With the November 8th election behind us and with the elevation of reality T.V. host Donald Trump to the White House in front of us, many Democrats are scratching their collective heads trying to figure out the best way forward.
The Montgomery County Sentinel sat down with newly elected Senator Chris Van Hollen to find out his views on the next steps for Democrats and, more importantly, the nation as we enter into somewhat unfamiliar territory with the Trump administration.
The goal, as Senator-elect Van Hollen sees it, is to prevent the tandem of the new administration and the Republican Congress, both the Senate and the House of Representatives, from, as he put it, “turning back the clock of social justice.”
It is critical, according to the Senator-elect, for Democrats to fight this at every juncture. Whether it be Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, or any other social program, it is in the hands of the Democrats to fight any attempts at dismantling the social reforms that took decades to enact.
He also made it quite clear that where we can work together and find common ground we must do so as it is in the best interests of the country and its citizens.
Infrastructure modernization is just one example provided by the Senator-elect as an area he sees as having potential for working together in a bipartisan manner.
As for the Democratic Party itself, there clearly is work to be done. Senator-elect Van Hollen noted that when you have voters who voted for President Obama vote for Donald Trump it is quite clear that there was a problem with having the Democratic message resonate with voters.
The Senator-elect also noted that there is a great deal of uncertainty as we head into the new year since, from a policy standpoint, the President-elect has been “all over the map.”
Under these circumstances it is particularly challenging to regroup as a party but that is what needs to be done. There is a vacuum to fill and that vacuum revolves primarily around the economy and Democrats must do a better job of getting their economic message out.
The Senator-elect, himself, has been chosen for a rather important role as the head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee which is tasked with helping states turn red into blue at all levels starting from the ground up. In this regard, Senator-elect Van Hollen has committed to reaching out to all parts of our state as he clearly intends to be a Senator for all of the members of this great state of Maryland.
On the topic of state legislatures as it applies to the electoral college, the Senator-elect indicated that there are simply not enough states with Democratic legislatures at this time to be in position to impact the electoral votes by having the electors vote for the candidate with the nationwide lead in popular votes regardless of the popular vote within the state.
A topic of particular concern, especially in light of the events this past week regarding a gunman taking seriously a fake news story and posing a serious threat at a D.C. Pizza restaurant, is the seriousness of the rampant spreading of fake news and conspiracy theories.
This is of particular concern when it emanates from those in position of power, such as our President-elect, who has a penchant for recklessly spouting false claims without any evidence to back up them up.
His recent rantings about voter fraud immediately comes to mind. According to the Senator-elect, when the President-elect conspires to spread false news it is “a sign of weakness.”
Senator-elect Van Hollen did recommend the use of such reliable websites as the BBC News to report false news but also noted that it is incumbent on the social media outlet itself, such as Facebook and Twitter, to do a better job of monitoring activity and the false claims posted on their sites.
Senator-elect Van Hollen is a strong supporter of a free and independent press and finds any tactics to weaken the effectiveness of the press through intimidation and divisiveness to be counter to the best interests of our society.
Last, but by no means least, is the issue of General Mattis as the candidate for Secretary of Defense even though he has retired from the military only three years ago rather than the required seven years.
To this the Senator-elect noted that, especially compared to several of the other selections made by the President-elect, this selection is actually qualified. However, he also noted that granting a waiver would be a major step since the Constitution is so clear on this matter.
It would seem to me that if a waiver were to be granted it would have to be part of a major, pardon the expression, “deal.” I just hope we get more than just draft picks if this issue does, indeed, get resolved as part of a major negotiation.
If you would like to view the full interview of our new Maryland Senator, Chris Van Hollen, it will be posted on the Sentinel homepage at www.thesentinel.com/mont and can also be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnXPzW6j96o.