Mural from Memphis, near the hotel where Martin Luther King was assassinated.
What follows is a brief departure from my usual postings. This year’s election affects everyone of every age, and for the moment, it’s overshadowing my passion for making joyful music with children.
First, I just need to know if there’s a parallel universe where Hillary got elected. If so, how can we go there?
Assuming this isn’t an option, please read on.
Like most of people here in my liberal/progressive bubble, I have a strong personal revulsion toward the President-elect. His looks and voice make my skin crawl. I’m outraged, incensed, and deeply saddened not only that this man repeatedly expressed such bigoted, sexist, hateful attitudes, but that millions of Americans were willing to cast their votes for him. How could they have watched the ad with the images of children watching Trump’s hateful behavior and still think this guy was a remotely acceptable choice? No matter how many explanations I hear about Trump voters’ mindset, I can’t get my head around it.
But I’m not going to stop following the news or get off social media. I wouldn’t even think about leaving the United States. It’s my civic duty as an American to educate myself and advocate for what I believe in, not run away. It’s especially my responsibility as a privileged white person to be an ally to every single one of my friends, colleagues, students and all the people I don’t know who are not white, not straight, not American citizens, and not economically advantaged. They are the most vulnerable to the likely effects of the coming Republican regime.
So as Donald Trump begins his march toward the White House, here are a few ways I hope his feet get held to the fire.
Will the public & the media continue to pressure him to release his tax returns? He said he would release them when the IRS audit is over. It can’t go on forever. It would be useful to examine in detail all the ways Trump admittedly used the system to legally escape paying taxes. Maybe there were illegal ways, too. Let’s hold his feet to the fire.
Trump declared he knows so much about the tax code from his own experiences that he’ll be the most qualified to change it. Does this mean he will propose massive tax reforms that will eliminate loopholes that benefit super-rich people like himself? He excoriated Hillary for failing to do so during her many years of public service. Now he has his chance. Let’s hold his feet to the fire.
Trump is on record saying that he supports many of the services that Planned Parenthood provides for women’s health. Since abortions only account for 3 percent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood (not 94% as Republicans in Congress have contended) will Trump resist Congress when they vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood? Let’s hold his feet to the fire.
According to a Sept. 4 report on Trump’s visit to a black church in Detroit (one of his few events with black voters), Trump said the nation needs “a civil rights agenda of our time,” with better education and good jobs. In typical fashion, he said his economic plans will be “so good for Detroit.”
As a teacher in a school that serves at-risk children, I have a very personal stake in seeing if and how Trump will make good on this promise. It’s so easy to stand at a church or rally and promise everything will be “so good” and everybody will have great jobs and great schools. Actually doing something is one of the most difficult challenges of our time. Let’s hold his feet to the fire.
The current level of economic inequality is mind-blowing, and its effect on our poorest citizens is profound. Trump repeatedly asked African American voters what they had to lose by voting for him. The cynic in me says it was all just demagoguery, and in fact African Americans and all people of color have a tremendous amount to lose. Trump could prove the cynics wrong. Let’s hold his feet to the fire.
I’m impressed by the civility that Democratic officials, including President Obama, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and the Clintons themselves, have shown toward Trump since the election. Given what Trump said very loudly before the election about the rigged system and perhaps not conceding if he lost, I doubt he would have been so civil.
In a speech to union members, Warren expressed understanding and empathy for the millions of people who voted for Trump not out of bigotry but “out of frustration and anger – and also out of hope that he would bring change.” She went on to say: “When his goal is to increase the economic security of middle class families, then count me in. I will put aside our differences and I will work with him to accomplish that goal. I offer to work as hard as I can and to pull as many people as I can into this effort.”
Contrast Senator Warren’s sentiments with those of Republicans, most notably Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who swore in 2009 that his number one goal was not to work with the newly-elected President Obama to counter the effects of the worst economic downturn since the great Depression, but to do all he could to secure Obama’s defeat four years later.
McConnell and his fellow Republicans repeatedly and brazenly repudiated Obama’s initiatives, not just to address economic misery, but to enact policies that had previously enjoyed significant Republican support such as immigration reform. The basic tenets of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) – a system that provides universal healthcare mostly through private companies – originally had strong support from Republicans. Mitt Romney ran away from it in 2012, but it was his signature achievement as Governor of Massachusetts.
Fortunately, like the 1980 election that brought Ronald Reagan to power, Trump’s election will have a galvanizing effect for progressive causes. My December contributions this year will go to organizations that fight bigotry, defend women’s reproductive rights, demand action on climate change, and aim to overturn Citizens United, redraw congressional district lines and end the charade of “voter fraud” measures that disenfranchise people of color.
And while I’m sympathetic to Sen. Warren’s desire to work with President Trump to accomplish his goals, I am a loyal Democrat and will do everything in my power to help elect Democrats in the midterm elections and end Trump’s presidency in 2020, if he doesn’t get driven out of office before that. I’m excited about the Democrats who did win their elections this year, especially the new women in the Senate, and I’m confident that many new, fresh faces of Democratic leadership will arise. The present is heartbreaking, but the future looks far more progressive in many, many ways.