What We're Voting For
Erie County and the soul of America
Four years ago, Donald Trump won Erie County by 1,957 votes. On election night, none of that made sense. The national polls — all of them — were horribly incorrect, and for most of us watching at home, our expectations crumbled with the realization that the Trump campaign strategically orchestrated an electoral college victory despite being outperformed by nearly 3 million popular votes.
Once we reconciled the reality that a huckster from Manhattan sold Middle America his greatest forlorn "Deal," all that was left was the contemplation of the next four years and the state of the world in its wake.
Several times following past elections, folks would remark that the winning candidate was "bad for the country" or was going to be the "worst president in history..." But with those administrations in the rear view mirror, the impositions of government and the people who led them look quite welcoming.
That's because those men — Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush among them — believed in our institutions, the decorum of government, and the resilience of the American people. If their policies were often perceived by Democrats to be overtly anti-worker or unabashedly militaristic, men like Reagan and Bush often invited Democrats that they knew, respected, and trusted to the table as a dissenting voice or to leave open the potential for reconciliation among partisan actors. For Reagan, it was Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill. For Bush, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.
Those days are done. Led by an autocrat who traffics in white supremacy, conspiracy theories, and outright lies, the faith in our institutions and the decorum of government — and the people who comprise it — is long passed.
Today, most of us hang on to what we know to be true while attempting to ignore the noise, lies, and chorus of trolls that have hijacked social media.
Our president and his enablers can't muster the strength to condemn violent, racist groups like the Proud Boys or the Ku Klux Klan and more recently have refused to denounce the conspiracy theorists that comprise QAnon, a once fringe organization which has been catapulted into the mainstream by a president who shares its egregious lies about COVID-19, active duty military and our veterans, and the sanctity of American elections.
Closer to home, the lies and threats expressed by QAnon have manifested themselves among the scores of Trump supporters who threaten and terrorize those who support Democratic candidates.
Trump has emboldened the worst in his supporters. I don't hang this on Republicans generally, but I can't see how anyone can stand with a party that has turned a blind eye to the way that this president has stoked his supporters to use hate and intimidation to advance his sole cause — getting re-elected.
When was the last time you were called a "ni--er lover?" It's been routine for Democratic volunteers in the field. The racists simply feel empowered to shout it out their car or truck window as they pass by.
This year, the Erie County Democratic Party also opened satellite offices in some pretty Republican areas in an attempt to connect with Democrats there and form a base of operations in select parts of Erie County. Trump supporters were so incensed by our presence that they took over a legitimate business office (with the blessing of that business owner) to establish a Trump presence a few doors away.
One of our volunteers was threatened with a gun and called racist slurs, while being told that he was a "piece of shit" for supporting Joe Biden.
Another volunteer reported that his special needs son was beat up on the way home from school because his dad supports Joe Biden. Neither the school or the authorities were willing to intervene. "If it happens again..." they said.
More recently, an 80-year-old woman who stopped at one of our county offices for a Biden sign was screamed at from down the street called an "old bitch" and told to "take her old pussy back home." All this, while children stand by being urged to participate in this vile behavior.
These people are there because Trump has given them a platform to feel safe advancing their hateful ideology. After white supremacists emerged from the fields with torches and drove over protesters, killing one woman and injuring others in Charlottesville in 2017, Trump pledged to "investigate" the incident. However, his first act of 2018 was defunding the civil rights division of the Justice Department, the agency that would have been tasked with such an investigation. Trump literally defunded the police.
Surely hate and racism are not new, but I can't recall a time in my life when bad people have felt so empowered to publicly bully and intimidate people who are their neighbors.
Besides the fact that I think Joe Biden is a good man and someone who has more than enough experience to make a good president, we (collectively) need the madness to be checked at the door in 2021. Another four years of this activity and hateful people will be doing hateful things with no repercussions. It's already happening.
Stories like these are repeated in communities like ours all across the country. As a nation, we can't afford for it to continue.
I'm happy to write essays about how the American economy has always fared better during Democratic administrations, or that the opportunities for your kids and their friends are going to be better served in a country with Democratic leadership, or that your parents will be put back to work when Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell help to destroy the pension and retirement systems for corporate greed.
But honestly, all of that pales in comparison to the need for people to have a better model for leadership. There are a lot of reasons why things aren't right, but we need someone who will remind people that we have common interests and should be better to one another.
Right now that has been lost because we're led by a liar and thief who has perpetrated the greatest con this country has ever seen. If you need a final anecdote, get a kid's take on what they've seen. It's so simple. "People should be better to one another," my daughter told me.
Apparently, we still need a president who can show us how that's done. Who knew?
Jim Wertz is a contributing editor and Chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party. You can email him at jWertz@ErieReader.com and you can follow him on Twitter @jim_wertz. He's voting for Joe Biden. So should you.