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Indivisible in Trump's America

Jena Martin

A year ago Donald Trump won the presidential election, and I felt crushed. It seemed hard to believe — my fellow Americans had voted into power a failed real estate mogul and reality show star who rose to political prominence by pushing a racist lie about the previous president. The despair I felt went far beyond the right and left of politics — I was scared of this authoritarian regime and felt helpless to stop it. 

In December 2016 I discovered the Indivisible Guide — then just a simple Google document. This guide, which has grown into a national movement, provided ideas and a plan for getting involved locally to halt the Trump agenda. Their proposal — a resistance to Trump built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness — called on the best of progressive politics, and did so without a political party, which I found refreshing after the toxic 2016 election. I had never been involved in politics, but Donald Trump was my wake up call. It was time to be an active citizen.

Indivisible reminded me of the basis for our democracy — that government represents me. My congressperson represents me and approximately 700,000 other constituents. All Americans are afforded this representation. Our representatives in Congress are proud to take us on tours when we visit, and are meant to be our voice in Washington, D.C. In fact, the legislative body is meant to serve as a check and balance on the executive branch, to prevent the sorts of abuses of power we are seeing from the Oval Office. In response to the chaos of the Trump administration, Indivisible gave me something I could do that made a difference — I could call my congressman. I could get my neighbors together and visit his office. We can ask our representative to defend the freedom of the press, to act to prevent corruption from taking root in our executive branch.

When I put out a notice online about our first meeting on Jan. 11 I thought perhaps there would be a dozen people. Instead there were 43 people packed into our tiny meeting space. Our next meeting grew to 125, and the next topped 150. We've visited our congressman's office many times, carrying cards, articles and two different petitions — our first petition requesting public and regular town hall meetings had 1,868 signatures and was barely acknowledged by the congressman's staff. We've held demonstrations, heard from speakers who've talked about issues facing our nation, and have created a real sense of community in suburban Minnesota. Our team includes those who recently identified as Republican, Democrats (from Bernie supporters to Hillary fans), Independents and others who'd previously been disaffected and uninvolved in politics. We're united by our opposition to the Trump authoritarian agenda, and seek to hold our own congressional representative accountable for how he addresses this administration's abuses.

After the last election I read about my representative in depth. I learned he claimed to have not voted for Trump. Could he be the sort of leader to stand up to the firing of the head of the FBI, to force Trump to release his taxes, to remove nuclear capabilities from Trump's sole control? Even without changing his party-line votes, he could take action on these sorts of authoritarian issues. I have since learned that he is not that person. My impression of him is that he doesn't really seem to want to discuss substantive issues, although from his social media posts it seems he does so with business leaders. Even after we've been rebuffed, I'm still surprised — why do so many public representatives not want to discuss current events with constituents, openly, in public?

It's an honor to be an American citizen, but it turns out it takes work beyond just casting your vote. I urge everyone to call their representatives, both when you agree with their votes and when you disagree. Without constituent input, politicians only hear from their donors — judging by the output of the current congress they have heard what the moneyed donors want. If we value our democracy, people must pay attention, and reach out to their representatives. Your voice matters.

Dr. Jena Martin is a resident of Minnetonka, constituent of Rep. Erik Paulsen, wife, mom to two tween girls, and co-founder and co-chair of IndivisibleMN03. 

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Comments (19)

Want to make a difference?

Do all that Jena suggests, and take a look at The Citizen Solution, a book written by Harry C. Boyte, Humphrey Institute. I purchased my copy at the reception desk at the Capitol. Lots of good ideas for citizen movements close to home.

Prevent corruption from taking root in our executive branch

Interesting comment from someone who probably voted for the one who pulled the strings on her side in the last presidential election and who probably voted for the last president who had the poorest transparency and greatly increased our country's division on identity politics more than we have ever seen.
Kudos to her for taking action. But bias is a funny thing. It is clear from her article that she wants progressive politics and seems to think only one side of the aisle are bad actors. You may get people together, but they are only based upon one way of thinking and will not unite those with other views.

Please

Support your statement of fact with something other than opinion:

"last president who had the poorest transparency and greatly increased our country's division on identity politics more than we have ever seen" Is this supported fact?

"It is clear from her article that she wants progressive politics" Evidently all positions against "T" are "progressive politics"? Wasen't clear from here, one could assume that, looked more like she has a "Representative" that from her opinion could care less about some of his/her constituents.

"seems to think only one side of the aisle are bad actors." Seems she a called out 1 president and 1 congressman, and not by name, you are short by hundreds. Did we miss something?

One way of thinking? Is that kind of like implying facts that don't exist to support a preconceived conclusion?

Trump

Ms. Martin no doubt means well, but she would do well to become better informed before she posts any future commentaries like this one. Every President is the head of the executive branch and has the constitutional authority to fire the head of the FBI or of any other executive department or agency. That principle was upheld in a 1926 U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Myers vs. United States). Trump's dismissal of James Comey may or may not have been wise, but it was entirely legal. And like every President, Trump as Commander-in-Chief has final authority over the use of nuclear weapons. As a practical matter, he doesn't have sole, unbridled authority to order a nuclear attack without clear military necessity; if he ordered such an attack on, say, Ottawa, the Secretary of Defense would defy his order as would senior military commanders, and Trump would quickly be impeached and removed from office.

Trump can be called many things, and my most frequent description of him doing the campaign was "willfully uninformed buffoon." But he is a very successful real estate developer when his career is viewed over the long term. Like every major player in that field, he has had projects that failed, but overall he increased his personal net worth far beyond the amount he inherited from his father. Trump also didn't rise "... to political prominence by pushing a racist lie about the previous president." Trump was well-known long before he ran for President, and he had talked for many years about running for that office. That point is actually related to my biggest criticism of Trump: why did someone who thought seriously about running for office not make the effort to become well-informed on serious issues? Trump gives every indication of just winging it most days - he had many years to get up to speed had he so desired.

As far as Trump being uniquely authoritarian, it's important to keep in mind that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down many of President Obama's executive orders, lots of them by unanimous 9-0 decisions. Trump's language is often beneath dignity of a President, but in quantitative terms he has (so far) been less authoritarian than Obama and his "pen and a phone" practices that most of the Left approved of for unprincipled reasons.

Friendly advice that applies to all of us: it's best to ground our opinions in a meaningful understanding of serious American history and how our structure of government actually works, and forego the ideologically-based accusations of authoritarianism that are only used against politicians whom we disagree with.

No

Trump was a terrible businesman. If he had put his inheritance into average-performing mutual funds, he would be worth far more than he claims to be. And no one knows what that really is, because he wont disclose it. Successful businessmen are not barred from getting loans anywhere but Russia

Not Exactly

"Every President is the head of the executive branch and has the constitutional authority to fire the head of the FBI or of any other executive department or agency . . . Trump's dismissal of James Comey may or may not have been wise, but it was entirely legal." Close, but no cigar. If an otherwise lawful act is done with corrupt intentions, that act could constitute obstruction of justice. Thus, if it were proven that Trump dismissed Comey to impede the investigation into his ties with Russia, it would be obstruction of justice.

Remember that President Clinton was impeached for obstruction of justice, and the Articles of Impeachment against President Nixon were for obstruction.

"But he is a very successful real estate developer when his career is viewed over the long term. Like every major player in that field, he has had projects that failed, but overall he increased his personal net worth far beyond the amount he inherited from his father." I'll let that one slide. How does a "very successful" businessperson lose money on a business predicated on people giving you money and expecting nothing in return?

"Trump also didn't rise "... to political prominence by pushing a racist lie about the previous president." Trump was well-known long before he ran for President, and he had talked for many years about running for that office." Talk is cheap. He didn't start taking serious steps towards running for office until he had exploited the birther lie as far as it could take him.

"As far as Trump being uniquely authoritarian, it's important to keep in mind that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down many of President Obama's executive orders, lots of them by unanimous 9-0 decisions." Most of those were agency interpretations, not Executive Orders, but whatever. I'll just ask if it is relevant here to note the partisan make-up of the current Supreme Court.

"Trump's language is often beneath dignity of a President, but in quantitative terms he has (so far) been less authoritarian than Obama and his "pen and a phone" practices that most of the Left approved of for unprincipled reasons." So it's cool because Trump hasn't actually imprisoned his political opponents or taken actions to quash the media?

"Friendly advice that applies to all of us: it's best to ground our opinions in a meaningful understanding of serious American history and how our structure of government actually works . . ." Yep.

“If an otherwise lawful act

“If an otherwise lawful act is done with corrupt intentions, that act could constitute obstruction of justice. Thus, if it were proven that Trump dismissed Comey to impede the investigation into his ties with Russia, it would be obstruction of justice.” First, it has to be proven that there was something to investigate.

“Most of those were agency interpretations, not Executive Orders, but whatever. I'll just ask if it is relevant here to note the partisan make-up of the current Supreme Court.” Actually, quite a few of them were Obama’s directives. And no, Supreme Court’s partisan make-up is irrelevant, even the old one since decisions were made 9-0.

“So it's cool because Trump hasn't actually imprisoned his political opponents or taken actions to quash the media?” Yep. He actually hasn’t done anything so far on the scale of Obama. Plus, a lot of what he is doing is undoing what Obama did.

No, no, and again, no

"First, it has to be proven that there was something to investigate." No. All that has to be shown is that the investigation was lawful, i.e. within the power of the agency. Sometimes, investigations do come up dry. I doubt that will happen here.

"And no, Supreme Court’s partisan make-up is irrelevant, even the old one since decisions were made 9-0." That is entirely a matter of opinion. Not all of the decisions were 9-0.

"Yep. He actually hasn’t done anything so far on the scale of Obama." Remind me of Obama's "authoritarian" actions. When your answer, remember that "authoritarian" does not mean "things with which I disagree."

"Plus, a lot of what he is doing is undoing what Obama did." Reflexively, without regard to the consequences. Reversing the elephant trophy ban was typical (I guess that one was too much even for Trump).

“All that has to be shown is

“All that has to be shown is that the investigation was lawful, i.e. within the power of the agency.” You actually may be right… So Clinton was nailed for that and perjury when they couldn’t find anything for the crime he was supposedly investigated for. I thought it was ridiculous then (and still do) and so did most Democrats. So did they change their minds? I didn’t.

“That is entirely a matter of opinion. Not all of the decisions were 9-0.” Of course it is a matter of opinion and in this case we may have different opinions since neither of us can prove his. But you asked if certain fact was relevant and I expressed my opinion.

“Remind me of Obama's "authoritarian" actions. When your answer, remember that "authoritarian" does not mean "things with which I disagree." Statement that he would use his “pen and phone” to do things he wants to should be enough. Both DACA and DAPA are illegal which even Obama admitted at some point. And sure, criteria should not be “thing with which I disagree” (and I never use it anyway) but this approach should also apply to Democrats.

“Reflexively, without regard to the consequences. Reversing the elephant trophy ban was typical.” Actually, elephant trophy ban reversal was done by someone else and Trump halted that reversal (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/20/us/politics/trump-elephants-trophy-hu...).

Dr. Martin has not only

Dr. Martin has not only posted this eloquent comment on activism from her legitimate position as a citizen on the left of whatever Trump and the current supine GOP represent. She also has organized other citizens to protest offensive behavior from our current president, following the encouraging suggestions from a bunch of Congressional staff who relayed what the Tea Party had done to take over the Republican party, in the on-line Indivisible guide (which I read).

Sorry to tell those who object when Democrats organize to try to have some effect on what Trump is doing to America, that we have a right to speak up, plan and attend public meetings, demand that our Trump-supporting Congressional reps hold public town halls for their constituents (It is only the GOP reps--Paulsen, Lewis, Emmer--who are hiding and shirking that duty), and loudly protest the awful stuff our Congress is flailing about trying to enact. We will speak up and we will vote.

A few points: While the President has the right to fire the head of the FBI, he commits an impeachable crime when he does it to obstruct justice, as he seems to have done when he fired James Comey to stop him from investigating Trump's campaign's ties to Russia influence on the 2016 election. Interesting, how right-wingers tend to omit that part of the problem.

Donald Trump having nuclear weapons available to him at whim (and this is a guy chock-a-block with whims of this or that moment) is categorically a different thing than Barack Obama or George W. Bush or any other President in the nuclear age having that access. Trump is unstable, volatile, intemperate, and has shown no ability to imagine consequences of anything he does or says. Having at hand a retired general whom he controls may calm Trump supporters, but not me or tens of millions of other Americans. Congress can limit Trump, as they have already with other matters.

Finally: Please look up the term "authoritarian," so you can understand that what Trump advocates as an authoritarian figure goes way beyond issuing executive orders that undo everything his apparent nemesis did (Trump is obsessed with Obama and Hillary Clinton, really can't move on from them, poor soul). He has shown himself to believe that he is above the law, personally and as president, like any tin-pot dictator. He has made lots of noise about limiting the freedom of the press, because he doesn't like what investigative journalism is digging up. He insists that his political rivals be punished--not just Hillary Clinton, but also those who dared to have a Women's March the day after he was inaugurated (You know that he's asked for that punishment of march leaders, right?) He slobbers with pleasure in the presence of other authoritarians like Putin or the young bin Salman in Saudi Arabia or Duterte, the killer in the Philippines. Trump gives away to Russian officials secrets that were part of the President's daily security briefings. He ignores the Constitution and makes noises that show he believes that Congress is just composed of a bunch of his company's middle managers who must do his bidding. He ignores institutional norms, and regards all relationships as personal ties and fealty to him (that's what Comey resisted: the clientelism of Trump the autocrat, the Don of America asking that Comey kiss his hand).

And: Donald Trump did not just inherit many millions. His father gifted him with a few million so he could start out in business. And, in that business Donald Trump has lied, cheated contractors, not paid his contracted bills, dared people to sue him for payment, and discriminated. He also has gone bankrupt multiple times and lost billions for the banks who lent him money. He also has done lots of business with Russian oligarchs, as had Jared Kushner. What's to admire, for Pete's sake?

Mr. Webster might give us the benefit of agreeing that Democrats and increasing numbers of Independents and Republicans profoundly disagree with this president and the GOP, and acknowledge that we have begun to fight back: note what happened in Virginia earlier this month, or elsewhere that activists like Dr. Martin have taken firm steps.

I don’t think anyone here (or

I don’t think anyone here (or anywhere else, for that matter, I believe) “object when Democrats organize,” or is saying that Democrats don’t have “a right to speak up, plan and attend public meetings… and loudly protest.” At least I didn’t find any indication of that.

“While the President has the right to fire the head of the FBI, he commits an impeachable crime when he does it to obstruct justice.” Right. Except there is no proof whatsoever that he did it.

Trump “has shown himself to believe that he is above the law, personally and as president, like any tin-pot dictator.” How? “He has made lots of noise about limiting the freedom of the press.” I remember that media complained loudly about Obama’s secrecy.

“You know that he's asked for that punishment of march leaders, right?” I don’t, can you please explain?

“He slobbers with pleasure in the presence of other authoritarians like Putin…” What did Obama promise to Medvedev? How did he and Clinton reset with Putin?

“He ignores institutional norms, and regards all relationships as personal ties and fealty to him.” Why did Obama fire general McChrystal?

Correcting Some Points

"Right. Except there is no proof whatsoever that he did it." Only if his own statement is not regarded as "proof." Was he just kidding?

"Trump 'has shown himself to believe that he is above the law, personally and as president, like any tin-pot dictator.' How?" His pattern of conduct in his civil litigation springs to mind. "'He has made lots of noise about limiting the freedom of the press.' I remember that media complained loudly about Obama’s secrecy." Correct me if I'm wrong, but that is not the same thing as proposing to change established constitutional law about defamation because his feelings were hurt. Nor did Obama ever post a truly juvenile animation of him fighting a CNN logo.

Why was the General fired? It wasn't due to any personal animosity towards the President. General McChrystal showed disrespect for civilian leadership. You probably should read the article that lead to the General tendering his resignation before you say too much about it. Whatever you may have read about it elsewhere is no substitute for the original.

“Only if his own statement is

“Only if his own statement is not regarded as "proof." Was he just kidding?” It is as much a proof as his call for Putin to find lost Clinton’s e-mails was a proof of collusion. However, in general, if there is no crime, there is nothing to obstruct. And so far, no evidence of crime whatsoever.

“His pattern of conduct in his civil litigation springs to mind.” He was doing everything through the legal system – how can it show that he thinks that he is above the law?

“proposing to change established constitutional law about defamation” Can you please remind me about this episode? Anyway, that and CNN animation (indeed juvenile) do not come to the level of making “lots of noise about limiting the freedom of press.”

“It wasn't due to any personal animosity towards the President. General McChrystal showed disrespect for civilian leadership” I kind of don’t see much of difference considering that Obama was “civilian leadership.”

More Proof

" It is as much a proof as his call for Putin to find lost Clinton’s e-mails was a proof of collusion." Acknowledging that he dismissed Comey because of the "Russia thing" is an admission of his motive for a past action.

"However, in general, if there is no crime, there is nothing to obstruct. And so far, no evidence of crime whatsoever." Why don't you take a look at the federal obstruction of justice laws (Title 18, Chapter 37 of the US Code) and tell us where it says that obstruction requires proof that an actual crime was committed. All I can see are references to obstructing or impeding "the due and proper administration of the law . . ." Where do you get the idea that "if there is no crime, there is nothing to obstruct?" Include citations in your answer.

"He was doing everything through the legal system – how can it show that he thinks that he is above the law?" Not paying duly entered judgments is not "doing everything through the legal system.

"Can you please remind me about this episode?" There was the time he said “I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” More recently, “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!” Later that same day, "“Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked."

I'm sure his running feud with CNN has nothing to do with the Justice Department's disapproval of the AT&T and Time-Warner merger. No, a petty, vindictive spirit like Trump would never do a thing like refusing a vertical merger for the first time since the Nixon administration.

"I kind of don’t see much of difference considering that Obama was 'civilian leadership.'” I kind of see a difference because General McChrystal criticized not only the President, but all of the civilian leadership around the US mission in Afghanistan.

The article also said the General and his aides were drinking Bud Lite with Lime. I don't think I need to elaborate on the full implications of that misdeed.

“Acknowledging that he

“Acknowledging that he dismissed Comey because of the "Russia thing" is an admission of his motive for a past action.” Not at all. The motive could have been that Comey was not moving fast enough, or is not efficient enough in his investigation, or is doing it too clumsily…

“All I can see are references to obstructing or impeding "the due and proper administration of the law.” As I said in another post, you may be actually (and unfortunately) correct on this (thank you for doing the research because I am too busy to do my own). So Clinton was nailed for that and perjury when they couldn’t find anything for the crime he was supposedly investigated for. I thought it was ridiculous then (and still do) and so did most Democrats. So did they change their minds? I didn’t.

“Not paying duly entered judgments is not "doing everything through the legal system” If he appealed it, it is.

Defamation laws. Again, thank you for examples but I do not see here “established constitutional law about defamation.” And I can guarantee you that everyone who ever encountered lies about self in the media was contemplating stricter measures against that lying because it is infuriating. So no limiting freedom of the press here. To the best of my knowledge, the only TV station that had some limitations imposed on them recently was the Russian TV. Was it a right thing to do?

“I'm sure his running feud with CNN has nothing to do with the Justice Department's disapproval of the AT&T and Time-Warner merger.” First, you don’t know if those things are related. And second, what does it have to do with the freedom of the press? If anything, it is a business deal to make more money, as any merger.

“General McChrystal criticized not only the President, but all of the civilian leadership around the US mission in Afghanistan.” Considering that the President is a Commander in chief, all policies are ultimately his…

Lets

Not start with the conclusion:
"Except there is no proof whatsoever that he did it." The investigation continues, no conclusion yet.
"How?" Just a couple easy ones.
Firing Comey: At least according to a Harvard Law School professor
Emoluments clause: Yes there are lawsuits working there way through the courts.
"T" s charity: Self dealing
"T" was sued >130 times in his first 90 days compared to Obama at 26 (PS: Many of Obama's overturned suits were carry overs from Bush, or positions the Justice dept. took, not necessarily executive, he got them because he was president, not executive overreach, there is a difference, if one is interested in the facts, vs. just a biased conclusion)
Medvedev: You seem to know?
McChrystal; Looks like a leadership issue: "The president cited the need for his team to unite in pressing the war effort"
Yes leadership is an institutional norm, in Government and business, seems that "Leadership" is what the folks are talking about here, not idealism.

“The investigation continues,

“The investigation continues, no conclusion yet.” Sure, but so far there is no proof or any facts. As for investigation, we have a lot of them going on… Yes, let's not use insinuations, just facts.

“Firing Comey: At least according to a Harvard Law School professor. Emoluments clause: Yes there are lawsuits working there way through the courts.” OK, there are a few attorneys who think so. There were some who thought the same way about Obama. Not a proof of anything.

“was sued >130 times in his first 90 days compared to Obama at 26.” This is not as much a function of what Trump did but a function of how liberals treat him: no matter what he does, it’s wrong and bad. Plus, it may be also a function of how much each of them tried to do in the first 90 days – maybe Obama just did nothing.

“Medvedev: You seem to know?” Obama was caught on hot mic telling that to Medvedev.

“McChrystal; Looks like a leadership issue: "The president cited the need for his team to unite in pressing the war effort" Sure, Trump thinks the same.

I have to admit that quite

I have to admit that quite often my comments are sarcastic and may feel like ridicule (maybe that is a partial reason some of them are not posted) so I will just say thank you to Mr. Peterson and Mr. Webster instead.

I also want to point out that those who present a point here opposite of the liberal approach are not Trump’s fans and not necessarily even his voters. They are just tired of conventional left-wing talking points that are presented as non-negotiable truths and want to challenge them even though some topics have become taboos lately. This piece manifests typical (to rephrase Charter’s commercial) “Trump is evil, his position is bad, resisting him is good” approach - no further proof necessary.

Ilya must know that when

Ilya must know that when people consistently defend Donald Trump, they are, in effect, supporting the legitimacy of his actions and words. They are his supporters, whether or not they're so embarrassed now that they claim not to have voted for him in 2016.

Trump himself said on national TV that he fired FBI Director James Comey because of "the Russia thing." He had asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn's ties to Russia and the latter's influence on the 2016 presidential election. Comey refused the request, so Trump fired him. The case hasn't yet gone to court (and Mueller so far has not filed formal charges against Flynn, despite all the public evidence that Flynn is guilty of criminal behaviors) so it may be "unproved" to Ilya. But there have been revelations of multiple Trump-campaign ties to Russians and Russian influences on the election, and we'll see more. Just let Mueller do his work.

Donald J. Trump continues to run businesses that are making many millions of dollars for him, while he is President. This is a major ethical problem for him. Start with that Trump hotel just down the street in Washington, where all the foreign Big Wigs have decided they should stay, so they curry his favor. There are other instances of money coming in--he is, therefore, not complying with U.S. law that prohibits a President from making money off the office he holds. We could also go on, to Ivanka and Jared and Donald Jr. and Erik, but you get the idea. IMAGINE, if Hillary Clinton did anything remotely like that!

In a totally unprecedented move, Donald Trump has held personal interviews with the attorneys who are candidates for U. S. Attorney (he fired their predecessors) in three geographical areas where Trump has residences and could therefore see federal charges filed against him: the Washington, D.C. area (of the white House), the part of Florida where Trump's Mar-a-Lago sits, and the Southern District of New York, which covers Manhattan and Trump Tower there. He is trying to establish personal loyalty from those probable appointees, so they will do what James Comey wouldn't. No president has ever dared to color appointments to DA positions like that.

We liberals have reasons not to like or approve of what Trump does or says. It's not just liberal cant. We're following his every move and statement, even those juvenile tweets.