Day 5 of the Trump Presidency

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January 25, 2017

Democracy has tripped on itself; the people have been fooled; and the American Republic, that great experiment, is at risk. The Trump era begins. What can one do? Oppose, refuse, resist: it is hard to know which word best captures what has now become necessary. Perhaps the best thing, or the only thing, is to call things by their real names and keep on doing it until the reality of what has happened is truly and widely understood.

The New York Times columnist David Brooks called Donald Trump professionally unprepared, intellectually ill informed, morally compromised, and temperamentally unfit.

David Brooks identifies himself as a conservative. I think of myself as a progressive and my politics are to the left than his. But I have deliberately used his description of Donald Trump to emphasize that I intend to remain as rational and careful as David Brooks is. He is a model of decency and thoughtfulness. Name calling won’t accomplish what needs to be done. Nor will left-wing fear mongering. Insults and threats are Trump’s stock and trade, so I will find other and better tools to do what I intend.

Because I live in France, I could not join the Women’s march on January 21st; but I am committed to finding an equivalent action. I admire what those women did. (My daughter was in that crowd.) They stood up. were counted, and with their action said that they would not be lulled into complacency and that they would not normalize or legitimize actions that will violate the most fundamental values of the American republic, that would not desecrate those sacred commitments to justice and truth. I share the commitment those women showed.

The little that I can do is observe carefully, reflect thoughtfully, and articulate those observations. I will do this for the purpose of keeping my own critical thinking skills alert. And by sharing those observations I hope urge us all not to be fooled. These are dangerous times. Democracies do fail.

What follows will be analysis and articles from established and responsible sources, institutions based on the idea that fact-based journalism is fundamental to a successful democracy. My own opinions, which will make up part of what I will send, come from a lifetime of study of history and political thought. In 1985, I wrote a book—A European Education—about the Holocaust. Behind that book there were many years of study about the fragility of the best intentions and about the nature of fascism. I use the word “fascism” with great care. Are we there yet? No, but for the first time in America’s 250-year history, it is a possibility.

The “Vue From Here” posts will address the subject of what practical things each one of us can do to arm ourselves and to support others in the same effort. There are two areas that are readily done.

The first is to support the legitimate fact-based media by subscribing. It has become too easy to get free news and we now know from recent experience (with Facebook and others) that it is not really news. There are four publications that I turn to. To subscribe to any one of these publications, all of which have excellent on-line editions, is to support the foundation of democracy, a free press. These are those publications which Trump has repeatedly threatened and will, I do not doubt, be attempting to shut down or suppress. They need the subscribers to support the work they do. The New York Times, for instance, is beefing up its White House coverage. So subscribe.

The New York Times basic digital edition starts at $1.88 per week ($98 per year), a $4.38 per week subscription gets more, but the basic covers everything.

The Washington Post digital national edition (without the D.C. local news) is $99 per year.

The Guardian is a UK based paper with active and excellent US coverage. Subscription is not necessary, but they ask the reader to voluntarily pay for what they give, say $50 per year.

The New Yorker magazine has excellent political coverage, not so much news, but analysis. $90 for digital only, 47 weeks.

These four are a basic tool kit for national rather than regional coverage. All of course have sports and arts too, but they are aggressively and courageously on the case.

Le Monde is, in my opinion, the most comprehensive and best edited of the lot, but its US coverage is not as fine grained as those cited above. It is, of course, in French and costs 180 euros per year.

The second is to support key organizations, to DONATE MONEY. Some suggestions:

Planned Parenthood

The Republicans have a special animus against women, opposing their efforts to take charge of their reproductive lives, attitudes which they cloak in right-to-life rhetoric. Their policies affect poor women most heavily. The cruelty in Republican policy is most obvious in their attacks on Planned Parenthood. One can resist by donating to them.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Assaults on the media, or the free press guarantees in the Constitution, will be coming in the near future. The organization best equipped and most experienced to resist them will be the ACLU. One can donate or become a member.

Environmental Defense Fund

Environmental issues will be critical in the next four years as Trump moves to deregulate polluting industries and to withdraw from international climate action. The Environmental Defense Fund is the most seasoned evidence-based organization among the many. Regional environmental issues are usually best tackled by regional organizations, but EDF has the widest national footprint. Become a member.

Southern Poverty Law Center

Trump, the demagogue, has unleashed the worst aspects of the America character, made it permissible to voice and act out hate and prejudice. Extremists will multiply and come out from under the rocks. The Southern Poverty Law Center has a long history of monitoring and fighting these sorts of people. Become a member.

Union of Concerned Scientists

Under a Trump administration, there will efforts to sow doubt and mistrust about science itself, climate science especially, with the head of Exxon as Secretary of State. The Union of Concerned Scientists monitors and fights efforts to discredit science. It also monitors the threats of nuclear war. Become a member.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

The corrupting influence of money in the American political system is well known. With Trump these issues have reached a previously unthinkable level, a president who will end up making a profit out of being in the White House. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a team of attorneys that has sued the president over violations of the constitution in respect to his business activities, They may be able to force him to release his tax returns. They are advised by some of the nation’s most experienced constitutional lawyers, including Lawrence Tribe of Harvard. They accept donations.

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