Today, we are in agreement; but what if, tomorrow we are not.” This is the built-in wisdom behind having a check and balance system in a functional democracy; behind making sure that power-sharing among the three branches of government exists.
Americans decided to activate this feature in the 2018 midterm elections by voting in a majority of Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives largely to offset the power of the executive branch under President Donald Trump.
Republicans will say Americans voted not to have concentrated power in the hands of one party; and not necessarily voted against Trump and the GOP leadership.
Democrats will say it was abuse of power, overstepping by the President, and complete disregard to Democrat values on issues such as immigration and environmental protection as reasons for their victory. Not to mention, the president’s hate-mongering, divisive tactics, and compulsive lying.
Traditionally, it’s common for the president’s party to lose one of the branches of Congress, or both, in a midterm election.
So it’s fair to say a blue wave was expected. But to the extent that Democrats were victorious in the House with record-breaking numbers of seats flipped, perhaps that revealed something beyond normal expectancy; and in fact, was a strong message of Americans rebuking the president and his freshman performance.
The white nationalist tone of this administration was rejected as seen by record-breaking diversity of minorities elected to Congress in the midterm: Muslims, huge gains among Hispanics, even Native Americans had historic moments.
The misogynist actions of this administration, Trump’s cruel words toward woman, Trump’s ongoing sexual harassment allegations, and the Brett Kavanaugh appointment to the Supreme Court – all inspired the Me Too movement to take action in this election; and inspired record-breaking number of women to run for office, vote at the polls, and win.
Women clearly are angry at Trump. The surprising thumping of Republicans in many traditionally GOP suburban districts is likely a result of women voting against Trump. In 2016, Trump won the suburbs even while sexual misconduct allegations came out prior to the election.
It’s likely that a saturation period (time to brew over who this president is) was necessary before suburban woman truly got what this president is all about. And they saw the midterm as a perfect time to pull the plug.
Never mind that the economy is doing well and benefits the upper-middle-class suburbs; they’ve also abandoned the GOP.
Orange County, California, the reddest of counties in southern California, often referred to as “Reagan Country” -- all of their districts flipped blue this midterm. Just two years ago, they had zero Democrats representing their districts.
The general rule of thumb is, in a good economy, people vote in incumbents. But the president’s ongoing sideshow, and there are many, proved to be too much. Trump’s complete lack of compassion by separating parents from their children and housing children in detentions alone – that proved to be too much, more along the line of what a dictator does.
Trump’s claim that he could reverse a Constitutional right of U.S. birthright citizenship simply by an executive order – that proved to be too much, and yes, more along the line of dictatorial rule.
This administration attacked immigrants left and right relentlessly. For a country built by immigrants, and for a majority of citizens who can trace their immigration just a few generations back – there was bound to be a reckoning as soon as the next election. And there was.
Trump’s appeal to xenophobia and using hate as a political weapon to win in 2016 took the country by surprise. It revealed there is a dark core group of racists who will never abandon Trump. But this midterm election showed that there were many disillusioned and disenfranchised Americans who voted for him in 2016, but are not racists, and now, they know better.
These voters now know there is no future or hope of unity in this country under a leader such as Trump. Perhaps it was an underestimation of how far Trump would take this brand of toxic politics. It’s no longer about casting doubt on a black president’s legitimacy as an American as he did early on. Just two years into the Trump presidency, the country’s division has never been wider. A radical rightist sent bombs to a former president, vice president, and secretary of state. A white supremacist angry over Jews helping migrants went on a shooting spree at a synagogue. This is what toxic politics can lead to and both these perpetrators embraced Trump’s rhetoric.
The midterm results was a step in the right direction. It’s encouraging that women took the lead to turn things around, and aptly, because what this country needs is more compassion, more understanding. Mothers perhaps are more in tune with this softer side naturally.
How this translates into policy? Women will be more compassionate to protect the safety nets of Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. Women are more likely to improve healthcare and ease the burdens of seniors. Women would perhaps be more open to a pathway of citizenship for DACA enrollees who came into this country as children.
The main headline of this midterm election is that Americans rebuked trump. But the co-headline should be that women made their mark and won big.
It’s in the best interest of the country that women keep the momentum going into 2020, and on.
The Death of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi Should Matter
to All Freedom-loving Americans
Why is the killing of journalist and political writer Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi murder in Turkey at a Saudi Arabian Consulate that the CIA has linked to Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman so important?
Or the larger question and why perhaps Americans should be concerned is: what happens when journalists become targets by heads of state who wish to silence their criticism?
Any one or all of these features could set in: corrosion of freedom of speech and the press, suppression of the masses, widespread fear, lawlessness, instability. If left unchecked, it could lead to oligarchy (or in some cases oligarchy is already present or contemporaneous). In the case where there is one figurehead in an oligarchy – dictatorship could be the next step.
The fact that President Donald Trump has chosen to disregard evidence linking Khashoggi’s murder to the Saudi prince is dangerous messaging to the world that the U.S. is ok with this kind of practice as long as the U.S. maintains shared interests with whomever is suspected of a crime.
Given the acrimonious relationship between the press and Trump administration (Trump frequently refers to the press as the enemy of the people), ignoring assassinations of journalists by a head of state is no longer just polemic, it becomes akin to a bystander walking away from a crime because the victim happens to be an enemy of the bystander.
This scenario of looking away when a crime has been committed is wrong and unacceptable from any leader of any strong democracy, no less the leader of the free world, which role Trump with his pro-nationalist agenda, seemed to have relinquished.
Violence against journalists
Physical violence against journalists and political critics is not a widespread occurrence in most western countries so most Americans don’t really think about it.
But in other parts of the world with shaky democracies or dictatorships, suppression and violence against the media is a real problem. In 2017 alone, 71 journalists were killed mostly in the Middle East, but also in countries like India, Pakistan, Mexico, Russia, Somalia, and the Philippines.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, there were close to 1,000 journalists killed in the top 10 countries reporting violence against media since 1992.
The primary role of the media is to represent the voice and interests of the people where oftentimes the people’s call for justice is muted in institutions of power.
Violence committed onto journalists by dictators is really violence committed onto the people. It is the most powerful message dictators employ to say to dissenters, “your voice not only doesn’t matter, but also your life.”
Khashoggi has been a long-time critic of the Saudi government. Prior to his murder, he lived in the U.S. and wrote for the Washington Post.
In his earlier years, he has been criticized as being an Islamist radical, something that the Trump administration has been exploiting to somehow undermine the value of Khashoggi’s professional work.
CNN described Khashoggi as a “journalist simply doing his job who evolved from an Islamist in his twenties to a more liberal position by the time he was in his forties,” and that “by 2005, Khashoggi said he had also rejected the Islamist idea of creating an Islamic state and had turned against the religious establishment in Saudi Arabia.”
Khashoggi called for more liberalism in Saudi’s strict religious (Wahhabi) traditions. He wanted women to have the same rights as men. He called for all citizens to be able to criticize the powers that be without fear of repercussion or imprisonment. He was in favor of secularism in government, of separation of church and state. He fought for press freedom that is independent from coercion that Saudi rulers’ wielded. He criticized the Saudi government’s war on Yemen.
Clearly his ideas were democratic and close to what Americans value in society.
Because of who the Saudi rulers are and how they rule, this made Khashoggi a threat.
He was arguably the most famous political pundit in the Arab world (his Twitter followers exceeded 2 million) and a regular guest on international news shows.
He was, in essence, democracy personified, and a figure much needed in a region of the world where democracy is undervalued. And his life, his message, cannot be simply washed over.
Congress must take a stand
President Trump says the U.S. stands with Saudi Arabia in the wake of Khashoggi’s killing.
“Our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“We also have a great ally in Saudi Arabia. They give us a lot of jobs, they give us a lot of business, a lot of economic development. Saudi Arabia has been a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development.”
In sharp disagreement with Trump, the Senate chose to rebuke the White House’s policy that supports Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. Senators also addressed Saudi’s involvement in the murder of Khashoggi. The U.S. has been supplying Saudi Arabia with weapons and support to fight the Houthi rebels.
The Senate and Congress are headed in the right direction. Justice must be followed through in the death of Khashoggi as a matter of principle, freedom, and morality. Business as usual, as Trump would want, is not the right course. We are a country, not a corporation, and how we conduct world affairs should never be just about the money.
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