Keeping Them Honest: Advice for Concerned Citizens
On Friday, January 20, Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the Oath of Office, and Donald J. Trump will become the 45th President of the United States of America. Although Mr. Trump lost the popular vote (by nearly 3 million), he managed to win the Electoral College by securing wins in a handful of states with populist (yet inflammatory, sexist, and racist) rhetoric and the distillation of complex problems and ideas into a simple solution: “trust me.”
And less than 3 days away from the Inauguration, Mr. Trump still has yet to provide specifics on many of his campaign promises (now vowing to provide “insurance for everybody” in place of the Affordable Care Act, without any details on the how that would work), but he has signaled to the American public the type of administration he would be running. Despite the “everyman” tone of his campaign, and assurances that he would hire “the best people” and “drain the swamp,” Mr. Trump has demonstrated that his particular brand of Republican politics may leave a lot of middle class behind.
- Steven Mnuchin, Mr. Trump’s pick for Treasury Secretary, made millions of dollars when his bank took advantage of the housing crisis with aggressive foreclosure practices (one time, foreclosing on a woman for a $0.27 error in a payment she made).
- Betsy DeVos, Mr. Trump’s pick for the Secretary of Education, was a major force behind the expansion of charter schools in Michigan—most of which have recorded student test scores in reading and math below the state average.
- Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump’s pick for Attorney General, became only the second man in 50 years to be rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee for indefensible comments in 1986, thinks that the Voting Rights Act is a “piece of intrusive legislation,” and once wished he could decline on all civil rights cases as a U.S. Attorney.
- Andrew Puzder, Mr. Trump’s pick for Secretary of Labor, is critical of expanding eligibility for overtime pay, increasing the minimum wage, and certain paid sick leave policies.
- Trump recently held his first press conference in over six months, and refused to take questions from CNN and called the network “fake news” after it (accurately) reported that the President and President-Elect were briefed on certain unsubstantiated claims regarding the election and Mr. Trump’s dealings with Russia.
- Coming on the heels of Mr. Trump’s “fake news” proclamation are reports now that Mr. Trump’s transition team is considering moving the White House briefing room to another building, altogether, supposedly to improve access to the media.
- Trump has refused to divest his business interests, which the Director of the Office of Government Ethics believes would create immediate conflicts of interest the day he takes the oath of office.
- Trump publicly questions and disagrees with reporting from the intelligence community, and said that he will skip most intelligence briefings because he’s “like, a smart person”.
- Trump is considering replacing the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an effective governmental consumer watchdog organization founded in 2011 that has recovered nearly $12 billion in relief for 27 million consumers, with one of its biggest opponents.
- Despite promises to lower taxes for working class families, a large number of those individuals will see tax increases under President Trump.
Based upon Mr. Trump’s actions leading up to his Inauguration, there seems to be a large disconnect from the promises he made to working class voters and his political agenda. But let’s face it: there are certain hard truths that will continue to haunt us unless we face them head-on. Manufacturing jobs are unlikely to come back, keeping jobs in America by imposing trade tariffs likely would have bad consequences (and probably won’t stop jobs from leaving the United States), and building a wall on our southernmost border will not resolve problems with our immigration policy (besides, immigrants aren’t “taking Americans’ jobs,” anyways).
With the 24-hour news cycle and our President-Elect’s proclivity to give us policy positions 140 characters at a time, rapid-fire, all of this might seem overwhelming. So what do voters like us do when we’re confronted with news about bills, policies, and appointments that we don’t like or that might end up hurting us?
As civil rights leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis says—“get in good trouble.” Call your elected officials and demand that they support policies that help you, your families, and your fellow Americans. Demand increasing the minimum wage if you are paid hourly. Tell your elected representatives that you support paid maternity and sick leave. Voice your concern about nominees to cabinet positions. And make sure you do it over the phone:
According to Emily Ellsworth, a writer and former Congressional staffer, reaching out via things like Facebook or Twitter aren’t going to be very effective. Staffers check these mediums occasionally, but they’re largely ignored. Sending letters is more helpful, but they also get so many letters that it’s impossible to give them individual attention. The best way to get in touch? Phone calls.
As Emily explains in a detailed tweet chain, phone calls have to be dealt with when they occur and they can’t be ignored. A large volume of phone calls can be overwhelming for office staffers, but that means that their bosses hear about it.
We’ve recently seen that, even after the election, voters can still have an impact on decisions made by their elected officials. Just recently, when news broke that House Republicans voted to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics by putting it under their own oversight (effectively eliminating the independence of the office), a barrage of phone calls from concerned constituents resulted in the reversal of that decision.
Upset with the way things are going in government? Keep those phone calls coming.