Wednesday, October 28, 2020

A Vision of Two Americas: Part 1

A Possible Look Ahead

Election day is next Tuesday, but millions have already voted. I received my ballot in the mail as all registered Vermonters did, but I’ve decided to go to the polls and vote in person on November 3. While there are several crackpot third-party candidates, there are only two real choices: Joe Biden and Donald Trump. If you vote for a second Trump term, you are voting for the continued decline of the United States and for putting democracy in danger. At best, the demise would be gradual — a descent into diminished prosperity, constricted opportunity for your children and grandchildren, waning influence overseas, and the continued erosion of democratic norms at home. This is not a matter of speculation; it is a conclusion based on Trump’s record and promises.
The United States has been a prosperous nation since it emerged from World War I as the world’s greatest creditor nation. We had a setback during the Great Depression, but our military strength during World War II cemented our position as a world leader. The U.S. generates more than 15 percent of the global economy, with just over 4 percent of the world’s population. For decades, the U.S. has been prosperous because we have a predictable rule of law, a professional civil service, a position as a global leader that lets us help set the rules and have the U.S. dollar accepted as the only true international currency, and high, if not world-leading, standard of health care and education. Also, key has been a commitment to fairness and equal opportunity even if we argue about how to turn that commitment into policy. The U.S. has prospered while other developed nations have begun to stagnate. We attract talented, entrepreneurial, and ambitious immigrants from all over the world. Our commitment to freedom has allowed immigrants and native-born alike to contribute to the fullest extent of their abilities.
Under Donald Trump, all of this has gone by the wayside. He replaced the rule of law with presidential whim picking and choosing corporate favorites and twisting the criminal system to favor his friends. At an accelerated pace, he is politicizing, corrupting, and sapping our government's morale: our foreign service, our health and scientific agencies, our keepers of statistics. Many will hesitate to invest — to build new factories or create new jobs — if law and governmental power become unpredictable and wielded to reward cronies and punish the disfavored.
Trump and his administration’s disregard for the law is unmatched in American history. He has flaunted his contempt for laws like the Constitution's emoluments clause by refusing to divest himself of his business holdings. He has used the Justice Department as his own personal lawyer and has claimed immunity from lawsuits because of his position. The Constitution established that no American would be above the law; Trump disregards that and does place himself above the law. Republicans across the country, from average voters to members of the Senate, have supported and propped up his illegal behavior creating a mockery of the American judicial system. His lack of paying his fair share of taxes is outrageous and shows the desperate need for tax reform in the United States.
Trump just signed an executive order that overhauls/destroys the civil service system by giving those in power the authority to fire more or less at will as many as tens of thousands of civil service workers from managers to lawyers to economists to, yes, scientists. In 1883, patronage (the practice of all government employees being appointed) was replaced by a professional civil service with the Pendleton Act. If Trump has his way, patronage, and loyalty to him will be the job qualifications for thousands of government jobs. The civil service will cease to exist. No longer will government jobs be based on a merit system. We have already seen how vindictive Trump can be for those whom he sees as disloyal and how he rewards loyalty with positions for which people are wholly unqualified. Just look at Betsy Devos. In Trump’s America, political rivals are traitors who must be prosecuted and jailed. Congressional oversight is an inconvenience that can be ignored and, eventually suppressed. Journalists seeking to report on his administration are enemies of the people. He welcomes foreign interference to help his campaign, undermines confidence in the election, and threatens not to accept its results. If he remains in power, fairly or fraudulently, there is no reason to believe Trump will not act on his authoritarian impulses in a second term. His incompetence in government, though real, will be no protection; he has shown himself, in the past year, increasingly adept at evading the checks and balances we thought the Constitution guaranteed.
Though the United States' prestige around the world has waxed and waned since the presidency of George W. Bush, our status as a world leader was boosted by the election of Barack Obama. That boost has wholly disappeared under Donald Trump as he has railed against our allies in NATO, criticized the United Nations, and withdrew from the World Health Organization. Instead of being a leader for democracy, Trump has saddled up beside dictators like Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin. He craves the approval of autocrats who wish our country ill while abandoning and insulting allies; the latter will not stand by and take his abuse for four more years while the former will exploit his gullibility. World leaders openly laugh at him when they are meeting with him. Already the United States finds itself humiliatingly isolated on key issues like relations with Iran. As Trump fulfills long-held ambitions to undermine alliances with Europe, Japan, and South Korea, the United States will be further weakened, China, increasingly dominant, the world ever less stable. We are no longer a world leader, and that status will continue to decline with four more years of a Trump presidency. We will descend into a new era of xenophobia and isolationism which the United States has not seen in over a century.
The United States has some of the most trusted hospitals and prestigious universities in the world. Yet, if Trump is reelected, access to those hospitals and universities will be in jeopardy. If he succeeds in destroying the Affordable Care Act, we will once again find health insurance difficult to find if we have a preexisting condition. I am diabetic, and I saw firsthand how difficult it was for the lawyer I used to work for to find affordable health insurance because she had diabetes. I suffered for many years with migraines without any treatment because it was not covered as a preexisting condition. With my current Botox injections for my migraines costing over $6,000 without insurance, I will never be able to afford them if they are allowed to be denied as a preexisting condition.
Education at colleges and universities is already too expensive. When I looked at attending private universities like Vanderbilt, Tulane, Emory, or Duke when I was in high school, my family and I couldn’t afford any of those schools. Tuition was over $25,000 25 years ago. Now, those schools range from Emory now at over $72,000 a year (room, board, and fees), to Vanderbilt, whose tuition (room, board, and fees) is over $92,000. The university where I work is around $40,000 a year. Even state schools like the University of Alabama at $31,080 (in-state) and $51,424 (out-of-state) are more expensive today than the private universities were back when I was attending college. My alma mater is now $24,992 a year, while it ranged from $2,300 to $2,900 in the four years I was there. We won’t even discuss the higher tuition of graduate schools. Under a second term of Trump, you can expect these prices to go higher and for student debt to expand exponentially.
Immigration will also become harder than ever for people coming to the United States if Trump is reelected. He pretends to object only to undocumented immigration, but he has cut legal immigration in half. The most talented scientists and computer engineers of the next generation are choosing Canada, Australia, China — anywhere but Donald Trump’s America. In Trump’s vision, America is one in which groups are pitted against each other not encouraged to cooperate. States and cities with Democratic-leaning populations are enemy territory. He is contemptuous of any movement for equal justice and friendly to white supremacists. He has named 56 men and women to the nation’s highest courts—the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts. Not a single one is Black.
In Trump’s America, science and truth are treated with contempt. With his incompetent response, the novel coronavirus has claimed more lives here than in any other country, and the pandemic and its accompanying recession could drag on long into a second Trump term. The contempt for science and intellectual pursuits likewise shapes Trump’s utter failure to respond to climate change. The Earth is ailing; the damage from four more years of regression could be irreparable. Trump has proven himself, in the COVID-19 catastrophe, incapable of leading in a crisis. What if the next virus is far more deadly which health experts say is entirely possible? What if the next emergency involves a risk of nuclear war given Trump’s failure to rein in the nuclear programs of Iran or North Korea? Can anyone trust him to manage such a challenge atop an administration from which he has hounded almost all knowledgeable and experienced officials?
Most important to many of us, the Trump administration has been anything but LGBTQ+-friendly. Vice President Mike Pence has a long record of anti-LGBTQ+ lawmaking and rhetoric. LGBTQ+ advocates have already called the Republican Party platform — a holdover from 2016, as the GOP did not write one for 2020 — one of the most anti-LGBTQ+ in the party’s history. A second Trump term could further turn the clock back for LGBTQ+ people. Trans people have been a target of the Trump administration from the beginning. In its first year, the administration rolled back an Obama-era memo directing schools to protect trans students from discrimination, and Trump banned trans people from serving in the military. This summer, the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a rule that would allow homeless shelters receiving federal funding to house trans people according to their birth-assigned sex. All LGBTQ+ people have also been under attack. Though marriage equality is the law of the land, the White House has taken steps to limit or undo gay rights in several key policy areas such as lobbying to give religious adoption agencies the right to refuse same-sex couples. Most critical, perhaps, was the administration’s attack on the Affordable Care Act’s LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections in a rule released on June 12th. Though it has been put on hold due to a federal court stay, the rule would allow doctors and insurance companies to refuse care to LGBTQ+ people.
Meanwhile, Trump has nominated three conservative Supreme Court justices during his presidency. Still, in a surprising turn of events, a recent major LGBTQ+ victory threw the administration for a loop: The Supreme Court decided in June that LGBTQ+ people are protected on the basis of sex under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The decision in Bostock v. Clayton County means queer and trans people cannot be fired for being LGBTQ+, and the ruling could end up as precedent for expanding rights into other issue areas such as education and health care. Still, this likely will not stop Trump from trying to chip away at the legal protections LGBTQ+ people currently have. It would be similar to the approach taken by religious conservatives with regard to Roe v. Wade — passing anti-abortion legislation at the state level in the hope that related cases work their way back to the Supreme Court especially now that Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed. According to activists, Trump and his cronies will likely try to attack across three different fronts in their efforts to chip away at LGBTQ+ rights: by continuing to reshape the courts, by attacking health care access, and by continuing to limit immigration and asylum to LGBTQ+ people fleeing violence in other countries. A second Trump term would mean more anti-LGBTQ+ federal judges appointed, another Supreme Court justice (maybe even two), and an escalation in the legal arguments against trans rights. As of July, 194 of the 792 active federal judges were appointed by Trump, a quarter of the federal judiciary. Many of them were either previously anti-LGBTQ+ activists or have openly expressed anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments.
The choice is obvious. Former vice president Joe Biden is well-suited to be president. An undecided voter can disagree with some of the policies he supports — that’s fine. Undecided voters should weigh their concerns about the unknowns of a Biden presidency against the inevitable dangers of a second Trump term. On the one hand, a tax, a minimum wage, an energy policy you might not like; on the other, the demise of U.S. democracy, prosperity, and global leadership. It shouldn’t be a difficult call. 


naturgesetz said...

You're right about Donald Trump. I may agree with a few of the things he has done, but he is intellectually and psychologically unfit to hold office and is the biggest threat America has faced apart crom the Civil War. (I'd say even WWII was less of a threat to our survival as a constitutional republic because going in we were strong enough to defeat the Axis powers.)

If the Democrats didn't see abortion on demand up to and beyond the moment of birth as the Holy Grail, the most important of their non-negotiables, nobody could even imagine a scenario in which Trump wins. Millions of voters are voting for him for no other reason than abortion. They know as well as we do that he's unfit, but they consider human life even more sacred than democracy.

JiEL said...

The way conservatives look to «human life» is somewhat very picky when they can allowed police to kill black men or women or badly emprison latin people who are seeking for asylum etc..
And even worse, supporting the NRA and the «old school» second amendement.

For abortion, in Canada there are many rules to be attentive to to be able to have one.
The way trumpists are saying that it would kill almost born babies is rediculous and without any scientific backing.

I read your part on university fees and hospitals and doctors etc...
Here, the different governments, federal and provincials are giving money at a rate of 72% for the tuitions and students only pay 17% of the fees. In average, one year of unviversity can cost between $3 000 to $5 000 depend in which university you get in to.
There are no private universities up here in Canada.

For our universal health care system, many envy our system. It's not perfect but at least you don't have to show your credit card or be banckrupcy to have a surgery or get in an hospital etc..

USA are facing huge momentum and stearing this big capitalist boat toward more a social democracy of the 21st century is now almost a titanesque job.
Biden is the first step to make America back to his influencial position in the world and to assure to ALL Americans a safe country to live in.

With DJT, USA have lost so many of its leaderships that for us and its allies, we are hoping and waiting to see USA great again which wasn't the case in this conservative-regressive administration.

HOPE for a good outcome of this crucial election for the best of all, Americans and the free democratic world.

Joe said...

Naturgesetz, the problem with the abortion argument is that Biden has put forth a plan to help reduce the number of abortions in the United States. I agree that many Trump supporters care more about abortion than anything (I have heard that argument until I am sick of it). Still, if they get their way and abortions become illegal in the United States, we will go back to back-alley abortions with often don't just lead to the death of the unborn baby, but the mother as well. Wealthy women will still be able to get abortions as they will travel to countries where it is legal. However, the women who aren't able or willing to get an illegal back-alley abortion will be forced to raise a child they cannot afford, and they have then doomed that child to a life of miserable poverty. No, I disagree with abortions, but I am not going to turn my back on everything else I believe for the sake of banning abortions when as a man, I have not right to tell a woman what she has to do with her body. Furthermore, these so-called "pro-life" people don't seem to care about the hundreds of thousands dying of COVID-19, and the vast majority of them sure aren't calling for the end of the death penalty. They don't want to fix the issues that are the problems that cause people to have abortions. We need to address the problem, not cause more devastating problems. If someone claims to be pro-life, they damn well better be pro-"all life." Of all the things I find the most despicable in human beings, it is hypocrisy. Growing up, my daddy often said, "Do as I say and not as I do." I hated it then, and I hate it now.

naturgesetz said...

Joe, I wasn't suggesting that Biden or the Democrats have to become 100% anti-abortion. I'm only saying that they would do well to show a tiny bit of willingness to compromise. When they go beyond Roe v. Wade by insisting on allowing third trimester abortions and when they advance legislation as in New York and Virginia to allow babies who survive attempted abortions to be left to die of neglect, IMO they have become needlessly extremist.

And you should be aware that there are plenty of people in my church, from Pope Francis on down, who oppose capital punishment and favor caring for the poor — who believe in what the late Cardinal Bernardin called "the seamless garment of life.

Anyway, there is a moral issue, and there is a political one. The Democrats' political intransigence, more extreme than ever, is costing them votes, which they could win if they would moderate their position — maybe accept limits on third trimester abortions. It wouldn't satisfy everybody, but it would satisfy some folks.

And the "hypocrisy" argument is weak because a.) it doesn't address the argument of the pro-lifers, b.) it doesn't apply to all pro-lifers, and c.) being born is necessary for even having a chance at a decent life — "miserable poverty" can only be alleviated for those who are born and it is not irremediable.

You, as a human being, have a right to tell people (even women and doctors) not to kill other human beings.