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Lemmings

“I stood out front. I led. … I know there’s a risk, there’s a danger.” You can guess who said that. But a responsible leader wouldn’t march us toward a cliff. We’re not his lemmings.

Trump is the primary culprit. He’s modeled terrible behavior for his entire career by cheating contractors, grabbing women, dodging taxes, authorizing hush-money payments, promoting white supremacy, advocating and enabling violence, promoting divisiveness and race-baiting. He mocks women for the way they look, he mocks the disabled, and he mocks those who serve in the military as “suckers and losers.” Now he’s unmasked. When he was hospitalized with coronavirus, he flaunted his disregard for others by going for a drive in a sealed car, putting his driver and Secret Service agents at risk. And when he returned to the White House, he took off his mask and went inside, endangering dozens, if not hundreds, of other people. What more evidence do people need to see that Trump is completely unfit to serve as president of the United States?

Under Trump’s “leadership” we’ve been deluged with misleading and dangerous information since the beginning of the epidemic, and the deluge shows no signs of letting up. On Oct. 17, Scott Atlas, one of Trump’s top advisors on the coronavirus task force, tweeted that “masks don’t work.” In last week’s town hall, Trump wrongly claimed that 85% of people who wear masks get the virus. These bogus statements are contradicted by real experts. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just said that there is clear scientific evidence that masks work and that they are our best defense. By now, most people know this, but last week I was in a store and I overheard a couple giving a clerk a hard time about the mask policy. “I can’t breathe in this awful thing,” the woman loudly complained. The clerk was polite and quietly repeated that it was store policy. I felt like saying, “See how you feel when a respirator is breathing for you,” but I kept quiet. These are dangerous times, and Trump is responsible for politicizing masks and sowing fear. 

But it’s not just Trump. It’s the Republican Kool-Aid drinkers who follow and enable him. Three Republican congressional representatives recently flew on commercial airlines without wearing masks. The three — Reps. Pete Stauber, Tom Emmer and Jim Hagedorn — had all been with Trump on Air Force One shortly before Trump got the virus. Republican Sen. Roger Wicker did not wear a mask on a commercial flight after being in meetings with infected senators. Wicker, the chair of the Senate committee overseeing airlines and transportation, had to be reminded twice by the flight attendant that mask wearing was mandatory on the flight. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson tested positive for coronavirus, but he hosted an Oktoberfest gathering in Wisconsin while awaiting the results of his test.

Johnson, the corona-infected senator who hosted the Oktoberfest gathering, was just quoted as saying, “Why do we think we actually can stop the progression of a contagious disease?” But as New York state has demonstrated, we can’t stop it, but we CAN slow it down. It’s completely irresponsible for elected officials to throw their hands in the air and give up — and despite Trump’s show of reckless “bravery,” that’s just what the Republicans are advocating. 

The Republican Party is now the party of Trump, and under his leadership, the country is in far worse shape than when he took office. We’re more divided, we’re more in debt, and we’re in the midst of a health crisis that has spiraled out of control. “Make America Great Again”? No, not by any stretch of the imagination. And now, in the midst of the pandemic, the Republicans are again threatening to undermine the Affordable Care Act. 

Our local congressional representative, Elise Stefanik, has claimed that she never advocated repealing the Affordable Care Act unless there was some sort of “comprehensive replacement.” This is untrue. In February 2015, she voted to repeal the ACA without replacing it. Stefanik has also voted to repeal portions of the ACA several times and voted to use federal money on lawsuits opposing the act, according to an article published in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on Sept. 24. 

Stefanik wears a mask while she masquerades as a “moderate” Republican. In reality, she’s just another one of Trump’s lemmings, following him blindly and defending him when his conduct is indefensible. Stefanik is nothing if not ambitious. She’ll do whatever she thinks is necessary to advance her career. Stefanik is like Trump. It’s always “me first.” Representing her congressional district doesn’t seem high on her list of priorities. If you don’t believe this, try writing or phoning her office. At best, you’ll get back a canned response that may or may not have anything to do with the subject you contacted her about.

The upcoming election is our chance to speak out. Our votes are our voices. The coronavirus is now an acceptable reason to vote absentee. Just check “temporary illness or disability” as your reason for voting absentee. The deadline for the request is Oct. 27, but it’s best to make your request earlier in case there are mail delays. Once you’ve filled out your ballot, signed the outside of the security envelope and put the security envelope inside the return envelope, take it to the window at the post office, and ask the clerk to hand-cancel it so the envelope is dated. You can also return your absentee ballot to your polling place on Election Day or turn it in at an early voting site. Call your county board of elections to request an absentee ballot or find out when and where early voting will take place in your county. 

Please vote. Please use your vote to speak out for a healthier future. 

Susan Hahn lives in Ray Brook.

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