Written By: Shaw Friedman
There comes a time in every elected official’s career when they’ve got to stand up and do the right thing, politics or ideology be damned. The recent vote that extended the country’s debt limit while passing desperately needed hurricane relief was one such vote and on that standard, Reps. Todd Rokita, Luke Messer and Jackie Walorski all failed the test miserably.
It doesn’t take Democrats like myself to call them out. I leave that to one of their fellow Republican members of the U.S. House – Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas who serves as the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who said very clearly to his fellow members of the Republican caucus that a “yes” vote was absolutely needed for this country’s disaster and relief fund “to keep it solvent because FEMA is going through half a billion dollars a day” in Texas and would soon be forced to tend to suffering and flooding in Florida. Put simply, the GOP head of Homeland Security called a vote against this package “unconscionable.”
As McCaul put it so well, “when I had people dying and hurting in my home state, it was my duty and moral obligation to help them.” Todd, Luke and Jackie oughta to look in the mirror and ask themselves how they are going to explain their votes the next time they see Chairman McCaul or any other members from Florida or Texas in the hallway.
It’s clear that these three members of Congress representing parts of Indiana clearly let crude and cynical politics drive their decision-making, to the point that they were among just 90 members of the U.S. House who voted against much-needed hurricane relief.
It was clear to all but the most rigid, unbending ideologues that FEMA’s emergency relief funds had been taxed beyond belief with the damage and destruction wrought on the Texas coast by Hurricane Harvey, and that’s why even Republican members of Congress from Indiana like Susan Brooks and Larry Bucshon put aside their understandable concerns over deficit reduction, by voting for the $15.25 billion package, which also increased the nation’s debt limit and funded the government for the next few months.
Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young, seeing that the President Trump had backed the bill after his meeting with Sen. Chuck Schumer and Leader Pelosi, joined a bi-partisan coalition of U.S. senators – some 83 in all – to pass the aid package. Even deficit hawks like Mick Mulvaney, a former congressman who now serves as U.S. budget director, pleaded with his fellow Republicans in caucus to pass the much-needed aid package.
Raw, partisan politics aside, every one of us has to hope that in times of national crisis, when there’s a chance for elected officials to alleviate the suffering and misery of our fellow citizens in places like Texas and California through an emergency relief package, those same elected officials will join together and do “the right thing.”
Fortunately, some 316 members of the U.S. House, including solid majorities from both parties, voted for this desperately needed aid package. They knew that issues of debt reduction could certainly be part of any upcoming debate on tax reform or infrastructure spending or even on various defense procurement bills.
But when it comes to the most basic function of our federal government – providing for the security and safety of our citizens – one would think that the politics would stop for folks like Rokita, Messer and Walorski. Sadly, voting against a package backed by President Trump and favored by bipartisan majorities in both the Senate and House, shows they’ve now allowed crude political maneuvering to overcome any sense of what’s in the best interest of their fellow citizens or the “common good.”
As Republican Mike McCaul stated, this bill was needed to quickly get relief money out to victims of Hurricane Harvey, but another spending bill will be needed soon to help victims of Hurricane Irma, as “this was just a down payment to keep the disaster relief fund afloat.”
Reps. Rokita, Messer and Walorski should have to answer to their constituents for a vote that was clearly out of the Hoosier mainstream; a mainstream that has always believed that the public sector needs to stand up and be counted in times of crisis or emergency. It was indeed an “unconscionable” vote, as Republican McCaul put so well, and it will stand as one of the darkest stains on the legislative record of all three members of Congress.
Shaw R. Friedman is former legal counsel for the Indiana Democratic Party and a longtime HPI contributor.
This article was written for Howey Politics (Sept. 28th Release, pg. 14). Find more information & articles at this link.
Written By: Shaw Friedman
It’s become self-evident since the election: Our presidential nominee was absolutely the wrong person to convey a message to working class families and hold together the traditional Democratic coalition that had carried us to success in years like 1992, 1996, 2008 and 2012.
It’s time journalists like Frank Rich stop blaming the election loss on supposed ignorant “hillbillies” in rural parts of the country, including rural Indiana, who went for Donald Trump in droves. Rich’s recent article for New York Magazine was titled, “No More Sympathy for Hillbillies.” It was author J.D. Vance’s ode to hillbilly culture and his up-by-the bootstrap tale from rural poverty in Ohio and Kentucky that got many to thinking that working class whites were responsible for their own problems and were ignorant and uneducated in not being able to see what was coming with a Trump presidency. Much of the hillbilly analogy suggests that those folks down in the holler and many Trump voters were motivated by appeals to racism and too ignorant in their own misery to understand their own self-interest.
As I wrote just days after the election, LaPorte County is a great example of why the hillbilly analogy just doesn’t work, and doesn’t explain the tremendous Trump appeal that led to a half million vote margin in Indiana, swamping down-ballot races like that of our outstanding governor candidate, John Gregg.
LaPorte County has been predictably Democratic in presidential elections for 30 years, including 2004 when it was one of just four counties to support John Kerry in Indiana. Same with solid margins delivered for Barack Obama both in 2008 and 2012, yet Donald Trump soundly defeated Hillary Clinton in LaPorte County, carrying traditional white, working class neighborhoods that have been reliably Democratic for many years.
It wasn’t ignorant hillbillies nor was it appeals to racism that cost Hillary Clinton a win in places like LaPorte County. This county is proof-positive that with the right economic message, blue collar, working class voters will give candidates a chance no matter their race, gender, religion or creed. This county not only carried Barack Obama twice with solid margins, but elected an AfricanAmerican countywide as commissioner in 2010. No, Clinton’s was a campaign and candidate so devoid of any powerful economic message of real change as to invite this kind of anti-establishment vote that carried Donald Trump here.
Sure, Bill Clinton’s up-from-the-holler roots as the “Man from Hope, Arkansas,” helped him to be seen as a “man of the people,” who could feel the pain of working families a quarter century ago. Think back to John Travolta’s portrayal of Clinton in the movie “Primary Colors” as Clinton sat in that Krispy Kreme donut shop just talking endlessly to the clerk about the clerk’s health issues and challenges facing his family. Roll the clock forward 25 years, and both Bill and Hillary were viewed in a completely differently lens as card-carrying members of the Establishment, and that killed any notion that Hillary was an agent for change. Hillary would go into states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and talk about how retail sales were up, corporate profits were good but she conveyed little notion of the tremendous hurt that average folks were still feeling in broad swaths of these states, and how much resentment there was toward Wall Street, the big banks and powerful interests, as well as trade agreements pushed by those same interests.
Along comes Donald Trump who inveighed endlessly (and effectively) against hated trade agreements like NAFTA and TPP and in the worst case of ‘bait and switch” ever in politics, promised in his closing TV ad to go after Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs that had helped implode our economy in 2008.
No longer the “Man from Hope,” Bill Clinton came to personify in many voters’ eyes someone who had traded on his insider credentials and had become incredibly close to Wall Street titans like Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers and the billionaires who jet off to Davos each year. With Hillary Clinton pocketing nearly $21 million in speaking fees from big banks and powerful interests since she left as secretary of state, she had absolutely no credibility to speak to or for the little guy.
The two Clintons, who once campaigned across the nation with Al Gore on a theme of “Putting People First” in 1996, now carried the dead weight of having authored NAFTA, which shuttered 60,000 factories in our country and had idled millions of workers – many living in critical swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Let’s face it – by leading the fight to kill Depression-era protections against big banks’ abuse of depositors, and in signing the repeal of Glass-Steagal in 1999, the Clintons had absolutely no credibility in being able to take on Wall Street.
In the process, the Clintons’ inept campaign left a vacuum that was unthinkable, allowing this billionaire buffoon from television to somehow champion himself as the voice of the “forgotten man and woman” who said he would shake up the old order that was viewed by many as hollowing out whole communities and stacking the deck in favor of the rich and powerful.
But for some to simplistically assert that racist appeals turned 300 counties in America from Obama to Trump ignores the powerful economic message that many believe was the true motivator. Our former vice president, Joe Biden, who proudly claims blue-collar Scranton, Pennsylvania, as his home, agrees. We needed a much more powerful, more strident economic message – along the lines voiced by Bernie Sanders – to motivate our base and gin up turnout. In real populist economic messages, there’s not a zero sum game that some want us to play. Black, white, straight or gay, male or female voters still vote their pocketbooks, and the failure of the Clinton campaign to put front and center the fact that “middle class working families” were left behind in the gains of the last eight years has lost us the presidency to this charlatan. Trump has made it abundantly clear that his pledges to blue collar workers to go after Wall Street were nothing but snake oil and an illusion, as he stands by his appointment of six former Goldman Sachs execs to his administration and pushes tax cuts that would benefit only the wealthy and powerful.
The swamp isn’t being drained. It’s just being stocked with new alligators and crocodiles who will take their turns biting the hides of average working families, and the best example of that was the highly unpopular TrumpCare legislation, that has now been exposed as a sham that deserved its ignominious end this past week.
The tragedy is that many working class families fell for an economic message from this huckster because we had the wrong messenger opposing him, who had no credibility to speak to their needs, hopes and desires. That’s the real tragedy of what happened on Nov. 8.
Shaw Friedman is former legal counsel to the Indiana Democratic Party who practices law in LaPorte and is a longtime HPI columnist.
This article was written for Howey Politics (pg. 5-6). Find more information & articles at this link.
We are all glued to our cell phones. Nowadays the main form of communication is texting. It has become so integrated in our society that many drivers ignore Indiana’s No Texting and Driving Law.
The Police Departments in LaPorte County are noticing these violations more and more. Texting while driving is dangerous and the Police are cracking down on it. 57% of Americans view their cellphones as an integral part of their social life and texting is a key component of staying connected.
Some common statics regarding texting and driving are:
• Five seconds is the average time a driver’s eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling 55 mph that is enough time to cover the length of a football field.
• In 2011, at least 23 percent of auto collisions involved cell phones, equaling 1.3 million crashes.
• At any given daylight moment across America, about 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving. IC 9-21-8-0.5
Indiana’s Distracted Driving Law, Indiana Code 9-21-8-59, makes it illegal for drivers to type a text message, transmit a message or read emails while driving. Regardless of the drivers age, it is also illegal to text or surf the web even if you are stopped at a traffic light. Furthermore, any driver under the age of 18 are prohibited from using a cell phone for ANY reason, handheld, or hand-free, while driving.
Indiana’s Distracted Driving Law is considered a “Primary Law” meaning that an officer can pull you over for the offense without having to see any other violation. Practically speaking what this means is that an officer who sees you texting can pull you over immediately and issue a citation. The citation can be costly and could negatively affect your driving record.
If you have any issues with this law or any other driving concerns our attorneys at Friedman & Associates would be happy to assist you. Please give us a call today at 219-329-1264.
Written By: Shaw Friedman
We’re just coming off a legislative session that many say was among the least rancorous and contentious in a long time. Accident? I don’t think so. From what I can tell, the more collegial and collaborative tone was set by our new governor, Eric Holcomb, who seems be taking a very different approach in dealing with not only Democrats but regions of the state that have long felt neglected and marginalized by one of Holcomb’s predecessors, Mitch Daniels.
Indianapolis Star columnist Matt Tully penned a column about Holcomb the other day that summed up well what many are seeing with this new governor. At a recent speech before the Indianapolis Rotary Club, Tully reported, “Holcomb encouraged Hoosiers, regardless of political affiliation to think about the future and the state’s place in it. He didn’t demonize Democrats. In fact, the Republican didn’t offer one negative word about those on the other side of the aisle. He actually said politicians should listen more to critics.”
Tully and other Indianapolis observers have long had this blind spot for Daniels as some kind of “big thinker” and were often willing to overlook the guy’s personal abrasiveness and contentiousness and write it off as just some kind of cerebral quirkiness on his part. But, dealing in a civil and courteous way with one’s opponents can go a long way to reaching consensus in government, and it seems after this latest session that Holcomb has learned that far better than his one-time mentor, Mitch Daniels, who still comes out swinging and defensive, even from the lofty perch he now enjoys in academia.
Take Daniels’ view of Northwest Indiana: At a May 15 speech at Avalon Manor in Merrillville, Daniels was still lecturing our region on how it supposedly can’t get along, is rife with corruption and what he labeled as “what’s in it for me” government. Contrast that with Gov. Holcomb’s victory tour on a South Shore train recently, as he hopped aboard with legislators of both political stripes to conduct ceremonial signing ceremonies of HB1144, which provides the “game changer” of doubletracking for Northwest Indiana and will be a huge economic development shot in the arm for our region.
After Holcomb’s commuter rail tour of Northwest Indiana, he spoke later in the day at a One Region event in Munster, where he talked about the unlimited potential for this vital region and spoke glowingly about wanting to bring “five million Hoosiers up to the Region and show them the beaches, the scenery and how close to the world their marketplace is.” In short, this governor talked about what a bright future this region faces, rather than endlessly lecturing Northwest Indiana about it being a place where supposedly nobody plays well in the sandbox and leaders can’t be trusted to do the right or ethical thing and are, in Daniels’ words, “protecting their own turf and not acting in the common good.” Mr. Daniels, what happened on HB1144 and the extraordinary level of bi-partisan cooperation from local and state officials that is bringing doubletracking of the South Shore Railroad closer to reality proves once again, you’re dead wrong about our region.
But that’s the insulting and demeaning style that has characterized much of Mitch Daniels’ time in government and public life. Take a look at a May 10, 2017, column that the notoriously thin-skinned former governor penned for the Indianapolis Star, responding to two critical letter writers who had every right to question Daniels’ still very controversial sell-off of the Indiana Toll Road lease rights to a foreign consortium in 2006. Rather than content himself with a factual rebuttal to his critics as Eric Holcomb would have done, Daniels took it upon himself to go after the Indianapolis suburbs where both letter writers lived, claiming an “outbreak of amnesia seems to have descended upon our western suburbs.”
Daniels got his comeuppance for this snarky piece of writing when letter writer Randy Mason of Franklin, Ind., wrote to the Star on May 14 to complain about Daniel’s op/ed column calling the tone “petty, condescending and extremely mean-spirited. In fact, it was downright Trumpian.” Mason was rightly upset when the former governor charged his two letter-writing critics with “overtly partisan sniping,” and Daniels even went so far as to claim that “disinformation” by the letter writers was “intentional rather than merely ignorant.”
As Mason put so well, “insults, name-calling and mean-spirited sarcasm were not needed to make his points. Mr. Daniels, the people of Indiana deserve better and expect you to be above this type of uncivil and disrespectful discourse.”
It appears to this observer that Gov. Holcomb has decided that the “in-your-face” style of his former boss simply leads to more fighting and obstruction. Compare Daniels calling then-Indiana House Democratic leader Pat Bauer “a car bomber” when he disagreed with him to the far more civil and businesslike relationship that Gov. Holcomb seems to have carved out with Democratic House Leader Scott Pelath, and you’ll understand that there’s been a return to civility in the Statehouse and a reason that so much apparently got done this past session.
All Hoosiers are better off with civil, respectful discourse between our leaders and Eric Holcomb seems to have been present for that particular lesson in politics and good government, while Mitch Daniels clearly skipped class that day.
Shaw Friedman is former legal counsel to the Indiana Democratic Party and has represented a number of governmental entities in Northwest Indiana.
This article was written for Howey Politics (pg. 14-15). Find more information & articles at this link.