Surviving in Trump’s America
Financial Vice President's Report
Volume 117, No. 1January, 2017
I expressed my extreme distaste for Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy in the November edition of Allegro. Many readers expressed gratitude for my take and other locals posted my column on their web sites. Few members questioned my position, though some Trump supporters weighed in with their objections. As it turns out, I, among many others, was on the wrong side of the national argument. While Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by over 2.86 million votes, the idiosyncrasies of the Electoral College, an artifact of our nation’s founding, gave the election to Donald Trump. Only 25 percent of eligible voters chose him, but he still won. Do these results give Donald Trump a mandate? Decidedly not.
The math doesn’t pass scrutiny. The election was, in fact, rigged! It was rigged long ago by the Electoral College, which gives undue weight to states with small populations. At our nation’s founding, states were considered to be independent political entities. But as our nation has progressed, the courts have deemed most politics to be national rather than state-driven. The Electoral College has therefore become an impediment to democracy rather than a facilitator of fairness. As currently structured, a single Wyoming voter has three times the effect of a single California voter. The result is that two recent presidents (George W. Bush and now Donald Trump) can lose the popular vote but win the presidency.
Shouldn’t the will of the majority matter? Apparently not. The Constitution requires that basic math be trumped by states with small populations. The reality of the Electoral College bears only a passing acquaintance with the reality of the majority of American voters.
My question is, why did so many eligible U.S. voters sit out this election? To my mind, non-voters are the true “basket of deplorables.” Shame on all non-voters! Do you really not care one bit about your country and its governance? Do you really think your daily activities, your earning power, your right to protest and organize and your other “inalienable rights” mean nothing? Really? Look in the mirror and decide. Are you better off for not voting? Are you better off for letting others decide your fate? Do you realize that our country affords you at least some input regarding your future? Do you really just want to shrug and say “whatever” to these benefits of citizenship? Do you recognize that you have just surrendered any control over these forces that you might have? Why do non-voters ignore these possibilities? Yikes! Deplorable indeed.
The policy implications to Local 802 members are vivid and dangerous. There is a growing movement in Republican-led legislative bodies, both at the state and national levels – and endorsed by Trump – to legislate a national “Right to Work” regime. We all need to pay close attention to this movement as it evolves and might now grow. If that legislation gains ground, the AFM generally and Local 802 specifically, will be under severe attack. We will not be alone, as this will affect all unions, private and public, covering a vast spectrum of workers – including the Rust Belt union workers, some of whom voted for Trump. Local 802 will keep you up to date about these matters. We will all be stronger if everyone pays close attention.
Here are a few specifics. The National Labor Relations Board has two vacancies. A Republican-dominated Congress and a Republican president ensures that anti-labor advocates will fill those vacant positions. The next Supreme Court justice will be appointed by Trump. In 2016, the current Supreme Court deadlocked 4-to-4 in the decision called Friedrichs v. California Teacher Association. That deadlock was good for the labor movement as it prevented freeloaders from enjoying the benefits of union representation without paying dues. If and when the Friedrichs decision comes back to the court, the union may lose.
I suggest that there is a short list of questions to ask yourself:
- Do you want your pension plan to be eviscerated?
- Are you in favor of destroying your current health insurance?
- Would you prefer private insurance vouchers instead of Medicare?
- Would you prefer that Social Security cease to exist?
- Would you prefer that the degradation of the planet accelerate?
- Do you really think that climate science is rigged and is a nefarious ploy devised by the Chinese government?
- Would you prefer a world where the collective bargaining agreements that have provided you with fair payment and benefits be replaced by a “Right to Work” world, which places the responsibility for bargaining your compensation and benefits with you alone?
- Do you want to live in a world where a woman’s right to choose is foreclosed on the basis of bogus science and deep misogyny?
- Would you prefer a world where gender identity and rights are undermined by raw discrimination?
I would love to hear the rationale of those who reply “Yes” to any of these questions. Really. Tell me what you think. When you call, let’s start with an understanding that we will have a cordial, not angry, conversation, but also that the structure of our employment, our health care and our pension, may well be under severe attack in the next year or so. Are you O.K. with that? If you call, let me know how Donald Trump, the First Grifter, the billionaire defender of the little guy, will actually make your life better. Please let me know your alternate views.
We are under attack – or soon will be. But now for some hope. Local 802 will do everything possible not only to survive in Trump’s America but to continue to grow and improve the lives of musicians. We will partner with other unions, we will call on and support our elected officials, we will join coalitions. So let us know how you’re doing. Most importantly, stay strong and united. And let all voices be heard. Best wishes to everyone for a prosperous 2017!
p.s. While all the national craziness was rolling out, my department was still hard at work negotiating contracts. Musicians at the American Ballet Theatre, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, American Composers Orchestra and American Symphony Orchestra all ratified new agreements. There have been increases in each contract. Coming up next are the Westchester Philharmonic, Queens Symphony, Little Orchestra Society, Opera Orchestra of New York, and Midori and Friends. We’ll keep you posted.