Each month, on a Harrisonburg radio station (WSVA), I participate in a discussion of the recent political news of the day. (The other two participants — one of whom is the host — are to my political right, but both of them appear to see Trump for what he is.) Each month, a couple of days before the show, I propose to my fellow discussants a set of topics that seem to me most deserving of air-time.
Today I wrote such an email, delineating three topics that I thought salient. It was only after I’d laid them out that something possibly important popped out at me: in each case, albeit in different ways, the Democrats seemed to be shifting away from a posture of trying at all costs to work with the Republicans (respecting the process, not making waves) and toward acting on their own to defend important values and, indeed, the nation itself.
Here are those three topics:
First, I suggested that a topic that deserves far more attention than it’s getting is the subject of “the report issued last week by Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland. Here’s from the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee website: The report ‘details Russian president Vladimir Putin’s nearly two decades-long assault on democratic institutions, universal values, and the rule of law across Europe and in his own country.'”
With the Trump administration still not even acknowledging the problem, much less taking the necessary measures to protect the nation from the Russians’ continuing assault on our democracy, and with the Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Committee showing more allegiance to Trump than to the nation, Cardin and the Democrats had apparently taken action on their own.
The second recent development I thought noteworthy was “the dramatic events regarding the testimony of the head of FusionGPS, the outfit that contracted for the research (conducted by well-respected MI-6 Russian expert Christopher Steele) that led to the famous ‘dossier.’ The most dramatic development was the surprisingly bold (out of character) and extremely important move by Senator Diane Feinstein to release the transcript, on her own, of that testimony.”
Feinstein took it upon herself to make the testimony public. But in so doing, she also — indirectly — exposed the dishonest misrepresentations of that testimony by the Republican Chair of that Committee, Chuck Grassley, and other Republicans, who were blocking its release. With the Republicans effort to obfuscate, distort, and distract from the real issues that need investigating, Feinstein showed how good a disinfectant “sunlight” can be.
If Cardin proceeded without the Republicans, Feinstein acted in defiance of them.. And became a hero.
The third “topic” involves “the set of issues that cluster around the matter of renewing DACA, the matter of the President’s remarks about ‘shithole’ countries, the question of the kind of immigration reform (sought by W when he was president, then by Obama, and now by some on both sides of the aisle in Congress), and the possibility that later this week there might be a government shutdown.
“That government shutdown,” I wrote, “would presumably be the result of Democrats refusing to proceed with a general funding bill in the absence of some reasonable action to protect the 800,000 ‘Dreamers.’ The politics of such a choice are risky: the majority of Americans back DACA, but don’t like government shut-downs.”
So these are the three topics that seemed salient to me, and it seems possible that together they signify what I would regard, in general terms, as a welcome shift. It would always be better to get the right things done in a bi-partisan way. But if the GOP and/or this Republican President insist on pushing in the wrong direction, the nation is better off having the Democrats fight with whatever weapons they have rather than yield ground that could be defended.
NOTE: That being said, I am uneasy with the prospect of shutting down the government, if it should come to that. While holding government funding “hostage” is not as unacceptable a political tactic as holding hostage the raising of the debt ceiling, as the Republicans did when Obama was President, it is still a damaging weapon to use.
On the other hand, when it comes to DACA, Trump seems not to have dealt in good faith. And if it is a choice between giving in to Trump’s bad faith, or taking the extreme measure of holding funding hostage to getting the kind of deal that was promised, I think it’s worth taking the bolder path. (And, as many have observed, with Trump’s racist “shithole” remarks still reverberating around the nation and the world, Trump is on thinner ice on all things concerning immigration. So the moment has grown more opportune.)