April 29th has now become synonymous with two things in my mind:
1) My brother’s birthday — Happy Birthday, G!
2) Trump’s first one hundred days. (Sorry about that, G.)
In the lead-up to the latter, there have been numerous discussions on whether the one hundred day benchmark is an artificial one, especially given that we are dealing with a catastrophically unfit president. Should we even bother assessing Donald Trump’s performance, given that he seems less than aware of the scope of what is needed to be POTUS in the first place?
The answer? Yes. Here’s why.
While the past one hundred days have admittedly felt more like one hundred years — full of moments and indignities that none of us are particularly interested in revisiting — it is still important that we take stock of everything that has occurred since Trump swore the presidential oath of office on January 20th.
In those intervening weeks and months, Trump’s actions, both by accident and by design, have helped to skew, rationalize and normalize practices that would have been unthinkable under any other administration. Understanding and recognizing a few key facets of those changes, helps provide us with the knowledge and foresight to fight as we prepare to face the next one hundred days that lie ahead.
Over the past one hundred days, we’ve seen:
- The transformation of the government into an antagonist that needs to be constantly battled, and the resulting impact on the national psyche.
Let’s be honest: government has never been perfect. The cogs of bureaucracy move slowly, and more often than not, do not move at all. We saw ample evidence of this throughout the Obama administration, particularly when Mitch McConnell was determined to get his way.
But between January 20th and April 29th, we have seen the government transform into something beyond the typical game of bureaucratic chess. Instead, the majority of our federal government now consists of active antagonists that we — the individual constituent — are being asked to fight.
Just think back to what constituents have had to focus on over the past two weeks:
- A renewed fight to stop the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
- Calls for the government to find diplomatic solutions to the ongoing tensions with North Korea.
- Protests over the continued attacks on climate science.
Worst of all: this is just the tip of the iceberg. On a day-to-day basis, there are now dozens of smaller battles that individuals are being asked to address, ranging from demanding elected officials make the time to show up to town halls, to ongoing battles to protect what should be fundamental funding for women’s health.
While we should absolutely celebrate the continued work that advocacy groups, activists and ordinary citizens have undertaken to help us win each of these battles as they manifest, we must also take a moment to recognize just what these battles represent for the sliding scale of democracy.
Because we are now being inundated with daily scandals to address, hourly breaking news alerts to respond to, and minute-by-minute reminders that our offensive efforts are often influenced by Trump’s moods and ability to keep away from his Twitter account, it has become increasingly harder to gain perspective or to even see the bigger picture.
More and more, we are becoming reconciled to the idea that scandal and incompetence are the rotating special on the daily menu of governance. Our lives have arguably become so entrenched with the incompetence of this administration, we now resign ourselves to accepting things that would have shocked us under any other administration — or we’re just relieved that it’s not worse.
We must recognize our incremental acceptance of perpetual scandal at this pivotal 100 day benchmark, before normalization further increases, and we lose more than we are able to see right now.
If we do not pivot our thinking into taking a more offensive approach now, when does the sliding scale stop? Is it when Trump threatens to repeal ACA yet again? Is it when the White House casually mentions they have looked into new approaches toward libel laws? Or is it when two women who are notoriously anti-choice, take leadership roles at the HHS?
Charmaine Yeost and Teresa Manning’s appointments should have set off alarm bells for all, but particularly for women. Both have worked for organizations whose stated objective is to strip away at Roe V. Wade, until it is basically rendered null and void. Manning is being put in charge of Title X funding, despite publicly stating that contraception does not work.
Both women were appointed without senate confirmation. In Manning's case, the White House refused to comment about her appointment and her name just appeared in the HHS directory, an act that is tantamount to letting in a burglar through the back door.
This is urgent, dangerous news. We should be demonstrating in front of the White House. But because of this sliding scale of acceptance, because neither women have done anything yet, we let the news sit.
Be honest with yourselves: were you aware of either appointment, and the history of either women? Did you think: “Urgh, but maybe it won’t be so bad, since Trump hasn’t … [insert reason here]”? I know I did.
And this is just single example.
This mentality of mild resignation has to change, and it has to change now. But to do so, we must also have an honest discussion on the growing distrust of the mainstream media, and the shift to alternative facts on both the left and the right — to be discussed in Part II.