Thoughts after the Deluge
We are all in this trouble together. We have elected a politically inexperienced, temperamentally challenged new commander in chief with bold confidence in his own ideas and leadership skills. We needed a Roosevelt, Lincoln or Churchill. We got instead a President-elect Trump who might become a Hoover, Buchanan, Bush Jr. or worse, but let’s hope and work for better; our next President will not want to go down in the history books as a loser, but rather as a big winner. Now is the time for all of us to rise to the challenge of an evenly and starkly divided country with one party now in charge of all three branches of federal government and likely to pursue matters of its own liking and to its own advantage.
On the international front, President Putin is seeking to reassert Russian control and sway in the Baltic, the Caucasus, the Balkans, and the Ukraine. Al Qaeda and ISIS propagandists will now have a field day in recruitment of young men. The potential for an expanded War in the Middle East is not small and can be exacerbated if we are not careful; Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Libya are among flash points; Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are among the potential initial combatants with US and Russia then likely to be pulled in. An isolated North Korea is getting increasingly desperate. The furor about TPPP, NAFTA, immigration and even NATO can cost us allies and partnerships in Europe, Asia and the Western hemisphere. We desperately need a return to sound bi-partisan foreign policy, and we may not get it unless we wake up and fight for it. We cannot afford another retreat into isolationism, nor to further increase global warming. Neither can we afford another round of knee jerk military adventurism and aggression. The rest of the world is not going to be standing by in admiration and adulation of our new president, but rather moving on with their own agendas.
On the domestic front, the economy is producing new jobs and economic growth whose benefits for too many years have been accruing disproportionately to the top 1%, and our manufacturing jobs are being lost to technology and global competition. We have been leading the global recovery, but we do have a rigged economy, and this election cycle expressed the desire for profound changes in it to better benefit working Americans. White working class Americans in the American heartland voted for Trump and the Republicans while working class minorities voted against them; yet their economic interests are the same. If we are not careful, we could tip backwards into recession and reverse the economic gains we have made. There is a real and present danger of repealing vital social protections and of further exacerbating racial, religious and ethnic tensions. The white working class voters of the South and Midwest have elected a new leader and a party whose past priorities have been tax favoritism for the top 1%, pliancy to corporate lobbyists, fancy hotels, name brand golf courses and Manhattan real estate. They were voting for better jobs, better pay, better benefits and a stronger economy. If their needs are not addressed by the incoming Administration, their disconnect, anger, despair and disappointment could become extreme over the next four years.
The profound economic changes now needed for the working class in the nation’s heartland are not the ones we are likely to get on the natural from President-elect Trump and the Republican Congress. We do need to grow the growth rate in an economy with seven years of steady but not spectacular growth – this is not an easy task, it will require pro growth policy changes mirrored with complementary monetary and fiscal policy. We are going to need to fight much harder and smarter for these changes and constantly remind the newly elected who just voted them into power. We are going to have to struggle and battle for changes at the federal, at the state and at the local levels. They include infrastructure investment for a more competitive future economy, fair tax reform, government transparency and accountability for performance and outcomes, immigration reform, an education system that improves student outcomes, an end to homelessness, a rising and living wage, alternative energy, economic development and reductions in rural, small town and urban poverty and repairs to the ACA to improve health care quality, patient outcomes, equity and cost efficiency. These types of changes will make America great, and give alienated white working class Americans a renewed stake and confidence in the nation’s future. Immigrants and immigration are our past, our present and our future; they are not the cause of distress in the depressed coal mine and steel mill economic sectors; rather they are often the backbone of our highly competitive agricultural economy; we must put a stop to the scapegoating and bashing of immigrants and ethnic minorities before it gets even worse.
Some think the ACA is now toast. I think Republicans will think twice before disenfranchising nearly 25 million Americans and returning to the “good old days” of pre-existing condition exclusions for those who are sick and need care. The backlash unleashed by millions and millions of Americans with no health coverage would be extraordinary. Doctors, nurses, hospitals, patients and family members with serious illnesses, and at least some insurers will not be easily rolled over to undo the real and important progress that has been made. We need to keep up the push for the necessary corrections in health reform and remember that 60 votes in the Senate are needed to repeal the ACA root and branch although 51 votes can do very severe damage.
The Supreme Court is in serious danger of moving further backwards, and Roe v Wade will be in peril. However, the potential backlash of reversing Roe v. Wade and restricting women’s access to birth control and the fundamental rights of women, minorities, disabled and gay Americans may give some measure of pause to jurists and elected officials. Campaigning is one thing; governing is quite another.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
We are all in this together and we are in for quite a bumpy ride; the names change, but our nation’s challenges do not. Don’t stop for one moment the great work we are all doing; keep hope alive!