Genuine Pivot or Deliberate Re-Branding? Donald Trump’s Speech to the Joint Session of Congress, Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Why this post?

To post a comment on Donald Trump’s first speech to a Joint Session of Congress, a full 2 weeks after the fact, may seem like a fruitless exercise.  However, a closer look at what he said and why he said it may be well worth the effort.  The very fact that an interval of 2 weeks could make analysis of this nationally- anticipated speech seem dated is in itself a commentary on the President’s style and strategy. Whether deliberate or spontaneous, Trump’s style is guaranteed to keep us guessing about what he really intends. His erratic behavior creates uncertainty about what to expect and what to count on.  Across all sectors of government, it keeps us in the dark about likely future actions. Continue reading “Genuine Pivot or Deliberate Re-Branding? Donald Trump’s Speech to the Joint Session of Congress, Tuesday, February 28, 2017”

Religious Authoritarianism and the Trump Administration

Analysts have written endless numbers of commentaries to explain why Trump voters voted for him and why they are continuing to support him. “Trump does what he says he is going to do,” they say. “He is authentic”. “Clinton was a crook.” “My identity is being disrespected while undeserving people are being given handouts by the government.” “We can’t afford a higher minimum wage, paid sick leave, maternity leave, healthcare, job protections, public transportation, child day care.” Instead of handouts, they say, government should encourage private enterprise. Trump voters feel they are unfairly disadvantaged economically. They feel their patriotism is not admired. “Money spent on the military is patriotic.” They want to return America to the fifties and the supremacy of white men.

Do these short hand quotes really explain, however, the incredible picture of Trump appointing, almost without exception, incoming heads of departments who vow to destroy both the meaning and the substance of the work of these departments. Even the degree of hatred of anything Obama did is not a powerful enough explanation. After all, the meaning of these departments is to help Americans realize their dreams. To be the American Dream. The best national park system, the best public school system, the best health care, the best public transportation, the safest air, the safest water.   Americans should feel proud of these programs and goals. Instead, on the Trump side, they appear to despise them.

Can the incoming Republican really put as their first priority squashing the homeless, the helpless, the sick, the refugee, the native American trying to preserve his heritage. The answer is: yes, they can. For Republicans, the American Dream is private goods, house, car, vacations, opportunity for my kids. It is not public goods – clean air and water or national parks. Empathy is not part of the American Dream for people who you don’t know or don’t look like you. The Republicans who lack empathy or any sense of community with Americans who are not just like them will not only seem cruel, they will be cruel.

Commentators are missing one large target for explaining the Trump supporter that does not require believing they are all bad people. They need to look at their religious convictions, which the Trump supporters say are guiding their actions and which probably are. Continue reading “Religious Authoritarianism and the Trump Administration”



Donald Trump wants to present himself as a “patriot” who is making America great again so that Americans can feel patriotic again. In fact, all of Trump’s actions diminish America. Shouldn’t Americans want to believe that the world recognizes America has the best health care system, the greatest fast trains, the highest ideals for improving the lives of all who live in the community, the safest air and safest water, is the best guardian of natural resources, all, and many more, achievable goals the Trump Administration seem to find unexciting if not actively repugnant.

Ever since WWII America has been the leader not just in “one on one” bilateral relations with other countries in the world the way Trump, the dealmaker, says  is how he intends to do business,  but in putting together and leading alliances that increase the security and prosperity of all their members. That is what America has been doing until now, with failures as well as successes, but garnering  tremendous primacy and respect.  In the 21st century picking off a country here and there in deal making will achieve little or nothing, except to destroy that respect.

Trump is squandering a priceless American treasure: throughout our history we have presented ideals that are aspirations for all mankind. Nepal in the early 60s, still barely accessible over mountain passes, had a US Information Agency office where its Nepalese director was telling visitors, including this writer, “Lincoln, he is our hero too.” Our national government is the essential element in this leadership and the pride in “public service” of those who work for it within our elected institutions  has brought to all Americans a patriotic  pride in admirable actions that have benefitted both us and the world. Trump apparently feels pride and patriotism that his billionaire cohorts can find new ways to enrich themselves – not the nation.

When President Trump says he will make American “great” again I imagine he would include the beauty of America as part of its greatness. Americans have been singing “Oh Beautiful for Spacious Skies” for a long time and sense the times we sing this anthem as thrilling moments that bind us together.  We can almost see “the amber waves of grain.” Maybe we won’t be able to see them everywhere when Trump realizes his despicable idea of building a wall along the almost 2,000 mile border between Mexico and America. He is not making America “great”, he is making it ugly. Maybe he wants to see the wall as an icon of the America that binds us together, an America that rejects rather than welcomes – “America the Ugly.” What could be more hideous than that unnatural tall dark wall snaking across our beautiful county, reminding us perhaps of the  wall that separated East and West Germany during the cold war, or the walls in Jerusalem today. Trump seems to hope that this symbol of hatred and rejection will become real in the hearts of Americans, immeasurably diminishing us.

–Elizabeth Spiro Clark

   February 21, 2017

The March:  Agent of change and changed perceptions

The Women’s March (WMW) exceeded all expectations, starting in Washington DC, where according to New York Times estimates, the crowds were three times as large as the previous day’s Inaugural crowds. Globally, there were close to 700 separate marches, rallies and gatherings.

Numbers were important in assessing the impact of the March, but not in way that a Trump would think winners and losers by the numbers.

The size of the marches, as a historical event, most of all were an unforgettable visualization and for participants direct experience of what humanity is – the power of fellow feeling and interconnectedness.  That message could not have come at a better time, just as Trump demonstrated he disconnects himself from anyone but himself. In an official visit to the CIA the day after the March Trump could not even muster up fellow feeling in those who work to protect America’s security. All he could express was cheap rage at the press for underestimating the size of his inaugural crowds. If anything the media wasn’t factual enough about how much greater the crowds were at the March than at the Inauguration. Trump is powerless to make his crowds bigger and, increasingly, to fool people that the crowds are bigger. Continue reading “The March:  Agent of change and changed perceptions”

Developer In Chief

People have been asking me what I think about Ben Carson as the nominee to be Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It’s not just family, friends, and acquaintances who ask this question, but allies—people who work in the field.

But can I admit something? This question—what do I think about Ben Carson as nominee for HUD Secretary? —is an especially hard question for me to answer. Sure, I have set of pat answers that I’ve been giving people. I express skepticism because the nominee has so little prior experience with issues of housing and community development or with public administration. I talk about my displeasure that someone who recently and publicly called fair housing a failed socialist plot would be at the helm of a federal agency charged with enforcing fair housing. I talk about my and my commitment to fight for quality, affordable housing for low-income people; for equitable, vibrant, and sustainable communities; and about how these commitments stem from our larger vision of racial and economic justice. And I express my hope that all of these values remain a core part of HUD under the new administration, regardless of whoever becomes the head of the agency.

But underneath my answers, I admit to being uncomfortable, and even stifled with my own talking points. Ben Carson seems like a nice enough man, but my real feeling is that he is probably what they called a “Chamcha” in India under British rule—conveying a person without a backbone who facilitates the erosion of society by being uncritical and instead a pawn of the empire. I hope I am wrong. Continue reading “Developer In Chief”

Marching in 1969 against the Vietnam War: Marching now with the Women’s March in Washington

Interviewed at the Sundance Film Festival, by Amy Goodman, host of the radio program, “Democracy Now,” Al Gore said, “We are seeing a citizen action mobilization that is as big as anything we have seen since the Vietnam War.“

Back in November 15, 1969, I attended the Washington March Against the Vietnam War.  It was huge, about a quarter of a million.  The Women’s March surpassed it by many millions and was much more diverse.  Here’s how it looked to my husband and me.

Link and I rode the Metro to L’Enfant Plaza, January 21, starting about 8:45 am.  We were on our way to the Holiday Inn to join the Friends of the Earth, Climate Justice group.  As it turned out, when we arrived at the Inn after an alarming Metro ride, packed in like sardines, no one there knew anything about Friends of the Earth.  So we were on our own.

With both of us carrying our walking sticks, we were given special treatment.  People wanted to take our photo, asked if we were all right, and thanked us for joining the March.  We were grateful and touched by the attention.  A hallmark of this March was the courtesy and camaraderie of the participants.  There was a feeling of “we know why we are here and it’s the right thing to do.” Continue reading “Marching in 1969 against the Vietnam War: Marching now with the Women’s March in Washington”

The Trump Administration and Religion: In the End, the Same Republican “Small” Government Crusade

My post election conversations with friends, none of whom voted for Trump or would have thought of voting for Trump, were testy. I found myself irritated at talk about finding “common ground” with the other side and, especially, with getting in a contest for who could say the worst things about Hillary Clinton and the way the Democrats ran their campaign. Clinton was accused of being too cautious and not making a strong case for the Democratic Party’s vision and platform. True or not, Trump was so much the worst candidate that I wanted a relentless focus on resisting the values and ideas he was bringing to Washington.

Then I changed my mind. I now strongly believe that Hillary didn’t hit back hard enough, but not on conflicting agendas and policy proposals. She didn’t hit back on Trump’s totally immoral personal attacks on her. As well as unethical, Trump was unpatriotic every time he encouraged supporters in his rallies to chant, “lock her up”, and called her “crooked Hillary”. On at least one occasion he appeared to endorse assassinating her.  The viciousness worked.  The relentless shouting “She’s a crook” worked. The voters thought Hillary was a crook. Every day he said something unacceptable she should have blasted back. The press would have had to carry her response and maybe Trump’s lies and bullying would’ve sunken in with the voters. Continue reading “The Trump Administration and Religion: In the End, the Same Republican “Small” Government Crusade”

Momentum and Support For A National Concealed Gun Carry Reciprocity Law May Too Difficult To “Shoot Down”

The outcome of the November 8th congressional and presidential elections has the NRA boasting that it is confident that it and other pro gun groups can now force a federal carry reciprocity law.  Actually, the Trump people had already formed a “Second Amendment Coalition,” including members of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Active before he was elected.  Chaired by Donald Trump, Jr. and composed of 63 “co chairs,” the group stands ready to protect and expand gun-owners interests.

As I understand it, concealed carry is allowed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia but to different degrees.  In effect, should legislation requiring reciprocity be enacted, those states with the most stringent requirements would be subverted by the states with the most lenient regulations.  A January 2015 report by” Everytown for Gun Safety” said that reciprocity not only interferes with states’ rights but more dangerously, “some states do thorough criminal background checks on applicants, while other states have such ineffective permitting systems that they inadvertently issue permits to felons.“  Read entire report here. Continue reading “Momentum and Support For A National Concealed Gun Carry Reciprocity Law May Too Difficult To “Shoot Down””

Push Back On Trump: It’s Happening

There are encouraging signs that the forces of reason are mounting campaigns to fight back against the disastrous policy preferences of Donald Trump and the cadre of fellow billionaires he has chosen for his cabinet.  As we have said here from the first post election days, the push back on Trump must come from communities, including  local and state governments. At the national level we suggest taking a leaf from President Obama’s retirement plans. According to a New York Times report  he is planning to be an advisor to a brand new organization, National Democratic Redistricting Committee to be chaired by former Attorney General, Eric Holder. The NDRC will tackle the threats to American democracy posed by gerrymandering by Republican state governments designed to reduce the vote for the Democratic Party. The NDRC is planning launches in Virginia and New Jersey State elections in 2017.

Cities and States are on the Move:

While Trump has disputed the science of global warming and attacked policies to combat it, California’s governor, Jerry Brown, and Democratic legislative leaders have promised to band together with other nations and states to defend and strengthen our earth and its environment. “California can make a significant contribution to advancing the cause of dealing with climate change, irrespective of what goes on in Washington,” Mr. Brown said in an interview. “I wouldn’t underestimate California’s resolve…Yes, we will take action.” Continue reading “Push Back On Trump: It’s Happening”

Women’s March On Washington, Saturday, January 21, 2017

We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.