Okay, we all know that President Trump and his Republican lackeys, particularly Attorney General William Barr, have created an ominous forecast for our democratic processes, but there are also some good reasons for optimism. One of them is the skill and tenacity of many Democratic newbies in the U.S. House. These freshmen – most of whom are women – are kicking butt and taking names. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) gets a lot of attention, of course, probably too much. But another less noticed star is Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.).
Ms. Porter was educated at Yale University and Harvard Law School and is a tenured professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. She is also a single mother with three children and an author with specialties in banking and consumer protection.
Many observers probably didn’t expect this fresh-faced member of the House Committee on Financial Services to make much of an impression during her five minutes to question JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. After all, he’s a giant of the banking industry, the leader of a company that reaped $3.7 billion in extra profits from the Trump/GOP tax cuts and a billionaire who enjoys a $31 million salary. Well, she gave a superb performance.
Using JPMorgan’s starting hourly wage and cost of living numbers, Porter showed Dimon how his bank wasn’t paying a hypothetical, newly-hired single mother a living wage. Noting that this employee would be short $567 at the end of the month, she asked what he would suggest she do. Knowing he was trapped, Dimon said “I don’t know. I’d have to think about that.” Katie made her point.
Porter had other opportunities to tenaciously question wealthy bankers, including Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan whose company set up fraudulent accounts for its customers. She virtually destroyed his credibility, using a poster that contrasted his promises to restore consumer trust in the bank with his lawyer’s courtroom assertions that these statements were just “puffery,” not to be taken seriously. There are numerous examples of how Katie and other freshman are putting “we the people” above the interests of powerful corporations; these are just two of them.
Still, they reinforce my long-held belief that women in Congress will be a driving force in saving this nation from would-be corporate oligarchs and chest beating militarists. Certainly, they are just as smart and tough as the men, if not more so. Yet, they are much more likely to believe that educating our children, providing health care for our citizens and establishing a living wage for working Americans will strengthen the nation more than cutting taxes for the wealthy and spending extra billions on the military.
Fortunately, the 116th Congress that convened in January included 42 newly elected women, 38 of whom are Democrats. I believe we can expect big things from them going forward.
Let’s not forget, however, that one of the main reasons Democrats won so big in 2018 was their focus on health care issues. Three years ago, candidate Donald Trump and most other Republicans were still bashing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Conservative media like Fox News and billionaire GOP donors like the Koch brothers had helped them cast this landmark legislation as a government takeover of health care, convincing many voters it would destroy the economy and eliminate jobs. This was a total ruse.
Encouraged by their own deception, Trump and his GOP supporters in Congress immediately set about making good on their campaign promise to rip up Obamacare, “root and branch.” Well, guess what happened? Their failed attempt schooled the public on just how draconian their alternative was. Voters came to realize that Republicans had no good plan for health care, which enabled Democrats to retake the House.
Next Trump and company pivoted to their tax cut, lying about its likely effects on federal deficits and the economy along the way. Now that most voters have come to realize it was a huge gift for corporations and the wealthy, Trump’s single biggest legislative achievement is a nothing burger with the middleclass and most Americans who aren’t rich.
Perhaps that is why Trump has turned his focus back on immigration, hoping to stoke continuing anger in his base. Almost daily we are learning how inhumanely his administration is treating asylum-seekers, particularly innocent children. It’s as if they are promoting cruelty, both as a policy and a political strategy. I have to believe that many of those who once applauded Trump’s efforts to protect the borders are repulsed by his methods. He is creating a public relations disaster for the United States, an image that most Americans do not want to project. That’s not who we are or the way we want to be seen.
I believe there are lessons voters will learn from the failed GOP tax cuts, Trump’s immigration policies and Republican campaigning during the coming months, just like they were educated by the efforts to repeal Obamacare. Republicans oppose most legislation that Americans favor, whether it’s providing more citizens with health care, protecting against climate change, raising the minimum wage or reversing inequality trends. Their ideology simply doesn’t include these policies.
That doesn’t mean, however, that this coming year won’t present significant challenges for those who want to reverse the course set by Trump and his supporters. But Republicans don’t do well when voters know the truth and they can’t hide from it forever.