Editorial: How to stop this train wreck?
In conversation after conversation with Americans concerned about the direction of the country under President Trump, the question most on their minds is what can they do to salvage our democracy from the disaster Trump is proving to be?
Many answers come to mind: be visible in protest marches; call your congressional delegation, governor; speak out in public forums against the most egregious of Trump’s past and yet-to-be-delivered edicts; support media that seeks objective analysis, calls a lie-a-lie, and tries to educate the public about Trump’s methods and motives of governing; share important media posts of journalistic insights that pull back the curtain on Trump, his administration and a GOP party that has offered no resistance to disturbing ideas (such as banning legal immigrants from returning to the US) that even they thought abhorrent and unconstitutional just two months ago; and don’t be shy — a belligerent and bellicose bully is in power today because too many liberals and moderates have been too hesitant to get involved; that is, to get into the nitty-gritty of politics and be vocal on a regular basis.
Which is what Trump and the Republicans hope does not happen. They hope Democrats and moderates will be the meek soldiers of the liberal party, that we’ll accept Trump as our president and, with Republicans controlling Congress, will let Republicans have their due chance at governing. Democrats had their chance and they were defeated at the polls, they say, step aside and let Trump have his way.
And liberals have that tendency. They aspire toward good government, smooth transitions, and achieving accomplishments whenever they can, whether that benefits the Democrat Party or Republican Party. They are gracious and encourage criticism, whether it is on the mark or baseless. And liberals rarely defend their own, assuming the intellectual elitism that they and their brethren have thick enough skin to brush it off — all while missing the point that criticism not countered can undermines the public support of that institution, or at least the perception of public support. It is critical, therefore, that individuals defend those institutions from baseless criticism and unwarranted attacks. Any informed individual can play a helpful role by doing that.
Let’s also remember that the role played by Senate Republicans for the past eight years was anything but constructive. Early on, Republicans, under then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, decided to oppose President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at every turn to limit their power. And, says Adam Jentleson, formerly deputy chief of staff to Sen. Harry Reid and now senior strategic adviser at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, it worked. “They extorted concessions from Democrats with threats of shutdowns, fiscal cliffs and financial chaos.”
Jentleson, in a column in Sunday’s Washington Post, suggests that Senate Democrats can and should pursue a similar strategy. “Senate Democrats have a powerful tool at their disposal…for resisting a president who has no mandate and cannot claim to embody the popular will. That tool lies in the simple but fitting act of withholding consent. An organized effort to do so on the Senate floor can bring the body to its knees and block or severely slow down the agenda of a president who does not represent the majority of Americans.
“The procedure for withholding consent is straightforward, but deploying it is tricky,” Jentleson continues. “For the Senate to move in a timely fashion on any order of business, it must obtain unanimous support from its members. But if a single senator objects to a consent agreement, McConnell, now majority leader, will be forced to resort to time-consuming procedural steps through the cloture process, which takes four days to confirm nominees and seven days to advance any piece of legislation — and that’s without amendment votes, each of which can be subjected to a several-day cloture process as well… Because every Senate action requires the unanimous consent of members from all parties, everything it does is a leverage point for Democrats. For instance, each of the 1,000-plus nominees requiring Senate confirmation — including President Trump’s Cabinet choices — can be delayed for four days each. This is the insight McConnell deployed against Reid to manufacture the appearance of gridlock (over the past eight years), forcing Reid to use the cloture process more than 600 times…
“Finally,” Jentleson suggested, “Democrats can withhold their consent from Trump until they feel confident that foreign governments are not interfering in our elections. Credible reports hold that U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating whether Trump’s campaign cooperated with the Russian government on Vladimir Putin’s personally directed meddling. Withholding consent from Trump’s agenda until an independent, bipartisan probe provides answers is not just reasonable; it’s responsible. If Democrats withhold consent from everything the Senate does until such a process is established, they can stall Trump’s agenda and confirmation of his nominees indefinitely.”
That’s a strategy, during these times of outrage against a president who is as reckless as he is uninformed, that should garner public support from the 52 percent of the population who voted against him — and from many who may by now be having buyers’ remorse.
Angelo S. Lynn
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