election aftermath

I have been giving myself some processing time before writing about the outcome of the US presidential election. I also delayed writing because I have been busy with family/household issues, but I am awake at an obscure hour so I may as well start in on this post.

I had written before about by afraid of Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign; I also had written about being a supporter of Bernie Sanders, whose policy ideas most resemble mine, who went on to support Hillary Clinton when she won the nomination and supported most of those policies.

I had also expressed hopes that the country would come together after the election.

Things don’t seem to be going that way.

I admit to be being puzzled by Speaker Ryan thinking the Republicans have a mandate to privatize Social Security, block grant funding to the states, cut business taxes, and other long-time Republican establishment goals when a) Trump campaigned against the Republican establishment b) Trump lost the popular vote c) the Republicans lost seats in both houses of Congress d) 47% of registered voters didn’t vote in the election and e) he thinks that somehow President Obama, who did win a majority of the votes in his two elections did not have a mandate.

I had hoped that Trump would gather a team around him who had experience and background in various aspects of government which, as a businessperson who has never held elective office, he lacks, but, so far, many of his picks have been problematic, especially in regards to preserving civil liberties.

I am still afraid.

I am most afraid for the American people.

I’m afraid for those who believed Trump’s promises to bring back their jobs in manufacturing, mining, and the oil and gas industries. A president does not have the power to do this because these businesses are part of global markets. The price of oil is influenced by supply and demand worldwide. Appalachian coal can’t compete with Wyoming coal because it has different properties. Most manufacturing is highly robotized and doesn’t employ as many workers as assembly lines used to.

I grew up in an area that lost a lot of jobs and population when mills closed down and have lived for the past 34 years in an area that lost a lot of population and jobs in tech and manufacturing. I know what it is like to have the younger generation need to move out of the area to find work and to find different kinds of work than their parents and grandparents had. I’m sorry, but no president can restore towns and cities to what they were ten or twenty or thirty or forty years ago. Our country was built on change and ingenuity. We have to adapt to present realities and educate and innovate and create new opportunities for the future. I’m afraid for those people who have been left behind and afraid that they are going to be disappointed again.

I’m afraid for all those who belong to groups that have been blamed, vilified, or characterized as suspect during the campaign by someone or other. Muslims, Jews, Christians. Latinos. Immigrants. Syrian refugees. LGBTQ folks. Women. Black voters. Those who are in the lower socioeconomic strata. Reporters. The less educated. Experts. (I admit that I have a lot of trouble understanding how people can vilify those who have devoted years of education, research, and experience to become experts in their fields, yet this happened frequently during the campaign. Not that I understand other parts of the blame game any better.)

I’m afraid for anyone who has ever suffered bullying or abuse and who has experienced renewed pain due to words and behavior brought out in the campaign.

I’m afraid for the US-born children and spouses of undocumented people who fear the deportation of their loved ones, and even their own deportation if the administration tries to overturn birthright citizenship.

I’m afraid for those in the military who might be deployed in unwise ways.

I’m afraid for public health if the ACA is repealed rather than being amended.

I’m afraid for public health and the environment if industry is allowed to increase pollutants and if greenhouse gas emissions go up. Many areas of the country and the world are already being impacted by climate change and the US cannot afford to pull back from our participation in international agreements. I think that most states and companies will continue to pursue greenhouse gas decreases and renewable energy increases no matter what the federal government says, but it would be much better to have the federal government leading the way instead of fighting it.

The last time I was afraid about the qualifications of the incoming president and administration was the election of George W. Bush, another candidate who was elected despite having lost the popular vote. I thought at the time “How bad could it be?” and it wound up being ten times worse than I had feared.

I am much more apprehensive about the upcoming Trump presidency. Given his volatility and lack of experience, I am very, very afraid of what may happen over the next four years.

I’m not alone.

Sit-in and recess

Some of my friends outside the US may be wondering what happened with the sit-in by the Democratic members of the House of Representatives, trying to force a vote on gun control legislation.

The sit-in continued for 24 hours. Overnight, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the Republicans appeared on three separate occasions to call the House into session and hold votes on unrelated issues. The Democrats voted but still held the floor.

At the end of the third occasion, Speaker Ryan gaveled the House into recess for the Independence Day observance, which was not supposed to begin for another week.

The Democrats who were sitting in and their supporters, who followed the sit-in through social media because Congress’s cameras only run during session, some of whom gathered outside the Capitol building in support, had been asking that there be no recess until a vote on gun issues was held.

Instead, the Republicans chose to leave town early.

The Democrats vow that when the recess is over, they will renew their efforts to bring gun legislation to a vote. It’s possible another sit-in will be involved.

If the Senate votes for a bipartisan bill that grew out of Senator Murphy’s action there last week, there will be additional pressure on the House to vote, too.

Regardless of the next steps, the sit-in itself was a powerful stand on principle. The leadership of Rep. John Lewis, one of the few remaining national activists from the civil rights battles of the 1960’s, was inspiring, as was the witness of Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, who approached Rep. Lewis about taking action on this issue.

There were many powerful speeches from House members. Some spoke of shooting victims from their states or districts. Some related much more personal stories. Rep. Marcia Fudge spoke of losing her only brother to gun violence. Rep. Debbie Dingell spoke of enduring an abusive childhood, which involved being threatened with a gun. Part of her speech appears in the middle of this video, which itself summarizes the sit-in.

One particularly evocative moment was when the Democrats sang “We Shall Overcome” – familiar as an anthem of the civil rights era – while holding up signs bearing the names of victims of gun violence.

The representative from my district is a Republican who is retiring at the end of his term. When the recess is over, I would like him to speak on the floor of the House about the victims of the American Civic Association shooting, which occurred in his district, and to vote for the common sense gun laws that the vast majority of American voters support.

Perhaps the fact that he does not have to face re-election will give him the courage to work in a bipartisan way to pass legislation that our country desperately needs for our safety and security.

We can hope.