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Monday, January 18, 2021

Oregon Senator Wyden Looks past Trump, Offers Sound Ideas

By Bill Street

Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, just a few days from becoming Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has called on Congress to act. He puts it like this:

In the wake of this attack, Democrats must use our majorities in Congress to pass reforms that will defend our democracy from the forces that supported, incited and fueled the riots.

First, we need the kind of election system that experts agree is the most secure: one that uses hand-marked paper ballots and risk-limiting audits. That's the tried-and-true system in Oregon, where we vote at home and send our ballots in by mail.

Second, there is no longer any excuse for blocking statehood and full representation in Congress for the District of Columbia. Trump has proven in front of the whole nation that a president like him will not protect the nation's capital from violence, even if he is the only national representative they have the right to elect. 

He has also made it clear that Republican objections to statehood have nothing to do with the virtue of having a "federal city." It's pure, ugly politics …

I'm for D.C. statehood. Denying its residents their rightful representation in Congress diminishes the rights and political power of my 4 million constituents in Oregon, it's true. But it's also a deeply shameful thing that the more than 700,000 Americans living in Washington, D.C., are forced into a lower class of citizenship.

The same goes for the American citizens in Puerto Rico. If statehood is what they want, they should be able to make that choice. The way Trump and Republicans have treated Puerto Rico — particularly when its residents have suffered so much — is revolting.

Many Oregonians watched the past election cycle with a mix of confusion and humor, listening to Republicans, even Oregon Republicans, casting their lot with those making outrageous claims and threats about mail-in voting.

In many Oregon households, elections are marked by the entire family sitting around the dinner table, adults and children, discussing political choice. Voting has become a family event, with adults modeling one of the easiest obligations of citizenship. Since 2000, Oregonians have been voting by mail. These vote by mail events have elected Republicans and Democrats. For about 20 years there has been no evidence of fraud or outcome-changing abuse.

In fact, more Oregonians are voting. Add to this motor voter registration, and we reach a place where almost all adult Oregonians are registered to vote. Despite occasional Republican volunteers caught illegally voting down ballot on unmarked ballots during counting, that cheating has not been enough to alter the 

outcome, and it was caught within minutes.

County Clerks have introduced signature verification technology to disenfranchise some voters under the guise of making our (already secure) elections more secure (which they don’t).

It makes sense for our Senator Wyden to advocate for more democracy rather than less. Next we need our Representatives to understand that democracy requires economic justice to survive. This is imperative.

When economic inequality is allowed to reach current levels it becomes a breeding ground for fascists. That’s why Senator Wyden’s call for an expansion of democracy and President Biden’s call for a stimulus package are but two sides of the same coin.  

To create an even playing field we must not only expand the vote and representation, but also start equalizing income levels. No longer should the few benefit so much at the expense of the many.