Trump’s Terminating Political Appointees is Routine News

Political appointees serve at the pleasure of the elected official, period. End of story.   In my early years in government, I was one of these exotic creatures who can do as they please as long as their elected official is willing to support them and remains satisfied with their work.  I even had three possibly four Department heads over me who wished me gone. I served at the pleasure of a Democratic Governor for ten-years in upper management.  The Governor respected my work and knew my family (personal connections are essential to success in political jobs). This Governor even nominated me for a national award for my work with troubled youth.  I was subsequently selected as the national winner by the National Council of Women of the United States from all the nominees throughout the nation and flown to New York, put up in a hotel on Park Avenue viewing Central Park and featured as the main speaker at their national lunch; a heady experience indeed for a young naïve, highly-educated professional woman from Wyoming.  This Governor never promoted me to head of the Department, my dearest desire because I had the administrative credentials but he knew (though I didn’t understand it at the time) I didn’t have the political connections.

I accepted a position as Cabin Secretary of a similar Department in Montana working for a newly elected Republican Governor. I was brought in from another state because there were major complaints of sexual harassment by male Department executives. A thorough housekeeping was in order.  The Governor and his personal staff didn’t know me well but respected my administrative acumen.  I did manage to reorganize and clean up the mess I inherited but at great personal cost to me.  It is hard to work in an environment where those around you are untrustworthy and you can find your name in the paper any morning.

After 4 years, a new Governor was elected. The existing cabinet was all asked to submit our resignations the day after the election, effective at the end of my Governor’s term. We all did so. I subsequently met with the new Governor and he told me that I had done a good job, “but these positions are like hair spray, and there was a shelf life.” I had apparently outlived my shelf-life because I was terminated.  Out of a job, I was recruited by head hunters for several other political jobs. There are always places where someone’s friend appointed to a high position has made a huge mess and the politician needs an independent executive to help clean up.  However, without the correct political connections, it was clear to my husband and me that taking any of these positions would lead to a life dependent on the vagaries of politics and whims of politicians.  The political appointee is not judged by their skills or aptitudes at their job but rather by their ability to please their boss, be on the right side of news stories and not upset the politician’s base.

I have been surprised by the brouhaha around the recent request by President Trump that 46 Obama-era prosecutors resign. While many things in the Trump administration have upset me, this request is actually standard when political parties change power.   The political appointee has two choices either carry out the wishes of the politician who selected them to the best of their ability or resign.  Acting Attorney General Sally Yates’s refusal to implement the Trump Travel Ban didn’t surprise me.  I wouldn’t have supported it and neither have the courts.  However, what did surprise me was that she didn’t immediately resign.  Rather she said she wouldn’t implement it and waited to be fired.  She had to know that she would be terminated.  She was not appointed by Trump, she didn’t embrace his politics and she didn’t want to help him implement his campaign promises.  The high ground in this scenario would have been to resign and clearly state to the President, the press and the American people the problems that she saw with the immigration executive order.  Taking such a tack, she could have explained her inability to maintain her integrity if she continued to serve in the role of Acting Attorney General. Understanding and maintaining integrity  in political roles is essential to sustaining Democracy.  Instead, Yates opened the door for President Trump to attack her and seize the high moral ground with incendiary language such as “betrayed” and “weak on immigration” when the moment was hers to win.  Instead, I fear Trump followers ended up feeling the federal bureaucracy was once again out of control.

I am not a Trump fan but when the press makes headlines out of routine politics as if it is some horrendous scandal, the media is contributing the charge of “fake news.” All of us need to focus on the issues that make the Trump administration different and outrageous and not pretend that routine political patronage is something out of the ordinary.

Dogs of Hell on Rampage in America

dog1The Dogs of Hell were trained Rottweilers, who escape a military compound and terrorized al small town in a cult movie of the same name (1982).  Replicating the actions of these fictional canines, the most racist, bigoted Americans have been unleashed by Trump’s unlikely Presidential win to terrorize people of color, the LBGT community and other vulnerable individuals.

Previously suppressed by societal norms and national leaders committed to inclusion and diversity, the day after the surprise win by Mr. Trump, these marauding dogs began shredding our fragile web of political correctness. The real face of the ugly American is now in full view. Apparently, I have been living in a fantasy world believing that we were slowly eradicating these attitudes but I have discovered to my chagrin that our progress in the area of inclusion is  an extremely fragile safety net loosely tethered by a web of civil rights laws, court decisions and public civility.

These Dogs have previously been muzzled by the broader community’s values. muzzled-dog The Dogs’ attacks after the recent election have taught me that bigotry is flourishing in this country in hidden places like  mold spores invisible to the naked eye, thriving in dark moist environments. The election provided the necessary well spring for an explosion of white backlash.

These dogs are even rampaging in Boise, Idaho. Last week, they wrote “Nigger!” as graffiti near our Black History Museum. My family was horrified when I used the “N” word at the dinner table describing the incident.  My daughter scolded me and said, “Never use that word again!” I would like to comply; but the only way to grasp the harshness of these attacks on the population they are intended to traumatize is to speak truth. The “N” word does not capture the abuse and rebuke inherent in this demoralizing word  scribbled in large letters in plain view for the sole purpose of causing pain.

The lone black female in the Idaho Senate, told me this graffiti is not an isolated incident. She described to me the experience of a two black children playing outside in Boise being accosted by white adults the day after the election and being told; “We can kill you and your parents, now.”

My sister tells of the Asian man she knows, born and raised in Caldwell, Idaho (a town of 50,000, 25 miles west of Boise) who has never experienced discrimination in Idaho. Last week a car driving by him, rolled down the window and an invisible male voice shouted, “Go back to where you came from!” The fact that this man would be returning to Caldwell would be amusing if it weren’t so horrifying.

These are just a few incidents from Idaho, a small, almost exclusively white, homogeneous state. We are generally pro guns but peace abiding. Imagine the power of this unfettered hate in larger cities with more diversity and opportunity to choose “We” versus”They”.kinghallgraffiti

post-truthThe Oxford Dictionary has named “post truth” as the 2016 word of the year. The word describes a culture in which an individual’s decisions are based on appearances, frequently generated by incorrect or deliberately false social media postings, not on facts.  I am fascinated and nauseated by our “post truth” world.  In our current political milieu, the Dogs of Hell can become vicious overlords of the most vulnerable. Made up stories of Muslim attacks lead to hatred of innocent neighbors.  Women wearing head coverings, symbols of respect for their religion, are suspect.

The trial of Dylann Roof is currently in the news. He is the white young man who joined a black Bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Church, Charleston, South Carolina and ended up killing nine church members (2015).  He has been quoted as saying he, “wanted to ignite a race war.”  Roof’s actions resulted in public outcry, prayer vigils and persecutors seeking the death penalty.  He failed in his revolution.

Unlike Roof, if not restrained, the Dogs of Hell are capable of phenomenal harm to our constitutional rights. This election, we, the people, have unleashed violent forces of hatred in America.

As Christmas approaches, as Christains let us not just pray for peace on earth as if we are speaking of some distant land. We need to pray for peace in small town Idaho and other parts of America. We must actively engage our spiritual communities and push back the forces of hate which are spreading dark clouds of fear over our land.