One Year Anniversary

Is it an omen that the government shut down on the one-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration? Is this a portent of the future for this administration? Is this President going to be known as the head of one of the most dysfunctional governments in U.S. history?

Notice I did not write “unsuccessful.” Trump and his cronies have had some measure of success, as well as some notable failures. But I’m not referring to the keeping of campaign promises. I’m more concerned about whether or not Trump’s government is functioning the way it was meant to by our founding fathers.

Their over-riding intent was that the United States be a democracy. The defining characteristic of a democracy is that it is representative of all its members. The only reason the majority “rules” is because there has to be some way of settling disagreements. But I don’t think they ever meant to set up a government whereby the majority could be manipulated to run roughshod over the minority.

But that’s exactly the kind of government we have today. Special interests pour billions of dollars into congressional and presidential races, think tanks and lobbyists with the sole intent of taking away power from everyone who isn’t like them, making it seem like the majority sides with them on everything.

Most people aren’t even aware that they are being manipulated. They buy the line that their concerns matter more than the concerns of those who have less power and influence. They’re flattered when politicians point to them as the “real” Americans. They believe that they have the divine right to rule everybody else  because they “won.” They no longer understand the concept of or care about the “common good.” They are content to be made in the image of their creators: prosperous, predominantly white, and Christian.

It makes me crazy when “originalists” like Neil Gorsuch act like the Constitution is sacred, as if its authors were some kind of futurists who anticipated everything that would happen to and in this country. They obviously didn’t see the day coming when slaves would be freed, let alone considered equal to a white man, to point to just one example.  Besides, originalists are perfectly willing to remake the law to suit themselves (i.e., keep their power) even if it doesn’t jibe with the Constitution. (See gerrymandering or voter restrictions.)

Trump never meant it when he said that he would represent all Americans. And he’s willing to use conservative politicians and judges to twist the founding fathers’ words so that it looks like it is the minority that is unworthy of representation.

That’s the way Trump’s first year in office looks to me.




What I Think of Trump

The impression I get of Trump is that he is winging it, experimenting with what he thinks will get him the best (in other words, the most) response. (He said once that he wasn’t sure how his idea about building a wall would be received, but once it was met with cheers, he decided to keep on saying it.)

When he does go too far, he backs down, says he was kidding, or even denies that he said or did whatever it was that caused offense. As far as I can remember, the only time he apologized or admitted that he was wrong was when the “grab them by the pussy” tape surfaced. And that was only because the evidence was right there; he couldn’t deny that he’d said it. [He has since said that he doubts the authenticity of the tape.]

I wrote the first two paragraphs of this post on January 3, 2017.  Now it’s January 1, 2018, almost a year later. When I started this post, Trump hadn’t even been inaugurated yet. In almost three weeks, he will have been our President for a year. So what do I think of him now?

Well, for one thing, I think he is a terrible representative for the United States. Instead of making America great again, he has ripped our reputation as a world leader to shreds. The words at the base of the Statue of Liberty no longer apply. In the space of a year, the U.S. has gone from being a beacon of hope and a land of opportunity to an island built on suspicion and self-aggrandizement (much like Trump himself). The countries that still have positive opinions about the U.S. are those that are ruled by strongmen (which is what Trump aspires to be).

So far, it is Trump himself who draws the most fire, but the day is coming, if we continue on the course Trump is setting, when the democracies of the world will no longer look to the U.S. as an example worth emulating.  (With the exception of Israel, which is really happy right now since Trump announced his recognition of Jerusalem as its capital.)

I can’t help but wonder what Trumps means when he refers to a “great” America. Great for whom exactly? Certainly not for immigrants or Muslims. Or the millions of Americans who are teetering on the edge of losing their health insurance. Or those who still have moral values (and haven’t been seduced by politicians intent on staying in power). Or the poor, the young, the elderly, and the working class. Did I leave anyone out? Oh, yeah, corporations and the wealthy. That’s all Trump cares about.

Trump caters to his “base” by playing on their fears: terrorism, unemployment, a takeover by liberals and minorities. By telling them what he imagines they want to hear, he is able to pull off a magician’s trick and make their health care, their chances for upward mobility, and their ability to live in a free and equal society disappear. When he calls the media “fake news” and rails against the justice system when he doesn’t get his way, he is eroding the protections of the very Constitution he swore to defend.

I didn’t want to be right about Trump a year ago and I wish I was wrong about him today. I’m not like some people who say that he’s mentally ill or another Hitler. I don’t even think he should be impeached (partly because I feel just as negative about a President Pence). I just think that he’s a shallow, insensitive, egotistical blowhard who believes that he can shape the world into what he wants it to be, regardless of the consequences to others.

Trump is already one-fourth of the way through his time in office (God willing). If he hasn’t changed his behavior by now, he’s never going to. When January, 2019 (or 2020) rolls around, I don’t expect to see any improvement on his part. I only hope that he won’t have done too much damage to our democracy.

Maybe when the next presidential election comes around, the Democrats’ motto should be #MAAA (Make America America Again). I just hope we won’t be too late to pull it off.

Post-Election Hangover

Being a pessimist is supposed to be a bad thing, but it usually works well for me. It protects me from a lot of psychological turmoil. For instance, by holding dress rehearsals of the worst that could happen, I was able to wake up the morning after the election without an emotional hangover. I hadn’t spent the night high on hopes of a Clinton win; if anything, I was stone cold sober. I just didn’t trust the predictions that she was going to win. The polls looked too close to call it one way or another.

I was so sure that there was a very real possibility that Trump might win that I went to bed at 9 on election night. I had no interest in spending the whole evening stress eating and biting what little was left of my fingernails. Unfortunately I woke up around 1:30 and decided to check the results. Even though I’d been expecting it, it was still a shock when I saw how many electoral votes Trump had. I kept checking the news and people’s responses on Facebook as if somehow it would turn out to be a mistake. There was this disconnect between my intellect and my emotions. My mind was registering the reality but my spirit was wailing, “No! It can’t be!” Even though it hurt, like picking a scab on a wound, I made myself stay up for Trump’s victory speech. I didn’t get back to bed until 3:30 and I had to get up three hours later for work. I’m surprised that I got back to sleep at all.

Having Trump win was almost a relief, not just because it proved that my instincts were right, but also because it ended the suspense. Anticipating something that you fear is usually worse than coming face to face with it.

But I won’t lie, it is also deeply upsetting. What is hardest to swallow is the feeling that millions of Americans agree with Trump about women, sexual assault (“Boys will be boys.”), reproductive rights, immigrants, refugees and Muslims, torture, a free press, civil discourse, and, most of all, the importance of being honest. (I still can’t fathom how his supporters could harp on Clinton’s supposed dishonesty while Trump was repeatedly caught in half-truths, reversals, and out-and-out lies.)

I spent the first few days after the election in denial—except for when I would suddenly jerk “awake” and remember that he really was going to be our next president. (Actually, I still have that reaction whenever I hear or read the words “President Trump.”) I kept imagining his supporters gloating, and indeed, a lot of them have been, especially on social media. What pissed me off the most were the comments about how Clinton supporters/liberals/Democrats should stop their whining and get over it. As if they would have reacted any differently if Trump had lost.

Right now I feel like I’m in a holding pattern. I’m still expecting the worst, but I refuse to go down the road of crying, “The sky is falling!” just because the clouds are hanging low on the horizon.





Party Unity My Ass

Some of you may remember the designation PUMA,  which was used to describe Clinton supporters who had an “all-or-nothing” attitude about the 2008 Presidential campaign. In other words, if Clinton didn’t receive the Democratic nomination, they were going to leave the party. (Hence, “Party Unity My Ass.”)

I wasn’t a PUMA then and I’m not one now. I wanted Clinton in 2008, but it was more important to me to avoid a Republican presidency than it was to achieve a female one. So I voted for Obama. I’m not going to go into how that worked out for me in this post, except to say that Obama has been like the boy who stuck his finger in the hole in the dike. If it hadn’t for him, we would all be awash, if not drowning, in a flood of Republican rhetoric and misdeeds. It’s been bad enough as it is.

I voted for Clinton in my state’s primary but I’m not going to pout and sit out the election if she doesn’t get the nomination. For one thing, I’m not as heavily invested in Clinton this time around and I do think that Sanders is a decent alternative. So I have no problem switching my allegiance to Sanders if he becomes the nominee. My main concern is that we nominate the person who can beat the Republican candidate.

The way things are going for the Republican Party right now, it’s beginning to look like the Democrats are the only ones who can give this country a sane and respectable President. There is no consensus among Republicans; they are as polarized as a party as the U.S. is as a nation. As popular as Donald Trump has been in the polls and some of the primaries, he still has an overall disapproval rating of 60%. Even over half of Republican women don’t like him.

Democrats are lucky compared to Republicans: we have two decent choices. I just hope their respective supporters realize how much is at stake if we get another Republican presidency. (Especially if the President is Cruz or Trump.) Not voting at all is a cop-out. Voting for a Republican is a betrayal.

No matter who gets the Democratic nomination, we need to stay united. Republicans would love nothing more than to see droves of Democrats forsake their party. There is no such thing as a perfect political party—or candidate. But if you believe that Democrats get it right more often than they get it wrong, then you need to swallow your disappointment if “your” candidate doesn’t get the nomination and vote for the one who does.

Now is the U.S. Ready for a Woman President?

woman man imageEven though I’ve been a feminist since my freshman year in college—so, for some 44 years—I didn’t initially think of writing this blog from a feminist perspective. But then the 2008 presidential race began and I found my focus. The fact that a woman was vying for the Democratic nomination—and making a damn good showing—made me think more seriously about how women are seen in our society. Specifically about whether or not this country was ready—or would ever be ready—to vote in a woman president.

As a Second Wave feminist (a feminist who came of age during the ’60s and ’70s), I leaned toward Clinton because she is a woman. I admit it. After all, electing a woman president would be quite a feather in feminism’s hat. Younger feminists tend to reject the idea that, all other things being equal in a competition between a man and a woman, they should always support the woman. But I’d waited a long time for something like this to happen and I couldn’t help but see it as a historic opportunity.

Of course, electing a black president would also be historic, but I couldn’t help but think that the main reason Obama, as opposed to Clinton, got the nomination was because he is a man; his gender may have outweighed the fact that he is black. In other words, gender was more of an issue than race.

Now here we are again. Except that this time there doesn’t appear to be anyone else who can beat Clinton for the Democratic nomination. And yet I don’t kid myself: that’s not because she’s a woman, or even because she is the best woman. It’s simply because she has more influence, money and power, not to mention experience, than anyone else who might challenge her.

However, that in itself is historic. She didn’t get where she is today by riding on her husband’s coat-tails; if anything, her status as Mrs. Clinton is a negative in many people’s eyes. I voted for Bill Clinton and thought he was a decent president, but I see Hillary Clinton as completely separate from her husband, which is probably the way she wants it.

No one really knows of course, but I’m guessing that Clinton has been carefully planning her political path for years, even before her husband was elected president. Maybe she didn’t see the presidency in her future, but she certainly set her sights on a political career of some kind. And now she’s on the brink of possibly bagging the biggest prize in U.S. politics.

The feminist in me wonders if Clinton is just an anomaly, or if this country is actually more open to women in politics than it used to be. I’m afraid that it’s the former. The U.S. still lags behind many other countries in gender balance in politics: America now ranks 98th in the world for percentage of women in its national legislature, down from 59th in 1998.

But this post isn’t about that (I’ll save that for a later post); it’s about the chances of Clinton becoming president. If she doesn’t win, will it be because of her politics or her gender? I do think that her politics will be an issue, but only if the voter can look past her gender in the first place. A lot of people will say it’s her politics they object to, but really, in their deepest hearts, it’s that they just can’t accept the idea of a woman president.

These are the people whose default leader is always a man. Oh, they’re willing to throw a woman a leadership bone now and then, as long as she stays in her own area of expertise (which usually has to do with caring for or nurturing something or someone). But when it comes to really important positions, like president of the United States, only a man will do.

When reminded that other nations have had women presidents and prime ministers, they reply, “Yes, but those countries aren’t America.” They see the U.S. as unique, as exceptional, which means that it needs to be headed by a person who is also exceptional. The President of the United States needs to exhibit the traits of a true leader, that is, strong, smart, courageous, masterful and powerful. Who fits that bill the best? A man, of course!

The ironic thing is, when a woman exhibits the same traits that we admire in male leaders, it makes a lot of people are uncomfortable, because women aren’t supposed to be like men; they’re supposed to be like women, which means kind, sensitive, nurturing—and indecisive. Women don’t have the balls to be the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.

I hate to think that a Republican will win the presidency mainly because he’s a man. That there are people who have no problem with Clinton’s politics but who just can’t bring themselves to vote for a woman. But I’m afraid that’s just what will happen. I could be wrong; I hope I am. But I’m afraid that this country is still not ready for a woman president.

What Hurts the Institution of Marriage the Most?

Opponents of same-sex marriage say that allowing homosexuals to marry would hurt the institution of marriage. I don’t quite see why: if gays and lesbians want to marry, isn’t that reinforcing the idea that getting married is a good thing?

People who use this argument are failing to see the forest for the trees. They freak out over a handful of relationships nationwide and ignore the relationship that may have hurt the institution of marriage more than anything other kind: that of the cohabiting couple.

My oldest daughter and I were watching “She’s Having a Baby” the other night and for me it brought back memories of a time when marriage was treated with much more respect and honor than it is now. In 1988, when “She’s Having a Baby” was made, living together was only just beginning to be a common phenomenon. (The number of cohabiting unmarried partners increased by 88% between 1990 and 2007. Source: U.S. Census Bureau. “America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2007.”)

But when my first husband and I thought about living together before getting married back in 1972, we didn’t have the guts to do it. We didn’t want to be an aberration or the object of unkind gossip. Besides, to our parents at least, marriage was a very big deal. It was the ultimate state of commitment. So, like the couple in “She’s Having a Baby” we went ahead and got married despite the fact that we were young and naive and didn’t know each other very well.

Would our relationship have survived if we’d lived together before getting married? I doubt it, since getting married didn’t cause us to break up—it just made it harder to. (And more expensive.)

Consider these statistics:

About 75% of cohabiters plan to marry their partners. 55% of different-sex cohabiters do marry within five years of moving in together. 40% break up within that same time period. And about 10% remain in an unmarried relationship for five years or more.  (Source: Smock, Pamela. 2000. “Cohabitation in the United States.” Annual Review of Sociology.)

Cohabitation implies that marriage isn’t as important as we were once led to believe. Many couples go into a living-together arrangement because they don’t trust the institution of marriage. They look at their parents’ generation and wonder why they should even bother to get married. (I’ve even heard people say that the main reason they would consider getting married is to get wedding gifts. Really.)

So why aren’t conservatives berating couples who have opted to not marry (like Goldie Hawn and Kirk Russell)? Why aren’t they holding them up as examples of relationships that hurt the institution of marriage?

Same-sex marriage isn’t weakening the institution of marriage; on the contrary: gay couples’ desire to marry is a vote of confidence. They’re saying that marriage matters. Cohabiting couples aren’t as sure about that.

Sometimes it seems that gays are doing more to promote the sanctity of marriage are than straight people are.