What Ted Said

Ted Van Dyk is an author and former government official with a long history of involvement in public policy and international affairs. His career includes work as an intelligence analyst at the Pentagon; as director of the Washington, D.C., public affairs office of the European Communities (now the European Union); and as a policymaker in the Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter administrations, where he coordinated U.S. foreign assistance programs. He is a lifelong Democrat currently living in his hometown of Bellingham, Washington. With his permission, I occasionally feature his Facebook posts. Scroll through and enjoy.

January 16, 2021

Coming up on ML King Jr. day. Time for consideration of justice yesterday and today, especially in our politics.

I met King but did not know him well, although I knew well many of his associates and those in the civil-rights movement of the time. But, among those working for civil-rights and Great Society legislation, he was a constant presence in everyone’s mind. His most memorable statement, at the 1963 March on Washington, that we should be judged on “content of our character” rather than skin color or other irrelevancy. He also preached non-violence. His content-of-character statement also was reflected in the cornerstone Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited any action favoring or disfavoring any person based on race, gender, religion or ethnicity. The pro-justice strategy at the time, by the way, was not to waste time denouncing people as racist or reactionary but to make the strong case for justice. You could get consensus there.

When King was murdered in 1968 I was in Memphis several days thereafter and met with Jesse Epps and other leaders of the garbage workers whose cause King had gone to Memphis to support. They believed James Earl Ray had not acted alone but with complicity of Memphis police. They had information to that effect. But the Justice Department could never get sufficient supporting evidence.In subsequent decades this country has become more tolerant and open than we might have imagined at that time. There are hundreds of black federal, state and local elected officials in Dixie states. We have had a two-term black President and innumerable black senior officials in our judicial, legislative and executive branches. Black leaders on Wall Street, in the corporate world, in academia, in non-profits, in the arts—and, increasingly, women, Latino, Asian American, gay, and other minority citizens rising to the top. Our 1960s strategies, by the way, included not only breakthrough legislation but complementary programs which would help people in practical ways to get their equal chance at the starting line: In elementary, secondary and higher education; job training and apprenticeship programs; health care; nutrition; and to preserve positive family structures. Equal law enforcement was part of it. Not just equal application of the law to all citizens but programs, in particular, to provide public safety in neighborhoods where violent and other crime rates were high.

We took a turn in the Nixon years with establishment of affirmative action as a policy. It began in the notoriously discriminatory construction trades and unions. A Philadelphia Plan was instituted whereby a certain percentage of minority jobs were guaranteed in the industry. The concept spread in time to higher education, college admissions, and hiring practices in many industries. In meantime, President Nixon disestablished the Office of Economic Opportunity and War on Poverty and scattered the programs to other agencies, where they withered and died.

I find myself frustrated and even angry now to see the turn that a justice agenda has taken in my own Democratic Party: A Cancel Culture/identity politics turn that sometimes abandons non-violence for violence but also defines Americans according to their race, gender, religion or ethnicity—in direct contradiction of the Civil Rights Act precepts—and demands that these factors should determine status or opportunity in our society. Political opponents are routinely labeled racist, sexist, anti-Latino, anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, etc. simply because they are political opponents. The opposite, too, of the “content of character” criterion set forth by King.

Beginning a new period, it seems to me, it is imperative that we all return to the CRA spirit and letter and the “liberty and justice for all” concept that a vast majority of Americans accept and support. We cannot define ourselves as oppressors and oppressed, villain and victim and have much chance to address problems common to all of us.


January 10, 2021

House Dems appear headed for a fresh impeachment of President Trump. It could make it through the House but not the Senate, where a 2/3rds majority would be necessary for conviction. A rerun of the first impeachment’s path.The invasion of the U.S. Capitol last week clearly was incited by their rhetoric to a mass rally by Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Trump’s son. Trump has paid the price. Already defeated at the polls, he leaves the White House disgraced and finished as a national voice—unless Democrats and media remain fixated on him even as a new President Biden attempts to govern.In a few days Trump will be past tense. The time belongs to Biden. The inaugural, his inaugural speech, and his agenda for the future should not be overshadowed by continuing focus on Trump.Moreover, partisans should consider past political history. The first midterm elections after presidential elections historically have resulted in losses for the “in” party. Democrats lost 63 House seats and their majority in the first midterm of President Obama’s presidency. Democratic majorities in the upcoming Congress will be razor thin and subject to reversal in two years if normal trends obtain. Millions of voters still believe Trump was cheated out of an election victory in November and will cast ballots accordingly in 2022 if they believe their guy continues to be dogged by Democrats and media. Forget impeachment. Wave Trump goodbye. He is done. Time to turn to Biden and an agenda for the future.


December 15, 2020

The AL baseball Cleveland franchise has announced it will change its name in 2021, following the example of the former Washington Redskins and other professional, college and high school teams which have dropped Native American identifications in recent years. The Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs, and Chicago Black Hawks no doubt will be next on the list.

Teams can call themselves whatever they want. The Cleveland AL team originally was known as the Spiders. Many teams began with names other than those they bear now. Thinking seems to be that Native American names somehow are an insult to Native Americans.

My old h.s. teams were known as the Red Raiders. A noble chieftain’s head appeared on banners and game programs. Maybe 30 years ago, the Red Raiders name was kept but the chieftain’s head was replaced by a picture of a hawk. Local tribal leaders protested the change but it nonetheless took place; the Native American identification was deemed politically incorrect.
In recent years, during multiple-class reunions, banners portraying both the chieftain’s head and hawk have been displayed behind the podium. When my class meets alone, we display only the chieftain’s head. We will do it again next year in what will be our final class reunion.

All part of the Cancel Culture/identity politics of today. We always thought the Red Raiders name and chieftain’s head represented bravery, fighting spirit, and nobility.
The former Washington Redskins have gone all season without a new name. Think it unlikely the present Cleveland Indians will revert to their original Spiders name.

There are other name categories which might deserve examination. How about the San Diego Padres, denoting religious affiliation? Or the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, with clear ethnic implications.? The possibilities for categories of change seem endless. When it comes to justice in our country, the project clearly warrants attention over such homely matters as public education, job creation, legal reform, and public safety. Got to put first things first.


Nov 14, 2020

President-elect Biden will need to get his “first hundred days” agenda ready for presentation quickly—-the first 100, you recall, being the time usually granted a new president in which his initiatives can succeed before his wave of initial approval recedes.

Deciding on first steps, he no doubt will assess the current political mood nationally.

Biden won by successfully making the campaign a referendum on a generally disliked Trump. But, at congressional and state-legislative levels, Dem candidates fared less well although having big campaign-spending advantages–mainly by leaving a perception that they were drifting ever further away from the party’s former Middle American base. Two words exemplify the drift: Defund Police.

Bernie Sanders a couple days ago said he fully expected Biden to follow through on pledges to support a joint agenda he endorsed at the end of the nominating season. He may be disappointed.

The coronavirus is foremost right now in the minds of most citizens. They will respond to any Biden proposals to get ahead of it. When he takes office, the first vaccines will be on the verge of public release. Then, as always, citizens will be concerned with the health of the economy. Biden will need to reassure that the virus can be contained while at the same time economic normalization can be achieved. Tightenings and shutdowns taking place now could make that difficult. Fresh stimulus spending—even in the face of rising deficits and debt—-no doubt would be accepted.

Where else might bipartisan consensus be possible after the inaugural? Immigration reform came close to passage during the Twig Bush years and could pass now: Border security along with a path to citizenship for illegals already here. GOP is striking out in attempts to repeal Obamacare. But cost and coverage fixes nonetheless are necessary and could get bipartisan congressional support. Biden could return to the Paris Climate Accords and get broad support for it—even though the action would be largely symbolic (the Accords have no enforcement mechanism). New investments in urban employment, job training, and economic renewal, public schools and infrastructure modernization also would draw broad support.

To be avoided in the first 100 days: Forgiveness of student loan debt; racial, gender, ethnic quotas in employment or public contracting; initiatives to end the filibuster and Electoral College and to add two new states (and four new Democratic Senators); proposals to pack the Supreme Court; abrupt actions to reduce domestic energy production. Voters’ rejection of Trump should not be read as approval of these initiatives.

Biden properly has spoken of reconciliation and his intention to work across partisan and ideological lines. Coming up in Delaware and the Senate, those were his instincts as a mainstream liberal/moderate Democrat. His first task will be to stick with his instincts and reject demands from his party’s present activist wing. He should start with seeking action where it can be supported within his own party and by a respectable number of congressional Republicans. The latter, freed of Trump, are likely to respond in January as they would not now.



by Ted Van Dyk
Nov 7, 2020

Attention understandably is focused now on the Trump challenges in several closely contested states. But, if history holds, few will be upheld and Biden will indeed be inaugurated in January. What will the situation be in January and in the year ahead?

First, and perhaps most importantly, if current Senate, House, and state legislative outcomes are confirmed, we will find that—after four turbulent Trump years and polarizing actions in both political parties—our political culture has taken neither hard Left nor Rightward turns. Voters as always want strong national and neighborhood security, good public schools, a solid domestic economy, public policies supporting the elderly and vulnerable, and leadership not veering too far on either side of the center line.

No street disorders, no police defunding, no racial quotas, no militias, no changes in basic institutions such as the Electoral College, Supreme Court, Senate. Positive environmental policies but not through immediate and wrenching changes in the energy economy. Immigration policies providing border security but also
a path to citizenship for non-citizens already here. Necessary stimulus spending to keep the pandemic-damaged economy afloat but, afterward, attention to the huge long-term public debt burden which will cripple us if unchecked. America’s basic ideology remains pragmatism and practical, non-ideological problem-solving measures remain what most Americans want.

Elected officials and candidates must recognize, however, that the public skepticism and impatience which led to Trump’s 2016 nomination and election—and to Sanders’ near nomination in the Democratic Party—will still be there. Voters impatient with interest-group politics, polling organizations, both traditional and new media, institutions they see as having too much financial and economic power, and leaders they see as primarily self serving. A shorter public fuse when it comes to performance in office. Sensitized BS detectors in the electorate. A quick hook for politicians who disappoint.

Despite all the drama of the past four years, the basic America still exists out there. Millions of honest people slugging it out day by day, trying to provide for their families, basically tolerant and bearing no ill will toward others, wanting government to provide safety-net measures but otherwise to give them leeway. Still pursuing the American Dream and seeking opportunity in a free and open country. They refuse to be conned and have more common sense than many of their would-be political and opinion leaders. As Twain put it, “You can fool some of the people…” etc.