Aug 022018
 

Need to Impeach organizer Tom Steyer talks with voters who attended his town hall meeting last night at the Audubon Tea Room. (Danae Columbus for UptownMessenger.com)

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

An anti-Trump spirit was clearly in the air last night as a standing room only crowd participated in the “Need to Impeach” town hall meeting at the Audubon Tea Room. The event was sponsored by billionaire investor Tom Steyer, the founder and president of Need to Impeach and NextGen America, thought to be U.S.’s largest progressive political operation aimed at the 2018 midterm elections. Barnstorming the country as part of a well-funded national outreach, Steyer will address the Netroots Nation conference currently underway at the Morial Convention Center later today and is sponsoring a Pub Quiz Friday evening.

“I came to this town hall because I hate President Donald Trump and his bigotry and want to get him out of office,” said Lynette, a African-American New Orleans business woman.

“I am a mother, a grandmother and the daughter of a World War II veteran. We must do something now,” said a Metairie resident as she grabbed a free “Need to Impeach” t-shirt and munched on the pre-event buffet. The crowd was mostly white and mostly middle-aged, but others in attendance included Muslim and Jewish women leaders, African-American families with young babies, college students, and members of the LGBTQ community.

Founded in 2013, NextGen America was initially focused on preventing climate disaster, promoting prosperity and protecting the fundamental rights of every American. Already the largest single source of campaign cash among left-leaning voters, Steyer has committed to invest $110 million in the 2018 campaign cycle in 33 congressional district races around the country and on two clean energy initiatives in Arizona and Nevada. He has captured more than 5 million voters in his database, larger than even the NRA, according to Politico. Steyer is operating outside the usual Democratic Party structure and sees himself as an agent of change.

Steyer has built a well-funded alternate campaign structure complete with polling, analytics, and thousands of staff and volunteers which has the ability to put a new spin on issues that Steyer – a former California investor – deems critical to the nation’s future including social justice, health care, and equal rights for all. Through a series of events like town halls, outreach at colleges, free and digital media, and canvassing, Steyer has galvanized a vast pool of infrequent, non-traditional voters that he hopes will make the difference in the 2018 elections. To build this new voter pool he concentrated on young people, communities of color and low income individuals.

Attendees at the “Need to Impeach” event wrote personal notes to targeted voters Ohio in urging them to vote next week in a congressional primary election. (Danae Columbus for UptownMessenger.com)

Steyer is not at all worried about President Trump’s relatively strong support among voters, especially those who appreciate the new corporate tax cut. According to an analysis of recent polls by Dr. Ron Faucheux of Clarus Research Group, President Trump enjoys a 44% approval rating, which is just one point below President Barack Obama’s rating at the same point in his presidency. President Obama went on to be re-elected with 51% of the vote, Faucheux explained.

Instead Steyer continually highlights what he calls President Trump’s major flaws – constant lies, an extraordinary relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a desire to separate immigrant children from their parents and deny them a clear path to citizenship, and a failure to put political interests aside to act on behalf of the country. “President Trump is a malignant narcissist, a trait he shares with every despot in history,” said Steyer. “He has met the criteria for being impeached. It is urgent we get him out of office.”

Steyer believes the American people will reach a point where they feel President Trump’s behavior is no longer acceptable. “The will of the people will prevail,” Steyer continued. “People don’t understand how skillful and impactful President Trump is. Trump is a skilled communicator who is leading voters and the country in a terrible way. He is sinister, diabolical and breaks the law all the time.”

Steyer says President Trump was elected because voters felt abandoned by a political system that was not working for working people. The Democrats were over confident in 2016. Steyer encouraged the audience to register, engage and participate. “Republicans want to suppress the vote, gerrymander the districts and take away the votes of American citizens, especially African-Americans. We have to win and put in a better system. We have not had a positive vision for a just and inclusive country. It’s a different century. We must update the promise to America.”

SWB CUTOFF CUSTOMERS AND THOSE IMPACTED BY GANG VIOLENCE SHARE THE SAME PROBLEM

It’s all about race and class! Black, white, Hispanic or Asian, New Orleanians whose water might be at risk for cutoff due to non-payment and those whose family, neighbors or friends are victims of gang violence probably share at least one similarity – they are part of the have-nots New Orleans has left behind.

New Orleanians who have the education and training to land good paying jobs with a future pay their S&WB bills in a timely fashion – unless of course the bill is inaccurate because of a computer glitch. They live in a “good” neighborhood and in decent housing they might even own. Crime still exists but it’s not out of control. They could believe in a higher power and attend religious services at least occasionally. Single, married, with or without children, they are connected to a larger community that consists of family and friends who look out for each other.

Many New Orleanians who can’t pay their water bills and are regularly burying loved ones, probably reside in a “less desirable” neighborhood and rent a house that doesn’t quite meet standards. They could be single parents trying to raise children without much help. Those employed might make minimum wage. Young people – especially males – might not have completed high school or have the advanced training needed to secure a job with a future. Churches might not be an integral part of the neighborhood fabric. There might not be a strong community connection to family and friends.

Building a safer New Orleans requires the participation of families, churches, schools and the business community. The police cannot arrest their way into solutions. We cannot incarcerate everyone. We need parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and ministers who want to help mold children. We need good schools in every neighborhood and the post secondary training to go with it. We need landlords to maintain their properties. We need the City to create more incentives to build additional affordable housing. But most of all, we need the business community to support a living wage so that families don’t have to make a decision between buying food and paying their utility bill.

Race and class issues have always dogged New Orleans and will continue to do so until our political and civic leadership come together to create a plan for long-term change. Our elected officials owe us no less.

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman-elect Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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