As I write this, we are now two full weeks into the Trump presidency. During that time, one of the few bright spots for many Americans has been the wave of protests and peaceful resistance across the nation. It started with the Women's March, where four million Americans participated in the largest organized demonstration in our country's history, and it has continued with tens of thousands of concerned citizens taking over airports to protest the Muslim ban and countless other acts of resistance.
And yet, despite this groundswell of civic activism, many on the right have disparaged these protests using two main lines of attack. The first, which essentially amounts to "get a job, you bums," I won't be addressing today other than to say that, on it's face, it's ridiculous to claim that the millions of Americans who are protesting predominantly on weekends and evenings are all jobless welfare queens with nothing better to do. My wife and I were at the Women's March and the protest at Baltimore-Washington International airport with a number of friends, all gainfully employed, and none of us had to use so much as a sick day to participate.
In this post, I want to focus on the other bit of logic used by Trump supporters to minimize the organized resistance in the early days of this administration: "you're not even giving him a chance." This argument, presented with a straight face by many Republican pundits and partisans, essentially implores us to forget everything we know (and don't know) about the president and give him a clean slate.
I find this laughable in a number of respects. First of all, this approach requires us to disregard everything we learned about Trump during the campaign, including his promises that have already started to come to fruition despite moderate Republicans telling us time and again that "you're taking him far too literally on (building a wall/banning Muslims/silencing the press)." Secondly, it begs us to ignore the unprecedented obstructionism put in place by the GOP from day one of the Obama administration, which culminated in the unconstitutional refusal to even schedule a hearing for the former president's Supreme Court nominee. Finally, it seems to suggest that anything Trump has done since taking office is not, in and of itself, worthy of protest.
Let's delve in on that last point, shall we? Let's forget everything we know about Trump from before November 8, 2016. Let's throw out the campaign highlights like mocking a disabled reporter and "grab them by the pussy," and even older favorites like calling for the death penalty for the exonerated Central Park Five and, of course, his blatantly racist promotion of the birther conspiracy. Let's focus exclusively on the things Trump has done since becoming president-elect that might, just maybe, require the American people to stand up and resist.
- Appointed Steve Bannon, a white nationalist and self-described "Leninist," as his senior adviser.
- Made a statement that the United States must "greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability."
- Refused to fully divest from his business interests and became the first president in over 40 years to not release his tax returns, leaving the American people in the dark about conflicts of interest, debts to foreign powers, and payments from foreign governments that could potentially violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution. (Remember when Jimmy Carter sold his peanut farm in order to avoid even the slightest appearance of conflicts of interest? His peanut farm!)
- Named Jeff Sessions as his attorney general, a man who was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 due to his history of making racist comments and who has claimed on multiple occasions that secular Americans don't quite understand "truth" like religious Americans.
- Named Betsy DeVos as his education secretary, a woman who has no experience with public education, thinks guns are needed in schools to prevent bear attacks, and has stated that she wants to use public education to "advance God's kingdom on earth."
- Named Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil and a man with frighteningly close ties to Russia, as secretary of state.
- Spent the majority of his first 72 hours in office obsessing over how his inauguration crowd was smaller than Obama's, culminating in a bizarre impromptu press conference with new press secretary Sean Spicer lambasting the media and blatantly lying about the size and viewership of Trump's ceremony.
- Stood in front of the CIA memorial wall and gave a partisan speech that focused, again, on the size of his inauguration crowd.
- Claimed that he would have won the popular vote (which he lost by approximately three million votes) if there hadn't been "three to five million" fraudulent votes cast. Trump, who presented absolutely no verifiable evidence for this claim, later stated that not a single one of those illegal votes went to him. (For the record, there were only four confirmed cases of voter fraud in the 2016 presidential race, and three were people casting extra votes for Trump.)
- Instituted a federal hiring freeze, making lives difficult for millions of federal employees who are now unable to obtain a raise or promotion.
- Banned national parks and other federal agencies from tweeting or otherwise communicating any information about climate change.
- Compromised the scientific integrity of the EPA and other federal organizations by requiring political review of any research before publication.
- Ordered the continued construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline despite ongoing concerns about leaks impacting the area's water and resistance from Native American tribes. The fact that a spill less than three hours away from the DAPL site dumped 176,000 gallons of oil in December did nothing to give Trump second thoughts.
- Ordered the construction of his border wall despite having no plan in place to follow through on his promise to make Mexico pay for it. The wall, which Trump estimates will cost $12 billion but which independent sources such as MIT indicate could cost north of $40 billion, will almost certainly come from the pockets of American taxpayers. It's also generally considered to be an ineffective (since as many as half of all undocumented immigrants in the US are people who overstayed visas as opposed to crossing the border and also because large portions of the border run through rivers, mountain ranges, and private property) and environmentally damaging (both because of its impact on wildlife habitats and the massive amounts of greenhouse gases that would be output with the making of that much concrete) non-solution to the immigration question.
- Claimed that "torture works" and opened the door for the reintroduction of torture to American policy.
- Halted the American refugee program, trapping countless refugees (including many that had already been vetted and approved) in limbo.
- Suspended travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, resulting in travelers (including legal visa and green-card holders) being detained at airports across the country with no access to lawyers and deported.
- Imposed a religious test on immigration to the country, indicating that Christian refugees and travelers will get an easier path to American soil than Muslims. When judges across the country ordered a halt to portions of the policy, Trump and his administration refused to comply.
- Used Twitter to attack the federal judge that issued a stay on the aforementioned travel ban.
- Minimized the role of the Director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the National Security Council. The head of the CIA was also initially removed from the principals committee, but Trump backtracked on that move earlier this week.
- Placed aforementioned white nationalist Bannon on the NSC, an unprecedented move that placed a partisan voice above those of actual military and intelligence chiefs. (For comparison, George W. Bush refused to put Karl Rove on the NSC to avoid just that kind of partisanship as it pertains to issues of American security).
- Told the Mexican president that he may send American troops into his country to take care of the "bad hombres down there."
- Insulted the president of Australia, one of America's staunchest allies, in a phone call that saw Trump brag about his electoral victory and threaten to back out of a previously agreed upon refugee deal before hanging up on him.
- Approved a disastrous raid in Yemen that saw one American service member killed, three others wounded, a $75 million transport destroyed, and the deaths of numerous civilians, including an eight year-old American girl. Both Bannon and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner (a former real-estate mogul with no relevant experience) were in the meeting where the raid was approved by the president, and military officials have stated that the mission was given the go-ahead "without sufficient intelligence, ground support, or adequate backup preparations."
That's a lengthy (and not entirely comprehensive) list, but I lay it out as such to prove a point. Any one of these items is worthy of protest and resistance from Americans who care about any number of issues, including (but not limited to) the environment, education, national defense, corruption, separation of powers, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. And Trump has done all of them with his administration barely two weeks old.
So excuse us for not giving Donald Trump a chance. He has clearly done enough damage already.