What have we learned in the last two years?
As we prepare to vote and then wait for this year’s election results, consider these lessons from 2016.
Elections have consequences and every vote counts….just ask the people who stayed home last time or who voted for a protest candidate. The outcome of the last presidential election wasn’t determined by people who voted for Donald Trump or for Hillary Clinton. The winner of the popular vote was “Nobody.” Across America, 111,209,000 eligible voters didn’t vote. That’s way more than the 62,984,282 Trump voters and 65,853,514 Clinton voters. Looking at those dismal national numbers, Minnesotans should be proud we again recorded the top turnout at almost 75 percent.
This year, early voting in Minnesota is on a record pace. As of Oct. 25, the rate of accepted absentee ballots is an increase of 203 percent over the same time in 2014. Does that predict a larger turnout, or does it just mean people like the convenience of early voting instead of voting on Election Day? We won’t know until all the votes are counted.
Voters care about health care. For six years, Republicans promised they’d “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act and Trump promised better, cheaper health care. When they got the chance to actually do something instead of taking symbolic votes, Republicans choked. No plan. Incumbent state and national Republicans opposed the individual mandate and guaranteed insurance for people with pre-existing conditions and supported legislation that would sabotage the ACA. Will voters remember?
We’ve learned the president and Republican-led Congress isn’t interested in dealing with gun violence. Measures that are widely supported by gun owners as well as the general public, such as universal background checks, an idea supported by 97 percent of Americans, can’t pass Congress. Why is that?
We learned you are more than 40 times as likely to die in a gun homicide in the United States than in Germany. Why is that?
We’ve learned despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, some think widespread voter fraud is real. Instances of people voting multiple times in the same election or ineligible voters pretending to be someone else isn’t a problem. At least that’s what studies by the Brennan Center for Justice and other legal experts found. But we have learned Republicans supported making voting more difficult by rolling back provisions of the Voting Rights Act and closing polling places. Why is that?
We learned some people would rather argue about “alternate facts” than use the same facts to debate alternate solutions to our public issues. For example, the president and Republican-controlled Congress have not only ignored global warming and climate change, they’ve ended efforts to combat it. Why do we take polls asking if human activity causes climate change? We don’t ask if people believe the world is flat or which number is greater, 5 or 10. Why is that?
We learned the president and Republican Congress would rather give a $1.5-trillion tax cut to big companies and rich people than spend the money to improve our roads, bridges, mass transit and airports. The Top 10 list of the world’s best airports includes Singapore, Seoul and Hong Kong. Americans invented air travel and space flight, but no American cities are on the best airports list. Why is that? Have you flown to Newark lately?
We learned Puerto Rico is an island surrounded by water. We learned Puerto Ricans are American citizens, but unlike American citizens in Florida and Texas, they can’t vote for the president. So who cares?
We learned in a new study that citizens who are politically aware, digitally savvy and trust the news media do a better job of distinguishing between facts and opinions. Why is that?
If you’ve voted already, good for you. If you haven’t decided if you’re going to vote or who to vote for, keep these questions in mind.