Politics in Desperate Times

Atherton Wetland. Ely, Iowa.

“January 20th, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.”~ President Donald Trump inaugural address

It would be one thing if we had entered a new era of Jacksonian Democracy where the common man raised into prominence. Plain folk like me would apply common sense to problems with a focus on results.

When elites and moneyed interests control almost everything in our government, the way the aristocracy did in Andrew Jackson’s time, to invoke Jackson now as something positive is a cruel joke. Like Jackson, Trump exaggerated the size of the crowd at his inauguration and motivated mob scenes.

Under Republican hegemony I have less say than ever in government.

That said, there is a lot we can do. The perils of our times are obvious and beg solutions, beginning with electing people who more closely represent our values. During the next 14 days I’ll continue to contribute my part to electing such people. If anything, one effect of the Trump administration and Republican hegemony in Iowa has been to recognize and bolster my Democratic roots.

14 days will come and go quickly. What then? As I suggested in my recent letter to the editor, climate change and proliferation of nuclear weapons pose existential threats to society as we know it. We must embrace change and adapt as we can. We must also work to mitigate these threats for ourselves and future generations. There is a life’s work in that, especially as my personal bandwidth decreases with advancing age. The challenge is to make every effort meaningful, thoughtful and aimed at impactful targets.

I hope to elect more Democrats to the Iowa legislature and the U.S. Congress and in doing so gain a voice where what we’ve been saying has been muted in recent years. Even if we fail in this effort we must re-assert our voices. I’m optimistic things can get done.

Climate change is already negatively impacting agriculture, the mainstay of our state. If we seek to grow nutritious food in the corn belt there needs be a focus on soil health and water management. Today the focus is on yield and market prices and that tail is wagging the dog. Something has to give over the near term. Farmers’ attitudes toward cover crops, buffers, and soil and water management must be encouraged by government to change. Sending our topsoil to Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico at a rate exceeding the land’s ability to regenerate it is unsustainable and farmers know it. It is made worse by precipitation patterns that combine heavy rainfalls, long periods of drought, and warmer, more humid nights. The impact of climate change on agriculture is significant and can no longer be denied.

A primary role of our federal government is national defense. With or without nuclear weapons, the United States remains the most powerful nation on Earth. It is a simple question begging an answer: why impose the risks of nuclear weapons on society if they are no longer needed for national defense?

The nuclear non-proliferation movement has ebbed and flowed during my lifetime. Whenever there is a broadly organized plan of action to do something about the Trump administration’s change to nuclear proliferation policy, I’m ready to join. Right now, there’s too few of us in Iowa and no fulcrum for action. I continue to follow groups like the Arms Control Association, Council for a Livable World, Friends Committee on National Legislation and Physicians for Social Responsibility in Washington, D.C. to stay informed.

While I am hopeful of positive advances mitigating these two threats, my optimism is tempered with realism gained through a few successes and many failed attempts to move the needle on them since the 1970s. Today is no time to give up.

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