President Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress last night has been widely applauded because of his tone and behavior. It appears that the fact that he did not misbehave or act in a belligerent or insulting way gave him high marks by many analysts and pundits. Before we all exhale, I remind you, we’ve witnessed these momentary outbursts of balance before, to then be followed up in days – if not hours – by tweets and abrasive behavior and language.
One thing is consistent: Whether Trump’s on good or bad behavior, the policies he represents and reiterated in his speech last night are bad, regardless of if you take them with sugar and sweeteners, or if you take them straight with no chaser.
For those who may have been sidetracked by his delivery, here’s a quick reminder of just a few of the items a Trump Administration is proposing.
First, there’s immigration reform designed to exclude people and target them based on nationality or religion. Then there’s repealing the Affordable Care Act with no clear measure on how to protect the tens of millions that now have insurance because of this historic legislation, and how to maintain those key elements that are critical to the American public – i.e. children staying on their parent’s insurance until the age of 26, health insurers no longer discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions, etc.
Trump wants to improve education, but education through vouchers and charter schools without investing and buttressing public education is not how you deal with the “civil rights issue of our time.” And, of course, let’s remember, that strengthening police without strengthening their accountability so that we do not add to the tensions that only help criminals is terrible policy and has proven to not work in the past.
Trump’s historically low approval rating for a new Commander-in-Chief may have pushed him into this softer, seemingly more restrained manner last night, but don’t be fooled, the agenda remains the same. Have we gone so far to the bottom in American politics that we now congratulate heads of state for not insulting us and excuse that they are still harming us? We do not need a kindler, gentler ride in the wrong direction. And that is precisely what this is. The President may have been on his best behavior last night, but he is still advocating ideas that will harm some of our most vulnerable communities and turn back the clock on so much of the progress that we have achieved.
When I look at the fact that on the 5th anniversary of the horrific killing of young Trayvon Martin whose death sparked massive calls for justice, and a movement that I was in the center of, there are troubling indicators of where we are headed next as a country.
The new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, promises to stop auditing local police department behavior and drops the part of the Department of Justice lawsuit that challenged Texas’ voter ID law which makes it harder for people of color, the elderly, the poor and students to vote.
The Texas voter ID law is one of the harshest in the nation and allows IDs like licenses to carry concealed handguns to be used as proof at the ballot box, but not government employee IDs or student IDs. Reversing course on this lawsuit and reversing course on police accountability are the very first actions taken by Sessions and obvious signs of where the Trump Administration is leading us.
It has become evidently clear that what we have fought for tirelessly through the decades and achieved with much sacrifice is now greatly at risk. We no longer need to speculate on where Trump and his team will take the nation – they are making it blatantly obvious. The question is, are people paying attention? The softer tone and the good performance are just that - a good performance. It will take more than decent behavior to sustain where we were and where we need to be as a society.
As any bad student can tell you: good behavior may keep you in the classroom, but it doesn’t mean you pass the test or get an A.