Democratic leaders proving woefully inadequate in the age of Trump
As the mid-term elections loom, control of at least the Senate is crucial to what will happen to America for at least the next generation because of the judiciary. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky refused to entertain President Barack Obama’s nominees for the Supreme Court and the federal bench, leaving Trump to preside over the rewriting of the laws of the land.
Shira A. Scheindlin reported in the Guardian that, in 2008, when Obama took office, 53 vacancies for federal judges existed. The number rose to 112 when Trump became president in 2016 and he is filling them with mostly conservative white men. Hugh Hewitt noted in The Washington Post that, by next year, these judges will “be participating in more than 15,000 decisions every year and almost all those decisions will be the law of the land.There will be no fewer than 400 crucial case votes and dozens of signed opinions, each year, every year …,”
Yet, Democratic leaders did not face down McConnell’s crass partisanship on an issue at least as critical as some Americans saw the Affordable Care Act proposals and who turned out, some armed with assault rifles, to oppose “Obamacare,” leading to the creation of the “tea party.”There was no similar resistance either to the massive gerrymandering that led to Republican control of Congress and a majority of state legislatures from where they have been doing grievous harm to the body politic.
And then there is Trump, capitalizing on another gift, this time from the House which refused to work with Obama, forcing him to resort to executive orders to help him govern. Trump is demolishing all of them, in addition to widespread wrecking of progress.
Many states are complicit in this singleminded determination to reverse the course of history. At least 10 of them are demanding that welfare and Medicaid recipients work, undergo job training or perform community service to receive benefits. Kentucky has cynically set aside $374 million to enforce the new policy.
Yet, United Nations official Philip Alston, on a fact-finding mission, found that 40 million Americans, including 13 million children, live in poverty and will be hurt by such policies and who “in the vast majority of cases, are genuinely struggling to survive… justified solely on the basis of ideological opposition to the notion that the government should provide even minimal levels of social protection to the poor,” Alston has said.“This is the same government that provides massive tax cuts, deductions and exemptions to the wealthy.”
The Republican hostility is entrenched also in a belief that the nation’s social safety net benefits African Americans the most. Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University confirmed white Americans’ resentment to the food stamp program, according to The Washington Post. But a Huffington Post story noted that the 45 million food stamp recipients are 36 percent white, 26 percent black and 17 percent Latino; the 70 million Medicaid enrollees are 43 percent white, 18 percent black and 30 percent Latino.
The Church is traditionally the conscience of a nation but the now politically powerful evangelicals are giving cover to Trump, despite his well-known vices, and one of the most prominent, the Rev. Franklin Graham, has been holding rallies not to preach a return to the teachings of the Gospel but to push for Republicans to retain control of Congress.
The political parties also can be forces for good but while the so-called mainstream Republican leaders initially frowned on Trump, they, like the evangelicals and white supremacists, quickly discovered that they can get all they want simply by fawning on the president, telling him how great he is and how well he looks in clothes that some say are invisible.They need only don high boots, hold their collective nose and wade in the even more polluted swamp; for some, even that is not necessary, being in their natural element.
So it has been left to the Democrats to lead meaningful resistance to “Trumpism” and defend civility and tolerance as essential elements of nationhood. But they are losing the propaganda war to publicity-savvy Trump who deflects “bad” news with his own version of reality and that of Fox News.
During a March For Our Lives rally in Parkland following the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, one student held up a sign that read,“You can’t fix stupid but you can vote it out.” The Democratic leaders are running out of time to extend that message beyond gun control.
They can continue to harbor the delusion that they have right on their side and the nation can’t be so obtuse as to keep the Republican majority in Congress in November and re-elect Trump in 2020; after all, they are the big wheels in the party. But, as Barlow said, grinning, in C.E. Morgan’s The Sport of Kings, “Blessed are they who run around in circles, for they shall be called big wheels.”
Following Roseanne Barr’s obscenely offensive comments about former Obama Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett, ABC took immediate and decisive action to demonstrate that her words describing an accomplished black woman as an ape did not reflect the networks values. The network’s cancellation of its highest rated show - a move that prioritized integrity and a commitment to decency over money, ratings, and even political expediency - surprised many. The NFL, as it faces continual media and public scrutiny, could stand to take a knee and learn a lesson from ABC.
To be fair, ABC faced well-deserved scrutiny regarding its decision to reboot Roseanne in the first place, given Barr’s previous divisive and racist comments. The cancellation, nonetheless, has been generally well-received by the public, or at least Black Twitter, as a bold and affirming commitment to the diverse audience that ABC serves.
ABC and NFL – both massive media corporations - are at two ends of a spectrum with handling racism in the Trump era. Under pressure from President Trump and donors, the NFL recently decided to censor its players’ peaceful protest by forcing them to stand for the National Anthem or to invisibly protest in the locker room. The new policy, set to go into effect in the upcoming NFL season, poses a serious question: How will this decision affect players who feel silenced and fans who feel ignored by the League’s aggressive stance against such a pervasive social justice issue.
A poll that I conducted earlier this year on behalf of BlackPAC, an organization committed to increasing political participation of black voters, showed that in the previous NFL season, 21 percent of Black consumers watched less football and 14 percent stopped watching football all together due to the treatment of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest. This downtick in viewership should’ve served as a warning to the NFL. Instead, the League decided to censor the peaceful protest of every single player.
Many spectators, myself included, are waiting with baited breath to see how this decision will affect NFL ratings in the upcoming football season. But while we wait, there are a few lessons the NFL should have learned from ABC’s decisive response to bias and racism.
1.Do not mistake the aggressive banter of a few loud racists as an erosion of American ideals and values. ABC understood the Barr-fiasco for what it was: an opportunity to declare that the normalization of hateful and divisive language does not reflect the values of this nation, no matter who they come from or how loudly they are tweeted.
The NFL had an opportunity to make a similar declaration about American values. Despite the feeble attempt of some to co-opt a movement about justice and dignity into a debate about white nationalism thinly veiled as patriotism…we still hold some truths to be self-evident. That freedom of both speech and protest are inextricably woven into the fabric of our nation. In the coming season, athletes that choose to accept punishment over censorship, as many undoubtedly shall, will be remembered on the right side of