I’m standing on Pennsylvania Avenue watching Donald Trump’s Inauguration Parade. As he waves to the crowd, I try to shout, but my voice is drowned out by the screaming masses around me. I struggle to speak, but things start spinning and then I’m falling.
I jolt up in bed, covered in sweat. Gradually, my heart stops pounding and the grogginess in my head clears. Partly conscious, I assume it was just a bad dream. But suddenly, it hits me. Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States.
I breathe deeply, sink back into the pillows and close my eyes again. Like most pollsters and pundits, I was blindsided by Trump’s victory, especially as a practical Republican who voted for Hillary Clinton. As I anticipate more sleepless nights worrying about our country’s future, I sink back for another 40 winks.
Soon I begin to dream again. It’s now the spring of 2017 and I’m in Washington, D.C., flying above the Capitol Building. I pass through the dome and find myself hovering over the floors of the Senate and House. I hear conversation, but no one is yelling. They seem to be having civil discussions and debates. I float down to listen more closely.
I drop in on a bipartisan Senate commission on health care reform. On the Republican side, sits John Barraso, who is an M.D., Orrin Hatch, who worked with Ted Kennedy on the Children’s Health Act and Charles Grassley, who was a co-sponsor of the Healthy Americans Act. Across the aisle are Patty Murray, who served as the first female Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Dick Durban, Assistant Minority Leader and Jeff Merkley, who has advocated a public option to the health insurance market. Both parties agree that health care costs are the greatest threat to our fiscal solvency and previous hot-button issues such as a free market approach, selling insurance across state lines and tort reform are being examined objectively.
In a committee room, there’s a productive dialogue about concrete steps to address energy independence. Rather than continuing to battle over whether climate change is real, the focus is on transitioning from our dependence on fossil fuels towards a new economy utilizing alternative and renewable energy that will create millions of new jobs. While clearly an environmental issue, realistic solutions are being moved ahead by rebranding it as an economic policy that will benefit millions of Americans.
I then cruise over to listen in on a caucus on gun control legislation. Instead of arguments over background checks, assault weapon bans and gun show loopholes, today’s topic is subsidizing smart gun technology that allows guns to fire only when activated by an authorized user; safety features that can prevent accidental shootings, gun thefts, self harm and use of the weapon against the owner. The NRA actually supports these talks as they’re interested in selling more guns and gun control advocates see it as a first step in further reform.
My next stop is a meeting on immigration policy and border security. I hear details of increased budgets for both the Border Patrol and Citizen and Immigration Service. There is no discussion of deporting undocumented immigrants (other than ones with criminal offenses or records) but instead on a comprehensive system for e-registration and legal status for families and workers who want to live here without fear and pay taxes. Thorough vetting will continue with all refugees trying to enter the U.S., educating the public that this process currently takes two years.
Satisfied there is real progress being made in Congress, my tour continues over to the White House, where the president’s bi-weekly meeting with the majority and minority leaders from the House and Senate has just ended and next up is a luncheon with the chairmen and ranking members of major committees, where there is not only a sense of decorum, but of compromise and cooperation. The discussion centers on the 20 percent of issues they agree on, rather than the 80 percent they don’t. Most importantly, our elected officials are listening to public opinion and honoring the will of the people. A “change” election would naturally include that fundamental shift in thought and action.
Just as the bipartisan commission on tax reform offers suggestions on revenue neutrality and closing loopholes, my alarm goes off and I slowly return to reality. My extraordinary excursion to Washington was just a fantasy, but even if only a small part of that dream could be realized, we will all rest easier. Turning on the morning news, it’s clear that pragmatic Republican, Democratic, Independent leaders and citizens need to wake up and reach out to each other, to ensure that America’s worst nightmares aren’t yet to come.