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Trump and the new Republican Party

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I am writing to response to Al Fonzi, who wrote an opinion piece, “Trump and progressive defeat,” in the Dec. 22, 2016, issue of New Times. Al, you say it’s the “alt-left” that has felt anguish from the election of Donald Trump. Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by almost 3 million votes, the third largest amount in U.S. presidential elections. I’m sure the anguish is not only felt by the “alt-left” but by most people who did not vote for Trump, and rightly so. 

You say “Trump will be somewhat conventional in his approach to governing, despite the campaign rhetoric.” I don’t think so. He has already demonstrated himself to be an extremely unconventional presidential candidate due to his personal background and from his political actions thus far. He is not going to change after he is in office. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. Trump is Trump, so there is anguish to be had.

Trump has no previous government experience, and he lacks knowledge of basic global issues. He has been involved in a multitude of lawsuits and has declared numerous bankruptcies. He is extremely dishonest. A non-partisan fact checker investigated his comments during the campaign and discovered that he lied 20 to 37 times per day. He constantly tries to distort reality by claiming what is false as true and what is true as false. This is more than just “rhetoric”; it is pathological. 

Let’s take a brief look at his cabinet. There are very few appointees with any government experience. So far, 72 percent of the people in his cabinet are white men, showing a significant lack of diversity. Many are millionaires and billionaires, which only helps to emphasize the huge income gap in this country. Do you think they would want to fix this problem, when they are part of it? You state: “Trump’s people are quite capable of dismantling a good part of the regulatory structure that has been imposed on Americans for a generation.” These regulations are aimed at protecting our citizens and our environment. You state that manufacturing and the energy industries built the foundations of American economics. True, but without regulations to protect people, wildlife, and the environment, these industries have also caused serious damage. We need to care enough to acknowledge these problems and take action to solve them, for ourselves, for our children, and for future generations. You criticize the protesters of the oil trains, but oil trains derail and explode! 

Trump’s people want to dismantle the EPA and environmental regulations and increase the reliance and use of oil, coal, and gas. In addition, they want to cut corporate taxes, curb labor protections, deregulate the banking industry, dismantle alliance building with other countries, diminish public education, and repeal the Affordable Care Act. You say there is “little to identify Trump as conservative.” I say there is a lot to identify him and his cabinet as ultra conservative and then some. 

Nationalists see themselves as autonomous to the world; they put their country’s actions above moral principles, and they oppose multiculturalism and marginalize minorities. George Orwell describes a nationalist as one who is dominated by irrational negative impulses and who solely thinks in terms of “competitive prestige.” This is Trump in a nutshell! He wants to be a “winner.” He values power and making money over everyone and everything: education, health care, human rights, the protection of environment, and the truth.

Trump and “his people” want to revisit the use of torture, create a Muslim registry, start widespread deportations, and “build a wall.” German nationalism was the major motivation for many people to join the Nazi party, who blamed the Jewish people for their economic problems and said they were a threat to national security. The Nazis took advantage of people who just wanted to be provided with direction in times of hardship. Trump did the same by campaigning with this type of blame rhetoric accompanied with his multitude of lies. This coupled with the years of garbage spewed forth from Fox News, talk radio, and the like, created the perfect storm. Many voters were Trumped. 

Now, many Republicans, who despised Trump while campaigning, are falling in line. So yes, since you mentioned it, there is a disturbing sense of familiarity with our current situation and this horrible part of history.

You say the alt-left “sneers at patriotism.” Democrats/liberals/progressives are not nationalists, but we are patriotic. We value our country and the principles upon which it was founded. We believe in an open democracy. It does not mean restricting voter rights, gerrymandering voting districts to favor a specific political party, and it doesn’t mean attempting to change term limits when your party does not win. Patriotism means ensuring an individual’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yes, we appreciate and celebrate diversity, but no, we do not ask you to participate. We do not “ridicule the faith of others,” but we do scoff at the hypocrisy of those whose actions (and votes) do not match many of the values of the religion they are claiming to profess. 

Many Republicans do not have the philosophy of “live and let live” as you claim they have. They want to restrict the rights of those who do not hold the same religious beliefs as them by cherry-picking the behavior they want to control. So when you talk about the “alt-left” wanting to impose conformity and having no tolerance, it appears that you have it backwards. You criticize California for its social values compared to other states, but I thank God I do live in California. 

We appear to understand the concept of separation of church and state. We do believe that a person should not be killed because of the color of their skin. We believe in having sensible gun control, to decrease the frequency of innocent people from being killed by others. Patriotism means freedom of speech. We understand that the right to burn the flag is an exercise of one’s right to symbolically protest the wrongs of our government. We value real news. 

Patriotism does not mean putting political power over national interest as the majority of Republicans agreed to do at the start of President Obama’s presidency by making a compact to resist any legislation he proposed, no matter what. Their No. 1 goal was for him to fail over anything else. They chose partisanship over country, all the while wearing their American flag pins. Now Trump is dismissing the investigation of Russia’s interference with our elections. Very patriotic indeed!

Thankfully, there are many ordinary people who do not and will not accept or normalize Trump’s behavior, beliefs, actions, or the new Republican leadership’s political agenda. If you want to label us as “the alt-left,” count me in. We will feel the anguish. We will feel it, but we will move on. We will move on, but we will not be silent. We will not “get over it.” We will continue to go about our daily lives, and we will watch, eager for any good to come out of this whole situation. We hope some of the mess will fix itself. But we will continue to take action as circumstances call to us. We will not quit praying, talking, writing, assembling, advocating, boycotting, protesting, marching, and fighting. We will definitely keep it up, now more than ever. 

Kathy Riedemann felt the circumstances calling, so she wrote this opinion piece and sent it to New Times. You can do the same! Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or write a letter to the editor at letters@newtimesslo.com

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