There’s a certain expectation that’s developed in the Trump era when it comes to news cycles: lurching forward with whiplash. With each week, we seem to be thrown for wild rides with Trump’s shadow cast on everything. It’s not necessarily Trump’s fault, but his personality and positioning create a gravity well that seems to force issues to find commonality with his mere existence.
As the #metoo movement evolves, it continually touches back to the initial spark that is Trump’s perceived boorishness and the complaints of women about his alleged misconducts. Though, entirely unrelated and unaffiliated with the president, the sexual abuse Larry Nassar committed against so many young women rang of the very abuse of power and vile sexual domination #metoo seeks to root out. Nassar’s story arch of abuse and misconduct reached it’s peak this week with his sentencing in a Michigan court room. The rest of his story was dictated powerfully by Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, and the 175 year sentence she delivered to him. Brilliantly, she allowed more than 150 women to deliver their stories, including the testimony of USA gymnast and olympic medalist Aly Raisman. Judge Aquilina, in the end, tossed aside a final letter to the court from Larry Nassar, and delivered her own statement in her sentencing. “It is my honor and privilege to sentence you.” Even still, the USA Olympic Committee is faced with cleaning house in gymnastics. Miss Raisman made it clear that Nassar had enablers, and that the organization was full of them. When people talk about the “system” allowing abuse to occur without checks or consequences, it’s the enablers they’re referring to. Gross men with power or authority don’t just get to abuse people randomly, they use their positioning to trap and control their victims. In the case of Nassar, it was girls and young women with the pressure of global competition on their shoulders. The more-than 150 women, with the backing of Judge Aquilina, delivered a blow to that “system” this week. It’s important to understand that the crimes of Larry Nassar are not Trump’s, and the president should not be seen as guilty of someone else’s actions. But the president’s perceived toxicity was the catalyst that put our focus on every misconduct account the media is willing to publish.
There is a realm in society that the president does have genuine impact on, politics. Sometimes the political sphere is seen as a circus, with performers and sideshows. If it is a circus, it’s one with a tea house. Enter John Kerry, the speculation that he’ll run in 2020, and an alleged line delivered to a confidant of the president of the Palestinian Authority about holding on and not yielding to the current administration’s peace efforts. And then there’s the 2018 midterm elections where 33 seats in the US Senate are in play. Democrats currently hold 25 of those seats, 10 of which are in states Trump won in 2016. Republicans are defending 8 seats, 1 in a state Clinton won in 2016. Of the senators seeking re-election, 11 have declining poll numbers- 1 Republican and 10 Democrats.
*In the podcast I said 21 or 29 seats, there are 33 up for election.
In a conflated mess, for pretty much everyone in D.C. except the president, democrats in congress pulled the lever of power on DACA reform to hold up a budget. This, as we know, became last weekend’s government shutdown. As of midnight Friday/Saturday the shutters in D.C. closed, everyone jumped on Twitter, and the press had a field day…erm, field weekend. Monday morning brought a new week, and a newly weakened Democrat Party. The public decided that DACA and immigration were not reasonable posturing posts to use as hostages in budget negotiations, and the democrats caved to pressure. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was sent out to eat the shit pie, and wave the white flag. A continuing resolution gives congress until February 8th to formulate a deal for the rest of the year (we don’t recommend holding your breath). The most shocking moment did not come from the shut down itself, but from a move by Trump to capture the wind that was sucked out of the Democrats: a move to put Dreamers on a path to citizenship. Winded by their shut down defeat, Democrats didn’t even see it coming. By capturing the moment, the president stood taller than anyone on Capitol Hill – and looked reasonable at the same time. While some of his base may have balked at the thought of “amnesty” for Dreamers, polls consistently show that Americans don’t want Dreamers to face deportation. While Democrats may feel comfortable using DACA as a fundraising point, and Republicans may use “illegal immigration” as a fundraising point, Trump has stolen the high ground in this conversation.
If #resist can join with #MAGA in pushing for a deal on immigration that preserves the dignity of Dreamers, while modernizing the American immigration system, it’ll be an incredible first step toward productive policy discussions across the board. It’s even likely that that’s the legacy Trump is striving to achieve for himself.