The Trump Press Conference Must Scare Us Into Action

Any hopes The Donald would grow into the office are gone, it’s up to the people to mitigate the disaster of his presidency

In the wake of election day, countless people called on Americans to give Donald Trump a chance. They hoped aloud that he would start to take this all more seriously and become Presidential™. Early signs fueled that hope. On Nov. 10, people saw him slumped over next to President Obama with a thousand-yard stare, and those people wished a solemn wish that the weight of the office had finally dawned on Trump and maybe this 70-year-old stubborn man would turn over a new leaf. Those people were delusional.

Today, 64 days since his election, Trump held his first press conference as PEEOTUS (sorry, PEOTUS. It’s only been one day since he became PEEOTUS). Did Trump show glimmers of hope that he had grown into the role? No, not at all. He showed us that the office, and the pressures therein, will further derange him. As he spoke in the third person, he free-associated through non-answers and set off numerous alarm bells. He won’t divest in his company to clear up conflict of interests. He bragged that he could have accepted a $2 billion bribe, but didn’t. He shouted down a CNN reporter because he didn’t like the network’s reporting. He didn’t deny contact between his campaign and Russia in the run up to the election. He denied that the GOP was hacked, despite credible intelligence to contradict that. And he just generally seemed more unhinged than before. It was a disastrous look ahead at America’s next four years.

But he won’t see this press conference as a disaster. The staff that cheered along while he was up there will insulate him from self-reflection. His lackeys and trained seals wailed and clapped at his every utterance in a way that wouldn’t feel out of place in North Korea. This circle of sad hangers-on yearn for nothing more than to be adjacent to power, so they won’t do anything to jeopardize their relation to The Donald. His reality will be theirs. So the walls separating Trump from the real world will grow higher and higher. To expect him to change is foolish. In order to mitigate the damage of the Trump presidency, we must change. We’ve got to take the advice that Barack Obama gave in his farewell address and actually get out into the real world, meet with people and organize, because that’s the only way to wrest back power.

In California, the organizing began this past weekend. Democrats held their elections to determine delegates to the statewide committee. These are grassroots activists who create democratic priorities on the local level, organize around issues and become candidates for office themselves. In the 50th Assembly District that encompasses parts of Los Angeles County, a line to vote for delegates stretched well around the block, filled with people who’d never engaged on the grassroots level like this before. One volunteer exclaimed to me with a smile, “There were only 144 people the last time we had one of these.” On Sunday, they had seven times that number turn out.

This is how it begins. People assemble, discuss common goals, then look to channel that into political action. Media and social media can amplify this, but they should never replace it. What the Presidential election showed us is that this has to happen locally. Meeting in person with fellow community members is vitally important, because having people agree with you online across the country, even if it’s millions of people, will fool you into thinking your numbers are stronger than they are. It’s these local constituencies that will make the change that will start to filter up nationally. It will also lead a much deeper bench of great candidates, because Democrats have been sorely lacking there.

And do not hide behind the fact that your congressional district or state is already blue, so you don’t need to work. I spent Christmas in Seattle, one of the most left-leaning places in America and I heard family members lament the state of the city’s public schools; they felt they were neglected and getting worse. If this is the case in Seattle, then even the most Democratic of enclaves need people to band together to put pressure on leadership to improve communities, or to install new leadership.

The key to limiting the damage Trump does to America is to fight complacency, because it will constantly nag at you. Within the people who hoped that Trump would change I could sense an abdication of responsibility for self government. If Trump governed more reasonably, if he “wasn’t so bad after all,” then we as citizens could just go about our daily lives as if the world wasn’t a different place now. We could leave governance to someone else as we’ve done the last decade. But doing that led Republicans to wrest control of nearly every level of government from local to federal. And now, with Trump, complacency of the people may irreparably damage America. It’s time to get to work.


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