As we say farewell to 2017, we can look back and reasonably observe, “These were the worst of times, and the best of times.” Ironically, to a large degree, we have Donald Trump to thank for both perspectives.
When neo-Nazis are marching in the streets of Charlottesville and the president declares there are “some very fine people” among them, clearly we are living in the worst of times. In fact, many Americans fear that our country is becoming a state similar to Nazi Germany as Trump praises authoritarian leaders like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Erdoğan, and recently claims, “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.” Trump’s dictatorial belief that he has unconditional power is a grave threat to what’s left of our democracy.
We are living in the worst of times when Trump appoints anti-environmentalist Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt built his career by attacking the agency and its clean air and water rules. Pruitt is staffing the EPA with Beltway insiders who have made their livings lobbying for weaker pollution rules on behalf of the fossil-fuel industry. The president’s total disregard for the environment and his ignorance concerning the dangers of global warming put all Americans at risk.
When Trump constantly lies to the American people and disparages the media, women, the FBI and anyone who upsets him, we are living in the worst of times. More than ever, the truth has become a political football this past year as the president creates an alternative reality to fit his own personal needs. Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, Trump continually denies he has had any contacts with the Russians and refutes the claims that they interfered with our elections. The president’s refusal to acknowledge Russian interference in our elections severely hinders efforts to protect our democratic processes from foreign interference.
Finally, we are living in the worst of times when the Republican Party puts party loyalty above duty to the country and continues to enable a president who is totally unfit for office, while the Democrats provide only lukewarm opposition.
While many more items could be added to our “worst-of-times” list, how can we simultaneously argue that 2017 was also the best of times? The main reason is that in this past year, We, the people, began to stand up for ourselves in huge numbers. Moreover, we have to give Trump some credit for this because the people’s uprising has mainly been in response to his election and subsequent policies.
When the year began with the Women’s March last January, it was the best of times. The Women's March was a worldwide protest against Trump, and for legislation and policies regarding human rights, women's rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, workers' rights, and more. It was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history.
This past year was the best of times when Robert Mueller was appointed special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s meddling in our elections. Now we had someone independent of the administration working to protect our democracy. Mueller was recognized by both political parties as a man of great integrity who would do what’s right. We can count on him to discover the truth of what really happened in the 2016 elections. Despite some partisan opposition, Mueller’s investigation is making progress with indictments and guilty pleas.
When the uncovering of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assaults led to the wide exposure of America’s culture of sexual abuse, we were living in the best of times. Women found the courage to come forward and a great many men were being toppled from their positions of power. The #Me To movement gave women a new sense of control over their lives.
Finally, we were living in the best of times when the people, particularly women and minorities, became much more engaged in the political process. More women started running for office than ever before. Blacks in Alabama came out in record numbers to help defeat an accused child molester and elect Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate. In a backlash to the Trump administration, the people in Virginia turned out at least 15 GOP-held seats in the state legislature.
We appear to be in the early stages of a popular democratic uprising. Hopefully, 2018 will see it explode into a genuine people’s revolution to build a truly representative government of, by and for the American people. We must all do our part to ensure that outcome.