The Mueller Report is finally out and, even in redacted form, it provides a stark portrayal of a presidential administration immersed in chaos, lawlessness, unethical misconduct and the betrayal of America.
The most common responses we’ve had to our columns over the past two years involve readers expressing feelings of frustration and helplessness over how the political degeneration of America affects their lives and their future. America will die a slow death if our attitude is to wait for the other guy to fix it. Each of us can play an important role in the outcome, so today we give readers four key ways to personally make a real difference.
As a prelude to what we discuss below, if you have not yet read David Rothkopf’s excellent column from this past Sunday, The Time To Act Is Now, please be sure to do so. Also be sure to share it via Facebook and Twitter.
Among his wise words, Rothkopf notes:
“We must wonder now if we have passed a tipping point. Is this system too far gone to be saved? Or will a courageous few step up to use the courts to successfully challenge these miscreants? Will members of the Democratic leadership start to actively and aggressively seek enforcement of subpoenas and punishment for those who violate the law? Most importantly, will enough of the leadership come around to realize that impeachment hearings are vital to the health and future of the country, they are critical to the preservation of our rule of law, they are what the founders require in the wake of the stomach turning wrong-doing revealed by Mueller and that is compounded daily before our eyes. They must start to realize that regardless of what might or might not happen in the Senate, successful impeachment hearings will at the very least reveal the truth.”
“Right now, our system is dying before our eyes. Failure to act will lead to further, perhaps irreversible decay. This is not a situation that offers the luxury of further musing, of waiting until tomorrow. American democracy has entered the intensive care ward.
It is up to us to act now to save it or to reconcile ourselves to begin the process of mourning for what was lost, of mourning for a tragic end to the great American experiment in giving power to the people and denying it to those who would exploit us like tyrants past.”
What our members of Congress need to do next is clear. But the question remains… what can the rest of us do to help save democracy in America?
1) Contact Your Elected Reps
Our President betrays his oath of office on virtually a daily basis. And Trump’s acts of lawlessness only appear to be getting more and more brazen with his false claims that Mueller has “exonerated” him (See: Trump & Co. Are Crossing Big, Bright Red Lines—and They’re Getting Away With It in The Daily Beast and The GOP Doesn’t Have A Line In The Sand in DAME.) If the rule of law is ever to mean anything again in this country, Congress must act. It is possible that the House will impeach and then the Senate will fail to do its duty and remove Trump from office. If that happens, then the public will at least know exactly which members of the House and Senate place loyalty to Donald Trump over their loyalty to our country. But if the House fails to go through the impeachment process, it just sends a clear message to future presidents that if you are corrupt enough and intimidating enough, you can get away with anything and there are no consequences. And it tells foreign governments that we will allow them to interfere in our elections with impunity as long as their candidate wins.
If the House fails to do its duty, and if POTUS does something truly horrific in the next two years, such as starting an unnecessary war (as is, in fact, all too likely to happen) then the Republican party can and will blame it on the Democratic House for dereliction of duty in failure to impeach. And they will be justified.
The impeachment process itself will also yield an unending supply of embarrassing revelations that will benefit the Democrats in the next election. This isn’t something even remotely similar to the Clinton impeachment. Clinton’s crimes were narrowly focused and largely unrelated to his presidential duties, and there was no sense that he was engaged in betraying America on an ongoing basis. (See: I’ve warned that impeachment talk is dangerous, but the time has come: Laurence Tribe.)
So the first thing you can do is let your Congressional Rep know, in no uncertain terms, that wussing out is not acceptable and that you expect them to fulfill their duties to the America people and under the Constitution. The message I sent to my congressman was as follows:
I truly DO appreciate all that you have accomplished. But I want to be absolutely clear… if this Congress does not fulfill its duty under the constitution and impeach this President, I will NOT support your re-election in 2020 if there is any other credible Democratic candidate. Your legacy will have been to have been part of a Congress that utterly failed to fulfill its duty to America.
You can contact your Rep using email, Facebook, Twitter, ResistBot at https://resist.bot and/or you can call Congress at: 202-831-4224.
2) Engage in Effective Protest
David Frum’s column in The Atlantic: What Effective Protest Could Look Like is well worth reading. I’ve participated in several public protests over the past few years. I have found them personally cathartic and motivational, and they have induced others to bring passion to the cause, yet the protests themselves did not actually (yet) effect direct change.
In the 1960s or the 1970s, if a President was corrupt enough, then members of Congress, even those in the President’s own party, would support their impeachment and removal from office. And in those days, social protest was often an effective agent for change.
Today, it is sad to say, most people just don’t give a shit. If you are reading this column, you are an exception to the rule. Much of America today is a broadly ignorant and apathetic society. The majority of the populace keeps their head in the sand and won’t take political action until their lives are directly and dramatically affected by something bad that happens, by which time taking action is likely waaaaaaay too late.
Today it is not surprising to find that someone thinks that the Attorney General is the head lawyer for the US Army, rather than the Cabinet member running the Department of Justice (and, alas, most people actually have no clue what it is that the Department of Justices is or does). In a column last week from The Heritage Foundation: “Is America Turning Into a Nation of Dunces?” it is noted that “Ten percent of the college graduates surveyed thought that Judge Judy is currently serving on the US Supreme Court,” and that one in 10 think Congress could actually “outlaw atheism because the United States is one country under God.”
It is estimated that around one million people took to the streets of London last month to protest Brexit along with the social and economic ruin that will inevitably result from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Yet even that protest has so far failed to change Britain’s course. In America, people show even less likelihood of showing up for protest and politicians show even less likelihood of listening.
So if getting out into the streets alone won’t work, what will? In a recent series of tweets on Twitter, Bree Newsome Bass notes perceptively:
“Recall that the gov’t shutdown only ended b/c enough FAA workers called in sick to bring air travel to near standstill. Organized labor &ppl being able to disrupt the mechanics of capitalism by withholding labor remains most effective means of throwing a wrench in the system.
Keep this in mind b/c we shouldn’t expect anyone or anything to save us ultimately in this situation except ourselves. We’re dealing w/ ppl who value money/capital over lives. Withholding labor & impacting economy/money is the only language/action that translates in capitalism.
The British didn’t leave India & the south didn’t desegregate because the oppressor had a change of heart. These things happened b/c ppl disrupted the economy. That was always a huge part of nonviolent resistance. You have to actually *disrupt/interrupt*.”
Bree is absolutely correct. Trump has done well riding (and inappropriately taking credit for) the economic boom begun under Obama, and his own economic and trade policies have not yet had time to domino to their likely long-term recessionary results. But if POTUS allows another extended government shutdown, or if he closes commerce across the US-Mexico border, these acts will in fact create enough economic chaos that the Republican members of the Senate will seriously consider removing him from office.
But if POTUS fails to directly shoot himself in the foot again in one of these ways, it will be up to the American people to find nonviolent means of protest that will disrupt the economy in an appropriate manner. Fleshing this out further will likely be a topic for a future column, and I welcome thoughts from readers in the comments below as to specific strategies that we might consider.
3) Support Candidates
The Republican party no longer represents conservative fiscal policy… today it solely represents fascism and corruption. The 2018 congressional elections marked the first time in my life I had ever made a financial contribution to a political candidate. To be honest, I’d rather have contributed that money to a worthy charity than have given it to a politician. But these are not ordinary times. If we don’t support candidates who stand for our values, the wealthy, along with pernicious organizations, like the NRA, will continue to be able to buy and own our political process. And if we don’t want those who support fascism to have majorities in Congress and sit in the White House, we have to help those who oppose them.
I’ve made contributions to a couple of the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders already who I feel have interesting messages and approaches deserving of support. I encourage you to do the same. It doesn’t have to be a big donation… if enough people just send in $5 or $10 each, it truly will make a difference to their chances. It will also be crucially important to support Democratic candidates for the US Senate in the 2020 election so that Republicans will lose control of the Senate along with the federal judicial and Cabinet confirmation process.
4) Set Standards
As Adam Gopnik once expressed in The New Yorker: “As a matter of both morals and practice, you do not change bad beliefs best by placating those who hold them. You change them by refusing to placate those who hold them. You change them by relentlessly challenging them until enough people become ashamed of holding the bad beliefs.”
And as Desmond Tutu once observed: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
And as I noted in my earlier column, Patterns of Force – Realizing Which of our Friends Would Have Supported Hitler:
“Making a difference in the long term requires using our collective voice to not just speak out once, but to do so persistently, even if it means sometimes sounding like a broken record. Because the alternative is to allow others in our social network to believe that Trump’s ongoing assaults on reality, morality and legality have become normalized and acceptable.
If people fail to persist in speaking out now, en masse, as they failed to do in Germany in the 1930s, then history will surely repeat, the dominoes will fall, and Trump, like Hitler, will prevail.”
So please remain persistent in using your real world and social networks to speak out, and to share columns like this one and the one by David Rothkopf mentioned earlier.
Never forget that you, personally, have an ability to make a difference.
🎶I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play
And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
And they were singing
Bye, bye Miss American Pie🎶