- Jeff Drew
Local notables grade Trump’s presidency (so far).
By Dylan Woolf Harris
Politics aside, Donald Trump's presidency is peculiar.
Sounding a Twitter bullhorn, POTUS isn't one to walk away from an internet spat, no matter how low a road he must travel to get there. The media is a conspicuous target for Trump, and his unending use of the phrase "fake news"—a conflation of actual false stories that had spread on social media last year and coverage that he doesn't appreciate—has lifted that term into the national lexicon.
If that's not aberrant, ask yourself this: When's the last time a trio of former staffers were indicted on felony charges? All this, of course, while rumors swirl that his campaign was in cahoots with the Russian government.
And while "different" doesn't categorically mean "bad," only the few times when Trump hasn't demonstrated his quirks have pundits described him as "presidential."
But, hey look, the stock market is soaring, which people like Trump have credited to Trump. And his Supreme Court Justice pick, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed—a feather in the president's cap that GOPers cite as a major accomplishment.
So when considering his disposition and the benchmarks he and his ilk taut, how is Trump performing as president? And how did he comport himself as president-elect before that?
Public opinion polls show his approval ratings are tanking, recently sinking to 33 percent in one Gallup study. But, as Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders points out, polls also indicated Trump would get trounced in the electoral college, and they were dead wrong.
When City Weekly reached out to local newsmakers to ask them how they'd assess the year since the 2016 election, a mixed bag was expected.
Perhaps it's telling, though, that even in our hyper-partisan clime, it was much more difficult to get local Republicans to play along. When they did, the support for Trump was tepid and qualified. Those who align with the opposite side of the aisle appeared more eager to weigh in and were clear in their disapproval.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski
"The president should first and foremost inspire and unite our country. Since he took office, we have seen a spread of divisiveness by the current administration's policies and, more regrettably, aggressive tweets. Fear and blame are not sustainable ways to govern. My hope is in the coming year, promised policies like financial investment in infrastructure and tackling the opioid crisis will become the focus over 140-character attacks."
Gov. Gary Herbert
Through his communication team, Utah's GOP governor declined to give a letter grade and pointed City Weekly to a news conference last month for his remarks about Trump's "erratic" presidency.
"He's done some good things, some of the appointments he's made. I support his appointment to the Supreme Court, Judge Gorsuch. I appreciate the fact he's appointed a number of governors to positions. Nikki Haley is ambassador to the United Nations. Rick Perry, energy [secretary]. Mike Pence, you know, is the vice president, who's a good friend of mine. Sonny Perdue, agriculture: All governors. So he's—I think he's done some good things with his appointments.
"He has a hard time not addressing a thousand issues when he ought to be focused on five. He gets distracted with some of the other things that happen, some of the criticism. From that standpoint, I think he could sharpen his game a little bit by focusing more on the more important issues and let the other stuff slide.
"So he's done some good things, he's done some things I think he could improve upon. And not to give him an excuse but this is his first time to do this. Running a government is different than running a business. It's nice to have some of those business practices and an understanding of the free-market capitalistic system we have in America, that's good news. But it's not a dictatorship."
Salt Lake City Councilman Charlie Luke
"My grade is not based on politics or on the many issues I disagree with Donald Trump. Trump has earned an F due to:
His inability to effectively work with Congress on his legislative agenda,
The federal courts blocking so many of his major executive orders due to their unconstitutionality,
Consistent attempts to discredit the media,
Uncivil Twitter rants,
Abysmal foreign relations,
Stoking and justifying racism and sexism,
And inconsistent hurricane responses between states he won and a territory he didn't."
Rep. Mike Winder, R-Salt Lake City
"On the one hand, he didn't denounce white supremacy fast enough, his Twitter storms divide not unite, scores of key posts remain vacant, and he hasn't led any big legislative wins through Congress yet. On the other hand, conservatives are being appointed to courts, regulations are being cut, the stock markets have boomed to record highs, unemployment is the lowest in 16 years, consumer confidence is the highest it's been since 2000, and if the Republican Congress actually does their job, President Trump is standing by to sign their bills into law."
Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City
President Trump deserves an F, because rather than thinking about the American people, he's more concerned about putting on a show. The President of the United States should represent the people, not special interests. The President of the United States should bring people together, not target people because of their race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, country of origin, ability, gender or gender identity. Our country is at its best when we work together; President Trump is not interested in the type of collaboration that founded this great nation.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City
"Three words: Bears Ears desecration."
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross
"Although there have been glimmers of greatness in speeches like the one he delivered in Las Vegas, I would give Trump a D- because of his frequent pettiness and his inability to get any major legislation passed."
The same day Weiler replied to CW, he also tweeted out this observation: "Realizing today that every child born this month was conceived while Trump was POTUS."
So the unofficial midterm report card is in: he's earned four F's, a D-, a B- and the governor's incomplete. The composite score is roughly a 59 percent failing grade. Making America great again, turns out, is hard work. But, unless Freshman Trump is booted out of office or decides he'd rather return to reality TV, he'll have three more years (seven if he is elected to a second term!) to study and apply himself.
Our Institutions Will Not Save Us
Let history and the 25th Amendment inform efforts on impeachment.
By Baynard Woods
Shortly after Donald Trump took office, there was a rash of hot takes by "resistance" pundits like Keith Olbermann explaining how a majority of the cabinet could constitutionally remove Trump from office.
Cue the 25th Amendment:
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
A close analogy to the current scenario was when Louisiana attempted to remove Gov. Earl Long, another populist and the brother of the notorious Huey Long, due to mental unfitness. Some people say the reason was his affair with famous Baltimore stripper Blaze Starr, but late journalist A.J. Liebling's spectacular profile shows how much of it had to do with his nascent attempts to introduce something like civil rights into the deeply Southern state. At any rate, Long's wife and others committed him to the state mental hospital in 1959, but he was able to get out by firing the director and hiring another. He retained power. Throughout history, seven other governors were removed from office after being convicted of high crimes—the most recent being Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2009.
Currently, given that Russia fever has intensified, the national conversation has veered toward impeachment. Or even, in the most ridiculous cases popularized by gullible internet sleuths like Louise Mensch and Claude Taylor, sealed indictments. In any case, over the past year, leftists have started loving the FBI.
And what a year it's been since the dark night when the Democrats lost to Trump. Now, still lacking a serious vision, Democrats might use the promise of impeachment as an election strategy to try to take the House in 2018.
It's good to believe in the strength of our institutions and to think they might be stronger than the people who enact them. But it's also foolhardy not to recognize that our institutions brought us Trump in the first place and that they are helmed by a bunch of shitheels more concerned about their own power than about the country.
Let's just step back and think about precisely who we are hoping might carry out these actions.
In the case of impeachment, you are essentially placing your hopes in Paul Ryan and one of the most noxious Republican congresses imaginable. Remember how much courage Ryan showed about Trump's sexist, racist and authoritarian remarks during the campaign? Yeah, me neither.
Now, if Ryan could also impeach Pence, well, then maybe he would consider it—it would be his ascent to power as third in line to the presidency. But any committed Republican knows that if you were to impeach a sitting president, his vice would be doomed, forever associated with the high crimes and misdemeanors of the impeached POTUS.
Even if Dems manage to take back the House—and they won't—they would turn an impeachment into a political war, and the Senate, which they almost certainly will not regain, would not vote to convict. Like the impeachment of Bill Clinton, it would be a hollow victory.
Also, the Democrats are nothing if not cowards. When Trump dissed John Lewis before the inauguration, plenty of Democrats lauded the Georgia congressman's heroism 50 years earlier, but not a single one of them was willing to be arrested. During health care protests, Dems watched as people were dragged from their assistive devices without stepping in to risk their own bodies in the way that courageous activists would.
As for the 25th Amendment, our chances are even worse. Yes, Rex Tillerson probably called Trump a "fucking moron." But that does not mean he is going to save you. Neither will the generals. Seriously, look at what you're thinking if you believe military figures can save us. What about Jeff Sessions or Betsy DeVos? When you invoke the 25th Amendment, these are the people you are counting on. These are the people to whom you are abdicating your political will and conscience.
Covering Trump and the so-called Resistance for the past year, I've learned one thing: If we really want to stop Trump, it is up to us. He is betting that the constant stream of outrage will wear us down and make us quit caring, as has happened in Putin's Russia.
And it is exhausting. But instead of sinking into the private sphere, putting our heads down and hoping we make it through, we can begin to stop the private sphere from functioning, we can invade it and disrupt ordinary life. We can make the country quit working and thereby force the establishment to work for us.
Back when Neil Gorsuch was first nominated, I talked to writer Lawrence Weschler, who covered the Solidarity movement in Poland in the 1980s and has seen the people bring down a regime. He argued that the only solution is mass mobilization.
"We all need to start training for civil disobedience," he said. "We have to have people being arrested everywhere ... 500 a day arrested at the Congress, arrested at the Supreme Court, arrested at the White House."
Weschler argued that it can't just be the political activists of antifa or Black Lives Matter getting arrested, but "everybody who attended the Women's March."
"If you want to normalize something, it's got to be a thing that 30 years from now your grandchildren will look at you and say, 'Did you at least let yourself get arrested?'" he said.
If we start to flood the jails in large numbers, something will happen. It might not happen because of all of the training and organizing—but it also would not happen without it. As with Solidarity or the Arab Spring, something will happen and it will be the spark to the wood we have been stacking. At that moment, you will either be there or not. You will be with us or you will be with Trump. Those are the only choices—not only for us but also for the members of Congress, the cabinet secretaries, the generals and the FBI agents we have been fantasizing about for the past year. They will do nothing unless we force them.
And in that force, we could not only depose a mad president, but also reclaim our democracy. Or claim it, even, for the first time.
If we do not do this, there will be more battles in the street. There will be doom.
Baynard Woods is the founder of Democracy in Crisis and a reporter and editor at The Real News.
- Derek Carlisle
Sign the petition and call your congressional reps. Let’s impeach Donald Trump.
By Kelly Kenoyer
We're taking a stand: It's time to impeach Donald Trump. There are myriad reasons to do so: the looming threat of nuclear war with North Korea; the embarrassment of having a "tweeter-in-chief;" the terrible, amoral example he sets for the children of this nation; numerous allegations of sexual assault and his unwillingness to denounce white supremacists—emboldening the worst elements of our country. Let's not fail to mention his constant unconstitutional behavior by not extricating himself from business ventures— meaning he is taking money from foreign powers and thus violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution. Added to this, are a recent series of indictments (and a guilty plea!) of shady people involved in his campaign for charges of tax evasion and making false statements.
So we know why we need to impeach him, but the real question is how? Here's what you can do.
Head to impeachdonaldtrumpnow.org and sign the petition urging Congress to move toward impeaching Donald Trump. Why impeach? According to the Impeach Trump Now website, "The nation is now witnessing a massive corruption of the presidency, far worse than Watergate."
The nonprofit's case for impeachment states: "President Trump's personal and business holdings in the United States and abroad present unprecedented conflicts of interest. Indeed, President Trump has admitted he has conflicts of interest in some cases."
You can also call or send a postcard to your local representative demanding action. And use social media to spread the message: #ImpeachWeek and #YoureFired.
Take the #YoureFired challenge with the Impeach Donald Trump Now campaign. Film a 5- to 45-second video telling Trump "You're Fired," then share it to social media and tag five friends to challenge them to do the same. You can also sign an impeachment petition, spearheaded by environmentalist Tom Steyer, at needtoimpeach.com.
As pointed out before, this is a matter of mass mobilization. Get out on the front lines. The nightmare won't end until we wake up.
Kelly Kenoyer is an investigative reporter at Eugene Weekly.
- Derek Carlisle
Let’s make a deal with Mike Pence
A plan for succession.
By Bob Keefer
But what about Pence?
That's the question everyone asks when you bring up impeaching President Donald Trump. If Trump were to leave office before the end of his term, Mike Pence would become president—and that would mean a competent ultra-right-winger, possibly himself a crook, sitting in the White House in place of the current corrupt fool.
Look to recent history for a succession plan. In the final days of Richard Nixon's administration, people had the same concerns about Vice President Spiro Agnew, who was under investigation for bribery and corruption charges going back years. Removing one crook from office—Nixon—meant giving the White House to another crook, conceivably as bad or worse. The whole idea stank.
The solution was a plea deal for Agnew and a job offer for Gerald Ford, a moderate, respected Republican without a whiff of corruption. Under the 1973 deal, Agnew resigned the vice presidency, paid a $10,000 fine and got probation but no jail time on a tax-evasion charge. Other charges were dropped. Ten months later, Nixon appointed Ford to the vice presidency—with the understanding that, as the new president, Ford would pardon Nixon from criminal charges in Watergate—which he did.
When it was all said and done, the nation survived one of its worst political crises ever.
Could that happen with Pence? On the surface, the vice president seems clean of the cesspool of corruption that surrounds Trump. But he's already been sucked into parroting the web of lies coming out of the White House. If he made the mistake of repeating any of those lies to the Justice Department's special counsel Robert Mueller, it might be time to play Let's Make a Deal.
Bob Keefer is arts editor at Eugene Weekly. On Jan. 21, 2017, he took part in a political demonstration for the first time since Nixon invaded Cambodia in 1970.
Songs of Protest, Songs of Hope
Tap your toes to this national alt-roundup of anti-Trump songs.
The one good thing about Trump, is that he's made time slow down. As we get older, every year seems to pass more quickly than the last in the rush toward death. But Trump's regime has slowed all of that down, and the year since that dark night when he was elected has felt as long as any since high school. As in high school, this slow-moving, but insanely intense, sense of time has seemed to heighten contemporary music's emotional impact. When a song rings right and seems to express the horror and angst that emanates from the world around you, it feels glorious.
The following collection comes from the music editors of more than 20 publications. Writing a regular column about the Trump regime for a number of alt-weeklies—and trying to find ways to take "alt" back from the Nazis—I ended up talking to a lot of editors and writers around the country. We thought if we could bring together the best protest songs from as many cities as possible, we might learn something about the state of dissent—while also finding some relief. —Baynard Woods
Keith Morris, "What Happened to Your Party?"
Known to at least one of his fellow musicians as "our rockin' protest grouch in chief," Keith Morris has a slew of protest songs, such as "Psychopaths & Sycophants," "Prejudiced & Blind" and "Brownsville Market" from his Dirty Gospel album, plus "Blind Man," "Peaceful When You Sleep" and "Border Town" from Love Wounds & Mars. His latest release: "What Happened to Your Party?" —Erin O'Hare, C-VILLE Weekly
Thunderfist, "Suck It" (demo)
Salt Lake City, Utah
Sure, there are more articulate ways to denounce Trump. And revolution by example—countering blustery, bigoted bullshit with artfully composed, well-reasoned takedowns—is how we'll effect change. That doesn't mean we can't occasionally vent our rage by strapping on Les Pauls, cranking up Marshalls, raising middle fingers and offering a blues-based, punk-rock invitation to fellatio. And maybe also, as the final, snarling chord slides into silence, calling him a "fat baby fuckface." —Randy Harward, City Weekly
Dooley, Lor Roger and TLow, ""CIT4DT"
This Boosie-tinged Thee Donald diss from Baltimore that dropped long before Inauguration Day still thrills: "Boy ain't even white, you yellow/ You said you'd date your own daughter you a sicko." Stakes are high here, too—the mastermind behind it, Dooley, is Muslim for example—and right-wing semi-fascist snowflakes took the song totally seriously, denounced it as a "death threat" ("CIT4DT" stands for "chopper in the trunk for Donald Trump") and bemoaned its Baltimore origins, where protest morphed into property damage and, as far as a lot of us were concerned, verged gloriously on revolution. Meanwhile, the trio responsible for it thought the shit was hilarious. —Brandon Soderberg, Baltimore Beat
Trombone Shorty and Dumpstaphunk, "Justice"
New Orleans, La.
Trombone Shorty and Dumpstaphunk teamed up on a song called "Justice," which they released on the day Donald Trump was inaugurated president. A melange of funk, jazz and New Orleans brass band sounds, the video for "Justice" slyly marries video footage of Trump against pointed lyrics. "Inauguration day seemed to be an appropriate time to voice the need for equal say and opportunity for all people," Dumpstaphunk's Ivan Neville says. "We entered a New Year with a lot of unanswered questions on the subject of 'justice' that we all felt a little uneasy about. But there's only so much we can do and this track is our way of expressing our worries." The song is available on most streaming services.—Kevin Allman, Gambit Weekly
Lonely Horse, "Devil in the White House"
San Antonio, Texas
Shots fired! Lonely Horse came out guns-a-blazing with the track "Devil in the White House." Opening with a sludgy cadence that crescendos into a tumultuous rock 'n' roll explosion, the "desert rock" duo of Nick Long and Travis Hild make very clear their feelings about the 45th POTUS.—Chris Conde, San Antonio Current
Anti-Flag, "When The Wall Falls"
Anti-Flag has always been a band that prioritizes the political, crafting catchy punk music that rallies the opposition to oppression and bigotry. "When the Wall Falls" off their latest, American Fall, is just one of 11 songs that urge resistance. "When The Wall Falls" is a reminder that not one American is free as long as any one is oppressed: "If they come for you in the night, they will come for me in the morning." —Meg Fair, City Paper
Mal Jones, J. Blacco, Lost Firstborne and DJ Shotgun CODE RED "Hands Up, Don't Shoot"
"We came up with this song after all of the recent acquittals in the cases related to the steadily rising murders of unarmed black men in the hands of law enforcement in America," Jones says. "We wanted to protest about this issue in the most effective way we know how. Through song. Hands up don't shoot!"
"My inspiration for writing my verse was first the climate of events going on at the time," Blocco adds. "It was right after the Alton Sterling situation. When my man Lost Firstborne played the beat, that's just what the track was speaking to me. It had a haunting soulful vibe about it so once I heard it, everything flowed rather easily." —Claire Goforth, Folio Weekly
Lingua Franca, "A Man's World"
Shortly after Inauguration Day, two Athens studios invited 19 local bands to commemorate the dawn of the Trump Age, tracking 20 songs in a marathon 48-hour session. While much of the resulting album, Athens Vs. Trump Comp 2017, is suitably bleak, ascendant emcee Lingua Franca's "A Man's World" stands out for its sheer defiance. "Frenzied and indiscreet," it's a fiery feminist anthem for the resistance.—Gabe Vodicka, Flagpole Magazine
OG Swaggerdick, "Fuck Donald Trump"
Among diehard hip-hop heads as well as artists, Boston's underground rap scene is renowned as one of the most lyrically elaborate and intellectual anywhere. To that end, over the past year, such acts as STL GLD (Moe Pope and The Arcitype) and more recently The Perceptionists (Mr. Lif amd Akrobatik) have released their most compelling works to date, largely inspired by the mess that Donald Trump has made (though not always name-checking Dolt 45 directly). But when it comes to straight-up protesting and verbally impaling the potty-mouthed POTUS, there's something undeniably satisfying, even admirable, about the Hub's own OG Swaggerdick's simple and straightforward election anthem, "Fuck Donald Trump." From the fittingly filthy rhymes—"never give props to a punk ass trick/ motherfuck Donald Trump he can suck my dick"—to the strangers on the street who gladly join along in rapping in the video, they're protest lyrics that you'll still be able to remember and perhaps even rap for relief on occasions when the president leaves you otherwise speechless.—Chris Faraone, DigBoston
Clint Breeze and The Groove, "Blood Splatter"
Featuring over a dozen guest contributors, including poets, rappers and jazz musicians, Nappy Head weaves a phantasmagoric assemblage of words and sounds into a razor-sharp critique of racial oppression in modern America. "I wanted to symbolize the state of oppression that black people experience every day. From not getting fair treatment in the justice system, to getting shot and killed by law enforcement, to being unfairly treated in the workforce—you name it. I wanted to make a statement on how we as black people view this oppressive society that we live in. I also wanted to give a different perspective from white people. I have a couple of my friends who are white on the album speaking about the nature of white privilege," Breeze says. "Blood Splatter" is the record's most cutting track; featuring spoken word artist Too Black, with cascading cymbal cracks and careening sax.—Kyle Long and Katherine Coplen, NUVO Weekly
The After Lashes, "We the Sheeple"
Coachella Valley, Calif.
The After Lashes is a new all-female punk band from the Coachella Valley that features Ali Saenz, the wife of former Dwarves and Excel drummer Greg Saenz. Frontwoman Esther Sanchez explains the inspiration behind the band's song "We the Sheeple."
"'We the Sheeple' was an easy song to write, because it came from a place of frustration and growing resentment toward the current powers that be, and, of course, more specifically, Donald Trump," she says. "We have a president who calls anything he doesn't like 'fake news' while simultaneously spending an insane amount of time tweeting nonsense and lies like a crazy person.
"The policies he intends to establish are harmful to pretty much everyone who is not wealthy; unfortunately, so many who voted for him were unknowingly voting against their own best interests. The song is very much about uniting against a tyrant, because that is precisely what we believe Trump to be."—Brian Blueskye, Coachella Valley Independent
Priests, "Right Wing"
There's been no shortage of scathing political protest songs coming out of D.C. since, well, the birth of punk. But in recent years, post-punk quartet Priests have succeeded in reminding the rest of the country that D.C. is, and always has been, pissed the fuck off. "Right Wing," off the band's breakthrough EP Bodies and Control and Money and Power so perfectly captures the ass-backwardsness of living in a country controlled by capitalists, fascists, racists and war-mongers. "Everything everything/ So right wing/ Everything everything/ So right wing/ Purse searches, pep rallies/ Purse searches, SUVs," Katie Alice Greer sings. It reads like a short, poetic treatise on how the toxicity of right wing ideals infects everyday life. —Matt Cohen, Washington City Paper
On their 2017 debut EP Home, Columbia's Withdraw oscillate violently between bristling, pedal-to-the floor emo (think At the Drive-In) and brutal, clawing crust punk. And on "Disgust," the band proves the virtue of their versatility, shifting from an unflinchingly blackened hardcore blitz that bashes sexual abusers to a more expansive, anthemic coda that seeks to lift up the victims—"You are not tarnished!" It's a potent statement, a searing declaration of allyship in a musical realm more often derided for problematic gender politics. —Jordan Lawrence, Free Times
NODON are an anti-fascist, anti-hate power-punk duo born out of the 2016 presidential election. Seething with caustic epithets, their songs condemn xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy and, above all, President Donald Trump. "Alt-Wrong," from their 2017 EP, Covfefe, delivers a swift and vicious kick to the alt-right's figurative crotch. Over razor-sharp guitar riffs and seething drums, they scream their battle cry: "Annihilate this hate! Not right! Alt-wrong!" —Jordan Adams, Seven Days
Rmllw2llz, "So Amerikkkan"
Nationwide, when you think of the Louisville music scene, your mind probably bounces to My Morning Jacket, Bonnie "Prince" Billy or maybe even White Reaper—all who are great—but our city's hip-hop scene is packed with poignant artists, and if you're looking for a pure protest song, look no further than Rmllw2llz's "So Amerikkkan," where he says "Fuck Trump, he's a bum and Hillary's trash, too." The song was released a few months ago, but, if you give it a listen, you can hear a lot of the country's past, present and future angst packed into a few powerful minutes. —Scott Recker, Leo Weekly