Thursday, February 23, 2017
A new president comes into power, marking a definite change from the previous one, sparking protests nationwide, that spill over into loud, almost violent town hall meetings with members of congress. Am I talking about the Trump administration? Yes, but I could also be talking about what happened in 2009 when the so called Tea Party movement targeted President Obama and the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
Above are two pictures: one of the Tea Party in 2009, the other taken less that a month ago. Although the signs may be different, the anger is the same. In fact, the similarities are striking: in 2009, rumors were spread by Democrats saying that the Tea Party was funded mostly by the conservative billionaire Koke Brothers, now Republicans are saying that Anti-Trump protestors are being paid by progressive billionaire George Soros. Both sides embrace the expression "not my president", as if a president they disagree with is somehow invalid. Both sides often not so subtly use Nazi imagery in making their point against whomever they disagree with. And just as some people in Texas flirted with the idea of seceding from the country during the Obama years, now California is considering the same thing under Trump.
As a progressive myself, I know which side my sympathies lie with, but the anger both sides express reveals a sad, bitter truth about just how divided this country is. Progressives and conservatives now live in not only separate red and blue states, but separate communities within those states. And the media they consume only echoes their own feelings about the world. It is entirely possible in the US to encase oneself in a cocoon in which only people you agree with ever enter, except for a few angry holiday dinners.
Americans have to accept one undeniable fact: however you voted in the last presidential election, over sixty million of your fellow countrymen voted in the opposite direction. It's become a cliche for news reporters to say this, but it's true: we are a deeply divided nation, in fact the divide right now has not been this strong since the Civil War. While clearly the notions of outright warfare or California succeeding are extreme, it does often seem that red states and blue states contain people with such radically different world views that nation wide unification on many important issues is almost impossible.
So what can we do? Well, part of the reason Trump won is the fear of white Americans of the demographic changes the country is going through, which will eventually result in white people no longer making up over fifty percent of the country. (Yes, even if Trump gets his wall and deports eleven million people, it will still happen). What is going on now in the US may be a repeat of what happened in the state of California in 1995, when Governor Pete Wilson strongly ran against immigration, running race baiting political TV ads about undocumented immigrants that Trump echoed in his campaign. While Wilson won his reelection, the backlash against the Republican party was so strong in the state that now Democrats run almost all the wheels of power. So, it appears that time is on the side of progressives, with America slowly but surely turning to the left as older white conservatives die off, to be replaced by a more diverse and progressive generation. Looked at this way, the Trump victory will probably be remembered as the last gasp of the older white Americans fighting the inevitable.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
While I intensely disagree with almost everything Donald Trump stands for as both a political figure and a human being, I will give him his due and admit that he was right about one thing in his campaign: his unlikely march to the White House is a lot like the recent English vote on Brexit. Like that vote, Trump went into election day an underdog and came out an unlikely winner, surprising the world and making many voters wonder what kind of country they were living in the next day. Sadly, there are even more similarities: both campaigns were full of exaggerations, and outright lies, and both won out on the votes of working class whites and their fear of immigrants and refugees. And just like how many pro Brexit voters are admitting to now having buyer's remorse, many pro Trump voters are realizing that an unexperienced man who promised to "shake things up" in Washington may not be the best person to run this, or any country.
Yep, Trump has now been president for less than a month, and it feels like years to many of us. While any presidential transition can expect some turbulence, especially when it involves a switch in party affiliation, Trump's transition has resulted in chaos. It's so jolting to move from the cool, professional Obama administration to this drunken herd of elephants led by a lying narcissist! From the craziness of his foreign travel ban, to spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway violating ethics laws by openly advertising for his daughter's product line on television, to him still maintaining that somehow millions of illegal immigrants voted in the election, it's hard to believe he's barely into his first term.
Today Andrew Puzder, his controversial choice for Labor Secretary, withdrew his name from nomination due to serious questions about his hiring of an undocumented immigrant as a maid, among other things. And that's not even a big deal; the big deal is that Micheal Flynn, who had been appointed to be National Security Advisor, had to step down after only days in the post due to a possibly illegal phone call he made to Russia before he was a member of the Trump administration. The fact that Flynn, who led chants of "lock her up" about Hillary Clinton at the Republican National Convention, may himself be locked up, could be a delicious piece of irony. And it may just be the tip of the iceberg; new evidence has arisen showing that members of the Trump campaign were communicating with Russia during the campaign, although it is uncertain what that communication was about. Could the Trump people have been conspiring with Russia on the release of embarrassing emails that Russian hackers obtained from the Democratic National Committee? It's possible that we have a president who won by coordinating his campaign with a foreign power to give it an electoral advantage. It may even be possible that Russia is pushing Trump to end sanctions that the Obama administration put in place by blackmailing him with wire tapped recordings of his recent trips to Russia, which may be embarrassing, or even criminal. Or it may just be that his still unreleased tax returns would reveal enormous economic dealings with Russia, dealings that would be put in jeopardy if he didn't end the sanctions.
Although getting a Republican majority congress to open investigations into what could be impeachable (and outright treasonous!) actions by Trump may not be easy, some are getting the message, like Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Remember, when Trump started winning primary victories at the start of his campaign, there was a general belief that he would do irreparable harm to the Republican party. Once he surprisingly won, the party generally seemed pleased to have one of their own in the White House, but given his insane first month, he still may destroy the party. Sadly, now he could take the whole damn country with it!