For much of the past year, Americans have suffered through a perfect storm of trouble — fires, floods, pestilence, civil unrest and a cratered economy that has put millions out of work. We have 200,000 Americans dead of COVID-19, and we’re told there may be 200,000 more to come before year’s end. We’ve had more than 188,000 cases in North Carolina, with more than 3,000 deaths. We’re facing disasters of biblical proportions, leading some to say that we may be in the “end times.”
I think we should look a little closer to home for the causes of our current situation. Which is why this year, for the first time, I am voting a straight Democratic ticket.
You see, it’s not enough to vote Trump out. We must vote out his enablers in Congress and state governments. This election year, the down-ballot races are critically important.
I have never been a straight-ticket voter. As an independent, I’ve always prided myself on researching every race and choosing the person I considered best for the job, whether Republican, Democrat or third party.
I did not vote for Donald Trump, but when he won, I hoped that he would listen to competent, ethical, seasoned voices around him. Failing that, I relied on the legislative and judicial branches to play their constitutional role and keep his worst tendencies in check.
That has not happened. This poses a grave threat to our democracy — and our lives.
Almost without exception, Republicans in Congress have fallen in line, enabling this president to do as he pleases. When Trump pressured a vulnerable ally to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, they voted to acquit. They stood by while this president’s handpicked attorney general launched investigations into political opponents, freed his convicted political cronies and sent armed officers against peaceful protesters so that Trump could stage a photo op.
Some Republican governors of states with high infection rates have bowed to pressure from Trump to open their states, in defiance of the CDC’s own guidelines. The results have been catastrophic. The irony is that it might have been possible to open businesses and schools safely had Trump done his job from the beginning. (See Europe.)
Sen. Tillis likes to play the role of a centrist. In truth, the senator writes reams of letters and tweets and signs on to a lot of innocuous bills, but when the chips are down, he votes with the president 93% of the time.
He said nothing when Trump took money from military families to pay for his wall and sidelined the scientists who warned about the coming pandemic. He says he trusts the president’s “good judgment” when it comes to Russian interference in elections. Now that we know that Trump lied to the public about the coronavirus from the beginning, Sen. Tillis has nothing to say. He has, however, been supportive of Trump’s attempts to blame the whole mess on China.
Americans need affordable health care more than ever, but Tillis has repeatedly voted to take health care away from millions of us by repealing the Affordable Care Act. As speaker of the N.C. House, he played a key role in preventing the expansion of Medicaid. Tillis, like many other Republicans, promises to protect those with preexisting conditions through a mysterious plan that’s always right around the corner.
Tillis’ Democratic opponent is Cal Cunningham, an attorney, veteran, and lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. He supports protecting and expanding the Affordable Care Act with a public option.
Candidates in the 11th Congressional District are vying for an open seat created when Congressman Mark Meadows left to become President Trump’s right-hand man. The Democratic candidate, Moe Davis, is a retired Air Force colonel, law professor, director of the Air Force Judiciary and former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay. He has pledged not to accept any PAC money.
Republican candidate Madison Cawthorn is a 25-year-old motivational speaker and real estate investor who touts his potential appeal to a new generation of voters.
The young people I know favor strong action to address climate change because they have the most to lose. Most are also smart enough to want someone with experience representing them. Cawthorn has called himself a “green” conservative, but a review of his proposals and policies suggest that he will be the kind of “environmentalist” we have in President Trump. Maybe “member of Congress” should not be Mr. Cawthorn’s first real job.
He does seem to have plenty of conservative PAC money behind him.
On the state level, Gov. Cooper’s quarantine orders have resulted in a lower COVID infection rate in North Carolina than in other Southeastern states. Asheville’s tourist economy has taken a huge hit. Our unemployment rate has gone from lowest in the state to among the highest. Still, events in Florida and Texas have shown that it’s not enough to throw open the doors to bars and restaurants — the economy will not recover until we get this virus under control.
It’s been estimated that 238,000 North Carolinians have lost health insurance in the COVID recession, making us fifth in the nation for uninsured adults. Cooper attempted to expand Medicaid, but was again stymied by the Republican-controlled state assembly. If he had succeeded, many of the uninsured would have been eligible for coverage.
As long as Republicans maintain control of the General Assembly, we can look forward to more gerrymandered districts after the 2020 census. That’s why we have so many extremists in the pipeline. I don’t think either party should be allowed to choose their voters. With fair districts, we might elect an assembly more reflective and responsive to citizens of this purple state.
If Biden is elected and Democrats do not retain the House and win the Senate, we will see fiscal conservatives who gladly passed massive tax cuts on the wealthy and corporations coming out of their burrows, raging about the deficit and telling us that we cannot afford a clean environment, affordable health care and a guaranteed pension after a lifetime of work.
I think we can do better. I hope you’ll join me in voting Democratic this year.
— Cinda Chima
Editor’s note: Chima reports helping in several progressive campaigns, including that of Moe Davis.