America's Voices Are Growing Stronger

02/16/2017 01:52 pm ET

Within just a few short weeks of Donald J. Trump assuming the mantle of President of the United States, he has managed to throw our nation and the rest of the civilized world into chaos. He has shown that he operates primarily on instinct, preferring to fly by the seat of his pants without any concern for the consequences of his actions. Piece by piece he has been dismantling our democracy with rapid-fire executive orders, bypassing Congress while sticking his finger in the eye of our Constitution. We are a nation with three branches of government that are supposed to provide checks and balances to each other – at least, they have until now. And if anyone is unclear about what Trump’s motives are, just look at his Cabinet picks, who are mostly creatures either from the “swamp” he vowed to drain, or ones who will be very comfortable living in it. One thing is for sure: they are all from the millionaire and billionaire class that Bernie Sanders so clearly warned against early on in his campaign for President.

Money begets power, which in turn seeks more money and more power - a vicious cycle. Bernie showed our nation early on that campaign finance reform must move to the top of our to-do list. He ran an exemplary campaign funded mainly with small donations of about $27 each, and yet millions of dollars – and millions of supporters – still poured in. And with his campaign, our new American revolution has begun to take root.

Our Founding Fathers had a great concern about populism and its impact on our democracy, along with the corrosive effects of wealth and corruption. Trump – a billionaire – ran as a populist, urging Americans to follow him because he “alone can fix it” while selling them the fiction that he would “Make America Great Again.” Never in the history of American politics has such a scam been so successful. If those “forgotten” Americans who work so hard just to survive think that this man will create good-paying, permanent American jobs and an inclusive, just society that embraces all of our citizens, they aren’t just living in a “bubble,” they are living in another reality altogether.

One of Trump’s first acts was to ban Muslims from entering the country via Executive Order, an order which has now been overturned by the courts and could lead to the first major test for a once again fully-stocked, conservative-majority Supreme Court. Obviously, Trump did not like the lower courts’ decisions, and immediately took to insulting the judges via his personal “bully pulpit” on Twitter. The ban also set off a wave of protests at airports across the nation, as Muslims were prevented from coming home to the States or reuniting with loved ones. For the time being, at least, the courts have prevailed, allowing those with green cards and visas who had been “vetted” to enter, but still more were turned away. Since then, however, this President has taken alternative actions against immigrants worthy of the Gestapo, having his ICE agents set up checkpoints and conduct raids across the country as they search for “illegal” immigrants, detaining innocent people and tearing families apart, many who have been here working and contributing for decades. Trump’s rationale is that he – as promised – is ridding the country of criminals, drug lords and gang members, but he is also detaining law-abiding people, including at least one young man who until now had been protected under the DACA. Where is due process and legal representation for these people? It is also hard to imagine that Trump’s ban will be used as a prime recruiting tool for ISIS, while failing to make us any safer. Trump’s travel ban targets citizens from seven predominantly Muslim nations – nations that have been linked to zero deadly terrorist attacks on our shores. Yet, glaringly, Saudi Arabia – home to fifteen of the nineteen terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 – was not included. One has to wonder if the many business interests our new president has with the Saudis may have played a part in warranting their exclusion.

The day after Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March took to the streets around the globe, as millions of women stood in solidarity against this uniquely unqualified man becoming President. Since then, the protests and actions have continued on a daily basis as Trump’s executive-ordered policies attack our values one after another. Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell, Trump’s lead flunky in the Senate, is forcing through his Cabinet picks who will – with a wink and nod from Trump – push through horrific policies that, among other things, shred regulations, repeal Obamacare, de-fund public education and organizations like Planned Parenthood, “voucher-ize” and raise the eligibility age for critical programs Medicare and Social Security, and push through Big Oil-friendly projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline – which now has been given a pass to move forward by the Army Corps of Engineers after they terminated their environmental impact investigation on the pipeline, due, in no small part, to pressure from Trump in the form of an executive order to speed up the project. And with Jeff Sessions – a racist and white supremacist – now confirmed as US Attorney General, you can expect voting rights and civil liberties to be targeted yet again.

Some of McConnell’s other undemocratic antics so far have included Senator Elizabeth Warren being silenced as she attempted to read a letter on the Senate floor from Coretta Scott King written in 1986 voicing her opposition to Sessions being confirmed as a federal judge in Alabama. Mrs. King highlighted Sessions’ racist behavior, as well as his efforts to deprive African-Americans of the right to vote in Alabama when he was a US Attorney there. McConnell explained his cutting off Warren’s letter reading by saying, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless she persisted.” McConnell then had her removed from the Senate floor and banned from further participation in the hearings, all for reading a pertinent letter that went to the heart of Sessions’ lack of qualifications for the job of US Attorney General. The Senate used to be the place where debate about a candidate takes place, but not under McConnell. Undaunted, Warren then read the King letter on her Facebook page, giving her followers a chance to read it.

Our government – of and by the People – exists to serve and protect our citizens. It is hard to believe that we actually pay the salaries of these bought-off legislators who have sold us out with their extremist, right-wing ideology that serves only the interests of big business and the one percent. Meanwhile, Trump is packing his cabinet with a rogue’s gallery of those very one-percenters, including some truly horrible picks, including:

  • Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a billionaire who has purchased several Senators with her campaign donations. She knows nothing about education, except that she is for charter schools, online education and opposes public schools.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Americans For Tax Fairness warned against his appointment, and he is known as the “foreclosure king,” having thrown thousands of Americans out of their homes during the Great Recession through more than 100,000 foreclosures, He was a Goldman Sachs partner and also at the top level in ownership of One West Bank, where he faced numerous complaints that he violated housing laws on the State and Federal level. With Dems boycotting The Senate Finance Committee confirmation vote, McConnell changed the rules and the Senate voted to confirm him and Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services.
  • HHS Secretary Tom Price is another bottom-feeder from the swamp who, while in Congress, traded in healthcare stocks while writing related legislation that would benefit him and cronies. He will be at the forefront of repealing Obamacare and working to privatize and voucher-ize Medicare and Medicaid. The terms “conflict of interest” and “ethics” are clearly foreign to this administration and this GOP-controlled Congress.
  • Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State and former CEO of Exxon. A certified FOP (”Friend of Putin”), Tillerson is tasked with, among other things, reviving US/Russian relations, which would likely include dumping US sanctions that were put in place in 2014 by the Obama administration after Russia annexed Crimea. One has to wonder if a side benefit of removing sanctions would be the revival of the major deal Exxon signed with Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned oil company, in 2011 that gave Exxon access to major oil fields in the Russian arctic. And let’s also not overlook Tillerson’s, shall we say, “passive” stance on climate change, which was on full display in his confirmation hearings.

Trump’s proto-fascist, oligarchic tendencies have been revealing themselves in numerous other ways, too, from hiring Steve Bannon, a white supremacist who wants to “destroy” the government and who now happens to be on the National Security Council – truly frightening – to signing an Executive Order allowing energy companies to make undisclosed payments to foreign entities. Meanwhile, the GOP-held Congress voted to allow mining companies to once again pollute streams and rivers unfettered. Another major target of Trump and the GOP is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by Elizabeth Warren and administered by the excellent public servant Richard Cordray, which has now returned nearly $12 billion to thousands of Americans that were bilked by the same financial institutions that sent us into the worst recession in decades in 2009, a crisis from which we have only recently begun to dig out. Home mortgages, student loans, predatory lending – all of this corruption harks back to that original sinner, Ronald Reagan, and the years he and his cronies spent dismantling the New Deal and the Great Society throughout the 1980’s.

Having lost the popular vote by almost three million legally cast votes, Trump does not have a mandate from the American people to do whatever he wants as president. The protests and rallies must increase, as well as the calls to members of Congress. Heck, just showing up at their previously dull “town hall” meetings now seems to be scaring Republicans silly. Meanwhile, the office of Senator Linda Murkowski (R-AK) recently fielded 30,000 calls in one week opposing the Betsy DeVos confirmation alone! This is unprecedented stuff, and we must keep ramping up the protests and other actions to oppose the reckless, dangerous GOP and Trump agendas. We must also work in our communities to find and support true blue Progressives to run against entrenched right-wingers and tepid “blue dog” Dems. The GOP now has total control of the government in twenty-five states – that’s both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion – while Dems hold full control of only six. Changing that imbalance must be on the front burner for Democrats and Progressives – as well as flipping both houses of Congress – in 2018 and beyond. We must also work with individual members of Congress and join forces in our communities to fight back against Trump and the Republican onslaught against our rights and liberties and to hold the President and his minions accountable. One lawsuit already hitting the President has been launched by three Constitutional Law experts and takes aim at his suspected violations of the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution, which prohibits the President from taking money or gifts from a foreign country. If he is in violation of this clause, it makes sense why he has refused to release his tax returns.

In other news, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has joined a lawsuit against the NY Board Of Elections claiming that 220,000 voters in Brooklyn were purged from the voting rolls during the 2016 presidential primary – a scandal that has been flying under the radar but is a stunner nonetheless, especially since it apparently happened in ultra-liberal New York City. Common Cause started this critical legal action. Voter suppression laws have been enacted in twenty states since 2010, according to Jim Hightower in his Hightower Lowdown newsletter, and they remain on the books in seventeen, according to the ACLU.

It is highly likely that the legal actions and protests and civic actions will continue to mount – as they should. We, as citizens of this great nation – and, so far, successful experiment in self-governance – must become as engaged and as active as humanly possible. Trump must only be a stumble, not a fall, for our great democracy. We have endured so much in our 240 years of existence, we cannot allow ourselves to be the generation that fumbled it away due to apathy and ignorance. There can be no falling asleep at the switch. Our country needs us, now more than ever.

– with Jon Stone


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