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    Two Trillion Reasons to Vote in the Democratic Primary

    By Peter Gallotta–

    Donald Trump’s direct order to kill General Qassem Soleimani, a commander of Iran’s military forces in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, has left many of us grappling with the potential reality of another war in the Middle East. The timing of this attack should come as no surprise to any of us following the news. In the wake of a legitimate and successful impeachment process in the House, Donald Trump found his back against the wall. And when an impeached president is losing in the court of public opinion as they enter a critical election year, an aggressive military action can be a convenient opportunity to demonstrate strength.

    This escalated conflict with Iran is Trump’s doing—he ordered the strike. But if we’re to be 100% honest with ourselves, we have to recognize this as a symptom of a larger problem: the United States is addicted to war. In the 244 years of its existence, the U.S. has only ever enjoyed 16 years of peace. 

    According to a report released last year, American taxpayers have spent $6.4 trillion on wars and military action in the Middle East since 9/11. During those conflicts, over 800,000 people died, including 335,000 civilians. By the numbers alone, the United States’ military action is hard to stomach, nonetheless justify. 

    Which is why, when Donald Trump boasted on Twitter in the wake of the Soleimani attack that we spent “two trillion on military equipment” and that our military could, at any time, be aimed at Iran, he was perpetuating a position long held as an unquestionable truth: our military spending is our might. 

    Trump’s actions in Iran have exposed our moral and fiduciary failure as a country. If budget spending is a reflection of our values, then both Democrats and Republicans have some explaining to do. A $2 trillion-dollar military budget, if allocated differently, could cover universal public college, universal paid maternity leave, universal pre-k, and the cancellation of all student debt, and still leave us with billions to invest in housing, healthcare, infrastructure, and growing our clean energy economy. Instead, it’s used to kill civilians, children, and families.

    Whom we elect as president in November could change this. But the key word here is: could. Democrats have not been the pro-peace leaders we often want them to be. Take, for example, President Obama. According to NBC News, Obama presided over one of the most precise targeted killing campaigns in history. That campaign led to more than 500 air strikes and thousands of people killed. If we’re angry about what Trump has done or is about to do when it comes to military action in the Middle East, we have to confront the inconvenient truths about Democrats, too. 

    As California voters, we have an opportunity on March 3, 2020, to take a stand against war. The California Primary election, which has typically taken place the first Tuesday in June, will be the first Tuesday in March this year. For the first time, Californians could determine who gets the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. If we want to elect a pro-peace president, it starts with us. 

    For me, the choice is clear. There’s one candidate I trust to break our addiction to war, and that’s Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders has arguably been one of the most consistent anti-war voices in American politics. He vehemently opposed the Vietnam War, voted against the Iraq War in 2002, and was one of the first candidates to speak out against a possible war in Iran. The Senator arguably has put forward one of the most progressive foreign policy platforms amongst the Democratic candidates, promising to end ongoing wars, promote better relations between Israel and Palestine, and make climate change a top American foreign (and domestic) policy issue. 

    When we look at where we are as a country—our massive military spending, tax breaks for the rich, rising student debt, the ongoing climate denial—we are on a fundamentally unsustainable path that threatens our very livelihood and survival. Our priorities are wholly out of whack. This Primary election is not just about who we want to go up against Trump in the general election in November. It’s about deciding the kind of future that we want for our country. 

    We won’t be able to win that future if we don’t turn out the vote. While most Californians are familiar with our open primary system where all candidates regardless of Party appear on the same ballot, many may not know that the presidential race runs differently. If you are not registered as a Democrat or with any Party, you will not automatically receive a ballot with the Democratic presidential candidates unless you take a few actions.

    The easiest thing to do is to register as a Democrat. Californians can change their party registration up until February 18th, and it’s super easy to do online. Just update your registration by visiting the California Secretary of State’s website. If you don’t change your registration, you can still ask for a Democratic ballot at your polling place on election day. However, if you’re non-party affiliated and vote by mail, you must affirmatively ask for a Democratic ballot, either by returning a form in the mail or reaching out to your local county election office—so don’t wait to complete your mail-in ballot until the last minute. 

    So, for all of my California voters out there, make sure you check your registration status and update it as needed. Request a Democratic Primary ballot if you don’t already receive one. And be sure to let your friends and family know what’s up on March 3, 2020. 

    I’ve got two trillion reasons to vote. What about you?

    Peter Gallotta is a 30-something LGBT political activist holding on to the city that he loves thanks to rent control and two-for-one happy hour specials. He is a former President of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club and currently serves as an appointed member of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee and an elected delegate to the California Democratic Party.

    Published on January 16, 2020