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.
The 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. 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”.
The 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.
The Trump Lexicon keeps evolving as President Trump moves forward implementing his agenda. To see the latest Trumpisms go to: pinkpoliticsllc.com
Our words have the power to destroy and the power to build up (Proverbs 12:6).
I volunteer to tutor refugees. These individuals have escaped unspeakable horrors and are learning English. Working alongside these kind, hard-working adults has taught me how blessed we are to live in America. Mr. Trump has created his own language to describe America, Trumpism. Mr. Trump’s own description of Trumpism: “I know words, I have the best words but there is no better word than “stupid”. Words most frequently used by Mr. Trump: win, stupid, weak, loser, moron, politically correctness, smart, tough, dangerous, bad, lightweight, amazing, huge, tremendous, terrific, zero, out of control, classy.
Listeners know when we hear Mr. Trump that his terminology is slightly off but those of us who grew up in the U.S. intuitively understand what he is saying. I challenge you to think about what you would think if you and your family had just escaped extreme violence half way across the world for sanctuary in the United States and you heard Mr. Trump describe America. Below is a short list of Trumpisms. There is no attempt to capture all of his misused words or to provide citations. Rather, I want to capture the essence of his language.
Trumpism: Words made up by Mr. Donald Trump in his run for President of United States in 2016. Mr. Trump has a vast, original lexicon which creates sweeping indictments and vicious mental pictures using just a couple of words or phrases. Some of his words are spoken; others have been tweeted in the wee hours of the morning. Trumpism could also be considered Mr. Trump’s political platform. Trumpism pushes nativism (foreigners are suspect) and populism (giving power to the people rather than political elites). Through twitter and his speeches, Mr. Trump has created a mish-mash of images of America as a dark, dangerous place in deep economic decline. Mr. Trump’s America needs saving. His slogan is “Make America Great Again” as if returning to the past is a positive. His primary policy proposals are deporting illegal immigrants, tightening and/or stopping future immigration of certain groups particularly Muslims, emphasizing that foreign individuals living in America commit the majority of violent crimes particularly rape and robbery while taking away American jobs. Trumpism’s primary focus is that Muslim refugees are terrorist infidels, illegal Mexicans are criminals and global trade has crippled America.
The Wall: Mr. Trump’s proposal to have Mexico pay for a wall dividing Mexico and the United States with the intention of stopping Mexicans from illegally entering the U.S. Mr. Trump estimates the wall will cost $5 billion dollars. He promises the entire cost will be paid for by the Mexican Government. The Mexican President has refused to pay for the wall in a tweet. Tweeting seems to be the primary form of policy development in this election year. Mr. Trump sees the wall as a beautiful thing with a door right in the middle for legal Mexicans to be welcomed to America.
Bad Hombre: Uncomplimentary reference to undocumented Mexicans living in America. Hombre is Spanish for man. Trump used the reference to reinforce his vision of increasing hordes of criminals illegally crossing the Mexican border. In fact, the Pew Research Center documents that the number of illegal Mexicans coming into the U.S. has stabilized in recent years and declined by about 1 million since 2007. About 2/3 of all illegal immigrants have lived in the U.S. for a decade or more. About half of immigrants coming into the U.S. are women. There are 5000 children in foster care whose parents have been detained or deported by U.S. immigration authorities. This figure is estimated to rise to 15,000 children over the next five years because of tightening immigration policies. These women and children have not been part of any policy discussion during this presidential season.
Nasty Woman: Mr. Trump’s description of Mrs. Clinton at the 3rd and final debate. He uttered it to interrupt Mrs. Clinton presentation on Social Security. His intent was appeal to the old boys club where powerful women are seen as unpleasant and pushy and frequently described in private as “bitches”. In this case, Mr. Trump’s effort to belittle women led to a social media backlash from women who saw Trump’s remark as sexist rather than as descriptive of Mrs. Clinton’s temperament. As a young professional woman in the seventies, I can attest that smart, ambitious women were not described in positive terms by their male coworkers. I am proud to be a Nasty Woman.
Miss Piggy: a revered children’s puppet on Sesame Street. Miss Piggy is a large female Pink Pig who dresses in extravagant outfits and frequently wears a crown. Most American’s know Miss Piggy. Mr. Trump referred to Miss Universe 1996, Alicia Machado, as Miss Piggy when she gained weight after winning the Miss Universe title. Using Miss Piggy as a descriptor is a classic example of Mr. Trump’s skill at choosing short phrases to create a lasting image.
Miss Housekeeping: Another term, coined by Mr. Trump, to describe Ms. Machado, who represented Venezuela in the Miss Universe Pageant. This image is premised on Latino women largely serving in housekeeping positions in the U.S. This nickname can be seen as a sexist slur against Latino women and as slamming hard work done by many Americans who are surviving on pay below a living wage. Nationally, unauthorized workers compose 23% of all domestic workers.
Locker Room Banter: Mr. Trump’s justification of the conversation he was having with Billy Bush prior to an appearance on AccessHollywood in 2005. In the recorded encounter, Mr. Trump used extremely vulgar terms to describe women and what he would do to them. When the tape was released, Mr. Trump defended the conversation as the kind of talk that routinely goes own in all male places such as locker rooms. My husband played college basketball and when I asked him about it, he responded that young guys might not use the best language but this is an example of a 60 year old man (at the time) who could be expected to have outgrown the titillation of talking dirty. Billy Bush was relieved of his position on Good Morning America for his role both in the conversation and for not bringing the tape to light sooner.
Bigly: Frequently used by Mr. Trump to describe an idea or policy which is large in scope. Bigly is an adverb and Mr. Trump has used it correctly. On questioning, Mr. Trump’s staff clarified that Mr. Trump is not saying “bigly”. He is instead saying, “Big League.” Here is an example from an actual speech: Donald Trump has said, “Iran is taking over Iraq and they’re taking it over bigly.” According to staff this is incorrect reporting. Instead, Mr. Trump said, “Iran is taking over Iraq and they’re taking it over Big League.” I personally think bigly is easier to understand in the contexts he uses it. Either term gives us the idea, that this is something big.
Extreme Vetting:Mr. Trump’s proposal to conduct ideological screening of new arrivals from countries with a history of terror (specific countries are unspecified). Mr. Trump had previously said he would ban all Muslims from coming into the country. This proposal would allow in some individuals. However, all individuals from countries harboring terrorists would be banned from the U.S. until this new screening test was designed and in place. The U.S. already has extremely rigorous screening approaches in place sometimes taking many years. In addition, it is difficult to assess an individual’s most innermost beliefs and private opinions. In a country that values free speech, this proposal may be difficult or impossible to implement. Finally, individuals from other countries are less likely to engage in violence than native born Americans.
Yuuuge: Mr. Trump’s unique way of saying huge.
Braggadocios: A braggart who boasts so much about themselves that they become annoying to their audience. The term was commonly used in the 19th century. The word is so seldom used in the 21st century, braggadocios is not considered part of our common vocabulary. Mr. Trump, who usually says he does not want to seem braggadocios, has breathed life back into this word.
Birther Movement: People who question of the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate. Starting in 2011, Mr. Trump persistently demanded to see President Obama’s birth certificate to demonstrate that Obama was born in the United States as required by the U.S. Constitution. Recently, Mr. Trump has said he believes Mr. Trump was born in the United States.
Speaking Mexican: Reference to Jeb Bush in a tweet. Mr. Trump means that Mr. Bush is fluent in Spanish, something Mr. Trump obviously is not.
Taking the Shackles Off: A twitter comment on Mr. Trump’s revised strategic campaign breaking free from the traditional Republic platform and policy. Trump’s new approach was the result of some Republicans disavowing their support of Trump in the wake of NBC sex tape. This announcement was followed by a stream of tweets filled with rage and resentment towards traditional politicians.
Rigged Elections: As political polls have begun indicating that Mr. Trump might lose, Trump has become more strident in his claims that the media and the Democratic machine are rigging the election. Mr. Trump has said he would accept the election results if he won. However, when questioned during the third debate, he refused to confirm that he would accept the results. The charge of rigged elections is at the very heart of the U.S. democracy where for centuries Americans have cast their votes and lived with the results. Mr. Trump’s charge also suggests he is not familiar with the structure of U.S. elections. Elections (even for national candidates such as Congress and the President) are under the control of the states. Forty-seven of the fifty states and the Puerto Rico have a Secretary of State position. The primary duty of this individual is to serve as the chief election officer for the state. In the three states without a Secretary of State, the responsibility for elections falls to the Lieutenant Governor. Given the diffuse structure of elections in the U.S. it would be difficult to rig the outcome nationally. As we know from the 2000 Bush/Gore Presidential election, the role of the Secretary of State in a close election can be very important. Former Vice President Gore received about 540,000 more popular votes than Bush across the nation. In Gore’s presidential run, the Florida Secretary of State, Republican Katherine Harris certified that Bush had won the popular vote in Florida. Her decision was confirmed by the United States Supreme Court on a 5 to 4 decision preventing a recount of key precincts in Florida. Former Vice President Gore honored the decision and has been largely invisible on the national stage since.
Gloria Steinman told a sold out crowd in Boise on October 17, 2016 that the right to vote is what makes America great. People have fought hard and lost lives for each of us to have the equal opportunity to weigh in on America’s future. The America of 2016 is far more expansive and inclusive than our forefathers envisioned. We are a nation where each of us can vote regardless of race, religion or gender.
The refugees I work with fled totalitarian and military reigns with the hope of becoming Americans and gaining the right to vote. Hidden in Trump’s mangled phrases is the clear threat to equal opportunity. Isolationism doesn’t create greatness but it does breed fear. I am yuugely hoping that Americans in bigly numbers will notpick a braggadocios birther, who engages regularly in unseemly locker room banter demeaning women, for their next president.