properly (over the nose) and insist on social distancing. I even wear gloves. Also, my hands have never been cleaner. I also take vitamin D supplements and have type O blood, both of which have been reported as good things to have to avoid Covid-19. But if I’ve got it without symptoms, I don’t want to pass it on to you and, in return, I don’t want you to pass it on to me. It’s pretty simple. Science and respect. Don’t be stupid. Don’t be like Rudy.

       Wear a mask.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com

America Has a Narrow Escape

Friday, November 13th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

 

Celebrations, like this one in Philadelphia, irrupt it across the country at the news of Joe Biden’s victory.

Celebrations, like this one in Philadelphia, erupted across the country at the news of Joe Biden’s victory.

We got off lucky. Four more years of Trump might have killed the Great American Experiment.

     It has taken me a few days to sort through the feelings I’ve had since Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. There was relief, of course. But more. When I read that Biden had finally been projected as the winner, four days after the election, it felt as if a huge weight I didn’t know I was carrying had been lifted off my shoulders. That’s apparently how worried I was about the future of this country.

     I do not state this lightly: No president in my lifetime, not even Richard Nixon, has done more to damage the basic foundations of this nation than Donald Trump. For point of reference, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president when I was born.

     Trump has not done it alone, of course. He has had the willing, cowering support of most of the Republican Party, top to bottom, in his assault on decency, democracy.and the rule of law. He has had the fawning, self-serving support of white Evangelical grifters, who convinced their followers to pray for Trump and donate to their always needy churches, to forget the hypocrisy and immorality of it all. He has had the angry, armed support of rejuvenated, suddenly hopeful, groups of white supremacists. The KKK credo (“America First”) and Nazi flags had a rebirth, thanks to Trump. And he had the unwavering support of millions of seemingly ordinary Americans who I’m sure would deny vigorously that they had any racist, bigoted, misogynistic bones in their body or that they were too lazy or too embarrassed to find out if those conspiracy theories, like much of what Trump said, were lies that fed their pre-conditioned biases.

       Harsh? I think not. Just look around. It’s still going on. But the thing is, this time the rest of America isn’t buying it. The rest of America voted overwhelmingly for a return to sanity, competence, compassion, truthfulness, and respect for the law in the Oval Office. And state election officials have performed their duties in a professional manner, making Trump’s claims of fraud sound ridiculous and desperate. To be sure, many of his followers still claim “it’s not over,” but thousands of Americans danced in the streets when Trump lost, because they knew they were free of the menace of the man who broke bread with dictators, insulted allies and called American veterans “losers.”

         We got off lucky. Yes, we endured four years of arrogance and paralyzing incompetence in the White House, culminating with Trump’s criminally negligent response to the Covid-19 virus, but we also learned some valuable lessons:

         — Racism is not only alive, but widespread in America. It came out of hiding in full force with the permission and encouragement of Trump. Its presence was announced daily on social media, in police actions and in people’s routine daily activities. The videos are there as evidence. Racism is a tear in the fabric of our society that Trump has widened. To continue to blindly support him is to endorse racism. Period. There is no “nice” way to ignore this. But now we at least know that there is much work to be done. Kamala Harris as vice president is an excellent start.

         — The Republican Party has abandoned any pretense at bipartisan governing. In handing control of the party to government-hating Tea Party members and power-at-any-price opportunists, Republicans have become worse than the Know-Nothings of the 1850s. In their blind obeisance to Trump, they have demonstrated that, not only do they not know, they don’t care. America now knows this. Democrats now know this. Disaffected Republicans now know this. A two-party system should be about cooperative governing, not constant pursuit of absolute power. Can the Republican Party be reclaimed by those who know and care?

           — The Electoral College is obsolete. Whoever gets the most votes should win. Trump played on the fears and resentments of a largely ill-informed minority. He gave them a feeling of power. He lied to them, used them to, mostly, feather his branded nest. The country paid the price.

           — A lot of Americans don’t know a lot about a lot of things. I’ve tried to say that as delicately as possible. Willful ignorance has been a hallmark of the Tea Party from the outset. (Where is Sarah Palin, today?) Somehow, being educated, knowing about history, science, literature, economics, the law, health, the arts, philosophy, math, geography … is seen as a bad thing. Higher education is something to be ridiculed, not admired. (Except of course for wealthy conservatives.) The level of gullibility for much of the nation has been raised over the years by daily radio feedings of bigotry and bull from the likes of conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh. But Fox News on TV has been the primary purveyor of the “fake news” Trump likes to talk about. An entertainment enterprise masquerading as a news outlet, it has fed on people’s fears and justified their feelings of resentment, all in order to make lots of money for Rupert Murdoch. It has been particularly damaging to the concept of a free press. It has lied shamelessly, with no significant repercussions, and today millions of Americans have no clue about how to verify if something is true or not. If a statement reinforces their bias, that’s good enough for them. However, closed minds are unable to compromise and we need to be able to do this to live together. The challenge to remedy this demonizing of learning falls primarily to our educators. I’m not even sure where to begin. Well, maybe Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Texas. Also, getting rid of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.

          We got off lucky, America. It could have been far worse, as Germans well know. Authoritarianism and blind allegiance to a power-driven, truth-hating leader lead to fascism. But Trump’s incompetence ultimately undid him, as it has always done before. Whatever happens to him and his many enablers, there is much healing to do for America and there will be resistance. But now at least we know what we didn’t know about ourselves and our 244-year-old system of government, though it bent, eventually held up. With some adjustments, beginning with the Biden Administration, hopefully we won’t have to rely on luck to survive in the future.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

Facebook Has an Algorithm Problem

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

facebook thumb downAlgorithms are cool. I get it. I mean, I get that they’re cool, not how they work. I like to think that, if I had to, I could probably work really hard to understand them, but I dropped out of engineering school to do this. No regrets.

In fact, writing about life in all its complexities has given me an appreciation for what people — real people, not some numbers-crunched algorithm people — have to deal with on a daily basis. It has exposed me to the value of compassion, compromise and common sense.

Our universal dictionary, Wikipedia, defines an algorithm as “an unambiguous specification of how to solve a class of problems. Algorithms can perform calculation, data processing and automated reasoning tasks.”

But they can’t, obviously, do ambiguous.

I’m thinking about algorithms because Facebook, an Internet empire built on them, recently said it was going to hire 1,000 people to review ads in response to the embarrassing revelation that users’ news feeds during the 2016 U.S. presidential election were awash in political ads run by Russians, undoubtedly using their own algorithms to target various groups in an effort to influence the outcome. Facebook said Russians bought about $100,000 in ads — with rubles — but apparently the social media giant’s algorithms detected no ambiguity afoot with Russians arguing to protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights or stirring up anti-gay feelings, not in Moscow, but in the American heartland.

Congress is investigating. That’s good. It should do something this year. But Facebook has more than a Russia problem. It has become the major source of news for millions of Americans, yet its news feeds have been shown to be awash in fake news. Lots of really fake news, not Trump “fake news,” which is real news.

Facebook — actually Mark Zuckerberg — is talking about becoming a more responsible source of reliable news information and hiring “content moderators” to review, well, content, and a lot of additional people to look out for violent content on the site. Swell. 

If you will permit me a self-serving observation, he’s talking about hiring people to exercise judgment over what appears publicly on Facebook because: (1) algorithms can’t think or feel like people and (2) this is how responsible newspapers have operated forever. Just saying.

In the interests of full disclosure, I also will say I have had my own personal experiences with Facebook algorithms. Recently, I received an e-mail telling me that an ad I wanted to run boosting a column on a Facebook page I administer was rejected because it had too much copy. It didn’t say the copy was boring or poorly written or even offensive. Just too much of it.

OK, I’ve had editors tell me the same thing, but I was also never prepared to give an editor ten bucks just to run the column. Oh yeah, the ad in question was proposed in July. I got the rejection e-mail on Halloween.

Then there’s the friendly way Facebook greets me every day with news of the weather in Phillipsport. “Rain is in the forecast today, Robert.” Thank you. If I Iived in Phillipsport it would matter a lot more, but it’s a half hour drive and there’s a big mountain range between us and my page unambiguously says where I live. Can’t the algorithm read?

But the incident that really convinced me that Facebook had an algorithm problem was its response to a complaint I filed regarding a post that was being sarcastic about the dotard-in-chief. I am guilty as charged of leveling (much-deserved) sarcasm at the Trump, but this cartoon had him in a coffin with a bystander saying to Melania, “‘Sorry about the assassination, Mrs.Trump, but he knew what he signed up for.”

As a “content moderator” for newspapers for several decades, I would never let such a tasteless, provocative, potentially dangerous item to be published. I told Facebook the same thing. I said they should delete it. It encouraged violence at a violent time in our history.

The algorithm replied that the post did not violate Facebook’s standard of, I don’t know: Acceptability? Appropriateness? Decency? Who sets this pathetic standard?

I use Facebook a lot. It has many wonderful benefits. But “automated reasoning” is not a substitute for good old, gut-instinct common sense. It’s the best way to connect people with people. Maybe people cost a little more than algorithms, but I think Zuck can afford it and there are a lot of laid off editors looking for work. If it’s not fake news that he’s serious about running for president some day, he’ll be glad he did it.

I’m also curious to know what Facebook says if I decide I want to pay to boost this post. I wonder if they’ll let me run a picture of Zuck. Can I even call him Zuck?

Stay tuned.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Some Thoughts on an Election

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Deepak Chopra ... with a message for post-election blues

Deepak Chopra … with a message for post-election blues

Some random thoughts upon awakening on Nov. 9, 2016. …

I know it happened, but it feels surreal. We just gave a petulant child control of the most powerful military machine ever assembled. Here’s the key to the nuclear weapons closet. Don’t use it. Not sure he has heard that last part. …

Remember when all those people thought it would be funny to vote for Sanjaya on “American Idol”? He couldn’t sing worth a lick, but he made it to the finals, all the way to number 7, thanks to Howard Stern and a joke website. Lotsa laughs. Sanjaya might have won if there weren’t some people with real talent on the show. … That’s it for now. This has to be a mental health day. …

OK, I’m back. It’s Thursday. Still surreal. Can’t think about it for too long. Deepak told me this morning – well, not me personally – that if I change, my world will change. Intellectually, I get it. My perception of reality depends on my intent and my awareness. if I want to remain sane and live with a modicum of serenity, I need to focus on things that I can do something about that will also provide some positive feelings  and shut out things that will do the opposite. Take care of my world. ……

I read that California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada voted to legalize recreational marijuana. That ought to boost the U.S. economy. Did you know California’s economy is the sixth largest in the world? Maybe it will put some DEA agents out of work, but that war on drugs hasn’t worked anyway. It could make that wall on the Mexican border unnecessary. …

wish I could say I’m sorry to see Hillary go, but I’m not. Worst campaigner ever.  She should’ve gone to Standing Rock. She should have fired Debbie Wasserman. If I  were a millennial, my intent and awareness would be totally focused on Elizabeth Warren in 2020. …

My friend, Ketchup Bob (he counts ketchup as a vegetable), told me over coffee Wednesday morning that at our age if we woke up in good health it was a good day, even if it was raining. That’s the kind of uplifting message he gives me: You’re old, but you’re here. Drink your coffee and be grateful. … Intent and awareness. …

I’m a few months older than Bernie Sanders, so I don’t think he’s got another run in him. But I think he’s going to be keeping tabs on a lot of people’s intent in the Senate for the next four years and that is a source of hope. Take your vitamins, Bernie. …

I’m not reading any political stuff on Facebook for a while because obviously nobody knows a damn thing. And it is not exactly a wellspring of sanity and serenity. …

Oh, I erroneously reported a couple of weeks ago that Soupy Sales had died. Well, he had, but he did so in 2009. Sorry about that. Sloppy reporting. Got it off Facebook. …

Moment of clarity: There’s no cure for stupidity. …

Starting to feel a little better.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Birth Control and Pure Ignorance

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee

Jerk: A person regarded as disagreeable or contemptible.

The requirements for election to the House of Representatives aren’t complicated. You have to be 25 or older, a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and reside in the state you wish to represent.

I have a proposal to amend the Constitution. It would read as follows: “No person who is a jerk is allowed to serve in the House. Nor as senator. Nor as a governor. And certainly not as president. The United States recognizes that all people are created equal, but just as we wouldn’t allow a popular cocker spaniel to assume public office, nor would we allow a jerk to hold public office.”

The event that prompted my outburst was a pitch that came in the mail from Planned Parenthood asking for money and reminding recipients of some of the more outrageous comments by four men with bizarre ideas about what degree of lunacy the American people will accept from their elected representatives.

We have seen these quotations before, but there they were again, clumped in a tidy one-page display that left me breathless.

You remember this stuff of course.

— Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., declared at a hearing that women’s voices were “not appropriate or qualified” to participate in discussion of birth control matters. This is truly remarkable because if 51 percent of the population is not qualified to discuss birth control, new and dangerous paths are automatically opened. Remember when the majority were not allowed to vote at all in South Africa? What else might Issa see as unfit for the input of more than half the population? He didn’t say. But if women shouldn’t be at the table for talk on abortion and other forms of birth control because only they can get pregnant, you have to wonder if Issa would bar the 49 percent from the table when the subject is prostate cancer or low testosterone levels or male breast cancer or male osteoporosis. Issa didn’t say.

— In the wrangle over whether employers who offer medical coverage should be required to make birth control part of the benefits package, Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas said, “[Refusal to include birth control in workplace health coverage] is not denying women’s rights. If a woman then wants birth control, go work somewhere else.” This is a puerile response unworthy of half the legislative branch of our government. By suggesting that women quit their jobs – especially in the economy’s current state – and go marching out to an array of nonexistent jobs, Brownback lets everyone know the truth: He doesn’t give a hoot in hell about the real “facts of life.”

— Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and sometime candidate for president, shocked the nation with this moronic, sexist, and almost obscene observation: “ … women are helpless without Uncle [Sam] coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido … without the help of government.” Newsflash, governor: When a woman gets pregnant, there’s usually more than one libido involved.

— Finally there was Todd Akin, the genius from Missouri, who informed the nation about aspects of human reproduction that no one knew existed. To the question of the importance of making abortion available to women who get pregnant during rape, Akin said: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.” “That whole thing?” What is this man talking about?

Election Day is just 40 days away. Reject jerks seeking public office.

The Modern Greek Tragedy: Chilling

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Greece's deus ex machina has been turned off.

By Bob Gaydos

It has been quite a while since what happens in Greece has mattered in a grand-scheme-of-things sort of way. Heck, it’s been a couple of millennia, give or take a few hundred years here and there, since the birthplace of democracy has had superpower status. For a very long time, Greece has muddled through, more or less contentedly, on grapes and wine and nostalgia for its days of glory.

But apparently even classical ruins and beautiful Mediterranean scenery aren’t sufficient to keep tourists and history buffs visiting Greece often enough to offset the reality that when hardly anybody pays taxes, the stage is set for more ruins — and these won’t be anywhere near as architecturally meaningful as the ones the world has come to know and love.

Greece today is a mess. A train wreck. It is a country on the verge of a financial meltdown and almost nobody — even other European countries who are its partners in the Eurozone — is saying it’s too big too fail. The deus ex machina that has come to its rescue before is on the verge of being turned off. Olympus is on hiatus.

“And so what?” we say in our typical American way. “I can still get baklava.”

Perhaps, but what if the baklava factory (just go with the metaphor) goes belly up? And what’s a Greek salad without feta cheese? And, for the sake of serious argument, what about the Greeks themselves, especially the ones most vulnerable to a total economic collapse? That would be older Greeks, who face sizable cuts in their pensions and a serious lack of health care resources and the youngest, the ones who see no future in their country because the grownups have made a mess of it.

If you see some parallels with the situation in the United States today, you see where I’m going. But the threat goes beyond older folks having to tighten their belts and younger folks having to face an uncertain future. The threat — and the lesson for Americans — lies in what many members of those disaffected groups did recently when Greeks elected a new government.

They went nuts.

Sunday, Greek voters rejected what for them are centrist parties — those whose leaders had agreed to a rigid fiscal bailout plan with Greece’s creditors — in favor of, well, no party. Worse, in the parliamentary system with representatives of many political parties running, Greeks gave 15 percent of the seats in the Hellenic Parliament to communists and neo-Nazis, split pretty much evenly. Somehow, the two rejected political philosophies that clashed in Word War II are now expected to work together and with others to save Greece. Herodotus must be rolling in his grave.

The neo-Nazis, known as the Golden Dawn Party, are by far the scarier proposition because they believe what they believe fanatically. They do not believe the Holocaust happened. They do advocate placing land mines at Greece’s border to keep out immigrants. They have threatened reporters who wrote honestly about their meetings, their Nazi salutes, their swastika-like flag, their selling of Mein Kampf, their suspected links with the Greek secret service and police and the fact that they demanded reporters in the room stand up when their party leader entered.

Yes, we have communists and neo-Nazis in America, but these days, even with our fractured political system, they almost never get elected to public office. On Sunday, many Greeks didn’t seem to care who was elected. Many of them are still upset about waiting until 65 to retire and paying taxes. No party came close to a majority, leaving the government in chaos as different groups try to form coalitions.

Significantly, the votes for communists and neo-Nazis came heavily from the old and the young. The fearful and the fed up. The young, especially, having little sense of what Nazis, neo or otherwise, really stand for, seem to have decided that since the adults messed it up, it doesn’t matter who is in charge.

But it does. In every country.

On a less-frightening scale for now, one of America’s two major parties is finding out what happens when mainstream citizens, middle-of-the-road Americans, the people who pay their taxes and form a community, stop paying attention to who runs for office and don’t bother to vote. The angry and fearful go from being loud nuisances to taking over. They dominate the political debate. They run for office. They reject any thought of working with members of other parties and they threaten those in their party who don’t always agree with them with retribution — well-financed campaigns to drive them out of office.

They also occasionally make outrageous claims that go unchallenged — for example, that some 80 Democrats in the House of Representatives are actually members of the Communist Party.

Some might say this is a bridge too far, that what happened in Greece could never happen in the United States. I truly hope that is the case. But it has also been said by wiser men and women than I that the only thing necessary for the voices of fear and intolerance to succeed is for the voices of hope and reason to remain mute. I would add, and to discard their vote.

 bobgaydos@zestoforange.com