THE SENIOR PROGRESSIVE – “Rage, Rage Against The Dying of The Light”


A Senior activist and former DNC member on the Presidential election – candidates, parties, and results – with insightful analysis and commentary.


In his famous untitled poem written in 1947 and first published in the journal Botteghe Oscure in  1951, Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) expressed resistance against the intolerable.  At the very least, his poem, known by its first line, “Do not go gentle into that good night,” encourages resistance against injustice, wrong-doing, or, in the case of the death of his father, the end of life itself.  Given the obvious elements of the Trump agenda – including isolationism, xenophobia and anti-immigrant and refugee sentiment – it seems that there is a plot to dim or turn off the lights in the welcoming torch atop the Statue of Liberty.  Our entire history as a nation , with one or two glaring examples of mistakes in the past, is built on the warm welcome that had been extended to our families as immigrants from elsewhere and the welcome that we, in turn, have extended to others over the decades.  Sure, assimilation has been an issues over time – from the Irish, to the Polish, Italians, and Latinos, we have not been perfect – either as a polyglot nation or a mosaic mixture of cultures from everywhere around the globe.  Yet, uniquely among nations, the United States stands as the globe’s most powerful economy, most deadly military, and the only superpower remaining on the planet.  This history of a clash of cultures, the exchange of ideas and knowledge, and the mixture of people from wholly different backgrounds that takes place here may very well be the entire source of our global success and the key to our future prosperity.  I, for one, cannot stand idly by as the light on the torch of the Statue of Liberty’s “open door” is dimmed or extinguished.  Like many of you, I will not “go gentle into that good night.”  Instead, I choose to “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

OK, while we are not facing the end of “life”, we may be in the midst of a dramatic change in the freedoms, the reasoned government processes, and the protections that we have become accustomed to in this country. Trumpism has arrived by an astonishing and circuitous route, confounding the Republican Party through the primary election season and pulling off a surprise victory against Hillary Clinton in the fall. He and his merry band, along with his bizarre policy proscriptions and tweeting foreign policy directives through Twitter, are now seated squarely in control of the levers of power in the United States.  His Presidency has given validation and purchase to the “Alt. Right” movement and to policies of isolationism, anti-immigrant and refugees, misogynistic behavior, and an extreme form of “trickle-down” policy featuring tax cuts for the very wealthy and large corporations, program cuts for the rest of us, and the dismantling of the social safety net that had been carefully constructed since FDR and the New Deal decades ago.

Even worse, efforts are underway to repeal American freedoms that have expanded since FDR’s “Four Freedoms” and the expansive programs of the post WWII world – from Veterans assistance through the Great Society Programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps, student aid for college, and the great Civil Rights and Voting Rights movements. More recently, the expansion of personal freedoms – to marry who you love, regardless of religious objections and the decreasing gender discrimination in law, in the workplace, in life and more, are evidence of a continuing and growing public expression of individual freedom of choice.  Yet, empowered by his “landslide” election (NOT), and encouraged by large crowds at “rallies” (read political theater), Trump continues on a path toward contracting freedom of choice, restricting civil liberties (his absurd charge that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in the election), and his Senior Advisor Steve Bannon’s call for the main stream press to, “just shut up.”  Coupled with Trumps stated goal of “relaxing” libel laws so that newspapers can be more easily sued if he doesn’t like or disagrees with what they print, and his constant attack on the media as “fake news”, his actions and statements amount to a broad attack on the First Amendments guaranteed right of freedom of speech. Of course, there is much more – his trade policies, immigrant hatred, building a “great wall” instead of a “bridge to the future, questioning the value of our alliances around the globe, and his “bromance” with Putin.  But, I will leave these to another time.  There is enough danger mentioned already to support a call to arms – “RAGE, RAGE AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT!”

Let’s take another look at the election outcome.  First, Donald Trump LOST the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes.  Including the independent candidates, his percentage of the popular vote was 46% in favor and 54 against (Clinton – 48.2%; Ind. 5.7%).  Bottom line, Trump lost the popular vote – badly.  Trump argues that his electoral vote was a “massive landslide and the biggest victory since Ronald Reagan.”  Also false.  Trump did indeed win the electoral vote – 306-232.  Turns out, that percentage spread of electoral votes (56.88%) places Trump 13 from the bottom of all presidential elections since George Washington in 1789! Higher percentages of electors were scored by George HW Bush (79.8%), Clinton twice (68.77% and 70.45% after impeachment), and Obama twice (67.84% in 2008; 61.71% in 2012).  So much for the Trump “massive landslide.”

And, then there is the congress.  Most times, the party that captures the presidency also scores gains in the houses of congress.  Although Trump cobbled together a winning electoral strategy, the Republicans lost seats in the House (-5) and the US Senate (-2).  This outcome certainly is not reflective of any broad groundswell for the Trump candidacy, or the Republican agenda.

As I write this, the members of Congress have returned home on President’s Week recess.  And, they are encountering crowds that are “raging against the dying of the light.”  Since the first day of the Trump term that witnessed near 1 million women and their supporters on the streets of Washington, DC in the “Women’s March on Washington” and 4,000,000+ marching in support around the nation and across the globe in “sister” marches, active protests have taken place in cities and towns across America and, in response to the Trump Immigration Executive Orders, at airports as well.  Many cities have re-affirmed their pledge to immigrants as “sanctuary cities” and several federal courts, including the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals have blocked the Trump Order by injunction, preventing Homeland Security from arresting/detaining travelers at airports here and abroad.  The Courts prevented the implementation of the Trump Orders based on the argument that the orders were not constitutional. Against the backdrop of these demonstrations, marches, and protests, the Members of Congress came home – to anger, to questions, to demands for action and to a penetrating question that, I, along with others, chanted outside the home of our local Member of Congress, first term member, John Faso – “Who’s side are you on, John Faso, who’s side are you on?”  The issue being framed is, whether the Member of Congress represents his/her constituents or the political party who’s banner they ran under?  Do, you represent people or Party?  And, does your agenda and vote reflect what is good for the people of your district?  Or, in blind lock-step with the “leader” of your Party, a member of Congress from a Wisconsin district with little in common with your home area?
Will you come into the light or have you joined the Dark Side?  That is the question facing all those who have been elected to “represent the people.”  Just which “people” do they represent?  Who’s side are YOU on?  Stay tuned.