Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Patriot Games: Loyal Opposition or Upside Down Flag Waver

What type of patriot should I be? Should Democrats be?

It is not an idle question in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president and what it would mean to the majesty and character of the United States as a beacon of freedom, tolerance and equal opportunity, no matter how imperfect our execution of those values are. 

Should I endorse the combative stance of Charles Blow who, writing in The New York Times, defiantly rejected Donald Trump’e election (http://nyti.ms/2ghhIeO), a position echoed by the following statement found on the Internet and sent to me by one of my best friends:

I listened as they called my President a Muslim.
I listened as they called him and his family a pack of monkeys.
I listened as they said he wasn’t born here.
I watched as they blocked every single path to progress that they could.
I saw the pictures of him as Hitler.
I watched them shut down the government and hurt the entire nation twice.
I watched them turn their backs on every opportunity to open worthwhile dialog.
I watched them say that they would not even listen to any choice for Supreme Court no matter who the nominee was.
I listened as they openly said that they will oppose him at every turn.
I watched as they did just that.
I listened.
I watched.
I paid attention.
Now, I’m being called on to be tolerant.
To move forward.
To denounce protesters.
To “Get over it.”
To accept this...
I will not.
I will do my part to make sure this great American mistake becomes the embarrassing footnote of our history that it deserves to be.
I will do this as quickly as possible every chance I get.
I will do my part to limit the damage that this man can do to my country.
I will watch his every move and point out every single mistake and misdeed in a loud and proud voice.
I will let you know in a loud voice every time this man backs away from a promise he made to them.
Them. The people who voted for him.
The ones who sold their souls and prayed for him to win.
I will do this so that they never forget.
And they will hear me.
They will see it in my eyes when I look at them.
They will hear it in my voice when I talk to them.
They will know that I know who they are.
They will know that I know what they are.
Do not call for my tolerance. I’ve tolerated all I can.
Now it’s their turn to tolerate ridicule.
Be aware, make no mistake about it, every single thing that goes wrong in our country from this day 
forward is now Trump’s fault just as much as they thought it was Obama’s.
I find it unreasonable for them to expect from me what they were entirely unwilling to give.


Or should I assume the attitude of “This too shall pass,” and take comfort that the nation survived eight years of Ronald Reagan plus another four years of George H.W. Bush, only to survive eight years of George W. Bush? Unfortunately, that trial balloon was burst by Jeff Greenfield’s article in Politico’s magazine that maintains a Trump administration tied to a Republican Congress and Supreme Court would be more destructive to progressive causes than Reagan (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/11/how-trump-can-change-washington-214475).

Should the loyal opposition work with Trump to improve our infrastructure and get more domestic manufacturing jobs? Or should Democrats resist giving him any victories, for surely he would not waste a moment to claim them as his and his alone? 

Should they let Trump and his dark knights tear apart the social safety net and let the working class and middle class voters who abandoned the Democrats find out what it’s like to live in a country that doesn’t care if they’re insured, that reduces the certainty of retirement benefits, that provides huge tax cuts to the wealthy but little to them, that wants to privatize national parks, that doesn’t push for higher minimum wages, that doesn’t enforce or pass worker safety laws or regulations for clean air, and safe foods and drugs?

When Trump first proposed to loosen the libel laws it was thought to be a potential minefield for legitimate media. Upon reflection, I believe the most vulnerable media would be those websites and papers that print scurrilous lies and distortions, the type of media that aided and abetted the election of The Donald. 

With Stephen Bannon as one of his closest advisors, whose Breitbart News often treaded dangerously on the borderline of libel, it is no wonder Trump has refined and softened his stance on the mainstream media. 

Of course, satirical shows such as The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (who is really coming into his own), would not have to worry as their content is protected speech, but let’s not discount the damage and threat repeated denunciations from the commander-in-chief might precipitate, perhaps including physical retaliation by some of Trump’s supporters or pressure on advertisers to withdraw support of the “offending” telecasts.

It would be foolish to count on Trump to modulate his positions. Someone who spreads falsehoods and deals with unfounded accusations, such as his latest outcry that he lost the popular vote because millions of votes were cast illegally for Hillary Clinton, reinforces the notion that reacting to Trump is a no-win proposition.

Instead, Democrats must aggressively attack his expected actions and those of Congress. They need to be proactive, not reactive.

For instance, to preserve the benefits of Obamacare, they need to run ads that defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ads that would outline the type of people who would be vulnerable if it were repealed and how insurance companies would take advantage of them. Focus on examples of the 22 million who are covered by Obamacare and how it has changed their lives for the better. 

Republicans have been wanting to alter Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security since they were passed by Democrats. To fend off radical changes, ads must target those who would be most affected—working class families and the elderly, two groups that opted for Trump. They need to be shown how GOP policies would hurt them.

His nominee for Treasury secretary wants to gut the Dodd-Frank Act that was passed in response to the investment community shenanigans that caused the housing crisis and the great recession of 2008.

As he assembles his cabinet and key advisors it has become obvious that Trump’s inner circle will not be a cushion, softening his campaign rhetoric. Rather, it is shaping up as a more regressive force. His designated Health and Human Services secretary, for example, wants to gut the ACA and eliminate insurance mandates for pre-existing conditions and cut back Medicare coverage. So much for Trump’s 60 Minutes statement to the contrary. 

Indeed, Trump is a master at playing the American public, hinting at his openness and compassion but wielding a harsh scepter of benefits denial.

Why do I say this? Because it is becoming clearer that while he listens to several advisors, he tends to follow the advice of the last person who had his ear. Too often that will be Bannon or vice president-elect Mike Pence, a hard core conservative. 

This and previous elections have shown that national direction is decided at the state level. Progressives have been koched and kicked by the Koch brothers and their ilk who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars securing state houses and gubernatorial mansions across the country. 

The time to build a state by state ground game is long past. But it is doable, especially if the populist agenda Trump campaigned on does not come to fruition and he has to defend a record that was passed in conjunction with a Republican Congress. 

So to answer the question at the top of this blog, I’ll be a discerning patriot, not ready to turn the American flag on my porch upside down as a sign of distress, but not willing to give our president-elect a free pass. His actions and their consequences will determine the outcome.


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