November 14, 2016

RUBASHKIN | What Now?

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Last Tuesday, Americans across the country went to the polls and voted for the candidate they felt most deserved to be president of the United States. By a still-growing margin, they chose former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, but the reality is that it will be Donald Trump, and not Hillary Clinton, entering the White House in January.

There will be a lot at stake these next four years. Power is in the hands of those who seek to unravel all of the progress we have made since President Obama took office. The Affordable Care Act, Dodd Frank financial regulation, climate change accords, the Iran deal and much more hang in the balance, and already Republican congressmen and senators are salivating over the thought of rolling back the products of the last eight years.

It is a common refrain that Congress will prevent President Trump from causing too much damage, but I seriously doubt that the congressmen who were so reticent to rebuke Trump on the basis of his many character and policy flaws during the primary and general elections will be more proactive when he takes office. Speaker Ryan, perhaps the only Republican with the stature and platform to speak out against the president-elect, has shown an inability to take meaningful action against Trump even while acknowledging his “textbook” racist tendencies. It is my hope that if Donald Trump attempts to enact his misguided policy proposals, Ryan and the Republicans will stand up to him, but I am skeptical that Trump’s enablers will, moving forward, do anything but enable.

My peers and I are lucky to have come of age during the administration of such an upstanding man as our current president, Barack Obama. Though he is not perfect, I have always been proud to call Obama my president, and I have never doubted that he has the best interests of the country in mind.

I want to feel the same way about our president-elect — I really do. I want to be proud of the decisions my country makes and I want to live my life knowing that my government is looking out for the people. Donald Trump ran a thin-skinned campaign fueled by vilification of the “other” punctuated by fits of his own insecurity; I have seen little indication his administration will act any differently.

I will never root against the success of America or her people. I hope to be wrong about the man, and so I challenge President Trump, as should we all, to serve with integrity and with a deep appreciation for the power he will wield. I hope that he puts the interests of the people before any outstanding personal conflicts, of which he has many.

I hope that in four years every American, no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, creed or color, will be better off than they are now. The rhetoric employed by Trump over the course of this campaign makes that hard to believe, but I still hope that the office changes him and makes him into a better man, a president for all Americans.

That doesn’t mean we should hold him to lower standards. During this election it was too common to see the media holding the bar at a subterranean level for candidate Trump. They were awestruck when he successfully used a TelePrompTer; they oohed and ahhed when he didn’t break down in tears on the debate stage. We must do better than that: we must expect from President Trump and his Republican Congress nothing less than the most presidential of behavior, nothing less than the dignity and competence we need from our leaders. He ran and won on his status as a political novice — if and when it becomes apparent that such ignorance in the ways of governing is a liability and not an asset, he does not deserve, and should not expect, sympathy from the people.

In 2008, Barack Obama gave Americans hope. Many have since seen that feeling diminished or supplanted by fear and anger and desperation, but we must remain hopeful nevertheless. This battle has been lost, but the war for our nation’s future has just begun, and each of us has a part to play in the coming conflict.

We cannot let the Republicans roll back Obama’s legacy. That is the number one priority of Americans starting in January of 2017. Minority Leader Schumer must do his part in protecting the ACA, Dodd-Frank, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and everything else we have worked so hard for. If that requires the filibuster, then so be it. The Republicans have used the parliamentary technique to block progress for the past six years — now it is incumbent upon the Democrats to use it to protect what progress we have already made. This is not obstruction; this is a principled defense against what can only be described as short-sighted, reactionary, and self destructive behavior.

The same goes for Supreme Court nominees. Democratic senators cannot let Trump run roughshod over the Court as it stands today. The potential results would be disastrous — a rollback of Roe v. Wade would only be the beginning. Trump has long sought to “loosen the libel laws”, and may seek to appoint justices who will ravage the civil rights and liberties of everyday Americans and our institutions. If President Trump nominates a reactionary judge who will work to claw back the freedoms affirmed by the court over the past century, we must give the Republicans a taste of their own medicine and block him or her until their name is withdrawn and replaced with a suitable nominee. After a year of filibustering an eminently qualified judge for no purpose other than the political, the Republicans have no moral high ground on which to stand regarding this issue.

The battlefield is so much wider than just the United States Senate; indeed, all of us must play our part. Each individual can find the way to maximize their effect: if you have financial resources, make sure that the American Civil Liberties Union is ready to fight, ensure that Planned Parenthood has the funds to provide necessary services, and donate to the campaigns of progressives across the country in the anticipation of the 2018 midterms.

If you have the time and ability, speak with your feet: attend demonstrations, march on The Mall and show politicians that the people will not sit quietly while Washington foists regressive policies upon them. Volunteer at advocacy groups for women, for minorities, for the disadvantaged in society. Inundate the offices of your representatives and senators with phone calls and direct mail.

It isn’t going to be easy. Trump’s policies, and the policies of the Republican Party writ large, will have an immediate effect on the underrepresented and most vulnerable in our society, both directly and indirectly. The hate and fear legitimized by his campaign has and will continue to manifest itself in harmful behaviors of a section of the population. People of color and other minorities have seen this change in climate for months, and it will only get worse; even I, as a white man, have become acutely aware, from the venom I read on Twitter and the swastikas that appeared on the walls of my middle school last week, that my Jewish faith makes me the enemy in the eyes of far too many in this country.

We must all do our part to call out this newly invigorated hate when we see it. The vast majority of Americans are not hateful people, but we are also not always the most vocal, either. That must change, because we cannot allow the normalization of such vitriolic, hateful negative. To counter hate, we must respond twice as loudly with love. That means confronting the man who you’ve just seen tell a lady in a hijab that she’s not welcome here anymore, or a woman who yells at a Latino that they’d better enjoy the time they have left before Trump deports them. It may be uncomfortable, but doing the right thing is rarely enjoyable.

There is much work to be done, and the harder we push against the fear intrinsic to the incoming administration, the harder still they will try to divide us. We cannot let that happen. Too much is at stake to spend our time fighting amongst ourselves. We must present a unified front to the Trump administration; otherwise the Republicans will seize on our turmoil and push through the most reactionary agenda in a generation, a series of policies that will only hurt the most vulnerable. Whatever our path forward is, we must go at it as one. Now, more than ever, the words of Benjamin Franklin ring true: “we must all hang together, or most assuredly, we will all hang separately.”

Onwards.

Jacob Rubashkin is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at jrubashkin@cornellsun.com. The Jacobin appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.

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