Psst – Hey, GOP. Just rewrite the Senate rules, already. You have the authority to do it. They’ll love it. C’mon! Trust me. When you’re President, they let you do it. You can do anything.…
You can just hear it, can’t you? That slithering voice whispering into the ear of the GOP – daring them to give in to the baser parts of their nature. Daring them to give in to power, to greed, to selfishness.
Listening to his baser self (is there any other?) has served Donald Trump for decades. He’s gotten what he wants – largely through his inheritance, but also by being so outrageously bad that he’s entertaining. Brushed off as a wealthy buffoon, the boorish billionaire next door, his antics were fodder for tabloids and the society pages. But of course nobody took him seriously. At least, nobody that knew him personally. He was a joke only the rich were in on; if you knew Trump, you knew he was a fool. But if you didn’t? Well, if your only exposure to Trump was the Gordon Gekko-like advice his ghostwriter concocted from Trump’s nonsensical mutterings – you might have mistaken him for a titan and his advice for wisdom.
Trump has no wisdom to share. He has flitted from failure to failure, relying on his uncommon luck and a bevvy of criminal contacts to buoy him to the next bankruptcy.
If he’s such a fool, the question goes, then how did he ascend to the highest elected office in the land? That question has haunted more than half of the country since November 8, 2016. And while Russia, and the FBI, and campaign missteps may have cost Hillary Clinton the electoral college, I think the real reason is Trump’s unique gift. Trump’s genius is his ability to inspire the baser parts of human nature. Under the auspices of “telling it like it is,” he has encouraged racism, sexism, xenophobia, and police brutality. He has excused violence against protestors, the press, and women. He has an unrivaled ability to see the darkest parts of his audience’s soul, and the brazenness to legitimize their intolerance and lend authority to their prejudice.
He may be speaking into a microphone, but he’s whispering in their ear, nonetheless.
This is not a person whose leadership encourages his staff to rise to their best selves. Quite the contrary, he reportedly thrives on the infighting, acting like some wanna-be-emperor pitting his gladiators against one another in the bloody arena of cable news. He’s not a man who inspires the country to rise to its full potential. He does not turn the other cheek, treat others as he would be treated, support the weak or lift up the sick and weary.
He may be the self-proclaimed king of debt, but his moral bankruptcy cannot be restructured.
None of this is new. But it is new to see the National Review – a conservative publication – not only recognizing that he’s unfit to serve as the Commander –in-Chief – but questioning his manhood.
It’s high time. I don’t know for certain what has suddenly made some conservatives realize that Donald Trump is nothing more than a charlatan. But I suspect that acting like the boorish counterfeit man that he is in front of tens of thousands of impressionable young boys at the National Scout Jamboree was a bridge too far. Maybe watching Scouts cheer and boo on command, grin and dance before Trump was too much to bear. Maybe watching children idolize a person whose sheer despicableness defies description turned too many stomachs.
Never mind that he admitted to sexual predation. Never mind his “questionable” business practices and Russian connections. Never mind that he’s a pathological – and public – liar. Never mind that he has structured his presidency to enrich himself and his family. Never mind that he has staffed his administration with family members whose only qualification for service is their skill at preening his ego.
Maybe it’s the culmination of all of those things. Or maybe finally seeing the impact such a craven person has on young men has made them internalize the extent of the danger they’ve unleashed. The office that is supposed to be occupied by the most honorable, powerful, and respected man in the world has been infiltrated by a contemptible, wicked, shameful creature that cannot be trusted to speak to children.
So, although I wish it had been sooner, I’m glad the conservative media has begun asking serious questions about Trump’s fitness that its GOP-heavy-audience needs to hear – because whether our country survives isn’t really in Trump’s hands. For all his stomping and posturing, Trump does not control the GOP. They have free will. They can end this charade, once and for all. With it, they would end speculation that the party of Lincoln is dead. But thus far, conservative media hasn’t been willing to take the next step – to actively encourage the GOP to listen to the “better angels” of their nature and end this administration.
So who will counter Trump’s influence on the GOP? Who will be the “angel” on the GOP’s shoulder? “The Left” isn’t perfect, and it’s not particularly angelic either. But we’ve seen strong voices of conscience emerging over the past few months – not from specific politicians, but from grassroots activists all across the country. Those voices (yours and mine are in that chorus, of course) consistently ask GOP elected officials to think not of themselves – but of their constituents.
Resisters have backed up their words with gestures of gratitude for GOP members that do the right thing. After the BCRA vote, the GOP’s courageous defectors were rewarded. Someone erected “Thank You” signs on Senator John McCain’s road; Senator Susan Collins was practically beaming when she described the spontaneous and organic applause that welcomed her when she got off her plane in Bangor, Maine – saying it was “extraordinary, heartwarming and affirming”; Senator Lisa Murkowski’s constituents held a “thank you” rally, marching to her Anchorage offices to the unorthodox call-and-response of “thank you!” and “Lisa!” One of the attendees explained the rationale behind the march well – because Senator Murkowski “went against the grain,” she needed to hear how much her constituents appreciated what she did.
These Senators – and their colleagues watching from the sidelines – will almost certainly be emboldened to do the right thing in the future based on the reaction they’ve gotten this time around.
So when we wonder if we can do anything to slow the descent of our nation and to discourage our leaders from listening to Trump’s slithering appeals to their baser selves, the answer is a resounding yes. And we already are.
Our loud and sustained chorus of activists has become a national voice of conscience and reason. Last week, the voices of millions of Americans speaking in unison drowned out Trump’s whispers. That can happen again, if we continue to speak together.
Maybe now when Trump tweets that the Senate should simply change its rules rather than work together, leadership will wonder what you and I will say about it. Maybe the reaction of the citizens of this country will once again be more important than what the Koch brothers think. (A citizen can dream.)
And maybe, just maybe, the GOP will finally decide to stop listening to the devil on its shoulder.
***As usual, continue on below for some actions to take this week!
Tuesday: Prepare for the Worst
As my mom always says – hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
If Donald Trump wants to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, he can. And although there’s bipartisan support to protect the special investigation (watch for a Senate bill co-authored by Senators Lindsey Graham and Cory Booker to prevent Trump from firing Mueller to be introduced soon), we need to get ourselves ready in case Trump takes a flame thrower to justice.
Large-scale protests must happen if Mueller is canned. But what can we do right now -before that’s happened? Once again, MoveOn is two steps ahead, getting us pre-prepped and ready to mobilize in a few hours’ notice. Through their Mueller-Firing-Rapid-Response page, you can RSVP NOW for protests that will only happen if Mueller is fired. Details include organizers’ names, the location, and the tentative timing. Having this information in advance will help all of us mobilize in short order.
If Mueller isn’t fired? As my five-year-old would say, awesome sauce. But if he is fired, now you know the who, the when, and the where to go to protest immediately.
Wednesday: Just Say No to Recess Appointments
Who would have thought we’d be protecting Jeff Sessions’ job? Yeah, me neither. But as concern about the ousting of Special Counsel Mueller grows (see above) there’s some speculation that Trump will try to fire or move Jeff Sessions from his post as the Attorney General during the upcoming Senate recess. If he does, he can appoint his Attorney General replacement while the Senate is on vacation; that person would begin service immediately, and wouldn’t require Senate confirmation.
That’s a problem, right?
The Senate can and should prevent Trump from having a recess appointment. This should be an easy lift – Jeff Sessions was a well-liked fellow Senator, Trump’s approval rating is particularly dismal (new polling from Rasmussen shows his disapproval at 61%), the Russia investigation is picking up steam, and I assume Senators like it when the President doesn’t try to circumvent them.
Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling because I’m concerned that the Trump administration is going to retaliate against Attorney General Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. I know there are rumors that he will be ousted or moved from his post, with a different Attorney General appointed during the recess so Trump doesn’t have to get Senate approval for his pick. This is just terrible. I wanted to call to let the Senator know that I think it’s totally improper for Trump to do that, and I want the Senator to do everything in his/her power to keep it from happening. Thanks!
Thursday: Don’t Let Palace Intrigue and Shiny Objects Distract You
The Trump administration is incredibly skilled at placing shiny objects in front of the media to change news coverage. Last week we had a number of examples – on Thursday the BCRA vote ended in historic and truly dramatic fashion. Friday afternoon Trump canned Reince Priebus. Result? Five cable news panels about Reince and a few passing remarks about healthcare. It was infuriating.
But here’s another that you might not have seen. Last Wednesday, Bill Browder, the businessman who employed Sergei Magnitsky as his attorney in attempting to uncover Russian corruption, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In what was described as one of the Committee’s “most important” hearings, he gave a chilling description of how Putin’s Russia works – and there was scarcely any coverage of it.
We can fix that.
His full testimony takes less than 10 minutes to read, but is a thorough description of Putin’s Russia, the importance of the Magnitsky Act, and Russian attempts to repeal it. It lends texture to the June 6 meeting with the Trump campaign and key players that Browder describes in the last few minutes of his testimony. It’s important. And it’s getting no attention.
Here’s Browder’s full testimony from the Judiciary Committee’s site. (Here’s the same testimony, as published by the Atlantic, if you aren’t able to download from the Committee’s page.)
Please – read it, and share with others. This is important stuff.
Friday: Say Thank You (Or Please Work in a Bi-Partisan Fashion Next Time) to Your Senators
We’ve talked about being the voice of reason and conscience for our elected officials; let’s make sure we continue that important work and follow up. Today, call your Senators – both of them – and let them know that like most Americans, you want the Senate to work together to craft healthcare solutions that work for everyone.
Script: (Pro-BCRA) Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m really disappointed that Senator ____ voted in favor of the skinny repeal bill last week because it would have been terrible for citizens of our state, but I know the Senator cares deeply about our democracy. That’s why I want to ask that he/she help do what Senator McCain eloquently asked – to bring the Senate back to regular order. Healthcare for all Americans can and should be improved, but it can’t be done by one party, and it can’t be done in a vacuum. Pushing legislation of any kind without input from Democrats, and without public hearings and regular process isn’t democracy, and it’s certainly not American. Please tell the Senator that I’m disappointed in his/her vote, but hopeful that he’ll/she’ll help bring the Senate back to regular order in the future. Thanks.
Script: (Anti-BCRA) Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ____. I was so proud to see that Senator ____ opposed the skinny repeal bill last week. I’m so glad to see someone like Senator ____ standing up for the citizens of our state. You know, healthcare for all Americans can and should be improved, but it can’t be done by one party, and it can’t be done in a vacuum. I hope Senator ____ can help bring back “regular order” in the Senate, so that we can hear public testimony about what different options mean for us regular people. Is there anything I can do to help Senator ____ ? Again, please convey my gratitude. Thanks!
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