We are living in an era that I call The Gaslight Zone: where the President of the United States routinely lies to us on a daily basis, enabled by power-hungry staff who are accountable only to him and his delusions, and power-drunk GOP Senators and Congressmen who think they can control him to achieve their own goals.
We have just witnessed the spectacle of several hundred travelers being detained, or denied entry, or removed from airplanes, or stopped at departure gates — including US citizens, legal permanent residents, and holders of special immigration visas. Several of the US citizens detained were young children who were separated from their parents, at Dallas-Fort Worth airport and Dulles airport. US citizens were also detained at O’Hare airport, among others.
Holders of special immigrant visas were also detained; they are usually people who actually worked with the American military in Iraq or Afghanistan as interpreters or contractors, and whose lives are in real danger there as a result. Some came to the U.S. long enough ago that they are now legal permanent residents with green cards — no matter. They were detained anyway. Try to wrap your head around this: these are people who put much more on the line for our country than over 99% of Americans, because most of us don’t serve in the military and even those who do, have mostly not served on the ground in Iraq. These are Iraqis who faced the same danger as our own troops, but without body armor. This, from a President who dodged the draft when it was his time to serve.
But the chaos of this past weekend is just the most recent, visible sign of tyranny emanating from the Trump White House. The reorganization of the National Security Council, also done by sudden executive order this past weekend, gives unprecedented priority to a purely political adviser with virtually no national security expertise: Steve Bannon, until recently the CEO of Breitbart News, proudly identified as the platform of the “alt-right” — a neutered term for white nationalists. This sends a strong signal to the experts — Trump is putting his alt-right political adviser ahead of our top military and intelligence officials. And, by the way, he made that announcement on the same day as his weekend phone conversation with Putin.
Knowledgeable observers and journalists are actually starting to use the word “coup”. One commentator compiled a sequence of substantiated news reports from different sources to show a truly disturbing picture of what looks like a deliberate strategy to leave the State Department and National Security Council bereft of experienced personnel and create chaos, possibly as a cover for the lifting of sanctions against Russia and the oil company Rosneft. And guess what? In December (the same month when there were multiple contacts between Trump’s now National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the Kremlin), Putin privatized Rosneft. Reuters reported last week that 19.5% of Rosneft stock had been transferred under mysterious and indecipherable circumstances. Remember that “Steele Dossier” of alleged intelligence against Trump? One of the allegations was that Trump’s adviser Carter Page had used his Russian connections to broker a deal with the Putin regime that they would offer Trump and his associates 19% of Rosneft stock if he lifted those sanctions. And now a number of high-ranking FSB/KGB officers, suspected of being Steele’s sources, have been very publicly arrested and charged with treason. Another was found dead, also in December. What else happened in December? Trump and his closest aides started getting the most detailed, most sensitive intelligence briefings. You can’t make this stuff up.
Trump isn’t new to getting tens of millions of dollars from Russian plutocrats. In 2008, he sold a Palm Beach estate, which he had bought just three years earlier for $41 million, to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. For $95 million. That’s a $54 million premium in three years. Rybolovlev has never lived there. Sounds fishy to me — almost like someone wanted to pour tens of millions of dollars into Trump’s pockets and needed a cover story.
I don’t know what to think about all this, but none of it is normal. The activity since the inauguration feels as if boundaries are being tested on many fronts. It feels as if much of the uproar is orchestrated as a distraction. It feels like a “shock event.” The Reuters news service has now instructed its reporters to cover the Trump administration under the same protocols they use in authoritarian countries “such as Turkey, the Philippines, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Thailand, China, Zimbabwe, and Russia, nations in which we sometimes encounter some combination of censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats to our journalists.”
Think fascism can’t happen here, because that’s like, so last century? It can happen here.
What to do? Resist. And here is some guidance. First, there is the “Indivisible Guide“, a list of practical tips from former Congressional staffers on how to make yourself heard by elected officials. Second, below is even more advice:
Resistance advice from a high-level Senator staffer in the Democratic Party (but worth reading by all, regardless of party, who fear that our system of government is under attack):
“Bottom line of this long but worthwhile read – we should be calling our senators and representatives daily!!! Even in deeply blue states it seems. We need them to know we want them to delay and resist Trump at every turn. None of this is normal. None of this is okay!!!
You should NOT be bothering with online petitions or emailing.
Online contact basically gets immediately ignored, and letters pretty much get thrown in the trash unless you have a particularly strong emotional story – but even then it’s not worth the time it took you to craft that letter.
There are 2 things that all Democrats should be doing all the time right now, and they’re by far the most important things:
1. The best thing you can do to be heard and get your congressperson to pay attention is to have face-to-face time – if they have town halls, go to them. Go to their local offices. If you’re in DC, try to find a way to go to an event of theirs. Go to the “mobile offices” that their staff hold periodically (all these times are located on each congressperson’s website). When you go, ask questions. A lot of them. And push for answers. The louder and more vocal and present you can be at those the better.
2. But, those in-person events don’t happen every day. So, the absolute most important thing that people should be doing every day is calling.
You should make 6 calls a day: 2 each (DC office and your local office) to your 2 Senators & your 1 Representative. Calls are what all the congress people pay attention to. Every single day, the Senior Staff and the Senator get a report of the 3 most-called-about topics for that day at each of their offices (in DC and local offices), and exactly how many people said what about each of those topics. They’re also sorted by zip code and area code.
And this is IMPORTANT:
She said that Republican callers generally outnumber Democrat callers 4-1, and when it’s a particular issue that single-issue-voters pay attention to (like gun control, or planned parenthood funding, etc…), it’s often closer to 11-1, and that has recently pushed Republican congressfolks on the fence to vote with the Republicans. In the last 8 years, Republicans have called, and Democrats haven’t.
SO WHEN YOU CALL:
A) When calling the DC office, ask for the Staff member in charge of whatever you’re calling about (“Hi, I’d like to speak with the staffer in charge of Healthcare, please”). Local offices won’t always have specific ones, but they might. If you get transferred to that person, awesome. If you don’t, that’s ok – ask for their name, and then just keep talking to whoever answered the phone. Don’t leave a message (unless the office doesn’t pick up at all – then you can…but it’s better to talk to the staffer who first answered than leave a message for the specific staffer in charge of your topic).
B) Give them your zip code. They won’t always ask for it, but make sure you give it to them, so they can mark it down. Extra points if you live in a zip code that traditionally votes for them, since they’ll want to make sure they get/keep your vote.
C) If you can make it personal, make it personal. “I voted for you in the last election and I’m worried/happy/whatever” or “I’m a teacher, and I am appalled by Betsy DeVos,” or “as a single mother” or “as a white, middle class woman,” or whatever.
D) Pick 1-2 specific things per day to focus on. Don’t go down a whole list – they’re figuring out what 1-2 topics to mark you down for on their lists, so, focus on 1-2 per day. Ideally something that will be voted on/taken up in the next few days, but it doesn’t really matter…even if there’s not a vote coming up in the next week, call anyway. It’s important that they just keep getting calls.
E) Be clear on what you want – “I’m disappointed that the Senator…” or “I want to thank the Senator for their vote on…” or “I want the Senator to know that voting in _____ way is the wrong decision for our state because…” Don’t leave any ambiguity.
F) They may get to know your voice/get sick of you – it doesn’t matter. The people answering the phones generally turn over every 6 weeks anyway, so even if they’re really sick of you, they’ll be gone in 6 weeks.
From experience since the election: If you hate being on the phone & feel awkward, don’t worry…there are a bunch of scripts (Indivisible has some). After a few days of calling, it starts to feel a lot more natural. Put the 6 numbers in your phone all under Politician or Favorites, which makes it really easy to click down the list each day!
Now go get ’em!