Americans face a challenge


“The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud — the obstacles of life and its suffering… The mud speaks of the common ground that humans share, no matter what our stations in life… Whether we have it all or we have nothing, we are all faced with the same obstacles: sadness, loss, illness, dying and death. If we are to strive as human beings to gain more wisdom, more kindness and more compassion, we must have the intention to grow as a lotus and open each petal one by one.” — Goldie Hawn

Wisdom is the unusual ability to discern past the superficial exchanges of slings, darts, tweets and even caustic Facebook posts. It is the ability to open up more of our creative strengths to see how we can put forth our citizens’ opinions and inputs, regardless of who is in charge.

But first, the context

Donald Trump’s 304 electoral votes over Hillary Clinton’s 232 votes will get him to be installed in office in a few days. Yet, Clinton — who garnered more than 2.84 million votes over Trump — as the Electoral College loser is hard to swallow.  Considering Hillary Clinton got 65,844,610 and Donald Trump got only 62,979,636 votes, the popular vote loser, how is it that he will be installed, that some would argue is a win without honor? How does one make sense of the fact that the popular vote winner is not being installed into office?

We cannot, as the Electoral College was devised to ensure that smaller states are heard during the elections, as bigger states are. And, as America grew in population from 240 years ago, smaller states’ voters like in Iowa, whose 3 million population, have an unusual voting weight, that others argue weigh four times than voters in big states, like California’s 39 million.

California, by the way, voted for Clinton at 8,753,788 with 55 electoral votes, while Iowa voted for Trump with 800, 983 votes, with six (6) electoral votes. Can you see the argument that folks are making that one vote in Iowa carries more weight on balance than California’s vote? That is effectively telling Californians not to come out and vote during presidential elections.

When the U.S. Constitution was signed, the population of America was at 4 million. Philadelphia had the highest inhabitants of 40,000. Now, America’s population is 323 million and California’s population is still the highest at 39 million, where one out of eight residents in the U.S. live in California.

Imagine if each presidential election, California determined the presidential results, would the Republicans be crying foul? They would, right?

Recall the days of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger?

California’s disgruntled Democrats with Governor Gray Davis went along with Republicans to install Schwarzenegger into office, an actor, a bodybuilder, and a businessman. California previously had installed actor Ronald Reagan who became one of America’s presidents and was even bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom with distinction. What happened?

TIME Magazine’s Kevin O’ Leary on Nov. 1, 2010 described it “But Schwarzenegger was an ‘illustrative failure’ in regards to the two-thirds supermajority votes needed to pass a budget and taxes in California and in trying to work within the existing system to move the state ahead. [Joe] Mathews says, “He did us a great service because he tried everything. He fought with people, he circumvented the legislature and went to the ballot measure, he compromised, he tried for spending caps, rainy day funds, raising taxes, cutting programs, working with the Republicans, working with the Democrats.” Because Schwarzenegger was “flexible and nothing worked,” Mathews says the governor opened people’s minds to the need for systemic reform.”

His tenure in office became about cutbacks. I recall rest stops on California highways were shut down. State parks were ill maintained. It was as if salaries of public employees were being drawn, yet services were nil. It fed into the stereotype those public employees were not doing anything but it was enabled by a system of government that was not working under this new governor.

TIME Magazine continues, “With the Great Recession still a hard reality for most Americans, the deepest budget cuts have come, not at the national level, but among the 50 states, with the Golden State a prime example. ‘The deep cuts we have experienced in education are a travesty for our state,’ says Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent Chris Steinhauser. Out of an $800 million budget, Long Beach Unified has cut $170 million over the past four years and anticipates cutting another $80 million this year. Nevertheless, Steinhauser says Governor Schwarzenegger helped install flexibility in the funding process that forestalled layoffs, until this year. ‘I’ve always appreciated that his door and that of his staff was always open.’”

So, while not much reform can be attributed to the governor, he exposed the need to change the impasse of the budget, requiring 2/3 votes, instead of just a majority. With the 2/3 supermajorities, the minority stalled the budget process, and these few Republican legislators managed to stop the functioning of the state government, solely on their capricious terms, hence the incentive for teamwork was missing resulting in an abusive power play.

Recall Richard Riordan’s eight years as LA’s mayor?

“The conventional view of many of his contemporaries is that the city experienced considerable healing by the time Riordan left office in 2001. The mayor counted a solid expansion of the Police Department and the rewriting of the City Charter, creating neighborhood councils and easing the path for firing underperforming bureaucrats, among his successes. He failed to fully embrace the need for other fixes, however, such as reform of the sometimes brutal and maverick LAPD. And he never mastered politics and relations with a headstrong and parochial City Council, which limited his effectiveness. Many of his biggest achievements, not coincidentally, came by working outside of government — collaborating with the private sector to assure the creation of landmarks such as Staples Center and Walt Disney Concert Hall,” James Rainey wrote on Nov. 5, 2014 in the Los Angeles Times.

What I do remember during those eight years is his constant bickering with the LA Times. It got to a point that daily, the paper would write about Mayor Riordan’s inability to get along with the LA City Council, insinuating that he was imperious and not interested in teamwork.

Bill Boyarsky on April 16, 2015, wrote about their entangles, “When I criticized him in a column, he’d call my home early in the morning to complain and I would argue back. During a huge fire, I blasted him for praising Los Angeles firefighters and ignoring the many others who had come from all over the state to fight the flames. I said he was acting as if he were a provincial small town hack. The next morning, the phone rang. ‘I read your column this morning,’ Riordan said. ‘Oh,’ I said, preparing for a fight. ‘You were right,’ he said.”

But, you know what else I attribute to Richard Riordan? He simplified garbage collection and actually promoted recycling and composting of green waste. Now, the system produces enough compost and mulch that city residents can go to Griffith Park Composting Facility for their backyard gardens.

Can this president heal the campaign wounds he made?

While Trump campaigned and spoke of massive deportation, perhaps he will come to his senses, as other Republicans and Democrats to make immigration sensible reforms. Perhaps he will realize that these undocumented workers and their families are tightly integrated into the fabric of American society, working and supporting Americans in many facets of our lives.

For all they know, if they took the time to examine their own networks of businesses, these undocumented workers are in their resorts, golf courses, and restaurants they go to. That these immigrants without papers have been paying taxes year after year, yet are still waiting to be integrated. That all they are asking for is to start falling in line to get their working visas and ultimately, in the future, to qualify for a green card.

It is my hope that the new President-elect Trump will show us all of what is not functioning in Washington, and in the process, would also give him an insight as to what promotes teamwork and harmony in federal government practices. Certainly, it is not to plow down the Democrats to silence their voices, as his prior party members, Riordan and Schwarzenegger did, nor to enable discrimination against gays, as 28 states still do.

It is my wish and prayer that with Trump’s tenure in office, our American democracy would be strong enough to withstand “Trump’s outsider” change.

Ultimately, we, the American citizens, are the guardians of our U.S. democracy. It is our vibrant participation which energizes a government to work for us and work for a sustainable climate within its borders.

Inclusion, diversity and climate change are the rivers, and to swim upstream against the river is doomed.

May we all become the wise lotuses in this period and bring out what compassionate American souls stand for! May God truly bless the United States of America!

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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 9 years now. She contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Mexico and 22 national parks in the US, in pursuit of her love for arts.

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