Posts Tagged ‘Midterm elections’

WHAT NOW?

The midterms are done. President Trump hailed a great victory (see Orwell, George, 1984). Republicans did expand their majority in the Senate, but Democrats took control of the House. What now?

I’ll begin by stating there’s no better time for Americans—religious or not—to heed Leviticus 19:18: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Espousing differences is legitimate, and recognition of this principle represents the essence of civility.

Alas, during the midterm campaigns, some on the left rejected the concept of civility. They viewed the other side, aka the far right or any conservatives, as inherently bad. Civil discourse cannot be permitted. Compromises cannot be reached.

Sadly, the nature of civility is misunderstood. Those who espouse it—centrists left and right—accept disagreement on policies and will work with their opponents to fashion win-win solutions, understanding that no one gets everything they want.

At the same time, civility’s proponents need not—shouldnot—accept the hateful rhetoric of demagogues and racists, including such statements as, “There were fine people on both sides” of the white-supremacist, anti-Semitic rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

What now? The House’s new Democratic majority, perhaps led by former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has the opportunity to stand up for its ideals, propose legislation to transform those ideals into a reality—infrastructure for starters—and undertake governmental oversight consistent with the House’s obligations. All while reaching across the aisle.

Or, the Democrats’ left flank can inform their centrist party colleagues and Republicans that they refuse to support any legislation President Trump proposes. Period. Oh, and propose steps towards impeachment. More gridlock?

Trump and GOP members of Congress may launch their own gridlock initiative by blocking any and all Democratic proposals. Period. At least they’ll be consistent. The White House may also seek to impede the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. On Wednesday, Trump asked for—and received—the resignation of Attorney General Jeff , whose recusal from overseeing the investigation angered Trump no end.

Trump filled the post of acting AG with Matthew Whitaker, who has publicly cast doubts on the Robert Mueller-led investigation. By the way, earlier this morning Trump said he doesn’t know Whitaker—just his reputation. Then again, Trump once denied knowing who former KKK grand dragon David Duke was. A true innocent!

The Whitaker appointment stirred a hornet’s nest. Some legal scholars believe that a constitutional crisis exists: the president cannot appoint an acting head of a cabinet-level department without consent of the Senate. And while Mueller may be overseeing the writing of the final report, will Whitaker attempt to withdraw funding for its completion. Or, if too late, will he withhold it from Congress? If he’s still around? Democratic pushback is a certainty.

And bank on this: A Democratic committee chair willsubpoena Trump’s tax returns. Trump will refuse. The matter will end up in the Supreme Court. Things will get uglier.

If we actually believed in our national motto E pluribus unum—Out of many, one—we’d find ways to accommodate each other. But centrists may represent only a minority of Americans. And Trump will do everything possible to divide rather than unite a nation inexorably headed towards a majority of minorities—many whites’ greatest fear.

What now? I can only propose that civility beats civil war.

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ONE DONALD IS ENOUGH

The retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy aside, the nation remains focused on Central American children separated by the federal government from parents who have crossed our borders illegally, claiming refugee status. Democrats anticipate leveraging this issue during this fall’s midterm Congressional election campaign. But some have forgotten their goal: to beatDonald Trump, not beDonald Trump.

Congress has yet to address immigration law and policy in a coherent and comprehensive manner. Its occasional attempts at problem-solving resemble Band-Aids affixed to holes in the hull of the Titanic. Yet some Democrats seem to copy the behavior attributed to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat: he never lost an opportunity to lose an opportunity.

Last weekend, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, was booted from the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. Owner Stephanie Wilkinson related that her wait staff felt uncomfortable serving Sanders’ party. I assume her staff leans Democratic. Certainly, it’s anti-Trump. But expressing differences of political opinion in this way does a disservice to our political process. And to Democratic candidates. Ms. Sanders picked up on this.

Addressing White House reporters, Ms. Sanders explained in level-headed, straightforward, un-Trump-like terms that harassment of people who work for any administration does not represent the American way. I agree—the first time I’ve ever agreed with anything she’s said.

President Trump, not surprisingly, took the opportunity to miss an opportunity. Statesmanship? Fugeddaboudit. His response included an observation that the Red Hen needs a paint job. This was the comment of an angry ten-year-old hurling insults in the schoolyard. Countering Ms. Sanders intelligent words, it offered another smidgen of hope for Democratic victories.

Still, at least one Democrat may have dimmed the party’s hopes by also responding like a ten-year-old.

Los Angeles congresswoman Maxine Waters, who works the far-left side of the aisle, went Trump. At a demonstration against current immigration policies, Ms. Waters told protestors, “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” [Italics mine.]

Ms. Waters sent a message to independents crucial to Democratic hopes that difference of political opinion enjoys no legitimacy in America.

In his 1998 book Civility, Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy, the Yale law professor Stephen Carter wrote of Leviticus 19:18, “The duty to love our neighbors is a precept of both the Christian and Jewish traditions, and the duty is not lessened because we happen to think our neighbor is wrong about a few things.” We can hold to our religious and politicalopinions while engaging in exchanges of ideas free from intimidation.

Absent such civility, Democrats will appeal to their base on the left but alienate centrists looking for reasonable answers to complex questions. Frustrated, they could cast their ballots for Republicans or, also damaging to the Democratic effort, sit the election out.

Further dragging down American public discourse as Trump has done serves no worthy purpose. Demagoguery and hatred tarnish the American Dream. They equate it with Macbeth’s poignant observation: “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.”

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