Living in Society

Turning Point 2020

Predawn light. Sept. 20, 2020

A few things in the election campaign need doing before turning toward home. Compared to past years the work ahead is enough to keep busy yet less.

Chaos in the pandemic response, racial tensions, economic turmoil, and the obvious impact of global warming made it easier to get to this point in the 2020 election cycle.

I’ve been discussing candidates with friends, family and neighbors. Everyone is planning to vote. Most have decided for whom.

I want to finish the lit drop for the state house candidate, take a look at our budget to see if we can afford another contribution to congressional candidate Rita Hart and state house candidate Lonny Pulkrabek, and finish the last writing for the campaigns before boxing up the memorabilia and moving on. Unlike in past years we won’t likely have a final get out the vote gathering or operating center in town because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What bothers me most about 2020 is the inadequate government response to the coronavirus pandemic. If African nations, with a lot fewer resources than the United States, can control the virus what is our problem? I don’t have good answers.

The fact that Russia is blatantly trying to influence the outcome of the election gets to me. It’s not because I viewed the former Soviet Union and Russia as an adversary while serving in the U.S. Army in West Germany. It’s because Republicans apparently agree with the Russian view that reelecting Trump serves their purposes. When did we become susceptible to Russian propaganda? I don’t know but Trump is without question their favored candidate. What the president does to contain Russian global aggression is pitiful. Did he think we wouldn’t notice?

The issue of China is problematic. In a new world order with the United States diminished by the president’s America first agenda, China is rising. They have been for a while. It’s been 11 years since I retired from my job in transportation and logistics when the appetite for American companies to do business with China could not be sated.

There were many examples, Hon Industries in Muscatine is one. They pursued a deal with China to manufacture and distribute office equipment in the Asian market. Manufacturing costs were much lower in China and there was proximity to developing markets combined with transportation infrastructure to export the goods. Doing business in China seemed obvious from a global perspective. The kicker was they could own no more than 49 percent of any China-based business, surrendering control to the Chinese. I don’t know how this worked out for Hon but they were vulnerable to the Chinese and deemed it worthwhile to expand use of their technologies into new markets.

Republican politicians repeat the words “Chinese Communist Party” without end. If China was such a good business partner a short while ago, what turned us on them now? The answer sounds dumb but rings true: the problem the president created with his management of foreign affairs is coming home to roost. Instead of managing diplomatic and economic relations with China the president let the whole thing turn into a mess. Our former governor now outgoing ambassador to China Terry Branstad’s personal relationship with the Chinese president couldn’t stop the president’s inept policy.

Part of the president’s message is about jobs. It is incoherent. For anyone following this as long as I have, history tells a different story about job migration. Once President Bill Clinton signed NAFTA the job exodus began. Jobs first went to the Mexican side of the border where labor was cheaper than in unionized plants in the United States. These plants were called maquiladoras. Ultimately corporations left Mexico and chased cheap labor around the globe, ending up in China and Southeast Asia. As I’ve written previously, there is no bringing those jobs back. The global system American business created would be difficult and costly to dismantle. I’m not sure we want it dismantled.

Whatever the outcome of the election we’ll go on living. As the disaster of 2020 governance has shown, it will be better with Democrats in positions of power. I’ll continue working to elect Democrats until the polls close on Nov. 3. At the same time I am ready to turn toward winter and what’s next.