Tough opposition talk within the GOP has no effect on the decline of democracy

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Juxtaposition of Sen. John McCain (left) referring to the need for “free press” on ‘Meet the Press’ with Chuck Todd on Feb 19th; and President Trump (right) during CPAC speech on Feb 24th reiterating his claim that news media is the “enemy of the American people”.

 


Last Sunday, February 19th, on Meet the Press, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) defended the need for a “free and [often times] an adversarial press” in order to “preserve democracy”. And he raised concerns about President Trump’s bellicose dialogue with press coverage at the White House. Some liberals were impressed with the Republican Senator’s warning against the “consolidation of power” as a sign of dictatorship in reference to the president’s excoriation of the press, including a tweet in which he claimed “fake news media… is the enemy of the American people”. A few Democrats went further to say they “respect” McCain’s seemingly strong stance against President Trump. Many would agree politicians who are consistently fair, broadly just, and who follow through on tough talk deserve respect. McCain may be more respectable relative to fellow GOP Congressmen including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). However, ask American Indians and Native activists in his home state how much respect they have for the Arizona Senator: McCain may have voiced support for Native people, yet his contradictory actions have led to decisions and policies that undermine the protection of their sacred land.

 

Last August, McCain officially endorsed Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee. Reluctantly, McCain had expressed support for Trump as early as May 2016. This despite having been criticized numerous times, including Trump’s claim in July 2015 that “[McCain’s] not a war hero. Well, he’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”  McCain finally withdrew his endorsement of Trump only after a crude and vulgar 2005 tape from “Access Hollywood” was leaked to the media in October–in which Trump admits to groping women by their private parts and trying to have sex with a married woman. Progressives hope McCain would assert his supposed “maverick” influence and seniority in the Senate to rally Republican outcry against Trump’s despotic tendencies and his unpresidential behavior. It is a futile sentiment given the historical dichotomy of McCain’s rhetoric and his actions. The U.S. Senator was a “maverick” of sorts–not in a good way!–as a minority in Congress when he voted against establishing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a national holiday in 1983. Even though his position eventually changed, McCain has a track record of blocking civil rights legislation.

 

In 2008 when John McCain was the Republican presidential nominee, one of his supporters at a townhall meeting in Minnesota said Barack Obama, then Democratic presidential nominee, is untrustworthy because “he’s an Arab“. McCain corrected the woman: “No ma’am. [Obama is] a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.” Problem is McCain did nothing to assuage rising Islamophobia, especially within his party: he missed an opportunity of telling his misinformed supporters that equating the entire Arab population and Muslim men to jihadist extremists is no different from saying all white male Christians are domestic terrorists (the latter would be statistically closer to the truth).

 

On Friday, February 24th, the White House made an unprecedented decision of denying several news outlets–called out by Trump as “enem[ies] of the American people”–access to an off-camera press briefing with White House press secretary, Sean Spicer.  Included on the banned list were CNN, the New York Times, Politico, the Guardian, and the BBC along with a few others. Conservative media groups were welcomed such as Breitbart News, the Washington Times, and One America News Network, as were TV networks Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC. The Associated Press and Time magazine were allowed but boycotted. Is this the beginning of the president’s censorship of the press? Moreover, is this the inchoate workings of a dictatorial regime in the White House?

 

Getting to higher ground as the waves of despair approach

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Composite images, vertically juxtaposed, based on Google search for “tsunami and politics”.

 


It is impressive to witness the organization and efforts put in by many groups, protesters and activists. Although I’m opinionated person, sometimes to a fault, activism is not necessarily for me. My passion for fairness is strong, but I’m not someone who gets pumped up for protesting on the street. I partake in other forms of protest, like boycotting Driscoll’s Berries and Walmart. I try to do the little things that add up… so says my rationale. It’s been overwhelming to hear and read about highly questionable actions and untruths from the POTUS and from his Administration. Feels like a tsunami of bad news engulfing the shoreline on a daily basis. At times, it is hard to tell if the media–having often normalized Donald Trump’s absurd and hostile demeanor–is overreacting. Or is it really that dire?
For my part in opposing the President’s Cabinet nominations, I’m making phone calls to Republican Senators, urging them to reconsider voting “No” for the Secretary of Education nominee. Cold-calling is definitely not my thing! That’s why I was in project management and operations instead of Sales and Business Development. Sometimes we have to go out of our comfort zone for something that is bigger than ourselves. I urge you to do the same. This is the contact information for our U.S. Congress members.
http://www.whoismyrepresentative.com
This is the verbiage I crafted–what best resonates with me. It gets fumbled no matter how many calls I make.

I’m sure you ‘feel’ Betsy DeVos could do a good job, but I urge you to thoughtfully consider and closely examine her qualifications with respect to her inexperience and unfamiliarity with all aspects of the education system. And do you truly think she will be the much-needed advocate for strengthening our public schools? I sincerely hope your conscience and courage guide you to making the right decision in voting ‘No’ for DeVos.

Perhaps it could be stronger, but my plea comes from a place of genuineness, not outrage. When it comes to any form of activism or engagement you believe in, it’s about finding what works best for you while endeavoring to do the right thing for others.

Choose to be united and protest without having to be divided and self–righteous

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The other day a Seattle resident struck up a conversation with me at the lounge of our building. She was knitting by the sofa near the T.V. and had switched the channel to Fox News. Then she started talking about giving President-elect “a chance”, and wondered why “liberals” were being uncooperative and mean to him. Instinctively, I judged her political views and tried to avoid discussing the upcoming demonstrations in Seattle. I felt like leaving without being rude. Instead I whispered to myself “Don’t judge”, and told her there is blame to be shared on both sides. Though I tend to be politically progressive, I do not have much respect for Democrats, as a whole, and what they have done to the party. Frankly, both parties suck. It’s just that one party sucks more than the other.

We discussed how politically correct many people are around here, and we talked about the “Seattle Freeze”—it really does exist! We lamented how much easier it was to strike up a conversation in the neighborhoods where we grew up. Our conversation moved to where we are from (most Seattleites are transplants from another state). She is from the Southeast; I am from the Northeast. She lost her life-long partner to Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Her husband had a heart condition so he could not receive the full blast of chemotherapy and radiation. Eventually, he achieved remission and improved his health, only to suffer the unforgiving cruelty of relapse (the cancer came back with a vengeance). I moved to the Pacific Northwest and started anew after battling concurrent types of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I was deemed “cancer free” four years ago having endured 10 rounds of what my body and brain could handle from an intense and full complement of I.V. chemo and intrathecal injections (chemo administered into the Central Nervous System).

It was a candid and thoughtful conversation. At some point I discussed the situation with my parents: neither of them has it made in the shade. My mom is a three-time cancer survivor with multiple health issues, and she is working full-time. My dad has advanced Alzheimer’s disease and signs of Parkinson’s disease: he can barely utter words (let alone sentences); he cannot walk or hold things, and he needs to be spoon-fed puréed food. He is also incontinent. At some point I mentioned that I would rather go through the hellish regimen of high-dose chemo again than to see my father suffer such a precipitous decline. Suddenly, the weight of emotions got to me. I stood there speechless with my head tilted downward–my heart was overwhelmed with compassion for my parents. She came over and gave me the sweetest, caring hug.

There will be protests, revolts and boycotts. People will express utter disapproval of the President-elect, his Cabinet nominees; and voice disappointment in our city and state representatives: both Democrats and Republicans. And there are valid reasons to do so! It is important to acknowledge how strong we are as individuals and as a movement. But don’t forget the underlying fragility that makes us so vulnerable and lovable, no matter what our ego attempts to project. Every person has suffered some form of loss in their lives. We can choose to be united and protest without having to be divided and self–righteous. If we are open-minded and compassionate, we can find something in common with one another.

Justin Trudeau: The good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Screenshot of PM Justin Trudeau confidently seated upon responding to Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose’s accusation on Liberal’s “reckless spending” during Parliamentary debate on May 3, 2016.


Liberalism in Canadian politics is not the same as liberalism in U.S. politics.  The Liberal Party in Canada, founded in 1867, has historically taken a more centrist approach to governing. The New Democratic Party (NDP), formed in 1961, represents a more left-wing ideology similar to liberal-minded American politicians. The Right-wing of Canadian politics is represented by the Conservative Party (a.k.a. Tories), which has taken various names with common agendas since 1942.

At the conclusion of the federal elections last October, Canadian Conservative leader, Stephen Harper (who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2015) conceded to the victorious Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau. As a result the slightly left of center Liberal Party earned more seats in Parliament. Immediately following the election, U.S. media began a budding love affair with Trudeau as the newly elected Prime Minister of Canada.

Based on the outcome of the 2015 elections, the Liberal Party currently holds a majority of parliamentary seats in the House of Commons (182 out of 338). Liberals secured 21 out of 105 seats in the upper house of Canada’s parliamentary Senate. The Conservative Party now holds 97 seats in the House of Commons, and 41 Senate seats. The New Democratic Party has just 44 seats in the House of Commons and no seats in the Senate. This gives you an idea of where Canada, as a whole, stands in terms of political views and policies: while the centrist Liberals gain more footing in Parliament, the true left of center NDP appears to be losing the fervor and influence of its constituency.

Prior to Trudeau’s win, The Canadian Progressive had warned of his character and moral shortcomings. Trudeau’s truancy with respect to voting and his lack of support on progressive issues were outlined in this article. On the day of the inauguration, Trudeau introduced his Cabinet consisting of 15 men and 15 women–the first gender equal team appointed by a prime minister: “Because it’s 2015.” However, during the summer Olympics he referred to the Canadian women athletes enthusiastically as “girls“. It was not meant to belittle the female Olympians, but it was still a subtle perpetuation of sexism. His seemingly patronizing ‘get to know me’ fundraiser in 2013, intended for women to get to know the Liberty Party leader at “Justin Unplugged” for $250 per person. Many Tories and NDP members criticized the venue as a sexist ploy. Liberals who backed the event claimed it was a unique way of reaching out to female voters; something their opponent’s leaders could not or would not do… and they were probably right. In May, his careless elbow to the chest of Parliament member, Ruth Ellen Brosseau, during a heated exchange in the House of Commons, coupled with ‘ladies night’ invitation in 2013 did not help his image as a self-proclaimed “feminist“. Notwithstanding Trudeau’s gender-even Cabinet, other arguments have been made regarding his perception as a feminist versus what his broader recorder shows in this article.

Justin Trudeau has been outspoken about zero tolerance for violence against women. While the Liberal leader has spoken strongly about guarding women from abuse, he has subtly correlated domestic violence with racism. A month before Trudeau was elected, he made racist inferences in an interview on Up For Debate linking the ills of misogyny, pornography and the lack of father figures to “certain types of music” which Desmond Cole, Toronto journalist, questioned as “a very careless nod to anti-black stereotypes.” Canada, like the United States, is not immune to the discriminatory plagues of white male privilege, sexism and racism.

One can argue the ailments of the aforementioned elitism and prejudices are not as prevalent in Canada as they are in the United States. For example, with regards to gender equality: prior to the U.S. elections in November, there were 20 women serving in the U.S. Senate: out of 100, or 20.0%. And there were 84 female members in the House of Representatives: out of 435, or 19.3%. In comparison, there are 43 women serving in Canada’s Senate: out of 102, or 42.2% (minus three vacancies).  And there are 88 female members in the House of Commons: out of 335, or 26.3% (minus three vacancies). On the other hand, Canada is ranked 30th in the world based on the gender gap report in 2015 issued by the World Economic Forum. United States did not score much better, finishing 28th. Canada still has much fewer women than men represented in Parliamentary standing committees. It is also worth noting, during the 2015 elections, NDP had the highest percentage of women running in their party (43%). Liberals had fewer than one in three women (31%), and the Conservatives had less than one of five (19%). Bottom line: neither the U.S. or Canada are close to achieving gender equality.

Actions speak louder than words… On the concerns regarding land and water conservation, Trudeau had vowed to “protect the environment”. Yet his apparent assurance to environmentalists and Canadian’s First Nations people gave way to a steadfast determination to dig up Alberta tar sands and support major pipeline projects, which will further undermine Canada’s fragile ecosystem. And it validates the concerns raised by The Canadian Progressive in October 2015. Precious Canadian wildlife is in peril, and it is dwindling, in large part, due to a proportionally greater impact from climate change north of the Arctic Circle (66.5°N to 90.0°N). Canada’s previous Prime Ministers and Parliament have done their part in contributing to the acceleration of climate change. After one year in office, Trudeau has shown to be no different in neglecting the environment he had promised to preserve.


References

https://thinkprogress.org/canadas-climate-commitments-in-jeopardy-as-trudeau-approves-two-major-pipeline-projects-4000459ddd2f#.9zb6rugws (November 28, 2016)

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/11/04/canada_s_justin_trudeau_s_gender_equal_cabinet_because_it_s_2015.html (November 5, 2016)

http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/is-justin-trudeau-a-fake-feminist/ (September 8, 2016)

http://www.ctvnews.ca/sports/trudeau-calling-female-olympians-girls-highlights-broader-problem-in-sports-1.3032880 (August 17, 2016)

http://www.canadianbusiness.com/economy/how-the-trudeau-government-tore-up-the-rulebook-on-pipelines/ (July 21, 2016)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-tracker-water-protection-promises-1.3656960 (June 28, 2016)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/17/justin-trudeau-feminist-twitter-explodes (March 16, 2016)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-conservative-whip-1.3588407 (May 18, 2016)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1A-XyHdRJ4 (May 7, 2016)

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/11/04/canada_s_justin_trudeau_s_gender_equal_cabinet_because_it_s_2015.html (November 4, 2015)

http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/ParlInfo/lists/PartyStandings.aspx?Menu=HOC-Representation&Section=03d93c58-f843-49b3-9653-84275c23f3fb (as of October 24, 2015)

https://newrepublic.com/article/123186/why-canadas-liberal-party-so-dominant (October 22, 2015)

http://www.canadianprogressiveworld.com/2015/10/19/a-canadian-progressives-case-against-justin-trudeau-becoming-canadas-next-prime-minister/ (October 19, 2015)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/justin-trudeau-makes-careless-nod-to-anti-black-stereotypes-says-toronto-journalist-1.3238441 (September 22, 2015)

http://www.macleans.ca/authors/emma-teitel/the-problem-with-justin-trudeaus-ladies-night/ (November 8, 2013)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/justin-trudeau-s-ladies-night-denounced-by-tories-ndp-1.2418703 (November 7, 2013)

http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2015/rankings/

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/prime-minister/

http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/women-us-congress-2015