Monday, November 14, 2016

Next Steps

My husband has been telling me that perhaps I should get off social media, because it is making me sad. I told him that the facts of the situation we're in are what are making me sad. Social media right now is helping me more than it is hurting me, because it is helping me clarify my thinking about how I am going to respond. I need to respond, both to be able to live with  myself in the future and to be able to feel less hopeless now.

I will admit that immediately after the election, my social media feeds were pretty grim. OK, they're still pretty grim. But over the weekend, people started posting things that were more helpful than despairing.

There are three specific things that gave me real hope yesterday. If you're still feeling hopeless, maybe these will help you, too.

First, Josh Marshall, the publisher of Talking Points Memo, published a post about TPM turning 16, which included his pledge as publisher:

"No journalism can be worth its name without basic fairness and fundamental honesty. Balance is the handmaiden of normalization and deception.

So this is our pledge. We will be fair and we will be focused. Our values, as they've always been but now with a renewed and more urgent focus, are the rule of law, open government and democracy. "

In that post, he also wrote:

"But the President is not the state. The President is not the law. We have over two centuries of tradition of open and free government, very imperfect at first in all the ways we know about and improved over time, and still imperfect. Those traditions have been handed down more or less intact over more than two centuries. Donald Trump is merely a temporary and transient power in this long tradition. He is legitimate only as long as he operates within it. To my mind, what is important is that this is my republic. Trump is my President. But the first fact is infinitely more important than the second. Indeed, the latter is irrelevant outside the context of the former.

A republic is far, far stronger than any one leader. But it cannot be any stronger than the people who make it up. We will need to get back to what is normal as quickly as we can as a country. But we also need to remember and mark what is normal and acceptable as a reference point to return to, perhaps a reinvigorated normal. There's no way of knowing how much these two things will come into conflict. But we don't need to. Our republic and its traditions are our guide star regardless."

I think this is a good thing to keep in mind as we go forward as members of the loyal opposition. We are loyal to our republic, and our republic is made up of us. How we treat each other matters now more than ever. That is why I feel so strongly that leaders of all sorts need to speak out against the hate speech and racially motivated incidents that are occurring. We, the people, need to make it clear that this is not what we want in our republic.

But Marshall's post was a reminder that I am part of that republic, too. I can speak up on my own and try to combat the isolation I suspect many people in marginalized communities are feeling right now. I can speak up on social media, but that is not really reaching the people who need to hear what I want to say. So, I've decided to write a letter to my local mosque (and it is local: I drive past it every time I drive to my main client site) to tell their community that I am glad they are a part of my community.

I will need to do more later. I may even find myself in a situation where I need to intervene against hate speech or worse in person. But right now, I can write a letter. That is simple.

Then, I came across two things reminding me that Donald Trump is the head of an extremely unstable coalition. Their interests are at times directly opposed. We can exploit that.

Jonathan Chait wrote about the instability in the Trump coalition, with some ideas for how to respond to it.

Jeet Heer tweeted out a strategy idea to use Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare as a wedge issue to both cause cracks in the Trump coalition and to help build Democratic strength in down ballot elections. I was going to insert the tweets, but he has helpfully turned this into an article now.

And here's another Jeet Heer twitter thread about picking which fights to focus on:

I sincerely hope that the Democrats don't devolve into their usual in-fighting. I have zero influence there, but if someone asked me, I'd say pick Keith Ellison as the new DNC chair ASAP and be done with it. He's progressive, from the midwest, and by all accounts very smart.  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, two of our most popular senators, are behind him. Make Dean the head of some special "50 state strategy" committee or something and MOVE ON.

I can't really influence what happens at the DNC, but I've been thinking about how to make my actions also work to push on the cracks in the Trump coalition. Sure, I'll call my congresspeople (it has to wait until Wednesday, when I'm home during the day). But... my congresspeople are all Democrats and already persuaded to fight like hell.

I don't normally think it does much good to contact other congresspeople: they don't represent me. But these are not normal times. And I think there might be some value in reminding Paul Ryan that everyone is watching. So I'll write him a letter. I think Mitch McConnell is too far gone to craven partisanship to care, but while I'm writing, I might write to him, too. My current plan is also to donate to the ACLU in honor of Paul Ryan, so he gets a letter from them to remind him of the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.

And there is someone else I can write to. Someone who was just elected to represent all of us. No, not Donald Trump. I don't think he cares about anything except himself and the adulation of crowds. I'm going to write to Mike Pence, who has portrayed himself as a deeply moral man. I disagree with a lot of what his morals tell him, but I will take him at his word on his religious beliefs. On Twitter, I asked for help in coming up with Bible verses to quote to him to help remind him of the immorality of the racial hatred his new colleagues are promoting.

I got great responses. I am reading them, and will incorporate at least a couple into my letter to Mike Pence. I've been asked to share that letter when I write it. I will do so. I've got some ideas bouncing around in my head now, but haven't drafted it yet.

If you live in a state or district with Republican representatives or senators, your voice can be particularly powerful, particularly on the Bannon issue. I suspect many congresspeople are disgusted by him, but they are probably also afraid of the Trump voters. Speak up and let them know they should fear you, too.

On the Medicare issue, Josh Marshall is collecting answers from people's reps. They're mostly dodging. As a former Arizonan, I think Senators Flake and McCain are particularly vulnerable here. Arizona has a sizable AARP contingent, which is famously powerful in local elections. And they may not be inclined to fall in line here: Flake was a vocal Never Trumper and McCain reportedly loathes Trump, who mocked his war service. I might write to them on the basis of my former link - McCain was my Senator when I was growing up - but it won't be a focus for me, because I doubt they care what a Californian thinks of them.

Another issue that might be a good wedge is the likely corruption we are about to witness. Once again, TPM has a good summary of the issue. Vox's Matt Yglesias has been talking about this, too. Here is his article about how the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee has called for hearings.  This is a textbook case of why the House has oversight responsibilities. This is no drummed up scandal, but a real break from norms. Interestingly, the chair of the committee is Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who struggled with his vote. I suspect the Utah contingent in general is a good one to target to splinter the Trump coalition. Trump is not even that popular with Republicans in their state. Committee membership might get shuffled in the new session, but if your congressperson is on the committee now, you might consider contacting them about this, too.

And that's all I have right now. I'm feeling a bit more hopeful. We'll need to fight, but we aren't beaten yet.

Share more ideas in the comments, if you'd like.


  1. This morning I called my senators and my congressman to ask the congressman to condemn Steve Bannon and my senators to take leadership in stopping the appointment of Steve Bannon.

    It took several tries because the only one of my senators still had room in his voicemailbox. I left a message with the local office for one, with a slightly further away local office for another and with a staffer at the DC office for the third.

    1. Thank you! We may not win this fight, but it is important to fight it anyway. We cannot let them think we'll just accept white nationalism.

      And hey, we may win the fight. It is a long shot (since there is no need for congressional approval), but it might work!

  2. Anonymous7:44 PM

    I called Lindsey Graham's office today to thank him for speaking up in support of the filibuster. I plan to call Orrin Hatch's tomorrow. I like when I get to leave a message in voicemail--it's less scary than talking to an actual person.

    I also thanked my rep for speaking out against Bannon. I'm going with positive things. :)


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