Terry Lamphier: Turning ‘me’ to ‘US’
The election is over but not the battle for our nation’s soul. In one of the largest voter turnouts in U.S. history, millions of deeply divided voters fought to define a path forward for America. Democrats did not get a blue wave of support, and Republicans can’t continue the claim they are the silent majority.
We know nearly half of the electorate is fine with Trumpism and the Republican Party, comfortable with Trump’s record on gun rights, border walls, abortion, taxes and regulations — all playing well to Trump’s largely non-college educated rural voters.
The Republican Party had no campaign platform, preferring to defer to Trump’s “make it up as we go” populist leadership. There were no substantive ideas offered regarding racial and gender discrimination, gun violence, police accountability, rising threats from white militant groups, the existential threat of climate change or wealth inequity.
Democrats’ platform of race and gender equity, immigration reform, gun restrictions, abortion, reallocation of taxation — played well to urban areas with their college educated “elites” and many multiracial, multicultural voters but is too threatening to a rural America clinging to the perceived safety of a familiar past.
Independents voting for Biden may not have liked his platform but were likely seeking a return to some sort of traditional and stable government. The clincher for many was Trump’s failure to inspire trust and reassurance in his handling of the pandemic and the associated economic chaos.
National Democratic leadership’s positions on cultural and economic issues will never get the votes of rural conservatives nor their elected representatives. Democrats also lost a lot of ground by not condemning property destruction in recent riots, apparently afraid of losing votes of the peaceful — and righteous — majority of protesters.
Republicans did not help on this one by changing the narrative on largely peaceful demonstrations for police reforms into a polarizing “law and order” issue of fighting “Marxist” thugs and anarchist “terrorists.”
Polarization is further exacerbated by the true “deep state” of wealthy oligarchs and foreign agents who fund divisive disinformation propaganda, all to keep us fighting amongst ourselves in order to keep America weak and exploitable.
How much should we rely on our Constitution for guidance?
While it is dangerous to consider altering our Constitution, it is also dangerous to be bound to a 200-year-old mindset that fails to recognize subsequent physical and cultural changes.
Take the Electoral College, for example, originally intended to act as a check and balance on the power of high population urban states over low population rural ones, it now overrepresents low population areas and in recent years it has overturned majority votes, essentially making voting meaningless.
A truly representative democracy would not tolerate the winner-take-all politics manifest in an Electoral College system that does not use proportional representation.
How does the Constitution protect us from lifetime appointments of ideologues on the Supreme Court? If you don’t think they are ideologues, explain why the Republican Senate blocked a Democrat nominee and fast-tracked a Republican one.
If we are truly the republic, or representative democracy we profess to be, there has to be major compromises as we go forward. Our country is in serious trouble.
Our childlike behavior is paralyzing our ability to deal with ever rising and increasingly serious domestic and global threats. Lost in the world of self-entitled freedom (the “me”), we forget that our freedom comes with our collective responsibility of sacrifice (the “us”). We are all obligated to give as well as receive.
What could this look like?
We will need strong, responsible job creation to pay back the massive pandemic debt. Going forward, Biden should use political capital to sell conservative America on the economic wealth and environmental and health benefits created by a massive energy and infrastructure system overhaul.
Local examples? Nevada County’s biomass energy task force showed we can profitably break PG&E’s energy monopoly with a decentralized and more secure energy supply while reducing wildfire danger and creating good jobs. Undergrounding our electric and information grid would pay for itself with reduced expenses related to wildfire losses and increased employment.
To preserve our nation, Democrats and Republicans must consider major heretofore unpalatable compromises.
Give conservatives the wall while improving immigration procedures? Raise corporate taxes while expanding tax breaks for clean energy and infrastructure improvement? Back off on police defunding while strengthening police training and accountability? Give corporations tax incentives tied to diversifying corporate boards? Changing Electoral College votes from winner-take-all to proportional?
“Hope and Change” can “Make America Great Again.”
Terry Lamphier lives in Grass Valley.
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