In 1984, I was running for Congress, was the Democratic nominee for Virginia’s 10th Congressional district, and found myself standing on the floor of the Democratic convention in San Francisco, just as New York Governor Mario Cuomo challenged the convention and the nation to get on with the business of the American people.
We are in about the same position today – although the late Governor Cuomo might find it’s much worse were he with us – given the bluffing, bravado, dissembling, firing, misconduct, lying, intolerance, war mongering and congressional grid lock – that’s paralyzed the public’s business.
The Republican Caucus in the Senate and the House are not working to solve our problems; they are creating problems, spending most of the congressional session since the election bowing and scraping before the demands of their wealthy contributing patrons at the expense of the many hard working men and women they ignore.
Governor Cuomo said in 1984 that Republicans believe our nation “should settle for taking care of the strong and hope that economic ambition and charity will do the rest,” so that “what falls from the table will be enough for the middle class and those who are trying desperately to work their way into the middle class.”
Callous indifference toward the many has been the hallmark of this Republican Caucus.
Front and center is the “health care” effort that so far proposes to give massive funds – in the form of tax breaks for the rich – offset by cutting the needed funds for health care for millions of the sick and dying.
No question, Republicans treat Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as a foolish notion, that the meek shall ever inherit the earth.
Their Darwinian default is that the fittest survive and there is no exception for the fragile or vulnerable, not the ill, the disabled, more generally, not any one deemed “unfit.”
Governor Cuomo insisted that “we can make it all the way with the whole family [of men and women, children and seniors] intact.”
Our Constitution’s preamble contemplates our government will promote the “general welfare.”
The Republican leadership has a more particular and narrow class they prefer to serve.
We have Republican leaders who think whites are at risk of discrimination in a nation still quite ill at ease when it comes to treating blacks as equal.
We have leaders who will never respect the rights of women to be let alone.
We have leaders who care more about an individual’s sexual practices than the service the person renders.
We have leaders who insist on a “reformed” immigration policy that sounds more like an updated version of slavery or indentured servitude.
We have leaders who would muzzle the media to conceal government misconduct.
We have leaders who would destroy what made America the shining example for others to emulate.
We therefore have so much to fix and set right.
We must re-dedicate ourselves to educating our young, with scholarships, grants, affordable loans, and work-study programs.
We must rid our schools of the superstition and nonsense that defies science and intelligence.
We must put an end to any educational formulae that undercuts universal public education.
We must assure our seniors, as Governor Cuomo noted, so “terrorized by the idea that their only security, their Social Security, is being threatened.”
We cannot have our sick and dying whipsawed cruelly between “official” assurances of health care coverage followed by hand-wringing fear that they are going to lose their coverage.
We must be stewards of the earth, water, and air, necessary to sustain life.
As Governor Cuomo said, we must “preserve our environment from greed and from stupidity.”
In 1984, when the Governor spoke, the nation was concerned that our government’s “defense” policy was to accumulate nuclear weapons “pile [d] so high that they [would] pierce the clouds,” and “frighten our enemies.”
We have a “renaissance” of this dystopic madness and a war fever promoting conflict.
Republicans have taken us off the straight and narrow course that made this nation great.
Is there any hope for a course correction?
There is some.
We have some quite recent legislative examples of bi-partisan cooperation – congressional legislation assuring sanctions against Russia (tying the hands of Mr. Trump to do otherwise), and safeguards to protect Special Counsel Bob Mueller from being fired for investigating Mr. Trump (given that Mr. Trump fired FBI Director Comey for similar reasons).
The most encouraging step toward possible cooperation in congress may be when three Republican Senators including Senator John McCain joined Democrats to defeat the worst and last health care proposal.
We can’t say if this is a trend to govern anew.
We can, however, encourage our representatives, tell them, “enough is enough,” and demand that they govern for a change.