Has The Resistance Pondered Its Next Steps?

womensmarch

Anyone who was dismayed by the election of Donald Trump last year should feel at least a little better at the end of 2017. If I had any say in picking Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, I would name the organizers of the Women’s March, who I credit for kicking off a major year of new activism and resistance. 2017 started with the Women’s March, a global rallying cry the likes of which we’ve not seen before. I marched on the streets of DC, and personally, I have never seen anything as massive and inspiring as the Women’s March (and I’ve been to a lot of protests in DC and other major East Coast cities).  The march unified the left and featured third wave feminist activists like Angela Davis and millennial organizers.

Following the Women’s March, there were several town hall speak outs, phone banks, and rallies to stop the repeal of the ACA. That worked. Then came the #MeToo Movement and the outcries against sexual assault. Lastly, there were the elections in November, with Democrats nearly flipping Virginia’s General Assembly, winning a historic number of seats, and winning governor races in NJ and VA, too. Dems even won state races in deep-red districts in Oklahoma, Montana, and Georgia. Dems are winning in places they shouldn’t be winning, which should be an indicator that a wave is coming next year and the House and maybe the Senate could flip. As I write this, Dems even have a decent shot at turning an Alabama Senate seat blue, due to the allegations against Roy Moore.

All of this has been inspiring. There is a level of civic engagement and awareness that has not been seen since the 1960s. Now, with that said,  what are the next steps for The Resistance? The right-wing is striking back. For one, Trump has gutted the EPA, State Department, and other government agencies. He is stacking federal courts with far-right candidates that can easily overturn civil rights. I also predict that by the end of his first term, he will get at least one more Supreme Court pick. I doubt Ginsburg or Kennedy will last three more years, thus establishing a conservative majority on the nation’s highest court.

I am not optimistic that Muller is going to bring down the entire administration within the next few months. Obstruction of Justice is not easy to prove, and if he can make the case, it won’t happen overnight. Watergate took over two years. Also, what would happen exactly if Trump is charged?  What would his supporters do? What would it do to this country? Trumpism is not going away. It is a symptom of a much deeper problem.

More concerning is the fact that it has become clear the GOP no longer cares about angry phone calls, speak outs, or the unpopularity of its agenda. As I write this, the GOP’s tax bill looks more and more likely to pass. Yesterday, it moved forward out of committee and will soon come to the Senate floor for a full vote, probably this week, and if it passes, it goes back to the House. One of the GOP holdouts, Bob Corker, voted to advance the bill out of committee. Yesterday, The Daily Kos reported that Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are likely to vote for it because they’ve secured deals they have wanted. If Corker, Collins, and Murkowski are all yes votes, then it is hard to see how the bill fails.

In short, the GOP needs a win desperately, and they very well may get one, at the expense of the working and middle classes, teachers, anyone on the ACA (the current tax plan would repeal the mandate, which may lead to the collapse of the ACA), graduate students, etc. If the bill passes, it means that the GOP, including so-called moderates like Murkowski and Collins, really no longer care about dissent and outcry. They care most about their donors, who have threatened to cut off funds for 2018 if they do not get their tax cuts.

So what is The Resistance’s answer to all of this? What if organizing, phone banking, and canvassing no longer can sway one of the two political parties? Furthermore, how will The Resistance organize if net neutrality is gutted? Net neutrality ensures that internet providers, like Verizon and Comcast, can’t charge more for certain websites. If the FCC undoes net neutrality rules, which seems likely, then it is probable that big telecom will charge more for certain services, including  social media. All of the major movements over the last few years have largely been organized online, from Occupy Wall Street, to Black Lives Matter, to the Women’s March. Without the ability to do that, The Resistance is in major trouble. As it stands, there really is no plan for a post-net neutrality world. Dissent could be crushed, and here will be a crackdown on information because not everyone will be able to afford several internet packages to secure fast internet speeds that they enjoy now at one package and one price.

2018 is a major year. The Senate, House, state races, and governors mansions are all at play. If there is indeed a blue wave, then the Trump agenda will be stymied. Democrats have a better shot at winning the House than Senate, where they have to defend 25 seats, compared to the GOP’s 10, but even flipping one branch of Congress would break the GOP’s lock.  Voter registration and outreach needs to be the most important issue that The Resistance focuses on in the coming year, and it needs to figure out how to organize beyond social media because net neutrality is in peril.

2017 was a year of civic engagement, and now the movements that sprang up this year, going back to the Women’s March, need to figure out next steps, especially since the right has reacted to organizing tactics and will circumvent them at every turn. The push to pass the tax bill proves that.

 

 

 

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed/Let it be that great strong land of love

Happy Inauguration/day/week/month, whatever you want to call it. As I write this, some citizens have their TVs turned on at home or at work, or maybe they’re scrolling through their smart phones, eager to see Donald Trump sworn in as the next president of the U.S. Others, meanwhile, may still be in mourning, or maybe they’re in DC, at one of the many protests, or maybe they’re choosing to tune out the news.

I’ve been involved in various progressive causes for a long time; I will say, however, that i don’t wish any ill will on this new administration. I hope upon hope that Trump and the GOP Congress realize they have to represent ALL Americans, including the number of groups that Trump attacked during his campaign and even post-victory. I don’t like to see this country as sharply divided as it is, to the point where some of us have stopped speaking to long-term friends or relatives. Even I have cut communication with a few relatives, and the election results are too fresh for me to try to heal that division right now.

That said, there is one good thing that has some from this election. People are engaged. They are  getting involved in their local Democratic Party, pondering running for school board or city council, attending meet-ups, planning rallies, making phone calls to their Senators and Congressman/woman, even their state reps. There is a level of political/civic engagement that we haven’t seen since maybe the 1960s. I do believe that Americans don’t want this divide, and I do believe a lot of Americans are fearful about what comes next. How will Trump govern? Well, we already have some indications of that. His cabinet appointments are a right-wingers dream team, everyone from Betsy DeVos to Jeff Sessions to Rick Perry to Tom Price to Rex Tillerson. Then, we received news yesterday that the budget Trump is leaning towards would abolish the National Endowment for the Arts and drastically cut funding to violence against women organizations, environmental research, and civil rights organizations. According to reports, the budget is essentially a Heritage Foundation “skinny” budget.” Cuts, cuts, cuts. The nomination of DeVos as Education Secretary and Tom Price as Health and Human Services Secretary are also clear signs that the GOP will try hard to fully privatize education and health care, something they’ve wanted to do for a long time.

My hope, moving forward, is that citizens will remain engaged and question statements from this administration, especially when they are  not fact-based. I hope Americans urge the press to do the job it needs to do, and I hope, most of all, that people continue to organize rallies, contact their representatives, and unplug from social media to attend a meet-up, realize they are not alone, and you know, actually talk to people face to face.

I will be at the Women’s March in DC tomorrow. I am attending for a number of reasons, but most of all because I believe in women’s right. Period. Following the march, I will continue teaching, writing, and co-leading a local chapter of a new grassroots organization, Action Together. We hope to keep people involved and get them to run for local political office.

There is work to be done. Since I titled my blog post after a Langston Hughes poem, let me end the post with a stanza from his “Let America Be America Again.”

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

2016 Recap/Best Of

Since it is the Winter Solstice, a time for reflection and contemplation, I thought I would write about the past year, just like every other writer is doing right now! On a personal level, 2016 was a successful year for me. Waiting for the Dead to Speak was published with NYQ Books and earned a lot of reviews. I am especially grateful that the book is out there. I got to read in different pockets of Pennsylvania and NYC, Jersey, Boston, Philly, and elsewhere. Connecting to the larger poetry community maintained my spirit post-election, especially after spending months canvassing and phone banking for the Hillary campaign. For me, the election also changed the urgency of some of the poems. I’ve already commented plenty on the state of world affairs, and I don’t want to do that much with this post. I will say, however, that I have been inspired by the mobilization I’ve seen post-election. Even yesterday, I attended a rally in downtown Scranton, in front of Sen. Pat Toomey’s local office, urging him not to repeal the Affordable Care Act or vote to privatize Medicare and Medicaid. For a rally that was put together in about a week, it drew 50 or so people, many with personal stories about how the ACA or Medicare have impacted them personally. I predict a lot more direct actions taking place nationwide in the coming new year.

Shortly into 2016, I met Daryl, and we’ve had a wonderful relationship since. We also adopted a cat last March, Giselle. The cat photos have been endless!

Following in the tradition of other end-of-the-year posts, here is my list of my favorite films and books of the year. Last year, I included music on this list. However, I made fewer trips to the record shop this year than last, and, unfortunately, I didn’t listen to a lot of new music. I plan to change that in the new year.

Favorite Books:

non-fiction

An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz: Okay, so this book came out last year, but I just read it last month. It is the most comprehensive book of Native American history that I’ve read. It begins with the early European encounters and concludes with the present. It is a must read for anyone interested in American history, specifically Native American history. In light of the Standing Rock protests, now is the time to check this out.

White Trash: A 400 Year History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg: This is also quite comprehensive, and it primarily begins with the Puritan era and ends shortly after the Bill Clinton era. My only real gripe with this book is that it only focuses on the white-working class, more specifically the Southern white working-class. Like An Indigenous People’s History, White Trash is a book that should be required reading for the times that we live in, especially if one wants to understand some of the anger that drove the Trump campaign.

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance: Vance was a poster boy for the white working-class during the election cycle, with frequent appearances on CNN and columns published in major newspapers. Vance’s book doesn’t cover the broad history class because Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir centered solely around Vance’s experience growing up poor in the Appalachian states.  Vance gives sound insight into why people he grew up with often vote against their best interests.

The Philosophy of Horror: Edited by Thomas Fahy: Okay, so this book came out about four years ago, but I didn’t read it until this month, in preparation for a Horror Literature and Film class I am putting together for next fall. This is one of the strongest collections of academic writing that I’ve read on the horror genre. It is, in large part, a reaction to Noel Carroll’s writing on the horror genre, mostly his theories that horror stems from the supernatural, such as ghosts and demons, thus it is easier for us to return to our everyday world after the horror ends. The essays in this book, however, address the idea of horror in the every day and focus on the gritter, realistic horror films, such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hostel, and Psycho. The writers find Carroll’s definition of horror too limiting. There is also a fascinating essay on Kubrick’s The Shining that sees the film as commentary on white imperial power and genocide against Native Americans and African Americans.

Fiction

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: Winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction, this novel follows two runaway slaves as they visit different states in the South and encounter various forms of slavery. It is a book I am seriously considering incorporating into my African American Lit class, and I consider it a must-read for the year.

Wild Things by Jaimee Wriston Colbert: This linked story collection is devastating in that it focuses on towns where industry has dried up, its residents are down on their luck, and on top of all that, the stories address the perilous state of our planet.

Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo: Richard Russo remains one of my favorite contemporary American fiction writers. Everybody’s Fool is a sequel to his breakout novel, Nobody’s Fool.  It again follows the plight of Sully, who is ten years older as the novel opens. Like the rest of Russo’s work, Everybody’s Fool brilliantly captures the struggles of the working-class who are stuck in crummy situations. This book, however, also depicts the crushing power that the wealthy and corporations can have on a community, a new aspect of Russo’s work.

Poetry:

What Blooms in Winter (NYQ Books) by Maria Mazziotti Gillan: Maria’s work is always beautiful and moving, and in this book, she sticks to one of her most-familiar themes, the immigrant experience. Fewer books felt more poignant for me this year, juxtaposed with Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Night Sky with Exit Wounds (Cooper Canyon Press) by Ocean Voung: Believe the hype surrounding Ocean Voung. This is a wonderful debut collection, and the young poet deserves all of the credit he is getting.  The heart of this collection centers around the immigrant experiences, Vietnam, and family history.

The Performance of Becoming Human (Brooklyn Arts Press) by Daniel Borzutky: I don’t think any collection of poetry better captures this current autocratic moment than this one.

Favorite Films: 

Manchester by the Sea: This is my favorite film of the year. Casey Afflect deserves an Oscar for his role as a janitor who is emotionally disconnected after losing his children and divorcing his wife. The film is textured, layered, emotionally complex, and heart-wrenching. It is not without its humor, however.

Moonlight: I have never seen a movie that deals with black masculinity as well as this one.

Captain Fantastic: This movie follows the story of Ben Cash, played by Viggo Mortensen, who raises six kids off the grid in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, making them endure rigorous physical and intellectual tests. The film isn’t afraid to make fun of leftist purists, but it also has a lot of heart and laughs, while critiquing some aspects of 21st Century America, namely rampant consumerism. Check it out. It’s uplifting.

What am I looking forward to in 2017? I am hoping that world will break from its drift towards authoritarianism and nationalism that we saw in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere in 2016. I hope that we are kinder to each other and don’t treat those different from us as parasites who don’t belong in this country. I also feel optimistic that we will continue to see mobilization to counter some of the nasty geopolitical uprisings that occurred in 2016, fueled by a dangerous nationalism.

So, that is it, farewell, 2016. Be safe everyone. Take care of each other, and enjoy the holiday!

 

 

 

 

 

Some Political Predictions for 2017

With 2016 winding down, I thought I would take some time to share some political predictions for 2017. There is no doubt that 2016 was a historic year, with a lurch to the right globally, resulting in Brexit, the resignation of Italy’s left-leaning PM, president-elect Donald Trump, and  anti-immigrant populism reshaping the globe.

To those on the left, myself included, 2017 is not likely going to be any easier to deal with because we’ll start to see the result of some of the right-wing, populist governance, especially in the U.S. Here are my predictions for the U.S. and other parts of the globe.

Europe: All eyes will be on two countries in Europe in the first quarter of 2017, Italy and France. It is likely that right-wing, anti-immigrant Marine Le Pen will be one of the final contenders for the presidency in France. Right now, she is not predicted to win, but pundits and poll watchers said the same thing about Brexit and Donald Trump. Keep your eyes on France. The other country to pay attention to is Italy. There, it is more likely that a right-wing populist, Beppe Grillo, a former comedian/celebrity turned politician and leader of the internet-born, anti-EU Five Star Movement, will rise to power. Last weekend, Italy’s left-learning prime minister, Matteo Renzi, resigned after his party suffered a stinging defeat in terms of a referendum that would have changed the make-up of Italy’s government. For a better understanding of Europe’s growing right-wing populism, including France and Italy’s situations, check out this article by the NYT. Keep in mind that this was published before the referendum vote in Italy last weekend. For more info on the Five Star Movement, click here. 

There is some hope for Europe, however. Last weekend, while Italy lurched to the right, pro-EU, left-leaning Alexander van der Bellen defeated right-wing populist Norbert Hofer in Austria. In Germany, meanwhile, Angela Merkel announced that she will seek a fourth term. It is unclear, however, whether or not she will survive the right-wing populist tide heading into the new year.

The U.S. 

I broke these predictions into separate issues.

Abortion rights: You don’t really need to overturn Roe V. Wade at the Supreme Court to restrict abortion rights or even obliterate them at the state level. Republicans started to learn this after they won a slew of state legislatures in 2010 and 2014. The Democrats lost even more state legislatures after the most recent election, and already, you are starting to see GOP-controlled state legislatures really go after abortion rights. Just this week, Ohio passed one of the most extreme anti-choice laws in the country, which would ban abortions after six weeks. To put this into context, think of how many women don’t even know they are pregnant at that point. Gov. John Kasich has 10 days to decide whether or not to sign the bill. No matter Kasich’s decision, what Ohio did is probably a preview of what other states will do. They will also most likely try to pass laws that regulate medical facilities, which, in turn, will cause a lot of abortion providers to shut down because they can’t meet the requirements. So really, the Supreme Court or GOP-controlled federal government doesn’t need to go after Roe V. Wade. They can just restrict abortion rights at the state level. Meanwhile, expect the GOP Congress to totally cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood. In fact, I would say, expect that soon. They already tried it numerous times with spending bills over the last few years, and if President Obama was not in office, it would have happened.

Gay rights: I am not one who believes that gay marriage will be overturned. Even recently, during a “60 Minutes” interview, Trump said he has no interest in seeing gay marriage overturned. (I will note that in that same interview, he said he is going to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe V. Wade and it will go back to the states). That said, I do think there is a real possibility that workplace protections/anti-discrimination laws that Obama put in place via executive action can be overturned, through Trump’s own executive orders, or through the Justice Department, which is going to be led by Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, whose record on civil rights and gay rights is dismal, to say the least. I’ll talk about him more when I get to voting rights.

The Environment: During the campaign, Trump said many times he wants the U.S. to exit the Paris Climate Agreement, which is a commitment for major countries to cut down on their green house gas emissions. This is one of the most important parts of Obama’s legacy, along with the numerous executive orders he signed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. This week, environmental activists saw some hope when Trump and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, met with Al Gore to discuss climate change. Hopes were dashed a few hours later, however, when Trump announced that climate change denier Scott Pruitt will head the EPA. Pruitt also has very close ties to the fossil fuel industry. I predict that the progress President Obama made on combating climate change is going to be rolled back. It’s unclear if Trump even believes in the science, since he said during the campaign that climate change is a hoax developed by the Chinese! I assume that Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress will really gut environmental regulations. The environmental movement needs to put Trump’s administration on watch and not stand for deregulating everything.

Voting rights: Things aren’t looking too good here, either. Voting rights have already suffered  over the last few years, after the Supreme Court gutted parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and GOP-controlled states passed restrictive voter ID laws. Now, expect more of that stuff to pass at the state level, because, like gerrymandering, it is one way for the GOP to maintain power. Meanwhile, Jeff Sessions, as attorney general, will do very little to protect voting rights. I am saying this based on his past comments on race. Sessions was deemed so extreme in the 1980s, when Reagan tried to appoint him as a federal judge, that a GOP-led Senate denied his appointment.

Immigration: I am not sure that I can make a prediction on this issue, but DREAMers certainly have the right to be worried that they will be deported. Trump ran a campaign where this was his central issue, and he successfully pitted the white-working class against minorities. This political move goes back to what rich, white property owners did shortly after the Civil War. They pitted the white working-class against black Americans as a way to maintain power and launch terrible Jim Crow laws across the South. Du Bois talks about this political maneuvering in the Souls of Black Folk, and Trump exercised the same move brilliantly. Whether or not he will be able to deliver, it has yet to be seen, but his cabinet appointments are an alarming sign.

The Economy: Trump is fortunate that he will inherit the Obama recovery. Unemployment is now below 5 percent. However, I predict the GOP will pass massive tax cuts for the rich, run up the deficit, and defang Dodd-Frank, meaning Wall Street will go back to being unregulated, which in turn, can lead to another economic meltdown a la 2007/2008, if not in 2017, then maybe in 2018.

Foreign Policy: This may be the hardest thing to predict. Trump has already rattled China by talking to Taiwan last week, and he has  praised Putin. Putin wants these right-wing, isolationist populists to win so he can be more aggressive towards the Baltic states. The Trump win, coupled with a possible Marine Le Pen win in France, could serve to embolden Putin and lead to more Russian aggression, similar to what Russia did in Ukraine a few years ago. We shall see, but pay attention to Russia in 2017.

The Democratic Party: Boy, oh boy, does this party need to rebuild. Unfortunately, part of President Obama’s legacy will be the fact that he oversaw the loss of dozens of state legislatures, the House, and the Senate, after winning in 2008 with massive majorities in the House and Senate. His party is in the wilderness as he leaves office, at every level of government. The DNC needs a grassroots remaking, from the bottom up. The party would be wise not to ditch identity politics, which is really a term for civil rights. You can’t halt the shifting demographics in this country, and if the party was smart, they would panic less about the loss of the rust belt states and focus more on flipping Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. Yes, those states are trending purple and even BLUE long-term! In fact, the margin Clinton lost in Georgia was less than she lost in Ohio and Iowa, so it befuddles me why the party is not investing in flipping Arizona, Texas, and Georgia. They need to build infrastructure there and start at the local level, just as Republicans have done for years across the country.

At the same time, the party needs to return to its roots and formulate a populist economic message. The challenge going forward will be to incorporate civil rights issues and economic populism. How they do that remains to be seen, but the DNC chair will be the first real sign of which direction the party is going. I still believe that Keith Ellison can unite the working-class part of the party with the wing that cares about civil rights issues. He also said he would give up his House seat to run the DNC full-time. That also needs to happen. The Dems need to stop appointing people to the DNC who are full-time membesr of Congress. The DNC chair MUST be a full-time job, just like the RNC chair is full-time.

There is some hope going forward. The Dems are poised to capture more governorship in 2018 and probably flip a few House seats, too. Winning those types of races will help build the party and build its bench for presidential elections moving forward. The bad news, however, is that the Senate map for Democrats in 2018 is awful! They have to defend over 20 seats, including some in red states. Right now, I am predicting the Democrats will work to rebuild the party in 2017, win some state elections in 2018, but lose more Senate seats.

For those that are left-leaning, 2017 is poised to be another tough year. The tide of right-wing populism is probably not slowing down, but since Trump’s election, I have seen a type of mobilization happening that is even greater than what I witnessed during the Bush years. There is hope, but it is going to take movement-building to counter what’s coming. I feel like the left globally resembles the rebels in Rogue One, a group of scrappy fighters opposed to the Empire. You know, going into Rogue One, that the rebels aren’t going to win the battles against the Empire in that movie, but you also know that they are laying the groundwork for A New Hope, so there’s reason to keep fighting and resisting.

What are your predictions for the new year? Where is the world going?