Chan Lowe: New Yorkers: Your country needs you
PITTSFIELD — This week, I wish I lived about 12 minutes west of where I'm sitting. My home sits in deep blue Massachusetts Congressional District 1, so I've been effectively disenfranchised when it comes to voting in the national midterms this Tuesday. My congressman, a jolly, old-line pol from Springfield named Richard Neal, is running unopposed.
In this election — which many argue is the most consequential of our lifetimes — my decisions will revolve instead around choosing my local district attorney and determining how many nurses I'd like at my bedside in the hospital. As for the latter, I don't even know why I'm being asked to weigh in on the matter, since I'm a journalist and not a health care expert — but I've already written that column.
If I lived about five miles west of where I do, however, I would hold the future of my country in my hands. So to The Eagle's few hundred readers across the line in New York State: This one's for you.
You lucky Americans happen to live in New York Congressional District 19, and the national media regularly list your race between Republican incumbent John Faso and Democratic challenger Antonio Delgado as among the nation's most unpredictable. The Founding Fathers would have wanted it that way, and before the country got gerrymandered to the point where democracy came under almost fatal stress, most districts were like yours. ("Gerrymander," by the way, like Paul Revere's Ride and the Battle of Bunker Hill, is another one of Massachusetts' gifts to the nation. A 19th-century editorial cartoonist, of all people, named a deliberately tortured salamander-shaped district after then-Governor Elbridge Gerry for satirical purposes.)
Toss-up districts tend to breed moderate candidates, an essential ingredient for the kind of compromise necessary for democratic government to function properly. I say, "tend," because in the case of John Faso, yours didn't in 2016. I'll grant you that may have been a function of who his opponent was two years ago. Who could have known?
If you intend to vote for Mr. Faso because he has supported President Trump 84 percent of the time while in Congress — and still intend to vote for him despite everything that has happened during Trump's tenure — then don't bother to read further, because nothing I say will convince you otherwise. If, however, you're thinking of sitting this one out or simply can't decide which candidate you favor, then consider this argument: A vote for Antonio Delgado can save your country.
Yes, it sounds dramatic, and it is — with good reason. Forget your preconceptions about Mr. Delgado. Maybe you view him with skepticism because of his Hispanic name, or his skin color. Maybe, as a member of the solid, law-abiding yeomanry of upstate New York you're terrified by Mr. Faso's accusation that Mr. Delgado is a "big-city rapper." Maybe you don't agree with some or any of Mr. Delgado's policies.
Throw all that stuff out the window, and vote for him anyway — because the country needs him, and those like him, right now. We need him to be part of that all-important congressional check on the executive branch, a function that has been abrogated by the party currently holding all the reins of power.
The Oval Office is occupied by an individual who has run roughshod over the institutions and traditions of our form of government — the kind of person the Founding Fathers feared when they designed it. There isn't room to go into detail about his myriad abuses of office; you should already be aware of them.
If, on Tuesday, you do not help ensure the return of divided government in Washington, there will be no stopping him. He has so managed to cow Republicans in Congress that they will sit on their hands, helplessly watching as he incrementally arrogates more and more of their power to the executive branch. (Don't fool yourselves; Trump isn't a Republican. That's a flag of convenience. He's out for himself, and no one else. He'd sell the GOP out as quickly as he sold out Puerto Ricans — American citizens, in case you still don't know — after Hurricane Maria.)
So, rather than shovel ideology at you, I will simply implore you to give Mr. Faso a rest for at least a couple of years, get out there and vote for Mr. Delgado. If you don't, there's a distinct possibility that this will be the last genuine election you ever participate in. The national "contest" in 2020 might bear more of a resemblance to elections in one of those third-world countries where the Dear Leader gets 98 percent of the vote in a joyous acclamation of the people's deep and abiding love for him. Hyperbolic as that might seem, are you willing to take the risk?
If my appeal to your patriotism doesn't find any traction, then maybe this will: Down deep, don't you really want to see Trump's tax returns? That will only happen if you help flip the House. It's up to you, neighbors.
Chan Lowe is the deputy editorial page editor of The Eagle and a syndicated editorial cartoonist.
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