Mind the Gap

If you’ve traveled via the London tube, you’re familiar with the phrase “mind the gap.” It’s a very British way of warning travelers entering or exiting the train of the space gap between the platform and the train car. (See the picture above.) It’s a both a warning and an explicit recognition of potential danger.

We all need to mind the gap.

There have always been “gaps” in our country – areas of division and difference among citizens are par for the course in any democracy. But it seems that we are entering a new era of divisiveness – and the new POTUS is not attempting to close the gaps. He’s trying to widen them. And there’s a good reason why.

While Trump’s job approval rate is at 40% – a historically low point for a new president, he is currently enjoying approval by 87% of Republicans and 35% of Independents. In fact, his mid-February approval rating among the GOP is second only to G.W. Bush. His total approval rating is at 40% because only 8% of Democrats approve of Trump at this point. That level of partisan hatred is stunning – and it’s unique. Only at the beginning of Clinton’s presidency did we see anything remotely close to that level of disapproval – and even that was 24%. Of course, only 35% of independents approve of Trump’s performance – which is abysmal all on its own. (In fact, the brightest point of all this data is the significant tank that he took in his Independent numbers; from 41% on 2/4 to 35% on 2/11.)

Here’s the other notable gap, and then we’ll tie them together. In a January Gallup poll, when asked “[i]n politics, as of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat or an independent?” only 25%  answered Democrat. That’s the lowest percentage of self-identifying democrats since the poll began in 2004. Even more importantly, just one month earlier, 29% of those polled said they were Democrats. Around election time, 31-32% were self-avowed Democrats – 6% more than these current poll numbers. There could be many reasons for this change – people calling themselves progressives and therefore self-identifying as Independents, people not being happy with how the Democratic party is resisting Trump’s agenda, etc. Maybe it’s simply an issue with the brand.

But in the same party-affiliation survey, only  28% of respondents identified as Republican – and that number is consistent with previous months’ polls. In other words, the GOP’s true-blue base hasn’t shrunk. But the number of people who self-identify as Democrats has.

I’m not a statistician, nor am I an expert on polling. But taking all of this together, the GOP base has remained at a steady number (~30% of voters) and overwhelmingly thinks Trump is doing a fantastic job. The number of self-identified Democrats – who vehemently disapprove of Trump – is shrinking. Trump may widen the gaps in our society by pandering to his base, but we’ve seen all along that Trump cares very little for the “United” in “United States of America.” And when it suits him, he’ll continue to drive wedges in between us by saying and doing things that excite one side at the expense of the other. Unfortunately, until GOP elected officials see more anti-Trump movement from their base and from Independents, they have less incentive to buck this administration.

So what does this mean? It means that we need to show that we are dedicated – and are likely to be voters in the mid-term elections. Continue proving that we are in this for the long haul by remaining engaged and calling, writing, e-mailing, going to protests, setting up meetings with your members of congress – be as creative and original as you can be. It also means that we need to remain the party of the broad tent; keep trying to reach out to any pro-Trump friends and family in as non-judgmental of a way as you can. That may get easier in the coming days and weeks as the national security threats increase.

Our strength is in our unity as a movement, and our willingness to keep protecting democracy. And you know what? It’s always been that way.

It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our great strength lies…
— Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)

So let’s mind the gaps – and keep the faith, and keep up the pressure.

(**If you’re interested in the approval numbers and how they might impact the 2018 elections, there are some great articles here and here and here.)

Now, actions!

Bills

This week, we said dasvidaniya to Michael Flynn, and continued to see fallout from the Russian connection in the new administration. (Here’s a great summary timeline of what we know about Russia’s influence in the election up to last week.) The Senate Intelligence Committee, which has had an ongoing investigation into Russian interference, seemed to kick into a slightly higher gear this past week. That Committee, while bipartisan in makeup, is majority Republican, and is led by a Republican chair. (Missouri voters – Roy Blunt is on that committee.) It generally meets in closed sessions and has no reporting requirement as a matter of course and is – as The Hill noted on Friday – “notoriously secretive.” Therefore, it lacks the transparency that makes a Senate Select Committee a preferred choice for anyone who wants to follow the investigation. Also, there’s that pesky party allegiance to contend with. As Rand Paul so eloquently put it, it’s not “useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party. We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans. I think it makes no sense.”

Do you think a full, exhaustive, bi-partisan and transparent investigation makes sense? Me too.

What can you do about it?

Continue to call your Senators and tell them to support Senate Bill 27 which creates an Independent Commission. Here are the details:

  • It would create a bipartisan commission to investigate and report on the Russian interference in the election. An 8 member panel (4 GOP, 4 D – all non-governmental) would prepare a report within 18 months. The bill is currently in Senate Rules Committee. (Missouri voters – Roy Blunt is on that committee.)
  • Call your Senator to support the bill and/or ask them to become a co-sponsor. Say: My name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ____. I am calling to ask that Senator ___ support Senate Bill 27, which creates an independent commission investigating the Russian interference in our election. Particularly now that it is becoming clear that there was communication between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, this legislation appears particularly important. I’m sure Senator ____ believes in transparency and accountability. How is he/she planning to support this bill? Will he/she be a cosponsor, or when can I expect to hear about his/her support?
  • What town halls do you have planned so that I can ask this in person?

I’m also continuing to encourage you to advocate for both Senate Bill 65 (Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act) and Senate Bill 26: (Tax Transparency) – both of those bills remain very relevant. Having Trump’s tax records gives us more information about his ties to Russia; requiring that he divest himself of his conflicts of interest discourages him from catering only to the “special people” at Mar-a-lago who pay for access to King Orange. It might also cut down on his extraordinary vacation spending at Mar-a-Lago – as it seems he’s totally comfortable padding his pockets at taxpayer expense. (On that note, a group of Senators penned a letter to the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security asking the IG to investigate whether Trump’s extensive vacationing is violating the Domestic Emoluments Clause. Let’s stick a pin in that one.)

Here are the details:

 SB 65: Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act
  • Requires divestment of the President’s conflicts of interest. It’s currently in the Homeland Security Committee. Claire McCaskill (MO) is the ranking democrat on that committee, so call her and let her know that you support this bill and want her to do what she can to push it through the committee.
  • Call your Senator to support them becoming a co-sponsor. Say: My name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ____. I am calling to ask that Senator ___ support Senate Bill 65, the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act. The bill requires divestment of the President’s conflicts of interest – such as Mar-a-Lago. It is not okay that he calls the people at Mar-a-Lago the “special people,” and that my taxes are being used to pay the hotel fees at his “winter white house.” Those hotel fees go directly into his pocket, and if that’s not the definition of conflict-of-interest, I’m not sure what is. I’m sure Senator ___ believes in fiscal responsibility and ethical government. What level of support is the Senator going to provide – public support or co-sponsorship?
  • By the way, what town halls do you have planned so that I can discuss this with the Senator in person?
SB26: Presidential Tax Transparency Act
  • Would require POTUS to release tax returns, which is supported by 74% of Americans. It’s currently in Senate Rules Committee.
  • Call your Senator to support the bill and/or ask them to become a co-sponsor. Say: My name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ____. I am calling to ask that Senator ___ cosponsor Senate Bill 26, the Presidential Tax Transparency Act. Particularly now that it is becoming clear that there was communication between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, it’s important that we know what Pres. Trump’s financial holdings actually are, and whether he is being influenced. This legislation would also make sure that we are never in this situation again – because it would require that all presidential candidates in the future disclose their taxes. I’m sure Senator ____ believes in transparency and accountability, so I’m looking forward to hearing about the Senators’ support of the bill when he/she is in town this week.
  • By the way, what town halls do you have planned?
Screening Mar-a-Lago Members

Besides advocating for Senate Bills 26, 27 and 65, watch what’s going on with Senators Udall and Whitehouse’s request for information regarding how Mar-a-Lago guests and members are screened. Trump’s “winter white house” is full of wealthy people – three of whom are being considered for ambassadorships – who have paid for access to the POTUS. But, if the White House’s refusal to answer Udall’s letter is any guide, Mar-a-Lago isn’t screening members for security or intelligence risks – only for whether they have cold hard cash and connections. I am dumbfounded as to why this isn’t a bigger deal in the GOP. This is a security risk unlike any other, particularly now that the international community knows that on any given evening there might be a pop-up situation room in the al fresco dining area. If you were the head of an intelligence agency, do you think you’d start grooming some sources within the Mar-a-Lago membership?

Call your Senator and ask: Senators Udall and Whitehouse asked the White House for information about the screening of Mar-a-Lago guests and members and have not received a response. That is unacceptable. This administration claims that we have to suspend immigration of refugees who have undergone security screenings/vetting for two years because the security of our nation demands it. Some of those refugees were interpreters for our military and have put their lives on the line to help our country. But this administration refuses to even answer questions about what kinds of security screening the members and guests of Mar-a-Lago undergo. It’s certainly not two years’ worth. For a mere $200,000 a foreign power could infiltrate the winter white house, which is a bargain. What will the Senator do to determine whether the members and guests at Mar-a-Lago are properly screened?

(Note: if the staffer states that every POTUS has had a winter residence, you can let them know that none of the previous winter white houses were hotels and clubs that could be infiltrated by foreign governments. In theory, once POTUS says that he is traveling to Florida, members and friends of members can set up dinner reservations and expect to see the POTUS. How is that not a massive security risk?)

Give the Media Some Love

This week Trump deflected by calling the media the enemy of the American people. Any news story that’s not covering the administration with glowing praise is decried as “fake news!” and “baloney.” I know we’ve all subscribed to all of the news organizations that we have time for (and many we don’t). But, please consider something more personal.

This week, David Farenthold (Washington Post) tweeted a picture of a heart that was drawn for him by some elementary school children. It clearly made his day. So this week, pay attention to who writes the stories that impress you. Reach out to them – by e-mail, Twitter or, if you have the time and creativity, with a hand written note, explaining why their story resonated with you. We all love to be told we are doing a good job, and we want to encourage them to continue doing this important work.

  • Washington Post mailing address and telephone numbers
  • New York Times: 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY, 10018. Letters may also be sent by fax to 212-556-3622 or by email to letters@nytimes.com
  • Saint Louis Post-Dispatch mailing address and telephone numbers

Enjoy the Weather With Friends!

Otherwise known as “attend an outdoor protest”! Check out Indivisible’s new nifty tool to find what protests and town halls are in your area and get out there to show our determination. Indivisible also has some wonderful tips for how to best prepare for a town hall. The questions and scripts above can most certainly be used during a town hall – and I’d love to hear about it if you go! Take pictures or video, and please share – I’d love to see you rabblerousers are up to.

Okay, friends. There’s a lot to advocate for, and a lot to pay attention to.

So let’s get to work.

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