james debate
james debate

Wednesday 17 October 2018

It is an even numbered year, and if you are an American that can mean only one certain thing: it's election season. But Donald Trump is not on the ballot this year. No, these are the Congressional Midterms, which will determine the makeup of the legislature for the next two years, profoundly shaping the remainder of Donald Trump's term in office. Everything that we have seen over the past two years have led to one inescapable conclusion: this is a high stakes election, and it is utterly imperative that we get out and vote for the Democratic Party.

2018 us midterm congress election house senate trump clinton democrat republican

Why vote?
It is fair to say that the average voter considers midterm elections to be of less importance than Presidential elections. The President is the most powerful person in the world after all (or used to be anyway), whereas only 1 in 3 Americans can even name their Congressional representative. It may be time to reconsider that mindset.

The past two years have shown us just how important Congress really is. It is Congress who passes the laws, and determines whether you get to keep your healthcare. It is Congress who confirms Supreme Court appointments, and blocks unfit nominees. Perhaps most importantly, it is Congress who holds the power to investigate all of Washington's corruption or choose to cover it up. The average person on the street who doesn't care about politics may not be particularly affected in their day-to-day life by what goes on in Washington, but they sure as heck will be affected by rising healthcare premiums, cuts to social security, and draconian courts striking down the rights of women, minorities and the LGBT community.

Suffice it to say, those are things that affect everyone, and this election is your opportunity to have a say. If you've had enough of the liars and crooks, the violent thugs and misogynist assholes that seem to wield disproportionate power in this country, this is your one opportunity to say "enough is enough".

Why vote Democrat?
Now ordinarily the focus of a post like this would be to consider the policy differences between candidates and parties, and evaluate who's got the best ideas. But these are extraordinary times, and such a traditional analysis is going to be difficult to do this year. But let's be clear, there is no comparison between the two parties' platforms.

Democratic economic policy under Obama brought us record low unemployment, record high markets, and decreased the budget deficit for the first time since, well, the last Democratic President Bill Clinton. Republican economic policy brought our economy to ruin under Bush, and Trump seems dead set on starting a trade war that will send consumer prices sky rocketing.

Democratic healthcare policy expanded healthcare coverage to tens of millions of Americans, and significantly slowed the growth in premiums. Republican healthcare policy is non-existent beyond "Obama did it, ergo it is bad".

Democrats have an ambitious proposal for renewable energy investment and pollution control, Republicans don't even acknowledge that climate change is a thing, even as scientists warn that we are mere decades away from global disaster.

Democratic foreign policy brought admiration and respect, kept domestic terrorism at bay, and helped keep global geopolitics stable. Trump's laissez-faire foreign policy has allowed for a surge in state-sponsored murders, dictators running roughshod over the Middle East and Asia, and then he went and sanctioned Iran just for the hell of it. That's without even mentioning the ridiculous photo-op with Kim Jong-Un which accomplished nothing.

Marriage inequality, women's rights, anti-racism. The two parties' records speak for themselves.

Ideally, this policy focus would form the core of an endorsement post such as this, but as I say these are extraordinary times. I've long had my issues with the Republican Party. I felt they were embarrassingly dishonest during the Obama years, opposing him not on policy grounds, but simply out of partisanship. The Senate Republicans refusing to vote on a Supreme Court nominee for over a year remains one of the most shamefully partisan acts that Washington has ever seen, while their continued obsession with taking away access to healthcare, simply for the sake of scoring points, is an affront to the value of human life.

You absolutely need to have different sides and ideological debate in a functioning democracy, but that requires both sides to engage with one another in good faith, and that simply has not been the case. The modern Republican Party has increasingly taken advantage of voters' fear and ignorance, and stoked our darker instincts. This makes a policy comparison a pointless exercise. There are no Republican policies, only politics.

At the time I chalked this up to an act of desperation after the failure of President Bush, and the landslide victories of Obama and the Democrats left the Republican Party teetering on the brink of irrelevancy. But if that were the case, you would have expected them to revert to some level of moderation and decorum upon taking power, and that has not happened. Instead they've gone even deeper into the swamp.

The new party of Trump
Over the past two years we've seen Republicans vote on a behemoth tax cut for the wealthy without even reading the bill (an ungodly mess of a bill that the IRS have spent the past year unspooling). We've seen them engage in shamelessly obvious cover-ups and political games. We've seen them rush through an alleged sexual offender to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court without allowing for any investigation of his offences, even after his own hearing was marred by apparent dishonesty, brazen partisanship, and a temperament that was so clearly insufficient for the Supreme Court that the American Bar Association withdrew its endorsement.

This is no longer a party of serious ideological conservatives. It's a party of bumbling shysters, of Lindsey Graham retching and mewling for the cameras, and Nikki Haley doing her best John Wayne impression and "taking names" at the UN. Politicians have always been performers and grand-standers to an extent, but this Republican Party is taking things to a cynical new low.

This is all before even mentioning the man in charge of the party. During the 2016 election The Ephemeric reported on Donald Trump's corruption and scandals, which, let's face it, turned out to be only the tip of the iceberg - this was before the extent of Trump's Russia connection was known, before his years of tax evasion became public knowledge, and before his own lawyer named him as an unindicted co-conspirator in a variety of federal crimes. Even then, no one could have predicted his moral turpitude, his shameless disregard for reality, and his abject corruption.

So yes, the swamp is swampier than ever. No fewer than a dozen Republican officials have been convicted of crimes in the past two years, and one expects that number would be even higher if they were not trying their hardest to block any investigation into their activity.

The Republican war on democracy
And you know what? Everything that's been written above is a perfectly good reason to vote Democrat, but it's not the reason why this year is so important. Those are all terrible things being done by terrible people, but there's so much more at stake.

We've seen an unprecedented assault on free speech and justice these past years, whether it's inciting violence against the "enemy of the people" journalists, politicising the justice department, and firing disobedient police chiefs. Republicans have declared war on reality, and now simply dismiss any inconvenient information as "fake news". Donald Trump has openly stated that Republican politicians should not be charged with crimes because it harms their election chances. He also fired the head of the FBI, in his own words, because of "the Russia thing". This is not the conduct of a modern, legitimate Government, it's the behaviour of a lawless mafia state.

Basic democratic rights are under threat, with Republicans seemingly dead set on disenfranchising as many voters as possible, and gerrymandering the country into a grotesque and unrepresentative shape (more on that to come in a later blog post). Here's a fun fact, Republicans have won a majority of the popular vote just once in thirty years. Our current President was elected by a minority of the people, our House was elected by a minority of the people, and our Senate majority represents a minority of the people. At some point you have to ask yourself, in what kind of democracy does the fewest number of votes win, and not just once, but consistently?

We are never going to agree on everything, but all Americans can agree that speech should be free, that elections should be fair, and that no one is above the law. Democracy relies on the ability to scrutinise those in power, the unbiased application of justice, and the universal right to vote and have that vote count.

I have written above why I would vote for the Democratic Party, but frankly those usual considerations seem trivial in comparison this year. The Republican Party has taken clear, no longer merely hypothetical, concrete steps to undermine the basic tenets of democracy. This goes far beyond politics and partisanship, this simply can not be tolerated regardless of your political persuasion. For these reasons, it is absolutely imperative that we vote Democrat this November. Whether you're liberal, conservative, or independent, a message needs to be sent to the Republican Party.

And it's not just those on the left who are saying this. Long time Republican officials and strategists including Steve Schmidt, David Frum, and Max Boot have all similarly called for a fresh start. Even conservative newspapers like the Des Moines Register. Intellectually honest conservatives and people of all ideologies who put country before politics are all coming to this conclusion.

As difficult as it is in this hyper-partisan age to turn your back on your "team", a bipartisan consensus is forming that the Republican Party needs to be torn down and we need to start over. They need to receive such a shock, such devastation, that they are forced back into sanity, and only then can we return to some form of functional Government.

The unfortunate truth is that the reason bad people get away with doing bad things is because we let them. Elections are the opportunity we have to shape the world around us, and I fear that through a combination of apathy and the ill-judged instinct to false equivalency there's a real risk that this country will just sleepwalk into some kind of a Russia-style authoritarian hybrid democracy. I appreciate that it sounds hyperbolic, but considering the brazenly anti-democratic practices going on this country already, you can argue that we're already well on our way.

Authoritarianism is an insidious thing, and we have seen all too often throughout history what happens if left unchecked. It can not be allowed to fester in this country any longer, it needs to be cut off immediately and it needs to be made clear that Americans will not stand for it. I encourage everyone to vote Democrat this November, not just because their policy is what's best for America, not just so that the corrupt and criminal can finally be held to account, but because our shared principles of decency and human rights are under attack. This is not a normal election, nothing less than American democracy is on the ballot. Let's put an end to this nonsense.

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