Three Positives that the Democratish should follow up on.
- Nix the so-called “free trade” agreements.
- Push Single-Payer health care.
- Revise the voting system.
Later I’ll get to what everybody’s enjoying whining about. First the positives, if you can stand it.
NAFTA, GATT, CAFTA, TPAA & Their Kin
Trump has railed against these trade agreements, and vowed to renegotiate or end them.
First on the agenda is to ensure that he doesn’t renege on those campaign promises. But that’s just a start. They are agreements (as opposed to treaties) so that whoever is president can short-circuit the more onerous approval process that treaties are subject to. (See US Constitution). After inauguration, Trump can use the same expedited process to undo them as was used to pass them in the first place. (Thanks, Bill Clinton, for caving on NAFTA.) The task is too important to leave to whomever Trump selects to work on it. Organized public pressure should be brought to bear.
Over the last few decades, “free trade” has caused and exacerbated much of the deterioration of the US economy for most regular shlubs, and contributed mightily to the reconstruction of national economic demographics that resulted in more people at the tippy top, many fewer in the secure middling classes, and way more at the bottom. It never was only about labor unions.
Often unmentioned is that such agreements have also gutted structural protections and cultural safety nets for those outside of the US & think of Mexico for a nearby example. These agreements affect much more than jobs; elimination or drastic rewriting of them would speed the devolution of power from global and national elites to a more local, democratic, and diverse bunch of folks.
So, if any of you can spare a little time off from whining about election results, now is an excellent time to put together a realistic and detailed Exit Plan for extracting the US from such agreements. Please note that they are long, complex documents, so we need some detail people who can handle sentences longer than “Dump Trump.” It would be like Brexit, but for the benefit of hard-working Americans who believe it would be good to actually manufacture in the US most of the stuff we use here & like shoes, steel, accordions, mixing bowls, baseballs, wagons, blue jeans, Barbie dolls, and American flags.
“Free trade” is more about strangling democracy than about “freeing” trade, a point made through hundreds of examples in my book (Gaveling Down the Rabble: How “Free Trade” is Stealing Our Democracy). “Free trade” agreements erode democracy by denying a community the ability to pass laws that protect against harms.
Instead of standing around holding “Not my president” signs, we could offer a “free trade” agreement Exit Strategy, in glorious detail. And back it up with a mass movement of people agitating for something that Trump actively supported.
Single-Payer Health Care
This is the perfect moment to institute single payer health care.
Even before the Trump-it call, the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare) was tottering in a scary flux. Post-election, the prospect of a Congressional repeal or considerable rewrite of its central features, not to mention the nervous jockeying of insurance companies to protect their profits, compounded by states’ shifting attitudes about participating, leaves US health care policy hanging in the balance. How is it hanging? No one can say.
If this is not a perfect time to push for single payer–the only sensible, all-encompassing approach that can begin to address affordable health care for all–then when would that be? Single payer is so obviously the best system that both the Clintons in the nineties, and Obama a few years ago, specifically refused to even consider it when lobbyist-experts sat around the table dissecting health care options. As is pointed out ad nauseam, all other western industrialized democracies have some form of single payer. Serious health care advocates in the US have been hankering for it since the 1960s, if not before. How a nation handles health care affects its entire economic system.
Insistence that ACA aka Obamacare is really pretty good is untenable. It is plainly counterfactual for the numerous people whose health care options have worsened since the ACA took effect. People whose premiums have gone up a lot, who have lost their insurance coverage, who have had to change carriers once or several times, or generally who went from OK health insurance to hugely expensive insurance or none at all. It’s simply insulting for these people to hear Democratic health care “experts” describe what a success Obamacare has been.
Yet Democratic shills have insisted that Obamacare was a success, a benefit for all (except maybe a few, a very few, who fell through the cracks and whose problems will be fixed soon).
Obamacare was, and remains, a mixed bag whose overall effect—as I noted in my blogs on the Supreme Court’s decision on it—was to shift around the winners and losers somewhat, require much fine-print analysis and educated guesses as to one’s future needs, re-mix the strategies required to maybe find the best deal for each person or family, and, above all, continue to guarantee profits for insurance companies, pharmaceutical corporations, hospitals, and a panoply of related health care industry businesses, without offering any clear overall improvement in the nation’s health care.< It's time to get over the bogus legacy thing and get moving on single payer while Trump and the usual health care players wallow in disarray.
Revise the Voting System
After watching the slow-motion horror that was the 2016 presidential campaign, many people are more willing to consider doing things differently.
The electoral college should be eliminated and replaced by a majority or plurality of the popular vote. And, wouldn’t it be nice to have a runoff if nobody gets over 50%?
Ballot access issues such as voter ID (among many related issues) should be addressed, perhaps on a national basis for federal elections.
Also enticing are other options that states and localities have already experimented with. If people are as sick of the dominance of two similar and similarly corrupt major parties as they say, then steps can be taken to stop disadvantaging other parties’ candidates.
Since there are numerous options superior to the current system, I’m not going to be prescriptive here, but only mention possibilities. The NOTA (none-of-the-above) option is satisfying, and can be combined with a variety of “what next” possibilities. Ranked voting or instant-runoff voting is already used in some national elections around the world. A further possibility is requiring a certain percentage turnout in order for the election to be valid, an approach that also has precedents around the world.
I’m not going to enumerate a long list. My suggestion is that we begin seriously consider options instead of complaining every four years after another frustrating process around bad choices. If you are interested in broader overall reforms to election campaigns, see my Speaking Truth to Power, and commentary on Citizens United.
Action on the Three Possibilities
All three ideas are especially timely right now. All would require not only focus and organization, but…talking to Trump supporters. Voided “free trade” agreements, single payer health care, and a changed voting system would benefit them, too. (Well, 99.99% of them). It’s up to us to convince them of that. In order to achieve this, we’ll have to first stop screaming at them. Enough said.
Ruminating About the Rest of What’s Going On
The Worst of Times Competition. If you’re hyper-ventilating, self-medicating, deep meditating, or street demonstrating, put it on pause.
Is it bad? Yes. Have we seen bad before? Sure.
I suppose it’s possible that a Trump presidency could do as much horrendous damage domestically and internationally as “Tricky Dick” Nixon, “Bedtime for Bonzo” Reagan, former CIA director Bush 41, or “Decider” Bush 43. (I’m only leaving out the Democrats so I can focus on Trump.) But it’s a high bar, and surely not unprecedented.
Hillary. And what did the Dems offer as an alternative to the bundle of offensive and ignorant one-liners that is Donald Trump? Hillary? Really?
Could we possibly have created someone more difficult to defend? Is there a more unprincipled member of that perpetually principle-challenged party? (Who’s not already incarcerated?)
While her speeches assured us that she’s always worked for the well-being of children and working people, her actions throughout her public life have always led directly to more power and more wealth on a path paved with questionable ethics.
People yearning for integrity in government notice things like that.
Bernie. The Democratic party cadres rejected and sabotaged a candidate — an old white guy, of all things — who to everyone’s surprise came out of nowhere, appealed to a wide range of ages, regions, races, urban-rural, young-old, party stalwarts and neophytes, bringing in people who previously were so disgusted that they refused to vote — articulately addressing issues from health care to prisons to foreign policy and beyond.
And finally — what hubris — they rejected this candidate whose polling numbers suggested that he would do well against Trump or other Republicans.
Street Protests Worrying Republicans? The response to Trump? Aside from the blame game, street demonstrations and sometimes stopping traffic on a busy street or highway for an hour or two. Maybe a side benefit of getting your picture in the paper as a heroic dump-Trumper. Now that’s the sort of thing that will really worry Republicans, right?
They’re glad to see us there, looking rowdy or depressed — both work — so confused we don’t even know what to demand. (“He’s not my president!” is not a plan or a strategy.) It’s self-indulgent off-gassing. Meanwhile, they are taking care of business, if you get my meaning.
Fake News. “Pope endorses Donald Trump.” “Hillary exposed as space alien.”
OK, no argument that there’s lots of crap, phantasmagorical stuff, that packages itself as “news” and zips and skips around Internet sites and social media.
First, let me point out that there is fake news coming from many directions, and not just one or two.
Second, I take exception to the unspoken implication that there is a real objective news, that its home is places such as the New York Times, that its practitioners follow the transcendent eternal “neutral” rules learned in places such as the Columbia School of Journalism, and that we had a great news system until “fake news” emerged. The suggestion is that certain officially vetted sources represent real news, and if you step off that path, you’re in fantasyland.
Just as a reminder, people who care about the North Dakota pipeline and want to follow events there do not do so via the NYT. What the NYT reveals is how a mainstream media outlet handles the issue. Similarly, if you want to follow what’s going on in Palestine, or Colombia, or the spread and corporate slime of genetically engineered crops and foods…or any other issue, actually, you go to a variety of trusted sources that don’t have click-bait as their central purpose.
People who believe everything they read…well, they believe everything they read. A lot of them voted in this past election. I’m sorry they never learned about critical thinking in-between stories about George Washington and the melting pot. But the emergence of “fake news” can’t bear the total weight of explaining election results.
A Last Word
Racism, anti-Muslim sentiment, third parties, low-information voters, voter suppression, and “fake news” probably played a role, but a relatively minor one, in determining the results of the 2016 election.
47% of American voters (those who voted for the president-elect) are not viciously anti-Muslim and racist. I’m willing to accept that some Trump supporters are. But even among these, I think half or more could be eased away from that stance if we’d talk to them with respect, introduce them to a few people of color and/or Muslims, and generally stop treating them as though they were less than human—to be held in contempt and stomped out of existence instead of engaged.
What Trump understood, and seemingly the Democrats are afraid to admit, is how genuinely disgusted many people are with business as usual, self-dealing, and lack of action on critical issues. Many Americans are hurting, and hurting more each day, but feel that the mainstream of the two major political parties just is not about them.
But I’m not here to advise the Democrats. As for you readers, think about the three issues that I suggest are particularly promising to pursue right now. Limit your venting and off-gassing to the minimum necessary to clear your tubes so you can function. Take time off from Describing the Problem and put some effort toward local politics where you have the most leverage.
* This Trump commentary is a one-off. I’ll get back to my local community rights activism blogging soon. jam