(Kevin Dietsch/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images) I t’s almost a truism to say that President Trump has launched an unprecedented assault on democracy during his first year and a half in office. Each new instance of norm-breaking holds new perils that Democrats and Republicans (whether they say it out loud or not) know will damage the foundations of American government and society. A who’s who of veteran White House and Department of Justice officials, federal judges, and members of the news media weighed in on democratic institutions and norms in the Trump era at a recent Georgetown University Law Center "Democracy in the Balance" forum. Although most participants at the event expressed guarded optimism about a post-Trump future, they also registered deep unease about the continuing threats to a free press, the rule of law, and an independent judiciary. The Justice Department has been a primary target of some of Trump’s most blatant violations of American democratic norms. From his...
Whether the current push for stricter gun control will translate into tangible results at the polls remains an open question. But more than two months since the Parkland shooting, it’s clear that a large swath of America’s youth remains active, engaged, and eager to make their voices heard in November.
Last Friday, for the second time in as many months, teenagers around the country engaged in coordinated school walkouts as they renewed the call for Republicans in Congress to enact stricter gun control measures. The protest, which took place on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting and included students from at least 2,600 schools nationwide, followed closely on the heels of the National School Walkout on March 14 and the broader nationwide March for Our Lives protests on March 24.
In Washington, the student-activists gathered in front of the White House and then marched to the U.S. Capitol, where a number of the walkout leaders spoke about issues facing all victims of gun violence—not just the people who die in school shootings. While longtime gun violence activists have welcomed the recent wave of marches and calls for reform precipitated by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, some have expressed warranted frustration that the current movement only gathered strength in response to a tragedy in a relatively affluent, largely white community. Multiple speakers pointed out that far less attention is paid to the high rates of gun deaths among African Americans, Latinos, and other people of color.
Another speaker, Rosie Silvers, a senior at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland, discussed what she called “the missing dialogue of this movement”: the nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths that are suicides and the high rates of suicide in the LGBT community. “Gun violence, suicide, and the LGBT community are forever intertwined,” Silvers said. Criticizing those political leaders who try to pass off gun violence as primarily a mental health issue, Silvers added, “Every single country around the world suffers from mental illness, but only we suffer from this epidemic of gun violence.”
The students also wanted to send the message that they intend to keep the pressure on politicians into November—still eons away in political terms. Jay Falk, a senior at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, turned her time at the podium into a de facto voter registration drive. “This is not a moment, it is a movement. You have to keep showing up,” she said, before telling participants to take out their phones and text a hotline that would help them find out how to register to vote. Many people obliged.
Aya Laoufir, a junior at Washington Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, said she and her peers are confident that the current movement will maintain its momentum. “A lot of us are gonna be turning 18 in the next few months,” she told the Prospect. “I think it’ll make a big difference at the polls.”
Rosie Couture, an eighth-grader at Arlington’s Thomas Jefferson Middle School described the effect that the national conversation about guns has had on her and her peers: “Parkland was a big wakeup call for us,” she said. “I hate to say it, but I was so ignorant about [gun violence] before the Parkland shooting.” While still too young to vote, Couture added that as soon as she turns 18, she “100 percent” intends to in order to make her voice heard.
(AP Photo/Scott Bauer) Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks to reporters in Madison on February 14, 2018. W hen Democrats flipped a Wisconsin state Senate seat in a January special election, Republican Governor Scott Walker was quick to sound the alarm. The Republican candidate’s 11-point defeat in a district that Donald Trump had won by 17 points in 2016, Walker warned, should serve as a “wake-up call” to conservatives in his state as the 2018 midterms approached. Evidently, “waking up,” as Walker envisioned it, did not entail a shift in the state party’s messaging or strategy. Instead, it meant doubling down on the same tactics that Wisconsin Republicans have engaged in for years, in a state where they have enjoyed trifecta control of government since 2011. The governor wasted little time in declaring he had no intention of filling two remaining vacancies in the state legislature, in the 42nd Assembly District and First Senate District. Walker argued that holding special elections...
(Gage Skidmore) David Garcia announces his campaign announcement for Arizona governor in Phoenix on April 12, 2017. T he looming blue wave has Democrats bullish about their electoral prospects in 2018 races once thought unwinnable—and about the ability of less-than-conventional candidates to get the job done. That confidence was on full display at a recent People for the American Way forum in Washington, D.C., where the progressive advocacy group formally endorsed three gubernatorial candidates in their states’ Democratic primaries. “People for the American Way doesn’t often endorse candidates in primaries, and we’ve never endorsed three at once,” said PFAW President Michael Keegan in his opening remarks. “But these are extraordinary times, and these are extraordinary leaders.” Georgia’s Stacey Abrams, Arizona’s David Garcia, and Florida’s Andrew Gillum are all candidates of color, proud progressives, and relatively young. They are also running in three states where Republicans...
Compiling a comprehensive list of Donald Trump’s lies, norm-flouting acts, and other abuses of power during his first year in office is no small task. But two watchdog organizations dedicated to upholding integrity in American government have taken up the challenge.
“The Art of the Lie,” a report published Monday by Common Cause and Democracy 21, slots the Trump administration’s indiscretions into 20 categories, ranging in scope from “Trump’s Attacks on the Judiciary” to “Keeping White House Visitor Logs Secret.” The study paints a picture of an administration operating with unprecedented opaqueness and disregard for America’s democratic norms.
Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn and Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer note, “Given the chaotic and erratic nature of President Trump and his administration, it is easy for Americans to become overwhelmed. Some of Trump’s wrongful actions have been high-profile; others are more subtle.”
Trump’s “high-profile” actions are old hat by now: He has uttered “more than 2,100 lies, false or misleading statements, and untruths in his first year.” He continues to wage open war against the press; denounces the entire judicial system as “broken and unfair” when the courts issue decisions he personally dislikes, and still has not released his tax returns.
But Trump’s subtler actions demonstrate the more pernicious ways the president has undermined government integrity. While attacks on the Census Bureau have so far not shown up in Trump’s bombastic tweets, the groups warn that “recent decisions by the Trump administration risk making the 2020 Census grossly inaccurate.”
The groups argue that the 2018 budget request for the bureau is “woefully inadequate” and condemn Trump’s expected appointment of Thomas Brunell, an ardent proponent of racial gerrymandering, as the bureau’s deputy director—and the federal official charged with overseeing the 2020 survey. These moves will have far-reaching effects, as the decennial count is the basis for congressional and state legislative redistricting—as well as nearly $600 billion in annual government spending.
The damaging consequences of a cabinet currently overseeing an intentional hollowing-out of the federal bureaucracy, and whose secretaries are often hostile to the fundamental missions of the agencies they head, also raise major concerns: “The Trump administration has failed to fill an unprecedented number of critical positions throughout the federal government [which] leads to dysfunction and wasted government resources as policies await direction.” The authors highlight the dramatic staff cuts taking place at Rex Tillerson’s State Department—a “national emergency,” according to former Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
Elsewhere, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who sued the federal agency numerous times as attorney general of Oklahoma, has dismissed hundreds of EPA employees, as has Betsy Devos at the Department of Education. And at Ben Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, the report includes this telling quote from a career HUD employee: “No agenda, nothing to move forward or push back against. Just nothing.”
Many of President Trump’s missteps have been widely covered. But as “The Art of the Lie” cautions, the American public must remain vigilant about the serious consequences of the administration’s lesser known actions and about the equally damaging consequences of deciding to take no action at all.