( …And, oh yeah, San Diego’s Getting a Lot of Rain This Week)
By Doug Porter
While the nation’s attention is focused on hearings for the five high-profile Goldman Sachs execs/alums and other swamp dwellers proposed for President-elect Trump’s cabinet, the horrible reality of what’s coming in the near future is taking shape.
Come Monday, the United States of America –practically speaking–won’t have a functioning executive branch of government. Of the 690 Senate-confirmable jobs, the incoming administration has nominated just 28 humans. Many of those who have been nominated are either antagonistic to or ignorant of the agencies they have been tasked to lead.
The silver lining in all this is that people and organizations are coalescing to resist the challenges of the coming months. Once you get past the bad news in today’s column, I’ll share some information on these positive developments.
Department of Duh
Here’s Francine Kiefer, writing in the Christian Science Monitor:
You could dub them the “roll-back cabinet” – Donald Trump’s nominees who are hostile to the very government agencies that they have been selected to lead.
In confirmation hearings this week, Democrats have decried and Republicans have rallied behind an Environmental Protection Agency appointee who has sued the agency 14 times (Scott Pruitt); a proposed Health secretary who promises to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Tom Price); and a billionaire who would be the nation’s top public educator but who supports vouchers to help kids leave public schools for private ones (Betsy DeVos).
Then there’s the proposed Energy secretary who, as a presidential candidate, called for the department’s abolishment (Rick Perry), and the designated Labor secretary who opposes significant increases in the minimum wage (Andy Puzder).
Mike Pence proudly announces that they are returning 20% of transition funds to treasury. Hundreds of positions have gone unfilled.
— Yashar (@yashar) January 19, 2017
The governmental equivalent of assembling an IKEA desk and throwing out a whole bag of nuts, bolts and washers “No clue what those were for” https://t.co/zlYTOBknWD
— Arthur Chu (@arthur_affect) January 19, 2017
Making Violence Against Women Great Again
The incoming administration’s plans for the budget include eliminating all discretionary spending.
From The Hill:
Donald Trump is ready to take an ax to government spending.
Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned…
…The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition….
One glaring example of things on the chopping block is the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women programs.
Wanna guess who helped to create those offices?
If you guessed that Hillary Clinton was appointed by then-President Jimmy Carter to help create those offices, give yourself a black and blue star.
Other programs at the department of Justice to be eliminated include the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, and the Legal Services Corporation, along with reducing funding for the Civil Rights and its Environment and Natural Resources divisions.
A sampling of other budget moves proposed for the Trump administration includes:
- Eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities
- Privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
- At the Department of Energy, slashing funding for nuclear physics and advanced scientific computing research to 2008 levels, eliminating the Office of Electricity, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Office of Fossil Energy, which focuses on technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
- At the State Department, terminating funding for the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The Public Servant Purge
Congressional Republicans have come up with a way to eliminate federal employees whose agencies are not targeted, as Patricia Williams at the Nation explains:
On January 3, the House of Representatives passed a little-remarked funding package with an insidious provision. It reinstates the so-called Holman Rule and gives any legislator the power to amend fiscal appropriations so as to reduce the salary of certain federal employees to $1. In other words, it allows members of Congress to get rid of individual civil servants who are not to their taste.
…Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA), who spearheaded the rule’s revival, rebuffed the notion that it could be used to fire federal employees en masse. According to The Washington Post, he “favors a strategic application, likening it to a bullet from a sniper rifle rather than a shotgun.” Griffith deemed it unlikely that Congress would “go crazy” with such cuts, but “I can’t tell you it won’t happen…. The power is there. But isn’t that appropriate? Who runs this country, the people of the United States or the people on the people’s payroll?…”
As the Trump administration gathers the names of those who believe in abortion rights or global warming or equal pay for women or aid to African nations, it is not unreasonable to fear a coming wave of ex-post-facto punishment, including salary retrenchments that might disable not only bureaus like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or the Social Security Administration, but also the Public Broadcasting System, the National Institutes of Health, the Kennedy Center, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American Art and Culture.
Don’t Fear the Reaper
Given the Republican party’s hold over the branches of government and slowness of too many in the news media to see that they, too, are on the administration’s list to be neutralized, it might be easy to feel despair.
While the massive protests slated for inauguration may make progressives momentarily feel better about the future, they are but a small step towards actually putting up resistance. This, folks, is going to be hard work.
Only ongoing push-backs by ordinary citizens from every level of society stand any chance of success in defeating the reactionary agenda unfolding at the Federal level.
Three of the contributors to “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda” wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times talking up the need for this kind of all-out agenda.
This means taking a page from the playbook of the Tea Party and just saying ‘no’ to leverage activism. Frank Gormlie’s article (reposted here at SDFP today) from 2009 about Congresswoman Susan Davis’ experience at a town hall on health care is one example of what I’m talking about.
Here’s a snip from the LA Times op-ed:
To stand united in opposition is not about abandoning a positive vision for the future. Progressives should continue working to develop policy ideas. But for the next two years, at least, we can’t set the agenda, we can only respond to it.
If the tea party’s approach could stop President Obama, it can stop President Trump. Unlike his predecessor, Trump lost the popular vote, and has no mandate. He also has slimmer majorities in Congress than Democrats had eight years ago.
Americans against Trump are in the majority. If we want to resist his agenda, we have to do it together, and we have to start now. You can find like-minded people through a website we started, Indivisible, or start your own group. Meet in person. Tell your member of Congress to represent you, not Donald Trump. Together we can win.
Sand in the Gears
Francis Fox Piven, writing at The Nation, takes the idea of resistance one step further than simply marching in the streets.
…while the great movements of American history were the crucial determinant of our most important democratic reforms—from the basic electoral elements of representative democracy, to Emancipation, to labor rights, to women’s and LGBTQ rights—none of these movements achieved their successes simply through the gathering of people to show their commitment. People gathered, of course, but what makes movements a force—when they are a force—is the deployment of a distinctive power that arises from the ability of angry and indignant people to at times defy the rules that usually ensure their cooperation and quiescence. Movements can mobilize people to refuse, to disobey, in effect to strike. In other words, people in motion, in movements, can throw sand in the gears of the institutions that depend on their cooperation. It therefore follows that movements need numbers, but they also need a strategy that maps the impact of their defiance and the ensuing disruptions on the authority of decision-makers.
The repercussions of such mass refusals can be far-reaching, simply because social life depends on systems of intricate cooperation. So does our system of governance. Perhaps the US government, with its famous separation of powers on the national level and its decentralized federal structure, is especially vulnerable to collective defiance. To be sure, the right wing has now taken over many of the veto points in the national government, and it dominates half of the state governments as well (although that could change in 2018, when many hard-right Republican governors will be defending their seats). But the big cities, where a majority of the population lives, have not been captured. Center-left mayors preside over cities like New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, and San Francisco, for example. And that fact can nourish urban resistance movements.
If you extrapolate from the lessons offered in The Nation essay, you should realize a big part of defeating the Trump agenda involves local activism.
Organizing to encourage the San Diego City Council to go on record as opposing a particular Trump program may seem like a meaningless effort. But when local governments from around the country speak up they can be a powerful force.
One church saying No to mass deportations or offering sanctuary is no big deal. But when an entire group of religious organizations or denominations does so it means that every person involved in those decisions has a stake in what happens.
The point here is not to build resistance to Trumpism (and its distractions) from the top down. Political leaders need to start taking their cues from what’s going on in the meeting halls and streets of America.
As anybody with experience in politics knows, building a group consensus leading to action is a daunting task. It’s been my experience with parts of the progressive left in San Diego that they can’t even agree on where to meet much of the time. And when they do agree, they fail to invite people who are eager to participate.
In the aftermath of the election, grand coalitions and emerging networks have become a cottage industry. I have a secondary email account set up to field their announcements and (too many) fundraising pitches. Most of them go –here’s looking at you, Organizing for America– directly into the trash.
There are, however, some encouraging signs.
Civil rights activist Deray McKesson has launched the Resistance Manual, an open-source platform serving as a resource guide for activism. Think of it like a modern-day Whole Earth Catalogue for fighting Trump.
Frank Gormlie (two mentions in one story!) researched a list of credible networking efforts for the OB Rag:
Large liberal and progressive groups have spearheaded a nationwide campaign of ‘United Resistance’ to Trump. Some of the more well-known groups included in this network are the NAACP, Common Cause, Communication Workers of America, Center for Biological Diversity, CREDO, Friends of the Earth, Jobs for Justice, Greenpeace, MoveOn, National Domestic Workers Alliance, People for the American Way, Planned Parenthood, Rainbow Action Network, 350.org and the Sierra Club.
…Another national campaign that has sprung up instantly over the course of the last few weeks is that associated with the ‘Indivisible ‘ network. Several dozen former Congressional staffers put together a handbook, a manual, a guidebook to confronting Congressional members, basically using tactics of the Tea Party for a progressive agenda and to counter that of Trump’s allies in Congress. The guidebook originators claim 3,000 grouplets have formed around their outline for protests. The guidebook is downloadable…
…If you click on the Indivisible page to locate San Diego County groups that have emerged around this network, you’ll find 21 of them, 14 south of SR-52. Just yesterday, there were only 7 in that area. They advise that “Groups in our directory are wholly independent; they are listed provided they agree to resist Trump’s agenda, focus on local, defensive congressional advocacy, and embrace progressive values.”
Yet another national network has formed, Refuse Fascism– which is the alliance that bought full-page ads in the New York Times and other papers denouncing Trump as a fascist and attempting to galvanize people to “shut DC down” this week. Many well-known activists, actors and academic and law professors have signed their Call to Resist Fascism.
A youthful anarchist network also is mobilizing for the 20th, Disrupt J20– and they have a local San Diego group joining in the demonstrations slated for downtown…
We have been writing about all the groups that are sponsoring protests – starting Friday, the 20th. Here is the website of one of the groups, the San Diego Alliance for Justice.
I’ll be keeping an eye out for these groups’ activities and report back on them in the coming weeks.
Activism du Jour: From Melissa Deorsola, a sophomore in Point Loma High School’s Cinematic Arts class, a PSA of students voicing their concerns with President Elect Donald Trump.
“For someone to base their campaign on the fear and hatred of different religions, races and sexualities he doesn’t understand is unacceptable!” –Melissa Deorsola
(Note: I am a 1968 PLHS grad. A semester with the school newspaper in my senior year laid the foundation for my love of journalism. Go Pointers!)
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