My biggest takeaway from the midterm election.

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I’m condensing and editing this from a Twitter thread I wrote the day after the midterm elections.  

Now that the midterms are finally over (although they aren’t really:  there are still votes coming in in some places, and there may even be recounts in states like Florida and Georgia),  my biggest takeaway is this: we can never, ever take democracy for granted.  We can’t assume it’s a gift that once given, just stays.

Because that is not the way democracy works.   It must be constantly maintained, not by politicians, not by pundits on TV, not by activists.  It must be maintained by regular people like you and me.  Unfortunately, for many years, we took democracy for granted and thought we could stay uninvolved in politics and let others do the hard work.  But once a large percentage of the population ceases to care to the point that they don’t even vote,  democracy is in trouble.   The very term democracy indicates that its existence depends on The People.   It depends on us.

Republicans were able to seize so much power because we let them.  Although other factors played a part in Trump winning, in 2016, we didn’t turn out in sufficient numbers at the polls to overcome everything that was stacked against us.   But those things were never insurmountable.   There are just too many of us.   Yes, Hillary won the popular vote (and I’m one of those people who think the electoral college should be abolished), Russians may well have influenced the results, gerrymandering and voter suppression  in some states is out of control, etc.  But, in spite of all the obstacles the GOP tried to set against us, the results in 2016 were still close.   Had we all voted (and not voted for third party candidates like Jill Stein), Trump would have lost and instead of becoming POTUS, today he’d be just another washed up and forgotten reality TV star who once ran for president.

But he is president, and now that we are stuck with him (for now), we are all learning an extremely sobering lesson in just how fragile democracy is, and just how easily one despotic man with too much power can start to dismantle all our checks and balances, and destroy democracy itself.   Many Americans, including myself, used to think about Nazi Germany and wonder how it could have happened.    We are now seeing in real time how it happened:  specifically, how seemingly normal people could come to support a murderous fascist tyrant.

We woke up, perhaps at one minute before midnight, but still not too late to flip Congress back to Democratic rule, which will mean there will be some vital checks put back on this presidency.  As a result, Trump, though he will still rage and threaten and bully the free press, our institutions, and everyone he doesn’t like, won’t be able to push through his tyrannical and cruel policies the way he has been able to over the past two years.  We will be able to relax just a little.  But we can never again become complacent.

Were it not for the efforts of the Resistance, and even more importantly,  regular folks of all races, creeds, religions, income levels, and lifestyles, turning out in record numbers to vote (many voting for the first time because they realized democracy itself was on the line) and had this election drawn a tepid turnout like other recent elections, we would have lost the House.   Instead of feeling hopeful and relieved, we’d be staring down into a black abyss of unfettered tyranny right now.

Had we lost, we would now be freefalling into fascism and Trump would have unchecked power, free to do anything he wanted to do. We would have lost our democracy and would soon become a dictatorship.

Things are far from perfect. We still have a heavily Republican Senate and a Judiciary that is moving further to the right and will most likely continue to do so as long as Trump retains the presidency.  But the good news is, Trump can no longer just do anything he wants, and he can’t break the law, because the new Congress will hold him accountable if he does.  The Russia investigation will continue, and the new Congress will make sure Trump doesn’t get to run away from or obstruct justice, unlike our current GOP Congress, which enables his crimes and lack of ethics.  He can also be forced to show his tax returns.  So even though Republicans are still top heavy in the Trump White House, we are in much better shape than we were before the election. Trump can scream and toss insults and threatens all he wants, but at the end of the day, he simply  won’t be able to get much done.

A Democratic Congress can also start impeachment proceedings. Before last night, Democrats had no power to do anything. The only power we had was our vote. And we exercised it in record numbers. Had it not been for us using that hard won right, and sitting at home, democracy would have died.

We’re not out of the woods yet though.   This isn’t over.  We still have a lot more work left to to do. Trump has done incredible damage which may take generations to repair.  Republicans (which has become a fascist party since Trump) still have too much power. But we, the People, took back some of that power with our votes, and that is a good beginning.

I hope we all learned a lesson that democracy takes WORK.  We have the right to vote, and we need to use it — or possibly lose it!   Losing our right to vote can happen much more easily than you think.  There are people in high levels in government that would love nothing more than to take away our right to vote.   We can never assume others will do the work of democracy for us. The responsibility falls on us.  A government run by the People requires the input of the People.   There’s no way around it.   Voting in record numbers is essential.

If we continue to vote in the kinds of numbers we had on Election Night, we can eventually overturn this entire sorry regime  and finally have the kind of inclusive, compassionate, prosperous, caring, honest, and fair government WE, not the oligarchs and religious extremists, want: one that works for the People, not just the ultra rich and corporations.

If you voted, you should feel proud that you helped to save democracy. I think last night proved that no amount of voter suppression or GOP cheating is enough to overcome huge numbers of people voting.

We still have a long road ahead of us and a country to save.  Let’s get going!

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Your vote does matter!

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In recent years, voting has become a low priority among many people, especially young people.   They believe their one vote doesn’t matter and some even believe elections are rigged and voting doesn’t count.

But it does.  It’s true there has been some unfair rigging of the elections in recent years, due to Republican gerrymandering, attempts at voter suppression, purges of the voter rolls (this has been a big problem this year but it’s also being caught and dealt with), huge donations to GOP politicians from SuperPACs, billionaire oligarchs, and probable help from other countries too.

But there are a lot more of us who hate what the Trump GOP has been doing and the way they have been lining up behind Trump and enabling his destructive policies and rhetoric, instead of providing a check on what he does.   The Republican Party has lost many people in the past two years, including some notables like George Will, Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace (the last two formerly worked in the George W. Bush administration).  In spite of their conservatism, they have become voices for the Resistance.    Most of these former Republicans have decided to vote a straight blue (Democratic) ticket in the midterms to save our democracy from encroaching authoritarianism — even if that means they have to hold their nose about ideological issues that are too liberal for their taste.

These conservatives realize that at this juncture, a politician’s specific ideology is less important than where they stand about Trump vs. democracy itself — and the Republican Party is no longer the freedom-loving party of Lincoln, Reagan, or even John McCain.  It’s become a party that goes against most core American values, and celebrates racism, hatred, violence, ruthlessness, misogyny, corruption, misinformation, lies, greed, and exclusion.  Since Trump’s election, it has moved to the extreme right, into fascism.  This is not hyperbole;  it is the new reality.  Trump can do a whole lot less damage to our American way of life when there are some much  needed checks and balances put back into place, and right now, that means we need a majority of Democrats in the House and hopefully the Senate too.   It’s not ideological or partisan; it’s just common sense,  since the Republican Party has become so extreme and untrustworthy (and having all three branches of government under the control of one party is never a good thing anyway).

Smart conservatives realize all this, and will be joining Democrats and voting for Democratic politicians in this election.   Polls are also saying that many more Millennials are planning to vote than have in past elections (even though many still plan to sit it out).   They don’t want to inherit the bleak future that looms should Republicans maintain complete power.

So, in spite of attempts to suppress our votes, gerrymander districts, spread disinformation and lies about Democrats (that’s a whole other topic I may or may not write about), and fix electronic voting machines (this has been a problem in Texas in particular, with straight Democratic voters saying their votes were changed to Ted Cruz), I’m almost certain if we show up in great enough numbers, we can beat all the GOP’s efforts to cheat their way into a win (and cheat they must, since this party no longer offers anything of value to We, the People).

If you’re thinking about skipping voting, think about the future that awaits with an all- Republican government that’s in lockstep with Trump and lets him do whatever he wants.     Think about having no checks and balances on this president, and what that could (and probably will) mean for all of us, for humanity, and for the planet itself.    Even if you don’t care about yourself, think about the kind of future such an America holds for your children or grandchildren.

Elections have actually been won on one or two votes.   Your vote carries a lot more weight in a midterm election than in a presidential one, since you’re voting for people at the state, rather than national, level.   There are services offering rides to the polls, if it’s difficult for you to get there.    Don’t feel guilty about calling in to work that day (Election Day really should be a national holiday) if they don’t allow time off for you to vote.   Or vote early, if you still can.  If you’re not registered, in most states you can register the same day you vote.   So don’t let that hold you back either.

It may be more tempting to sit home than go out in the cold or the rain and stand on line waiting to do something that seems like it might not matter.   Don’t!   Your vote does matter.  If all of us who normally might sit out the midterms (I always did until now) give into what’s easiest and requires the least amount of effort in this election, all three branches of government will remain under Republican control and you or your loved ones could lose many if not all of the rights and freedoms you take for granted right now.    The safety net (including Social Security and Medicare) would also be decimated and possibly abolished at some point.  Do you want that for yourself?  Do you want that for your loved ones, who may be elderly or disabled and depend on those services (which are earned benefits, not entitlements) for their survival?  I know I don’t!   I have paid a portion of my paycheck into those services almost every year since 1976 and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let them steal my investment out from under me, to pay for the trillion dollar deficit they caused by their ridiculous and destructive tax cut for the rich!

Think of this too:  people have fought and even died for your right to vote.   Women and black people couldn’t always vote.   That right wasn’t won easily, and many people died fighting for it.   So to not exercise your right to vote is to disrespect the people who sacrificed their lives for you.

So, taking all this into account, if you haven’t already voted, please get to the polls on Tuesday, November 6th.   It costs you nothing except the gas, and requires only a few hours out of your day.  Isn’t that worth it to save democracy and prevent fascism from completely taking over?   If you don’t vote, you are voting against democracy, against progress, against our American way of life.  If you don’t vote, you are actually voting for unchecked power of a dangerous, despotic leader who has already done enormous damage and is only just getting started.

This is the most important election in a lifetime.   VOTE!

*****

Further reading:  

13 Ways to Get the Most Out of Voting in the Midterm Election

I voted early!

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13 ways to get the most out of voting in the midterm elections.

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I have never voted in a midterm election before.    In the past, they never seemed that important.   Of course, I was wrong about that.  They are always important, but never before has a midterm election been more important than the one coming up on November 6th.   In fact, this midterm election is more vital to America’s future than any presidential election in history.   It’s a make or break moment in American history.

I think all of us who oppose Trump’s regime (I refuse to call it a “presidency”) know why this election is so important.   We currently have a situation where both the House and Senate are controlled by the craven, criminal, and corrupt GOP, which now is in lockstep with Trump and no longer even pretends to care about “We, the People.”   And now, with sexual abuser, woman hater, and far right Trump ideologue Brett Kavanaugh about to be confirmed to the Supreme Court (unless a miracle happens, he’s almost certain to be confirmed today), the Judiciary is about to be hijacked by Trump GOP as well.

Folks, I’m not going to lie.  We are in grave danger of falling into authoritarianism and fascism.

We, The People are no longer being represented by any branch of government.    The Founding Fathers set up a system with three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judiciary) that are supposed to provide a check and balance on a despotic president’s abuse of power so we don’t fall into tyranny.  That system has failed us.  We have become a nation of almost complete one party rule.   The election coming up will complete that process — or give us another chance to save our freedom and our rights.

Our last and only chance to save our democracy and regain our reputation as a moral nation that cares about its people, represents its people fairly, and respects and honors the Rule of Law is the midterm election, which is exactly a month from today.    If we fail — and that is a real possibility due to voter suppression, gerrymandering, Russian influence, GOP tampering with voting machines, etc. — any semblance of democracy will be gone and we will be in free fall into fascism and a miserable future for our children and grandchildren.

But I think if everyone who hates this authoritarian system they are trying to install gets out and votes, that we can overcome Trump’s GOP and reclaim democracy.  Even if we still have to put up with Trump for a couple more years, the consolidation of power we have been witnessing will be greatly curtailed.

Here are some handy suggestions for voters and potential voters.

1. Make sure you are registered.   You can check your status here.  Check it weekly, since many states are doing voter purges and just because your name is there this week, doesn’t mean it will be next week.

2.  If you aren’t registered, do it now!  (It may be too late in some places).  Here is a site where you can register.   Procedures may vary by state.   Here is where you can also find out how to submit an absentee vote if you are going to be away from the polls on Voting Day.

3.  Don’t believe the polls and news stories that crow about a “blue wave” happening.   It may not happen and these reports of the surety of a blue wave can lull you into complacency and make you think we have it in the bag.   We don’t have it in the bag, and you need to vote, no matter what the polls say.

4.  There’s a lot of disinformation on the internet, and in recent years there are websites that tell you you can vote online.   Ignore these!  You cannot vote online.  These sites are fake, and probably a sneaky voter suppression technique (if you “vote” online, you won’t show up at the polls).   They can also be dangerous and hack into your personal information or install malware on your computer.  Avoid them!

5.  Bring someone with you who has never voted before.  Explain to them why their vote is so important.   Educate them about what is happening to America right now, if they don’t follow the news.  You’d be surprised how many people don’t.  I used to be one of those people, until Trump.

Here’s something that happened.  The other day at the grocery store I overheard two ladies talking and one of them didn’t even know who Brett Kavanaugh was.  She said she doesn’t follow the news.  Millions of people really have no idea they are about to lose everything, all their rights and freedoms, even as we in the Resistance watch our beautiful country go down in flames. It’s our responsibility to educate these people, and get them to vote.  It’s a lot easier to educate an uninformed person and take them to the polls than wasting time trying to change the mind of a Trump supporter, who follow their own fake news stories and whose minds apparently cannot be changed.

If the person has no way to get to the polls, offer to drive them there.

6.  Even if you don’t bring a new voter to the polls with you, at least talk to people who have never voted before about why their vote matters.   Elections have been decided on one or two votes!   Your vote holds more weight in a midterm election than in a presidential one.   If there are any doubts, have them read this article (or read it yourself):

10 Elections Decided by One Vote or Less 

7.  Offer to carpool for people who want to vote, but have no transportation or can’t make it to the polls for other reasons (handicapped, etc.).   Put a sign offering this on a community bulletin board at your church, school, library, or another public place.  Many grocery stores have a community bulletin board.  Or put your offer on your social media page (if you’re a woman, be careful with this though and don’t offer to take a man with you unless there’s at least one other woman along for the ride).

8.  If you don’t have the day off work (most people don’t, which is a shame and one of the reasons voter turnout in America is so abysmal), take the day off!  Don’t feel guilty.   You are doing your patriotic duty to help save our country from creeping authoritarianism.   Lie and say you’re sick if you must, but get to the polls.

9.  Don’t be a purist.  This is not the time to vote for an Independent, Green Party politician, or for a member of any party that isn’t one of the two main political parties.  If you’re a liberal, moderate, or Never Trumper, a vote for another party candidate is really a vote for the GOP.    I hope you vote Democratic.   The new GOP is not your father’s (or even your older brother’s) Republican Party.   If you care about saving democracy, you must vote Democratic, even if you don’t particularly like the candidate, or don’t agree with their entire platform.   Hold your nose if you have to and just do it!

10.  Be prepared for long lines.   There are going to be many more people waiting on line to vote than in normal times, or even during presidential elections.   Bring a book or a Kindle with you so you can read while you wait, or at least your smartphone so you can browse the internet or text your friends.    Even better, strike up a conversation with other people standing in line.   Bring snacks and drinks too because you are probably going to get hungry or thirsty.

11.  If possible, demand a paper ballot.  You may not have that option, but it’s worth asking.  Paper ballots are safer because they can’t be tampered with like electronic voting machines can be.   Or submit an absentee ballot to get around that.

12.  If you get one, display your “I Voted” sticker proudly.   You just helped save democracy!

13.  If you don’t vote, don’t complain about what happens later.

If you think of any other voting tips, please put them in the comments.  Happy voting!

I Voted

As a followup to my last post, I want to share this post by Plain Ol’ Vic. I totally agree that this election is a culmination of the failure of the two party system, with NEITHER party having the best interests of the people as a priority–but rather, their own needs. Both parties are so out of touch with the needs and desires of the American people. Another reason the two party political system is so terrible is because both parties and their nominees are funded by the corporate elite, so the “little guy” (independent candidates) who speaks for the majority never has a chance.   I think we need to switch to a parliamentarian system similar to what most of Europe has. Iknow that’s not perfect either, but it beats what we’ve wound up with.

Back in the days when the American people were more unified and homogenous, I suppose the two party system worked well.   But today, with so much diversity and differing opinions on so many sensitive subjects, we need something else that can keep up with that.

Yes, I voted, but not for who I wanted.  I voted for what I perceive to be the “lesser of two evils.”  If I wasn’t so terrified of Trump winning, I would have cast a write in vote for Sanders instead.

With Hillary as president, we’ll just get more of the same, which means the descent into complete chaos and the polarization of this once-great country into a hellhole of the haves and have-nots will take a slower path.   With Trump, we’ll get WWIII.   So I voted for “more of the same.”   Ugh–there should be a better option.

Please comment on the original post (comments are disabled here).

Millennials and voting.

Michelle Obama Urges Iowa Grassroots Supporters To Get Out The Vote

The Primary election is on Tuesday night, but I’m so out of the loop sometimes that I didn’t even realize early voting ended today.  I always try to vote early because you can avoid all the crowds and craziness.  Sort of like Christmas shopping.

I wasn’t planning on voting today.  I was driving downtown to run some errands.  But I happened to pass by the library and saw all the campaign signs and a long line of people waiting to get inside.  Huh?  Why so many people standing on line when it’s early voting?

I got out of my car and breathed in the warm early spring air.  It was a glorious day, with the sun shining and the birds singing.   A few trees are beginning to blossom.   I walked over and asked someone why the line was so long, and she told me there was only an hour left before the early voting polls closed until Tuesday night!  I’d  made it right in the nick of time.  So I thanked her and took my place at the back of the line. The atmosphere was party -like.  People were excited about their candidates of choice, and the spring weather made things seem festive.

The vast majority of people waiting to vote were young families, many with babies.   I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many babies in one place since I took my own kids to Gymboree classes back when they were tiny toddlers.  A quick mental calculation based on these young parents’ appearance told me they were part of the Millennial generation (born in the 1980s and 1990s)   A few might have been later Gen-X or Gen Y, but not too many.  I’ve been reading about how politically active the Millennials are, something the previous generation (Gen-X) was generally not when they were of like age, oh, about 20 years ago now.   (Has it really been that long?)

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There was a 20-something clean-cut young man handing out flyers and another 20-something young woman dressed in hipster garb and covered with campaign buttons enthusiastically talking about the election and handing out flyers for a different candidate. My own 24 year old son has also become politically active in his state.  He’s campaigning for Bernie Sanders (who seems very popular with Millennials, which is ironic since he’s the oldest of all the candidates).  A an aside, Bernie has amassed his enormous popularity among Millennials through social media, especially Twitter, where you can #FeeltheBern becoming an unquenchable fire.    2011’s ill-fated Occupy movement also built its momentum using Twitter to spread the word.   The movement might have fizzled out before it could make a real impact (or been silenced), but I think it was the first real sign of things to come.

Millennials get it.   They’re not taking any more of the same old, same old.  They’re not backing candidates who spout the same old tired rhetoric we’ve become so familiar with, jaded candidates funded by huge corporations who promise change but fail to deliver.  This generation has  inherited a broken nation and no one seems to give a damn.  They have had a terrible time getting a foot in the door of real adulthood because they can’t find decent jobs that pay a living wage and many can’t afford to move out of he home they grew up in.  They are in college debt up to their eyeballs and will no doubt remain in debt until their late middle age or even for the rest of their lives if things don’t change.   They’re sick of being called entitled crybabies, when all they want is the same opportunities that other generations before them did.  They also realize that if things are going to change, it’s going to be them that have to make things change.

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Most of the Millennial generation is now old enough to vote, and they are taking advantage of that right and showing up at the polls to exercise that hard-won right, whether they are male or female; black, white, Hispanic, or “other;” gay or straight; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or atheist; and regardless of political affiliation (though most seem to be quite liberal or independent).    As Americans, we all have the right to vote, and voting is the only thing that brings real change.   If you fail to vote, do you really have a right to complain?   Although I’m terribly unhappy with the state of this nation and have been for a long time, I always felt guilty griping about it whenever I failed to vote.

So I stood there on  line feeling the spring breeze in my hair and looked around at all these enthusiastic Millennials on line, with their bumper crop of babies and toddlers (the future generation of this country), and felt very proud of this young adult generation, the same one William Strauss and Neil Howe predicted back in the 1990s would become the new “Greatest” generation–the people who would finally be able to save America from itself.