By Michael D. Evans
What a weird year that we just completed. It was unlike anything we could have imagined. Truth really is sometimes stranger than fiction. But then again, the line between truth and fiction and the perception of truth itself seems to be (d) evolving.
Donald Trump has fundamentally changed the way our country is governed (or not), and in the process has laid open for all to see the weaknesses of our democracy. Although the assault on democracy has been under way for quite some time, Trump’s complete disregard for our founding ideology—not to mention his bizarre affection for the governing approach of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin—is another potential nail in the coffin of our republic. Whether it be immigrants, people of color, women, the LGBT community, the physically challenged or just regular taxpayers, Trump and his administration are at war with you.
We could review the litany of abuses by Trump in the past year—the lies, the insults, the ineptitude, the arrogance, the embarrassments, the narcissism and, oh yes, did I mention the lies—but those have been delineated often even in the mainstream media.
The Trump presidency has been compared to WWF wrestling. In many ways, he is much like the over-the-top characters in that genre of fake reality TV.
My father was a big fan of TV wrestling, long before the glory days of the WWF. He would watch it every Saturday at 5 p.m. when he got home from work. He was the most passionate about wrestling that I ever saw him about anything. The program was hosted by Big Bill Ward, who ironically to my mother’s ears, used to close the show each week by encouraging his viewers to attend Sunday School.
When I was in college, I took my father to see a live wrestling card, which he had never done before even though there were multiple opportunities only an hour’s drive from our home. That turned out to be a huge mistake. Viewing such entertainment live, it was painfully obvious how fake it was. You could see the wrestlers pull out blood pills from under the stage covering and the chairs and other makeshift weapons failing to land on their intended targets.
It was a mistake because my father didn’t want to know that reality. He was comfortable with the illusion that he had come to accept. Although he continued to watch wrestling, he never viewed it with the same passion again. Inadvertently, I had deprived him of one of his few pleasures in life.
Removing the curtain could have a similar effect on Trump supporters. They could become disillusioned or, as seems more likely, the truth will be conveniently ignored, dismissed as a vendetta from the other side or, in the worst-case scenario, twisted so horribly by linguistic distortions that the words themselves become meaningless. A true awakening to the contradictory reality of their hero worship appears unlikely.
As we look ahead, there are more travails on the horizon. House Speaker Paul Ryan has made it clear that the Republicans next want to go after what he calls “entitlements,” but what we know as programs critical to the functioning of a fair society— Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And almost certainly, welfare reform will make that agenda as well. Cuts to these programs would have a direct negative impact on the Central Valley.
But there is a danger in our focusing entirely on Trump and the Republicans and the pain that they have caused and by all indications will continue to cause.
As progressives, we must put forth a viable alternative. We know that our positions and values would resonate with most Americans if we were effectively reaching them. California has led the way in that regard with our most recent legislative session being arguably the most progressive in the history of the country. It is that kind of a track record of work for the community that we need to put forth as a progressive platform throughout the country. But even that is not enough.
We must return to the true role of government—helping people. Helping one’s constituents—all of them—should be the mantra of every elected official. We have seen far too much of electeds working to benefit themselves, their friends or elite special interests.
In doing so, we must take care not to rupture ourselves from within. Yes, Bernie Sanders supporters and Hillary Clinton supporters bring slightly different worldviews to the table. But whatever those differences, they are light years removed from the agenda of the radical right. And it is that radical right which now controls all three branches of government. That control is so entrenched that not a single Republican senator deviated from support for tax reform (i.e., the American Yacht Builders Act) and only an inconsequential number in the House did so, all of whom would have voted for the legislation if their votes had been needed. Moreover, the right increasingly controls the all-important fourth branch of society, the media. Think of the excessive, and free, airtime that every network gave Trump during his electoral bid.
No one in our country should be concerned about the quality of the water that they drink. No one in our country should have to wonder whether their healthcare needs will be met. Everyone should know and expect that their children will get a high-quality public education. And no one who has spent almost their entire life in this country, and arrived here through events over which they had no control, should have to experience the fear of deportation.
The key is the year ahead.
I have heard many people say that they are not political, that what goes on in the political spectrum does not affect them. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially now.
What we do know with certainty is that Donald Trump is not going to change. And he is a danger to our country, to our world and, especially, to California.
It was an election that got us into this mess and, unfortunately, it will take a couple of elections to get us out of it culminating in the presidential election of 2020. Until then, we must treat each election as equally critical to our collective national goal of turning the country around, that is, saving America.
Sitting out the 2018 election is not an option. Not if you care about democracy. About your job. About your children and your grandchildren. About our national sanity.
With Hannah Brandt stepping down as editor to pursue other opportunities, I will be serving as the interim editor until we identify someone to take on the position permanently. We continue to be most appreciative of your support for the Community Alliance newspaper, and we encourage you to share your thoughts about our newspaper and the types of content that you would like to see us pursue in the future. We want to be your voice!