What’s all this fuss about the 2019 Women’s March?

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Photo by T. Chick McClure on Unsplash

The Women’s March will take place on January 19, 2019 all over the world and in cities across the country.[1]  But why should women march?  After all, they have the vote.  A record number of women have been elected to Congress:  25 of 100 senators and 102 of 435 representatives are women.[2]  Of the 50 states, nine have female governors.[3]  A quarter of all state representatives are women,[4] and nearly 5% of the nation’s CEOS are women.[5]  Women have made real progress.  Isn’t that enough?

Women outnumber men – in the population and at work.[6]  But the guy next to you doing the exact same job earns almost 20% more than you. [7]  Why not?  He needs it for his boy toys.  Those are expensive.

On the job, 38% of women are sexually harassed. [8]   But men flirting with women or commenting on their breasts and legs is flattering.  If they touch a woman or kiss her, what harm does that do?  Doesn’t it make her feel pretty?

And because the boss is likely to be a man who has done some of the same things at work, the harasser knows nothing will happen to him.  He’ll deny it, and she won’t be able to prove it.  If she complains, she won’t be fired – that’s illegal.  But she’ll be moved to another position or forced to leave when she is given negative performance reviews and shunned by her coworkers.

No, you don’t have time to march.  You have laundry and housework to do.  Who is going to do it if you don’t?  If you go, you won’t have anything clean to wear to work on Monday.  Besides, you need to be home to cook the meals.

Hey, and what about these accusations of anti-Semitism against some of the leaders of the Women’s March?  They have denied it, but aren’t the accusations enough for you to abandon supporting equality for all women.  You don’t want to be associated with that.  So be happy with what you have and forget the march.

By the way, what’s for dinner?

[1] Women’s March 2019. https://actionnetwork.org/event_campaigns/third-annual-womens-march-womenswave

[2] Drew Desilver, A record number of women will be serving in the new Congress, Pew Research Center, December 18, 2018.  http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/12/18/record-number-women-in-congress/

[3] Emma Green, The Year of the Woman Still Leaves Women With Terrible Representation in Government, The Atlantic, November 7, 2018.  https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/11/the-2018-midterms-belong-to-women/575140/

[4] National Conference of State Legislatures, Women in State Legislatures For 2018, June 28, 2018.  http://www.ncsl.org/legislators-staff/legislators/womens-legislative-network/women-in-state-legislatures-for-2018.aspx

[5] Valentina Zarya, The Share of Female CEOs in the Fortune 500 Dropped by 25% in 2018, Fortune, May 21, 2018.  http://fortune.com/2018/05/21/women-fortune-500-2018/

[6] United States Census Bureau.  https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/LFE046217

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

Our country in 2021

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Photo by salvatore ventura on Unsplash

January 15, 2021:

Today, our new president gets sworn in.  This country has changed greatly over the last four years.  The economy has changed.  The environment has changed.  Immigration has changed.  Let’s take a look at what our new president has to contend with.

The border wall was built.  In early 2019, President Trump did not sign the appropriations bills put before him without funding for his border wall.  In a desperate attempt to end the partial government shutdown, Congress caved and gave him $1.6 billion for his wall.  But that was not enough.  It only built a part of the wall.  Eventually, Congress appropriated another $13.4 billion to complete it.

And the wall did reduce the flow of immigrants across the border . . . by 7%.  Because most illegal immigrants did not cross the border but overstayed their visas, the wall did little good.  Immigrants found other ways to sneak into this country, through tunnels and new ways to conceal themselves when crossing checkpoints.  But tourists visit the wall and giddily take pictures of “Trump’s Folly.”

Not only did the wall prevent few immigrants from illegally entering our country, its construction destroyed the nation’s richest butterfly refuge in the lower Rio Grande Valley.  So the wall pushed the Monarch butterflies, who were teetering on the brink of extinction, over the edge.

If the wall had not destroyed them, the environment would have.   The seven warmest years on record have occurred since 2010.  Hurricanes, extreme rainfalls, and wildfires continued to ravage different areas of the country.

Refusing to believe in climate change, the Trump administration pursued a pro-fossil-fuels agenda.  It permitted oil and gas drilling in western states, killing sage grouse to the point of extinction.  Seismic airgun blasts allowed by the Trump administration to search for lucrative oil and gas deposits have destroyed some marine life; and an oil spill permanently stained the Arctic after an oil corporation was permitted to drill oil and gas production wells there for the first time.  The Trump administration also rolled back federal regulations on vehicle fuel efficiency and the capture of methane in natural gas production, filling the air with toxins.  Coincidentally, the Trump administration cancelled a study of air pollution levels in 2018 and refused to permit any to be done since then.

President Trump also tried to revive coal mining, an industry dominant in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.   In West Virginia, coal mining pollutes its waterways; and a coal-burning plant in Houston releases dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide in the air.

The economy, too, will prove challenging.  The stock market has been on a roller coaster ride since late 2018, with the continuing trade war and tweets from President Trump sending stocks up or down.  Corporate farms have taken over family farms closed by Trump tariffs, interest rates rose, and the deficit is now at $1.5 trillion.  The Tax Cuts Act of 2018 resulted in more damage, causing companies to move manufacturing jobs overseas.

The bright side is that more people became interested in politics.  Citizens are telling their congressional representatives what they want and expect from them.  People are marching in every city across the country to protest policies repugnant to them.  Voter turnout is at an all-time high.  In fact, more people voted for this new president than any other in history.

But that won’t make the job any easier.  Yes, our new president has a lot of work ahead.

Immigration is in our DNA

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Photo by tom coe on Unsplash

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt

At this moment, while our country struggles with a border wall and the deaths of two child migrants in U.S. custody, it is ironic that many of us are giving or getting the gift of a DNA analysis.  More people took genetic ancestry tests in 2017 than in all previous years combined.[1]  This year, their number skyrocketed, with some estimates as high as 22 million.[2]

What do all these tests show?  That we all came from a country other than the United States.  Because an immigrant is defined as “a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence,”[3] that means that we or our ancestors are all immigrants.  Many came hoping for a better life economically; others came here for religious freedom.[4]  And some came to escape political oppression.[5]  Others try to escape violence, some resulting at least in part from U.S. policy.[6]  In Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, America has played a role in unleashing a wave of violence there.[7]

While we are busy discovering our origins outside this country, the current administration is working to ensure that people from other countries are kept out.  It wants to cut immigration by 44%, eliminating half a million legal immigrants per year.[8]  President Trump is willing to shut down the government to get a wall between the United States and Mexico.  And he wants to end chain migration that permits immigration based on family ties in the U.S. and the visa lottery, where immigrants are selected at random.[9]  Instead, President Trump wants a merit-based system to admit only those workers who are skilled and want to work.[10]  But that strategy ignores a shortage of labor at every skill level across the country.[11]

Despite advocating for a merit-based system, the Trump administration has restricted the issuance of H-1B visas to highly skilled workers and plans to rescind the rule that lets their spouses work here.[12]  It also plans to make it impossible or nearly so for students to remain here after graduation or entrepreneurs to start businesses in this country.[13]

While the Trump administration opposes immigration, most Americans do not.  In fact, 75% of us believe that immigration is generally good for this country.[14]  And 70% of Americans believe that immigration should not be decreased.[15]

And we should favor immigration.  After all, if the current administration had been in office when our ancestors came to this country, they would have been turned back.  We would not be here, if we exist at all since our ancestor couples would never have met here.

That is not to say that we should leave our door open to anyone who wants to come in.  Immigration should be controlled.  Changes need to be made but not those currently in force and planned by the current administration.  Closing our doors to everyone is not the answer.

While many of us picture immigrants as unskilled and coming from Mexico, that is not always the case.  Only 26% are from Mexico, less than the number coming from South and East Asia at 27%.[16]

And most immigrants are not unskilled.  In fact, 50% of immigrants have bachelor’s degrees, and 13% of immigrants have advanced degrees compared to 12% of Americans.[17]  Although STEM[18] graduates who stay in the U.S. instead of returning to their home country stimulate the economy, only about half of those receiving STEM doctorates are permitted to stay.[19]  Not only do we lose the economic benefits of these graduates, we also lose practicing doctors to fill a shortage in that field.[20]  Immigrants are also involved in filing about 76% of all patents from top patent-producing universities.[21]  Since 2000, 40% of all Nobel Prize winners were born outside of this country – as were all six in 2016.[22]

Not only do immigrants achieve academically, they are good for business, too.  For example, 51% of companies worth $1 billion or more have founders that were born outside of this country.[23]  Founders from outside this country also created around 33,000 jobs.[24]  Immigrants opened around a quarter of all new businesses here, and 40% of all Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the child of immigrants.[25]

In short, immigration is not a threat to our country.  It was good for all Americans when we or our ancestors came here, and it is good now.

[1] Antonio Regalado, 2017 was the year consumer DNA testing blew up, MIT Technology Review, February 12, 2018.

[2] Lucy Ash, The Christmas Present that could tear your family apart, BBC News, December 20, 2018.

[3] Merriam-Webster.

[4] History.com editors, U.S. Immigration Before 1965, History.com, October 29, 2009.

[5] Id.

[6] Gabriel M. Schivone, Why are Guatemalans seeking asylum?  US policy is to blame, The Guardian, December 23, 2018.

[7] Julian Borger, Fleeing a hell the US helped create: why Central Americans journey north, The Guardian, December 19, 2018.

[8] Stuart Anderson, Right Now, ‘Merit-Based’ Just Means Fewer Immigrants, Forbes, February 12, 2018.

[9] whitehouse.gov, National Security Threats – Chain Migration and the Visa Lottery System, February 1, 2018.

[10] Leonid Bershidsky, Merit-Based Immigrants Aren’t the Most Successful Citizens, Bloomberg, October 31, 2018.

[11] Stuart Anderson, Right Now, ‘Merit-Based’ Just Means Fewer Immigrants, Forbes, February 12, 2018.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Niraj Chokshi, 75% of Americans Say Immigration Is Good for Country, Poll Finds, The New York times, June 23, 2018.

[15] Author unknown, Shifting Public Views on Legal Immigration Into the U.S., Pew Research Center, June 28, 2018.

[16] Gustavo Lopez, Kristin Bialik, and Jynnah Radford, Key findings about U.S. immigrants, Pew Research Center, November 30, 2018.

[17] Ryan McCready, 15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good for Innovation, Venngage, February 7, 2017.

[18] Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

[19] Ryan McCready, 15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good for Innovation, Venngage, February 7, 2017.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] Id.

[25] Ryan McCready, 15 Charts Explaining Why Immigration is Good for Innovation, Venngage, February 7, 2017.

America cannot afford a border wall

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After promising the American people that Mexico would pay for the border wall, President Trump is threatening to shut down the government if he does not get $5 billion to fund this project.[1]  He has rejected the Democrats’ offer of $1.3 billion, maintaining that $5 billion is only “a good start.”[2]  So apparently $5 billion is only the beginning.  Even $1.3 billion is too much.  Here are three reasons why.

First, the wall does not solve the problems.  President Trump says that “drugs are pouring into our country.”[3]  Last year, the Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly testified that drugs “mostly come through the ports of entry” at the border.[4]  So building a wall will not prevent most drugs from entering this country.

And there is no evidence that immigrants are spreading disease or that terrorists are entering the country, two more of President Trump’s claims.[5]  In short, President Trump is demanding to spend more than $5 billion of taxpayer money on a wall that would accomplish little if anything.

Second, spending money on a wall will only increase an already out-of-control deficit, which is up to $898 billion as of three months ago and is projected to balloon to $1 trillion in a little over a year.[6]  Although the deficit has reached this mark in the past, it occurred during an economic downturn when money was spent to stimulate a recovery.[7]  But in the most recent past, we’ve experienced a period of economic growth when the deficit should have been reduced.[8]  Instead, it increased.

Why the concern over a large deficit?  First, a large deficit may hamper the government’s efforts to revive the economy in the event of a downturn.[9]  Second, our interest payments may exceed feasible cuts in the future, making it necessary to default on our interest payments.[10]  Third, our benefits may have to be cut.   Americans may have to delay collecting Social Security, where it is projected to run out of money in 13 years. [11]  The Highway Trust Fund is projected to go broke in four years and the Social Security disability insurance program in seven years.[12]

Spending billions on a border wall now is akin to a homeless person buying a Rolex watch.  If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it.  People do not spend money this recklessly because banks will not permit it.  We, the American people, should not permit our money to be spent on a useless wall.  Spending money in this manner is foolhardy.  Perhaps this is why President Trump has declared bankruptcy six times.[13]

The third problem is that a government shut-down causes problems not just for federal workers but for the American people.  With the exception of mail service, social security checks, military service, air traffic controllers, prison guards, and border patrol agents, government operations come to a halt.[14]  National parks will close, veterans hotlines will shut down, food aid to children and seniors will be cut off, and federal workers will not be paid – just before Christmas.[15]

So unless President Trump gets his wall – and that’s what it is; it does nothing for this country – he will cause a government shutdown.  He said, “I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country.”[16]  What people of this country don’t want is to see their benefits reduced or destroyed for a wall that fails to keep out drugs and criminals.  Or to delay receiving social security benefits for this useless wall – particularly when the money will be gone because it has been spent on such a frivolous project.  After our government runs out of money, the only thing this wall will accomplish is to keep people in.

 

[1] Eric Warner and John Wagner, Trump, Pelosi and Schumer have on-camera shouting match as wall talks break down, The Washington Post, December 11, 2018.

[2] Philip Bump, Trump’s arguments for necessity of border wall have already been broadly debunked, The Washington Post, December 11, 2018.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Andrew Mayeda, U.S. Budget Deficit Swells to $898 Billion, Topping Forecast, Bloomberg, September 13, 2018.

[7] Id.

[8] Heather Long, Why America’s return to $1 trillion deficits is a big problem for you, The Washington Post, April 9, 2018.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Michelle Lee, Fact Check:  Has Trump declared bankruptcy four or six times?, The Washington Post, September 26, 2016.

[14] Nathaniel Lubin, What’s Affected by a Government Shutdown?, whitehouse.gov, October 1, 2013.

[15] Id.

[16] John T. Bennett, 3 Takeaways From Trump’s Made-for-TV Oval Office Border Brawl, Roll Call, December 11, 2018.

In 2020, give me a presidential candidate like George H.W. Bush

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With the 2020 election campaigns due to start soon, many potential candidates are considering a presidential run.[1]  While their qualifications differ, it is those with character and the ability to work with people who can make a difference.  Just look at George Herbert Walker Bush.  His success both at home and abroad rose from these seven qualities that made him a good leader and a great man:

  1. Extensive experience serving the nation. He was a veteran, serving in World War II, joining the Navy at age 18 as a Navy pilot.[2]  He flew 58 missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in action.

He represented Texas in the House of Representatives for two terms.[3]  He also served as Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in the People’s Republic of China, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.[4]  Before being elected President, he served as Ronald Reagan’s Vice President for two terms, working on federal de-regulation and anti-drug programs and visiting many foreign countries.[5]

In short, President Bush had military, legislative, and executive branch experience.  With his extensive foreign relations experience, he was “among the best prepared men to be Commander in Chief in the 20th century.”[6]

  1. A social moderate with a willingness to compromise. As a Republican president working with a Democratic Congress, he was able to pass two important pieces of legislation.[7]  One was an amended Clean Air Act, described as “the most sweeping and comprehensive environmental statute on the books.”[8]  It reduced acid rain through a market-friendly cap and trade system.[9]  This system resulted in a 67% nose-dive in U.S. emissions of sulphur dioxide from coal-fired electricity generators.[10]  In its first 20 years, the law, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency, reduced premature deaths by 160,000, heart attacks by 130,000, and hospital admissions by 86,000 resulting in a savings of $2 trillion.[11]

He also fought for the disabled, working for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.[12]  Called “the most expansive piece of civil rights legislation since the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the ADA includes in its protections those with HIV/AIDS at President Bush’s insistence.[13]

  1. Moral courage. During his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 1988, President Bush promised, “Read my lips.  No new taxes.”[14]  When he said that, the deficit was manageable; but it later ballooned.[15]  To cut the deficit and get a plan through Congress, he had to propose both spending cuts and a tax increase.[16]  In the end, the deal cut the deficit by $500 billion over five years and was credited for facilitating the economic boom in the 1990s.[17]  But doing the right thing, at least in part, caused him to lose reelection to a second presidential term.[18]

He also exercised moral courage when he decided not to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein after driving the Iraqis out of Kuwait.[19]  In the face of heavy criticism, President Bush refused to proceed, believing it would have cost human lives and result in long-term hostile occupation. [20]   Five years later, he was proven right when American forces invaded Iraq.[21]

  1. An expert in diplomatic foreign relations. President Bush facilitated the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, but he refused to revel in the West’s victory[22] or “dance on the wall,” as he put it.[23]  In exercising restraint, he ensured the Cold War’s finality and improved relations with the Communist bloc.[24]

He also cultivated friendships with foreign leaders but did not permit them to push him around.[25]  His liberation of Panama from Manuel Noreiga was “fast and ruthless.”[26]   And when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, he, with Secretary of State James Baker and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, built a coalition of more than 36 nations, convinced nations  other than ours to almost entirely pay for the expeditionary force, and pushed the Iraqis out of Kuwait in six months.[27]

  1. President Bush told his grandson to run for office with a “servant’s heart.”[28]  And a few days after he first took office as President, he told staffers, “There is no higher honor than to serve free men and women, no greater privilege than to labor in government beneath the Great Seal of the United States and the American flag.”[29]   After he lost a bitter election battle to Bill Clinton, he didn’t let his ego get in the way of leaving a gracious note, telling the new president that he was not a very good one to give advice but encouraged him to push on in the face of criticism.[30]  President Bush wished him “great happiness” in the White House and said he was “rooting hard” for him.[31]
  1. Kindness without weakness. In accepting the Republican nomination for president in 1988, President Bush objected to the Republican reputation for a lack of sympathy, stating, “I want a kinder, gentler nation.”[32] He was a prolific letter writer, particularly thank you notes, who believed in manners and kindness.[33]  Former President Jimmy Carter commented that “Bush’s “administration was marked by grace, civility and social conscience.”[34]  When he lost his bid for re-election, he thought of how to ease the pain of loss and disappointment for others.[35]  He always believed in treating those with whom he disagreed with respect.[36]

President Bush’s acts of kindness throughout his life may have misled some into thinking he was weak.  For example, his mentor, Richard Nixon questioned whether George H.W. Bush was “enough of a ‘nut cutter’” to do the dirty work.[37]  Yet when toughness was called for, President Bush answered.  He was tough in Panama and Kuwait, and he was tough in sacrificing his political future for the good of the country when he raised taxes to reduce the deficit.

  1. A moderate temperament.[38]  He was a reasonable person who believed in preparation and due diligence.[39]  Although “[r]easonable, moderate people don’t incite passion,”[40] they are the leader of choice in troubled times.

In 2020, we need a candidate with these qualities.  We need a candidate like George Herbert Walker Bush.  If one of the candidates is a kinder, gentler, humble, reasonable “nut-cutter” with experience in government, particularly foreign relations, who can work well with others, that candidate has my vote.

 

[1] Aaron Blake, The top 15 Democratic presidential candidates for 2020, ranked, The Washington Post, November 9, 2018.

[2] whitehouse.gov, George H. W. Bush.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Michael Duffy, George H.W. Bush Accomplished Much More as President Than He Ever Got Credit For, Time, December 1, 2018.

[7] Id.

[8] Monica Medina, We can breathe easier – literally – thanks to George H.W. Bush, The Washington Post, December 2, 2018.

[9] David Frum, A Forgotten Legacy of George H.W. Bush, The Atlantic, December 3, 2018.

[10] Id.

[11] Monica Medina, We can breathe easier – literally – thanks to George H.W. Bush, The Washington Post, December 2, 2018.

[12] Patrisha Wright, Thank you, President Bush, for defending my rights, The Washington Post, December 2, 2018.

[13] Id.

[14] Associated Press, ‘Read my lips. No new taxes’:  quotes from President George HW Bush, The Guardian, December 1, 2018.

[15] Michael Duffy, George H.W. Bush Accomplished Much More as President Than He Ever Got Credit For, Time, December 1, 2018.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.; Catherine Rampell, George H.W. Bush was the last of his kind – a Republican who didn’t believe in ‘voodoo economics,’ The Washington Post, December 3, 2018.  h

[19] Gerald F. Seib, The Courage of George H.W. Bush:  Avoiding the Easy Path, The Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2018.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Michael Duffy, George H.W. Bush Accomplished Much More as President Than He Ever Got Credit For, Time, December 1, 2018.

[23] Richard Fontaine, American Foreign Policy Could Use More Prudence, The Atlantic, December 3, 2018.

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

[26] Id.

[27] Michael Duffy, George H.W. Bush Accomplished Much More as President Than He Ever Got Credit For, Time, December 1, 2018 ;Richard Fontaine, American Foreign Policy Could Use More Prudence, The Atlantic, December 3, 2018.

[28] CBS News, The past and future of the Bush political dynasty, December 3, 2018.  

[29] Michael Graczyk, George H.W. Bush dies at 94; made greatest mark in Gulf War, Associated Press, December 2, 2018.

[30] Joseph Curl, Read the Gracious, Humble Note George H.W. Bush Left in Oval Office for Bill Clinton, The Daily Wire, December 2, 2018.

[31] Id.

[32] Michael Graczyk, George H.W. Bush dies at 94; made greatest mark in Gulf War, Associated Press, December 2, 2018.

[33] Sarah L. Kaufman, How George H.W. Bush used hand-written thank-you notes to build bridges, The Washington Post, December 1, 2018.

[34] Id.

[35] Id.

[36] John Baldoni, George H.W. Bush:  A Leader’s Life of Service, Forbes, December 2, 2018.

[37] Todd S. Purdum, A Kinder, Gentler Republican President Is Dead, The Atlantic, December 1, 2018.

[38] Michael Gerson, George H.W. Bush’s life proves that, sometimes, things go gloriously right, The Washington Post, December 3, 2018.

[39] Greg Jaffe, ‘Honorable, gracious and decent’:  In death, Bush becomes a yardstick for President Trump, The Washington Post, December 2, 2018.

[40] Id. (quoting Richard Haas, who served in the Bush White House).

Citizens taking action offer hope this holiday season

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Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country.  This is your democracy.  Make it.  Protect it.  Pass it on.

Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice (1967-1991)

Today, many people feel negative about politics.  Nearly 70% feel angry, sad, or fearful.[1]  Many of us hate to hear the news or even avoid it because there is always another report that makes us angry or distraught.  Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

But there is a bright side.  All this negativity has caused something positive to happen.  People are snapping out of their stupor and mobilizing.  Like the line in the movie Network, people are “mad as hell and they’re not going to take this anymore.”[2]  They’re getting out of their chairs, but they’re not going to their windows.  They’re going door to door talking about politics.  They’re calling and texting others about candidates and issues.  They’re donating money to the candidates of their choice.  They’re voting.  They’re running for office.  It is democracy in action, and it is citizens of this country fighting for a better future.

People have also put their money where their mouth is, donating over $850 million for the 2018 midterms, five times more than the amount in the last midterm election.[3]  And in that election, they voted for a record number of women, people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates.[4]

People are engaging in democracy all over the country.  And because they are responding to a Republican President and a Republican Congress that have been in power since 2016, they are Democrats who are supporting Democratic candidates and left-leaning policies.  But not long ago, it was conservatives that formed the Tea Party and supported a Republican agenda.[5]

The recently mobilized got out of their chairs and voted in November.  Voter turnout was at a 50-year high for a mid-term election at 47% with more than 100 million people voting.[6]   The high turnout was prompted in part by the work of several grassroots organizations.  In Texas, the Jolt Initiative urges Latino participation in government.  Woke Vote and Black Voters Matter gets the black vote out.  And EveryVoteCounts is a student-led nonpartisan organization that works to get voters out.  Next Generation Politics engages high school and college students in the democratic process.

People are also writing postcards to get the vote out. Postcards to Voters has organized over 59,000 volunteers in every state who have written 4 million “friendly, handwritten reminders” about over 130 close elections.

Postcards have also become a tool of choice to communicate with elected representatives, federal agency officials, attorneys general, and the Justice Department, among others.[7]  People are organizing into clubs and throwing parties to write postcards.[8] Postcards for America, a national umbrella group, has nearly 10,000 members across the nation.

And resources have sprung up to make writing postcards easier and more fun.  Political postcards are sold on Amazon and Etsy.  Some are targeted to specific audiences, like PersistPost[9] for women.  Some postcards target topics, like CollectiveVisionPostcards on climate change and other topics. And some provide services beyond postcards.  Write the Power will write out a message on the postcard design the user selects after it helps the user find the appropriate representative’s name and address and mails it for $1.50 plus postage.

All these efforts are being aided by national advocacy groups.[10]  One of the largest is Indivisible.[11]  It began by providing a guide to citizens about how to effectively lobby members of Congress.[12]  Written by former congressional staffers who saw the rise of the Tea Party and its effectiveness during the Obama administration, the guide has since been downloaded over a million times; and the site has had over 10 million page views.[13]  Over 6,000 local groups have registered with Indivisible.[14]  Through its website, volunteers “can find local groups, plan local actions, and access organizing resources.”[15]

Other national advocacy groups were influential as well. Color of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization with over 1.4 million members.  The Latino Victory Project, founded by Eva Longoria and Henry Munoz, works to increase Latino representation in government.  MoveOn, “a force for social justice and political progress,” supports candidates and legislation to further “equality, sustainability, justice, and love.” Swingleft mobilizes voters to support progressives in their bids for seats in the House of Representatives.  Sister District Project helps Democratic candidates win seats in state legislatures.  But its focus is not just local.  It hopes to combat the effects of Republican gerrymandering on Congressional elections by winning a Democratic majority in state legislatures previously held by Republicans to redraw districts in 2020.

Those who take action feel better – “more sane”[16] – because they’ve done something to make the world a better place.  They no longer feel powerless and at the mercy of elected officials who fail to consider their interests.    It is these ordinary — no, extraordinary — citizens acting to accomplish a political goal that gives me hope.

So here’s to all the folks who took the time to make a difference this year.  You are a reason to have good cheer this holiday season.

 

[1] Alex Vandermoss-Peeler; Daniel Cox; Maxine Najle, PhD; Molly Fisch-Friedman; Rob Griffin, PhD; Robert P. Jones, PhD, American Democracy in Crisis:  Civic Engagement, Young Adult Activism, and the 2018 Midterm Elections, PRRI, October 11, 2018.

[2] Network clip, YouTube.

[3] Charlotte Alter, How the Anti-Trump Resistance is Organizing its Outrage, Time, October 29, 2018.

[4] Joel Shannon, These are the historic firsts for women, minority, and LGBTQ candidates in 2018, USA Today, November 6, 2018.

[5] Charlotte Alter, How the Anti-Trump Resistance is Organizing its Outrage, Time, October 29, 2018.

[6] Camila Domonoske, A Boatload of Ballots:  Midterm Voter Turnout Hit 50-Year High, npr, November 8, 2018.

[7] William Wan, Postcards from the left:  Resistance groups take aim at Trump, one letter at a time, The Washington Post, November 2, 2018.

[8] Id.

[9] In the interest of full disclosure, my sister-in-law is one of the principals of PersistPost.

[10] L.A. Kauffman, First they marched, then they mobilized:  how the resistance swayed the midterms, The Guardian, November 11, 2018.

[11] Karin Kamp, How the Indivisible Movement is Fueling Resistance to Trump, Bill Moyers, February 10, 2017.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] William Wan, Postcards from the left:  Resistance groups take aim at Trump, one letter at a time, The Washington Post, November 2, 2018.

Congress has gridlocked and “ruled” itself into irrelevance

House Of Representatives Allows Media Rare View Of House Chamber

Sometimes you hear that many politicians vote for a bill in various forms before they vote against it, or vice versa.  The conflict, negotiation, and eventual compromise involved in this process form the essence of the democratic process.

Jared Polis, House of Representatives, Colorado (D)

Our government is all about balance.  Power was intended to be balanced between the three branches of government:  the Executive branch carries out the laws, the Judicial branch interprets the law, and the Legislative branch makes the law.[1]

In the legislative branch, Congress should be balanced in representation.  The balance in power in the Senate is equal with two representatives for each state.[2]   In the House of Representatives, representation is balanced in terms of population, with the number of representatives dependent upon the population of that state.[3]

This balance assumes that each representative will fully participate in the legislative process.  But recently, many have been shut out of the process. Continue reading