I’m White, Male, Old, Disabled: Your Next U.S. Senator

Ralph E. Shaffer
Professor Emeritus of History at Cal Poly Pomona

Speculation abounds over Gov. Gavin Newsom’s likely appointment to fill the senate seat soon to be vacated by vice-president elect Kamala Harris. Among those mentioned are some prominent figures in the Democratic party… mostly politicians with an ethnic minority label. That’s wrong-headed thinking. The most ill-represented group in California is the one I’m linked to: elderly, disabled, white male Democrats. Let’s have some meaningful affirmative action in the upcoming appointment. Governor, appoint me!

How long ago was it that we had a white male representing California as U. S. senator? I had to look it up in Wikipedia. Alan Cranston was the last elected white male senator, elected in 1986! Thirty-four years since the major ethnic group in this state has won an election to the senate. It’s time for a change.

I’m prepared and ready to fill the Harris seat. If she’s savvy, she’ll resign from the senate immediately, allowing Newsom’s appointee to get an edge in seniority over the other senators elected this month or in those January run-offs in Georgia. I’m prepared on a moment’s notice to head for that Washington swamp, the only non-politician there.

Now, I’ll make it easy for the governor, and for voters who dislike senatorial officeholders who stay for decades since there are no term limits for congressional offices, I’m 90 years old. There will be no talk of imposing term limits in my case. I’m not about to hold on forever, as Dianne Feinstein has done.

In fact, I promise to leave office when the Harris term is up for re-election in 2022. I will not be a candidate for re-election. I’m not about to spend the next two years raising campaign funds for 2022, making speeches and promises to the chamber of commerce, the teamster’s union, the police protective league or the teachers’ association. No,I’ll concentrate on doing the job of senator. That’s why I’m going to Washington.

And appointing someone who has promised not to run in 2022 means that no candidate in that election will have the advantage of being the incumbent. The 2022 race will have all candidates starting at the same spot.

But what would I do as senator? I would label my political attitudes as somewhere between the progressive and moderate Democrats: very liberal on social issues and fiscally conservative on financial matters. I would not support more federal funding for the Bullet Train but I would support higher minimum wages, greater federal aid for health care, and enthusiastically cut military spending. I would fully support the president’s effort to reduce greenhouse gases, rejoin and fund the World health Organization, and rejoin other agreements that the current president abandoned.

Nor will I bring in a flock of young leftists to run my senate offices, either in D. C. or here in California. I’ll invite all those now working as Harris aides to stay on, guaranteeing a smooth transition.

Not only do I come from the underrepresented white male class, I also am a member of another minority, those hundreds of thousands of Californians who are disabled. I lost most of my eyesight a dozen years ago. I  don’t think near blindness disqualifies a senatorial candidate. It’s how well his brain works. The Americans with Disabilities Act is in play here. Appointing me would send a message of support to all those disabled in California and elsewhere.

 I am an outspoken advocate for those with disabilities, and my powerful op-ed, printed nationwide earlier this year – “Forced to Live with Dementia’s Ruthless Advance” – became the focal point for a move to broaden the Death With Dignity Law so that Alzheimer’s Disease victims can indeed die with dignity.

Now, it’s up to you, Governor. Let’s hear it for that really overlooked minority in our state: elderly, white, disabled males, middle class workers who kept this state running. For the first time in over a third of a century, give us a voice in the U. S, senate

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