Trump’s weight crushing Denham. The Bee is recommending Harder

There’s an elephant in the race for California’s 10th Congressional District, and Jeff Denham is carrying him on his back. That orange elephant’s name is Donald, and there’s nothing Denham can do to make him disappear.

If you like what our nation is becoming, send Denham back to Congress. But if you’re worried about millions being left behind economically, that healthcare is endangered, that discrimination is increasing, that our nation is sundered by rage fueled on both sides by an angry, unchecked president, then vote for Josh Harder.

Vote for Harder despite his inexperience and lack of civic involvement. Vote to leash the orange elephant.

In 2016, we declined to endorse Denham for the first time in five elections – including twice for Congress – though we knew Michael Eggman had no business running in a district he had only visited since becoming an adult. So concerned were we over the damage candidate Trump would do if elected, we grudgingly recommended Eggman.

Re-electing Denham, we wrote then, would further enable a President Trump by helping his party control all branches of government. That’s how it has turned out.

Denham has proved a loyal foot soldier, voting 97.8 percent of the time to further Trump’s agenda – a far higher percentage than many more doctrinaire Republicans. Denham has supported some of Trump’s greatest hits, like opposing a carbon tax, rolling back consumer protections imposed on banks, eliminating a Medicare watchdog and more.

Some specifics:

Health care – Never mind that the Affordable Care Act fulfilled most of its promises – slowing rate increases, coverage for pre-existing conditions, covering millions of uninsured Americans, covering dependents through age 26 – Obama created it, so Trump hates it. With no replacement in sight, Denham and other House Republicans voted to destroy it (as they had 50 times before Trump’s arrival).

Thanks to principled Senate Republicans, a badly damaged Obamacare survived. But after removing penalties for healthy people who refuse to participate, rates have soared by 30 percent this year. A case before the Supreme Court could kill off the ACA, leaving the healthcare system in disarray.

In Denham’s district, an estimated 100,000 residents would be harmed – some losing insurance, some losing jobs.

Dreamers – Denham did more than most Republicans to protect young people brought here as children and raised as Americans, even bucking his party’s leaders. But after earning a reputation as one of Trump’s most solid backers, he couldn’t convince his cruel taskmaster that revoking DACA was a heartless folly. Nor could he convince enough of his Republican pals to pass legislation to protect the Dreamers.

An estimated 5,000 of Denham’s constituents are among 680,000 young people now living in a court-ordered limbo, protected only so long as judges say they are. The only chance Dreamers have is for Congress to force immigration reform down Trump’s throat. That happens only if Democrats take control.

Tax cuts – Denham has been flogging the idea that Trump’s economy is the greatest thing since the New Deal. Good luck with that after April 15, when millions of Californians – thousands living here – will realize their state and local taxes are no longer deductible and their income tax bills are hundreds of dollars higher. Then those meager income tax cuts might not look so good.

Roaring economy – It’s a sugar rush fueled by tax cuts and deficit spending. Corporations and the wealthiest got 90 percent of the benefits. A few firms handed out one-time bonuses to employees, but most workers got little or nothing. Unemployment is down, but how much is due to gig work? Meanwhile the national debt has risen from $19.6 trillion under Obama to $21.5 trillion today. In peacetime, such a leap is unprecedented and unsustainable.

Tariffs – Trump’s trade war is hitting our region especially hard as retaliatory tariffs on almonds, walnuts, dairy products, wine and fresh foods sink in.

But what about water? Passing America’s Water Infrastructure Act could provide real benefits to California. We might not get more storage here, but the levees along the San Joaquin River – protecting thousands of homes around Manteca – desperately need repair. This bill promises to help. Denham should be proud of it; we’re glad he worked with Democrat Jim Costa to get it passed. Denham also stood with hundreds of our region’s residents to protest the state’s coming water grab on a day when Harder must have had something else to do.

Harder points out that Denham voted to make the tunnels lawsuit-proof. Yes, but it didn’t become law. And in our editorial board, we gave Harder several chances to decry the state’s water grab, but his responses lacked passion. Still, only someone determined not to be re-elected would vote against our water interests. So we’re not especially worried.

Besides, we like Harder’s ideas on Medicare for all, debt relief for college graduates, and fixing infrastructure (though both are wrong about Proposition 6).

We’re more concerned that Harder has exactly zero experience as a decision-maker. No school board, city council or legislative seat. He’s a newb, but a smart one.

In two debates – at The Bee and in Turlock – Harder let Denham’s anger wash over him, responding mainly in head shakes and eyebrow lifts. But soon he began channeling Muhammad Ali’s famous rope-a-dope strategy, letting the more powerful fighter punch himself out then hitting back.

Many of Harder’s best shots were aimed at Trump, but they landed on Denham.

The Bee recommends Josh Harder for Congress.