One Year After the Election:
An Email Exchange Dissects The Trump Presidency
Editor’s Note: In an era when social media drives news and information consumption, our Facebook and Twitter feeds are constantly filled with sharp but short commentary about the state of the nation, now that Donald Trump is occupying the White House.
Absorbing the many opinions, critiques, concerns and controversies surrounding Trump can be hard to follow sometimes, especially given the large amount of reaction and outrage his administration seems to generate on any given day. There’s a randomness and a temporal sense in these online debates, as the comments and commentators get quickly and easily whisked away by the next post, meme, gif, photo or article link. Thoughtfulness, perspective and context are sometimes lost in the exchange of ideas.
The Reporters Inc.’s board members and advisory committee members were recently invited to start a conversation about the Trump era, as the one-year anniversary of his election approached in November. The hope was that an exchange of well-crafted thoughts to mark this occasion could be built via the old-fashioned email. What follows is an edited version of a month-long exchange of emails forwarded to all 19 board members and 24 advisory committee members. Everyone was encouraged to participate; 11 chose to do so.
Our president, Mark Saxenmeyer, started it all off on October 24th.
Mark worked in broadcasting for nearly a quarter century. Increasingly frustrated with the limitations of TV news, he created The Reporters Inc. in the mid-2000s.
To the Board and Advisors: It shouldn’t be a surprise to any of you that my disdain for Donald Trump runs about as deep and as strong as any human emotion I possess. Yet as horrific as the daily reports about Trump and the Deplorables that surround him continue to be, what haunts me most are the people who continue to support him. It appears as if some of his “base” are slowly waking up to the disastrous repercussions of their vote, but I can’t help but think (nonstop) about those who will never waver in their support.
When Oprah made her 60 Minutes debut recently, and interviewed a round table of voters from a focus group, the comments that stuck with me most came from these angry middle-aged white men who praised Trump’s every move, every decision. I looked at them and I wondered how many people I actually know who think as they do. I mean, I realize I know some. After all, at 51, I’m a middle-aged white guy, too!
Trump’s election caused me to stop speaking with some relatives and end several friendships. But these extreme scenarios were few and far between because the vast majority of people in my life most definitely share my values, if not my politics. Given the fact Trump seems to have no sense of ethics and no moral compass whatsoever, denouncing and rejecting him was a no-brainer for most in my circle.
Still, how many more Trump-lovers do I know? How many neighbors, acquaintances, former classmates and co-workers? How many people that I interact with every day—folks who seem pleasant enough on the outside but secretly cheer the homophobic, misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, plutocractic and kleptocratic Trump agenda?
When one of the Oprah interviewees shouted out his support of Trump’s military ban on transgender servicemen and women, stating his confident belief that being transgender or gay is a “choice,” I could literally feel my blood pressure rising. I realize that some unenlightened people still espouse that kind of nonsense, yet given the political, cultural and societal progress this country has made in recent decades, to hear this ignorance verbalized with such forcefulness and surety is more than troubling. In my book, these are opinions to be ashamed of, not to celebrate. The Trump era of divisiveness and hate has given every closeted bigot a license to let loose with the most absurd, despicable and/or discriminatory declarations.
And so, I wonder.
When I’m at the grocery store, in line at the post office or sitting in my allergist’s waiting room, I find myself scanning the faces of the strangers around me. “He looks like a Trump voter,” I think, stereotyping pretty much anybody who strikes me as “blue collar,” “working class” or “uneducated.” I think the same thing when I encounter the super rich—folks who would vote for Satan (or Roy Moore) if they thought he could get them a deep tax cut.
And of course, there are those so-called Evangelical Christians, the “religious right” that couldn’t be more wrong. Their support of the most immoral and unethical man to lie, er, swear, on a Bible as he took the oath of office is the height of hypocrisy.
Whenever Trump holds one of his fascist post-election rallies, I’m fascinated by the people who stand behind him, cheering maniacally over every revolting declaration and fabrication he makes, grinning like chickens who just escaped a hen house.
I know what some might be saying as they read this: “Wow, for someone who doesn’t want to be judged, you sure are judgmental!” And yes, there’s truth to that. But here’s the thing: there’s right and there’s wrong. There’s no grey area here for me, when it comes to the subject of Trump and the divisiveness he has sown. Sure, I understand the anger and frustration with the economy, because I, too, have endured it as well. But I certainly wouldn’t ever think a corrupt and bankrupt realtor/reality TV game show host would be able to solve my woes. Ever.
Also, I must point out that it’s pathetically hilarious when these Trumpians call Democrats or progressives or liberals “libtards” and “elites.” As someone who resides in the middle of the Midwestern middle class, the latter is a preposterous pronouncement in my case.
On the treadmill at the gym, as I watch MSNBC or CNN, I glance around to see who’s watching FOX. That’s pretty much a dead giveaway, in the hunt to uncover Trump supporters in my midst. I stare at them, hoping they’ll catch my eye. Never happens, of course, and I’m not sure what I’d say, but I’m seriously now tempted to buy some “Impeach and Indict” T-shirts with Trump’s hideous, repulsive mug covered with prison bars, and wear them wherever I go.
I’m up for the debates they might prompt, but then again, you can’t reason with Trump voters. If you could, they wouldn’t be Trump voters.
Tim Munkeby was a junior and senior high school teacher before switching gears into financial management.
Mark, I have people I love and respect who I know voted for Trump. Some surprised me and I don’t understand what they’re thinking if they still support him. I have religious people in my extended family that I know voted for him on the basis of the abortion issue alone. I don’t understand, either, how they believe Trump reflects or fosters their values. Personally I am embarrassed as an American that a person such as him, with confirmed fraudulent business activities and lawsuits for sexual impropriety, is the president of the [sorta] United States.
When I travel, I’m actually ashamed when they find out where I’m from and ask me what I and other Americans are thinking. I have never met a person outside the United States that viewed Trump and thus, unfortunately, the United States, positively. I know there are angry, disassociated people in our country who will say, “Fine, screw all those countries Trump has alienated. America first!” That statement, and what it implies, reflects what may be our biggest concern. He’s not only divisive in the U.S., but around the world with the peoples we must live with. Shouldn’t we be attempting to move toward a peaceful world, not bullying and alienating the rest of humanity and most races worldwide?
What Trump has done has set us dangerously backwards in this regard. It’s not an overstatement to see Trump, the president of the United States, as a defensive, confused, narcissistic sociopath. Confused, because I believe he thinks we all work for him, not the other way around. (“Trump first!”) I don’t understand how any rational person anywhere, if they dare think for a moment, can support someone who boasts, childishly and perilously, about nuclear bravado. I wish it were possible for him to tweet away to another planet before he causes any further harm.
Kim Whiting is a psychotherapist, organizational consultant and author.
Mark and Tim, I live in a red state (though, as you know, I used to live in Minnesota like you). Last I heard, Oklahoma was the “reddest” state in the country so, when I’m at the gym, I already know that many of the televisions are dialed into FOX News.
As for me, I don’t watch any news, liberal or conservative. I have consciously not watched or read the news since my mid-twenties (I am 53). It started for psychological reasons. It took me less than a month as a new psychotherapist practicing in Arizona to see the negative effect that the news was having on my clients. I found that my clients who were anxious and/or depressed, if prescribed no news for a month, felt significantly better. Some of them felt so much better that they unplugged their TVs altogether.
Bad news and sensationalized subject matter make people’s adrenal glands kick into fight or flight mode. News that feeds our fears—for example, news about a few shark attacks worldwide–makes the primitive part of our brains think the oceans are unsafe for us to swim in. Or that the one child abducted by a stranger in our state makes it unsafe for our children to play outside.
Since Trump came on the political scene the news has gone from bad to terrifying.
As a result, these days my lack of interest in, and avoidance of, news comes from a more spiritual place. There’s positive and negative in any situation. The news focuses primarily on the negative and I do my best to look for the positive, the silver linings, the good coming out of situations, and in the case of the “Trumpers” and the rest of America, what it is that we have in common, our shared human experience, the good in all of us.
Because like attracts like, I don’t have many conservative friends, but I do have a few Trumpers as friends, and in my family as well. They are lovely people: kind, generous, big-hearted, life loving and fun. My conservative friends are highly religious and I’ve watched their faith heal their psychological wounds and mend the rifts in their lives. Their Christianity fills their hearts and brings them joy as well as a tight-knit, supportive and loving community. In some ways, their Christianity has literally saved them–from losing custody of their children, spiraling further into addiction–or it has simply given their lives purpose and meaning, which is what saves most people from misery.
Knowing this, it’s no wonder that they feel up in arms when they think their way of life, centered around their conservative Christian beliefs, is threatened. As far as I know, most of these dear people watch FOX News and I’ve glanced at it enough to know the kind of programming that’s aired. It’s scary–and it’s designed to be so. Fear sells because it’s human nature to want to control our environment and we think one of the best ways to do that is to be made aware of the dangers that might be lurking around us.
My 77-year-old mom, who previously voted for Obama, is now an ardent Trump fan. I didn’t understand this at first and had some serious judgments about what I perceived to be her ignorance. My mom has been on the side of women’s rights and empowering women for as long as I can remember. She has collected her recyclables and driven the five miles to recycling centers so that her weekly garbage isn’t added into the landfills; she is an environmentalist. Her adoration of Trump and her unwillingness to see (at the very least) that he’s someone who objectifies women and disregards the environment has…confused me.
But then, as I have listened to her, I’ve pulled out what I believe are the real issues and of course they revolve around fear. She, a devout Protestant for most of her life and very active in the church, watches FOX News and hears that people are refusing to say “Merry Christmas.” This kind of news scares her. In it, she hears that the fabric of her faith, a fabric that blankets her like a security blanket and in which she has, for most of her life, been the majority, might be unraveling.
She hears that Mexicans are coming to the U.S. in droves (wild fact: more U.S. citizens moved to Mexico last year than the other way around) and are bringing drugs, gangs, crime and taking away the jobs of current citizens. The fact that most immigrants from Mexico do not bring drugs or start gangs, and are doing the jobs that we long-time Americans don’t want to do is lost on her. She sees that Spanish is now the second language of the U.S. and her fear is that, not just the fabric of her faith is unraveling, but the fabric of her entire country.
She sees gays getting married, transgender individuals getting respectful recognition, and thinks all hell is breaking loose –literally. She is part of a population of seniors and conservatives of any age who fear change, who want things to stay the way they were–with her safely ensconced in the white Christian majority and everybody still doing things the way white Christians have done them. She wants unquestioning patriotism, because that’s how people have been for most of her life, and she associates that patriotism as strength. She can’t stand when people kneel during the National Anthem because that might mean our patriotism is waning, which might mean our strength as a nation is waning –and maybe it’s also because she, like many, believes erroneously that when a minority group gets stronger, the white majority gets weaker.
Fact is that when any one of us is treated with value, our country as a whole is that much stronger.
And that being said, this means that I, as a liberal and someone who lives a God-centered life, a life in which I try to model the unconditional love, inclusion and acceptance of Jesus, but (despite being taken to church every Sunday my whole childhood and studying the Bible) not Christian, need to live by my words and value even those with whom I disagree.
To do this I start with compassion, because fear is a horrible, debilitating feeling and what motivates many–and probably most–Trumpers is the alleviation of fear. I cannot judge their fear anymore than I can judge someone afraid of spiders or death. Fear is fear.
My dad was raised in South Carolina and as a kid stumbled on a Klan meeting in the woods. He observed that all the men had dirty work boots on. His youthful wisdom was that those were the lowest on the white socio-economic ladder and that if they didn’t keep blacks down, they’d be on the very bottom rung altogether. Most racism is born of the ego’s fear of not being good enough, not feeling of value. If you don’t see that you have many other redeeming qualities, at least you can see yourself as better because of your race or religion. The fear of being worthless is one of the biggest fears propelling human behavior, and racism/ethnocentricity is just one form that this fear is packaged in.
So, I try to feel compassion for their fears and to understand that although they are going about things in a way that weakens rather than strengthens, separates rather than unifies…they are, nonetheless, feeling terrified deep down. The beliefs and ways of living in which they have been indoctrinated since childhood–and the jobs they once had–are evolving into something new that is, for them, unstable, wrong, scary, or even evil.
I do not condone their actions or their support of a president who is weakening this country by flaming their fears, but I do feel compassion for their fears. And I know that in them is the same good light and heart that resides in all of us. I know that they, like the rest of us, are driven toward love, security, safety, value, and “the pursuit of happiness.”
Kim and Tim, since we started this exchange the special prosecutor has issued indictments against Trump campaign officials and one has even pled guilty. They face charges like “conspiracy against the United States” and lying to the FBI. Heady stuff. This is only the beginning, of course, as Robert Mueller’s investigation will no doubt lead to many more indictments and, I believe, end with Trump’s presidency crashing into flames, impeachment and, hopefully, prison.
That aside, if you turn on FOX News now (as your mom is no doubt doing, Kim), you’ll be led into bizarro world, an alternate universe where Hillary Clinton is the real Russian colluder (in a uranium scandal that has supplanted her evil and devious email use). Even if a sliver of their allegations were true, they seem to have lost sight of the fact that Clinton IS NOT PRESIDENT. If you believe Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro and the rest of the broadcasting disgraces that infest that propaganda channel, we need to hang Hillary! Send her to the chair! Line up a firing squad!
“Lock her up!” is soooo 2016.
How exactly did a lifelong criminal like Trump brainwash a third of the nation into thinking legitimate news outlets like the New York Times and CNN are “fake news” yet the nut jobs at FOX are legit? It’s stupefying.
As someone who worked at an owned and operated FOX affiliate for 17 years, I can tell you that we never slanted our coverage to the right (or the left). Only toward the end of my tenure did I sense that the network’s influence was trickling down into our Chicago newsroom. The last two leaders at our station were clearly allies of the Rupert Murdoch/Roger Ailes brand of yellow journalism. I’ll never forget when the news director insisted I call undocumented immigrants “illegal aliens.” I refused.
According to a new survey just released from Public Policy Polling, nearly 80 percent of Trump voters say they think he should stay in office even if collusion is proven between his campaign and Russia, and 75 percent say the entire Russia story is “fake news.” This is about as alarming as it gets.
Every U.S. intelligence agency has provided incontrovertible proof that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to destabilize our democracy. Yet Trump still refuses to acknowledge this fact, denigrating our intelligence agencies while claiming he believes the Russian government and Vladimir Putin are innocent—because “Putin told me he didn’t do it.”
Dear Lord. I mean, that insanity alone is cause for impeachment. This man is a clear and present danger to our country.
If you’ve been following developments (and yes, I know it’s difficult to do so), the evidence that Trump and his campaign encouraged and participated in that meddling is undeniable. The number of Trump campaign staffers and family members who met with Russians, and then lied about meetings with said Russians, grows every day. And most of these revelations were already outlined in former British spy Christopher Steele’s intelligence report (the infamous “dossier”) entitled “U.S. Presidential Election: Republican Candidate Donald Trump’s Activities in Russia and Compromising Relationship with the Kremlin.” If you haven’t read it yet, it’s a must; click here and do so. It’s important to note that much of this dossier has been verified and none of it has been invalidated, regardless of what FOX Propaganda might tell you.
With that said, I can’t wait to see that recording (described in detail in the dossier) of Trump paying Russian call girls to urinate on each other in the bed that Obama once slept on, inside a Moscow hotel. If Clinton were guilty of this kind of depravity, I certainly wouldn’t want her leading the country either. Yet once it’s released, Trump supporters will probably show the tape at their Christmas dinners, extolling the virtues of the Traitor-in-Chief as he “tells it like it is” to Russia’s finest hookers.
This isn’t about politics. It isn’t about Republican vs. Democrat. It’s about preserving the fundamental principles, dignity, ethics and rule of law that govern our nation. In my opinion, it was a mistake to elect George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. For Democrats, those were disappointing election outcomes. But at least those presidents weren’t engaged in treason. I didn’t agree with their policies or agendas but I never worried they’d be dismantling democracy. Stopping Trump is about preserving the security and safety of our nation, given that he’s clearly in bed with Putin (as well as the prostitutes).
To state the circumstances more accurately, Trump is terrified of Putin. He refuses to enact the sanctions that Congress has levied against Russia for meddling in our election. He refuses to say one negative word about Putin, but insults and denigrates practically everyone else in his path, from Gold Star military families to black athletes, from Latino judges to the cast of Saturday Night Live, from John McCain to Angela Merkel. As Tim wrote, he’s a narcissist—a malignant narcissist. (Definition: Malignant narcissism is a psychological syndrome comprising an extreme mix of narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, aggression, and sadism. Often grandiose, and always ready to raise hostility levels, the malignant narcissist undermines organizations in which they are involved, and dehumanizes the people with whom they associate.)
That aside, Trump is petrified that allegations he’s been helping Russian oligarchs launder money through his properties are about to be definitively exposed (I also can’t wait to see those lyin’/cheatin’ tax returns!); he’s frightened that the Russians will reveal they were behind his campaign’s efforts to change the Republican party platform’s call for U.S. weapons to help Ukraine fight Russian and rebel forces; he’s scared poopless that his campaign’s secret agreement to lift existing sanctions against Russia (The Magnitsky Act) in return for “dirt” about Hillary Clinton are about to be fully uncovered.
I’m sorry, anyone who still supports this treasonous monster is no friend of this country, and definitely no friend of mine.
Amanda is a writer and mother of two.
Mark, Kim and Tim: I come from a large, diverse family. My dad’s parents were yellow dog Democrats; there is even a family legend that my grandpa wouldn’t allow a Republican to enter his house. Fiery discussions always raged in that house, and nothing was off the table.
As a result, I’ve been challenging people’s political ideas since I was in middle school—it’s a family tradition.
My mom’s side of the family is a lot smaller, more fractured (in that very American multiple divorces kind of way), and far more apolitical, but we did grow up close to her brother and his family. Long weekends camping together, fishing trips with all the cousins, sledding with what I now know was cinnamon Schnapps in the “cocoa” my mom and aunt sipped in the cold. The Obama era began to highlight our political differences, and while we knew they were Republicans (most everyone is, here in Oklahoma) and we were Dems, it wasn’t a point of division. (Sure, we’d sometimes get a little sauced and have small, civil political discussions.)
But the Trump era, combined with social media, has transformed these relationships into something else entirely. My aunt, who is warm, generous, funny, and one of the most energetic people I know, hated Hillary so completely and deeply that she truly believed Hillary was a danger to our country, and that Trump, although imperfect, was a far better choice. As the campaign progressed and Trump continued to insult and degrade women, the people with disabilities, people of color, religious and ethnic minorities—and her mind did not change—a little piece of me turned to rage. When the pussy grabbing tape came out and I asked her what the men she loved would do in the presence of a man like Trump, I saw in her face the realization that they’d deck him if they talked to her that way. Yet her support did not waver.
Conservative media has a strangle hold on the people of this state, and most everyone else in the big middle of America. I’ve understood for a long time that FOX News was a propaganda machine, but to watch first-hand the malignant fear it has bred into good, smart, loving people like my aunt has been particularly difficult. I have wrestled with so many emotions since he won the election, but mostly I feel a deep and abiding sense of fear and anxiety.
Trump is a symptom. He is a symptom of right-wing media and the “moral majority” co-opting God and religion. He is the result of a decades long plan by the GOP, a long-con that made abortion a single-issue voter motivator, that elevated guns and the NRA to a place above human life—a deceptive campaign that made many in America think the black and brown people were coming for their jobs, their neighborhoods, their daughters.
They have been planting seeds of fear in order to motivate voters for decades, and since Trump won I spend an outsized amount of time worrying that our vision of trust, love, equality, education, innovation and opportunity is not enough to break through the Kevlar shells of fear, and sense of ownership, that Republican voters have cocooned themselves in. How can our cries of “Enough!” break through the voices telling them they are being extinguished, forgotten and cast aside? Trump appealed to that dark heart of white, American greed, a greed that is fueled by a machine. Even if Trump goes, the machine is still there, as is the rage of the white voter.
I cried on election night. Deep, painful sobs. I slept fitfully, and kept waking up crying like you do when deep in grief. I was and still am so incredibly angry. I am so mad at the people I know who voted for him. I am mad that a woman could be one of the most qualified candidates in modern history and still get beat by a flaming pile of shit. I am disappointed that I was naive enough to believe we were making progress, that I believed America was moving forward and working towards making amends for all the pain she has wrought.
I never believed America was perfect; I knew that this country has always punished people of color, and ethnic and religious minorities, and women, but I really thought we were headed towards a more equitable future. I knew there was work to be done and I was ready for that work because it felt meaningful and possible. It’s harder these days to find that same motivation. I know it is more important than ever, but the scale of the beast we have to slay is so beyond the small and vile Trump. It is built into the very fabric of this country—the entitled seeing what they have as earned and what others have as given or stolen. Trump is a byproduct of the myth of American Exceptionalism, and I’m not sure how we unlearn such a thing.
My work has suffered immensely. My creativity is at an all-time low, my output pathetic. My anxiety has become such a beast in my life that I have sought out therapy and medication so that I can hopefully find a way to resist without obsessing until I am sick. I have become a hermit, the total opposite of my personality, and the constant stream of information regarding the terrible things the Trump administration is doing is almost disabling.
All of this makes me feel like a giant fucking baby because I am a privileged white woman and I know other communities have been suffering in this country since it came to be, but my fear is that the tiny bit of progress we made is going to slip away with an executive order or a Paul Ryan wet dream. I look at my aunt who has spent her entire life in a bubble of white privilege and I wonder how she could have been so selfish as to disregard all the people Trump promised to hurt during his campaign.
Mark, Tim, and Amanda: When a loved one is in a low place, in a hole that they are struggling (or sometimes not struggling) to get out of, we have two choices: join them in the hole or stay above the hole where we have a chance of finding a ladder or rope with which to rescue them.
Sometimes we feel so worried or so badly—or so frustrated or angry—about our loved one being in the hole that we unwittingly slip into the hole with them. We work ourselves into a low place. We let ourselves get dragged down with them.
Sometimes we willingly jump into the hole with them. Jumping in the hole with them (and trust me to eventually get to the point here!) can feel like providing sympathy or solidarity. It can feel like we are being loving and most importantly, it often gives us the feeling that we care THAT much. We are so good that we’re willing to sacrifice our happiness for another. It makes us feel good about ourselves, at least at first. But the bottom line is that to get to that feeling, we have to join them in that low place where we too are not our best selves–and where we too function at low capacity.
Staying above the hole means recognizing the loved one for who they really are and what they’re really made of, even when very little of that person’s brilliance, strength and goodness are on display. It means remembering them at their best and knowing that the examples of them at their best are the truth of who they are. It means believing in them, trusting that they’ve got what it takes to make a comeback.
It means envisioning them being back in the light, back in the game, feeling and giving their best. It means looking (sometimes hard) for the current evidence of their best selves shining through, the glimmers of light that make it through their pain and really appreciating it. It means cheering them on (if even just in our minds) and feeling excited about their ultimate Phoenician rise out of the ashes, stronger and more alive and vibrant than ever. Better than ever is how we always are after some time in the hole and a rise from the ashes.
The same goes for our country.
Rashanah founded The Baldwin Media Group in Chicago and communicates its mission through her weekly radio program, “What’s Good In Englewood?” on WKKC 89.3 FM, and her blog, GoodInEnglewood.com.
Mark, Tim, Kim, and Amanda: I grew up in Chicago on the South Side in the wonderful community known as Englewood. The majority here are Democrats and many were overjoyed when Barack Obama (from the South Side as well—Hyde Park, a prominent neighborhood in Chicago), became president. In the mid 2000s, many black Millennials like myself who had come of age during Obama’s leadership as a U.S. Senator really began to understand the political process and what it meant for blacks. I also got to understand the great presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush–insert my sarcastic tone.
Clinton’s administration created the 1994 Crime Bill–the three strikes rule. This meant harsh sentencing for minor crimes and resulted in mass incarceration, mainly of African Americans. Blacks were also more likely to get longer jail time for something as simple as possession of marijuana—while their white counterparts often got slaps on the wrist. Why would the children who grew up fatherless or motherless because of these laws now vote for Bill Clinton’s wife? In fact, many didn’t. They felt Bernie Sanders was the better choice. In the end, many didn’t vote at all.
During the campaign, what made me pay attention to Donald Trump was the fact that while he made crazy comments and did things to make your skin crawl; as a result he got tons of media attention. They covered his tweets like Associated Press news feeds and, honestly, I think it was clearly a distraction from the issues in our country that should have been discussed. I also wondered why Hillary Clinton wasn’t doing more TV/radio appearances, why was she allowing “the email scandal” to get the best of her? It seemed like every time I turned the news on there was Trump talking about how he was going to win and what he was planning to do after he won. I watched how networks covered his every move; his mere presence was driving up the ratings of these shows and more absurd his comments became, the more they put him on. I thought to myself, “If I were a news producer and I had the Republican presidential candidate on the phone line every day, would I put him on the air, too?”
Twitter continued to blow up in early 2016 when the negative Trump tweets and comments about the Obama administration began to escalate. I remember a tweet I read from a Trump supporter (“I wonder how poor blacks feel about Michelle Obama’s $2,000 dress?”) in reference to the Narciso Rodriguez dress the First Lady wore during her husband’s final State of the Union address. One of the responses I read was the funniest thing, a comment from a black Twitter user: “We’re fine. How do poor whites feel about Melania’s $10K facelifts?”
When Trump won, the shock was felt, not just nationally, but around the world. The ridiculous or offensive (or both) tweets continued, the media continued to cover them all, and many anti-Trump folks walked around like zombies. Protests began and more scandals of all stripes arose. I had to find humor in it, to stay sane. For example, the speech that Melania Trump gave that was almost identical to Michelle Obama’s speech from several years ago provided a good laugh. Kind of.
Chicagoans all around the city raised their eyebrows when Trump said he was going to send in the “Feds” to combat the violence in our city. The condemnation was swift: Chicago doesn’t need more policing. We need more federal funding. And how dare this man assume he knows what’s best for Chicago.
Today, I still hear the anger. I also feel the sadness from my friends from the Islamic faith or of Latino heritage. The chatter in my circles goes something like, “Now America knows what it’s like to be black. Now it’s beginning to impact them.”
It seems every day is filled with something new and more awful than the previous day, whether Trump is telling Puerto Rico that its natural disaster is costing the country too much money or whether he’s forgetting the name of a slain soldier as he’s supposedly consoling the family.
I just say, to all Americans, don’t let this be a distraction from what’s happening in local politics. Know your rights and make sure your local elected officials are doing their jobs. I always make the effort to get to know them, to be at the table, to find out what’s really going on. This is the time to be more civically engaged than ever! It’s our civic duty. Please help support our future leaders as they express interest in public office.
You never know who may become the next president.
Craig is a realtor, husband and father of four.
Tim, Kim, Amanda, Rashanah, and, especially, Mark:
I was just about to do some bingeing of Stranger Things, but this conversation was nagging at me. I’m going to take a different approach and offer what I hope is an optimistic view, in three parts.
First, although I agree that our national government has become a circus led by a clown that is part Pennywise and part Ronald, I take comfort in the idea that the clowns can’t seem to do anything without spraying seltzer in their own faces. Yes, there are harmful executive actions. Yes, there are ridiculous foreign policy blunders. But overall, the Congress can’t legislate its way out of a paper bag. At this rate it will take them the next three years just to pass a bill deciding who’s on which congressional basketball team. Meanwhile, Robert Mueller is going to keep them plenty busy. In other words, I’m hoping we can ride it out like a bad high school theatre production.
Secondly, Mark, as a friend, I have to say I’m a little concerned about YOU. When you say you think about this constantly, I believe you. I’ve read your Facebook posts and often wonder how you manage to do anything but re-post the latest on Trump. So I’m hoping you can relax. Take a breather. Walk the dog. Lower the blood pressure. Take heart that the country has bounced back from worse, and we’ll all survive until 2020.
Third, and this is in direct conflict with point number two: Times like these tend to create change for the better, eventually. When our civil liberties are threatened people get organized. People like you create conversations like this. People like me start to get off of the fence and speak up. Without Vietnam and domestic oppression there would not have been the civil rights movement. When conservatives in the Minnesota house pushed for gay marriage to be unconstitutional, a movement was formed that made gay marriage legal (before it went national).
So—thanks for doing your thing, but take care of yourself, and we’ll make it through to the other side!
During his 35 years as a television news reporter, Jack Conaty covered 13 national political conventions and seven presidential campaigns.
Mark, Tim, Kim, Amanda, Rashanah and Craig:
The main issue here is the identity politics that now permeate American public life.
At its core is a roiling insecurity about economics in this Trump era. Quite simply, Trump ran as a populist but governs as an elitist. This administration shows a dangerous penchant for authoritarian government and is guided by a philosophy that plays, first and foremost, to fear. It thrives on pitting Americans against each other and much of the rest of the world.
Every presidential tweet is not news or even the real possibility of policy change. The corporate media allows these distractions and seems to thrive in doing so.
In short, it’s time to stop playing the president’s game. He, like all his predecessors, must be judged on what he does and not merely on what he says or how he says it.
The time is gone for identity politics, which his supporters find as threatening as his detractors find him.
It’s time to get smart and center attacks on economic decisions that will, in the end, define us all.
Jim is an author, freelance writer, and former newspaper reporter.
Mark, Tim, Kim, Amanda, Rashanah, Craig and Jack:
I changed my mind about impeachment. I no longer long for it.
Not because my opinion of him has changed. I still wish he wasn’t there, or anywhere for that matter. But if he’s impeached he will go down in some circles as the victim of a political witch-hunt.
Of course, his crimes, and those of the people around him, will determine his fate. But beyond sexual assault, Donald Trump’s greatest crime is probably nothing more than fantastical stupidity, which, unfortunately, isn’t a crime.
If it’s possible, I want Donald Trump to die a thousand political deaths for the next three years, digging his own grave a little deeper every day, taking those pathetic, egocentric excuses for humanity in Congress down with him.
The November 6th election in Virginia and elsewhere may have signaled the beginnings of a severe backlash. Sikhs and transsexuals were victorious. Black candidates won seats never before held by blacks. Women took legislative seats in overwhelming numbers. The resistance is healthy and focused, and working.
When Trump and the sycophants in his inner circle have all succumb to self-inflicted injuries, his disciples will be left with no one to blame, and will turn on him en mass. He could easily lose a primary challenge in a presidential re-election bid. That would be unprecedented and devastating.
His support has waned a little more every day, something that’s bound to continue as his voters’ situations show no signs of improving like he promised.
So, impeach if we must. But the Schadenfreude side of me wants to watch him become irrelevant and ruined, eventually forced to slither away into political asylum offered by a sympathetic government like, say, Russia.
There could be no conspiracy theory woven from that kind of demise.
Duane is a pharmacist, with more than two decades of experience in the health care industry.
Mark, Tim, Kim, Amanda, Rashanah, Craig, Jack and Jim:
In this amazingly diverse country of 325 million residents, it isn’t surprising to me that there will always be division. Cat people and dog people, altruists and narcissists, good and evil.
The end of Trump is fast approaching and his days are numbered. I agree with Jim, that I no longer want him gone. The effects that he has forced upon Washington are becoming almost entertaining and less scary to watch, though we mustn’t let our guards down. Impeachment is not the best answer since it only brings Mike “hang the gays” Pence into top position.
As Jim pointed out, the resistance is very strong as supported by the latest election results. I slept really well on Tuesday night. The 30 percent of our country that will always support a person like Trump, out of fear and insecurity, will eventually fizzle out of existence. It will take a few more generations, but it will happen.
Diana Marszalek is a veteran reporter who has worked for The New York Times, the Associated Press and many other media outlets.
Mark, Tim, Kim, Amanda, Rashanah, Craig, Jack, Jim and Duane:
Nearly a year into Trump’s presidency, I don’t know why I continue, almost daily, to be dumbstruck by the things that come out of the mouths of Trump, his posse (a Sarah Sanders press conference is like an accident—you don’t want to see it but can’t help but watch), and the people that still buy into it.
It’s all amplified by situations like the Republican running for U.S. Senate, Roy Moore. When you have supposed Christians defending his proclivity for young girls as being tantamount to Mary and Joseph—now, I’m no student of Jesus but I can’t help but believe he would not agree!
It truly seems as though the country has gone mad. There are no words for the hypocrisy. I keep looking for the light at the end of the tunnel—and what we can do to further it along.
On one hand, even the typically non-political are looking for ways to promote change. A local county executive race here in Westchester County, New York last week (hardly a big draw at the voting booth in stable times) became a major battle. The incumbent, a former GOP candidate for governor and supported by the alt-right, was tossed out.
Friends have donated money to Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones, and, one of my personal favorites, made a year-long monthly donation to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name—i.e. he gets the thank you note!
My daughter, 13 at the time, was in the thick of the Women’s March (feels like forever ago). She came with my crew of other empowered females, teenagers to seniors.
And, I’m going to hear Joe Biden speak tonight. I will report back!
At the same time, though, I know there are people right around me, in my community, who support Trump. This really and truly galls me because, if there was ever an elite East Coast bubble that Trumpers talk about, I am living in the thick of it. I am in a community packed with privilege—Wall Streeters with big homes, big money and big egos (we did lose several to prison due to their less than scrupulous ways a few years ago but that’s a whole other issue). These are people who you’d like to think, with that kind of success, are basically smart, too. I get that there are a whole lot of people who vote with their pocketbook but still—this goes beyond politics, money and all that stuff that traditionally separates the left from the right. This is about maintaining a society.
It also boils down to the issue of whether or not the people, policy makers and voters who support Trump really do believe in what he’s saying and doing—that they think by doing so they’re supporting a path to a better country and future.
Whether it’s some kind of twisted coping mechanism, ignorance, or character flaw, I think they actually do. How else could they live with the monster they’ve created?
Carol is a single mom, an attorney, and a mock jury consultant.
Mark, Tim, Kim, Amanda, Rashanah, Craig, Jack, Jim, Duane and Diana:
I’m feeling negative today. Really, I’ve been feeling negative for the past 365 plus days. I admit that I’m one of those chest-thumping alarmists who has no faith we can make it another year, let alone three years, with Trump in office aided by a corrupt and lawless Republican Congress. I know that sounds hyperbolic, but I do lie awake at night worrying about the permanent damage that is being done to long held principles of our democracy. I’m frustrated that the wheels of justice have to move so slowly. I’m ready for Trump and everyone in his orbit to be indicted. I’m beyond hoping for impeachment. I have moved straight to dreaming of Trumps (yes, plural) in federal prison. But for now, he has enormous power—power that will have lasting effects on our country.
I recognize that I’m a coastal elite, and I feel completely alienated from huge swaths of the country Trump was able to carry in the election. I shake my head when I hear that his approval rating has never dipped below 30 percent during the past year. That means one-third of this country supports him and supports values I cannot begin to understand. It is not economic despair alone that fuels that support. It is lack of education, fear of those who are different, Evangelicalism, and, yes, brainwashing by FOX News.
I can understand why people voted for him, but not why, now more than 365 days and even more stupid tweets later, more than 30 percent continue to support him. That scares me because that feels more like someone digging in their heels against me and my kind—Democrats—than support for Trump (who comes across as a buffoon, even on FOX).
Yet we see in Alabama that, so far, voters would rather have a pedophile than a Democrat in office.
Right now it feels impossible to bridge that divide. I joined the resistance and have never been so politically aware and active in my life, but it doesn’t feel like enough. Because while I’m calling Congress members asking them not to take away health care from millions of people, Trump is appointing unqualified, conservative judges to lifetime appointments on the federal bench. They don’t go away when Trump is indicted.
How do we get our message through to people who were recently convinced to sign up for “Trump Care” by Jimmy Kimmel? There is no middle ground on my belief that a government should provide for its citizens and the playing field should be leveled to help the disadvantaged.
Right now our government is trying to amass power and wealth in the hands of a few. And behind those politicians are wealthy donors like the Koch brothers and the Mercers. Long after Trump is gone, they will find other “Trumps” to do their bidding.
It didn’t start with Trump, because without U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and others, he wouldn’t still be here, and it won’t end with him.
I can only hope that two-thirds of this country can hold the line, but most days it feels like an uphill battle that we are losing.
Tim, Kim, Amanda, Rashanah, Craig, Jack, Jim, Duane, Diana and Carol:
Thanksgiving is over now, and I still found plenty to give thanks for despite the ongoing Trump travesty. (Yes, I still find joy in life, Craig—don’t you worry!)
Reading these thoughts and concerns you’ve all shared has been both empowering and enlightening. I learned a little—actually a lot—from each of of you. I’m saddened that none of our definitively conservative counterparts on The Reporters Inc. Board of Directors and Advisory Committee (yes, we have them!) chose to participate in our exchange. Are they embarrassed by the man they voted into office? Ashamed to admit it? Or do they remain committed to this abomination?
One of our advisors (who I shall not name) wrote me recently, saying, “No, I’m not thrilled with a lot of stuff Trump does, like his stupid tweets all the time, but I still can’t stand Hillary.” I emailed back, “Do you really think the worst of the chaos, bigotry, incompetence and corruption circling the White House is his tweeting?”
When I was a kid, I had a book about presidents. It was big, probably 10” by 12” inches, and about an inch thick. I was fascinated with the men who held the highest office in our land and I concluded, at the ripe old age of eight, that Calvin Coolidge was my favorite—based mainly on his nickname of “Silent Cal.” All these years later, turns out Silent Cal and I don’t share the same politics, and his inaction in the 1920s was a major factor that led to the Great Depression, but hey, I still like the nickname. Another president that made a memorable impression was Coolidge’s predecessor, Warren G. Harding. According to my big, thick book, he was considered to be one of the worst presidents in American history—a “failure” in fact. (This book was written in the early 1970s, pre-Watergate, so Richard Nixon didn’t make the list. And, of course, neither did George W. Bush.)
Harding died in office, of a cerebral hemorrhage, after just two and a half years served. In portraits, the nation’s 29th president comes off as a stern, severe looking man but, as I learned while reading my presidents book, he felt woefully under-qualified to be the leader of the free world and, out of insecurity, surrounded himself with a bunch of equally unqualified and ultimately corrupt cronies. Harding seemed most interested in gambling and womanizing and, after his death, rumors swirled that his wife had actually poisoned him. I remember, back in 1973, wondering, “How could a man like this be elected president?”
Here’s how Hofstra University educator Alan Singer summed up the Harding presidency this past June (brace yourself, his description might sound oddly familiar): “Harding was elected president in 1920 promising to return America to normalcy, which meant a country without immigrants, Catholics, Jews, unions, and political radicals. In one of his first actions as President, Harding called for a special session of Congress to pass immigration restriction quotas. During his time in office, taxes on corporations and the wealthy were reduced, setting the stage for increased economy inequality. New high tariffs were enacted to protect business, but that undermined international trade and cooperation. Harding is probably best remembered for corruption during his administration at the highest levels. In the Teapot Dome Scandal naval oil reserves were transferred from the Navy Department to the Interior Department and then leased to private companies that bribed the Secretary of the Interior.”
Wow, imagine if Harding had have been able to tweet, too. (Better yet, imagine if Trump develops a cerebral hemorrhage.)
Harding similarities aside, there is no doubt that Donald Trump trumps all his predecessors when it comes to who will go down in history as the worst president ever. Too soon to make that pronouncement? No, his fate is pretty much sealed, even if he somehow discovers a cure for tiny hands at some point during his term in office. Trump’s first 10 months have shone a bright light on his criminality, his sociopathic leanings, his deviant manipulations and his missing intellect. He is a child throwing tantrums, lying pathologically, all the while gleefully dividing and destroying this country. He has sold his soul to one of America’s most ruthless adversaries in yet another contemptible scheme to line his own pockets. Harding, Bush, Nixon…they can all rest soundly in their graves knowing there is no way they can now, or ever again, rank last.
I had dinner with a group of friends from college the other day and a woman I’ve known for years told me that I should lay off the Facebook and Twitter posts about Trump, that it was all too much. Since my social media friends and followers at this point pretty much consist of anti-Trump folk, and anti-Trump folk only (those who support him deserted me online long ago), she contended, “Aren’t you just preaching to the choir?” Actually, no, I responded. I fill the feeds with news and information that, I believe, inform those who don’t have the time or means themselves to seek out all that’s relevant and important. Most can’t keep up with the daily barrage of horrors coming from this administration or can’t separate the fake from the real news. But I can, and I do.
In this thread of emails, some of you have mentioned some of the many lowlights that have defined the last 10 months of Trump. But there are so many more examples; let me list just a few: pardoning racist Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio; equating murderous white supremacists in Charlottesville with those who fought to stop them; the unending violations of the emoluments clause; the blatantly discriminatory Muslim travel ban; the heartless attempt to scrap DACA; the threats to shut down the government if a Mexican border wall isn’t built; the Department of Justice’s claims that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 doesn’t protect LGBTQ Americans from being fired because of their sexual orientation; the complete removal of all LGBTQ content from White House and Department of State websites; the surge of new hate groups and hate crimes nationwide; the revocation of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act; the removal of all questions measuring sexual orientation and gender identity from the proposed 2020 census; the appointments of severely unqualified right-wing judges at breakneck speed; a complete lack of action on common sense gun control laws despite record-breaking mass shootings across the country; the gutting of seasoned state department personnel with no replacements in sight; the call for increased police brutality (at a gathering of law enforcers, no less); the endorsement of accused Republican pedophile Roy Moore; the firing of FBI Director James Comey to obstruct the Russian investigation; the firing of Acting and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates for her refusal to enact the Muslim ban; the refusal to fire National Security Adviser Mike Flynn despite Yates’ insistence he’d been “compromised”; the dismantling of environmental protections by the EPA; the sabotaging of the Affordable Care Act; the outright refusal to adequately and effectively assist Puerto Rico in its Hurricane recovery efforts; the astonishing and nonsensical awarding of a $300 million contract to an utterly unqualified two-person Montana firm (based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown, and with ties to a major Trump donor) to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid after the hurricane; the stunning retreat from the Paris Agreement; the sheer incompetence of cabinet secretaries like Betsy Devos, Rick Perry, Ben Carson (and pretty much all the others) brought on to actually dismantle the departments they’re supposed to lead; the embrace of nepotism with the appointments of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner to positions they’re completely unqualified to hold; the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price for disgracefully spending more than a million dollars of taxpayer money to personally travel on private jets; Republican House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ attempt to derail the House investigation into Russia after secret briefings at the White House; the presence of proud racist propagandists like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller dictating policy in the Oval Office; advisor Kellyanne Conway’s introduction of the Joseph Goebbels-esque term “alternative facts” into the lexicon; the refusal to release visitor logs from the White House; the security risks created by inappropriate use of private email addresses to discuss White House matters by at least six Trump advisors, including Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Stephen Miller and Ivanka Trump (Lock them up!); the creation of a voter fraud commission that’s actually a voter suppression commission; the full throttle effort to undo, dismantle or erase virtually every Obama-era accomplishment out of personal, racist animus towards the man whom Trump spent years denigrating as Muslim, foreign-born and illegitimate; the inordinate number of days spent at Trump properties at a cost of millions to taxpayers; the inordinate number of days spent golfing instead of working; the White House press briefings where spokespeople employed at taxpayer expense to impart truth and information to the American people instead spew lies, misinformation and propaganda; the nonstop attempt to smear and discredit the American media by confusing the gullible and susceptible about what is and isn’t “fake news”; the unbelievable, undiplomatic, and unhinged war of words with North Korea that has destabilized the region and increased the threat of nuclear war to unprecedented levels…
I could literally go on and on; these are just some of the most jarring and horrendous headline-grabbers that come immediately to mind. The media, much less the American people, can barely keep up with them, and each incident starts to fade from memory as the next mind-boggling bombshell arises. Any one of them would be a serious scandal under a different administration. If Hillary Clinton were involved in anything even remotely outrageous—let’s say, for example, she tweeted her support of a Senatorial candidate accused of luring junior high school girls out of shopping malls in order to molest them—the Republicans would be furiously clawing and climbing over each other in a mad red rush to file articles of impeachment. But not with Trump. The American people chose him to lead, they say, so we must follow (when actually, no, three million more people chose Hillary and a third of the populace didn’t even bother to show up to vote. Hopefully, most won’t make that mistake again.)
Yes, America survived Warren G. Harding (and Nixon and Bush), but this time it’s different. Much, much different. The bloated septuagenarian sexual predator currently residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C.—the one sporting bleached blonde hair plugs and orangey-bronze facial make up in a desperate, pathetic and failed attempt to look younger and more attractive—is a traitor, a danger, a menace and a threat to us all. If he moves to fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller, and I suspect he will as Mueller gets closer and closer to toppling his house of corrupt cards, we’ll have a full-fledged Constitutional crisis on our hands; the Republican-controlled Congress will have to scramble to find its conscience, to act swiftly and unanimously to impeach this man, remove him from office, and strip him of all power immediately.
If not, we the people must take to the streets in massive, peaceful, unrelenting protest—one and all. No, I’m not an alarmist. I’m a realist.
And the time to organize and prepare is now.
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