Lessons from Trump’s First Six Months: Unrelenting Advocacy and People Power Make Democracy Work

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Michael Burgess

The first six months of Donald Trump’s term have been filled with chaos and controversy.   His political agenda has also been beaten back with massive, active resistance on health care, immigration, and other issues.   That resistance has been a bright spot because progressive activists always seem to question their power.  Instead, we have even surprised ourselves with a flexing of political muscle and activism unlike anything since the opposition to the Vietnam War.

Efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act were met with immediate resistance and the flooding of town hall meetings as well as public demonstrations for the program.  The proposals which the House and Senate Republicans came up with to replace the ACA were disasters intended to take away benefits for tens of millions while giving tax breaks for the wealthy.  These proposals were terribly unpopular with less than 20% support in opinion polls.   The bills drafted were not based upon listening to the interests or representing the desires of the public.  Rather, they were right wing,  political proposals meant to destroy “Obamacare” for political reasons.

Congressman Chris Collins who represents part of western New York went so far as to call some of the opposition to the GOP health bills as  based on “fake” information and advocacy.  I would suggest that a Congressman like him who ignores the wishes of his constituents is a “fake” Congressman who represents his wealthy donors not one who really represents the people of his district, at least on this issue.

Now, the right wingers are thinking about cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in their budget proposals to be acted on in the coming months.  Just like their health care proposals, the public doesn’t support their plans to cut  Medicare and turn it into a voucher.  They don’t support turning Medicaid into a block grant or cutting Social Security disability benefits as well as food stamps.  They will try to do it anyway.

Don’t be re-assured just because Donald Trump says he doesn’t support cuts to Medicare and Social Security.  His positions are constantly changing based on his political needs of the moment.   Remember how he supported the House GOP health bill one day and then called it “mean.”

What we have learned in the first six months of Trump is that we must continue to organize, to write letters, to attend rallies and town hall meetings and public protests.  We must be unrelenting.  We showed it works and it will work again, especially as we continue to move closer and closer to 2018 and Congressional elections.  We have seen again that democracy is not a spectator sport and it only works as it is supposed to if we  work at it and insist upon it.


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I have been a senior advocate for most of my career. I was Executive Director of the New York StateWide Senior Action Council and the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans. In 2007-2010 I was the Director of the New York State Office for the Aging

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