If you’ve been reading this Resistance Report or just following the daily news, one thing I’m sure has stood out. There’s one person’s voice in the headlines all the time: the braying, lying, self-absorbed and mean pronouncements of Donald Trump. Always the narcissist, Trump’s every move is designed to keep the spotlight on himself. Over the last month he’s begun purging advisors from the White House, so that “he alone” can decide everything, can be the face of everything. We know this move: it’s that of the dictator, who must have his face and presence ubiquitous, his voice revered and feared.
That’s the hallmark of a totalitarian society, where one voice only is heard. That Trump has moved us so close to that point means we’re in grave danger. But we have the antidote, because for now we still live in a democracy. The antidote is your voice. Every person’s voice.
In a healthy democracy, the most powerful voice is that of the people. Everything flows from and is responsible to that voice: “of the people, by the people, for the people.” And of course that voice is just the sound of one voice, joined by another and another still. For us to counter, indeed to drown and silence Trump’s whining, his lying, his inciting, it takes one thing, multiplied over and over: our voice.
What matters is that we raise it. One, single voice will always sound small and alone. But the deafening roar of the people is only many single voices joined together. For our democracy to survive each of us has to find our own voice and use it, make it public. This can be as simple as a text message or phone call to your representative. It can be as artful as postcard to a voter. A letter to the editor. A call to turn out the vote. A hello as you register someone. A conversation while canvassing. If it’s your voice, if it’s about something that you care about, if you make it public, democracy comes alive in that moment. And as you engage others, our collective voice grows louder.
If we’ve learned anything over the last year and a half, it’s that remaining silent is dangerous. It opens the door to tyranny. Each of us has to use our voice: to direct our representatives, to let others know what we care about and, when necessary, to choose new representatives who will safeguard our democracy instead of destroying it. Use your voice today, even if it’s only in the smallest, most quiet way as you begin. Together our roar will be overwhelming.
A “Phoney” Trade War?
This past week saw escalating threats in the trade war between Trump and China. On the 1st, China announce retaliatory tariffs on 128 U.S. exports. Trump countered on the 3rd with $50B more in tariffs on Chinese goods. The following two days saw China add an additional 106 products, to which Trump responded with $100B more of tariffs on Chinese goods.
The markets seesawed between being alarmed and apparently believing that negotiations would forestall actual implementation of the tariffs. As with the “Phoney War” (the so-called “Sitzkrieg”) over the opening months of WWII, the war has begun but there is as of yet no action, leading some to believe it isn’t really a war, at least not yet. There seems to be hope that negotiations will somehow solve the problem. Yet this notion doesn’t square well with a White House now run only by the uninformed, aggressive Trump, sans advisors. Who, exactly, will be negotiating and with what authority? As in the fall of 1939, this may well be the lull before the storm.
And A Phony Invasion
The week also saw Fox News inspire Trump to create a Big Lie about a bogeyman immigration threat, based on alarmist reporting about a caravan of refugees from Central America heading north through Mexico. The refugees were fleeing poverty and danger in their home countries (most were from Honduras) and seeking asylum. They were traveling together in a caravan for safety from gangs and in the hope of not being stopped.
Fox and then Trump managed to turn this into a false story about dangerous immigrants trying to sneak into the U.S. to get DACA-like benefits. This was ridiculous because they were coming to apply for asylum and DACA covers only people born here. Apparently the lie still wasn’t a scary enough, so later in the week Trump embellished it by claiming that “women are raped at levels they’ve never seen before. They don’t want to mention that.” Brown people, danger, taking benefits, rape, conspiracy. All the Trump goodies in one big whopper. There’s a reason we have to drown this guy’s voice out.
EPA Head Scott Pruitt’s scandals got worse this week. Already in hot water over a sweetheart condo rental from a lobbyist’s wife, the violation of public trust only deepened with more news about expensive travel, hiring an unqualified friend to whom he owed money, Pruitt’s insanely expensive 24/7 security detail, demoting or reassigning staff who complained about his ethics abuses and, to top it off, insisting on a lights-and-sirens trip in his convoy when he was late for a dinner reservation.
For all this, the one thing that might sink him was a poor interview on Fox. WH Chief of Staff John Kelly has recommended Pruitt be fired, but Kelly seems to have lost most of whatever powers of persuasion he had with Trump. Trump has protected Pruitt so far. We’ll see if that lasts.
The real scandal, of course, is that Pruitt is dismantling the EPA and giving the proceeds to the oil and gas industry, endangering American lives as he does so. But that’s just what the Republicans want.
The Teachers Strike Back, Continued
Teachers continued striking in Oklahoma and Kentucky, demanding raises and better funding for their schools. Both are in response to the failed economic policies of Republican ideology: cut taxes brutally and the economic rebound will be so strong, it won’t matter. Only the rebound doesn’t happen and it does matter. Schools don’t have enough money to stay open five days a week. They run out of supplies. They quit giving teachers raises. Students suffer. Teachers now have had enough.
Although Oklahoma offered $447M in new funding, the teachers rejected it as inadequate. Expect the Kentucky strike to grow next week. Women. Students. Now teachers. So. Much. Resistance.
A Big Win in Wisconsin
De facto Democratic candidate Rebecca Dallet won easily over de factor Republican candidate Michael Screnock for a special election seat to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, beating him by 12 points. Wisconsin has been solidly red for a number of years so this was a huge upset. Governor Scott Walker, already so frightened by the loss of other special elections that he tried to stop holding them, tweeted that this was a wake-up call. To which we say, go back to sleep, Scott. We’ll wake you when it’s all over – and you’re gone.
The Students March On
Judging by past tragedies, this is about the time that the NRA should be able to breathe again, following the Parkland students’ movement to bring safety back to our schools and our society. Instead, yesterday saw over a hundred student-led town halls organized in response to the March For Our Lives. No Republicans dared to show up. Students then invited their opponents. The students’ message is clear: represent us or we will VOTE YOU OUT.
In Other News
- Trump, speaking to reporters, said that he didn’t know about the $130,000 hush payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels. While this may have distanced Trump from the scandal, it presents several legal problems for his attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, who set up the agreement and made the payment. A contract isn’t valid if one of the parties didn’t know about it and never agreed to its conditions. An attorney who doesn’t inform their client about such an agreement risks being disbarred. And if Cohen made the payment himself, it was almost certainly an illegal campaign contribution.
- Bad news about Facebook’s mishandling of personal data continued to leak out in advance of Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress. There’s little reason to think at this point that the firm can be trusted at all. The big question now is whether Congressional leaders will have the information and determination to require Facebook to turn over all the relevant data and to explain themselves fully.
- As part of their move towards the Nixonian/paranoid version of fascism, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to maintain a database on journalists and media influencers.
- Trump continued his baseless attacks on Amazon, which are an obvious proxy for his displeasure at the Washington Post, owned, as is Amazon, by Jeff Bezos. The Post has been producing excellent journalism, which Trump rightfully perceives as a threat. His attacks on Amazon caused the stock price to dive. It’s bad enough that he’s attacking a single company. It’s far worse that he’s doing it to attack a free press. To quote Meryl Streep from the eponymous movie, “The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”
- Beto O’Rourke, running for the Senate in Texas against the oleaginous Ted Cruz, raised $6.7 million in the first quarter of the year – more than any Democratic candidate in Texas history. And he did it all with small donations – he won’t accept help from Super PACs. Go, Beto, go!!
Trump, Trump, Trump. This week you can begin to drown him out. (One in five Americans has!) Use your voice, even if it’s just the beginning. Make a call or send a text using our scripts for contacting your Members of Congress. Find an action you can take to flip the House and Senate Blue. Add your voice to the wave – and hear us roar.
– Tom Benthin
A reminder: a key resource for tracking all the abnormal events from the past week of the Trump presidency is Amy Siskind’s Weekly List: theweeklylist.org .
Before the disaster of the 2016 election we could follow the events that affected our lives by checking the news or seeing occasional posts on Facebook. Since then, with Trump’s erratic, aggressive and autocratic behavior and the Republicans’ unceasing attacks on our government and their efforts to transfer ever more money from working Americans to the rich, it has become much more difficult – and more important – to find our way through the weekly onslaught of news. To get ourselves grounded in the facts and to prepare for the week of action ahead, we provide this weekly summary of critical events to help us cut through the distractions and stay focused and informed as we fight to preserve our democracy.