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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Can the States Protect Us?

I honestly don't know the answer; since the beginning of time, mostly for pretty nefarious reasons, including in recent years, have used the term "states' rights" and thrown around the Tenth Amendment to justify things like slavery, Jim Crow, and resisting federal measures like environmental regulations and the Affordable Care Act.

Now, the shoe may be on the other foot, though we're in very strange and extreme territory, given that we've elected an unabashed fascist who is planning acts that are beyond the pale, including going door to door and rounding up immigrants, demonizing entire groups of people, and deporting American citizens.

So far, I've seen two states saying they're ready to step up and protect us against the looming storm.

One is New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo has been issuing a number of messages such as this one:

Those of us who have spent time in politics know that losing is part of the experience. Still, Secretary Hillary Clinton’s defeat on Tuesday was a particularly difficult experience, heartbreaking and bewildering and indeed frightening all at once. I wanted to share some thoughts on how we must acquit ourselves in the days ahead.

As Clinton said, when Donald Trump takes office, we will owe him an open mind and a chance to lead. The fate of the ship always takes precedence over the identity of the captain, and we must loyally do our part to protect the ship.

The night he became commander-in-chief, Donald Trump said he wanted to be President of all Americans. Despite the divisiveness of the campaign, he has an opportunity to live up to that promise by acting first on issues where there is common ground with his opponents. He said he wants to govern on behalf of forgotten Americans, and any time he does that, he can count on both Democrats and Republicans to help him achieve success.

Trump also said that he wants to rebuild America’s infrastructure. In that effort, he will find New York a willing partner as the Tappan Zee Bridge, a new La Guardia Airport, a new cross-Hudson Tunnel, and a revitalized Penn Station continue to rise.

But while we honor America by honoring the results of the election, we will fight as fiercely as we can, at every opportunity that presents itself, to reject the hateful attitudes that pervaded throughout the 2016 campaign. We cannot unhear what we have heard. The voices of the Ku Klux Klan, white nationalism, authoritarianism, misogyny and xenophobia. A generally disdainful view of American ideals.

We all hoped that when we woke up on Nov. 9 the ugliness of this campaign season would finally be gone. But on the day after Election Day, a swastika and the words “make America white again” appeared, spray painted on a softball dugout in Wellsville — in our state of New York.
 I cannot and will not pretend that these things are normal even if millions of Americans voted for a campaign either because of these values or in spite of them. I know there are millions more people like me — both Democrats and Republicans who reject them. As I said on other occasions, this election was for the soul of America, and that is why today so many of us feel as we do today; we are soul sick. But as we accept the results of the election, we do not accept these positions.
Americans fought these attitudes before the 2016 election, and we will fight them for as long as it takes to vanquish them. That is our mission, and our dedication to its success does not depend on the occupant of the White House. Americans pledge themselves to “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” One election does not erase that commitment.

We Democrats are not without resources. In Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, Democrats in Congress have leaders who are brilliant parliamentarians, and who will advance our causes even as they will provide a bulwark for our values. But let us also look to our state governments as places where progress can be made. One of the reasons why so many of the programs of President Roosevelt’s New Deal proved effective is that he had tried them out while he was governor of New York. Initiatives like Marriage Equality were enacted in New York and other states before they became the law of the land. Congress has refused to act on gun control, but we enacted a tough law in New York, and California, Nevada, and Washington strengthened their gun laws on Tuesday.
While the world struggles to come to consensus on how to combat climate change, we in New York have banned fracking and set a renewable energy standard requiring 50% of our electricity to come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030. This year in New York State, we enacted a $15-an-hour minimum wage, the nation’s best Paid Family Leave program, and dedicated more funding to education than ever before. And in this state, we accomplished these successes with a divided legislature: Democrats and Republicans coming together, proving you can be progressive and bipartisan. Indeed, there is more than one path to progress.

Soon enough we will see what proposals will find their way into the President-elect’s agenda. Already it seems almost every far-right Republican under the sun is seeing Trump’s electoral college victory a mandate to enact sweeping ideas and radical proposals, regardless of the pain that is inflicted and the turmoil that is caused. I have great faith that common sense will eventually prevail, and that our traditional American values of justice, liberty and equality will eventually rule the day.

In the end, they always have.

Both Democrats and Republicans have fought for these values throughout our nation’s history — from the time when Abraham Lincoln declared we were a nation with malice toward none and charity for all, to when a young Senator from the State of Illinois said: There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The way has not always been easy, nor has the cost been cheap; but for whatever this moment demands of us, we are ready.

My father Mario Cuomo spent his entire life fighting against the death penalty, even when it wasn’t popular, even when it cost him the governorship, because he knew it was right. I will fight against the targeting of Muslims, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and for the rights of all Americans every day I hold office and every day after that.

For our values, for our rights, for our vision of America, for the people who depend on us, we will fight. And for that, we are unwilling to compromise. 
SACRAMENTO – California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) released the following statement on the results of the President election:
Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land, because yesterday Americans expressed their views on a pluralistic and democratic society that are clearly inconsistent with the values of the people of California.
We have never been more proud to be Californians.
By a margin in the millions, Californians overwhelmingly rejected politics fueled by resentment, bigotry, and misogyny.
The largest state of the union and the strongest driver of our nation’s economy has shown it has its surest conscience as well.
California is – and must always be – a refuge of justice and opportunity for people of all walks, talks, ages and aspirations – regardless of how you look, where you live, what language you speak, or who you love.
California has long set an example for other states to follow. And California will defend its people and our progress. We are not going to allow one election to reverse generations of progress at the height of our historic diversity, scientific advancement, economic output, and sense of global responsibility.
We will be reaching out to federal, state and local officials to evaluate how a Trump Presidency will potentially impact federal funding of ongoing state programs, job-creating investments reliant on foreign trade, and federal enforcement of laws affecting the rights of people living in our state. We will maximize the time during the presidential transition to defend our accomplishments using every tool at our disposal.
While Donald Trump may have won the presidency, he hasn’t changed our values. America is greater than any one man or party. We will not be dragged back into the past. We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.
California was not a part of this nation when its history began, but we are clearly now the keeper of its future.

I have more questions than answers on this.

Immigration is an area where I think these states can step up; perhaps I'm naïve, but I just can't see Donald Trump sending ICE agents in huge numbers from door to door in New York or Los Angeles. But will these states openly continue to invite in new immigrants?

How about the following areas addressed in one or more of these letters?

Trade: How free are the states to set their own trade deals with foreign countries or violate ones made by the federal government?

Energy: Can the states block the federal government from opening up lands to extraction, particularly interstate projects like the Dakota Pipeline? Additionally, "dirty" energy companies have taken some actions to prevent renewables from taking over; what happens if they lobby the federal government to outright ban them? Renewables are a huge industry in many states.

Gun Control: The Supreme Court has certainly overruled the decisions by municipalities to control the types of weapons they can prevent from entering their communities. This could certainly get hairy... what if the federal government manages to legalize open carry everywhere, for everyone, and members of one state, say, New Hampshire, start brandishing guns in Boston?
Minimum Wage: In 2014, Oklahoma banned any local municipalities from raising their minimum wages above the state minimum wage. What would happen if the federal government abolished the federal minimum wage and then banned the states from having their own? Or even if they did the former, but not the latter? An increase of a few dollars has been shown not to affect employment levels, but what if New York has a $15 minimum wage while its neighbors have none at all?

And even beyond that, a lot of funding for Medicaid comes from the federal government, and Medicare and Social Security are totally coming from the government. It's likely block grants for Medicaid are coming down the pike, and more responsible states like California and New York will probably make that work. How about Social Security and Medicare? Can states collect their own taxes and make distributions for that purpose? Would that concept even be popular in "blue" states? See what happened in both Vermont and Colorado when they put single payer health care up for a vote.

What if federal housing and education grants disappear? Can the states make up the difference by not sending money to the federal government? In general, can we change tax policy so the residents of these states remit less in income tax to the federal government and more to the state? I'd be inclined to think that even if allowed, it would be politically unfeasible.

Boy, is John Calhoun probably laughing in his grave...

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