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Friday, January 20, 2017

Editorial: Trump's Election Demands a Call to Action

Five suggestions to help us get started

The Election of Donald Trump as president is a dangerous act of political cowardice that could be catastrophic in its effect on this country and the world. By the time that you read this, he will be president – a bloviating narcissist in the White House! Our first impulse immediately after the election was to pack it up; we were done! If Trump is what the country wanted then so be it. However, he lost the popular vote by nearly three million – that’s the population of Chicago and nearly five Baltimores; certainly no mandate for the extremist agenda that his cabinet nominations and other picks show that he intends to inflict on the country. (See sidebar.) No, we can’t walk away; we must rise to the challenge. We must take our despair as fuel for action.

We mustn’t kid ourselves, these are dangerous times and Trump’s actions to date have only heightened our anxieties. During his vicious campaign, Mr. Trump was full of bravado but very short on specifics. He attacked immigrants, Muslims, the environment, abortion rights, disabled people, and the Affordable Care Act. Now the reality is taking shape with his shocking appointments.

Yes, the picture is horrendous and the stakes truly life-threatening. So what to do? We have five suggestions to help us get started on this arduous road.

First, we will not give Trump the benefit of the doubt. He doesn’t deserve it. Although there may be occasions of agreement, we should be ever vigilant and ready to resist from day one.

Second, we should make our friends and relatives who voted for Trump understand our concerns, but do so in a way that actually will persuade them to reconsider the next time.

Third, we should give serous money to those organizations, such as the ACLU, that will defend the people most at risk from a Trump presidency.

Fourth, we should take steps to ensure that the winner of the popular vote becomes president. We favor abolition of the Electoral College, a Herculean process that won’t happen anytime soon. But fortunately, there is an alternative that we can organize around, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). The intent of this compact is to ensure that the person that wins the popular vote will become the president. The constitution leaves it to each state to decide how their electors are to vote for president. NPVIC is an agreement among states and the District of Columbia to award all their respective electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the overall popular vote. It will take effect only when enough states adopt it to guarantee that outcome – states whose combined electors total 270. Maryland was the first state to enact the compact – there are now ten plus the District of Columbia, a combined 165 electoral votes or 61.1% of the 270 votes needed. We see no reason why the presidency isn’t decided by popular vote.

And fifth, we should join the movement to take gerrymandering out of the process of drawing congressional districts. There is a slow movement to lessen the power of the political parties in drawing congressional districts. With the help of computer-generated data, the parties have gotten so good at gerrymandering that very few members of the House of Representatives live in competitive districts. Some have estimated that only 59 seats out of 435 could be considered competitive this year. As a result, the most doctrinaire ideologues often win the elections.

Seven states have established independent commissions to draw district lines but California is the only state that selects commission members entirely from private citizens, somewhat akin to jury selection. We support this move toward good government but it must be implemented carefully by pairing Republican and Democratic states with equal numbers of representatives so that no one party has an advantage on the other.

Trump’s Cabinet: So Far, So Rotten

What do we have so far? Trump first pick was Vice President Mike Pence, the former Ohio governor, talk show host and fundamentalist Christian with a strong record of opposition to the rights of LGBTQ people. Pence is a Trojan Horse–he hides an extremist agenda behind a reserved demeanor. One sure can’t say the same for chief strategist Steve Bannon. The four-times divorced former investment banker is executive chairman of Breitbart News, a far-right news, opinion and commentary website with strong ties to the alt-right (perhaps a better adjective may be the fascist right). Wikipedia quotes him as saying about his role at Breitbart, “We think of ourselves as virulently anti-establishment, particularly ‘anti-’ the permanent political class.” As advocates for sexual liberation, we share an affinity for such anti-establishment sentiments but not what appears to be Bannon’s extremist right ideology as presented at Breitbart News.

Next we have Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, right-wing, homophobic Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. Sessions voted for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and with him we can kiss advancements in the protection of LGBTQ people goodbye for sure. Add Lt. General Michael Flynn (who says all Muslims are to be feared) for National Security Advisor, climate denier Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for the EPA, former Texas governor and strong supporter of fossil fuels Rick Perry for Energy, Georgia congressman and physician Tom Price (who wants to repeal Obamacare and replace it with free-market health policy, convert Medicaid from an entitlement program to state block grants, and change Medicare by giving people money to help buy private health plans) for Health and Human Services, billionaire chairwoman of the American Federation for Children (a pro-school-voucher group) Betsy DeVoss for Education, hard-right budget slashing South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney for the Office of Management and Budget Director, and you get the picture. DeVoss has a an appalling record on civil rights which indicates that she will be a threat to LGBTQ students, especially transgender students who face prejudice, harassment, and bullying in the schools. Let’s not forget Dr. Ben Carson, the retired Hopkins neurosurgeon and conservative darling, who testified at his confirmation hearing for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development that he does not believe that LGBT citizens should have “special rights,” a code word for antigay bigotry. If these and others are confirmed, it is hard to imagine a more radical administration.

We considered a sixth suggestion to boycott the areas of the country that voted for Trump. After all, the pro Clinton areas of the country constitute 62% of the economic activity of the country. However, we were persuaded that this was wrongheaded.

As Ruth Conniff, editor of The Progressive magazine said, “[t]his election was not about ‘messaging.’ It was about connecting with the real pain in people’s lives and understanding their yearning for change.” As one member of our editorial board pointed out, Trumpland was destroyed by the elites. Their pain is objective – look at skyrocketing death rates in these regions.

We know Trump’s election is a disgrace. Despite our disgust and discouragement, we will keep fighting for the greater good – now more than ever. We urge you to join the fight in whatever way you think that you can.

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