Columnist Clare Higgins: Tuesday’s vote is about stability for the country

  • From left, Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., talks with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., during a Democratic presidential primary debate at the Gaillard Center, Tuesday, Feb. 25 in Charleston, S.C. AP

Published: 2/28/2020 6:00:15 PM

I have watched or listened to all the Democratic presidential debates. The number of candidates dwindled, and those that remained got whiter and older. Then a few billionaires appeared. A couple of them are spending obscene amounts of money.

I struggle with the impulse to play the pundit; who will win in Michigan? And I worry that these debates magnify the relatively small differences between the Democratic candidates. Those small differences have been and will be exploited by the Trump campaign (and by the Russians).

It finally became clear to me that I just need to vote for the person that, given the slow-rolling catastrophe that we have been in for the last three years, will do the best job of bringing the country back to some kind of stability. We also desperately need a candidate that will help keep the House and maybe even win the Senate.

So, I am planning to vote for Elizabeth Warren this Tuesday. I appreciate her willingness to learn and her ability to change her views on issues when the evidence points to alternate solutions. I agree with Sen. Warren’s positions on just about every issue I deeply care about and there is no one that I agree with 100% of the time (not even myself).

And she was the first candidate to put out an early education and care plan. For the first time in my memory, at the November Democratic debate (with four women moderators) candidates talked about the need for a national plan to make early education and care affordable for families while paying the people (primarily women) a wage that recognizes the challenges of the work and allows them to support themselves and their families.

In 2017, Massachusetts’ early educators were paid on average $13.39 per hour. Sen. Warren understands that we need to change that if we want the caregivers to stay so that children can thrive.

Sen. Warren is a corruption fighter, with plans to actually clean up the swamp. She has thought about inequality and about racial equity, earning the highest score of any of the candidates on the 2020 Racial Justice Presidential Scorecard produced by the Center for Urban and Racial Equity. And she has been the calmest presence on the debate stage, giving me assurance that she will stay cool on a stage with the provocateur-in-chief.

There is a lot wrong with how we elect presidents and our federal senators and representatives. The loser of the popular vote became the president twice in the last five elections due to the Electoral College system. The Senate is tilted toward small states and gerrymandering has effectively allowed many elected representatives to pick their voters, disenfranchising people of color and poor people. Just electing a different president won’t fix that. Sen. Warren’s anti-corruption and election integrity plans will help, but it will be a state by state fight.

On Nov. 3rd, I will vote for the Democratic nominee for president. The current occupant of the White House has created a national crisis for poor people, people of color, immigrants and women. He is the head of the government, but he doesn’t believe in the validity of the institution. He is a corrupt autocrat that will, if reelected, do damage to our constitutional form of government that cannot easily be rectified when he is gone. I won’t be happy to vote for Mike Bloomberg, but I will. Not voting is a vote for Trump.

Override

While this is a primary for president, there is also a local question on the ballot. Voters in Northampton are being asked to raise their taxes to pay for local services.

As a mayor, I asked people to do that twice. It wasn’t something I did without conflicting feelings. I knew that it would be difficult for some people, often older and poorer, who were already struggling. And I knew that the property tax is regressive, hitting those people harder than their newer and more well-off neighbors.

But the federal government and the state government didn’t step in to fill the gap, and they aren’t going to now. In fact, both have repeatedly cut taxes. So local governments put the question before the voters, and the voters have the final decision.

I will be voting yes because 25.7% of the students in our schools are economically disadvantaged and 37.6% have high needs. Today’s youth are the only hope for change tomorrow. The climate crisis has demonstrated that youth leadership can move adults to action, but we need to invest in their education to make that possible.

Nelson Mandela said, “The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation.”

We have a lot of rebuilding to do in this country — they need us, and we need them if we are to make any progress toward solving the challenges that face us.

Clare Higgins, of Northampton, a former mayor of the city, is executive director of the nonprofit Community Action Pioneer Valley. She can be reached at columnists@gazettenet.com.

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