Monday, November 14, 2016

Amid Loss, Glimpses Of Hope On the American Horizon

PBS Newshour anchor Gwen Ifill dead at 61
With so many new stories of incidents of targeted bias based on race, ethnicity and sexual orientation cropping up all over the country in the wake of Donald Trump's election last week, it's been difficult to regain perspective and a sense of optimism for America's future.

The loss of a gifted and intelligent journalist of the substance, caliber and moral and ethical character of Gwen Ifill to cancer earlier today was yet another blow to the ranks of the Fourth Estate in this country.  

If there was any one member of the mainstream media I was depending on to ask the hard questions in the coming days of the conservative onslaught it was her - after watching countless reports and interviews with her on the PBS Newshour over the years it feels a little like loosing a friend whose presence you just take for granted.

But I'm not sure there's been a time since the 1960's or early 70's post-Vietnam / Watergate era when the need for quality journalism has been so critical for the American people.

As Julie Alderman observed in an article for earlier this morning, some of the nation's major news media outlets seem to be downplaying or totally ignoring the long-term impact of Trump's selection of Brietbart News executive chairman Steve Bannon as a senior White House policy advisor - in effect legitimizing a known white supremacist and anti-Semite and assuring that he will have the ear of the president.

But while things do seem bleak, there are glimmers of light breaking through the trees.

Kellyanne Conway on 'Meet The Press'
The hundreds of thousands of people who've taken to the streets of many American cities continue to make clear that Trump did not win the popular vote of the American people.

And he faces a huge grassroots firewall of opposition from across the nation from those who will not tolerate his policies of anti-immigrant hysteria, racial divisiveness, ethnic bullying, climate denial and rehashed failed Trickle Down economic / tax policy.

Trump campaign manager / advisor Kellyanne Conway had the gall to appear on NBC's 'Meet The Press' on Sunday and cast blame for the ongoing protests on Democratic leaders. 

After enduring two years of Trump's delusional stream-of-conscience blathering, bullying, juvenile insults, constant lying and threats, I don't know anyone who for one second takes seriously Conway's claim to NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday that Trump is "there for them. And he is going to be a president that listens and takes the counsel of many different people, including those from the other side of the aisle."

If Conway is going to become the White Press Secretary and we have to endure quasi-delusional spin like that, it's going to be an even longer four years than we already know it will be.

But as I said there are still signs of hope, particularly on the local and grassroots level.

While Trump, Conway and his other advisors and spokespersons seem content to pretend right-wing nut-bag racists defacing property with swastikas and the N-word all over the country is no big deal, organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center are taking the initiative to begin tracking these incidents of hate to record the data to be able to analyze and make sense of it.

They've undertaken an online survey of American teachers to update the findings of last spring's Teaching Tolerance project; merging information gathered from responses and input from some 2,000 teachers with survey data from teachers on how the hatred and divisiveness of Trump's election are impacting American students in the classroom.

If you or someone you know has heard of, or experienced an incident of hate or bias since the election you can report it to the SPLC

Grassroots movements are beginning to organize as well, as you've likely heard tens of thousands of people from across the nation are signing up for the Million Woman March planned for January 21, 2017 the day after the inauguration. 

A massive effort to not only steal Trump's thunder, but to also demonstrate that woman and men across the nation are not going to sit still while right-wing ideologues like Vice-President-Elect Mike Pence begin to dismantle court-mandated protections for women's rights, access to health care and control over their own reproductive choices.

While the presidential and congressional elections grabbed the headlines, there were some glimpses of hope on the local state level too. 

Particularly in the state of Kansas where citizens voted NOT to misuse a state retention vote designed to prevent judicial corruption to oust four of the state's Supreme Court judges.

Republican Kansas Gov Sam Brownback
As I blogged about back on September 9th, Republican Governor Sam Brownback and his vengeance-minded conservative allies in the Kansas state legislature were behind a massive effort to use a retention vote to try and remove four State Supreme Court Justices who ruled that massive cuts to Kansas public schools violated the state constitution.  

When the Justices put a stop to the Kansas legislature's efforts to turn the state into some kind of crazy Republican lab experiment, what did those right-wing lawmakers do?

Republican State Senator Mitch Holmes authored Senate Bill 439; a bill that would have radically expanded the legislature's ability to impeach State Supreme Court Justices.

Not for judicial corruption mind you - but to prevent those Justices from being able to rule that any laws passed by the legislature violate the state constitution; no lie folks, that is some seriously Banana Republic-type shit.

But in a positive sign for reason and hope, the people of Kansas showed that they have had just about enough of Sam Brownback's kooky hyper-conservative agenda - remember folks, this was the guy who used an executive order back in 2015 to rescind protections for LGBTQ state workers so that it would be legal to fire them for being gay.

On November 8th Kansas voters voted to keep the Justices in place; thwarting radical Republican overreach and preserving the balance of power that is so basic to American government.

It's not an answer to all the swastikas, harassment and fear-mongering, but it's a positive sign that in two years, Democrats along with more moderate Republicans could begin to chip away at the Republican majorities in state legislatures all over the country.

Like the ongoing anti-Trump protests and the thousands of people joining up for the Million Woman March in Washington, it's a sign that folks aren't going to just sit idly by while Republicans rip the fabric of this nation apart in order to sew it back together into something dark and unrecognizable.

Something many in this nation have no desire to wear. 

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