Chesterton Tribune



Visclosky debriefs constituents on 2016 election at town forum

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Elections matter. Voters cast ballots for the candidate of their choice, that person wins or loses, and in that loss or victory there are consequences, good or bad.

Folks, going into an election, know that this is how the system works--to be precise, they know that going into a presidential election--and as unhappy as Democrats may be with the results of the 2016 election, Donald Trump is the President-elect.

That, in a nutshell, is how U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, views the lay of the political landscape, as he told a crowd of constituents on Saturday at the Chesterton town hall, during his annual visit to Duneland.

Visclosky, as he always does, spoke about the vicissitudes of the steel industry and the “transformational investments” in infrastructure which are near to his heart. But overwhelmingly his constituents wanted to talk about, and wanted to listen to Visclosky talk about, President-elect Trump.

It’s “over,” Visclosky noted at the beginning of his presentation. “The foul language, the verbiage, the assaults,” the “unprofessional” slurs on women and immigrants: it’s over. Now it’s time to “look for areas of agreement where we can move the nation ahead,” Visclosky said. But any policies pursued by the Trump Administration which he views as “detrimental” to this nation Visclosky vowed to “vigorously oppose.”

In particular, Visclosky said that he’s dead-set against any immediate repeal of the Affordable Care Act as well as against any legislation which would repeal it at some determinate or indeterminate point in the future, the latter because doing so would create unfortunate “uncertainty.”

Visclosky also spoke about Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, Russian aggression in the Ukraine, and the catastrophe in Syria, all of which point to the need to keep the U.S. military “well trained and equipped and as safe and effective as they can be.” Yet military might is not in itself a solution, is not the only solution, he said. “We need to be attuned to diplomacy and culture.”

And he voiced full-throated opposition to any reduction in benefits in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid--as well as to any schemes to privatize the programs--but did say that he supports “looking at ways of keeping them solvent.”

But Visclosky spent most of his hour in Chesterton responding to typically pointed comments and questions from the audience about Donald Trump.

Is there any hope of removing Trump before his inauguration? “Elections matter,” Visclosky replied. “Not enough Americans educate themselves or participate in the system.” Trump won the presidency, he noted, by less than 1 percent of the votes in three states. If Democrat turnout in those states had been just marginally better, Visclosky said, “It would have gone the other way.”

One person wanted to know why Visclosky himself won’t introduce legislation eliminating the Electoral College. Because, Visclosky said, eliminating the Electoral College would require a change in the U.S. Constitution. “Both sides going into it know what the rules are,” he said. “We know what the rules are.”

Visclosky added this observation. “Reasonable people have argued effectively for the Electoral College and against it,” he said. And he expressed doubt whether, in the next several years, there’ll be any effective move in the direction of abolishing it. So folks can do two things instead. “Raise the debate on campaign financing,” he said. And get the Democrat vote out.

Several people spoke of their outright fear over comments Trump has made or tweeted regarding civil rights and constitutional freedoms. “Mr. Trump has not been sworn in yet,” Visclosky responded. “A lot of this is speculation. He has said a lot of things, however, which are troubling.” Nevertheless, Visclosky refused himself to predict what the potential policies and culture of a Trump Administration will be. “I’m not going to talk about the new administration. I’m just not going to.”

Visclosky similarly said that he’s not in favor of creating ad hoc or select committees tasked with investigating Trump’s business practices or Russian hacking. “We’ve got enough committees.”

On the subject of Russian hacking Visclosky said this. “There’s no question the Russians interfered,” he remarked. “But they did not interfere with the actual vote or vote count.” There are, he continued, Russians and Chinese working “24 hours a day trying to steal intellectual property” from corporations in this country. The challenge is to find a way to stymie those efforts while still maintaining the privacy rights of U.S. citizens. “It’s a tough line to follow and we’re still trying to find it.”

Visclosky may have refused to crystal-ball the incoming Trump Administration but he did make one thing clear: he and his colleagues will demand from Trump’s appointees what Trump himself is not required to provide: full disclosure in the matter of taxes and business ventures. “We have a right to know if there’s a potential conflict of interest.”

Visclosky concluded with two further observations. The first: “Elections do matter. Things are going to change. There is going to be a very serious year.”

The second, and one he’s made before: the media do very little to report that, in the main, bipartisanship is alive and well in the Congress, that Democrats and Republicans tend genuinely to respect one another and cooperate with one another. “There’s more of that going on than not,” Visclosky said.

And Introducing Visclosky

Leading attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the forum was Chesterton Middle School eighth-grader Peyton Martinson.

Visclosky noted that the middle-schoolers chosen to introduce him every year are selected on the basis of academic achievement and well-roundedness. Peyton, he said, is also a member of the tennis team and a violinist in the orchestra. He added a word of regret that this year’s forum was scheduled on a Saturday, meaning that Peyton didn’t get the opportunity to miss an hour of school.

Peyton was presented with a certificate of appreciation.


Posted 1/9/2017








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