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Guest Column
Think all is bleak? Here’s the way out | Column
It’s nice to have fine ideas, but you need to put them into action, even if that means making sacrifices.
The spectacular job that Democrat Stacey Abrams did in registering Georgia voters could be reproduced in other states. Her grassroots effort that helped elect two Democrats to the U.S. Senate.
The spectacular job that Democrat Stacey Abrams did in registering Georgia voters could be reproduced in other states. Her grassroots effort that helped elect two Democrats to the U.S. Senate. [ JOHN AMIS | AP ]
Published Oct. 15

We have relatives in Calgary, Alberta, dual citizens who are aghast at what’s happening south of the border. They report that despite considerable affection for Americans, Canadians are asking some hard and pointed questions:

“What? The U.S. has a major political party whose leaders finally concede global warming but won’t do anything concrete to combat it?”

Jim Kaplan
Jim Kaplan [ PICASA 2.7 | Provided ]

“What? More than half a century after the Voting Rights Act, they’re trying to prevent Black people from voting?”

“What? The Supreme Court is a partisan tool of the Republicans and is about to ban abortion?”

“What? The U.S, alone among western democracies, still has the death penalty?”

“What? The country has more guns than people — and had eight times more gun deaths per 100,000 people than Canada in 2019?”

With all due recognition of slavery, the Civil War, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II and other traumas, tragedies and transgressions in our past, we’ve never had so many serious problems as we have today in this great and troubled country. The list is all too familiar and sobering:

• The projections for Earth’s climate future are frightening, and we don’t have the leadership capacity to get the world’s major countries united on action to stop it.

• We no longer have a bona fide democracy, and it’s not just the role of money that has people in Congress spending half their time raising funds rather than representing us. To put it concretely, Donald Trump or another GOP candidate could legally steal the 2024 election after the Supreme Court affirms voter-suppression laws passed by state legislatures. (It remains to be seen how effective these laws will be.)

• Republicans are still pushing the Big Lie about a stolen presidential election. There’s equally massive misinformation and denial of science among people resisting vaccinations for COVID-19. For many, facts don’t matter.

• Thanks to the death of manufacturing companies and the loss of well-paying union jobs, our blue-collar workers are in their worst shape since the Great Depression. According to a 2019 study by the Brookings Institution, 44 percent of all workers between the ages of 18 to 64 had low-wage jobs, with median hourly wages of $10.22 and median yearly income of around $18,000. The Republicans, using cultural issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, are persuading these decent, honest, hard-working, regular, rock-bed Americans to vote against their economic self-interest.

• Domestic terrorism is a serious threat.

• Thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that unlimited their campaign spending, corporations are virtually omnipotent.

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• And we now have Supreme Court-sanctioned vigilante justice — “Stasi-like participation from the citizenry,” in the words of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd — from bounty hunters seeking $10,000 payments who will report women seeking abortions after the six-week period and their doctors or anyone who engages “in conduct that aids and abets” abortions or “intends” to. The Texas law, unblocked by the Supreme Court, effectively guts a woman’s right to choose and could be replicated by other state legislatures, including Florida’s.

Every summer I meet with eight other men for Monday breakfast to enjoy each other’s company and solve the world’s problems. We always reach the same conclusion: We’re screwed.

But not finished. When he was fired as manager of the Yankees, Casey Stengel said, “Don’t give up. Tomorrow is just another day, and that’s myself.” Sounds like a useful mantra.

In King Lear the admirable Edgar says, The worst is not / So long as we can say, “This is the worst.” In other words, we’re still alive, we’re still kicking, we’re still struggling. Press on!

Oddly, there’s a ray of hope from, of all people, Donald Trump. The former guy (as President Joe Biden accurately calls him) has said that if everyone voted, the Republicans would lose. That’s why his minions are trying to prevent likely Democrats (see: people of color) from going to the polls.

Nonetheless, there will be plenty of eligible voters left and, thanks to Trump, more than enough incentive to get them to the polls. It will take more than just Democratic turnout in 2022 — and a willingness to compromise on policy — to prevent the usual midterm losses to the incumbent party. Independents, moderates and sane Republicans will need to vote Democratic. The spectacular job Stacey Abrams did in registering Georgia voters could be reproduced in other states. Imagine a 75 percent turnout in the 2022 and 2024 elections. The Democrats would still be in charge.

Experience is the litmus test of belief. It’s nice to have fine ideas, but you need to put them into action, even if that means making sacrifices. Don’t be reluctant to canvas neighborhoods and put up lawn signs. They’re two of the most effective ways of winning elections.

Before he was executed by a Utah firing squad, the songwriter Joe Hill, in a telegram to fellow labor organizer Big Bill Haywood, wrote, “Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!” This has been abridged in popular culture to, “Don’t mourn: Organize!”

Go out and do it!

Jim Kaplan is an author, a bridge columnist, and a contract advisor for the National Writers Union. He can be reached at jkaplan105@gmail.com.