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Boardman writes: "OK, this is a familiar pattern of sleazy politics, except that ALL the people involved here are self-identified Democrats. This nasty little episode is an excellent paradigm of a Democratic Party that has no focus, no principles, no common sense."

Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot while practicing for a baseball game. (photo: Alex Brandon/AP)
Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot while practicing for a baseball game. (photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

Democrats Have No Moral Compass: A Case Study

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

29 June 17

This motherf----r, his whole job is to get people, convince Republicans to f---ing kick people off f—ing health care. I hate this motherf----r…. I’m glad he got shot, I wish he was f–ing dead.
Covert recording of Phil Montag, Democratic Party volunteer in Nebraska

The Nebraska Democratic Party removed a party official from his post Thursday after he was recorded saying he was glad U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise got shot and that he wished the Louisiana Republican had died.
Associated Press report, N.Y. Times, June 22, 2017

eems like a pretty straightforward story when it’s framed like that. Turns out there was a lot more going on, not all of it clear yet, and the Democratic Party leadership missed an excellent opportunity to exercise nuanced leadership instead of what appears to be mindless, kneejerk political correctness running scared.

This story apparently began to develop June 16, in the aftermath of the shooting of Scalise and others, including the killing of shooter James T. Hodgkinson. That’s when Chelsey Gentry-Tipton, chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party’s Black Caucus, took to Facebook to comment on video of the shooting scene:

Watching the congressman crying on live tv abt the trauma they experienced. Y is this so funny tho?...

The very people that push pro NRA legislation in efforts to pad their pockets with complete disregard for human life. Yeah, having a hard time feeling bad for them.

Within hours of the posting, Nebraska Democratic Party chairwoman Jane Kleeb, who is white, asked Gentry-Tipton to resign. Kleeb objected to media attention to what she called an internal party dispute. She said it distracted from the more important issue of gun violence, commenting simplistically:

Anyone who commits violence against anyone is wrong. Anyone who makes insensitive comments about gun violence is wrong. For me that’s the end of the story.

Gentry-Tipton posted again to Facebook, refusing to resign and writing a long response to a voice message from Kleeb, complaining that Kleeb called for her resignation without speaking to her first. Gentry-Tipton wrote: “As a victim of gun violence, I understand that today’s events are deeply troubling. I don’t condone or find the humor in what happened.” She criticized Kleeb for acting in haste without learning Gentry-Tipton’s point of view or the context for her remarks:

This is troubling.

It’s also troubling that gun violence affects the Black community in a way that you clearly don’t understand and you are slow to react. It’s also troubling that police violence affects the Black community in a way you clearly don’t comprehend and you are slow to react….

These are the issues. YOU DON’T REACT. What you choose to react to is some gossipy snippet of what I said and then call for my resignation. Where was your expediency and compassion when those tragedies befell our community?

A day or two later, apparently, Phil Montag met privately with Gentry-Tipton and her friend Destin Madison, who is apparently an “administrative lead” at Conagra Foods in Omaha. Madison secretly recorded the conversation for reasons that are unexplained (he did not respond to emailed inquiries). When Montag makes his expletive-laden comments about Scalise, Gentry-Tipton asks him to go public. “I’m not going to f—king say that in public,” Montag says. Gentry-Tipton asks him just to say something publicly. Madison asks him, “Why are you telling us, but not telling anyone else?” Montag stammers, trying to figure it out. At that point Madison reveals that he’s “been recording this conversation since you’ve come in, so I will publicly release it myself.” That’s the end of the recording. The conversation lasted perhaps half an hour, Madison’s YouTube post comprised only the last 42 seconds. But that was enough for Democratic chairwoman Jane Kleeb to fire Montag peremptorily from his volunteer position as co-chairman of the party’s technology committee.

Whoa, what just happened? First, it was a technological lynching. Montag’s remarks, however over-the-top, were spoken in private, presumably in confidence, secretly recorded, and then, without Montag’s permission, broadcast on the internet to create a minor media frenzy that, as it turned out, took the heat off of both Kleeb and Gentry-Tipton, at least for the moment.

OK, this is a familiar pattern of sleazy politics, except that ALL the people involved here are self-identified Democrats. This nasty little episode is an excellent paradigm of a Democratic Party that has no focus, no principles, no common sense. Whatever one thinks of Montag’s comments, he made them in private and knew better than to say them in public. That’s on the tape. Madison’s ambush of Montag is a betrayal that borders on the criminal (taping in Nebraska requires the consent of only one person, in this case Madison). Gentry-Tipton, whose initial response to Kleeb shows some character and decency, squanders her good will by taking part in the drive-by smearing of Montag. And Jane Kleeb and the rest of the party leadership manage to behave without dignity or discernible principle at every stage of the squalid show.

These people act as if they’d rather screw each other than take on the real enemies of the people in the Republican Party. It’s hard to imagine that Montag’s hatred of Steve Scalise was unique in the Democratic Party of Nebraska, never mind nationally. But those who had those feelings, including Montag, knew enough to keep them private, while publicly saying all the fake things they were expected to say, the sort of fake things Republicans rarely manage to say about the killings of unarmed black men, gay nightclub-goers, LGBT victims, or even the vulnerable people Republican healthcare is designed to kill. When someone shoots at a Congressman, the hypocrisy is seamless and Speaker Ryan can say without blushing, “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” which he would never say about any mere citizen, most of whom he has been more than happy to attack, continuously, for decades.

What should the Democratic leaders have done? How about acted with deliberation, care, thoughtfulness, and a focus on what the real horrors are when words are compared to deeds? For starters, all the words at issue here are constitutionally-protected free speech. Jane Kleeb might have started with that thought and then explored context and meaning, instead of betraying her anti-constitutionalism with mindless political correctness in support of speech policing:

Violent comments about anyone whether they are an elected official or a kid on the street are unacceptable…. The political rhetoric is so off the cliff of reality I fear where our body politic is headed.

This is the language of panic and fear, the language of someone who doesn’t have a clear understanding of what she’s dealing with. She doesn’t even manage to be clear that she heard an audio tape of Montag:

He made disgusting comments about a member of Congress, and we relieved him of his volunteer position of the party on Thursday morning as soon as we saw the video…. It’s a disturbing time in politics. I’ve worked in politics for over 10 years, and I’ve never seen such hateful rhetoric from both the right and left.

The party might well have wanted to disown Montag’s remarks, as well as Gentry-Tipton’s, but it could have done so in a mature and nuanced way. The public exposure in both cases involved Gentry-Tipton. Montag had exercised personal discretion in his choice of venues, if not in his choice of people to trust. The party could have made distinctions about what was said, and how it was said, and what was meant. Perhaps the party could have elicited apologies and explanations from Montag and Gentry-Tipton, both of whom could have added depth to the public debate. The party ran scared instead, as the Democratic Party has been running scared for decades now, afraid to take positions of principle even when they poll well.

And here was an opportunity to push back against a Republican Party that isn’t challenged on war, war crimes, torture, white phosphorous and cluster bombs, police murdering citizens, impoverishing the poor, destroying the middle class, and actually offering to kill people by the thousands with a healthcare bill that is actually a boondoggle for the rich.

That’s what Steve Scalise represents. And that is not a wish to see him dead. That’s a pointless desire, there would just be another inhumane Tea Party ideologue to fill his Young Gun shoes. A Democrat with displine and a willingness to fight back against the Steve Scalises of the world might have responded to this Nebraska hooha with arguments that show courage and a humane belief system. Such a Democrat might say that the party wishes Scalise no personal harm, but hopes that his period of recuperation might also include his recovery from his belief that life begins at fertilization, that God belongs in the public sphere (Constitution not withstanding), that marijuana is a gateway drug, or that women don’t need the protection of the Violence Against Women Act.

As Scalise has time to reflect on life lying in his hospital bed, he might wonder why he voted in support of mortgage foreclosures, voted against enforcing anti-gay hate crime laws, voted against green public schools, voted for more ocean oil drilling, voted against regulating greenhouse gases, voted for more nuclear power development, voted against supporting democratic institutions in Pakistan, voted for easier interstate gun sales, voted against regulating tobacco as a drug, voted against expanding children’s health insurance program, voted against removing troops from Afghanistan, or why he voted against investigating President Bush for lying the country into Iraq. Almost all of these votes have clear lethal consequences for someone, whether women, children, gays, Pakistanis, gun victims, Iraqis, climate change victims, Afghans, smokers, or victims of radiation.

There’s no point wishing him dead. Morally he’s been dead a long time already.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+86 # Wise woman 2017-06-29 11:46
And, as it seems, so is most of the GOP morally dead - especially those inhabiting and visiting the White House. You could just say that the dems are without backbones and the repubs without morals. And that's why we've got what we've got.
+34 # engelbach 2017-06-29 14:31
I stopped believing a long time ago that the Democrats had morals either.

Most of them fell in line with Bush's criminal invasions in the Middle East, refused to speak out against torture, voted for the Hyde Amendment, voted to defund ACORN, want to prosecute Snowden for revealing government wrongdoing, failed to fight for control gun, and a myriad of other things that belie their claims to represent liberal values.

Their cowardice and impotence are only part of the story. The rest is moral corruption.
+32 # Buddha 2017-06-29 13:38
Did Boardman just claim that because of this oaf and the "Democratic Leaders" response to his hate in Nebraska, that everyone who identifies as a member of the "Democratic Party" has no moral compass? WTF?
+22 # Texas Aggie 2017-06-29 19:03
He was talking about the leaders of the party, not the rank and file. And while the old saw about just a few rotten apples may apply in some cases, there seem to be a lot of them in the upper echelons of the party.
+12 # lfeuille 2017-06-29 23:15
Yeah, It's the fact that they are leaders that causes the problem.
+4 # wrknight 2017-07-01 20:01
They couldn't be leaders without followers.
+8 # economagic 2017-06-29 20:09
I will leave it to Mr. Boardman to defend himself should he care to do so, as well as to decline in this case to do so. But IMNSHO, he did no such thing. Clearly -- to me -- he is talking about the party as a whole and about the party leadership in particular, but NOT as I read it to apply to every member of the rank and file. Also clearly, it would have been wise for him to have said that in so many words. Boardman is a seasoned journalist, one of our best, but we can all learn to to better whatever it is we do.

I came upon a new book today by one Harold Evans titled "Do I Make Myself Clear?" Mr. Evans comes highly recommended by the people writing the jacket blurbs, who seem tp consider him the Jacques Barzun for our time. I shot my monthly book wad on Nancy MacLean's "Democracy In Chains," but maybe I can spend next month's on Mr. Evans' book.
+8 # WBoardman 2017-06-30 20:49
Buddha asks his question in a sweeping way.
The simple answer is, "No."

As chrisconnolly notes below, there ARE identifiable Democrats
with some decent crdentials. BUT they don't come close to
forming a critical mass, never mind al alternative leadership block. And they have their own problems, most obviously Sanders non-stance on war. And ary such list should surely
include Ron Wyden, Sherrod Brown, and Al Green, among
others. Especially Barbara Lee!

But the exceptions make the point. The Democratic Party,
whatever one makes of individual members, is moribund,
a force for leaderlessness, a moral vacuum as a party.

My "case study" illustrates this in microcosm I tried to
explain why. Any party more concerned with obscenity, tastelessness, indecent tweets, and all the other politically
correct distractions is morally adrift, whenthat concern ignores wars, state sanctioned killing, poverty, election fraud, and
so on.

Thank you to Texas Aggie, Ifeuille, economagic & engelbach
for reading what I intended to write.

Nancy Maclean was brilliant on Democracy NOW on June 29,
talking about "Democracy In Chains"

Based on performance since 2001, what are demonstrable
Democratic values?
+2 # librarian1984 2017-07-02 08:41
Establishment pols mouth platitudes about equality but are silent on every other issue that used to define the Democrats. When's the last time we heard any Democrat, or Independent, call for an end to our endless wars or our obscene arms sales or Obama's $ trillion nuke makeover?

When is the last time a Democrat called for strengthening unions, raising the minimum wage, better elections or health care? No one stands for the people.

In the 1970s both right and left elite responded to what they called "an excess of democracy". The Powell Memorandum came from the right; it declared any regulation unacceptable, named Nader and the universities, among others, their enemies.

But the right wasn't alone in seeing increased citizen participation and the empowerment of women as problematic. The Trilateral Commission published "Crisis for Democracy" -- and the 'crisis' was US.

The 50s were a sociocultural nightmare but we were economically stable. What changed? Conscious policies were deployed to disempower the people: financial deregulation, wage stagnation, college debt, universities adopting the business model, media propaganda, the starvation of the schools. It was the LIBERAL elite who wrote about "the indoctrination of the young".

I believe it's wrong to say the Democrats have any values at all -- other than loyal submission to corporate interests.

For the subversive, Chris Hedges has a 2-part interview with Noam Chomsky on RT.
+13 # vt143 2017-06-29 13:59
The Dems are just like the GOP but they don't do is as well.
+10 # anarchteacher 2017-06-29 14:02

Julian Assange: Why the Democrat Party is Doomed
+8 # krallison 2017-06-29 14:16
>>Whoa, what just happened? First, it was a technological lynching. Montag’s remarks, however over-the-top, were spoken in private, presumably in confidence, secretly recorded, and then, without Montag’s permission, broadcast on the internet to create a minor media frenzy that, as it turned out, took the heat off of both Kleeb and Gentry-Tipton, at least for the moment.
+3 # WallStWallFlowerGirl 2017-06-29 14:23
The picture above is neither Chuck Schumer nor Elizabeth Warren.

As for Democrats and Republicans, they're not all made from the same cookie-cutter. As a Democrat, I do wish the majority would just play hard ball. The mantra of "political correctness" has been invalidated by scheming, screaming, phony, pious and hypocritical Republicans. While not all alike, "good" ones aren't stepping-up to call out their party for its malfeasance.

As for tRump, he's as much a Republican as he is honest; but whom he affiliates himself with doesn't matter. The true power that steers this country, members of Congress- a.k.a. President McConnell, does. Supreme Court, anyone? How he terrorizes America is as lethal as any radical; he and his men should face a mutiny and thrown overboard like pirates at the end of a movie.

If McConnell's gang forces that egregious "healthcare" bill through, may it be the straw that breaks their spineless backs. When the people who keep them employed physically SEE the suffrage is from the power they legislate by, they might turn-off the real fake news, FOX, opening minds like a cult member waking up after decades of brainwashing.

It's time to burn their greatest hits like Beatles fans did after John Lennon called the Beatles greater than God.
+10 # engelbach 2017-06-29 14:26
Thank you, Bill.

The commenters on Huffington Post who said close to what you said were excoriated by the fake liberals who post there, with their make belief indignation that anyone would actually say what many of them feel but think it's "wrong" to speak aloud.
+16 # rproman824 2017-06-29 14:51
It is disheartening to see that the Democratic party seemingly has lost its sense of conviction and passion. What does it stand for these days? Where are its leaders? It appears the leadership is keeping a low profile in hopes that Trump will self-destruct, and they can just step in and take over. Fantasy, for sure! Their timidity and lack of conviction is why we have a Trump in the Whitehouse and a Republican Congress. I don't see that changing with the current crop of so-called Democratic leaders.
+8 # chrisconnolly 2017-06-30 17:28
I would have to disagree on the fine point that elections fraud and voter suppression have also contributed hamstringing the Dems. Yes they could stand up taller in mass, but there are many who are trying while hobbled by procedure and minority status. Bernie Sanders comes quickly to mind. So too Adam Shiff, John Lewis, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, Al Franken, Elisabeth Warren, Patti Murrey. Let's not throw the baby out with the corrupted bathwater.
+7 # Anonymot 2017-06-29 15:29
All moral compasses are demagnetized at the boundaries of the Tri-State area, VA/MD/DE & DC
0 # The Ice Maiden 2017-06-29 17:02
So, using the reasoning in this article, I supposed one can feel justified in claiming that ALL Republicans are racists, since Nazi supporters voted for Trump. Right?

The Democrats discussed in this article are a FEW people. To use them in order to categorize all Democrats is idiotic & indefensible.
+6 # KWeaver 2017-06-29 17:12
This reminds me of Will Rogers' saying that he was a member of no organized party, he was a Democrat. One prime example of hypocrisy is saying in private what you'd never say in public, which is what Mr. Montag did. In this age, any prudent politician will avoid saying aloud what they would regret being repeated later. There is a point to "political correctness" and it is: Don't NEEDLESSLY offend people with tactless, insensitive language. This includes phrases like "technological lynching". Disregarding "hypocrisy" on anyone else's part, is it so hard to agree that the language of hate and violence is antithetical to a civilized society?
+4 # elkingo 2017-06-29 18:09
I think everyone with any moral conscience harbors momentary thoughts like Montag and then they pass leaving the person guilty for even having had such a thought. Similarly when a black guy shoots a cop, but then the violent madness passes and the tragic, pathetic stupid quality of it all settles in. Everyone likes to see a bully get "a taste of his own medicine". But not murder of the stupid bastard.

But one of the idiot commentators at Fox (this is really right-wingnut psychotic irrational thinking)- chastises progressives for "immorally" and falsely appropriating the outrage of the Scalise shooting to declare
their support of Obamacare - ie. saying people would die from Trumpcare. Well asshole, you're just as dead from lack of timely medical help as you are are from bullets.
+1 # economagic 2017-06-29 20:11
To Mr. Boardman: A-bleepin-men. 'Nuff said.
+7 # librarian1984 2017-06-29 22:24
Most of my adult life, if you'd asked me who was to blame for the obstruction and incivility in politics I would've said it was 99% the fault of Republicans. I can't say that anymore.

This year's been one of (mostly unpleasant) revelations. The Democrat establishment stole the nomination. Clinton sicced online trolls -- on Democrats!! Progressives are systematically dispossessed of influence or power in the party. We don't even debate the issues.

Democrats support Wall Street not people and worse, hey seem willing to start Cold War 2.0 for political advantage. They won't support single payer, though not doing so will cost people their lives. They take corporate money and do nothing to fix our elections -- or our roads, water systems, schools. Where ARE they?

YES, the Democrats have no moral compass. Every day they disgrace the legacy of FDR, betray their constituents and this country. They are supposed to be the stopgap to the immoral GOP -- but selling out is just too lucrative?

How did we lose to a fucking clown? We offered no alternative. Look to the Obama-to-Trump flippers. Why did those people not think the DP would help them?

Pelosi and Schumer are unveiling an agenda. Baited breath and all that.
0 # librarian1984 2017-06-29 22:37
Here's a fascinating longitudinal set of polls from the American National Elections Study, dating from 1956:
+11 # laborequalswealth 2017-06-30 10:31
Montag was being restrained. Why should I cry crocodile tears over someone who would cheerfully applaud the certain premature death of thousands upon thousands of Americans? Just so a handful of psychopathic billionaires can get more power and money?

In a moral culture we would call Scalise man a mass murderer. He is a slimey moral maggot.
+3 # kyzipster 2017-07-01 10:12
I have no sympathy for Gentry-Tipton, the Black Caucus should ask for her resignation. I read the context of her statement, it doesn't move me.

I felt the irony of the situation, considered the NRA's influence. My own resentment of the Republican Party and their aggressive attacks on my community for decades. I never felt humor or any satisfaction. Just sad that this lone shooter will tarnish the left. I resisted posting sarcasm about the shooting on my own Facebook feed, I'm a nobody. Of course Democratic leadership is held to a higher standard.

There is plenty of evidence to argue that the Democratic establishment is immoral. This example doesn't cut it.

It's my belief that the identity politics we're stuck in is mostly a creation of the Conservative Movement. Every identity they reject for political gain automatically gets associated with 'the left.' Democrats are largely the face of the left and they have no backbone as they're forced to defend all of our various identities. Not an excuse, just my interpretation of their weakness, a weakness 'the right' continues to benefit from.

The one thing that gives me hope is that progressives, Democratic Party aside, have remained on the high moral ground when it comes to the right-wing's Culture War. That secures our future imo. The 'values' of the right are transparently immoral and will hopefully die off in a generation or two. If we stoop to their level as Gentry-Tipton has done, we will have no future.

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