Vote – For the Sake of Your Children

Today, I had an interesting conversation with a 30-something young man I’ll call Jim, who told me that he does not vote.  This young man has volunteered for the armed forces, but does not think he has any need to participate in the democracy for which he was willing to sacrifice his life in the Middle East, and I still don’t really understand his lack of interest in voting.  He has a young daughter who will have to survive in the world after we’re all gone, so why does he not feel the need to cast a ballot? 

The fact that he (like me), lives in New Jersey, where the only likely outcome in November will be for Joe Biden, doesn’t excuse his lack of participation.  He told me he’d been a Bernie supporter in the 2016 primary against Hillary, and has come to the conclusion that no matter who we cast our votes for, the system is rigged, sounding more like Trump than Bernie.  It sounds to me as though Bernie may need to step up to a microphone to try to put this conspiracy theory to bed and disabuse his followers of their cynicism about voting. 

This is not my first conversation with Jim about voting.  Previously, we discussed the Democratic primary, and I encouraged him to vote with his heart for the candidate he most wanted to see as the candidate, but that, in the general, we all need to vote for the winner of the primary to get rid of Trump.  Even then, before Biden became the presumptive nominee, he wasn’t willing to agree to do that.  Now, it seems, his decision has become refusing to exercise his franchise at all, including at the local level, where things that matter to us happen, too.

I’m not sure what I need to say to Jim to help him to understand that his refusal to vote ensures that his voice is not heard at any of the levels of government that influence his life on a daily basis.  Sure, one vote out of millions may not matter much at the national level, but he isn’t the only one with this attitude in his cohort group.  His cousin, my daughter’s partner, hasn’t even registered to vote since returning to the state in 2018 (although I did print a registration form for him last week).  He too was in the army in Afghanistan; he too joined after 9/11.  I’ve tried to talk to him about politics but had to stop when he kept insisting that things wouldn’t have turned out any better if Hillary had beaten Trump in 2016.  I don’t want to alienate him by arguing when I’m unlikely to succeed in changing his viewpoint.  

I’m saddened by both these young men’s lack of interest in participating in the democracy that both of them fought for.  I know that both of my adult children learned from me that voting is something we as citizens should view as our duty, and they both accompanied me to the voting booth when they were young.  I’ve always felt that voting should be mandatory, not optional, although in order to do that it must be easier for everyone to do, whether by making the time available to vote longer than one weekday or by using universal mail ballots, and it’s interesting that now, during Covid-19, mail-in ballots are the one way we have of keeping everyone safe from the virus while allowing votes to be cast. 

I know that my kids vote, especially for the president, although my son Chris doesn’t necessarily vote the same way I do.  In 2016, he cast his presidential ballot for Jill Stein because he too thought Bernie had been treated unfairly by the Dems; as a resident of Pennsylvania, his third-party vote was essentially a vote for Trump, and we have had several heated discussions about it in the interim.  I hope he sees his way clear to voting for Biden in November, since doing anything else is, per Bernie, “irresponsible.”

I have cast a ballot in almost every election since I voted for Jimmy Carter for president in 1976.  Some of my votes have gone to the winner, while others have not, but I haven’t let that keep me from voting during subsequent elections.  When the younger members of society abdicate their responsibility and leave voting to those in my age range, they end up with representatives who in fact do not necessarily represent them in government.  Climate change is happening at an alarming rate, economic inequality is worsening, and things can only improve if everyone is fighting on the same side.  Having a swath of the population choose to stand by and do nothing is unacceptable. So please – REGISTER AND VOTE.  It’s your responsibility as both a citizen and a parent.  Your kid deserves better.

Did You Sign Up For This?

Today’sMilitary.com

I am not a ‘warrior’ in Trump’s battle against the poorly-paid, people of color, immigrants, meat packers, nursing home residents, prisoners, the detained, the disabled, and the elderly.  Trump is no warrior either.  He is a whiney little bitch (as Bill Maher says), incapable of doing his job to protect the American people, and the submission of the Republicans as Trump goes further and further out on a limb in an effort to save his reelection has left me at a loss for words to effectively express my outrage.

Republicans remain silent while William Barr’s lackey in the ‘Justice’ Department tries to get Michael Flynn’s case dismissed, despite repeated statements under oath that he was freely pleading guilty.  The years of work by previous Attorneys General to repair the damage done to the Justice Department during the Nixon administration have been tossed out by Barr’s repeated kowtowing to Trump. 

Barr’s politicization of the Justice Department is just the beginning of the destruction.  What is making it so much worse are the continued lifetime appointments of unqualified, right-wing dingbats to federal and appeals courts by Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans.  McConnell forced the Senate back to Capitol Hill this week, not to work on another relief package to address the current pandemic and economic crisis, but to nominate an unqualified federal judge put on the bench just two months ago for an appeals court position that won’t even be available until September.   But try to get the Senate to help the American people and that’s another matter entirely.

Lindsey Graham said that he and Tom Scott would extend the $600 per week unemployment benefit beyond July “over our dead bodies.”  As more and more Republicans reveal who they really are to the voters who put them in office, their constituents are being sickened and killed by a pandemic that at least some Republicans knew was coming while millions have lost their jobs.  Despite this knowledge, they did absolutely nothing to prepare for the inevitable or to let the public know the truth.  Now, while the country is suffering through the worst pandemic in modern history along with an associated financial crisis that may be greater than the Depression, the Republicans in the House refuse to consider moving the body into the 21st century because of “200 years of precedent”.  If Parliament can learn to vote remotely, why can’t the Republicans in the House?  Because they don’t want to legislate, they want to obfuscate and obstruct, not because that helps the American people in this time of such overwhelming misery and need, but because remaining in power is all they care about. 

Why do Republicans believe that their refusal to do their jobs for the people is beneficial to them in their reelection campaigns?  The Fox/right-wing media bubble’s propaganda and lies enrages the viewers and distracts them with extraneous bullshit.  I have several people in my life who appear to be getting their information from right-wing sources, and I still can’t figure out how to snap them out of the trance.  Those who complain about “big government” and profess “fiscal conservatism” don’t seem too bothered by all these Republican representatives getting paid taxpayer money while refusing to do their jobs, yet they worry about people on welfare because they’re ‘lazy’ and getting ‘free money’.

For those who have never had the pleasure of applying for public assistance, let me enlighten you.  I know what a pleasure it is to be on “the dole”, and I can tell you for sure that there is nothing about it that anyone with another choice would pick as a means of support.  I was forced by circumstances to apply for assistance in the early 90’s, and there was nothing about the experience that I would choose to repeat without dire circumstances forcing my hand.

I was approved for all the assistance – Medicaid, cash welfare and food stamps – ‘awarded’ around $450 in cash and $265 in food stamps to support myself and my two kids for a month.  Even in ’91, $265 wasn’t even close to enough to buy food for three, and $450 per month didn’t cover my monthly expenses (electric, gas, car insurance, homeowners’ insurance, real estate taxes, cable), and having a paid-for home wasn’t the benefit you might think it was.  Fact – food stamps/SNAP doesn’t pay for toilet paper, laundry detergent or other cleaning products, soap, feminine hygiene products, or really any other non-food necessities.

Housing subsidies are only available for renters – for reasons I don’t understand, people who have a home they own outright who have hit a rough spot and need assistance aren’t able to do anything to offset things like real estate taxes.  If I’d had to pay a mortgage payment on top of the taxes, I never could have stayed here, but even without the loan I was still not getting enough to keep my bills paid.  The common but mistaken impression that people who are on welfare and food stamps/SNAP are somehow living their best lives is ridiculous.

Did I buy lobster tail using that first book of food stamps?  I did – since I was given two or three months’ worth of benefits all at once (it took that long to process the application) and couldn’t retroactively pay for the food we’d already eaten during that time, why not?  I didn’t do it again, because I couldn’t justify using so much of my benefit for such a costly item, but of course the other customers in the store when I bought that lobster tail had no way of knowing it was a once and done event.

My point is this – Republicans have chipped away at benefits meant to keep us out of poverty when times are rough, and now, when so many are in such need, hearing people like Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell flat-out refusing to use our own tax dollars to keep us going is beyond cruel.  They all seem to forget that the money they’re refusing to spend to keep the American people out of despair is our money, not theirs.  We all pay taxes willingly with the expectation that we can depend on the government to be there for us when we need the help.  Republicans who so gleefully voted to give tax cuts to their donors and big business have no shits left to give for the rest of us.

The crickets are singing while Republicans watch minorities die in disproportionate numbers from Covid-19 and the CDC and experts are silenced by Trump.  Why would anyone refuse to publish the CDC recommendations for reopening businesses safely except that they prove that Trump continues to press governors to put their own residents at risk?  The Republicans continued silence while the Trump administration limits, silences, reverses and de-legitimizes its own agencies and professionals in sole pursuit of a reelection victory is proof that, as a party, they are no longer capable of governing anyone, anywhere.  Period.

Trumpism isn’t separate from the Republican Party.  It is the inevitable outcome since the party decided that Newt Gingrich, the Tea Party, and the Freedom Caucus were the way to go.  Instead of changing their platform to attract new voters, they have spent years working towards disenfranchising Democrats, or those they believe will vote for Democrats, via gerrymandering, voter ID laws, and now, refusing to push for all eligible voters to obtain mail-in ballots.  They have stood in the way of anything that will make it easier for everyone to vote, although there is no proof that making voting more accessible benefits one party over the other. 

We welcome all Republicans who have seen the light and want to vote with us.  For those who still support Trump and the Republican Party, know that you are truly putting your lives on the line by following this cult.  Since only 45% of Republicans think wearing a face mask in public is a good idea, and the party base is old, it is likely that more of them will be adversely affected by Covid-19 and may not survive the disease.  Their media bubble continues to spew lies that are detrimental to their health and well-being, and I am finding it more and more difficult to feel empathy or sympathy for those viewers while the people they’ve put in office do nothing to help.