Injustice in the Rearview

I’ve had trouble writing of late.

It’s not about an absence of content (there’s been plenty, more than I could ever react to or encapsulate in words). It’s not about an absence of context, as all of this seems to fit rather nicely into the same anti-democratic agenda espoused by the outrageous orange authoritarian. And it’s not about an inability to transform this unshackled insanity into a coherent narrative package, which is daunting but doable.

The real problem? Every time I get two or three paragraphs into something substantive, it gets immediately papered over by the next fresh outrage. Every time the pushback shifts its focus it leaves yesterday’s injustice in the rearview, never to be relevant again, littered with several thousand words of what I’d consider to be at least B-plus material.

It’s frustrating on a personal level, but I’m starting to think it’s indicative of a greater systemic issue on the side of the anti-Trump Resistance, for all of our best, most reactive intentions. Yes, we are angry, and often it seems like the only outlet for that anger is to rage about the unfairness of the latest targeted oppression emanating from the White House. But if we don’t fuel and stoke that outrage appropriately, it can be aimed away from where it’s needed most. And we are collectively falling victim to one of the only areas of extreme competency demonstrated by the current party in power. As adept as this FoxNews gen of Republican pols are at tilting white angst against windmills both external and internal, they are equally canny and competent when it comes to cloaking their big misdeeds in an ever-shifting tableau of smaller outrages that seize the moment and the headlines.

That’s the brilliance-disguised-as-racist-idiocy of Trump’s seizure of the GOP. In a normal week, he and his allies provide so many intoxicating moving targets on a daily basis that it’s hard for their enemies to stay focused on the real and sobering existential threats. But this is no normal week. With the Mueller investigation clearly closing in, they’ve ramped up the distraction to a level that can best be described as stream of consciousness. From the outrage of the Helsinki Summit, the absolute-apex-of-ridiculousness “would/wouldn’t” controversy, Tucker Carlson’s racist “whataboutism” and the latest Huckabee-Sanders sham of a press avail, it’s all designed as infuriating cover for the threats that are real, tangible, and threaten lasting (if not permanent) change.

Trump will no longer be president someday. I know it seems like an eternity away, but it will end. That’s a fact. Whether it’s through impeachment, electoral college votes, or (please god no) term limitations, this circus will end AT SOME POINT. But what’s truly frightening is that we may be dealing with the reverberations of this presidency for three to four decades to come, and that needs to be the thing that scares the hell out of all of us on a daily basis. Neil Gorsuch is 50. Brett Kavanaugh is 53. Those two appointments (hopefully the last two of the Trump presidency, although this is far from a certainty) threaten to reshape the balance of power in the most important judicial authority in the world, pulling it far, far to the right at the behest of Koch dark money and the Heritage Foundation.

This is a clear and present danger to the autonomy of women’s bodies and the rights of marginalized groups like the LGBTQ community, and a boon to corporate interests. The GOP has clearly entered into a Faustian bargain with Trump in order to seat judges that suit their pro-corporate, anti-civil rights agenda, and they’ve made it clear through their inaction that they will tolerate nearly any depth of embarrassing and atrocious conduct from him as long as he picks from their list of vetted and groomed ultra-conservative judges. They are willing to sacrifice the short term interests of the country to secure the kind of landscape-altering win that will change American jurisprudence from the top down for what could amount to the rest of our lives. Trump will go away some day, a day that cannot come soon enough, but a partisan Brett Kavanaugh will still be there altering the fabric of American society for thirty or forty more years. That is a threat that is nothing short of apocalyptic when it comes to civil liberties and the advancement of equality in this country.

Whatever the Russia conspiracy ever amounts to is in the hands of Bob Mueller, the Justice Department, and, unfortunately, the whims of a Republican Congress that has clearly forgotten the existence of its collective spine. I’m not saying it isn’t important for Congressional Dems to press hard on this issue, but really there’s very little that they can do to advance the cause of impeachment without some significant (and unlikely to be forthcoming) bipartisan assistance. But the Kavanaugh appointment is a different matter; this should be the line in the sand where they make the do-or-die stand we’ve all been waiting on since this catastrophe started.

With a 50-49 margin in the Senate right now (John McCain is out on medical), one Republican defection to go with a unified Blue Bloc would sink the nomination. But that’s all moot if vulnerable Red State Dems don’t hold the proverbial line and give Mitch McConnell a greater margin for error in the confirmation process.

I do not envy Chuck Schumer this position. Obviously, the scorched-earth approach to Kavanaugh favored by the progressive wing of the party carries with it significant electoral dangers in the quest to regain a Senate majority and block some of the current administration’s most reprehensible actions. But in trying to protect the most endangered members of his caucus, Schumer runs the risk of cutting the legs out from under the grassroots activist movement that has worked so hard to power the Democratic Party out of the Trump-induced wilderness. The #Bluewave electoral momentum is a direct product of those grassroots progressive groups and all their post-2016 pavement-pounding, door-knocking, organizing, and protesting. For Red State Dems to roll over for Kavanaugh in a transparent attempt to mollify conservative voters will throw a giant wet blanket over the energy produced by those activists, and I’d argue that it might threaten the Blue Wave itself. Fighting a losing battle shows strength of character and dedication to the work; failure to fight at all will look like cowardice and hollow gamesmanship to the groups that have worked so hard in opposition to the current disaster in Washington.

Just as I sometimes have to force myself to refocus on the big picture, I hope Schumer, Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, et al will do the same. At the end of the day, the activists are the ones out there in the streets, risking incarceration and injury, in order to keep the anti-Trump train on the tracks. It’s time that the beneficiaries of all that effort show the same kind of dedication to this fight, because if they don’t, we all stand to lose a great deal more than Senate seats.