I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published January 31, 2017. Digital scan of the issue unavailable.
By Cody Jones, Opinion Staff Writer
Donald Trump is now the president of the US. For those who normally do not care about politics or are uninvolved, now is a good time to start, the next four years will give you a reason to care. With his cabinet taking shape, his appointees should be examined. Everyone — conservative, liberal or otherwise — will be adversely affected by this administration.
Up first is Jeff Sessions, selected to be US attorney general, the top law enforcement official. The US attorney general can change how civil rights laws are carried out, and considering Sessions’ history and the Republican makeup of most state legislatures, voters should be worried.
During his confirmation hearing after being nominated by Ronald Reagan for the role of a federal judge in 1986, he was accused of both making racist comments and referring to the NAACP and the ACLU as “un-American” and that they “forced civil rights down the throats of people.”
Gerry Hebert, at the time a trial attorney in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, said Sessions had “prosecuted black citizens on phony charges of voter fraud” and he “supported discriminatory voter ID laws based on the myth of widespread voter fraud.”
A voter ID bill has already been introduced this year in Iowa; voting rights are swiftly being targeted in order to suppress voter turnout. It is expected to pass the Republican-controlled legislature and the Republican governor will likely sign it into law. In Arkansas, Republicans are pushing to reinstate voter ID laws found unconstitutional in 2014. The myth of widespread voter fraud is alive and well, and Republicans, including Jeff Sessions, will continue to capitalize on that myth. Trump recently repeated the lie that millions of votes were cast illegally in the last election and is now calling for a “major investigation.” This rhetoric is being used as a stepping stone to further consolidate their power through the erosion of voting rights.
Tom Price, a former physician who is anti-abortion and anti-Obamacare, has been selected to be secretary of Health and Human Services. Price received a rating of zero percent from both Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice. That rating, Planned Parenthood reports, means he is in “complete opposition” to their public policy positions regarding reproductive rights and sexual health issues. As one example, he supported legislation banning all abortions after 20 weeks. Abortions occurring after 20 weeks are often because of serious health problems threatening the life of the mother.
He wants to privatize Medicare — this would gore the program and ruin it for approximately 55 million people who rely on it. He supports a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act and has his own plan to replace it. Whether his plan will be used as the replacement is in question, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates about 22 million people will lose their insurance if there is a full repeal. The Urban Institute’s estimates are even higher at around 30 million. People will die if they lose their insurance and people will continue to die if the Affordable Care Act is not replaced by a similar or better plan. Republican proposals are not similar or better and universal health care is currently out of the question, so more deaths are inevitable.
Under the Affordable Care Act, birth control was made widely available to women who previously had difficulty getting it — or had no access at all — through their insurers. After Trump won the election, there were reports of women rushing to get IUDs and other forms of birth control out of fear they may not have access soon.
Those fears are not unfounded and people are rightly worried. Trump already signed an executive order to reimpose the so-called Mexico City policy which was originally announced by President Reagan in 1984; the policy prohibits funding foreign nongovernmental organizations that “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.” These NGOs provide health care for mothers and children, counseling, HIV testing and contraceptives among other services. NGO-run clinics in other countries will now be paralyzed or forced to close entirely. Again, people will suffer unnecessarily because of this decision. Similar attempts will be made — and are being made — domestically.
Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier who has received donations from the fossil fuel industry and defended the industry as Oklahoma’s attorney general, will now lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2016, Pruitt wrote the debate regarding climate change is “far from settled” and scientists “continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” The debate is in fact settled and an overwhelming majority of scientists are in agreement it is caused by human activity.
Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, is the pick for secretary of state. This role deals primarily with foreign policy and one particular issue of concern is climate change. As secretary of state, Tillerson has influence over the US’ role in environmental agreements meant to reduce carbon emissions, such as the 2016 Paris Agreement. ExxonMobil is currently under investigation after it was revealed the company spent decades ignoring its own scientists’ research showing fossil fuels’ contribution to climate change.
Tillerson’s proclivity to support and expand the fossil fuel industry while disregarding the risks of climate change will result in disaster. The prospect of addressing climate change with any meaningful action seems unlikely under Pruitt and Tillerson. To ignore climate change is to ignore an existential threat.
Everyone can and should find an issue to focus on in the coming years as the Trump administration and Congress begin to take action. Workers’ rights, the minimum wage, health care, public education, indigenous rights, women’s rights, voting rights, LGBT rights, drug policy reform, immigration, foreign policy, welfare programs, climate change and much more are all likely to be negatively impacted. There is plenty of cause for concern.
The next four years are going to require an acute attention to detail of what this administration does in conjunction with the Republican majorities across the country, and much more than simply paying attention, action must be taken at the local, state and federal levels. Whether it is voting, campaigning for candidates, organizing rallies, calling members of Congress, protesting, coordinating general strikes or donating to a preferred cause, there are countless methods to use and opportunities to push back.
The recent women’s march — one of the largest demonstrations in decades and perhaps the largest in American history by some estimates — should make it clear there is, and will continue to be, a great deal of pressure on this administration. That momentum must be multiplied, sustained and unrelenting if there is to be any hope of mitigating the damage to come.