Who are the real patriots?

The primaries are over and Democrats across the country are gearing up for the General Election (November 6th!).  With the barrage of political ads we’ve all been subjected to, I’ve been wondering for a while now:

Who are the real patriots these days?  Who is carrying forward the vision of the country’s founders?

The GOP lays claim to the “patriot” title and it seems that they tend to define it as whoever carries the most guns, pays the least taxes, and has the most red, white, and blue t-shirts.  They quote slogans like “America First” and concepts such as “American exceptionalism” readily and question one’s patriotism if they don’t wear an American flag pin on their suit.

View post on imgur.com

Is that patriotism?

The GOP also claims ideological ties to the Founding Fathers, claiming they alone understand and uphold the original intent of the founders of the country.  Too often, I’ve seen Democrats roll over and just let them have it.  After all, the founders were all slave holders and what they did over 200 years ago doesn’t necessarily translate to today’s world.  Right?

As something of a history buff, I have to disagree with the right claiming this affiliation and with the left letting them have it.  There are several examples that illustrate this point, but I’m going to choose one that all of us should recognize from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The bold part was added by me, of course.  If everyone is endowed with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which party is supporting those rights the most in the modern political landscape?

Life?  Do we even have to ask? Those of us on the left favor ideas like universal healthcare while the other side actively works to ensure that only those with the right financial resources have access to life saving medicine.

There is a public debate going on now about whether healthcare is a right or a privilege.  I’d say Thomas Jefferson seems to think it is a right.

In addition, as we were all taught in elementary school, there are three basic human needs:  food, water, and shelter.   While the GOP has taken every possible step to limit access to food & shelter by decreasing funding for benefits programs or erecting stiff requirements, it is the Democratic party that is pushing to protect those lifelines for our fellow citizens in need.  Don’t even get me started on the EPA-led attack on clean water.

No, I never thought I’d type that sentence.

Liberty?  The United States has one of the highest percentage of incarcerated citizens in the world.  Many of these people are serving long sentences for non-violent crimes.  Some are serving time for crimes that aren’t even crimes any longer in some states.  Is that liberty?

Democrats are seeking to overhaul our criminal justice system by keeping dangerous people off the streets but re-thinking the failed “War on Drugs”.  What are the Republicans doing?  Doubling down on efforts to imprison non-violent drug offenders.

Pursuit of Happiness?  This is a broad topic that can mean many things, but the one issue coming to mind to me at the moment is immigration.

Note that the quote above does not say “all Americans”.  It was written at a time when the author was a British subject, but it doesn’t say “all Englishmen” either.  It says “all men” have these unalienable rights.  Everyone.

Study after study shows that immigration has a net positive impact on the economy, even illegal immigration.  The vast majority of immigrants in this country are here to work and live the American Dream.  We Democrats are working to help DACA recipients and provide a path to citizenship that works.  What are the Republicans doing?  Fanning the flames of xenophobia, cancelling DACA, refusing to replace it, and building a wall.

Walls don’t help people exercise their unalienable rights.

So who are the real patriots in today’s political landscape?  Who is carrying on the founding vision?  Is it the group waving the flag while they suppress the minority vote and take away people’s healthcare or is it the group fighting for the principles that the country was founded on?

It’s clear to me.

Primary Wrap-Up

Primary season officially ended at 7pm last night, and the Oconee Democrats would like to take a moment before we all dig into the General Election (November 6th!) to extend our thanks to all candidates for a great race.  Remember, it was only 2 short years ago when Congressman Hice ran unopposed, and we had 3 Democrats in the hunt for his seat this time. We have truly come a long way!

In addition, we Democrats have a lot to be proud of that we had so many women and minorities running for office.  We are truly changing the face of politics for the best!

Of course, the battle is not over, and we have a lot of work to do!  Here is a quick rundown of the general election candidates and their opponents:

Race Democrat Republican
Governor Stacey Abrams Runoff
Lieutenant Governor Sarah Riggs Amico Runoff
Secretary of State John Barrow Runoff
Attorney General Charlie Bailey Chris Carr
Comm. of Agriculture Fred Swann Gary Black
Comm. of Insurance Janice Laws Jim Beck
School Superintendent Runoff Richard Woods
Comm. of Labor Richard Keatley Mark Butler
PSC, District 3 Lindy Miller Chuck Eaton
PSC, District 5 Dawn A. Randolph Tricia Pridemore
US. Rep., District 10 Tabitha Johnson-Greene Jody Hice
State Senator, District 46 Marisue Hilliard Bill Cowsert
State Rep., District 117 Deborah Gonzalez Houston Gaines
State Rep., District 119 Jonathan Wallace Marcus Wiedower

We had some wonderful candidates in the primary season, and it was simply incredible to have so many progressive ideas in the conversation.  It is truly a shame that all candidates can’t win, but in a democracy, that is just how it works. Now is the time for everyone to come together to support our chosen candidates.  Regardless of whether your particular candidate won the nomination, we can all agree that the Democratic nominees are better for our communities than their GOP opponents.

It is worth pointing out that the top state offices will have runoffs on the GOP side, giving Democrats the advantage of campaigning for the General Election (November 6th) NOW while they are still sorting out their candidates.  This is an opportunity we can’t afford to squander!

It may seem like a long time until Election Day (November 6th!), but it will be here before you know it.  All of these fine candidates will be needing your support over the coming months, so please get involved and do what you can to help them succeed!

Did we mention that the General Election is on November 6th?

Leaving Paris Accords: A Bad Idea

Early this month, the president announced that the U.S. is pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement.  We have now joined Syria and Nicaragua as the only three countries in the world who have not signed this agreement.  

The Paris Agreement is a non-binding agreement that asks countries to set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  The signing countries agreed to a goal of limiting global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius.  The goal the U.S. set for itself was a 26% emission reduction from 2005 levels by 2025.  

These goals are well within sight for the U.S.  But here’s the thing: these are voluntary goals.  There is no punishment for failing to reach these goals.  Therefore, there was no practical reason to leave the agreement.  

In pulling out of the Paris Agreement, we have forfeited our role as a global leader.  Our entering into this agreement was a show of confidence, a means to encourage other countries, particularly high-emitting developing countries such as India and China, to commit to lowering their emissions as well.  It worked.  China and India (and 195 other countries) signed the agreement.  China has now emerged as a global leader in renewable energy.

The president has cited jobs as a major factor in his decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement.  What he did not address is the hundreds of thousands of jobs emerging in the renewable energy sector.  These are growing fields, and the potential for growth in these fields is enormous.  Just last year in Georgia, solar energy jobs grew by 23%, adding 3,924 jobs to our state.

In his speech announcing our exit from the Paris Agreement, President Trump stated that he was not elected to represent Paris, but Pittsburgh.  In response, Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto replied, “I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future.”

Peduto is not alone in vowing to work locally to reduce emissions, despite a lack of federal support.  In fact, 187 mayors from across the country (including Kasim Reed of Atlanta) and 10 governors have vowed to uphold the goals of the Paris Agreement.

It is notable that many high-ranking officials in the president’s administration, as well as those in industry (even the fossil fuel industry!) advocated remaining in the agreement.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, as well as industry leaders of Shell Oil, GE, IBM, and Google, among others, have argued against leaving this agreement.  

As we look at the decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement, what stands out to me is that we have taken ourselves out of the picture.  We have taken ourselves out of discussions about solutions.  We have taken ourselves out of planning for new renewable energy-based industries and jobs.  We will be left behind if we do not act as towns, cities, and states.  We must do this ourselves; it looks like our president will not.