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Closing Arguments–some final thoughts on the Presidential Election of 2020

2016 flashback

It’s been over four years now, but I can still hear the voters I called during the 2016 election to ask whom they were supporting for President. “Trump” some would bark back with a defiant grunt. There were not that many of them, but it sure hurt when I heard them. Even when I had a Hillary Clinton supporter on the line, most were lukewarm in their support. Their responses were a sharp contrast to the phone bank volunteers at the Hillary campaign office in Albany, CA, mostly women who were enthusiastic about electing our first woman president. I kept warning that only complacency could defeat us, and it turned out to be true. I remember asking one young woman in Nevada if there were any issues that concerned her. She couldn’t think of any. What about the Supreme Court?, I asked, which at that time had a vacant seat due to Republican obstruction. Aren’t you concerned about your rights to an abortion and birth control? If only Democrats and people on the Left were as motivated by the future of the Supreme Court as the the Right has been motivated, I lamented. I shouldn’t have been surprised that the Religious Right had no problem holding their noses to vote for the most unChristian candidate ever nominated by either party. The same voters who were all for impeaching Bill Clinton for having consensual sex with an intern were then unconcerned by a candidate who has consistently demeaned women and been accused of rape. Their focus on abortion and LGBTQ rights outweighed any issues they had with Trump. For more, see https://tomyamaguchi.blog/2017/11/14/no-citizens-united-for-the-mega-churches/

I have always been terrible at predicting the future, yet I knew a potential Trump presidency would be a disaster. I posted my arguments to this blog on why we should never let Trump become President, and those posts are still here to read. My favorite is Trump’s Gettysburg Address, posted before he gave an actual speech in Gettysburg during the campaign. https://tomyamaguchi.blog/2016/09/27/trumps-gettysburg-address/ As it turned out, Trump has been more than a terrible public speaker. In fact, he has been a worse disaster than I expected. A pandemic could not have arrived at a worse time than during Trump’s control of the federal government.

Why we need to do more than just vote

As I wrote previously on this blog https://tomyamaguchi.blog/2018/07/06/five-important-things-i-want-you-to-consider-as-we-approach-the-november-election/, a friend confessed after the 2016 election, “I wish I had done more than just vote.” I could at least say I did more than vote in 2016, even though my effort was not successful. Could I have done more? Yes, though I would rather not beat myself up about it. I did what my energy allowed me to do. I can say the same for this election and offer this challenge to you who read this post. Will you wake up on November 4 wishing you had done more than just vote? The time is now to get involved.

If Joe Biden is not a perfect enough candidate for you, and you are planning to vote third party, as too many did in 2016, this is the reality of the consequences of your vote. If you aren’t voting for Biden, you are voting for Trump. It is as simple as that. Yes, it would be different if we ditched the Electoral College and used the national popular vote. It would be more democratic to use Rank Choice Voting so people had more ballot choices. We can work for these reforms for future elections. For this election, we have to accept the flaws of this system. In addition, Russia appears as determined to divide the Left as they did when they convinced just enough people to vote for Jill Stein or write in Bernie Sanders.

We need to vote for Biden in huge numbers in every state, not just the battleground states. Remember that Hillary Clinton did get almost 3 million more votes than Trump did. With an even larger margin of victory for Biden, no one can question the results of the election. Evicting Trump after a Biden landslide should not be a problem. In addition, we need to hold the House and take back the Senate. That means holding onto seats that flipped from Republican to Democratic in 2018.

On the other hand, a Trump victory means an end to our democracy as we know it. Trump will be free to continue enriching himself and his friends. They will make fair elections impossible by making it more difficult for people to vote. Their refusal to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy sources will head us on a path of irreversible climate change.

Thoughts on Vote By Mail (VBM)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I will not be working as an election officer on November 3. For one thing, I am now 70 years old and do not want to risk exposure to the Corona virus. For another thing, California is conducting the entire election by mail. While fears have been expressed that the state is not prepared for the change, I have more confidence, given my experience working past elections.

Trump’s ignorance of the voting process is another example of how he is unfit to hold any office, not just President. HIs efforts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of our voting process is harmful to our democracy. Sadly, he doesn’t care because he only sees how this helps him.

First, let us dispense with the term “absentee” ballot. Trump argues that absentee ballots are good, while mail ballots are bad. That’s like arguing there is a difference between divorce and no fault divorce. You once needed a reason, like infidelity, to get a divorce. We have since done away with that requirement. The same applies to Vote By Mail ballots or VBM ballots for short. You no longer need to provide a reason why you can’t show up at the polls on Election Day in order to vote by mail. Everyone who wants one gets a VBM ballot. In fact, many bring their ballots to the polls to drop them off on Election Day. In recent years, they have outnumbered voters who show up to mark their ballots in person. Alameda County, California has updated its Election Day procedures to have an early pick up of VBM ballots simply because those ballot boxes were getting full hours before the polls closed.

Trump has told his followers to vote twice, once by VBM and again at the polls. Of course, this is illegal. In addition, the system is designed to prevent it. That is why we have the Provisional Ballot. In a typical (non COVID) election, Alameda County, prints out a roster that includes those voters who have received a VBM ballot. So if you are a Trump voter who has shown up to vote twice, you will be informed that you need to surrender your VBM ballot and envelope (the one you sign to prevent someone else from voting your ballot) in order to vote at the polls. Now, the Trump voter could lie and say they did not receive their ballot or they threw it away. In fact, that happens all of the time when people tell the truth. In the last primary, my ballot was lost in the mail, and I cast a provisional ballot at the polls. People do throw away their ballots thinking they are sample ballots. They forgot that they had signed up to receive a VBM ballot for every election. Again, no problem. These voters are provided with a provisional ballot and envelope that is kept separate from the ballots cast at the polls. When that provisional ballot arrives at the Registrar of Voters office, it will only be counted if no other ballot from that voter has been received and the signature matches the one on file. Provisional ballot voters are informed they can call the office to verify their ballot has been counted and, if it hasn’t, why not. In fact, I called and verified that my provisional ballot was counted in the March primary.

Do ballots get mailed to voters who have died or moved? Of course. If someone tries to illegally vote a ballot, it will be rejected if the signatures do not match. Again, people can and should check to make sure their ballots have not been rejected. In this election, voters can sign up to be notified by text message when their ballot has been received and accepted. In California, you can go to https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-status/wheres-my-ballot.

What to do after the election

There is a great deal worry about what will happen after the election. Will there be a coup? Will recounts get tied up in the courts as in 2000? Will Republican governors appoint their own electors to send to the Electoral College? Will Trump not accept the results and refuse to leave? While preparing for future possibilities is not a bad idea, I prefer we focus on getting the votes in the ballot boxes first. A Trump victory would make those scenarios meaningless, anyway. 

So let us focus on winning the election and winning by a huge landslide that holds the House and takes back the Senate. Remember that contested House and Senate races can delay certification, such as in 2008/09 when Al Franken eventually won over Norm Coleman in Minnesota.

If we do win, we need to learn from our mistake in 2008. Yes, we elected Barack Obama with a sweeping agenda on health care, climate, education, immigration, and more. And what happened? We generally did little or nothing at all. I heard progressives complain that Obama was responsible for not getting enough done. Then we generally failed to vote in the mid terms and ended up handing the Congress back to the Republicans. Obama’s court appointments got held up and were eventually filled by Trump. What we have won with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) has been under continual attack, and a challenge is now going to a conservative dominated Supreme Court. 

After 2020, we need to do more than just vote. We need to stay engaged and lobby our representatives as taught by those who created the Indivisible Guide. If you haven’t read the Guide, here it is https://indivisible.org/guide. It is as relevant today as it was in 2016.

We need to vote in every election, not just for President. We need to vote up and down the ballot. That includes governors and state representatives who will be in charge of redrawing congressional districts. Our Congress has been so badly gerrymandered, it not longer represents a majority of the voters.

First order of business is to end the pandemic and rescue our economy, just as in 2009 when Obama’s first task was dealing with the recession that was handed to him by the Bush Administration. No doubt, Republicans will be obstructing the way they did in 2009, so we will need to end or modify the filibuster. We need to expand and protect the ACA, even if we can’t get Medicare for all. Can we at least get the public option? And we need to enact climate legislation. I believe we can get a tax or fee on carbon pollution. A doable plan is a carbon fee and dividend, as proposed by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. https://citizensclimatelobby.org

Those are my closing arguments, friends. The rest is up to you.

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poway, Spring 1969

The news of the horrible shooting at Chabad of Poway has affected me in a personal way. It brings the memories of my own experience living in Poway, California. It was about 50 years ago that I moved to Poway and would live there, off and on for a couple of years. The news coverage reveals a Poway in 2019 that seems different than the one where I lived in 1969. The shooting itself reveals a Poway where little has changed.

Much of this story is in a personal web page I created on Tripod, which I call my adoption story. http://tfyamaguchi.tripod.com/adoption.html It was Easter Sunday in 1969 when my brother Joe invited me to attend mass at the San Diego Mission. He was a regular attender of La Jolla Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). I had pleaded with him a number of times to take me to Quaker Meeting, and he had refused my requests. Now, sitting in the crowded, historic, Catholic mission, my brother turned to me and whispered, “This is boring. Do you want to leave?” My answer was yes, and we ended up at La Jolla meeting for worship. It was my first Quaker meeting, and I felt like I had arrived home.

It was there that I met Tad and Alice Yamaguchi. When they found out I was living in rather miserable conditions in a boarding house in the North Park section of San Diego, they offered me a room in their home in Poway. I enthusiastically joined the Yamaguchi communal household. By that fall, my own last name would change from Campbell to Yamaguchi.

Poway in 1969 was a small and growing suburb. There were large open spaces that have since been filled in with more housing. It was just about 100% WASP. Many of the residents were in the Navy, being an easy commute from Miramar Naval Air Station. Poway public schools had a reputation of being progressive, but I would not know. I was determined to finish my high school year at Mission Bay and got a ride there every day from a teacher who also lived in Poway. The most ethnic diversity in the area was to the north in Escondido, which has a large Latino population. That is where a mosque was burned a few weeks ago, and the suspected synagogue shooter is considered a suspect in that arson fire. The only Jewish person I remember meeting while living in Poway was a coworker in a restaurant in Rancho Bernardo, which is located between Poway and Escondido.

When I moved in Alice told me about the racism she experienced in Poway. A black family was visiting their home on the quiet cul-de-sac. She went for a walk down the street with the two children of the family. As they walked hand-in-hand, she heard the neighbors talking loudly to each other. They were clearly intent on having their voices heard by Alice and the children, letting them know they were not welcome in the neighborhood. Hearing the children she was with being called “niggers” was too much for Alice to bear. She rushed the children back to the house with tears streaming down her face. When I moved in, there was a sign on the door with the message that all people were welcome, regardless of race and religion. At least there was one place on that cul-de-sac where that was the case.

Another time when our politics conflicted with the conservative views of our neighbors was on a day of nationwide protests against the Vietnam War. A small group of us stood on Poway Road with signs stating our opposition to the war. Those who drove by us responded with insults, calling us communists and traitors. I was actually afraid for my life that day. Fortunately, there was no violence.

There were other events that captured my attention in 1969. One was the first humans to walk on the moon, which I described in my blog post The Eagle Lands on Pomerado Road. https://tomyamaguchi.blog/2009/07/20/the-eagle-lands-on-pomerado-road/ Woodstock happened that summer, as well as the Manson Family murders. One news event that failed to reach me in that quiet town of Poway was the Stonewall riots. I had heard the news Judy Garland’s death on the radio while riding in a car pool headed to San Marcos Community College. As we cruised along the 78 freeway, George Jessel was offering his condolences and sharing his memories of the singer. Years later, I learned how Garland’s death had a role in the rise of the modern gay rights movement. I was in the closet then. Poway in 1969 was not a place where someone would want to come out as gay.

Decades after living in northern San Diego County, I am fascinated by how much has changed there, especially in politics. After an extremely close reelection, conservative Republican Darrell Issa decided to retire from his congressional seat in 2016 and was replaced by a Democrat. Orange County, directly to the north of San Diego and known for being the bedrock of Republicanism, switched to entirely Democratic House representatives in that election. 

When I lived there, both state and national representatives were proud members of the John Birch Society. Given the proximity of Camp Pendleton and the already mentioned Naval Air Station, it would not be surprising to find such a conservative bent in the electorate. Now, that electorate is changing with the coast becoming more urban and more liberal. Unfortunately, racism, antisemitism, and anti-immigration sentiment is still alive in North County, as that part of San Diego is known. The nineteen-year-old white man suspected in two hate crimes has made that evident. We will know more about his beliefs and his world view as the story unfolds. The sad news is there are too many more people just like him.

April 29, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rejecting Trump is the best way to save the Republican Party

I have been blogging whenever I can on the reasons why I believe Donald Trump is completely unfit to be president and why he should be rejected by the voters on November 8. I suggested there may be 50 reasons, probably more. I doubt I will come even close to listing 50 before election day. I think I can do a few more. Today, I want to explain why I believe rejecting Trump is the best way to save the Republican Party.

In my last post, I shared my response to a fundraising letter from the Trump campaign that included a postage paid envelope. (BTW I received a second letter and envelope several weeks after the first. I’m still thinking about what to send back.) In that response I wrote, “I have voted for Republicans in the past. Would I vote for Republicans in the future? When I find a Republican who takes global warming seriously and listens to scientists. When I find one who doesn’t engage in immigrant bashing or appeals to white supremacists. When I find one who really supports LGBTQ rights. Until then, you’ve lost me.” 

It is true that I have previously voted for Republicans. I voted for John McCain in the 2000 primary and Arnold Schwarzenegger in his re-election as California governor . Being a Republican on the right side of the climate issue was a major factor in my selections. I want to support Republicans who share my concerns on issues that are important to me.

My Irish Catholic parents were lifelong Democrats. Growing up in the depression, they idolized FDR. Electing an Irish Catholic president in 1960 was a dream come true for them. While I maintained my liberal bent in adulthood, I drifted away from the Democratic Party and viewed myself more as an independent. I came to reject the two-party system that has defined American politics since the early nineteenth century. There has to be a better way to select candidates. My late housemate Bob Berry also believed in a multi party system. His efforts to revive the Whig Party was mostly a joke that reflected his own frustration with the system that has come to be known as choosing between the lesser of two evils. For a number of years I was registered as a Whig.

When I have changed my registration to Democratic or Republican, it has been to be eligible to vote in that party’s presidential primary. in 2012, I registered Republican to vote for Jon Huntsman, another Republican who understands climate change. Obama was running unopposed as a Democrat, so no contest there. Unfortunately, Huntsman dropped out before the California primary. I ended up voting for Fred Karger, the first openly gay presidential candidate for either party. Since then, I have been on a number of Republican email lists. The emails keep coming, even though I have not given a penny.

This year, there was no question which party I would be selecting for the primary election. I could not find a single Republican that I could vote for in good conscience. I found several good candidates running as Democrats and finally selected Clinton as the best fit for that office with the best chance to win.

Then Trump became the Republican nominee. That is when they lost me. I can no longer go back to the Republican Party in its present form. Thanks to Donald Trump, I am for now a committed Democrat.

If the Republicans lose control of the Senate, they can blame Trump for their loss. In all of those fundraising emails I receive from Republican candidates, Trump’s name has not appeared even once. Democratic emails proudly align themselves with their presidential ticket.

In addition, to being unfit for the office of president, Trump has shown himself to be an incompetent campaigner. The California primary is a good example. We now have two Democrats running to replace Barbara Boxer, who is retiring from the Senate. That is because Harris and Sanchez received more votes than any of their Republican challengers. In California, the top two vote getters move onto the general election, regardless of their party affiliation. Meanwhile, Trump had sewn up the nomination before the primary. He came to the state and campaigned anyway, for himself. A seasoned candidate in Trump’s position would have looked at the field of Republican candidates and selected one that would have the best chance of coming in second and going to the general. Then campaigning across the state with that Senate candidate would have made sense. Even if the Democrat has the overwhelming advantage, the Democratic Party would still need to divert resources to prevent an upset. Guaranteed that the next senator will be a Democrat, the party is free to spend more in battleground states. Then again, the Republican candidates may have found Trump so toxic that none of them wanted his support. Trump ended up with less primary votes than Bernie Sanders, anyway. His time in California was a complete waste.

I feel for the conservatives’ dilemma. For them, Clinton is too liberal and Trump is completely unfit. I once suggested that they vote for Gary Johnson. He did, at one time, have the opportunity to gain the 15% of the polling numbers he needed to get into the debates. Since then, he has been fading with a series of “Aleppo moments.” Even before that, conservatives where jumping ship to the Clinton camp, including newspapers that have never endorsed a Democrat in their entire publishing histories. They know that a vote for a third party candidate only improves the chances of a Trump win. For them, that is reason enough to support Clinton.

As a Californian, I know I could easily vote for a third party candidate without fear of losing the state to Trump. I would certainly do that if I felt the Democratic candidate was as equally unfit for office. On the contrary, Clinton has shown herself to be quite fit and worthy of my vote. More importantly, I want to make sure that Trump is soundly defeated by double percentage digits. Then Trump would have less of an argument that the election was rigged against him, though I am sure he will argue that anyway. More importantly, I want the Republican Party to reassess its direction and return to the mainstream with candidates who could earn my vote.

I am still dissatisfied by our current to two-party system. A one-party system would be even worse. If Trump succeeds at destroying the Republican Party, we will need to create a better party or parties to take its place.

October 21, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment