by Errington C. Thompson, MD –
Before I get too far into this article, let me wish you and yours a very Happy New Year.
I am not a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions. For the most part, I find them relatively useless. Yet, this year I would like to make an exception. I would like for you and me to make a pact. I would like for us to do something that we really have not done before.
I would like for you and me to promise each other that we are going to stay engaged in politics. We are not going to be just engaged around an election but, in spite of our busy lives, we are going to stay engaged every day. Constant vigilance is the only way in which progressive solutions can be proposed and implemented to solve our problems.
Identity Crisis is the title of a new book which investigates what happened in the 2016 presidential election and how Trump won. Using tons of polling data from various sources, the authors conclude that race and racism swung the election for Trump. White men and white women overwhelmingly voted for Trump. Whites for the first time in over four decades voted as a bloc. It was not voter anger, which was a popular explanation. It was whites banding together behind Donald Trump. Let that idea sit with you for a while and we will discuss 2016 more in next month’s column.
Nancy is Back!
We progressives can be a quirky, funny type of people. I am not sure why we do not treat Nancy Pelosi with the same reverence that we show Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Barack Obama. Yet when the dust settled, and it was clear that the Republicans took a shellacking in November, there was a lot of handwringing over Nancy becoming Speaker of the House again.
I guess that is understandable. We, progressives, tend to question everything. On one hand, that trait can be somewhat annoying; on the other hand, asking questions can keep you out of trouble (See Iraq War, in which no thoughtful questions were asked in the Bush administration).
Nancy Pelosi has a long record of supporting progressive causes. During the George W. Bush presidency, Nancy opposed the Iraq war. (She asked the right questions.) She opposed illegal wiretaps, which seemed to be routine during the Bush administration.
Bush thought he had a mandate when he started his second term in office and proposed privatization of Social Security. Nancy Pelosi led the charge against that cockamamie idea. She did get sideways with progressive movement when she decided it was not in the country’s best interest to pursue impeachment hearings against George W. Bush. To Nancy, it was more important to fix what was broken than to punish the people who broke it. As she always does, she wanted to look forward, not back.
When she was Speaker during the first two years of Barack Obama’s administration, so much progressive legislation got passed it was dizzying. Remember, we were in the midst of the Great Recession. She helped pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which saved our economy. No, she did not go after the bankers; she did help put America on track for recovery that has lasted almost 10 years. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The Credit Card Act which forced credit card companies to explain all of their fees in plain, simple language. She helped extend unemployment benefits to 20 weeks in states with high unemployment.
And, of course, there was the patient protection and affordability healthcare act also known as ObamaCare, which gave 20 million Americans who did not have health insurance, health insurance. This is exactly what we want a progressive leader to do.
Our government has been shut down since December 22 because Donald Trump wants funding for his border wall. According to his latest pronouncements, the president is willing to keep the government shut down indefinitely. One of Speaker Pelosi’s first acts was shepherding two bills through the House to fund the government.
One funds the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8, to give legislators and the administration time to negotiate border security. The other funds the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Housing and Urban Development and others affected by the shutdown through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. The Republican Senate and House (under former Speaker Paul Ryan) couldn’t manage to do even that much last year.
Both bills passed the House and now they’re waiting for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, (Donald Trump’s lapdog), to bring them to the Senate floor for debate and a vote. That is not going to happen.
Nancy Pelosi will use all of her skill and power to try to reopen the government as quickly as possible. She understands the problem. Look for her also to begin to pass comprehensive border security legislation that does not include any funding for the wall. This will prove that progressives are interested in border security, because we are.
The very first legislation Pelosi’s House Democrats passed was HR 1, aimed at decreasing the influence of money in politics and expanding voting rights. This is solid progressive legislation. It places a little bit more pressure on Mitch McConnell and the Senate, who again will try to ignore the bill.
Like “The Notorious RBG” (Ruth Bader Ginsberg), Nancy Pelosi doesn’t give great speeches. She will not star in a rap video. She will not vindictively go after opponents—but she will hold malefactors’ feet to the fire. She doesn’t use the coolest lingo, but she will show up every day for work in heels and pearls. She will protect children, women, minorities, the GLBTQ community, and the underserved. She will protect Social Security and Medicare against renewed assaults. She will stand up for health care, education, and our environment.
Most of all, she will stand up to Trump and his nonsense every day. That’s what we need in a House Speaker. Go Nancy Go!