Has it only been less than one month? Heartbreak, anger, denial that turns to protests in the streets, instances of violent backlash, gloating, and ideas, ideas, ideas.
Since Donald Trump’s shocking election Liberals, Progressives, Immigrants, and Minorities of all stripes have been hard at work dealing with an astoundingly different set of political circumstances than what most people took for granted only two weeks ago. No Democratic President, no Senate control and several formally reliable blue states flip red, at least for this single election. And everywhere from everyone is one thing that all agrees on: things have got to change! For Trump supporters that means a return to the heyday of industrialization when the laboring class could earn enough from union jobs to afford a middle class lifestyle. Where the future promised more prosperity from the very same industries that supported past prosperity. For Clinton voters it had meant a continuation and expansion of ground breaking policies of President Obama, the first Black to be elected President and a precursor, so we thought, of an equally historic election of the first Woman as President. Instead, this country is even more at odds with itself and the direction(s) it wants to take. It’s as if we simply can’t still decide.
Donald Trump and the conservative movement he rode, are now fully and completely in power and yet, oddly, they are not. Half the country is unwilling to concede the point. While Hillary Clinton has graciously conceded the electoral victory to Donald Trump, it appears she is the only one who has. If anything, it seems the Left is more committed to continue fighting for principles they just recently believed were won and established. Now, everything is at risk; everything is under siege. Everything must be defended even if it means flirting with fantasies of separation from the rest of the country. If you’re a student of American history, that is a terrifying thought: another civil war. Not likely a violent one, but a division so deep that America tomorrow will not be anything like the America of two weeks ago. Yet we know this: that road has been closed forever. What then, is to be done about an onslaught of conservative activism that is sure to come pouring forth from Washington DC, now that the hounds have been loosed?
It might be useful to remember what politics truly is. Von Clausewitz is remembered for his incorrectly quoted aphorism, “war is the extension of politics by other means.” While this is close to his actual quote it is not quite as close to the truth. For anyone who has worked or volunteered for a campaign, been or is a public servant or advocated for a special interest knows that quite the opposite is true: “Politics is War; it never ends.” Already different blue states and municipalities, Democratic party members, special interest groups and individuals have thrown down the gauntlet to Trump and the Republican party: this is no victory for right wing ideology or agendas that threaten the well being of half the country, our foreign relations and, indeed, the planet itself. Two days after the election the California Legislature issued an open letter to Washington DC, essentially saying, “do your worst; we will take care of our own.” Two days after that New York City declared itself a sanctuary city for immigrants and minorities and its lead was followed by many other cities in the following days. In subsequent days, liberal non profit organizations have seen a bonanza in new donations and new memberships. Wealthy activists like Tom Steyer, George Soros, and countless others from Hollywood to Silicon Valley and even Wall Street, have also pledged money and support to fight an extreme right wing agenda from the Capitol.
But can all these entities stand on their own? Certainly, states like California, New York and Illinois are powerful in their own right and able to withstand and compensate for drastic change from Washington. But how is Maryland or New Mexico to resist federal policies being formulated right now, that threaten to eliminate hard won progress? They must unite in regional agreements to strengthen their hand. Multi-state compacts that further their common interests and agendas while the national Democratic party plans its counter offensives for 2018, 2020 and beyond, is the best way to build the strongest resistances. Health care, environmental protections, the promotion of renewable energy and even infrastructure spending are all possible. Most importantly, upholding civil rights protections specifically spelled out in the Constitution and supporting court decisions is now of utmost concern.
There are already examples of multi-state arrangements that meet challenges of this sort in place. If California, Oregon, and Washington can agree on forest management policy and resource sharing, why can’t they agree on health care coverage if the Affordable Care Act were repealed? In fact, a favorite Republican policy point in health care can be used to further regional alliances. Republicans have always advocated the selling of insurance policies across state lines to further competition, they claim. Fine, let them, but only when a multi-state compact has worked out common rates and coverage that all insurance companies must adhere to if they plan to sell in the states forming that particular compact. In that event, similarly constructed health care exchanges could remain in place without the assistance from Washington. The same could be said for the promotion of wind power off the New England coast or solar power in the Southwest. Why can’t the states from Connecticut to Maine and those including and surrounding California, agree on common targets for renewable portfolios – a minimum set of standards that the individual states could exceed but not ignore? It was once a goal of those wishing to fight climate change that a national renewable power standard could be implemented. That seems no longer possible, at least for now. But when times change, as they surely will, regional portfolios for renewable energy targets will make a national portfolio that much easier to establish. Ironically, the extension of renewable tax credits from last year’s Republican Congress provides for a five year window to hammer out those cooperative multi-state standards. This was certainly not the intention of Congress but it is the consequence, nonetheless.
Finally, if the rights of our fellow Americans are threatened because of their sex, skin color, religion, personal lifestyle or any combination thereof, then those rights must be protected by common state practices that adhere to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and let’s see Congress and Trump try to convince the courts that somehow the Constitution is no longer to be believed in the provisions that they disagree with.
Ah, but I hear the distant baying of hounds objecting to the building of stout fences and protective walls of state policies. “States may not enter into compacts that threaten or usurp the power and authority of the federal government,” they howl. And that is certainly true but if the federal government concedes to the states the right to manage their affairs without their interference from the central government, it is certainly sour grapes to complain when they do exactly that. Besides, non of the issues important to progressive states involve activities that could lead to establishment of a power threatening the central government like minting coin, raising armies or conducting their own foreign policies. The issues of concern are mainly those where federal authority is absent or willfully neglected. The states’ authorities, individually or in cooperation with one another, extend as far as the void of federal authority allows. Therefore, we say, “let those who would lend a hand step up but as for the rest, be silent and content that your wishes have come true.”
And while a consolidation of ways and means to protect and promote progressive change can happen at the state level how can we keep pressure on conservatives now in power? That, as they say, is another story.
Until next week. 🙂