A Conversation About Who To Vote For In 2020

A few days ago I was in a conversation where a friend asked me who I might support in the 2020 presidential elections. For me, it all depends on how the 2018 midterm elections turns out. If a Blue wave occurs and the Democrats take both houses of Congress, I’d consider Bernie Sanders or someone further to the Left whose ambitious proposals would actually have a chance of passing in a Democratic Congress. If the Republicans hold the line and retain their majorities in Congress in 2018, I’d want a tough political infighter and savvy political strategist who could fight back against attacks by Trump, and out-strategize the Freedom Caucus and Mitch McConnell in the Congress.

When I look at the Democrats that many people think may run, they either seem too inexperienced or too old. My perfect candidate would be someone with at least 10 years of experience and has proven legislative skill to build coalitions, rally public opinion and pass legislation. I’m initially inclined to support progressive Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Brown is not a very charismatic politician, though. And I worry that he’s too nice and may be unable to fight back against the personal attacks that Donald Trump will level against any opponent that he will face.

I like Bernie Sanders. My politics is pretty close to his. He’s a man of integrity and conviction who can inspire the young. The big concern that I’ve always had with Bernie is this: does Sanders have the political skills to get his ambitious proposals through Congress and transform into law? The two presidents who were able to enact ambitious liberal programs, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, were both superb political strategists and tough fighters. Bernie Sanders has been in Congress since the 1990s. When I compare him with other progressive members of Congress in the same period (Ted Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, Paul Wellstone, Barbara Lee), Sanders doesn’t have as many major legislative achievements.

My major concern with a Kamala Harris or an Elizabeth Warren is a lack of legislative experience. I don’t know if they can get that experience the way the Republican Party is right now, with the extreme Right wing mentality in the GOP that punishes any Republican politician that tries to compromise and find common ground with their Democratic counterparts.

Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt were able to work with a saner and more diverse Republican Party that had liberal and moderate Republicans that they were able to find common ground with. Today’s Democrats don’t have that luxury. Liberal and moderate Republicans have long since disappeared from the GOP. The Republicans in Congress today can be broken up into moderate conservatives, libertarians, and far right Tea Party conservatives. There just isn’t much common ground anymore between today’s congressional Republicans and even the most conservative Democrats in Congress.

These are my thoughts and concerns. I might be right, I might be wrong. I don’t know yet who I’d support for President in 2020. I’m hoping the Democrats take at least one house, but hopefully both houses of Congress. And I’m hoping saner, less ideological Republicans fight the Far Right and regain some influence within the Republican Party.

FDR introduced a record number of pieces of legislation immediately after being elected during Great Depression. FDR signed the Emergency Banking Act and the Glass-Steagall Act which prohibited the merger of commercial and investment banks in response to the 1933 bank panic. FDR also created the Civilian Conservation Corps which put 250,000 unemployed to work. FDR also signed into law new regulatory powers to the Federal Trade Commission and created the Security and Exchange Commission to regulate Wall Street. $3.3 billion dollars was appropriated to the Public Works Administration to stimulate the economy and create the largest government-owned industrial enterprise in American history — the Tennessee Valley Authority which built dams and power stations, controlled floods, and modernized agriculture and home conditions in the poverty-stricken Tennessee Valley. FDR promised to repeal prohibition in his campaign for Pres, and he did, generating new tax revenue to help pay for increase in gov spending. In June 1933 Roosevelt restored $50 million in pension payments, and Congress added another $46 million more. After the 1934 Congressional elections, which gave Roosevelt large majorities in both houses, there was a fresh surge of New Deal legislation. These measures included the Works Progress Administration which set up a national relief agency that employed 2 million people. FDR signed the National Labor Relations Act which established for the first time in American history the rights of workers to organize unions and participate in strikes. At the height of WPA employment in 1938, unemployment was down from 20.6% in 1933 to only 12.5%. Total employment during Roosevelt’s term expanded by an astonishing 18.31 million jobs.

A short documentary on Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs. The Economic Opportunity Act 1964 created a Job Corps similar to the New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps; a domestic peace corps; a system for vocational training; and Head Start, a pre-school program designed to prepare children for success in public school. The bill also funded community action programs and extended loans to small businessmen and farmers. The Great Society created Medicare to provide health care for America’s senior citizens and the Medicaid program to provide health care to the poor. In 1965, Congress passed the groundbreaking Elementary and Secondary Education Act which for the first time provided federal funding for education below the college level passed the Higher Education Act, which created a National Teachers Corps and provided financial assistance to students wishing to attend college. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbade job discrimination and the segregation of public accommodations. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 assured minority registration and voting. It suspended use of literacy or other voter-qualification tests that had sometimes served to keep African-Americans off voting lists and provided for federal court lawsuits to stop discriminatory poll taxes. The Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965 abolished the national-origin quotas in immigration law. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 banned housing discrimination and extended constitutional protections to Native Americans on reservations.

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Things That I Love About America: The First Amendment

One of the things that most encapsulates the high ideals of America are the First Amendment. These encapsulate some of our most basic and cherished freedoms.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

This country has not always lived up to the high ideals of the First Amendment. Slaves, workers, women, immigrant groups like the Irish and Chinese, leftists, various racial minority groups have at various points of American history been denied the rights of free speech, the right to assemble, the right to protest the government. But there have always been Americans who have fought to expand rights found in the First Amendment and the Constitution so that it protects the freedoms of all of our citizens. These Americans included the abolitionists, women suffragists, labor organizers, civil rights workers, feminists, LGBTQ rights activists, immigrants rights activists. Martin Luther King Jr said in his last speech that all the African American community wants is for American to be true to what it said on paper. I think we are all the better for the efforts of these Americans to get this country to live up to its highest values.

My parents came to this country to give my siblings and I freedoms and opportunities that we wouldn’t have in the Philippines. I was especially cognizant of this as a teen, when I began to read about the struggles that the Philippines was going through under Ferdinand Marcos and Martial Law. I grew up at a time when the Soviet Union and eastern Europe was still under the grips of an oppressive communist government, Apartheid still ruled South Africa, the Catholics and Protestants were at war in Northern Ireland, the Khmer Rouge were committing genocide in Cambodia.

For all its flaws, I really appreciated the freedoms and relative security that I had in America. And I appreciated the courage of my parents in immigrating here. I grew up collecting comic books, cheering the Boston Celtics when all my other friends were either 76er fans or Laker fans, reading whatever books I wanted to read and checking out from the library whatever movies I wanted to watch. As an adult, I’ve tried to craft the life I want to live: attend protests; paint and create art; travel and explore the spots of historical figures I admire; explore different churches and figure out for myself what I believe about God; express my political views through my editorial cartoons.

I can do all these things because of the First Amendment protections of my freedom of religion, freedom of speech and expression, freedom to join whatever group I want to join, and my freedom to protest for my rights and the rights of any marginalized group.

Many people in this world have not been given the freedom and security that I have had to live the life that they want to live. I worry about the trend around the world where democracies are backsliding and are electing authoritarian figures who have no respect for basic freedoms. But as an American, I am not powerless. I can read a diversity of political opinions, join in protests and phonebank for candidates who share my views, donate to causes. And I can vote.

Thank you America. Happy birthday!

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Things That I Loved About America: The Reformers Fighting For Social Justice

I love history. What I love about history Is learning about the great reformers and radical activists who fought to expand American freedoms to marginalized groups within this country. I learned a lot about them from reading history books from the library or watching a documentary on T.V. These are the abolitionists, women suffragists, union leaders, civil rights activists, feminists, LGBTQ rights activists, immigrants rights activists, advocates for the poor.

Some of these people were great leaders and great speakers like Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Mother Jones, W.E.B. DuBois, Dorothy Height, Gloria Steinem, Dolores Huerta, Martin Luther King Jr, Harvey Milk. Some were behind-the-scenes people who walked picket lines, passed out flyers, got signatures for petitions. Some would open their homes to activists in hostile communities and cook them breakfast, or quietly give them money for bail to get out of jail, or just give an encouraging word. And some people would show their support for a cause just by voting.

They tried to change opinions and attitudes. And slowly the country improves. A white Southerner tries to change and makes his first black friends. A husband begins to share in the household chores and supports his wife’s decision to get her first job. Christian parents support and continue to love their child who comes out to them as gay. A wealthy person volunteers at a food shelter and learns of the struggles of being poor and homeless.

This country will make mistakes as it moves towards change. It’ll take two steps forward and one step back. But if we persist and stand up for what is right, America will get better.

Here is an excerpt of the last speech that Martin Luther King Jr gave just a day before he died. I think it summarizes the goal of all reformers in history: to get American to live up to its high ideals.

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Things That I Love About America: Carlos Bulosan and His Book “America is in the Heart”

When I was growing up, I struggled with my identity as a Filipino American. Some of my Filipino classmates would criticize me for not know how to speak or understand Tagalog, and I would often be accused of being a banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside). I felt really insecure. Three things happened in the mid 1980s that gave me more confidence in my Filipino American identity.

The first thing was having a Filipina as my first girlfriend. She and her family were very accepting of me, and they never criticized me for not knowing Tagalog. They were proud and accepting of me as an American and they envied my knowledge of American history. Though we eventually broke up, I’m still very grateful for her kindness to me.

The second thing that happened in the mid 1980s that gave me great pride in my Filipino heritage was the People Power Revolution that overthrew Ferdinand Marcos. Because of the large Filipino American population in the South Bay, the San Jose Mercury News had a lot of coverage of the events unfolding in the Philippines at that time: the assassination of Benigno Aquino; the snap elections; the campaign of Cory Aquino; the mass protests against Marcos’ attempts to steal the elections. I was very proud of the Philippines people who were fighting for their freedom. I later found out a few of my relatives participated in the protests, and I felt a lot of pride in them.

The last thing that gave me a positive view of my Filipino American identity was the book “America in in the Heart” by Carlos Bulosan. I was assigned to read it in an Asian American class that I took in college. I was in a class with a lot of Asian Americans who were just like me: we didn’t know the language or culture of our parents’ home country, but we were still proud of that heritage. And we were proud of being American as well. Carlos Bulosan’s book gave me a view of the struggles that Filipino Americans went through in the 1930s as they worked in the agricultural fields and fisheries all along the West Coast. In spite of the discrimination and economic hardship that they faced, Bulosan and his fellow Filipino Americans still loved the American ideal. And in his work as a labor organizer and a writer, Bulosan worked hard to try to get America to live up to its highest ideals for the Filipino Americans and other marginalized groups.

Because of these three experiences, I am both proud of my Filipino heritage and proud to be an American.

Carlos Bulosan wrote:

“America is not a land of one race or one class of men. We are all Americans that have toiled and suffered and known oppression and defeat, from the fist Indian that offered peace in Manhattan to the last Filipino peapickers. America is not bound by geographic lattitudes. America is not merely a land or an institution. America is in the hearts of men that died for freedom; it is also in the eyes of men that are building a new world. America is a prophecy of a new society of men: of a system that knows no sorrow of strife or suffering. America is a warning to those who would try to falsify the ideals of free men.

America is also the nameless foreigner, the homeless refugee, the hungry boy begging for a job and the black body dangling from a tree. America is the illiterate immigrant who is ashamed that the world of books and intellectual opportunities is closed to him. We are all that nameless foreigner, that homeless refugee, that hungry boy, that illiterate immigrant and that lynched black body. All of us, from the first Adams to the last Filipino, native born or alien, educated of illiterate- We are America!”

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Things That I Love About America: Bipartisan Friendships

One of the things that has always made our democracy viable, something that seems to be strained today, has been the ability of Americans to respect fellow Americans of differing viewpoints. American history is rich with close friendships of individuals of differing views: the Republican Thomas Jefferson and the Federalists John and Abigail Adams; the conservative Republican Barry Goldwater and the liberal Democrat George McGovern; conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan and liberal Democrats Tip O’Neil and Ted Kennedy; Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican George H.W. Bush; and liberal Massachussetts Senator Ted Kennedy and conservative Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. Even though they disagreed on their political philosophies, they still were able to find common ground for political solutions and to forge personal friendships based on trust and affection.

These type of friendships are less common nowadays, with the hyper partisan political atmosphere in American society. A few decades ago, this country had more political dialogues, where both sides would try to persuade the other through debates about policies and an attempt to appeal to shared values. Nowadays, political conversations are more like 2 monologues running past each other rather than a dialogue. People seem to think that you can bully people of differing views into accepting their point of view. Or if agreement is not possible, one group thinks they can use personal attacks to undermine the other side’s reputations and intimidate and silence their voices.

There is a debate right now about civility. Some people think that being civil means being silent when one disagrees with the other side. It is similar to the argument that some people made in the 1960s about nonviolent civil disobedience. I think a person can be civil and still be able to voice our dissent against the policies of the current administration. I think whenever the political debate degenerates into personal attacks, thoughtful debates on policy is impossible, and it degrades both sides. For liberals, when we become as incivil as our more intemperate opponents, it plays into the hands of President Trump, who thrives in that type of uncivil atmosphere. I remember in the 2016 Republican primaries, when Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz floundered when they tried to match Donald Trump’s uncivil speech. I always thought that John Kasich was smart to try to stay out of that sort of thing.

Below is a 1988 PBS News Hour discussion with George McGovern and Barry Goldwater.

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Things That I Love About America: The Congressional Career of John Quincy Adams

A few years ago, I checked out from the library the book “Mr. Adams’s Last Crusade: John Quincy Adams’s Extraordinary Post-Presidential Life in Congress” by Joseph Wheelan. I had just watched Steven Spielberg’s movie “Amistad” and I wanted to get to know more about Adams.

In 1828, John Quincy Adams had just been voted out of office after a rather unsuccessful one term as President of the U.S. John Quincy was the son of extraordinary parents, John and Abigail Adams, and he had already accomplished much in his life. He had hoped to retire but the people in his home town pressured him to run for Congress and he won a seat in 1830.

Adams was a far better Congressman than he was a President. During his 17 years in the House of Representatives, Adams became one of the leading opponents of slavery in Congress. He led a long fight against the “Gag” rule, a rule set up by Southern representatives to table any petitions about the abolition of slavery and prevented any discussion of the slavery issue within Congress. Adams was against the annexation of Texas and the Mexican American War because of how they would extended slavery into new territories. In one speech, Adams said that in case of civil war, the President could emancipate the slaves as a military necessity. Abraham Lincoln eventually used this rationale to free the slaves through his Emancipation Proclamation.

Because of his fame as an opponent of slavery, John Quincy Adams was asked to speak in the Supreme Court for the case of United States v. The Amistad. Adams went before the Supreme Court on behalf of African slaves who had revolted and seized the Spanish ship Amistad. His argument succeeded; the Court ruled in favor of the Africans, who were declared free and returned to their homes.

During his time in Congress, John Quincy Adams served as chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, where he spoke out against the removal of Eastern Indian tribes by the Jackson administration. He also spoke out for the right of women to petition for political causes.

John Quincy Adams became one of the best representatives we ever had in Congress due to his fight for human rights.

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Things That I Love About America: Pete Seeger

One of the people that makes me most proud of being an American is Pete Seeger.

Pete Seeger is one of my biggest heroes. He was a folk singer who believed in the power of music to help in the fight for social justice. He sang for striking union workers, civil rights activists in the South, anti-war protesters, environmental activists, and Occupy Wall Street protesters.

For his courage in speaking out, Seeger was often harassed by people in authority that wanted to silence his voice. During the 1950s, Seeger was blacklisted for refusing to name names in a Congressional committee. His concerts were boycotted, television refused to allow him to his shows. For years, he struggled to earn a living.

Despite these harassments, Seeger kept singing for causes that he believed in. And eventually our country realized what a cultural treasure we had in Pete Seeger. He was honored with the Kennedy Center Honors and the National Medal of Arts for his contributions to music and to social justice.

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