Demo­cratic lead­ers prov­ing woe­fully inadequate in the age of Trump

South Florida Times - - OPINION - Va­lerie Jar­rett and Roseanne Barr

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


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