The Little Shop of Horrors, sometimes referred to as Donald Trump’s White House, keeps assaulting basic American values. The President defends staff members who abuse women. His proposed budget is nothing less than a war on the poor. Members of the cabinet run up enormous expenses on the taxpayers’ dime while food stamps, public housing and Medicare are slashed. The world’s largest defense budget, dwarfing that of most other countries put together, is scheduled to increase faster than can be reasonably absorbed while the State Department has almost vanished.
It’s hardly worth pointing out the lies and hypocrisy of Trump and the Republican Party. Why tell working class whites that they will bear the brunt of the budget cuts while they care more for his hate-filled rants than their own economic self-interest? The Party that worked itself into a constant frenzy about budget deficits when Barack Obama was president now gleefully adopts trillion-dollar increases in the deficit without even blinking. Even if you could confront Trump with the video of him promising to safeguard Medicare, he will assert that it’s “fake news.”
The nation’s intelligence heads tell Congress that Russia is already planning its attacks on the 2018 election, yet no one in the Administration is willing to acknowledge the damage already done much less initiate any precautions for the future. The Boy Prince remains in charge of Middle East negotiations as the region bursts into flames. Trump cuts off aid to the Palestinian Authority creating a humanitarian crisis in Gaza that will spill over into Israel.
Those in control of government in Washington have demonstrated a witch’s brew of incompetence, ignorance and mean-spiritedness. Trump’s desire for a military parade is eerily reminiscent of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Histories of the breakdown of empires raise perplexing questions as to whether the leaders realized at the time that the system was collapsing around them.
Trump will certainly not be impeached by this sycophant Republican Congress. There is no chance of the 25th Amendment being invoked by the toadies who make up the Cabinet. Trump may still take the drastic step of firing Robert Mueller, which, from any other president would provoke a constitutional crisis, but his apologists will rally round and defend him to our dying breath.
At the federal level, the only glimmer of hope lies in Democrats regaining control of the House of Representatives in the fall 2018 election. That continues to look possible, but only if all those people dismayed by what this administration is doing actually turn out and vote on Election Day. While an epic tidal wave might allow Democrats also to capture the Senate, that certainly seems like a long shot.
If you yearn to do more than curl up in a fetal position or throw things at the television, the best place to focus your attention now is on state and local elections. It’s not possible to emphasize just how high the stakes really are this year.
Significant Democratic gains in state and local elections– as well as recapturing the House of Representatives –would make actual progress in changing the dynamics of government as well as sending a clear signal to those currently in power. A failure to accomplishment those goals would not be a status quo outcome; it would make the situation worse.
It’s hard to overstate the urgency of our dilemma. Do we want to maintain some semblance of democratic government? Do we want to be a compassionate nation that cares about the less fortunate among us? Do we want to be a trusted partner with those countries that have historically shared our values?
Empires don’t last forever. Make no mistake, the American experiment has had a good run, but all the references to our “exceptionalism” won’t preserve out system. The world is changing rapidly and we have leaders who want to turn back to an earlier and largely fantasy time in our history. They celebrate what divides us rather than what could unite us.
The one response that has a chance of being effective requires a level of political activism that we have rarely, if ever, seen in this country. If you’re concerned about the direction in which we seem to be going, you have to come out and vote rather than come up with excuses for why it’s inconvenient. You have to support the best available candidate rather than abstaining because none of them are perfect. You may abhor the influence of money in elections, but if you don’t contribute more than you easily can afford, you are allowing the big money interests to control the outcome.
The good news is the rise of a new activism that is largely a response to the horror of the Trump Administration. The challenge is that people need to stay engaged all the way to the election and not get distracted or lulled or accept what is going on as normal. We have the power to make things better but only if we rise up, speak up and act together.