I know you are going through some hard times right now. You do not like Trump any more than I do. He has stolen your party. He has forced you out. The ideals of a smaller, smarter federal government, personal responsibility, fair play in a robust private sector, responsible foreign policies, and balanced budgets—these Republican ideals are gone, vanished. Having a vulgar, self-dealing narcissist in the White House is not any more your cup of tea than it is mine. Your response has been to call yourself an Independent. Some of you may still call yourselves Republicans but are really RINOs (“Republicans In Name Only”), having had your fill of Donald Trump.
But you have a problem. Whom are you going to vote for in 2020? It won’t be Trump, that is for sure. But which Democrat can you vote for? What if the Democrats do not nominate a center-left candidate? What if it is Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren? Several of you have told me that you will sit this one out.
And that becomes a real problem, not only for us Democrats but for the country. It is a problem because if the Independents, moderates and former Republicans do sit this one out, Trump will be in for four more years. We need you because we do not have four more years to waste.
Now it is possible that Trump may not survive the Whistleblower incident. He would appear to be in a meltdown mode right now, but we can’t count on his self-destruction. While the House probably will impeach him, the Senate most likely will not convict unless matters get really, really worse. The only certain way to get rid of Trump is to vote him out in 2020. We need your help to do this.
So hear me out on why you should not rule out a progressive, Democratic candidate.
There are two issues that I have heard you complain about with regard to your voting for a progressive Democrat. The first is personality. Some of you have told me that you held your nose and voted for Hillary but would not do it again for, say, Elizabeth Warren. She is just “too shrill,” too much like Hillary, and too far left-wing. And you think Bernie is a socialist nutcase, with Trump-like, authoritarian tendencies. There may be personality issues with other candidates as well. My response is that compared to who we have in the White House right now, any human who can fog a mirror is an improvement. I am asking you to put aside personality when you walk into the voting booth. I am asking you to think about policy and the future of the planet Earth.
The number one issue of our time—perhaps of all time—is climate change. Trump and too many, elected Republican officials deny that climate change is happening or if it is, that human activity has anything to do with it. We have pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement and are pursuing an all-in carbon policy, and that will continue if Trump gets reelected. Need there be any other reason not to sit this one out?
There are, of course, lots of other reasons. Our foreign policy is a mess. Trump’s heroes are dictators. He has alienated our allies and befriended our adversaries. Trump has exploited the divisions in our country and made them worse. He is a racist. His immigration policies and actions are cruel. He is trying to shred the social safety net, and his policies benefit the rich rather than the poor and middle class. He is a habitual liar. The list is long.
While you would never call yourself a progressive or a liberal, I believe that in your heart you agree in principle with many of the progressive policy goals: universal health care coverage (but not Medicare for all), a fair and reasonable immigration policy, fair and reasonable trade policies, stronger gun control policies, more affordable, public higher education, and preserving a social safety net. You may disagree on the methods but not so much on the goals; and overall, I believe many of the progressive positions should not be deal killers—though I recognize that the devil is in the details.
The major disagreement it seems to me has to do with how we pay for all the “good things” the progressives want to do. The progressive, left wing of the Democratic Party sees the rich paying for the new initiatives and proposes higher taxes on the wealthy. Some of you see higher taxes as a non-starter and a brake on a robust economy. However, following the last tax reform, the situation now is way out of balance. I call your attention to David Leonhardt’s op ed piece in the October 6 New York Times (“The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You”), which shows that the super-rich now pay a lower share of their income than the average American taxpayer. For bleeding hearts like me, this is an absolute no-brainer. Of course the wealthy should pay more! Though hardly super-rich, yes, I would agree to pay more taxes to further a progressive agenda. I realize that for a whole bunch of reasons this may be a stumbling block for you. I am asking that you put this one aside for now. I realize there are probably a bunch of other issues as well that you disagree with, not so much as to the goal but the methods– like a guaranteed living wage, legislation encouraging stronger labor unions, and more government “over regulation.” No president is going to be able to achieve everything or even most of his or her policy goals anyway, so you need not panic. Chill out for now. The stakes are just too high.
And there is one other reason, and this may be just as important as the climate change reason. Donald Trump has debased the presidency and has put at risk the role of the United States as the leader and guiding light for democracy on the planet Earth. If our democracy goes down the tubes, what is going to happen to the other countries in the world? Just as the climate change issue is showing us how fragile our planet is, the presidency of the most corrupt administration in American history is showing us how fragile our governance is. Trump has convinced about forty percent of the American electorate that our press writes fake news, that facts are what you want them to be, that he is infallible, and that whatever it takes to get elected is fair game. If he can get away with his reckless and, frankly, unamerican actions, our democracy, our country and indeed our planet are in deep trouble.
Now there is one message that I have heard from you that resonates with a lot of people and that is that you are sick and tired of the divisions in our country and the us versus them attitude with not much room in the middle. You believe our country needs more than anything a leader who can pull us together rather than divide us. The very heart of Trump’s strategy, of course, is to divide us and play to his “base.” I agree with you on the need to come together and will be hoping that a Democratic candidate will emerge that has the ability to do this without sacrificing the principles of more fairness and less income (and class) disparity. That said, the voting process does not mean selecting the best person for the job but rather the best choice among those who are running for office. Think “any normal, functioning adult.”
So, my moderate and independent friends, suck it up. Keep your eye on the ball. Hold your nose if you have to, but for God’s sake, do not sit this one out. Vote for the Democrat opponent even if that person turns out to be Elizabeth Warren or (God forbid) Bernie Sanders. The world our grandchildren will inherit depends on it.