Monday, January 23, 2017

Listen to the river, Mr. President

"The river has taught me to listen; you will learn from it, too."

Herman Hesse's line is about an actual mass of water droplets, but it certainly could apply to a stream of people – the one that flowed through the nation's capital Saturday, and in state capitals, and in cities overseas -- all connected: one river.

Listen to it.

Was it 2.5 million people gathered worldwide to peacefully make a statement the day after Inaugural Day? Hard to say. Hard to count.

Exact numbers aside, what a sight.

And what dignity: protest in the greatest American tradition – peaceful, solemn, stoic. On decorum alone, the new president could learn much from the marchers.

Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, who said 7,500 people arrived from her state of Michigan in 100 buses, saluted them, then offered words more conciliatory than may be permitted in Donald Trump's DNA.

Trump, she told CNN, is "a man who listens to how people feel. I think he's a smart man, and I think he will see a movement. He will see women scared about what's going to happen to the country."

We can all imagine that, and that alpacas will take wing.

In an inaugural speech sounding like a TV commercial for an ambulance-chasing lawyer ("the most dreadful inaugural speech in history," said George Will) Trump didn't sound like a conciliator. He sounded like Alexander Haig right after Ronald Reagan got shot, announcing, "I'm in charge here."

The remarkable thing about Trump's speech is that he deigned to mention anyone else at all. The word "people" appears only 10 times in 1,450 words.

Trump said "we" a lot, though listeners were left to wonder who "we" are. The Trump family? Trump Organization? 

While millions marched in the streets the next day, Trump dispatched his spokesman to dispute media depictions of the crowds at his coming-out.

You can be certain that Breitbart and Russian fakesters are doctoring images as I type these words to prove otherwise, but the pictures shared by CNN and the nation's networks did not lie.

Sad. Trump's big day was stepped upon by a whole bunch of little people.

Oh, oh -- there goes the lying media mentioning people.

Test my theory as to why Trump's inaugural had a relatively paltry turnout: By and large, his supporters don't think of governing as involving "the people." They think of governing as something that is contracted out, as one does with cable service.

That's the way Dick Cheney saw it, and they liked it.

Once again, unless those fleece-bearers take flight, hopes are not high that millions of marchers will be heard.

However, here are some things, Mr. President, that you might ascertain, were you to listen to the river:

Don't yank health insurance away from tens of millions of Americans, as congressional Republicans are dying to do.

You said the other day that under your leadership, a plan would emanate that would mean "insurance for everybody."

(Make that happen, and I guarantee some Republican lawmakers will die – though not from lack of health care.)

Don't empower state legislatures to enact the wishes of the religious right regarding reproductive rights, gay and transgendered rights and more.

(We know you've posed with and glad-handed a bunch of right-wing preachers, but let's acknowledge – nudge, nudge -- that when it comes to a spiritual adviser, Billy Bush is far closer to you than Billy Graham.)

Take a deep breath, then make good on what you said in the inauguration: "What truly matters is not which party controls our government." What matters, you said, is that the "people rule."

Though your campaign reaped fewer votes than your opponent's, Republicans in Congress and many of your supporters think this is about them right now.

Listen to the river, Mr. President. Make this governing thing about people.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com. 

 

 

Monday, January 16, 2017

No shiny shoes at this inaugural ball


Looking around the ballroom, the first thing you notice is the lack of regalia -- no tuxes, no flowing gowns, no shiny footwear, no clinking jewels.

Nor should there be, for this is the Inaugural Consolation Ball for the people of Not Trump Nation.

There is nothing to celebrate for them – for us -- when into the Oval Office strides meanness and venality in the place of grace and dignity.

It's bad. But some things about the Inaugural Consolation Ball are quite heartening.

One thing is how many people are there -- nearly 65.8 million, the number who voted for Hillary Clinton (contrasted with the winning 62.9 million for you-know-who).

And something about all those not-Trump voters:

A whole bunch weren't interested in dancing when the inauguration rolled around. They were interested in marching – hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., hundreds of thousands in the nation's capitals, hundreds of thousands overseas.

The Women's March in Washington looked to be one of the largest political protests in our history.

No consolation, I know, but keep looking at the facts and the numbers:

Some observers are saying that this was one of those historic, old-fashioned GOP political routs. Not true.

The Democrats claimed two additional seats in the U.S. Senate -- meaning Republicans were actual net losers. The Dems added House seats. 

The GOP also could not prevent the Congressional Black Caucus from growing to its greatest number ever: 49.

(And let's say that, based on Trump's sandbox blast at civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis, this is not the beginning of a beautiful friendship.) 

Not Trump Nation flipped control of four state legislative chambers (the New Mexico House, Nevada Assembly and Senate, and Washington Senate) compared to three for the GOP.

Continuing the theme of a rout that wasn't:

In the very red state of Texas, Trump won by 600,000 votes -- a tremendous shift, and not in the GOP's favor. Four years ago Mitt Romney beat President Obama there by 1.2 million.

In very red Arizona, Trump won by 91,000 compared to Romney's 208,000-vote margin.

Speaking of Arizona, one of the guests of honor at our Inaugural Consolation Ball is Paul Penzone. You may not have heard of him, but you probably have heard of Joe Arpaio, the profiling, rights-trampling demagogue Penzone ousted as sheriff of Arizona's Maricopa County.

Joining Penzone at our consolation ball is Stephanie Murphy, the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress. The Democrat said she was driven to run for Congress by the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. She won in Florida's 7th District.

Nevada's Catherine Cortez Masto, who held on to Harry Reid's Senate seat for the Democrats, became the first Latina senator and boosted the ranks of Latino lawmakers in Congress to 38.

That's not all that was heartening for progressives Nov. 8.

Voters endorsed stronger gun laws in three of the four states where they were on the ballot. The minimum wage was raised in Colorado, Arizona, Maine and Washington.

You see, a lot of progressive notions and candidates succeeded in that Election Day conservative rout that wasn't.

Of course, dire straits for progressive policies are self-evident with GOP control of Congress, with the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act in favor of a conservative cliff-dive.

Yes, things couldn't be worse, except for indicators like the independent emails I have received from people who plan to march -- in the nation's capital, and their state capitals -- to protest.

None has even done this before. All say the Trump presidency has moved him or them off their comfy sofas.

No shiny shoes at the Inauguration Consolation Ball; instead, footwear for marching.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Vipers of the Echo Chamber

"Indy, why does the floor move?"

"Hand me the torch."

In "Raiders of the Lost Arc," Indiana Jones deals with a cavernous well filled with snakes, and with flame as his only ally.

That scene comes to mind as the 115th Congress coils itself to strike at things that help a lot of Americans.

Congressional Republicans have designs that have fermented in darkened catacombs for decades. Almost every idea would harm those who need help and help those who don't.

In President Trump they see their signal to strike with velocity and ferocity.

Ah, an opening for those who have resided so comfortably in their Fox News/Breitbart echo chamber, their seats gerrymandered out of the reach of actual democracy.

Their first and fondest hope is to wreck and repeal the Affordable Care Act. This despite the fact that four out of five people surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation say Congress should not repeal it without a fully vetted alternative.

Then there are the 20 million Americans who have health coverage because of it.

No wonder Donald Trump is hedging on how far he wants to go with this. The ACA has been the white whale of the harpoonists. As Herman Melville writes about Captain Ahab and a certain marine mammal: It matters not that the ACA has helped millions, "all evil" is "visibly personified" in Obamacare.

Speaking of maniacal crusades: Republicans have Planned Parenthood in their sights again, with House Speaker Paul Ryan saying that the new Congress will defund it.

Such a move would have catastrophic consequences.

The Congressional Budget Office says that 400,000 women would lose access to health care, as Planned Parenthood clinics serve a multitude of health-care purposes, like disease prevention, cancer screenings and prenatal services.

Republicans say the $400 million yanked from Planned Parenthood could go elsewhere, but there's no entity on the planet better suited or more willing to serve low-income women.

GOP leaders cannot snap their fingers and assume that the needs now served well by funding Planned Parenthood will be served by any other entity. Of course, they couldn't care less.

Abortion? Ever dollar yanked from Planned Parenthood is one fewer dollar that will help women of meager means avoid unwanted pregnancies, meaning never ever having to ponder abortion.

Planned Parenthood prevents more abortions than any anti-abortion picketer, pompous preacher or religious-right lawmaker ever has, or ever will.

These are realities that concerned Americans must express loudly and clearly. They must write. They must email and call. They must march. And let's understand: The people can still be heard in Washington.

That's what happened when schemers in the Republican House Caucus Room ("Temple of Doom" is copyrighted) attempted to lay waste to the Office of Congressional Ethics in a way that would make any disciplinary action secretive and toothless.

After a giant uproar -- and a tweet from Trump about congressional priorities -- the House GOP pulled the idea off the table.

What a slithery move. The Republicans hoped it would go unnoticed. Ultimately, though, it was the only thing that got noticed at all about the launch of the 115th Congress.

By the way, expect the GOP to attempt the ethics maneuver again. When you govern like corporations do, you confine untidy matters to the board room. But, of course, government is not like that.

A lot of Americans feel powerless at this alarming moment. They need to snap out of it.

In the movie, Indiana Jones fears snakes as much as anything, yet in the face of fanged adversaries he doesn't lose his hat. Americans and a free press must hold the torch to this emboldened brood.

Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.