In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to suggest three good things that may or will come from the surprising election of Donald J. Trump. This is important because many are scared that America is flirting with fascism: the merging of corporatism and government, led by an authoritarian, and sustained by violence. They are fearful for the future of our human rights and environment.
- Long-needed spending on our national infrastructure: Ever since the Reagan Era introduced huge tax cuts on the wealthy and less spending on domestic needs, our infrastructure has been in decline due to neglect. We’re talking about everything from clean water in our homes to our national parks: sewage systems, electric grid, highway maintenance, highway widening, new highways, bridges, mass transit, railroads, high-speed rail systems, dams, levees, airports, and clean energy.
The Great Recession that hit in 2008 and nearly destroyed our economy opened the possibility of making progress. People needed to be put back to work, interest rates were low (and still are), the long-delayed projects were there, and the need to spend was obvious.
There was a problem: On Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day in January 2009, Republican leaders met at the Caucus Room Restaurant in Washington, DC, and pledged to destroy Obama’s presidency by opposing everything he proposed. Most importantly, they had to prevent Obama from jump starting the economy with major spending projects that would create new jobs and save old jobs, as well as resurrect the dying middle class with good-paying jobs. They knew how productive FDR’s New Deal was during the Great Depression, and they were not going to let Obama become as popular as FDR.
Consequently, Obama’s stimulus bill was too limited in its scope due to compromises to get Republican support, but once the bill was watered down, the G.O.P. didn’t vote for it anyway. The bill saved many jobs, stopped the bleeding of more jobs lost, and got many “shovel-ready” projects completed, and ended the recession. Nevertheless, the spending was less than half what was needed to have a strong continuing recovery. We certainly did better than Europe, which insisted on ignoring the lessons of history and focusing on austerity instead.
President-elect Donald Trump pledged support for infrastructure projects. With their own president in office, the congressional Republicans may be willing to do what they should have done eight years ago. If they adopt this Democratic issue, they can improve the nation physically, put the working class back into full employment, and many voters will finally have a commendable reason to keep voting for them.
(An infrastructure/jobs bill should involve public investment instead of privatization of public assets, which will lead to cronyism, profiteering, and accompanied unlimited corruption and tax credits for the wealthy. As bad as we need these projects, we need to beware the method they are financed.)
- Repeal AND Replace the Affordable Care Act: President Obama’s health care program was combination of the Koch brother’s Heritage Foundation plan that was implemented successfully in Massachusetts by Gov. Mitt Romney and the popular Democratic additions pertaining to pre-existing conditions and allowing sons and daughters to stay on their parents’ health plan. Far from perfect, it nevertheless has been quite successful regardless of Republican propaganda to the contrary.
Republicans were in a minority and couldn’t prevent the bill from passing, but once they gained control of the House and later the Senate, they have wasted time and energy – over 60 times – trying to weaken it or repeal it. Never did they try to work with Democrats to improve it or offer a better alternative. A loyal opposition who cared about the working class would have done both.
Mr. Trump has pledged to repeal and replace “Obamacare” while keeping those Democratic additions. It’s hard to imagine how they can get rid of the Republican aspects of the program and keep the Democratic ones. As loathsome as the mandate to require coverage is, it’s the only affordable way to do it.
However, unlike the Republican congressional leadership, Mr. Trump has also pledged not to mess with Social Security and Medicare. Maybe he will demand Medicare for everyone. It’s efficient, affordable, popular, and already up and running.
Of course, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is planning to privatize Social Security and replace Medicare with vouchers. Maybe The Donald can persuade him that getting credit for enacting universal health care could be a good vote-getter for years to come. Ryan may respond by saying that the G.O.P. has been getting elected to control Congress for six years by doing absolutely nothing other than obstruct and sabotage, so why bother. Anyway, we can still hope.
(Because of reforms in the Affordable Care Act, Medicare has become financially stable for years to come. If they get rid of the A.C.A., they will then have to make additional changes to Medicare. That’s how Ryan hopes to be able to sabotage Medicare. Trump’s pledge to not mess with Medicare may be the only hope to save it.)
- Avoidance of another attempt to replace our constitutional system with a parliamentary system: I never understood why Hillary Clinton wanted to be president, other than being the first woman elected to that office. She would never be able to function as president as long as the House of Representatives is under Republican control.
The G.O.P. hasn’t recognized the legitimacy of any Democratic president in 24 years, and that situation was going to get worse if that woman were elected. Bill Clinton, elected in 1992, was a hick from Arkansas, raised by a single mom with little money, and a life-long public servant who had never been a millionaire beforehand – all of which made him unqualified to be president. Barack Obama, elected in 2008, was a black man of mixed race; was born in Hawaii – which many apparently believe is located in Kenya, Africa; was raised by grandparents who were not millionaires; was a life-long public servant including being a community organizer in Chicago – all of which disqualified him from being president. (Obama had become a millionaire before entering the presidency, but it was from book sales for “Dreams from My Father,” not from entrepreneurship or inheritance.)
If we had the British parliamentary system instead of our constitutional system, for purely political reasons, the G.O.P. would have simply voted “No Confidence” and removed each of them from office. The fact that both were re-elected changed nothing. Bill Clinton was hated so much that they spent 60-70 million tax dollars trying to find an excuse to impeach him. They concocted one screwball scandal after another and couldn’t find anything until they turned up Monica Lewinsky. Barack Obama was so squeaky clean, all they could do was obstruct and sabotage.
Because Hillary did not win the electoral vote, we will be spared a repetition. Sen. John McCain, Republican from Arizona and a reliable “party first” man, was already making plans to never approve anyone Hillary nominated to the Supreme Court. There was also talk of opening impeachment proceedings as soon as she took office. They want her to be guilty of something – they just haven’t been able to find it yet.
With The Donald being labeled a Republican, the congressional Republicans will have to actually govern for a change. Although voters never held them accountable for their maliciousness, incompetence, and irresponsibility during the Obama or Clinton years, that may not be the case now.
By David Offutt
A version of this essay was published November 27, 2016, in the El Dorado News-Times as a guest column.