As anticipated and feared by many of us, President-elect Donald Trump’s initial, extremely important, early selections as advisers and Cabinet members do not build confidence in a more moderate Administration. Rather, it seems to be shaping up that he will govern pretty much as he campaigned. No real surprise, I suppose. He won.
But, after the mildly encouraging appointment of former GOP National Committee Chair Reince Preibus as Chief of Staff, Trump followed up with the scary selection of Steve Bannon of the right wing Breitbart News as a kind of co-adviser. Oh well, we might say, perhaps this will be a good-cop, bad-cop team which will present the President with all the options, leaving him free to make decisions considering both extremes available.
But this morning we awaken to the news of three more selections: Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General; Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo as CIA chief; and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser. One the one hand, this is entirely predictable as Trump values loyalty above all else (including competence) and these men were avid supporters from the get-go. They are also longtime Washington insiders. So much for “draining the swamp.”
More concerning is Jeff Sessions’ hard-line immigration views, Pompeo’s support of returning to so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” (including water-boarding), and Flynn’s view that Islam is not really a religion at all, but solely a “political ideology.” Given the Republican takeover of Congress there is little doubt that those of this number requiring Senate confirmation will receive it (even though Jeff Sessions was turned down by the Senate in 1986 for a federal judgeship because of his history of racist comments). Wonderful!
Even before the Advent warnings of “Get ready” and “Keep awake” begin sounding from our pulpits, it is now time for those of us who yearn for a more progressive, more compassionate, more inclusive country to gear up for the battles ahead. I continue to resist the temptation for us to be obstructionist for obstruction’s sake as Mitch McConnell and the Congressional Republicans were from day one of the Obama Administration. If we can find common ground on infrastructure development, less foreign interventionism working for regime change, moving toward a balanced budget, and improving our broken health care (and health insurance) system, I’m all for it.
But we must be hyper-vigilant for assaults on individual liberty, human dignity, civil rights (including women’s rights, minority rights, LGBT rights, workers’ rights) and so many other areas. Specifically, I plan to re-up my membership in, and support of, groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (which has been as prescient on these developments as any group of which I am aware), Citizens for Community Improvement here in Iowa (which has a long record of fighting against the erosion of environmental standards in this agricultural state).
In addition, virtually every community now has an interfaith organization of some kind which can be relied upon to stand in solidarity on the local with Muslims and others who feel the tide of fear rising in their hearts with every Trump appointee so far. Episcopal Migration Ministries will monitor carefully any efforts at mass deportation of immigrants and the Catholic Church on the ground almost everywhere will be an ally in this effort.
We can hope for more balance in the days ahead as President-elect Trump rounds out his Cabinet and senior leadership team. But we must also be prepared. We must Keep Awake.
It’s time to get ready.