By any measure, America is sharply divided over the presidency of Donald Trump. Even in a so-called blue state like New York, I know quite a few people who are avid Trump supporters, but I never let their loyalties interfere with our relationships. The blessing of living in a democracy is that we are free to favor or oppose any politician, with no consequences.
My friends who are Trump backers remind me about the booming stock market and improved relations with North Korea. They sing the praises of a man who they say is unafraid to express his views on any subject. They are true believers, and I respect their First Amendment rights. But as a lifetime New Yorker, I consider the president and the Republican Congress enemies of our state and its residents.
It may be that holders of 401(k) accounts are thrilled with their gains over the past year, but come next April 15, when we file our taxes, the smiles will disappear. A Republican Congress that hates the coastal states took away our ability to deduct state and local taxes, and most of us will feel the bite very soon.
To add to our misery, Congress has been working overtime to take away health care benefits from every eligible citizen in this region. But for the courage of the late Sen. John McCain, New Yorkers would have lost their rights to coverage for pre-existing conditions. Frustrated by their failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the majority in Congress, with the support of the president, is constantly seeking new ways to eliminate access to health care.
At the risk of sounding too liberal, I resent the failure of this Congress to protect the 800,000 “dreamers” who weren't born in America but who have become solid citizens. Trump dumped the dreamer problem into the hands of Congress, and was happy to let the members battle each other on this very sensitive issue, which has yet to be resolved.
To this day, I am mystified by our government’s treatment of the people of Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican heritage is strongly woven into the culture of many of our local communities. People of Puerto Rican heritage live in many parts of this region, and every day they make significant contributions to our quality of life. Residents of their home island are American citizens, and are entitled to be protected by our government.
As the father of four daughters, I cringe at the president’s remarks on women’s issues. Somehow, men are now an endangered species and women are “doing just fine,” according to Trump. Come Nov. 6, the Republican Party will pay a price for its indifference to women and their issues, and the payback is a long time in coming.
The tone of the debate at the national level has descended into the gutter, and the majority party must take most of the blame for that. The Democrats are far from guilt-free, but the members of the majority party sit silently while their leaders drag us down to new depths.
But it isn’t my desire to paint everyone who serves us with a broad brush. Long Island is well represented by members of Congress such as Democrats Tom Suozzi and Kathleen Rice and Republican Peter King. These three fight hard for their districts. Suozzi has become a strong voice for the moderate thinkers in Congress. Rice is finding her way in Washington, and is effective. King is a voice of reason in a group of representatives who are so far right that they consider him a “liberal.”
When it comes to deciding how to vote for candidates, I look at their voting records, their community involvement and what type of people they are. New York state deserves better than what it’s been getting from the Republicans in Congress and their leaders. The party of Trump is not my party because it doesn’t speak to, or for, New Yorkers.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.