Queen Elizabeth had nothing on us when she declared 1992 an annus horribilis. All she had to endure were the respective marital difficulties of son Andrew and daughter Anne, a tell-all book by Princess Di about Charles and Camilla, and a fire at Windsor Castle. We, on the other hand, in 2017 have had to endure Donald Trump.
This was a year in which I arose each morning with a knot in my stomach in anticipation of whatever the Trump administration was going to do that day to roll back progressive policies of the last quarter century. Despite media assertions that the tax bill was the “first big win” of the Trump administration, Donald Trump has had dystopic successes, win after win after win, as he has systematically rolled back regulations protecting the environment, health care and consumers. He has undermined the standing of the United States among other nations, named epically unqualified candidates to the federal bench and other important positions. Through excess of ego and lack of discipline, he has brought us closer to war with Kim Jong Un of North Korea, a parallel nutcase if ever there were one.
Trump has disparaged the intelligence community and has consistently denied the Russians have messed with our election process. How can we fix things if the Republican majority and the White House deny or underplay credibly identified of interference?
While painting the news media as the “enemy of the people,” Trump has shown little respect for truth and has garnered historically high numbers of “pinocchios” as he moves through an alternate universe, one of his own creation. Scientific fact has become optional at best, driving scientists out of government (especially at the EPA) and discouraging others from getting involved. In an Orwellian way, he has sought to eliminate evidence-based language from government communication, treating it as political correctness run amok.
He has been pitiless toward immigrants, threatening even those among them who are law-abiding, tax-paying individuals. He has fueled divisiveness among the American people, feeding his ever-shrinking (though not quickly enough) base with lies and still successfully deluding them that he is working in their interest. In playing to their anger (something to which the Democrats were oblivious in 2016), Trump has degraded the level of public discourse, cultivating incivility and grievously harming the body politic.
Most, if not all, of his cabinet members have functioned as bobble-heads, obsequiously kowtowing to his need for constant doses of adulation, unable to stand up for principle or simply acknowledge uncomfortable truths for fear of setting off his juvenile, vindictive and hurtful tirades. The Republican Congress has followed suit, with one after another Senator or Representative caving on the inequitable tax bill because they’ve been bought off with special interest provisions or empty promises they may never see fulfilled.
Are there causes for hope? Some. Perhaps. Trump’s approval ratings float in the mid thirties. The Democrats have, following early special election results in which losses by lower-than-expected margins were touted as faux “wins,” actually did win the governor’s race in Virginia and the U.S. Senate race in Alabama, the latter the first such Democratic win in a quarter of a century. But, hypothetical match-ups almost a year in advance are meaningless. I fear that, without much hard work, significant fund raising, zealous grassroots organizing and GOTV programs, hopes that next year’s mid-terms will shift the balance of power in Washington may not pan out.
One small piece of good news this year is that, although we seem to have a serial sexual predator in the White House, scores of women have felt safe in numbers and begun to fight back against sexual assault and gender-based abuse of power in all parts of the workplace. But Congress, despite bipartisan lip service to clean up its act, left town with Speaker Paul Ryan putting the issue on the back burner. Regardless how widespread the transgressions have been, crossing professional, partisan and economic lines, the MeToo movement may not be a voting issue in 2018.
So where does all this leave us when the President proudly asserted he had no regrets for anything he had done in his first year? I’m glad to put a terrible year behind us, but not at all sanguine that our democracy has not been changed forever, and certainly not for the better. Happy New Year to all, and to all a good fight.
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