Emergency!

Alan Zendell, February 16, 2019

The nation is faced with two emergencies this week. Neither of them is the trumped up entirely specious non-emergency at our border with Mexico. The State of Emergency declared by President Trump is nothing more another rallying cry to his base. There is no emergency. Ranchers along portions of the border that have no barrier look out their windows watching for hordes of illegal immigrants Trump says are streaming toward them, but all they see is endless desert in which the only living things that threaten law-abiding Americans are rattlesnakes and scorpions.

The president justifies his national emergency claim with falsified crime statistics and fantasies of caravans filled with thousands of drug smugglers and other assorted criminals flowing toward our border. Every Congressional Representative whose constituency includes the border, and all the border city mayors who have spoken publicly not only say that additional walls are unnecessary, but have voiced their support for landowners who would be seriously harmed by construction of a new border fence.

There is a different emergency, however. We can’t believe a word our president says, even when he’s discussing a national crisis because his only concern is the size of the cheering crowds who love his divisive racism. Far Right Conservative author Ann Coulter, until recently one of Trump’s staunchest supporters, said yesterday, “The only national emergency is that our president is an idiot,” and that he’s “trying to scam the stupidest people in his base.”

We also face a different burgeoning national emergency masquerading as a victory for progressivism against corporate greed. At times, Democrats seem united in their belief that defeating Donald Trump is the most important priority in ensuring the future health of the country. Most of them also agree that the surest way to guarantee the re-election of a president whose approval rating rarely tops forty percent is for their party to spend more time tearing itself apart than making the case for why they are the better choice. Unfortunately for those of us who would do anything to avert another six years of Trump, that’s exactly what seems to be happening.

The most visible example is the debacle over Amazon’s HQ2 decision. Mayors and governors all over the country believed that locating Amazon’s second headquarters in their areas would be a huge boost to their local economies and citizens. In pursuing Amazon, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo even said he’d change his name to Amazon if that’s what it took to win the competition. The full court press to win Amazon’s approval even resulted in a rare show of harmony with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

New York won the larger share of the competition by committing $1.5 billion in tax breaks and other concessions in exchange for 25,000 jobs with average salaries of $150,000 a year. The state of Virginia won the other part by offering concessions of $750 million, a deal which was finalized this week. I don’t know enough economics to take sides in the argument over whether tax breaks for corporations in exchange for promised jobs are ultimately in our interests as taxpayers, though at first glance I’d guess that if Amazon planned to be a stable presence in Long Island City, the investment of $1.5 billion would have paid large dividends over time.

The more important argument is that the overwhelming majority of the Democratic Party favored the arrangement. Amazon is hardly an evil corporation from the point of view of the Green New Deal – rather, it is the non-polluting success story of the twenty-first century. I believe that in convincing Amazon that New York City wasn’t worth the trouble, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with help from Elizabeth Warren and other prominent Progressives, committed the very same sin Trump does whenever he opens his mouth.

Ocasio-Cortez played to her base rather than asking what was best for her city and state. It must have been a heady experience for her to suddenly find herself in a position to wield that kind of political leverage only a month after taking her seat in Congress. I imagine there are very few of us who could have restrained ourselves in that situation, but the sad fact remains that her victory dance against what she termed “Amazon’s greed” only widened the divisions in her party.

I’ve sung Ocasio-Cortez’ praises since she first came on the political scene. But the most serious emergency facing the country today is that if she and her followers can’t reign in their ambitions and find a way to work with the mainstream elements of their party, Trump will win again in 2020. That will be a true catastrophe.

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