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by Lee Hamilton
Every year right after an election, I’d find a small pile of requests waiting for me from journalists. They wanted some sort of comment on what it all meant. “What are the voters telling us?” they’d ask.
It’s human nature to want to make sense of such a complex picture — to draw conclusions from many millions of individual decisions. But it is also politically important, because how elected officials interpret the results — or seek to convince others to interpret the results — goes a long way toward shaping the impact of the election.
The key thing to recognize in the wake of November’s voting, and this will not come as news, is that we live in a sharply divided country. When the votes are all counted, projections suggest Joe Biden will wind up with about an 8 million-vote, 4 percentage-point lead, hardly a landslide but still a decisive margin. At the same time, Republicans retain a narrow margin in the Senate and made gains in the House.
What all this adds up to is a governance challenge. Without Republicans and Democrats agreeing to find common ground, it will be hard for the U.S. to exert strong influence around the world and to get ambitious things done. When voters are as on edge as they still appear to be, building a broad and sustainable consensus in favor of difficult policy decisions is arduous.
It’s also worth remembering that our election is watched all over the world, and not casually: Ordinary citizens and political leaders in country after country pay close attention. Because the U.S. plays such a critical global role, they worry when they see us conducting an election that the losing side characterizes as corrupt or in some way faulty. That’s why the statements of the outgoing president and his Republican allies have been damaging. They feed into the false narrative Vladimir Putin has been trying to peddle about our system, that it is falling apart.
In the runup to the election, my chief concern was about efforts to suppress votes. Yet despite the obstacles thrown in their way, millions more Americans voted this time around than ever before. Their determination to make their voices count despite long lines and other inconveniences was inspiring.
Similarly, the remarkable efforts by state and local elections administrators of both parties to hold a free and fair election in the middle of a pandemic with more turnout than they’d ever experienced ought to be recognized and celebrated. It was a heartening display of dedication to American values. It is not a perfect system; we always have islands of misconduct. But I used to spend Election Day going around to visit precincts, and always was deeply appreciative of the seriousness of election workers from all walks of life and backgrounds. They understood what was at stake and wanted to make sure our system worked and was fair and honest.
So, to see one party mounting an all-out attack on the integrity of the countless Americans who view running elections as a sacred trust is, to put it mildly, disturbing. We’re all pleased or disappointed with the results of elections, depending on our preferences, but win or lose, our civic duty as citizens is the same. We should take pride in our country and its ability to conduct these elections fairly. The dangerous game of questioning the validity of the vote could have reverberations for years to come, and sow even more division than we already face.
The point is a lot of candidates lose in an election. Half of them, roughly. A vital part of our democracy is how we and they come out of it — that we accept the result and continue to support and improve the system, always working toward a more perfect union.
This is what makes it possible for us to govern in this great and diverse country. Americans can accept differences of opinion and not condemn the people who voted for a different candidate. We accept the results of the election and move on. To behave otherwise is to weaken our democracy, perhaps beyond bearing.
Hamilton is a senior adviser for the Indiana University Center on Representative Government. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.
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By Chairman Charlotte R. Lane
Public Service Commission
Just across our border in Ohio a prominent criminal defense attorney and former city councilman was recently indicted on 18 counts relating to human trafficking and is facing more than 70 years in jail.
He is accused of unlawfully supervising, managing or controlling the activities of a prostitute and compelling victims to engage in sexual activity over a 15 year period.
He is also accused of using his position and specialized knowledge of the criminal justice system to access women who have been trafficked and arrested for solicitation to set up his own business trafficking women. Some of his victims were his former clients.
Last year in West Virginia, 38 human trafficking cases were reported, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The victims, evenly split between adults and children, were primarily females, and almost all were being transported for purposes of sex trafficking.
Recently, one of our PSC Transportation Officers, working with other law enforcement agencies, responded to a call about a truck on the West Virginia Turnpike and rescued a 13 year old girl. She had met her trafficker online and been picked up in Kentucky.
Trafficking involves transporting someone into a situation for exploitation. This can include forced labor, marriage, prostitution and organ removal.
The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, creating a $150 billion industry. In 2018, over half of the criminal human trafficking cases active in the United States were sex trafficking cases involving children. The average age a teen enters the sex trade is 12 to 14 years old. Many victims are runaway girls who were sexually abused as children.
Reports indicate that a large number of child sex trafficking survivors in this county were at one time in the foster care system. It is common for traffickers to use online social media platforms to recruit and advertise targets of human trafficking. Parental involvement in a child’s social media activities cuts down on opportunities for traffickers to communicate privately with potential victims.
The Public Service Commission Transportation Officers are working tirelessly, not only to keep our highways safe from commercial motor vehicle traffic, but also from human trafficking.
Our officers are trained to spot suspicious situations, investigate those situations without endangering the victim and bring about a safe resolution. They also participate in a variety of community awareness activities to educate the public about the problem of human trafficking and what to do if you see a suspicious situation.
We appreciate all the work our officers do to make our state safer. If you see something, say something.
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By Marilyn M. Singleton, MD, JD
The federal election’s mail-in voting chaos should teach us something about government-run medical care. In several cases, the voting process was as purposefully obtuse as the inner workings of our “healthcare system.”
Our complex system includes the government or private insurers second-guessing your physician’s judgment with a man behind the curtain determining the “medical necessity” of tests or treatment. Is the justification that the physician with scientific knowledge and clinical judgment knows less than the bureaucrat? Or that the bureaucrat’s agenda favors the government pocketbook or his job security over the patients’ best interest?
Patients and physicians long for medical visits of days past. You saw your doctor, not the doctor who happened to be available that day. Your doctor saw you as a person, not merely a list of checkboxes on a computer screen. And most importantly, your doctor took the time to listen. And at the end of the visit, the doctor was allowed to charge you what you could afford to pay—not the price fixed by the government or insurer. Now, massive overregulation labels this type of charitable billing as health care fraud. Let’s get back to basics: you pay the doctor for their services and have major medical insurance for the hospital.
If we have totally government-run medical care, our choices are gone and we are at the mercy of politicians.
The intrusion of personal political preferences has no place in free and fair elections—just as in medicine. A civil society does not condone apparent bias and electioneering by state officials. Nor should we tolerate medical elites who haven’t touched a patient in decades telling physicians how to treat their own patients.
While practicing physicians were reading everything they could find about the new coronavirus, the august bureaucrats were busy giving us “expert” advice that proved incorrect. Of course, the experts never admitted their errors and still have their jobs. Meanwhile we continued to see contradictory information, the mischaracterization of positive SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests as new “cases,” and the media announcing all positive tests a “case” (implying an active illness) and overstating deaths attributable to Covid-19. By design, this misinformation kept us off-kilter and willing to let fear rather than common sense rule our lives. Albert Einstein was so right: “blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”
Soon it became clear to clinicians that Covid-19 had separate stages of the disease. Stage I, the viral invasion; Stage II, the abnormal inflammatory response to the infection (cytokine storm); Stage III, exaggerated blood clotting response. Clinicians figured out that each stage needed different treatments. And just like with other conditions, the earlier physicians treat the cause of the illness, the better the patient’s outcome.
Private practitioners and some academicians reported that early use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in Stage I was safe and attenuated the course of Covid-19. President Trump praised the drug’s success. Big mistake. The political winds dictated that HCQ must die (along with some patients). While low-cost, generic treatments emerged, the politicians with their big tech, big Pharma, and media allies ensured that the public would never see the whole picture. In reality fewer people are dying and more people are recovering. But positive news about COVID might have helped the President.
Scoring political points outweighed saving patients’ lives. When the saga of Covid-19 is told, the role of the intrusion of politics into the practice of medicine will leave a permanent stain. Medicine may suffer from the same distrust as does the integrity of the election process. If there is any doubt that the sainted Dr. Fauci and his ilk are overly influenced by politics and their self-interest, two 30-year-old books should resolve the issue: Good Intentions: How Big Business and the Medical Establishment Are Corrupting the Fight against AIDS by Bruce Nussbaum and And the Band Played Onby Randy Shilts. History repeats itself. According to Nussbaum, Fauci loved media attention and “this lacklustre scientist [Fauci] was about to find his true vocation—empire building.”
Many posit that the reason a mentally compromised candidate for the United States presidency could stay in his basement and his running mate could refuse to give a single press conference was that “the fix was in.” Middle East peace, confronting North Korean aggression, reining in Communist China, the release of American hostages, the lowest unemployment in history, and a strong economy were flat out ignored by the media. Instead the media pushed a political “platform” of demonizing a President because of a treatable virus with a low infection-fatality rate.
Maintaining medical independence is now more important than ever. Covid-19 was merely one weapon in the political arsenal. The “system” cannot be trusted to look out for you.
Marilyn M. Singleton, MD, JD, is a board-certified anesthesiologist and immediate past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. She is a graduate of Stanford, UCSF Medical School and UC Berkeley Law School.