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Columnist Michael Dover: Midterms matter, starting with the House



Wednesday, August 01, 2018

What is happening to this country cannot stand. In January, I wrote on this page that the year since Donald Trump’s inauguration had “been a year of almost daily assaults on the body politic of the United States. There is no ‘new normal’ because there is no normal any more.”

Unfortunately, that indictment of six months ago was mild in comparison to what has happened since. The Supreme Court is on the verge of becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the extreme right wing of the Republican Party.

Trump continues to make a complete shambles of what was once called foreign policy. Amid a climate of almost daily “new lows,” the Trump-Sessions so-called Justice Department entered an abyss by wrenching children from their parents as part of their misbegotten “zero-tolerance” policy to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants, including those seeking asylum.

Nearly 3,000 children, some still in diapers, have been warehoused in detention centers while their parents are in custody or sometimes already deported. Or the government simply, incredibly, doesn’t know where they are or even how to identify who the parents are.

This is not an administration. This is an exercise in incompetence coupled with malevolence, or a dress rehearsal for tyranny, or both. They lie with impunity. They rule by careening the country from invented crisis to invented crisis. No one has time to catch their breath before yet another outrage is upon us.

While the situation in Washington and around the country continues to slide toward authoritarianism, one constant remains: The Republican-controlled Congress does nothing to stop Trump’s headlong rush to dismantle responsible government. Instead, they relish the opportunity to pass legislation serving their billionaire clients. Your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen.

This, however, is an election year. On Nov. 6, we have a chance to do something to change the dynamic, to shift the balance. If even one house of Congress is no longer controlled by Trump’s party — and make no mistake about it, this is Trump’s party — there is the possibility that this madness can at least be slowed.

If Trump wants any legislation passed, he will have to negotiate with a Democratic House and/or Senate. He might even be held accountable for the damage he has already done. Congress has the power to investigate, to hold oversight hearings, to control the purse strings. It’s what we call a system of checks and balances, and it’s time to restore that.

The math is easier with the House of Representatives, so that’s where many of us are putting our effort. Every seat is up for election or re-election in November. If the Republicans lose 19 seats and the Democrats win 25 compared to where they now stand, leadership in the House will switch from Republican to Democratic control.

Democrats will chair all committees, and will control the chamber’s rules and agenda. That won’t mean the end of Trumpism, but it will begin to apply the brakes.

The effort to take back the House is not restricted to the Democratic National Committee. Local, regional and national groups have stepped up, as have hundreds of candidates throughout the country, to assert the right of the people to be represented fairly and honestly. Election Day is less than 100 days away and the race is definitely, defiantly on.

Here in the Valley, a coalition of more than a dozen organizations came together in April for a Take Back the House Summit; 400 people showed up to hear from Congressman Jim McGovern and other speakers, and to learn about how they can help unseat nearby Republican incumbents and defend the seats of neighboring Democrats.

Not long after that, the coalition opened an office in downtown Northampton and folks have been showing up week after week to make hundreds of phone calls to swing districts, write thousands of postcards and letters to voters, and help get the word out that change is on the way.

As the primary season wraps up and nominees are chosen, the energy for a “blue wave” is ramping up. The Western Massachusetts Take Back the House Coalition is now organizing carpools to canvass in New York’s District 19, which abuts Berkshire County, and in New Hampshire’s District 2.

We’ll keep doing that right up to Election Day, going where we’re needed, doing what we can to take back the House as an essential step toward taking back our democracy and our country from the extremism that Trump has unleashed. If you want to be part of this moment, visit our office at 18 Center St. in Northampton, or our website at tinyurl.com/flipthehouse.

Make some phone calls, write some postcards, sign up to canvass, make a donation — nothing you choose to do will be too little. We can even help you make connections if you want to travel to a swing district and volunteer there.

Is taking back the House enough? Not by a long shot. The task of taking control of the Senate is much tougher, but there are candidates out there trying to make that happen.

And even if we succeed in wresting control of Congress from the Republicans’ rule, we will still have another two years of their occupation of the White House, not to mention state legislatures and governorships. Not only that, but the Democrats we elect will need to be held accountable to the voters who elect them.

The phone calls, letters, petitions, marches and rallies will still be needed, the lawsuits will continue, organizing at every level will be required to resist and overcome the injustices that have been foisted upon this country.

Taking back the House is a start. Let’s come together and make it happen.

Michael Dover, of Leverett, is a co-founder of Swing Left Pioneer Valley.