Bring back decency!
All politics is local. Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill
Restoring decency into our politics should be our community’s political priority for 2020. It is a moral imperative to rid the country of the indecency, the meanness, that Donald Trump represents and manifests. We can do that by voting—plus more.
Standing up to Trump is not a political nor a partisan matter…
To me, this is not a political matter, nor a partisan, Democratic-Republican, matter. If Trump were a Democrat, I would posit the same exact things I articulate herein. Standing up to Trump has to do solely and only with restoring a sense of decency in the presidency, of having empathy and humanitarian considerations being part of the decision-making process regarding national policy.
As legendary House Speaker Tip O’Neill articulated, the solution to the Trump nightmare is local—more on that below. First, some background and foundation.
My basic thesis is that Donald Trump is evil. Trump is evil in what he himself does and what he has inspired is evil.
I previously reported that Documenting Hate, a national coalition of news organizations, and the civil-rights group Southern Poverty Law Center have reported an increase in hate crimes and incidences since Trump’s election. In the last couple of years there have been many reports of people being harassed for speaking Spanish. In California, a group of people beat a 91-year-old man with a brick and repeatedly kicked him in the head as they yelled “Go back to Mexico!” The murderer of 22 people in El Paso, who went out “Mexican hunting,” was inspired by Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric about the U.S. being “invaded” by brown people.
The Trump administration has torn thousands of children from their parents and jailed them in cages for the “crime” of wanting to live in the U.S. Some (many?) of these children and youngsters have been subjected to physical and sexual abuse by staff members (several of the perpetrators were prosecuted and convicted). The parent-child separation will in many cases be permanent since there was no mechanism to reunite the families, indicating there never was an intent to reconcile the families. There are no words to describe the evilness of this.
A further attack on children is the Trump administration’s proposing rules that will take away food stamps from about 1 million households with children and will render about a half-million children no longer eligible for free school meals. These changes will literally take food out of the mouths of children. The Trump administration is also proposing changes to Social Security that could terminate disability payments to hundreds of thousands of people, particularly children and elderly Americans.
I could go on, but the above make the point: Trump’s policies and action reflect a complete lack of empathy and decency.
Put away the keyboards … go out and organize…
In order to address this assault on civility and decency in public policy, we need to go beyond being safely militant behind our keyboards, beyond merely posting on Facebook or other cyber platforms. All of us have to vote and make sure everyone in our household and our circle of friends votes. But that’s the easy part. The challenge—the “plus more”—is going beyond ourselves. We need to engage people who normally are not engaged in the political process.
If every one of us registers five (5) people to vote and makes sure they get to the polls in November and get five (5) people who are registered to vote but didn’t last election to vote this year, it would be very meaningful.
In addition, we should leaflet the Little League and softball fields in our neighborhoods as well as parks on weekends, especially on the Fourth of July. We should also ask to speak to church groups, neighborhood associations and the like. These are chock full of registered voters. As noted below, in 2016, over half of the eligible Latino voters did not vote. We need to do everything we can to reverse that statistic in November.
I truly believe there are more of us decent folk in the U.S. than there are evil doers. We just need to get out and do some old-fashioned organizing. And as discussed below, history is on our side.
We know how to move mountains…
For generations Mexican Americans have been at the receiving end of racism and its ugly cousins. But we have never succumbed. Rather, we have organized and fought back. I am a veteran of the Chicano Movement, so that’s my frame of reference here. But to be clear: my intent is not to romanticize the Chicano Movement or to wax nostalgic about it. Rather, I want to highlight things that worked in that era and that are applicable today.
Against all odds, the Chicano movement moved mountains. The Mexican American and the Democratic establishments were against us. The press often demonized us. We had no funding. By today’s standards, our communications mechanisms were primitive: landline telephones, leaflets produced on hand-cranked mimeograph machines, tabloid newspapers. But we had heart and energy, pride in ourselves and our community, and anger at how our community was treated by society.
Among other things, in our respective communities we changed the political culture, fundamentally changed the educational system and institutions and the hiring policies of government and businesses. We brought improvements to our barrios. We created a corps of young leadership. We instilled a deep sense of ethnic pride in our youth.
We did all this and more by old-fashioned organizing: talking to people directly—in their homes, at church, at stores, and in the parks explaining what we were doing and why. We got people who had never protested before to go to city council and school board meetings, to rallies and picket lines, etc.
Victory can be—should be—ours if we act locally…
I reiterate: my perspective and purpose are not partisan. There have been times in history when Democrats acted deplorably and indecently—e.g., southern segregationists George Wallace and Lester Maddox. The community, using the tactics described above, got rid of them. I stood with that community and supported their efforts, as I know many of you did.
Virtually every evening, MSNBC’s Brian Williams reminds us that there is no such thing as a national election. Rather, he maintains, there are 50 state elections. In other words, politics is local.
Every credible poll tells us that Trump is beatable. Univisión’s Jorge Ramos recently commented on these dynamics. Ramos notes that this year, for the first time in history, Latinos will be the largest minority group of potential voters in the United States—according to the Pew Research Center, 32 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in 2020. Ramos asserts that “Latino voters will decide the 2020 election. It’s as simple as that.” But for that to happen, there must be a high voter turnout within the Latino community. He posits that Trump won in 2016 in large part because over half of the 27 million eligible Latino voters did not vote. (Jorge Ramos, “How Democrats Can Win the Latino Vote in 2020,” Univision, Jan. 10, 2020) We need to fix that.
We have moved mountains before, and we can do it again. We need only to go back to our historical toolbox and do what has worked before. As Tip O’Neill sagely observed, all politics is local. c/s
Copyright 2020 by Salomon Baldenegro. Images of Flag, Latinos in the street and Chicano movement copyrighted by Barrio Dog Productions, inc. All other images in this blog are in the public domain. To contact Sal write: firstname.lastname@example.org