The election’s human side

I was stunned that Donald Trump actually won the presidential election.

Despite all the yard signs I saw supporting him, I didn’t think he could pull it off. But he did.

As I told a friend recently, Trump struck a nerve in this country that runs deeper than anyone realized.

Far deeper, as it turns out.

If the Republicans had rejected Trump and his audacious words a year ago during the primary season, they likely would have nominated someone like Ted Cruz. Would he have been a better choice? Received more votes?

We’ll never know, of course.

Neither Donald nor Hillary Clinton impressed me, nor a lot of other people. Both had negative approval ratings throughout the campaign, for good reasons.

But we were going to elect one of them.

I voted the platform, not the person. I think nearly all of us did, whether we realized it or not.

We either support the Republican agenda or the Democratic vision for our country.

In earlier elections, I was worried the parties were so similar, it was hard to tell them apart.

Not so this time.

The Republican platform

https://prod-static-ngop-pbl.s3.amazonaws.com/media/documents/DRAFT_12_FINAL[1]-ben_1468872234.pdf

According to the platform approved this summer at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, here’s a partial list of GOP positions:

  • Free trade
  • Free market for the banking system, ie, fewer government regulations
  • Phase out the federal transit program (to make it local)
  • Simplify laws for business start-ups
  • Reduce the federal debt, including a balanced budget amendment
  • Change the activist judiciary, including the U.S. Supreme Court
  • Support traditional marriage and family
  • Defend the right to keep and bear arms
  • Severely limit surveillance on U.S. soil
  • Sanctity of life, including for unborn children; oppose abortion
  • State sovereignty on most issues
  • Proof of citizenship when registering to vote and photo ID when voting
  • Modernize pipelines and the electric grid, including supporting the Keystone XL pipeline
  • No energy subsidies; let the free market decide energy use
  • No regulation of the Internet
  • Support legal immigration, but not illegal immigration
  • Require international treaties to be ratified by a two-thirds majority in the Senate
  • Audit the Pentagon
  • Term limits for members of Congress
  • Allow Puerto Rico to become a state
  • Competition among different types of K-12 education
  • Return higher education student loan funding to the private sector
  • Repeal Obamacare and let states regulate the insurance industry
  • Portability of insurance coverage
  • Reduce the number of criminal offenses
  • Peace through strength, ie, a strong military
  • Unequivocally support Israel

The Democratic platform

https://www.demconvention.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Democratic-Party-Platform-7.21.16-no-lines.pdf

According to the platform approved this summer at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, here’s a partial list of Democratic positions:

  • Increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour
  • Equal pay for women
  • At least 12 weeks of paid leave for having a child or a family member’s severe medical issue
  • Incentivize companies to share profits
  • Expand investment in infrastructure, including roads, bridges, public transit, airports, and passenger and freight rail lines, and establish an independent infrastructure bank to assist in funding those projects
  • Connect every household to high-speed broadband, and support Internet neutrality
  • Increase access to global markets for American intellectual property and other digital trade
  • Open access to credit for small businesses, and target funding for small businesses in underserved communities
  • Strengthen criminal laws and civil penalties for Wall Street criminals
  • Establish a multimillionaire surtax and end loopholes for wealthy taxpayers
  • Remove the Confederate flag from public properties because it is a racist symbol
  • Improve diversity in federal and state contracting services, incentivize retirement investment programs, and increase opportunities for jobs and education for people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds
  • Reform mandatory minimum prison sentences
  • Close private prisons and detention centers
  • Create national guidelines on use of force by police officers
  • “Ban the box,” expand re-entry programs and restore voting rights as prison terms end
  • Fix the immigration system, including repealing the 3-year, 10-year and permanent bars and ensuring due process for those fleeing violence in Central America, including unaccompanied children
  • Expand sex discrimination laws to cover LGBT people
  • Restore the Voting Rights Act
  • Appoint judges who defend liberty and equality for all
  • Approve statehood for the District of Columbia
  • Tackle the climate challenge
  • Support clean energy, including solar panels and renewable energy
  • Oppose the Keystone XL pipeline
  • Make college debt-free
  • Guarantee universal preschool and good schools for every child
  • Secure universal health care
  • Protect and advance reproductive health, rights and justice, including access to safe and legal abortion
  • Expand and strengthen background checks for gun purchases
  • Defeat ISIS with assistance from allies and partners

A volatile climate

It’s hard to comment on last week’s election without offending someone, because the differences are so sharp and the election was close. Who I voted for doesn’t matter now, because we have a new president-elect.

It’s easy for me to say that, but do I really believe it? I did believe that when Barack Obama was elected president, both times. He is our president, whether I agree with the direction he’s taken this country or not.

Our social climate will change next year when Trump takes office. Will the gravity of the office itself change him? Will he understand that other people have ideas too?

In the same vein, do you and I understand that other people have ideas different from ours – and different does not necessarily mean worse (or better)?

Many of my friends are stepping back from social media for awhile, because the climate is so volatile right now. That’s not a bad idea.

We are not neighborly

In the AARP Bulletin (yes, I’m that old) that came in the mail a few days ago, Sebastian Junger, a journalist and author who is an expert on military life, claims that the isolationism that prevails across the United States makes it extremely hard for combat veterans to re-enter society. Veterans are a tight-knit group that depend on each other for their very lives, Junger says, and they have trouble recapturing that at home.

“It’s the shock of going from a close-knit communal existence to the kind of individualized unconnected society that we have in modern America,” he says. “That’s just psychologically hard on human beings. It’s hard on civilians as well; they just don’t realize it because they’ve never experienced the alternative … The problem isn’t with the vets, it’s with society.”

That played out during the election. We have our own thoughts, our own ideas, and because we don’t know our neighbors we don’t know what they are thinking.

I have reasons for thinking the way I do. So do you. Can we hear each other out, and respect each other still?

Some of the happiest people I’ve ever met lived in poverty in southern Mexico when I visited there more than 25 years ago. They depended on each other for survival, literally. If you’re hungry today I’ll share my food with you, because I know you’ll do the same for me tomorrow.

Is this what wealth does to us? Isolates us? Insulates us?

Perhaps I should just not post anything anymore and keep my thoughts to myself, and you wouldn’t get angry or upset at me. But neither of us would learn anything from each other, either.

That’s the key. Let’s learn from each other. Let’s figure this out together.

That’s what it means to be human.

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