Why are the midterms so critical?

(Spoiler Alert: If you are one of the roughly 30% of Americans who think Donald Trump and the Republican Party are doing a good job governing the country, don’t read any further. It will only piss you off.)

There are lots of reasons that the upcoming midterm elections are so critical. Consider the ongoing attacks on environmental protections, worker safety and health, the rights of women to control their own bodies, the acceptance of immigrants, the social safety net, our global alliances, integrity in government, free and fair elections … the list is sickeningly long. However, there’s one transcendent issue before us: What kind of country do we want to be? This election is a defining moment for the U.S.

I believe the choice is stark. Do we want to be a nation of compassion, tolerance, and inclusiveness? Do we want to be a nation of equality before the law and respect for individuals? Do we want to be a nation where black lives matter, immigrants and refugees are welcome, disabilities are respected, women are in charge of their own bodies, people and planet are valued above profit, and diversity is celebrated?

Or do we want to continue on the path of divisiveness based on hatred and rancor towards those who are different? Do we want to be divided on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, religion, class, disability, and national origin? Do we want to be governed by a man and a party whose power is based on appealing to our worst instincts — our fears, greed, and insecurities?

With the election of Donald Trump, we’re now led by an amoral man whose first and only thought is for himself. He has no concern for anyone beyond their usefulness in aggrandizing him. He is corrupt, greedy, dishonest, and mean-spirited.

What may be his worst characteristic, however, is his belief that the institutions of government exist not to serve the Constitution or the people of the United States but only to serve him. His behavior is straight from the authoritarian playbook:

  • Dismantle checks on executive power.
  • Control the criminal justice system.
  • Scapegoat minority groups.
  • Co-opt mainstream parties.
  • Discredit the independent press.
  • Call for opponents to be jailed.
  • Question the legitimacy of elections.
  • Claim to be the embodied soul of the people.

What is happening now in the United States is that government established of, by, and for the people is gradually being transmogrified into a government of, by, and for one person. Our democratic institutions are under intense pressure to conform to the desires of Donald Trump, and they are succumbing to that pressure to an alarming degree.

This could not be happening wihout the active support of the Republican Party, which has fully become the party of Trump. Every Republican in Congress who isn’t resigning has become not just quietly acquiescent to Trump but an outright Trump supporter. In the process, the Republican Party has betrayed virtually every principle they have long professed to hold dear: fiscal responsibility, family values, the rule of law, national defense, states rights, and fealty to the Consitution … all discarded.

What have the Republicans gained from selling their souls to Trump? As they have abandoned their supposedly cherished principles one by one, one core Republican belief remains — the principle that rich people don’t have enough money. For passage of a massive tax cut for corporations and the 1%, the Republican Party has discarded even a pretense of concern for the continued integrity of our form of government and the institutions that support it.

This is why it is so critical that control of Congress be taken away from the Republicans now. This is our opportunity to turn back from the path of divisiveness to which they’ve led us and to turn instead back towards the fundamental principles on which this nation rests: All people are created equal. All have the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And to serve those principles, our government was created of, by, and for the people.

It’s time for the people to speak.

Your Identity, Please

It is now legal for Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, et. al. to collect whatever personal data about you that they can glean from your online presence. Then they can sell it to whomever they please for whatever purpose. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Information about your finances
  • Information about your health
  • Information about your spouse and children
  • Your home address and phone number
  • Your social security number
  • The web sites you visit
  • The content of your online communications

You should particularly note the item in bold: Your social security number is for sale. Let me rephrase that: Your identity is for sale. There is no single item of information about you that is more critical to protect than your SS number. That is the Holy Grail of identity thieves. With your SS number, they can potentially access your bank account, acquire credit cards in your name, open lines of credit, make purchases, get loans … I’m sure there are things they know of that I can’t even imagine.

Congress has given away your identity. More precisely, they have sold your identity to Comcast, et. al. for job security — that is, the money to finance their next campaign. Let me be even more precise: The vote to overturn the relevant privacy regulation was strictly along party lines. I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which party voted to favor corporations over your privacy.

What’s the rationale behind this reprehensible decision? To level the playing field so that AT&T and friends have access to the same info as Google, Facebook, etc. OK, how about this possibility — level the playing field in the other direction, towards more protection for your privacy than less.

I’m betting that question never came up.

Making America Safe Again

The new regime in Washington has promised to make America safe again. Here’s what has been done or proposed so far:

  • Travel has been banned from several Muslim-majority countries, none of which has been implicated in any terrorist attacks on US soil. Since 9/11, foreign-born terrorists have killed roughly one American per year anywhere on the planet. And the terrorists that did execute 9/11 were from countries not named in the travel ban (Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where (hmm?) the new regime has business ties).
  • The regime’s proposed budget cuts funding for the Coast Guard, presumably to release funds to build the big, beautiful border wall. Here’s what the Coast Guard does, among other things, EVERY DAY:
      • Conducts 48 search and rescue cases,
      • Saves 9 lives, and
      • Assists 73 people in distress.

    Somehow, it doesn’t seem that cutting the CG budget is helping save American lives.

  • The GOP health plan will leave up to 24 million Americans without health insurance over the next decade or so. How many of those people will die without access to health care?
  • The proposed budget cuts funding for the National Institutes for Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies dedicated directly or indirectly to public health. How many lives are saved by ongoing research in cancer, heart disease, and lung disease, or by coordinated efforts to contain viruses like Zika?
  • Then there’s the Environmental Protection Agency. At a time when climate change is perhaps the greatest long-term threat to American lives, aside from human lives generally, gutting the EPA and putting a climate-change denier in charge of it is perhaps the ultimate in disregard for American safety.

The regime’s proposals and actions are worse than useless in making American safe again — they’re downright antithetical to that goal. If a president were genuinely concerned about making America safe, she or he would focus on research in cures for diseases, research in self-driving cars, and gun control. That’s where we could save lives.

Crybabies

I have often recently read letters to our local paper (the Oregonian) that we who protest the policies and actions of the Trump regime are crybabies who just can’t stand to lose an election without balling our fists, stomping our feet, and wailing like bereft toddlers. “You lost. Get over it.” we’re told. “Deal with it. Stop whining.”

You mean like the Tea Party, formed after Obama’s election in 2008? Formed in response to the Obama administration’s plans to provide financial aid to bankrupt homeowners? Who held up signs at highway overpasses saying “Hands off my Medicare” in their demands for small government? Who arranged protests across more than 40 cities in February, 2009? Those quiet, tolerant folks?

Or maybe you mean the Republican Party? The party that never got over Obama’s election, that declared from day one that they would oppose anything — anything — that Obama put forward. And then they did, for eight years. That’s certainly an example of dealing with it. Not to mention a shining example of good governance.

Here’s the thing. It’s our right — no, it’s our obligation — as citizens of the United States to make our voices heard. Sure, we voted (in greater numbers than the “winners” as it turns out), but that’s not the end of it. We write letters, we march, we rally our friends, we make placards, we yell, we donate, we attend town halls, we sign petitions, we call our Congressfolks, we do whatever is legally available to us to make our opposition to the Trump regime clear.

You’re going to be hearing from us for as long as it takes. Get over it.

The Electoral College

It’s time to ditch the Electoral College, or at least fix it. It’s a profoundly undemocratic institution, conceived in the days when the only voters were white, male property owners and intended to placate the small states so that they’d join the United States in the first place. It is particularly undemocratic in its modern form, in which electors for a state are all legally bound to cast their votes for the winner in that state.

In our recent election, approximately 77,000 votes gave Trump victory in 3 battleground states and victory in the Electoral College. Meanwhile, the popular vote went 3+ million votes the other way. Proportionally divided Electoral College votes would obviously have changed the outcome. The same can be said of the 2000 election, in which Al Gore won the popular vote, albeit more narrowly. But even if only Florida’s EC votes had been divided proportionally, Gore would have won — and, incidentally, Nader wouldn’t have been a spoiler (a fact for which I’ve never forgiven him, but that’s another topic).

In the abstract, I imagine every person-in-the-street sees one-person-one-vote as the fairest way to decide elections. Why then do we persist in this anachronistic, flawed institution?

Deportations

Among the first to be deported in our new war on immigrants:

  • Guadalupe García de Rayos, a working mother of two US-born children, who reported to US Immigration authorities this year as she has every six months or year since 2009
  • An undocumented woman in El Paso who was seeking a protective order against the boyfriend she accused of abusing her

I certainly feel safer now. And I’m sure this will convince other undocumented immigrants that they can continue to trust the courts, schools, and hospitals.

Interesting factoids:

  • The crime rate of undocumented immigrants is lower than that of US citizens (AKA sons and daughters of previous immigrants).
  • In recent years, more Mexicans have been leaving the U.S. to return home than have been arriving.

Mass deportation of undocumented immigrants will break up families, send them underground, and actually increase our per-capita crime rate.