Keeping Democracy Alive

Tom Conway

Tom Conway USW International President

Keeping Democracy Alive
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Bill Finkle will brave COVID-19 and drive around Kansas City all day Tuesday, giving free rides to seniors who need a lift to the polls.

Finkle passionately believes both in giving citizens every opportunity to vote and in properly counting every ballot cast.

Yet while ordinary citizens like him risk their very lives to keep democracy running, notorious liar Donald Trump pursues an unprecedented campaign to undermine the will of the people in an attempt to steal a second term.

“You can’t put anything past him,” noted Finkle, 73, treasurer of the Steelworkers Organization of Retirees (SOAR) Chapter 34-3 and vice president of the Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans.

“He’s trying to throw democracy right down the drain,” said Finkle, who joined the Marines at 18 and spent three years defending the Constitution that Trump disgraces. “If that happens, God help us.”

Trump began plotting his heist months ago as the COVID-19 pandemic fueled unprecedented demand for mail-in ballots from Americans worried about contracting the coronavirus at crowded polling places.

Any other president would have used his office to expand mail-in balloting and ensure that all voters have their voices heard. Mail-in ballots are a practical and secure form of voting that members of the armed forces, homebound seniors and Americans living overseas all relied on for decades, without controversy, until Trump manufactured one.

Because he fears Americans’ wrath after bungling the nation’s pandemic response and sending the economy into a nosedive, Trump resolved to disenfranchise—to silence—those he suspected would hold him accountable for his failures.

He tried to destroy the U.S. Postal Service to thwart the delivery of mail-in ballots. And he repeatedly went to court to disenfranchise Americans who voted remotely, even though he hypocritically cast his own ballot by mail.

“It’s just something for him to say to discredit the election,” Ben Armstrong, a trustee for United Steelworkers (USW) Local 377, said of Trump’s groundless claims about a “rigged” outcome.

 “That way, if he loses, he’ll have something to take to the Supreme Court. I do believe that if he were ahead in the polls, it would never be an issue,” explained Armstrong, whose work at International Paper in Georgetown, S.C., includes making ballot stock for elections.

Just days ago, with the help of his Republican cronies who control the Senate, Trump rammed through Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the court. That cements the court’s right-wing majority and boosts his chances of winning future election-related disputes, including those concerning mail-in votes.

Because of a 4-4 deadlock on Oct. 19, the court let stand Pennsylvania’s decision to count ballots that counties receive up to three days after the election.

But while the court refuses to do so now, Trump’s allies want the justices to reconsider the case after Nov 3, hoping Barrett will provide the swing vote for undermining Pennsylvanians whose ballots arrive late through no fault of their own.

At stake are thousands of critical votes in a battleground state—as well as the integrity of the entire election.

“I don’t see how you can uphold democracy if you don’t count every vote,” observed Armstrong, who hopes Democratic challenger Joe Biden will win by a such a large margin that it would be pointless for Trump to challenge the results.

But it isn’t just Trump’s efforts to disenfranchise voters that threaten democracy.

His relentless demonization of critics and refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, if he loses, whipped his base into a frenzy.

Now, election officials across the country fear that Trump’s supporters will harass voters or incite violence at polling places, just as they already disrupted early voting in Virginia. Instead of encouraging peaceful voting, as a president committed to justice would do, Trump urged his supporters to join an “army” of poll watchers to loom over polling places.

The fear of intimidation and violence could prompt still more Americans to skip voting and let Trump cheat his way to another term.

But while Trump resorts to despicable tactics to suppress turnout—a sure sign he grasps the groundswell of support for Bidenmany everyday citizens will do their part to ensure fellow Americans get to the polls and vote safely.

Gary Gaines—a SOAR member, U.S. Steel retiree and former police officer—volunteered to serve as a judge of elections in Granite City, Ill., specifically to prevent voter intimidation.

 “I don’t want anybody to be pulling shenanigans. I even told the county clerk, ‘If you have a polling place that you think is going to be a problem, I am willing to go there.’ I’m a real believer in fairness,” Gaines said, predicting that Trump would be an even greater danger during a second and final term.

A growing number of Americans, including swing voters, support Biden because they want a president who will not only fight the pandemic but heal racial wounds, strive for national unity and build an economy that works for all.

And based on the number of people he sees waiting in line for early voting, Finkle believes that Biden will win by a considerable margin.

His greatest fear is that Trump will file a blizzard of post-election lawsuits and try to place the outcome in the hands of the Supreme Court.

If that happens, the votes of a few right-wing justices, rather than the ballots cast by millions of Americans, could potentially decide the winner. That, Finkle said, would be another blow to freedom that Americans must vigorously oppose.

“That wouldn’t be right,” he said. “Every vote counts.”


Photos of Ben Armstrong and Bill Finkle

Posted In: From the USW International President

Union Matters

Powering America

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

Fierce thunderstorms, heavy snows and unusually powerful hurricanes ravaged America’s fragile power grid and plunged millions into darkness this year.

And even as these natural disasters wreaked havoc across the country, COVID-19 stay-at-home orders sparked a surge in residential electrical demand, placing new stress on a failing system.

A long-overdue overhaul of the nation’s electrical infrastructure would not only ensure America continues functioning during a crisis but help to reinvigorate the pandemic-shattered economy.

Built in the 1950s and 60s, most of America’s electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure lives on borrowed time. Engineers never designed it to withstand today’s increasingly frequent and catastrophic storms fueled by climate change, let alone the threats posed by hackers and terrorists.

To ensure a reliable power supply for homes, schools and businesses, America needs to invest in a more resilient, higher capacity grid.

That means either burying electrical lines or insulating above-ground wires and replacing wooden utility poles with structures made of steel or concrete. Other strategies include creating a battery-storage system to provide backup power, building coastal barriers to protect infrastructure against storm surge and further diversifying into wind and solar production.

Also, a shift toward more localized generation and distribution networks would limit the impact of any one power outage.

Making these upgrades with U.S.-made materials and labor will both stimulate the economy and protect national security. American steelworkers, tradespeople and manufacturing workers have the expertise to build a power grid strong enough to weather whatever storms come America’s way.

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Stronger Together

Stronger Together