Encouraging Signs

Doctors and psychologists are reporting spikes in depression and other psychosomatic responses among the general citizenry in response to the daily reports of dysfunction, corruption and regression in Washington.

Those responses are understandable. But as I keep reminding myself, the news isn’t all bad. We are seeing a genuine resurgence of civic engagement at a level I have never previously seen, and there are growing indications that announcements of the death of journalism may also have been premature.

Despite concerns that “outrage fatigue” would cause activism to dwindle, groups opposed to Trumpism have continued to proliferate–even in red states like Indiana.

For example, Women4Change Indiana was formed immediately after the election. It has four task forces, focused upon guaranteeing the dignity and safety of all women, especially in regard to sexual assault, reproductive health, and LGBTQ rights; mentoring and empowering women to achieve greater political leadership; fighting racism and promoting civility in political discourse; fighting against gerrymandering and voter suppression and improving civics education.

Formed just five months ago, it currently has 14,000 members across the state. In Indiana.

In even more good news from Indiana; “old school” Republicans (not old chronologically, just advocates for what used to be Republican values) have formed a group called “Enterprise Republicans,” which they describe as “diverse and inclusive” and devoted to protecting the human rights of all Hoosiers. I’m told they plan to primary selected Republican culture warriors, a welcome tactic in Indiana, where gerrymandering has created so many safe Republican seats that there has been no politically realistic way to effectively counter the most rabid rightwing zealots.

Then there’s journalism. According to the Washington Post,

The philanthropy established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar will contribute $100 million to support investigative journalism, fight misinformation and counteract hate speech around the world…

“We think it’s really important to act now to keep dangerous trends from becoming the norm,” Stephen King, who heads the Omidyar Network’s civic engagement initiative, told The Washington Post in the philanthropic group’s first public comments on the three-year funding commitment….

The newly announced funding is intended to address “a worrying resurgence of authoritarian politics that is undermining progress toward a more open and inclusive society,” said Omidyar Network managing partner Matt Bannick.

The network is also concerned about the declining trust in democratic institutions around the world, including the news media, he said.

“Increasingly, facts are being devalued, misinformation spread, accountability ignored and channels that give citizens a voice withdrawn,” he said. “These trends cannot become the norm.”

The story–which is very encouraging–ended with a recitation of other philanthropic efforts to bolster legitimate journalism and combat “alternative facts.”

On Monday, a group including Facebook and Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, announced the News Integrity Initiative, a $14 million effort to advance news literacy and increase trust in journalism. It will be based at City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism in Manhattan.

And last month, the Democracy Fund and First Look Media, both founded by Omidyar, announced that they would award $12 million to news organizations including the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Center for Public Integrity and ProPublica.

We can only hope that these efforts reach the Indianapolis Star at some point….

There are also encouraging signs that local governments are stepping up to address pressing issues. Cities across the globe have increased their efforts to protect the environment and advance social justice.  Cityscope reports that in Toronto, for example, the city is using its contracting clout to encourage the employment of disadvantaged populations, and cities in the U.S. are looking to follow suit. Cities are protecting immigrants, addressing police misconduct (even as Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department retreats from Obama-era oversight agreements), and investigating  other ways to compensate for the damage being done in Washington.

The Sixty-Four Thousand Dollar Question, of course, is whether these efforts, and the many other promising movements and activism tools that are emerging, will be able to turn a very threatening tide of authoritarian incompetence.

As David Brooks wrote this week, in a scathing (and laugh-out-loud funny) column,

The human imagination is not capacious enough to comprehend all the many ways the Trumpians can find to screw this thing up.

It’s We the People versus the Trumpians, and I wouldn’t count us out.


  1. “It’s We the People versus the Trumpians, and I wouldn’t count us out.”

    I am speaking out on this blog, on Facebook, in E-mails, to people who will listen, I am responding to surveys; I am joining more established organizations, donating money I cannot afford to strengthen the Democratic party to work for us at levels where we have no power (which appears today to be ALL levels). I am still looking forward to “marching” locally in that borrowed wheelchair in any anti-Trump rally or protest – issues are too numerable to count.

    But; Trump has access to ballistic missiles, war ships, the entire U.S. military and that nuclear button. He has either actually alienated Russia or this is merely a distraction from his crimes, he says he is not done in Syria (one of his accomplishments in his first 13 weeks in office – actually 11 weeks, he can’t even count); our Naval warships are nearing North Korea in a threatening measure. No actual damage was done in Syria to the area where there was no proof of storage of chemical warfare supplies; the airfield is functioning at normal levels. While Trump basks in the the Florida sun on one of his many golf courses, this country and the world is simmering on the brink of boiling over into WWIII.

    Will we be alive to continue to be counted? Or will we be among the body count? Why should I continue to have faith in a government which has turned a mentally unbalanced man loose on the world at large and the governor of Indiana is concentrating on assuring every business who so desires to do so will be allowed to sell cold beer on Sundays?

  2. Trumpians have been warned by public opinion polls that they-the wingnuts-are on the hook if Obamacare is allowed to fail., among other things.

  3. “Don’t boo. Vote!” We heard that over and over from President Obama. Americans need to take those words to heart. All of the activism will mean nothing if we don’t vote. Gerrymandering is never a good thing, but if we seriously look at many of those “safe” districts, how many would be rendered unsafe by greater participation in the electoral process?

    Three of my favorite quotes are: 1) deToqueville, “In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.” 2) Albert the Alligator, “We has met the enemy and he is us.” (from Pogo written by Walt Kelly). 3) Benjamin Franklin, “We’ve given you a republic, if you can keep it.”

    All three of these quotes get more relevant every day.

  4. I would never count us out but these times are definitely trying that at times I find it hard to focus on my work because of the abject stupidity by either see or read about every day. It’s encompasses so many things with foreign policy and National Security policy being my principle bugaboos. Then I think of all the families that I’ve worked with at Riley Hospital for Children who will be absolutely devastated by the cuts at these maniacs envision regarding social programs that benefit those that really, really need help.

    This country has faced many challenges over its existence and every time the American people have found a way to surmount them. I continue to believe that this time will be no different and that we will emerge the even stronger as a result. In the meantime,, we’re going to have to work very hard, all of us, to get things back on track and get these people with their near psychotic ideas regarding governance into the dustbin of history where they belong.

  5. “We can only hope that these efforts reach the Indianapolis Star at some point….”

    You mean the right-wing Establishment rag operated by Gannett, Inc.? LOL

    The Gannett-owned rag in Muncie is why I started Muncie Voice. As Robert Kaplan so eloquently stated, “Establishment media wants to be the arbiters of truth”.

    Truer words have never been spoken. Even when they screw up the facts, they’ll double down to protect their Ego.

    Once independent journalism is finished analyzing and debunking the lies over chemical weapon usage in Syria, I suspect even more people will protest our “arbiters of truth”.

    Noam Chomsky says the Establishment media’s purpose is to “manufacture consent”. I think we’re seeing the light and retracting our consent at a rapid pace thanks to the internet.

  6. Very sorry for my voice activated software-induced Syntax errors. Microsoft must have gotten theirs from a little old lady that lives just south of Moscow.e

  7. The SNL cold opening was especially insightful last night. Trump (Alec Baldwin) visited his supporters at a rally in the south and took questions. Each person asked about some policy or proposed program that deprived them of some benefit or opportunity. He essentially responded that program would be eliminated and that they would suffer, and each person assured him that he was their president and they stood in back of him despite that fact. Until those people understand that this man and the current persons in power are not their friends, and decide to vote differently, we are in for a continued ride on this dangerous roller coaster.

    H.L. Mencken’s insight is helpful: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it, good and hard.”

  8. As others today are posting quotes; I will repost this one from W.C. Fields; “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

    The supporters at Trump rallies and voters at the polls were dazzled with his bullshit; unless and until THEY begin paying the bill for what they ordered on November 8, 2016; Trump and the GOP will continue shoveling. Nazi Germany WAS and Russia IS famous for changing the rules after the vote to make their hand-picked appointments. Let us not forget that they killed off those who fought to prevent this from happening, it continues today with those who left Russian rule to warn the world are being murdered in broad daylight on public streets in countries where they sought sanctuary…or falling out of their fourth floor windows.

  9. November 6, 2018 can’t come soon enough to oust the liars in Washington. Ready for the campaign blitz? Prevent the looming World War before it begins by draining the CURRENT swamp in Congress.

    Your vote will let your representatives and senators know that you do not approve of the stumbling GOP.

  10. Again at the risk of oversimplification it seems to me that the monetization of news into entertainment is at the very root of democracy’s floundering. I don’t see how it’s possible for we the people to manage our government affairs without real journalism to keep us informed. We got at least temporarily confused because the old business plan for news collapsed as distribution technology went through rapid systemic change and we still have a ways to go before we figure it out.

    At least there’s hope now that we can figure it out while there’s still something to save by figuring it out.

  11. Someone, and I think it was Sir Isaac Newton (who many regard as the smartest man ever to live) posited that “For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction,” or something to that effect. I understand that he was thinking in a scientific context at the time, but I think there may be an application of that axiom to the social sciences at well, however difficult to measure, thus validating Sheila’s hopeful post today as we more forcefully resist Trump’s attempts to import his new norms from his world of narcissistic haze to our cause and effect two and two are four world of reality. Whether my theory is right or wrong, her observation that Trump has stirred up a robust reaction to his government by whim is a fact and I find that encouraging. We can lament that we should have been doing this all along and that if we had there would not be such political travesties as a Trump in the Oval Office or another Scalia on the court, but we start from where we are, and perhaps the sleeping giant of an aroused polity has awakened from its long hibernation, hungry and ready to fight. I join Sheila in hoping such is the case.

  12. We can’t hope Trump would be the conservatives conservative or Obama who acted as a conservative during compaigns would not run the country without signing executive orders like Trump is now doing. Susan Rice now continues to be a new target, the continued abuse of the government to campaign against the Republicans, and tea party radicals. We have to operate better than the other side and stay politically pure as we use policy issues to change government policy without diversions. What now will Trump do after 2 Coptic churches were bombed today. My mother in law states worry that my nephews are going to be headed off to war. Worry, you bet and this world we live in has more chaos than journalists can even begin to dig up.

  13. Thank goodness the assassins are not yet aroused. It would be sad if lives were risked by a government of bungling lurches, er…leeches, er…loonies.

  14. Pete, I totally agree with the your statement: “The monetization of news into entertainment is at the very root of democracy’s floundering”.

    Profit has always been a part of the equation, but 40 years ago you had independent newspapers, and in many cities like Chicago where I grew up there were four major newspapers. They were competitors so getting the big “scoop” was a matter of pride plus it sold papers, even TV and Radio got into the act.

    Today, CNN, FOX and MSNBC have hours and hours of panel discussions on some subject each presented with their own slant. News of the nation and the world, is run across the bottom on some electronic ribbon. I end up watching the BBC. Our local PBS station is joke – really we need to see the Lawrence Welk Show every week. Indiana Week in Review is joke, sanitized by presenting the establishment partisan views of Democrats and Republicans.

  15. Liberals should be incredibly thankful for the help they’re getting from late night comedians. Trump is getting tromped on five nights a week … six if you count “Saturday Night Live.” His special brand of nonsense is constantly being analyzed by the best comedic writers in the business. And viewers are quoting what they hear. And they’re laughing. Loudly.

    It’s almost as if the comics are staging a vendetta against our Fake President. I would guess they are. Yippee.

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