Well, it’s done. We’re stuck. Trump is the president of the United States for the foreseeable future.* Something I never believed would happen has come to pass. I remember telling my good friend Carole, when she expressed the grim certainty this past summer that he would be elected, that I couldn’t even conceive of it. The nightmare is real. I’m scared for my homeland, for current and future generations of Americans, including my suddenly politically aware daughter, but I feel existentially depressed and powerless to do anything about it.
I did join a local grassroots group called Organize, Plan, Act (OPA) that was begun by a couple of my high school classmates but which has expanded beyond the borders of Long Island. (And anyone who is interested, please check out our page on Facebook.) We had an in-person meeting this week, which made up for in passion what it may have lacked in focus. There’s just SO MUCH we need and want to do – to protect our rights, to turn Congress and get more progressive representation that can actually resist the Trumpian juggernaut, to do battle on the side of “right” (not THE RIGHT, but what’s right and fair and sane) – but there’s also a danger that we’re just preaching to the choir. We didn’t discuss this at the first meeting, but I think our focus needs to be on reaching out to people on the other side of the aisle who can be convinced to cross party lines and do what’s “right” (there’s that word again) when faced with decisions that will negatively impact our present and our future. WE already know what’s what; it’s THEM that need convincing. Yes, we need to let our Democratic senators and representatives know that we support them in their opposition, but it’s Republicans who we need to sway on issues because no matter how loud the Democrats speak, they will always be outnumbered (at least until mid-term elections in 2018). Republicans may seem monolithic at times, but they’re not. Representative Adam Kinzinger (R‑Ill.) was on “Vice News” the other night as an example of a congressional Republican who is not convinced by Trump and has publicly refused to blindly support him. Senator Lindsay Graham is no fan, and neither is Senator John McCain, and I optimistically wonder if they (and others) would be willing to break party ranks if enough people from their own and other districts complained, especially if they have broader political ambitions.
Truth be told, I still feel powerless, even after the outpouring of support and solidarity represented by the Women’s March the day after the inauguration. While certainly heartened and hopeful, perhaps most by the wide range of generations in attendance (with so many brilliant signs and banners; my favorite said “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance”), the first thing that popped into my head (and evidently – although I am loathe to admit that I share ANY thought with him – Trump picked up on it, too, in his first tweet on the topic) was, where were these people when Hillary needed them? But then I thought to myself, these ARE the people who were “with” Hillary. Even if every voter at the Women’s March had voted for Hillary, there were still too many people who didn’t, who even now, months after her loss, continue to denigrate her. There are actually people in my life who I consider generally decent who question whether she would have been any better. OF COURSE SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER. If Hillary were in office, we would know what to expect. Now, it’s a constant, decidedly-non-fun guessing game in terms of how crazy Trump will be on any particular issue, or how wrong his “people”. The very first gig of his press secretary Sean Spicer consisted of a petulant rant accusing the media of trying to make it seem like there were fewer attendees at the inauguration than there actually were. WHO CARES HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE THERE? There are so many more important things that need to be addressed. Yet they continue to perpetuate lies in the face of actual facts to the contrary, like Kellyanne Conway saying Spicer was putting forth an “alternative” set of facts. THEY’RE NOT FACTS!! THEY’RE FALSEHOODS. (Thanks, Chuck Todd, for your incredulous response that literally took the words out of my mouth.) There’s a dramatic difference between the two that Trump and his people don’t seem to get.
I’m still a combination of numb and scared and angry, still feeling helpless and impotent. But the word that keeps coming into my head is VIGILANCE. We need to be vigilant. It’s unfortunate to hear people say they don’t pay attention to politics, and I confess that I was less than interested, even after the buffoon George W. Bush and his cronies stole the election of 2000 (although I would take W. in a heartbeat right about now), but it’s become very clear to me, with our rights and freedoms under threat, that the government impacts so much in our lives that we take for granted. I’m just waiting for the day when I can stand up against some injustice or speak out when something needs to be said so I can feel like I’m having some positive impact, no matter how small. One small impact added to a bunch of other small impacts should eventually add up to a large impact. Unfortunately, so far my protest activities have been limited to the OPA meeting, emailing and phone-calling my senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and my newly elected representative, Kathleen Rice (all of whom, I am proud to say, are progressive and outspoken Democrats that I have voted for), and posting “Like” and “Angry” responses on Facebook, but hopefully now that my eyes and ears have been well and truly opened, I will be able to take more substantive action soon.
It’s tough to pull any positives out of the inauguration of Trump. [An amusing aside: I posted a great article on Facebook the other day (Charles P. Pierce, “Today Was Just the Beginning. The Reckoning Will Come”, Esquire.com, 1/20/17, http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a52437/donald-trump-inauguration-day-report/). Something I particularly loved about the article was that every time Mr. Pierce wrote “President Trump”, he put an asterisk after “President”.] But at a minimum it should demonstrate to Democrats and progressives and probably Libertarians and all clear-thinking people that they need to mobilize, make lots of noise and take meaningful action because Trump and Congressional Republicans have all the power and want to take any modicum of power that remains away from everybody else. We can’t sit idly by and let our planet be ravaged and our rights infringed. The Women’s March was just the beginning (I hope).
Finally, I’d like to end this kind of dark and depressing post with something a little more uplifting, my personal rallying cry, which has been borrowed in this form from an article by Seth Millstein (“What To Tell People Who Say You Have To Accept Donald Trump’s Presidency Now”, Bustle.com, 1/19/17, https://www.bustle.com/p/what-to-tell-people-who-say-you-have-to-accept-donald-trumps-presidency-now-31726) but I had already posted something along these lines in my first public stand-taking on the Facebook page of Rep. Peter King, one of the New York Republicans we are targeting for removal in 2018: “I reject the implication that just because Trump is president, we aren’t allowed to condemn him anymore. To the contrary: We most definitely are allowed to condemn him, whenever we like and as strongly as we see fit. One of the nice things about living in a democracy is that we’re allowed to freely criticize our government. This is the constitutional right of every American, and I’ll exercise it under any president with whom I disagree. I suspect I’ll be exercising it frequently under the Trump regime.”
*I read something interesting on Robert Reich’s Facebook page the other day. (I love Robert Reich, by the way – he is so measured in his outrage and backs up what he says with actual, not alternative, facts.) He recounted a conversation he’d had with an anonymous former Republican congressperson who explained that the Republicans are really just using Trump to push their pet agenda items through – like repealing the ACA, gutting Dodd-Frank, cutting the taxes of corporations and the wealthy, yada-yada-yada. (A quote that really struck me: “They’ll get as much as they want – tax cuts galore, deregulation, military buildup, slash all those poverty programs, and then get to work on Social Security and Medicare – and blame him. And he’s such a fool he’ll want to take credit for everything.”) Then they’ll suddenly find something Trump says or does so outrageous that they’ll have to impeach him, and then Crazy Scary Pence will become president, which is what they wanted all along. Evidently, it was the condition they set for backing Trump in the election. Sounds a little tin-foil hat but also TRUE.