Michael Dover: What ‘Take Back the House’ means

Published: 10/30/2018 11:08:13 AM

It’s official: Mitch McConnell has said the huge deficit, caused by the massive cut in corporate taxes that Republicans passed, means we can’t afford so-called entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And, for good measure, he says he’ll try again to repeal the Affordable Care Act if his party keeps control of Congress. It’s almost as if he’s handing the Democrats their talking points for why they should take back the House of Representatives in November.

But there’s more to taking back the House than stopping the Republicans’ headlong rush to national destruction. Looking at the Democratic candidates who have emerged over the last year to run for House seats is an inspiration and an antidote to despair. Supposedly safe Republican seats are suddenly not so safe — so much so that several dozen Republican incumbents have announced their retirement, including House Speaker Paul Ryan. And the folks stepping forward to contest those seats present us with a future, not just a reaction to the present. They’re talking about what we can be when Trump and his gang have left the scene: a functional health care system, a fair tax structure, a living wage, a rational response to the climate catastrophe that’s already upon us.

What impresses me is the diversity and quality of the House candidates on the Democratic side. First, there are the “firsts”: If they’re elected, we’ll see the first Muslim women in Congress, the first Filipina-American, the first Tibetan-American, the first LGBTQ representatives from a number of states. Then there are the women — thousands of them running for office at every level, almost all Democrats. NBC News has estimated that there could be at least 100 women in the House next session, mostly Democrats. That’s still only about 25 percent of the seats, but it will be up from 19 percent in the current House. There are veterans, women and men, who will work to protect veterans’ programs but also for everyone’s right to a better life than what the Republicans seem to think they deserve.

There’s a catch, though. If Democrats fail by even one vote to take back the House, all of these wonderful people will be virtually powerless. Committee chairs will be the same old Republicans, the Speaker of the House will be a Republican (perhaps even more right-wing than Paul Ryan), the agenda — the ability to decide what bills come up for consideration — will be entirely Republican. Congressional oversight, if any, will be conducted by Republicans. The power to investigate corruption and malfeasance in the Trump administration will rest with the Republicans, who have shown no interest in exercising that power. The budget will be a Republican budget. In other words, nothing will change.

If anyone is expecting the Mueller investigation to produce any action from Congress, they can forget it. Not only will there be no legislation that benefits ordinary Americans, there won’t even be any debate about such bills on the floor of the House or the Senate.

In a very short time this decision will come to the voters; in some states, early voting has already started. Those of us who hope for change on Capitol Hill still have time to reach voters in other states where the outcome is far less certain than here in Massachusetts. Canvassers are heading out from the Pioneer Valley every weekend before Election Day to New York and New Hampshire (and some are going to Maine or even farther afield) to ensure that every voter for the Democratic candidates in those district makes it to the polls. Phone banking and letter writing to districts around the country will continue right up to the end. There is no shortage of things to do to help take back the House. If you think something needs to be done, please be one of those who does something. Go to the website of the local Take Back the House coalition, tinyurl.com/flipthehouse, and volunteer. If you want to support the dozen most vulnerable of the Democrats running for the House, the national organization Swing Left has an Immediate Impact Fund that will do just that: go to tinyurl.com/impactfund andgive what you can.

This is the only chance we have to blunt the agenda of Trump and the congressional Republicans before the end of Trump’s first (and, we can hope, only) term. I hope you’ll join me in making that happen.

Michael Dover, a Leverett resident, is a retired environmental scientist who worked in academia, government and the private sector. He is a co-founder of the Swing Left Pioneer Valley. He has lived in the Amherst area since 1994.


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