UP OR DOWN, YES OR NO
CAN AMERICA BEGIN TO FIND ITS WAY?
Here comes the cavalry, maybe. A US House of Representatives controlled by the Democratic Party is empowered to start the ball rolling on addressing America’s real needs and to change the dynamic of a government now in full retreat from meeting its obligations to its citizenry. But will the Democratic majority actually try to do so? I have my doubts.
Focus will be of paramount importance, because there is so much to do. While the Mueller probe continues, congressional investigations get underway, and the media panders to unnamed sources and paid sycophants to fuel its daily overdose of withering speculation, let’s get going on some real legislative work.
How about introducing a bill that provides for single payer universal access to meaningful healthcare.** Then, let’s watch every Republican vote against it and obstruct at every turn, while spending their legislative time crafting a 2000 mile border wall that will never get built in order to satisfy the ego of the idiot-in-chief. Given the choice between healthcare and a border wall, I am betting that most voters would go with healthcare, but we will never find out until Democrats put a meaningful legislative proposal to a congressional vote.
Next up, maybe a group of young Democrats could work hand-in-hand with some of their young constituents to put a ban on assault weapons on the table where it should have been long ago, so that each and every representative will have to vote with the young people they represent or with the gun merchants dealing daily death to those young people and their friends. No need for talk on this one. Up or down, yes or no.
With these two bold steps, the word will begin to spread that the Democratic Party actually stands for something. If you don’t like what they stand for, vote Republican. But if access to meaningful healthcare for you and your family and safer schools for your kids and grand-kids matter to you, pay attention, get involved, and insist that your Democratic Party representatives get this done.
If the Democrats in the House of Representatives can just put universal healthcare and an assault weapons ban on the floor for an up or down vote, the first steps toward a meaningful legislative agenda would have been taken. No longer would procedural impediments provide cover from legislative accountability. Up or down, yes or no. Make each representative choose on these two fundamental issues. Imagine the surprise and celebration if a majority chooses us over the health insurance industry and big pharma and us over the gun merchants. For the ones who don’t, the rest of us will know who they are.
But don’t stop there. Keep the pressure on. How about a comprehensive and humane immigration reform bill that provides for immigration eligibility criteria that values immigration as a source of national strength, while providing for a safe and orderly entry process for immigrants who meet that eligibility criteria. Any humane reform has to provide a permanent path to citizenship to those already here and a welcoming escape for those seeking asylum. The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives can do this. Up or down, yes or no.
And just think how many of those striving in America to make ends meet would welcome a $15 per hour minimum wage, a living wage. Put it to a vote, so every underpaid worker will know who cares and who does not. Up or down, yes or no.
It would also be nice to see the Democratic representatives in the House open an informed legislative discussion about climate change, an enlightened national agenda to address it, and a regulatory framework for ensuring compliance with existing standards while new ones are debated and adopted.
Some of the younger Democratic representatives might also find the time to apply their social media savvy to confronting the privacy implications of the business model that drives Facebook and its invasive progeny. A forward-thinking regulatory framework is essential in this sphere as well, but it cannot be developed by legislators still tied to their flip phones.
This is a lot to put on the shoulders of the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. But it is not too much to ask. The nation can no longer tolerate a cabal of old white men in the Republican Party and their enablers who thwart every legislative effort to develop innovative government policy and program initiatives that meet the needs of so many in America.
I am acutely aware that good and vital legislation will not become law in the next two years, but the Democratic majority in the House must show the nation what it looks like. It is enough for now, and a huge task in itself, to force each and every representative to cast a vote on some of the fundamental issues on which their political futures should rise or fall. Up or down, yes or no. No rock to hide under. There is a small possibility that even a few Republicans will be forced to make choices they should have made years ago.
In the months ahead, I expect that new investigative pressure and the accompanying media circus will further expose the depth of Trump’s criminal enterprise and the extent to which his venal incompetence has already undermined governance. Unfortunately, as this all unfolds, it will be way too easy to divert attention from the legislative task at hand.
However, those of us who care must keep our eye on the prize. It is a substantive prize, not a procedural one. Even if Trump and his merry band of acolytes all wind up in prison, not one single person who needs an operation they cannot afford will get one. Not one single child will be spared the rain of bullets at the next school attacked by a deranged kid with an assault weapon. And not one “dreamer” will be any closer to her dream.
The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives will only truly matter if it moves the nation closer to the kind of place where the sick are healed, kids are safe, and immigrants are welcomed. If you don’t want that kind of nation, I can’t help you. But I hope that the Democrats will renew the expectation that that kind of nation is possible.
If Trump goes to jail, I will celebrate the moment. If the nation gains its moral compass, I will finally be able to celebrate the nation.