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Columnist Michael Dover: Take back the House in 2018

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Donald Trump has now been in office for one year. It’s 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. Cabinet members have been appointed whose mission is to dismantle or disable the agencies they supposedly lead. Career scientists, diplomats and conscientious civil servants are retiring or resigning in droves while unqualified ideologues are being hired throughout the government.

Regulations designed to protect human health, the environment and consumers’ pocketbooks are being overturned. Public lands and our seacoasts are being opened up to mining and drilling on an unprecedented scale. And international agreements meant to keep the peace and protect the planet are being tossed aside like so many pieces of scrap paper.

And where is the Congress in all this? With Republicans in charge of both houses, the president and his motley crew — from self-serving billionaires to corporate shills, from neo-fascists to incompetents — have an almost free hand to do as they please. There is little if any oversight coming from committees tasked with making sure the executive branch is doing the jobs Congress told it to do. Few appointees face any critical scrutiny before being handed the keys to the castle.

Almost no one among all the Republicans in either house found anything wrong with depriving millions of Americans of health insurance when they set about to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The country was saved from that travesty by only three Republican senators willing to buck their party’s leadership.

Yet none stood against the passage of the mammoth tax bill, which undercut the ACA by eliminating the individual mandate and cutting access to Medicaid. And none stood against the massive transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the ultra-wealthy. In almost every act they take, in virtually every word they speak, Republicans in Congress defend or ignore the bigotry, ignorance and downright insanity that emanate from the White House. “Country over party” is not a slogan most of these legislators have ever heard or heeded.

Even if Trump is somehow removed from office, this scenario is going to continue to be played out as long as there is no counterweight from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. As long as both houses of Congress remains under Republican control, we can expect more of the same. This is not a system of checks and balances — it is a system of loot and pillage.

This weekend, the anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, I plan to participate in a “Take Back the House Party” in Amherst to raise money in support of Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives. Although our district is safe, there are many districts around the country that have been decided in recent elections by relatively small margins.

Democrats need to win only 24 additional seats to take control of the House, and many more than 24 swing districts are in play this year. That’s why a group of us have volunteered our time, money and energy with Swing Left, a national grassroots organization focusing on those swing districts to take the House back from the Republicans and provide that all-important counterweight against the Trump-Pence administration.

We in Swing Left Pioneer Valley are focusing our efforts on congressional districts in nearby New Hampshire and New York, both to keep Democratic seats and to flip a Republican seat. Even the “moderate” Republican in the New York district voted in favor of the ACA repeal, despite the fact that thousands of his own constituents would have suffered as a result. When even supposed moderates feel they must follow their leadership regardless of the consequences for the nation, it’s past time for a change.

This is the year when a few votes could make a huge difference. This is the one chance before the next presidential elections to change the balance of power in Washington. Here in reliably blue Massachusetts, we can help reach concerned voters in swing districts, because their votes could determine the future of the entire nation.

That’s what our Swing Left group, along with many others around the country, will be doing this year to help win in swing districts — raising funds, canvassing alongside local residents, phone calling and helping in other ways to get out the vote this fall. I hope you’ll join us, in whatever way you can.

Michael Dover, of Leverett, volunteers for Swing Left Pioneer Valley group that can be reached at swingleftpioneervalley@gmail.com.