Trump’s threat of ‘fire and fury’ against North Korea undermines Nikki Haley’s incredible diplomacy – and the Constitution
By Michael M. Barrick
Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, did what none of her 28 predecessors were able to do – get a unanimous vote of the U.N. Security Council. The 15-0 vote, in short, is intended to deny North Korea of roughly $1 billion in revenue annually in hopes it will bankrupt the nation’s nuclear program. It also sends an unprecedented unanimous message to the North Korean leadership.
Ms. Haley hit a diplomatic grand slam. Naturally, President Trump immediately undermined her work, threatening “fire and fury” against North Korea. That’s war, not diplomacy. And, it’s amateurish, as noted by Senator John McCain (R- Ariz.). He told the Associated Press, “You got to be sure you can do what you say you’re going to do. That kind of rhetoric, I’m not sure it helps. The great leaders I’ve seen don’t threaten unless they’re ready to act and I’m not sure that President Trump is ready to act.”
So, we’ve just leap-frogged over a moment to achieve peace to almost certain war.
It is not unreasonable for there to be skeptics as to whether or not nations voting for the resolution will actually abide by it. Nevertheless, it is inconsistent with the values of the United States to initiate war. In fact, one would think that recent history would have taught us that.
I’ve got a stack of books about the Korean War sitting on my bookshelf. I offer them to the White House. Chief of Staff General John Kelly can sit the president’s butt in a chair and read to him just a few select passages of the madness that a war on that peninsula would unleash. It would be an apocalyptic example of man’s inhumanity to man.
I’ve even got the word-for-word account of my uncle’s death there on 12 July 1950. It makes for sobering reading. I’ll also be happy to provide a copy of my grandmother’s letter to President Truman, a letter saturated with anguish that only a mother can feel.
Speaking of reading, somebody needs to read the president a copy of the Constitution. The same thing is true in Congress. When President Harry Truman sent troops into Korea in 1950, he started our 67-year history of unconstitutional wars. A journalist called it a “police action” and the president claimed it as his own. Those books I mentioned have a lot of colorful quotes from soldiers that actually participated in that “police action.”
If reading just isn’t an option, then show the president episodes of “M*A*S*H.”
It’s time for that executive abuse of power to stop. Indeed, the lesson here is that while the U.N. resolution is impressive, it is not legal cover for war. Only Congress can authorize war. I can think of no more appropriate time in our nation’s history than now for Congress to re-assert its rightful authority. At least men like my uncle will not then have died in vain.
Today, the media is just as irresponsible, talking and writing about a “conflict.” No, it’s a war, and it is very, very ugly. So, it’s time for everyone to do their job, especially Congress. It seems only it can check the White House. It must send a clear signal to the president – if you do not come to the House chamber for a Joint Session of Congress with a Declaration of War that will be debated live for every American to see, there will be not one cent made available for war. There will be no such declaration. And, Articles of Impeachment will be introduced the second you should initiate an unconstitutional war.
We can hope.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2017
On Twitter: @appchronicle
No Nukes for anyone
By Michael M. Barrick
In the early 1980s, I had a t-shirt that exclaimed, “No Nukes!” It caused more than one confrontation, which of course was my intent. The reason I was so confrontational was because I considered escalation of nuclear weaponry insane. President Reagan, in particular, seemed to be a bit trigger-happy.
He was not the first though. I have known since I had to throw by butt under my desk or up against a wall at school in 1962 that nuclear weapons could make all of mankind extinct. As a first grader, I was not old enough to grasp the “All of mankind” concept; however, television and magazine images of exploding mushroom clouds I did understand – it meant I would be vaporized – extinguished!
My awareness of all of this began with the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was enlightening to a six-year-old. The president was serious, our parents more so with each passing day. The nuns at St. Mary’s in Clarksburg, W.Va. were the ones having us diving under the desks. We followed that by saying the rosary and going to confession quite regularly. At six, I was a handful, but I really didn’t have much to confess. In hindsight, I’d like to say, “Thanks for messing with my head.”
Speaking of which, during the time I was wearing my “No Nukes!” t-shirt, President Reagan mused about eliminating nuclear weapons from the planet. In a Time magazine interview in 1984, he revealed, “I just happen to believe that we cannot go into another generation with the world living under the threat of those weapons and knowing that some madman can push the button some place.” He added, “My hope has been, and my dream, that we can get the Soviet Union to join us in starting verifiable reductions of the weapons. Once you start down that road, they’ve got to see how much better off we would both be if we got rid of them entirely.”
That interview occurred the same year our second child was born. We are now grandparents of an eight-year-old. She is the second generation since that interview to live with the ongoing threat of nuclear annihilation. This lack of leadership simply won’t do. And, before we can lead, we have to get over our sense of moral superiority – which is clearly the reason we think we should have nuclear weapons and have the right to tell others they cannot. The United States would never submit to such dictates from a foreign power (OK, there is that Trump/Russia “thing,” but let’s just let it play out for now).
Additionally, from the perspective of those who don’t live between the shores of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the borders with Canada and Mexico, the United States is, at best, hypocritical to demand that other nations not develop nuclear weapons programs. That is true even when we are dealing with a nation that threatens us almost daily, as does North Korea. After all, we are the only nation to ever use them in war – twice.
Put frankly, the United States lacks the moral authority to demand that any nation adhere to our wishes – about nuclear weapons or anything.
So now, we find ourselves in a helpless diplomatic situation with North Korea. We can’t bend them to our will. If we choose war to do so, we will witness human, cultural and environmental destruction that few of us alive today have ever seen our nation engaged in.
So, what to do? Resurrect the vision of Ronald Reagan – and much of humanity since the end of World War II: A nuclear weapons-free world. Does such a vision seem impossible? Yes – until you consider the alternative. All weapons of war are always used. As I’ve written before, waging peace is much more difficult than waging war. It requires more patience, creative thinking, and a humble spirit. Humility is not exactly our nation’s strongest attribute. It is even less so under Donald Trump. So, the Anti-Nuke movement must re-originate from our neighborhoods and our towns.
As a child, in fact, I was taught that peace was to begin with me – a lesson I learned at home, my Catholic parish and Catholic school. Indeed, David Haas, a singer-songwriter that has written hundreds of songs that are used in Mass of Catholic parishes in the United States and beyond, challenges nations to wage peace in his song, “Enter God’s House.” The lyrics begin, “All you nations, all who seek peace: / leave your arms and weapons behind. / Come and climb the mountain of God. / Enter God’s house!”
The United States must heed this call for two reasons. First, as the only nation to use atomic / nuclear weapons, our nation is obligated to lead the effort to eliminate them. Secondly, this nation is run by a political party that claims to be the party of God. Of course, that’s cowpatties, but they certainly have a chance to prove it.
All they – and many hawkish Democrats, too – have to remember is: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:19).
On Twitter: @appchronicle
Obsession with Russia is manipulative, voyeuristic, and distracting from vital issues
By Michael M. Barrick
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY, U.S.A. – Here, where it is not Red Square or either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the spectacle playing out on our TV screens, computer devices and in the newspapers regarding alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is simply nauseating.
For God’s sake, enough already! You’ve lost me.
I’ve quit reading, listening and watching – that includes you John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, et al. That means I’ve abandoned my primary source of news – late night comedians who are really journalists; and, my secondary sources – the mainstream media and alternative media, who are clowns posing as journalists.
It is a topsy-turvy world, indeed.
Am I surprised that Russia probably meddled in our election? No. However, I think we’ve got that covered. Between the special prosecutor and congressional committees, plenty of investigating is occurring. That’s good. What we don’t need, however, is speculation. And, 99 percent of what I’ve seen, heard or read is exactly that.
… election-meddling is not exactly new to geo-politics; the United States is quite expert at regime change – we’re just not as subtle.
On the part of the media, it’s manipulative, voyeuristic, and ultimately rooted in a sick drive for profits. But it’s also distracting us from what is important. Let me pause here and say, yes, a foreign government interfering in our election is concerning. So, let the investigators investigate. And, yes, I would expect any editor or producer to assign a reporter or two to the story. However, we have far too many issues that are simply being ignored by The Fourth Estate. Additionally, election-meddling is not exactly new to geo-politics; the United States is quite expert at regime change – we’re just not as subtle.
Hence, the media needs to abandon the feigned outrage and get to work on covering what most of us living Outside the Beltway know are the vital topics of the day.
More about those in a moment; but first, a quick demand of Congress and the president – do your jobs! America and the world have multiple challenges – not the least of which is a scarcity of leadership.
Now, about those vital topics; following is just a quick, partial run down the list:
- Health Care: Polling shows that the majority of Americans support universal, single-payer health care. In short, Medicare for all. Only one in six support the current GOP proposal. Why? Because those of us living Outside the Beltway understand that the Medicare for all approach is the most humane; it provides for our most vulnerable citizens.
- North Korea, et al.: Even our own military strategists say that a war with North Korea would almost certainly kill millions, and perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands just on the first day. The Korean War, which is still technically exactly that since we have only a truce with North Korea, was caused by inept diplomacy – Harry Truman indicated to the Russians that the U.S. would not wage war over control of the Korean peninsula. Today, we have a president who is the opposite. All he does is issue threats. Every president in between has kicked this matter down the road. That simply won’t do anymore. What I believe we expect Outside the Beltway is that a peaceful solution be found. Yes, waging peace is harder than waging war. But hey, we sent men to the moon. We’ve sent enough of our youngest adults to die on foreign sands and distant hills. We can figure this out.
- Campaign Finance: Because of Citizens United, we are experiencing an age of crony capitalism like that of the Robber Barons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is evident in many places, but currently most obvious in the health care debates. Insurance and pharmaceutical companies are among the biggest obstacles to meaningful – and simple – reform (we’ve been doing Medicare a good while now). Gerrymandering has also altered the political landscape in a manner not consistent with voting patterns, accomplished through the buying of legislatures by the millionaire class. As a result, our most fundamental right – the right to choose our elected representatives – has been degraded or denied.
- Infrastructure – From aging school buildings to hospitals not equipped to handle modern telemetry, to collapsing bridges and pot hole-filled roads, we have simply been negligent. We have not maintained our infrastructure. We all know it. We all see it. We have allowed private companies to own and manage our water systems, diverting money that should be reinvested in those systems to far-away shareholders that care only about profit and nothing about the quality of the water you and I drink. Certainly, the country that intends to send people to Mars by 2040 can fix roads and sewer pipes.
- Failed War on Drugs: Billions of dollars have been spent, and tens of thousands of people sent to prison, simply to restrict the use of a naturally growing plant – marijuana. Our treatment of it – legal here, illegal there – is more schizophrenic than any alleged side effect of it. Three years ago, when interviewing John Buckley, the Libertarian candidate for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia, this is what he had to say about the War on Drugs: “What makes drugs a threat to society is the drug gangs pushing them because there is a hefty profit in pushing it. We have not stopped the war on drugs. We have not accomplished the goal. We have spent money. We’ve jailed people, yet we still see an increase in crime. We haven’t made a dent. We have set horrible legal precedents in rigorous law enforcement. When you add them all up, and say we haven’t made a dent in drug abuse, it cries out, ‘Is there a new approach?’ If you eliminate the profit, you eliminate the gangs and the terrorists profiting from it. If we will take a new approach, then it allows us to address it as a medical issue, not a criminal issue.” He was right then, and has been proven to be right repeatedly since that interview.
- Education: We’ve known for years that educators reaching retirement age hit the door the first minute they can; what is more disturbing is that our best and brightest young teachers are leaving also. Why? They have lost control of their classrooms to everything from bureaucratic interference to children not ready for school because of poor living conditions. Virtually our entire society makes its way through our public schools. If we do not address society’s problems, every day in the classroom becomes more difficult. And, there are systemic problems as well. This is an example where a political party – in this case, the Democrats – must challenge a sacred cow. Yes, public education is essential; that, however, does not mean we refuse to take a critical look at its failures and alternatives. Additionally, the cost of college (and textbooks) must be addressed. Having to go into debt for years to earn a degree is counter-intuitive. Once educated, one cannot contribute to society unless unencumbered with unnecessary debt.
- Ecology: Last, but certainly not least, is how we approach the management of the ecology – that is, our interaction with the natural world. Presently, human health and the environment are in great distress for a number of reasons. Mountaintop removal, fracking, clear-cutting and other practices that support the fossil fuel industry are harming people and the land, air and water which give us life. Climate change is real. Responsible reporters, for example, should not be asking politicians if they believe in climate change; rather, they should be asking what they know about it and how they intend to address it.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m sure you can certainly add to it. My prescriptions to the vital topics of the day may be different than yours. In fact, they likely are. That doesn’t matter nearly as much as this: that we agree that politicians of all stripes and the media need to be taking a critical look at these issues and working together to solve them rather than obsessing over Russia. In time, conclusions by the Authorities Having Jurisdiction regarding Russia will be reached. That will be news. For now, all the talk inside the beltway and TV studios is simply commentary that rivals the Tower of Babel.
We expect action, not talk. Sure, there are political purists (or opportunists) who will refuse to work with others, but they are in the minority. We know that because in our families and communities, we have to work together.
At least, that’s how it is Outside the Beltway.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2017
Encountering a disturbing view of the Christian faith
By Art Sherwood
PATTERSON, N.C. – Last week was a wonderful week, celebrating the 241st birthday of the United States. It is always a good time to ponder enduring statements from our founders, such as “When in the course of human events … ” and “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”
But as John Adams said, it is not just a time for reflection about freedom and liberty; it is also a time for celebration! So, like lots of folk, we celebrated our nation’s birthday with family, as our daughter visited with three of our grandchildren. Enjoying the beautiful mountains of North Carolina under clear, blue skies included an adventurous trip to Tweetsie Railroad.
That is when our celebration was momentarily interrupted and again left me pondering. This time, it was about something as precious to me as my family and our nation – my Christian faith. As I was standing in line so the children could get their pictures taken with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I struck up a conversation with another grandparent doing what I was doing. After a bit, she noticed the logo on the front of my shirt – “The Christian Left” – and asked me what it was about. I explained that it was a counterforce to the Christian right, who abdicated any claim to Christianity in the last election. I then showed her the back of the shirt, which says, “Love Thy Neighbor.” It goes on to list various groups of people, such as “LGBT Neighbor,” “Imprisoned Neighbor,” “Hindu Neighbor,” and so forth. She then responded, “Love is not enough,” and entered into a rant about how if we don’t do something we will become like them. She protested that she was just an old fashioned Bible-believing woman. About that time, the line opened up and we ended our conversation at that point.
I, too, am an old fashioned, Bible-believing person, which is why I found her response so disturbing.
Love is enough. It is more than enough, it is everything. At least, that’s what it sounds like Jesus said in an exchange recorded in the Gospel of Mark (12: 28-34 NIV). Jesus was asked “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” But he didn’t stop there. He continued, “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
That’s it, Jesus says. Love. It is all that is required, and it requires all from us. It is required of all of us who claim the name of Christ.
The account continues, “Well said teacher. … You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
It’s also noteworthy how Jesus responded and how this exchange concluded: “When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.”
I however, continue to ask questions – of those who adhere to a very disturbing view of the Christian faith. Indeed, the brief encounter served to validate the point made by my friend Michael Barrick to me last week, when he said that in North Carolina our political divide is a proxy war of theologies – the theology of fear which breeds hate or the theology of hope which is the path to the love of which Jesus speaks. The former is exemplified by the Rev. Franklin Graham; the latter by the Rev. Dr. William Barber II.
As a lifelong Sunday School attendee in Baptist churches large and small from Texas to Washington, D.C., I am blown away that someone can say they are Bible-believing Christians on the one hand and say love is not enough on the other. I don’t see how they can ignore the entire New Testament that is all about love. Sadly, the tactics of fear used by so-called Christian politicians and their powerful pastor allies is working. It makes me question: What happened to trust in God? What happened to turn your cares to Jesus?
What happened is a terrible failure of teaching by our spiritual leaders who have abdicated their job to lead us to the love of God. This too seems to be clearly addressed in scripture: “Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock” (Ezekiel 34: 2b-3).
Based on my short conversation in a line at Tweetsie Railroad – and decades of service to Baptist churches and 10 years (1979 – 1989) as a trustee at Southwestern Theological Seminary – I would have to agree with what we read in Ezekiel. The shepherds are attending to their gods of power, money and sex instead of their flocks.
So, the poor and vulnerable are hurt the most, even though Jesus demonstrated preferential concern for them. I can’t quite figure out what’s being taught in Sunday School these days, but Michael and I have concluded that we are, indeed, witnessing a religious proxy war being played out in the North Carolina General Assembly. At the moment, the “Love is not enough” faction is winning.
We can counter that. Take a moment to listen to “We Should Only Have Time For Love” by Claire Lynch. It’s worth a listen. Its message is timeless. And complete. We should only have time for love for one simple reason – love is enough. But we won’t know that until we try it. So it is up to us to keep proving it.
© Art Sherwood, 2017. Photo by Jacob Meyer.
“Our way of life” requires
a war machine says the president.
He is not the first to say so;
“The Donald” is just more blunt.
Despite the feigned consternation
of the chattering class, this is our history.
A continent conquered through genocide,
the slaughter completed when Chief Sitting Bull was shot down.
An economy sustained by slavery,
its history screams of man’s inhumanity to his own.
Tolerated far too long,
it could be ended only by Civil War carnage.
Industry was built on the backs of laborers
as crony capitalism profited all but the workers.
War was waged on miners in the West Virginia hills
while children in Southern textile mills labored to the bone.
An empire was built
from Cuba to the Philippines.
Puppet dictators were established here and yonder,
while we fought undeclared wars in Southeast Asia.
We have been at war
since our children were – children.
Our granddaughter has yet to live
in a world in which we don’t wage war.
We justify it easily,
even though the boxes we call home
are filled with boxes of stuff.
It is, after all, Our Way of Life.
All “dire threats” to it
will be destroyed.
If in doing so we obliterate ourselves –
it is Our Way of Life.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2017
The cabin is nestled into
the steep, wooded ridge of the forest.
The slope ends abruptly, steps away.
the night creatures peer in.
Yet, we venture out.
The campfire reassures;
around it, our faces are cast orange
by its fading embers.
First the bats swoop in –
treetop level, scooping bugs –
mosquitoes we hope.
The rustling of leaves up the ridge
under the dark canopy
remains a mystery.
The coyotes scream a frightful warning
to the deer from ridge to ridge.
The outcome inevitable and unmistakable to the ear.
The owls hoot and screech;
Such a hullabaloo is rarely heard.
It is night in southern Appalachia.
The creatures declare:
Here, you are merely a visitor.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2012 – 2017. Photo credit: Ray Hennessy
West Virginia Rivers Coalition invites volunteers to document lasting flood impacts to the Elk River in pictures
Charleston, W.Va. – Marking the one-year anniversary of the devastating flooding that impacted many parts of West Virginia, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, a nonprofit organization focused on river conservation and restoration, is launching a crowd-sourced photo documentary project on one of the impacted rivers – the Elk River – to document lasting effects of the flood.
People interested in contributing to the project can go to WVRivers.org to download a free app to their phones called Water Reporter. The app allows users to upload photos to an online map, creating an inventory of potential cleanup projects. Anyone who spends time on or by the river is invited to contribute.
Although much of the Elk River is once again open for recreation, there are still dangerous spots containing debris like household appliances, tires, and home furnishings.
Executive Director Angie Rosser of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, observed, “Several affected communities still have a long way to go to fully recover. Seeing the river restored to its health and beauty is part of that healing process. This project is a way for people to help identify areas of the river itself that still need attention.”
The photo documentary will be on display during West Virginia Rivers’ Elkspedition Picnic & Paddle. Scheduled for Labor Day, Sept. 4, at Coonskin Park, the free event invites paddlers of all ages and skill levels to participate in a 3-mile float on the Elk River ending at Coonskin Park. Paddlers will be welcomed with a free picnic and family-friendly Elk River festival once they are off the river.
The Elkspedition Picnic & Paddle is part of the Waterkeeper Alliance’s SPLASH event series and benefits the West Virginia Headwaters Waterkeeper, a program of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. For information on the Elkspedition Picnic & Paddle and the Elk River photo documentary project, visit WVRivers.org.
For more information on the SPLASH Event Series, presented nationally by Toyota, please visit www.splashseries.org.
Democratic candidate looks to take on entrenched and powerful incumbent Mark Meadows
By Michael M. Barrick
LENOIR, N.C. – With Donald Trump’s approval ratings at a record low, Democrats around the nation are licking their chops at the prospects of turning Congress back to Democratic control in 2018. The best evidence of that is right here in Western North Carolina in the solidly Republican 11th Congressional District. GOP Representative Mark Meadows of Cashiers, who is among the most conservative members of Congress and is chairman of the so-called House Freedom Caucus, has already had a Democrat file to unseat him.
Clearly getting an early start on the campaign, Matt Coffay of Buncombe County visited Lenoir on June 1. Coffay, 30, formally announced his candidacy on April 23 outside of Meadow’s office in Waynesville at a Medicare-for-All Town Hall organized by Coffay’s campaign. Coffay is the first Democrat in the district to file a Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission and has risen right at $30,000, almost entirely in small donations, according to his campaign.
Meadows was first elected to Congress in 2012 after the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly gerrymandered the district by drawing liberal-leaning precincts in Asheville out of the district. In addition to part of Buncombe County, the 11th District includes 15 other counties: Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, McDowell, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania, and Yancy.
In his visit to Lenoir, Coffay unapologetically invoked the names of Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in deeply red Caldwell County as he made his case to local residents. He held a two-hour town hall style event at Highland Coffee House on Main Street attended by about 30 residents; later, at Caldwell County Democratic Headquarters in downtown, Coffay spoke and fielded questions for well over an hour from about three dozen people.
Though the audiences were relatively small, Coffay confidently stated that he can beat Meadows through such retail politics. “I am really excited about what we’re doing.” He insisted that he is fully committed to going door-to-door. In fact, he said, even in places such as Henderson County – a place that traditional Democratic consultants say is a waste of time for Democratic candidates to visit because of its strong support for the GOP – he has heard residents complain about Trump and Meadows, and has seen a level of discontent that makes even the most loyal Republican consider voting for him. Hence, he promised, “I will not ignore any of the district when campaigning.”
We need more regular people in Congress, more citizen legislators, not career politicians.” – Matt Coffay
Yet, his campaign is not relying exclusively on retail politics. In fact, he pointed to the importance of social media; and, of course, cash. Lots of it. He explained, “With one phone call to the Koch brothers, Meadows will get all the money he needs.” So, Coffay insisted his campaign must – and will – raise $2 million.
A native of southern Appalachia – he grew up just a few miles south of the North Carolina state line in Blue Ridge, Ga. – Coffay moved to Buncombe County about a decade ago to venture into farming. After working “seven days and 80 hours a week,” he said it became clear that he simply could not succeed at farming because of unfair competition from corporations and the benefits they enjoy from the GOP-led Congress.
This experience, and his overall worldview that is informed by a concern for social and environmental justice, led him to help form an Our Revolution chapter in Asheville, which he said was the largest such chapter in the nation. Our Revolution is the outgrowth of the failed presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Its purpose is to continue the fight for the agenda articulated by Sanders during the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries.
The influence of Sanders and the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party is obvious for one reading Coffay’s campaign literature. He says, “The hardworking people of this region have been let down by both parties over the years. Politicians do favors for big businesses, but leave small-town America to fend for itself. We have to do better than that.”
At both events, Coffay explained how he planned to do better. At the first stop, he said, “We need more regular people in Congress, more citizen legislators, not career politicians.” Later, at Democratic headquarters, he offered a very specific example – Meadows’ leadership to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Coffay called Meadows’ replacement legislation “an abomination.” Under the Meadows bill, said Coffay, 23 million Americans would lose health insurance, including more than 100,000 people just in the 11th District.
The Democratic Party has lost its way. … The biggest issue here is that the party does not have a message that resonates with the middle class and working class. What we need to be talking about it what values we are going to embrace for the 99 percent.” – Matt Coffay
His progressive outlook was also very evident in his remarks about the vital issues of the day, as he spoke about income inequality, education, infrastructure, healthcare, the influence of big money in politics, the environment and more.
Coffay supports a single-payer universal health care structure for all citizens based on the model of Medicare – a position now favored by a majority of Americans, according to recent polls. That is why Coffay stated with confidence, “There are no more safe districts. This is not a safe district (for Meadows).”
Coffay did not limit his criticism to Meadows. He also said, “The Democratic Party has lost its way.” He added, “The biggest issue here is that the party does not have a message that resonates with the middle class and working class. What we need to be talking about it what values we are going to embrace for the 99 percent.” That, he said, is why he favors the more progressive agenda set by Sanders.
Responding to a question regarding his stance on a possible war with North Korea or other nations, Coffay first responded, in exasperation, “I can’t believe we’re talking about this.” Several folks sitting in the room responded, “Yes, but we have to.”
Coffay replied, “We can’t ignore domestic issues. We have 43 million people living in poverty.” He pointed out that a war with North Korea would be costly in human lives and to the U.S. Treasury, arguing that a war would divert desperately needed money at home. He was critical of proposed cuts to the Veterans Administration in wartime. Still, he acknowledged, “If America is attacked, then of course we would have to respond somehow.” That led to a nuanced conversation with many in the audience regarding NATO and treaties with other nations that the U.S. pledges to support should they be attacked. He said that the U.S. should honor its treaties and commitment to NATO, but in light of the fact that NATO is based on a Cold War treaty nearly 70-years-old, that it is worth revisiting.
Still, he argued, the military must be used intelligently. “We are destabilizing the world with our military activities.” He noted also, referring to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, “Saudi Arabia provided the terrorists, yet we went to war with other nations.” So, said Coffay, terrorist attacks could be used again as an excuse to wage war based on the whims of the president, not strategic U.S. interests.
Returning to domestic priorities, Coffay called for a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure; transitioning from fossil fuels to sustainable, alternative energy sources such as solar; maintaining clean air, water and land for ecological reasons and to help ensure the region retains its appeal to tourists that visit Western North Carolina because of its natural and pristine beauty; lauded the working class and was relentlessly critical of corporate executives, saying, “Those people don’t do actual work. It’s time we have the discussion about these people who nearly destroyed our economy.”
Public education, too, must be a priority he said. “We have plenty of money. It’s just a matter of will.” He criticized efforts by the GOP to kill the public service provision for students who take out federal loans for college and can “pay” them off over 10 years by working in the public or nonprofit sector. Taking that incentive away will lead many college graduates to avoid those low paying jobs so that they can pay off their student loans, Coffay argued.
After Coffay and his campaign manager packed up to head to their next meeting, the mood in the Democratic Headquarters was much more upbeat than the night of the presidential election last year. Yet, some shared they felt that the voters of the 11th District are simply too conservative and committed to the GOP for Coffay or anyone else to have a chance against the powerfully entrenched Meadows. Others were more optimistic.
The split in the Democratic Party last year because of the Clinton-Sanders race seems to have abated. Winning, not ideological purity, is the goal, said many. Indeed, many said that so long as Coffay remains true to his values and the goals of Our Revolution, he would have their support. The losing campaign of Hillary Clinton seems to have convinced Democrats – at least in Caldwell County – that the worldview of Bernie Sanders and Matt Coffay are more aligned with traditional Democratic principles. And, that sticking to them will lead to victory in 2018.
Time will tell. Last November, nearly 360,000 people voted in the 11th District, with Meadows getting 64 percent of the vote. So, as Coffay said, “We have a lot of people to talk to.”
© The Lenoir Voice, 2017.
On Twitter @lenoirvoice