Why Symbolic Gestures Matter

Over the last week and a half I was horrified to learn that several of our democratic senators voted in favor of one or more of the cabinet nominations proposed so far: Secretary of State, CIA director, Secretary of Defense, NSA director, etc.

What, exactly, could any of these Democratic senators have hoped to gain by voting in favor of any of these nominees? Unquestionably, their nominations were assured. We are outnumbered by Republicans in both the House and Senate. Clearly, voting “no” on any of these nominations would not change the outcome. But why vote “yes”? I am completely flummoxed by this. Surely these senators such as Tim Kane and Chuck Schumer aren’t somehow secretly hoping deep down inside that their “yes” vote would somehow win them favor with anyone in the Republican Party.

Symbolism matters, folks! At a time when our country and our government has been turned upside down by a right wing Republican regime led by a president who refuses to disclose his multi-national business holdings, who refuses to release his tax returns, or to divest himself of his businesses and who has filled his administration with billionaire boys club members, corporate chiefs, business moguls, cabinet secretaries who have bought and paid for their nomination and approval, and who seek not only to undermine but to destroy the underpinnings of our economy, our welfare system, international relations and our environment, not to mention human rights, our elected leaders must take a stand even if it is only symbolic in nature such as voting “no” on a cabinet nomination which is sure to pass regardless of how you vote.

As a constituent, I need to know that my elected representatives are standing behind me; that they’ve got my back, and voting in favor of any of these nominees clearly says to me that you just don’t care.

I am not suggesting that the Democrats in Congress adopt the Republican playbook of obstructionism at any cost. Clearly, there are programs which merit work across the aisle, but casting “yes” votes for cabinet secretaries who have made a living out of destroying the departments they have been nominated to lead is clearly not one of them.

To all of the senators who are up for election in 2018, all 33 of you, we are watching. Consider your actions carefully because you will be held accountable on election day.

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