The Awakening

Well friends, we are just week in, and we have a lot to talk about. I think it’s fair to say that America has woken up, don’t you? Now the struggle will be to remain focused, motivated and informed. So grab a seat and hold on, and let’s get to it.

Immigration

As I’m sure you’ve heard, on Friday Trump issued a few controversial Executive Orders (“EO”). One restricts immigration from seven muslim-majority countries. Luckily, Trump doesn’t have investments in any of those countries (whew!) – but he does have investments in other countries like Saudi Arabia, the “home of 15 of the 19 terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks.” That incongruity has been a big talking point in the news and on social media, but it’s worth noting for accuracy that the EO actually never mentions the countries by name. Instead, it applies to people coming from “countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12).” (Note: Whitehouse.gov does not have an actual text version of the order yet, so I was forced to use secondary sources for this one.) So the EO never affirmatively names the seven countries – they have already been identified as potential terrorist threats in the legislation it cites. That doesn’t somehow make the EO legal – or even a good idea. But the media has been painting a slightly different picture and I wanted you to have all the facts. I expect we’ll hear more of that explanation from the GOP. But again – just because the countries were identified in legislation or by agencies doesn’t mean that the EO is appropriate or constitutional. Now that I have made that clarifying point, you can check out the NYT annotated version for a nice description of what’s seen as problematic.

A few judicial orders have stayed some parts of the EO – and one even ordered that an individual who had been sent away be returned, but there is concern that those orders are not being followed and that this is all just a test to see how far the new administration can push it.

Added to all of this is the news that the senior most staff at the State Department – who would have had something to say about all of this – were thrown out last week.

According to one observer, here’s what State looks like now:

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-24-15-am

That visual helps to underscore just how decimated State is right now.

Now on to the EO fallout. This EO is being described as Trump’s first major defeat. But the Trump administration thinks it’s going along perfectly fine. And that’s what we need to pay attention to. The democrats have mobilized and have the public on their side; the ACLU got $24 million in donations in this weekend – which is six times more than it usually gets through online donations in a year. Over 30 nobel laureates and (thus far) over 7,000 faculty members have publicly denounced the EO. Protests are happening everywhere and Senators and Congresspeople from both parties (even Bob Corker!) denounced the ban. Once again, John McCain and Lindsay Graham have impressed me by issuing a joint public statement denouncing the order, and expressing concern over the national security implications.

If you want to know where your Senator stands check here for a nifty crowd-sourced google doc (although this document appears not to have been updated for a bit). Blunt is for; McCaskill firmly against.

But again: the Trump administration says everything is going according to plan.

In one quote from the Washington Post article I’ve linked above, the administration officials mentioned that Bob Corker must be against the EO because he read a false report from CNN. Do you see where this narrative is going? I don’t think this is a mistake. I’m not the only one who thinks this chaos is orchestrated.

Here’s what Kevin Drum, a columnist at Mother Jones, had to say:

“Whatever else he is, Steve Bannon is a smart guy, and he had to know that this would produce turmoil at airports around the country and widespread condemnation from the press. . . .In cases like this, the smart money is usually on incompetence, not malice. But this looks more like deliberate malice to me. Bannon wanted turmoil and condemnation. He wanted this executive order to get as much publicity as possible. He wanted the ACLU involved. He thinks this will be a PR win.”

Why would Bannon do this? A few reasons come to mind – in particular, that he doesn’t want people to pay attention to everything else they’re doing. Like the committee meetings considering DeVos and Sessions tomorrow. (See below.) Like the demotion of the joint chiefs of staff and Bannon’s ascension to the national security council – which I find particularly concerning. Protest fatigue is another. Further dividing the country along lines of protection against potential terrorism vs. protection of the constitution is yet another. And if the administration’s goal is to create a powder-keg that they can blow up (so as to support a narrative that liberals are the enemy) they may have successfully accomplished that as well. If any of the protests on this or any other issue become violent, that would also provide a rationale for increased police presence and crackdowns.

My point is this: we need to understand that we are working on multiple fronts, and we need to continue to watch the whole picture as it unfolds.  

Action #1: Call, call and call.

Call both Senators and your representative and say:

If they are pro-EO: I am very disappointed to hear that Sen/Rep _____ supports the immigration Executive Order. As Senators McCain and Graham explained in their joint statement, this order “sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country” and it “may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.” I urge Sen/Rep ____ to reaffirm his/her commitment to American safety by denouncing the EO.

If they are anti-EO: I am pleased to see that Sen/Rep _____ recognizes that the immigration EO damages America’s global reputation and does more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security. Know that I will support Sen/Rep ____’s position on this, and look forward to hearing about other ways that I can help.

Nominations

Tuesday, January 31, there will be committee meetings to consider the nominations of Betsy DeVos (HELP) and Jeff Sessions (Judiciary). Sessions is at 9:30; DeVos is at 10:00.

We have talked about these nominations previously, so the message is the same. That said, DeVos has some unresolved conflicts of interest that should be handled before the HELP committee votes on her confirmation. If you want to know the members of the committee and their numbers, here you are. If you are a constituent of any of those members, when you call to oppose her nomination, ask them to delay her hearing until her conflicts have been resolved.

Action #2: Oppose Betsy DeVos Confirmation

If you’re outside Missouri find your Senator’s number here.

Missouri Senators:

Roy Blunt (MO-Republican) 202-224-5721:

Claire McCaskill (MO-Democrat) 202-224-6154

Script: I am disgusted by the answers that I heard at Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearing. It is unacceptable that federal funds would be used to pay for private or public charter schools that do not have to adhere to the IDEA. Ms. DeVos clearly has no understanding of what it is like to be a parent of regular means, who has to make difficult choices about education and finances. I ask that Senator Blunt vote no on Ms. DeVos. If he votes for her, I expect him to support equal education for all of Missouri’s residents. I’ll be watching his reaction to this closely.

Action #3: Oppose Jeff Sessions Confirmation

If you’re outside Missouri find your Senator’s number here.

Missouri Senators:

Roy Blunt (MO-Republican) 202-224-5721

Claire McCaskill (MO-Democrat) 202-224-6154

Script: I am calling to ask the Senator to oppose Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. As the Alabama Attorney General, Senator Sessions committed prosecutorial misconduct so severe that over 30 ethics professors have provided the Judiciary committee with their opposition to his nomination. His actions as a prosecutor raise serious questions about his abuse of prosecutorial power, and that is unacceptable in an Attorney General. Once again, we are seeing the nomination of a person who’s ethics and motivations are in question. This is a recurring theme for the current GOP, and I’ll be watching to see how the Senator votes on this nomination.

Pump the Brakes

Things are moving really, really fast. So much so that it’s hard to pay attention to everything, I know. So it’s time to encourage our Senators to help slow things down. There are a few procedural ways to do this – which have been battled tested by the GOP –  withholding consent, using holds and filibustering. We need to support our progressive Senators to combat this administration using whatever means necessary.

Action #4: Call Your Senator to Support Slowing Things Down

If you’re outside Missouri find your Senator’s number here.

Missouri’s D Senator:

Claire McCaskill (MO-Democrat) 202-224-6154

Script: I do not support the new administration’s positions, and based upon recent polling I think most Americans and Missourians agree with me. I am also concerned with how quickly things are being pushed through. It is difficult to keep up as a regular citizen, and that concerns me. I am calling to ask Senator McCaskill to use whatever procedural tools she may have to slow things down so that her constituents can follow our government.

Start Talking

Our country is fairly divided right now, and we need to overcome this tribal mentality we’ve adopted. Your neighbors are not your enemies. Your family is not your enemy. Redraw your battle lines and know that to win this fight we need all Americans to be on the same side.

Action #5: Reach out to GOP friends/family

I know this one is hard. But by being so adversarial we are allowing them to divide and conquer. Read this article if you haven’t already – which bluntly reminds us: “Don’t forget who the enemy is.” I’m making some trial balloons myself to see what kinds of issues seem to be the most appealable to my republican friends and family. I’ll let you know what I learn, and I hope you’ll do the same. (For now, I’m going to try to have a worthwhile discussion on DT’s conflicts of interest.)

Action #6: Find friends.

We need support from one another, and a place to pool resources. If you would like to find friends who share your desire to advocate for our rights (and you live in the St. Louis area), please check out Grassroots Groupings, which will pair you with other like-minded people that live in your area. I know the woman running this group, and she’s the bees knees.

The Indivisible Team also has a feature to find or register local groups nationwide. This community is ever-expanding!

Keep Learning

As the weeks click by, more amazing people are creating and sharing resources that we can all use.

  • First, a great free app called Countable allows you to track bills and votes; it’s pretty sweet and I think you should check it out.
  • Second, check out this new magazine – Resist. I’ll be sure to keep this one bookmarked and I’m looking forward to future issues.
  • And third, if you didn’t see my new page about how government works, you should check that out too.

And two more articles that I think are important to have at the ready considering the Emoluments Clause and the potential for Mike Pence to become POTUS:

Celebrate Small Wins

Lastly, remember that this week we had a lot of “small wins.” Judicial orders restraining the EO; the administration walking back some of the gag orders they had placed on agencies; spur-of-the-moment nationwide protests – there were a lot of points where our efforts paid off. Don’t forget that we wield a lot of power when we work together. And don’t discount these wins as being insignificant:

“Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.”

Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change

We can win this. Bigly.

Okay, friends. Let’s get to work.

 

 

 

 

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