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Guest Column: Leslie Danks Burke


Leslie Danks Burke is a regional public advocate.

WATKINS GLEN, Dec. 4, 2020 -- What does it mean that more Americans voted for Democrat Joe Biden than for any President in history, while at the same time Republicans gained nine seats in Congress and held onto state houses across the country?

It means that the stereotypical right-left spectrum was not the determining factor in 2020.

Take health care as an example -- here in a pandemic it's as obvious as a kick in the pants that the system is seriously out of whack. Right now, health insurance companies are raking in billions more in profits than they did last year. Meanwhile, hospitals are overloaded, supply chains are broken, and hundreds of thousands of people are dying. Families are going bankrupt because of health care costs, and small businesses are shutting down under the load. There's no way the current system works.

And most people say they agree with the Democratic solution: universal health care. Here in New York -- ridiculously and unlike any other state -- we pay for health care for fully one-quarter of our population through property taxes. We could cut taxes for folks across the board by eliminating this unfunded mandate, and if we add this opportunity to massively cut taxes to the popularity of universal health care, it seems the Democratic solution should have a solid following.

Yet when you look at the wave of new voters for President Trump in 2020, we can see that it’s not about this, it's about folks feeling neglected by the elite leadership of both parties so they gravitate to a guy who lies all the time (it’s documented, over 20,000 false statements during his Presidency) yet tells us we are right to be mad about the fact that power interests don’t care or listen to us.

This is not right versus left, progressive versus conservative. It’s impossible to seriously argue that Republican leadership is "conservative" today. It’s fact that Republican leadership has raised the national debt higher than it’s ever been, spending increases under President Trump have blown huge holes in the deficit, and the tax benefits to large corporations are getting picked up by massive tax increases on regular people. At the same time, it’s pretty elitist to argue that Democrats should "moderate" their agenda to make it palatable to rural communities. Saying a progressive agenda is too much for regular people to understand, so Democrats should water it down, is not right at all.

Folks want the feeling of security that Franklin Roosevelt established, with unemployment insurance, Social Security, and Medicare to pay for prescriptions. In the 1930s, they wanted the Rural Electrification Program that today makes New York’s top-tier agriculture industry possible, and we want universal broadband now. We want to feel safe with bridge, culvert and road infrastructure that withstands strange new weather, and we want quality schools for our kids. We want generational poverty ended, and we want liberty and justice for all. We want exactly the progressive agenda: FDR's Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.

But folks simply do not have time for elitist packaging around it. No matter where we live, urban or rural, real people who are working two jobs, trying to oversee their kids' schoolwork, pay all the bills of today’s high cost of living, and juggle aging grandparent care, simply do not have time to think about the wrapping paper around security.

That’s what the power interests are counting on. They’re hoping we’ll forget all about politics now that the election is over, and not hold them to account as our loved ones perish in the pandemic or go bankrupt in the economic fallout.

Yet 2020 is not a year that anyone is going to forget. So, what does it mean to me that Biden got the highest number of votes in American history, while Trump got the second highest?

It means America has woken up. It means we are at the beginning of something, not the end of something. It means we are ready. Let’s get to work.

Photo: Leslie Danks Burke

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Carl Blowers, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp

Bottom row: Gary Gray, David Reed, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro


Legislature Chairman

Carl Blowers, 535-6174 or 237-5469

Legislature Members:

Gary Gray, 292-9922

Van Harp, 329-2160

Jim Howell, 535-7266 or 227-1141

David M. Reed, 796-9558

Michael Lausell, 227- 9226

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482

Mark Rondinaro, 398-0648

County Clerk: Theresa Philbin, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Holley Sokolowski, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791


© The Odessa File 2017
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869