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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

Five important things I want you to consider as we approach the November election

Important Thing 1

Yes, voting is important. We all need to vote on November 6. This year, voting is not enough. We need to really engage and be active in this election. Find a candidate. Find a campaign. It could be a ballot proposition. Volunteer your time. Give some money. Do as much as you can to increase the turnout in this election.

After the 2016 election, a friend of mine confessed, “I wish I had done more than vote.” I had just finished putting in a number of hours in the Hillary Clinton campaign. Yes, we lost. Do I regret the time I spent making calls to Nevada and other states? Not one moment! In fact, we carried Nevada and held on to the Senate seat being vacated by Harry Reid. I like to think that I still made a difference. 

Get involved in the election. Then you won’t be waking up on November 7 saying, “I wish I had done more than vote.”

Important Thing 2

Don’t be discouraged and give up. This is especially important if you are not yet convinced that voting is important. There are people who will try to convince you that your vote is useless and that the candidates are all the same, corrupt and untrustworthy. They will use propaganda and misinformation to drive their message, just as they did in 2016. They will convince your family and friends to share and promote their message on social media, just as they did in 2016.

There is an old Twilight Zone episode, The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street. It is about an invasion of the Earth where the invaders from space hide themselves from the small neighborhood they are invading. The invaders create suspicion among the neighbors to convince them that each other is the enemy. The Earthlings end up violently attacking and destroying each other. At the end of the episode, the outer space invaders reveal themselves to the audience, pleased with their victory as they head off to invade another neighborhood using the same tactics. A common theme in Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone stories, this one included, was McCarthyism, which threatened American democracy in the 1950s. That anti-McCarthyism message applies today in the age of Trump. Think of Putin and the Russian oligarchs as the invading force whose goal is getting us to fight and destroy each other. If they can destroy our country from within, they can diminish our standing in the world and replace us as a world power. Their eventual goal is to replace democracies with authoritarian regimes. Their tactics worked in 2016, and they are using them again in 2018.

Don’t give up. Get engaged in this election and stay engaged.

Important Thing 3

Stay focused on this election. There will be plenty of time to think about the 2020 presidential election starting in 2019. Governors, senators, house members, and state representatives are not as sexy as a presidential campaign, and the media would rather have our attention diverted to their stories on the latest celebrity who is considering throwing her or his hat into the ring. Don’t let that happen. That is how people end up not voting in so called off year elections. That includes this year, 2018. Remember Important Thing 1. As my friend, the late storyteller Orunamamu, once said, “PAY ATTENTION!” 

We can’t regain the White House until 2020. We don’t have to wait until then to take back our government. By taking back the House and Senate, we can stop the Trump agenda. If we had the Senate this year, our next Supreme Court justice would not be handpicked by the Federalist Society and the Religious Right. 

State elections are important, too. State governments draw district boundaries. If we want to end gerrymandering, we need to become engaged in the election of governors and state representatives.

Important Thing 4

We need to support and vote for Democrats. That is the only way to get the Trump enablers out of power. It is clear now that the Republican Party no longer exists. It has been replaced by the Party of Trump, which has nothing in common with traditional Republican values. A Republican Party would not start a trade war by placing tariffs on imports produced by our allies. 

Our Two Party System is flawed, and we should work to fix those flaws. Until then, this is the system we have, and we need to work within that system. If you feel that voting for a Democrat requires you to hold your nose, then hold your nose and vote for Democrats. If you voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or if you decided to not vote all in 2016, do you still believe there is no difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? Are you willing to risk having Congress controlled by the Party of Trump in 2019 because the Democratic candidates did not meet your high standards of progressive perfection?

Yes, Putin and the Russian oligarchs are interfering in the 2018 election. Their goal is to dissuade us from voting for Democrats. They are especially targeting minority voters with hashtags like #JustWalkAway. Don’t let them fool you. Support and vote for Democrats.

Important Thing 5

Prepare to be disappointed. Yes, the candidates, like all human beings, are flawed. Once in office, they will disappoint us. That is why we need to continue to be engaged after the election and hold them accountable. When LGBTQ activists realized that Obama was dragging his feet on repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, they spoke up. They chained themselves to the gates of the White House. They interrupted the luncheons he hosted to celebrate LGBTQ Pride. They were criticized for being so “uncivil.” Sound familiar?

Get engaged. Stay engaged. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. Got it? Thanks for listening.

July 6, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Myth of Trump as an Outsider

When I listen to his supporters, a familiar theme is Trump’s status as an outsider. He is outside the system, therefore he is uncorrupted by that system. This seems to make him uniquely qualified for public office. Of course, it could also make him totally unequipped to change a system he neither understands or has any experience with how it works.

Trump boasts that his great personal wealth makes him incorruptible. His primary campaign was mostly self-financed, and he was able to get a lot of free media on the cable news networks. Trump is not the first to argue that he is too rich to bribe. Nelson Rockefeller argued the same to the Senate when he was nominated by Gerald Ford to be Vice President. Of course, Trump has a history of donating to political candidates, which contradicts the image of being an outsider to the political process. Trump boasts of his ability to make great deals, which includes political deals. Trump has boasted of receiving political favors in exchange for campaign donations. Is Trump’s contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is the reason she dropped an investigation of Trump University? And was that donation paid illegally from the nonprofit Trump Foundation?

http://www.politifact.com/florida/article/2016/sep/21/donald-trump-pam-bondi-and-25k-was-it-pay-play/

There is another question raised about self funded campaigns. Is Trump arguing that only those wealthy enough to fund their campaigns can be trusted to hold public office, uninfluenced by powerful interests? Isn’t his wealth a corrupting interest that can bias him against the needs of the poor? Trump has never been poor a day in his life. How can he argue that he shares the interests of the common man?

Bernie Sanders also argued that he was unbought by the special interests. He proved that by taking mostly small donations. He also has a voting record on issues of concern to the poor. Trump does not.

In fact, Trump has already acknowledged a debt with a powerful special interest, the religious right. Trump continually thanks evangelicals for his support. In turn, he has already made promises, including appointing conservative judges, pushing for more laws allowing discrimination against gay people, and removing restrictions on their tax exempt status. Is there any doubt that Trump will make good on his promises to the religious right? They will certainly hold him to those promises.

And who else owns Trump? Is that why he doesn’t want us to see his taxes? There is a lot of speculation about his ties to Vladimir Putin. Are his dealings with Putin in his taxes?

Another possible reason why Trump is not showing his taxes is that he may not be as rich as he wants us to believe. That would negate the argument that he is too rich to be corrupted. How much of his wealth comes from being on someone else’s payroll? We won’t know for sure until we see his taxes.

How The Trump Organization’s Foreign Business Ties Could Upend U.S. National Security

by Kurt Eichenwald on 9/14/16 at 5:30 AM

http://www.newsweek.com/2016/09/23/donald-trump-foreign-business-deals-national-security-498081.html

Politifact comparison of Clinton and Trump Foundations

http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/sep/23/politifact-sheet-comparing-clinton-and-trump-found/

September 25, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment