Protest loudly and clearly any attempt by President Trump to limit freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or restrict our ability to speak the truth
By WOODY FRIDAE
I’m writing this to my friends who were Trump supporters or those who were just looking for a political change during the recent Presidential campaign.
I think I get it. I think I understand why you supported Trump.
You believe that Trump, as a supremely successful businessman, will use his power to put America first, use his skills to run the country like a successful business, reduce our debt, and make America secure and respected again. I believe that you wanted to avoid the perceived corporate ties that Clinton and other “insiders” have, ties that have been abused to take power away from the middle class. I think you gambled on Trump “shaking things up” and “draining the swamp” as a way to change the dynamics, and get the career politicians out, and put a new, savvy group of leaders in charge of this country again.
I do not blame the motives here. I know they are motivated by a healthy desire to put our country back in a more powerful position in the world. I believe you have a strong loyalty and feeling of patriotism for our country, feelings, and patriotism I share with you.
Here’s the problem: While Trump does have a fantastic ethos of success in business and an unusually keen sense of supremacy over his competitors, he has not before, nor do I expect him to ever, act out of compassion for others. Everything he has ever done, and I expect this track record to continue into the future, is to act purely out of self-interest. He does not seem to have a moral compass. Without even getting into his outrageous statements made along the campaign trail, he has only aligned himself with the politics of those he thought would serve his self-interest.
In the past, he was a Democrat and pronounced left wing ideals when it served him. Now, he has found a new vehicle to advance his power: an odd coalition of the anti-big-government right, fiscal conservatives, the white-supremacists, the alt-Right, and the religious right. I’m not saying he aligns his own beliefs with any of those groups; he is simply entering into a Faustian bargain with those who would elect him, protect him, and give him even more power and status. Gaining power and status are his prime motives.
Many of you have said that the Democrats and progressives are just sore losers, whining about a defeat of epic proportions. “Grow up, you lost the election, accept it,” has been posted all over social media and talk shows. But the difficulty goes far beyond that. Most progressives I know understand it all too well and accept it as fact: the right wing won everything: the House, the Senate, and soon to be a majority in the Supreme Court. But even that is not what bothers us so deeply.
A writer last week couldn’t understand all the protesting, so I am going to attempt to explain. What we see happening now is not like anything in recent history. Every single appointee says “government take-over.” There is no “olive branch” being offered. There is no compromise. There is no balance of power. There is no effort to build consensus or restore unity.
For the first time ever, the (proposed) Secretary of Education is an opponent of public education; the (proposed) Secretary of the Dept. of Justice has a history of making racist and comments; the (proposed) Secretary of the Interior is an oil drilling advocate, the (proposed) Secretary of the Treasury, a Trump loyalist, a hedge fund speculator, is a former Goldman Sachs partner and Hollywood producer. I only mention a few examples.
The (proposed) head of the Dept. of the Environmental Protection Agency is an open opponent of the EPA and wants to restrict climate change scientific research. With an outstanding lawsuit against the EPA, he mimics fossil fuel lobbyists’ rhetoric.
Most of Trump’s cabinet proposals are billionaire business owners and CEO’s of corporations. And many, like Elain Chao (proposed Secretary of the Interior), wife of Mitch McConnell, are Washington insiders with deep connections to the “who’s who” in the far right GOP minority. They do not represent a majority of opinions or interests in our country. Rather, they all represent corporate interests and not those of the common, poor, disenfranchised or struggling. If you thought you were getting an outsider to bring in new blood, or a savvy businessman to fight for the middle class, neither of those champions is what we’re getting. They do not seek to bring this country together, but rather lead by force. He is not a bridge builder, but a wall builder.
What we are getting is a hard-hitting, vicious, vindictive and power-hungry authoritarian unlike any president in memory. He seeks to reduce any debate or criticism through ridicule and black-balling, as he demonstrated throughout the campaign and in his latest press conference. If anyone dares to contradict him, he will retaliate hard in an effort to ruin a career or eviscerate a news organization. He demonstrated this clearly when he belittled broadcast journalist Megan Kelly for asking (and not backing down) about his disparaging comments about women.
He will not admit an error, he will never give in, he can’t compromise or reach across the aisle. If you claim you saw him mocking a disabled journalist, he simply denies it, attempts to discredit you, and calls you a liar. He seeks to intimidate people into submission and paints any criticism as disloyalty to the nation and un-American. It’s his way or the highway. No protesting, No critical journalism, No consensus building.
This is how our freedoms and the truth can be lost in a society. This is how other democracies have fallen. This is what scares us. It’s not just sour grapes.
Yes, there is a new and savvy group of leaders in charge of this country now. But I doubt that they are fighting for you or me.
I have been asked by his supporters to just “give him a chance.” Do we wait until he has discredited all but his chosen news outlets? Do we wait until everyone loses health care to express concern? Do we wait until he stacks the EPA with reckless oil and coal advocates, and fires honest scientists before we speak up for the environment? Do we wait until the Paris Accord is trashed before we speak up about climate change? Do we wait until we have no freedom of speech to speak up?
I sincerely hope that you are right, that we have nothing to worry about. And I would be willing to give him a chance if all of you will join with me to protest loudly and clearly at any attempt on his part to limit freedom of speech, bar freedom of the press, or the restrict of our ability to speak the truth.
Woody Fridae is a retired elementary school teacher, former city council member, and mayor of the city of Winters, Calif.