Op-Ed

How Rep. Barr can protect our freedoms

Nate Smith
Nate Smith

Whether you are excited about or fearful of the results of the last election, one fact remains: These people will be our leaders. While we’ll be entering this year with Republican control in Congress and the White House, we’ll also be entering a controversial and unpredictable political climate.

It is with such concerns I present four demands that my congressman, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, should consider to protect our political system and secure our blessings of liberty:

▪ Stop playing party politics.

During the Obama administration we saw countless obstruction tactics from a Republican House and Senate. This led to eight years of political gridlock that I fear will continue. Both parties resorting to political extremes will solve nothing. It’s Barr’s responsibility to help break this vicious cycle.

▪ Hold the president accountable.

Already the president-elect has started working with Carrier and other companies to make deals that might keep American jobs. While it is important to keep jobs in the U.S., we must hold our president accountable for the deals he makes.

The Democrats made this mistake under President Barack Obama when it came to issues such as labeling genetically modified products. Obama was in favor of GMO labeling as a senator but as president he protected many GMO-producing companies. As GMO labeling legislation continued to die in Congress, former Monsanto employees like Michael Taylor were appointed to the Food and Drug Administration. The Democrats neglected to hold Obama accountable in the name of power over policy.

While the Carrier deal saved some jobs, few really understand the consequences. Deals that grant large subsidies and tax incentives set a dangerous precedent. It is the responsibility of Congress to hold Trump accountable for standing up to these corporations instead of appeasing them.

▪ Stand up for your people.

This past election has stirred up troubling feelings for many Kentuckians. Calling these people “crybabies” and telling them to “suck it up and give him a chance” only strengthens their uncertainty about the next four years.

As much as we want to deny bigotry and xenophobia exist in the Republican Party, the track record appears to confirm it.

In 1996, Bob Dole denounced bigotry and put these claims to rest in his convention speech: “But if there’s anyone who has mistakenly attached themselves to our party in the belief that we are not open to citizens of every race and religion, then let me remind you, tonight this hall belongs to the party of Lincoln. And the exits which are clearly marked are for you to walk out of as I stand this ground without compromise.”

Trump and many other Republicans have failed to reassure the public that Dole’s claim still stands today. Barr must put his party politics aside and defend the constitutional rights of all Kentuckians.

▪ Fight corporate money in politics.

The amount of money spent on lobbying has increased from $1.57 billion in 2000 to $2.36 billion in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. More are beginning to doubt the efficiency of our political system and if our representatives are really representing us.

Barr raised over $2 million in campaign contributions, many of which came from corporations and special-interest groups. It is the duty of our elected representative to end this destructive system and “drain the swamp” of PACs and corporate lobbying in Washington.

While we enjoy freedoms in this country, it is our civic duty to remain vigilant and expect transparency from our elected officials. Should Barr meet these demands, he can prove he is working for us rather than the corporate interests. I wish him the best of luck in his next term.

Nate Smith of Lexington is a student and activist for campaign and election reform.

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