We are approaching one of the most important national elections in our history as anxious Americans begin to cast ballots, millions of us by mail. Critical issues are not being addressed due to a lack of cooperation between the White House and Congress, alongside a political battle over the replacement of iconic Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Our country has faced other challenging situations before, but we overcame them through a willingness to compromise. Our nation’s diversity has been a great strength. Most of us have embraced differences, even as the Black Lives Matter movement has reminded us there is a lot more work to be done.
Political malfeasance of the highest order is also on the ballot Nov. 3. This red verdict is measured in American lives — a COVID-19 pandemic that has now resulted in more than 220,000 deaths and 8 million infected Americans, more than any other country. Each of us should be asking ourselves a central question through Election Day: How many of our family members and neighbors did not need to die or become infected?
One of us has a younger brother and two nephews currently infected with the virus. COVID has boomeranged back into public focus as we approach Halloween now that the White House itself, ironically but not surprisingly, has become a superspreader address.
The status of our country’s broken health care system is a related and urgent topic. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and therefore their insurance. Protecting the Affordable Care Act is a line worth defending this election. We should challenge politicians who try to obscure a fundamental distinction: Democrats favor protecting Obamacare and preexisting condition protections (COVID is now a preexisting condition for millions), while Republicans have long attacked the now popular program and with no comprehensive replacement plan.
There are more things at stake as we fill out our ballots. How had U.S. income inequality in 2020, before COVID swept across all 50 states, reached almost pre-Great Depression levels? And how is it that tax laws, often drafted by highly paid lobbyists, enabled Donald Trump to be indebted to a German bank, a clear national security risk, only to end up leaving the president with a mere $750 tax bill?
In numerous conversations, Utah voters have been telling us what matters to them, priorities far more important than Washington’s partisan political gamesmanship. These local voices reflect how much repair work remains to be done: “I’m most worried about political transparency” … “defeating Trump, reining in medical insurance companies, having a president that acts presidential, climate change, getting more Democrats in office, women’s and LGBTQ rights” … “Peace for our country through racial equality, getting COVID under control, the environment, mental health, and reasonable gun laws to reduce violence” … “Taxation without representation, term limits, and the war on drugs” … and … “More senior affordable housing, the pandemic, better bus services, us old people not being valued for what we have done … I sometimes feel like our needs are on the back burner.”
These Utahns' concerns should be addressed by Utah politicians who genuinely listen. And not be based on party identification or any elected official’s obsequiousness to an erratic and self-absorbed White House occupant.
Democracy requires action. The success of our country is not assured. The attempts by the Trump administration to cast doubt on our election by removing mail-processing equipment, restricting drop boxes and leading to voters standing in line for many hours, should worry all of us. In addition to a president who refuses to commit to honoring the result of this election, that is, the will of “we the people.”
The Constitution states our right to vote is inviolable and our democracy for the benefit of all of us. Our votes preserve these rights. Not voting puts the whole American democratic experiment, almost 250 years in total so far, at risk.
This election, let’s show our independence and that we have done our homework. Let’s exercise our right to split the ticket, pick the most qualified candidates, and help our state and country move back from the edge.
Next year can be better if we vote for unity and based on our consciences.
Let’s vote for accountability and to begin the rebuilding in January.
John Zaccheo, a 93-year old Rotarian, is a former pizza and Italian restaurant owner and business executive who has called Utah home for almost five decades.
Kael Weston, author, teacher, former State Department official and Rotarian, is the Democratic Party nominee in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District. www.westonforcongress.com.