Since the day Donald Trump was elected I have lurched wildly between feelings of frustration, heartbreak, dismay, fear, sadness, and depression. I spend too much time every day reading news coverage of his outrageous acts, devouring analysis, searching for optimism. And I spend far too much time lost in the insane comments on news articles and social media posts hoping for explanations and rationality that will help me make sense of why we handed over our country to a man who is completely un-equipped to handle the enormity of the task.
I try to sit down to write something, but by the time I’ve sketched out an outline, the man has said, done, tweeted, appointed, or signed something that creates a new threat to our Constitution and the news cycle is filled with new facts (aka “fake news”) to get up to speed on. Honestly, I can’t keep up.
It’s really as though the man has gone out of his way to be the worst president that could possibly exist. His outright support for extremists has unleashed an atmosphere of hate and division that I never dreamed I would see in this country. He has appointed people who have vowed to destroy the very institutions that they will oversee, and who have obscene amounts of conflicts of interest. He has shown an almost comical contempt for the rule of law. And Russia. Oh my god, Russia.
But other than reading, ranting, and sitting dumbstruck in disbelief, I have been at a loss for what to do.
The problem is complex and multi-faceted and there is obviously no easy solution. Many minds much sharper than mine have been working hard to strategize, inform, mobilize and even sue our nation out of this situation to no avail. The answer that we hear most often to the question “What can we do??” is almost always “Run for office.” And it’s true. We need many more progressive, constitutionally-minded individuals to begin to fill ballots of big and small offices all across the country. But that’s not an option for everyone. So for the rest of us, the question remains: What can we do?
To find an answer, let’s first analyze the problem. The problem, as I see it, is three-fold:
First, President Donald Trump is a nightmare. Do you need examples to convince you of that? Probably not. If you do, head on over to just about any news source and you will be hit across the face with a long list of reasons that he has to go. Here’s just a sampler:
- From the Washington Post: instability in the Oval Office
- From Vogue (yes Vogue): unabashed profiting from the Presidency
- From the Atlantic: lies about voter fraud
- From the New York Times: lies
- Also from the Times: nightmare cabinet
- From Politifact: broken campaign promises
- More from the Washington Post: the Russia Investigation
- From Teen Vogue (yes Teen Vogue): Trump gaslighting
- From Vox: the North Korea situation
- Anything from News and Guts or Bill Moyers
So of course, people are clambering for his impeachment.
But as long as Republicans control the House and the Senate, they will not move to impeach a President of their own party. Some people hold out hope that when things get bad enough, Congress will put country before party and take action. I don’t think so. But let’s say for argument’s sake that they did. That doesn’t mean that the election results are magically undone. We won’t wake up from this bad dream and find Bobby Ewing in the shower. Let me remind you of the Constitution’s line of succession: if Donald Trump is impeached, our new President will be current Vice President Mike Pence. And I don’t need to tell you what a nightmare that would be. Or maybe I do. Just read this article from Business Insider, or this one from Salon.com. If you don’t have time, here are the highlights:
Pence is a staunch social conservative. In fact, he was the most conservative Republican nominated for the vice presidency in 40 years and often describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” He is against rights for transgender individuals and against expanding rights for gay and lesbian couples, and stated that allowing them to marry would bring on societal collapse. He called Dick Cheney his role model for the vice presidency. As Governor of Indiana, he wanted to defund HIV/AIDs funding in favor of “conversion therapy,” he defunded Planned Parenthood, cut tens of millions from higher education, social agencies and human services, and signed bills blocking local governments from raising the minimum wage. He supported privatizing highways and public schools, he rolled back energy efficiency standards, fought with the EPA, signed a bill that let people keep guns in their cars parked on school grounds, and tried to create a state-run news service to circumvent local media. And he doesn’t believe that smoking is bad for you.
But let’s say that we were able to kill two birds with one stone and impeach Trump and force Pence to resign, because, for example, Pence was involved with or knew about Russian interference with the presidential campaign or the transition. You know who would ascend to the highest office in the land? Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. We’d have President Paul Ryan. And I think that that might actually be worse than either a Donald Trump or a Mike Pence presidency.
But whether it’s Trump, Pence or Ryan in the White House, if the congress is controlled by Republicans, nothing is going to get better. In fact, it might get much worse.
And that brings us to the second part of our problem: the Republican agenda is a nightmare.
If you set aside the tweets, conflicts of interest, the profiteering, the lies, the overt support for white supremacists, and the general incompetence, much of the heartburn that has occurred during the course of this President’s administration is actually caused by policies supported by the Republican Party. Hell, a lot of it is actually in their platform.
They’ve been promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act for eight years. They remain stubbornly in denial about climate change and promised to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. They are in favor of draconian immigration policies. They oppose expanding rights for gay and lesbian people; many opposed allowing gays and lesbians serve in the military and support the new ban on transgender people. They oppose women’s reproductive rights and support laws that make it legal for employers to deny contraceptive coverage to their female employees. They completely support the NRA’s deadly agenda. They oppose affirmative action and have been actively engaged in gerrymandering and voter suppression. And while most are smart enough not to overtly support white supremacy, they have been playing a dangerous game of dog-whistle politics for decades, which has led directly to the rise of the alt-right that we see today.
So, a situation in which any Republican occupies the White House while Republicans hold majorities in the House and the Senate is fraught. Clearly, we need to elect more Democrats.
And that leads to the third part of the problem: the Democratic Party is not offering viable alternatives.
I’ve been a Democrat all my life, so it pains me to say this, but the Democratic Party has failed us. And it continues to fail us. Here is one analysis of the failure of the current democratic party. Broadly speaking, the Democratic Party has not offered an economic policy that helps struggling Americans. Support for women’s rights, rights for LGBTQ people, people of color and so on, is important — vital, in fact — but all of those people in addition to being female, gay, black or whatever also need jobs with decent wages, they need to be able to pay their bills, afford a place to live, send their children to college and more. The Democrats do need to continue to focus on so-called “identity politics” of course, but that is not enough. They also need to craft an economic policy that helps all of those people move forward in life.
Now, you will no doubt tell me that this is proof that the time has come for a third party to save the day. And I know that you mean well. But I believe that our system is so badly rigged in favor of the two big businesses that masquerade as our political parties that it is simply impossible for a third party to make meaningful inroads at this time. And time is of the essence in this fight. So unfortunately, we have to stick with the parties that we have.
So that, in a rather large nutshell, is the problem(s). Now, what’s the solution?
It may feel as though we are being attacked on all sides. But we can win if we are willing to fight this war on two fronts simultaneously. We need to look at the midterm elections, November 6, 2018, as our D-Day.
First, we must do everything we can to get the House of Representatives out of Republican control. That means get involved. Campaigns are getting under way now. Get out and get involved in campaigns for opponents of sitting Republican members of Congress. Help register voters. Canvas.
That means convincing as many people as possible not to vote for Republican candidates. This may seem daunting. But it can be done if we focus on the right targets. Forget your father-in-law who has voted Republican since 1940. Forget about your wacko co-worker who listens to Alex Jones and has Rush Limbaugh on speed dial. You’re wasting your breath.
Focus instead on someone who is on the fence. Or maybe someone who only voted for Trump because they simply couldn’t stand Clinton. Or someone who hasn’t really paid much attention to politics in the past, but can’t avoid it these days. Maybe identify someone who didn’t even vote last time around. Remember, more people stayed home in the 2016 election than voted for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
If every person can identify one or two people that they can flip or get to the polls in 2018, we can wrest the House from Republican control and out of the hands of Paul Ryan & Co. Then we will be able to move forward with impeachment proceedings and even if Mike Pence becomes president, at least a Democratic-controlled House will be able to prevent much of the right-wing damage that he would attempt to do. If both Trump and Pence can be impeached, then the new president would be whoever the Speaker of the House is at that time. A Democrat.
So going forward, prepare to fight. Be armed with facts. Take some time every day and familiarize yourself with the issues. There is so much misinformation out there, it’s hard to separate the truth from the nonsense, but you can do it. Spend time getting to know the typical right wing arguments and be prepared with rebuttals. This may be hard to do, but listen to the other side; read their websites, even their comments. The same talking points come up over and over again, and they can easily be rebutted if you are prepared for them and know the truth.
The second front of this war must be fought on our home soil.
We must force the Democratic Party to become more attractive to the American people. To become the party for something, rather than just against Donald Trump. So we must begin an unrelenting campaign to move the Democratic party leadership to embrace more progressive policies. This means that you must extend your letter-writing and phone-calling campaigns and social media posts to include your Democratic representatives (if you have any) and Democratic Party leadership like Senator Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, DNC Chair Tom Perez, and others. Let them know that business as usual is not going to be acceptable in 2018. Tell them you want more progressive policies that, among other things:
- address economic inequality
- help build a strong 21st century work force
- reign in the abuses of Wall Street
- stop the revolving door between industry and government regulation
- bring back stronger regulations of the media, and
- reform campaign finance abuses.
The fact is, we have a serious problem with no easy solutions. But this is our fight and this our time. I have said many times, we get the democracy that we deserve. And we must be willing to fight to protect and defend our country from threats. Even if the threat is from within.
You have your marching orders.