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A Father's Honor

Dear All, I adored my father.  Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him and greedily wish he’d lived beyond his 94 years.  Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful he isn’t here to witness the morally bankrupt, aberrant administration of Donald Trump. Today, Father’s Day, my father would be incredulous at how the recent confluence of events — from seismic social unrest triggered by the murders of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks to the seemingly endless first wave of a deadly pandemic that’s ravaged the economy — have cracked this nation open like an egg. He’d be appalled that Mr. Trump, a pathologically vainglorious poseur obsessed with his re-election, doesn’t even pretend to care about guiding an anxious country through the rockiest shoals many of us have ever known. And, he’d be infuriated by a Commander-in-Chief whose cavalier dereliction of duty continues to pose an existential threat to our democracy.   Donald Trump is the antithesis of everything my father held dear. A card-carrying member of the “Greatest Generation,” he endured a childhood that, although horrific, appeared to the outside world to be one of privilege. He suffered emotional abuse at the hands of his mentally ill father who also functioned as a highly respected business owner and community leader. His mother was a battered woman. Yet, somehow he transcended the pathology he suffered at home, survived the deprivation of the Depression, raised a younger brother and served as a Marine captain in World War II earning a Purple Heart. Ultimately, he channeled the pain he experienced as a child into a lifelong wellspring of empathy for society's most vulnerable — especially domestic violence victims, the homeless and at risk children. My father was also a lifelong Republican — of-the-moderate-Rockefeller-kind. But over time, he became estranged from the GOP. The party’s hard turn away from compassionate conservatism coupled with his reflexive hatred for war eroded his support. For him, Senator John McCain’s anointment of Sarah Palin, Mr. Trump’s rage whispering precursor, as his vice presidential running mate was a bridge too far. And in 2008, the final election of his life, he cast his first vote for a Democrat, Barack Obama. As we’ve careened through the Trump administration’s surfeit of lows — Charlottesville’s “good people on both sides," the forcible separation of children from their parents, shaking down world leaders for personal gain — I’ve seen every travesty through my father’s eyes. And that includes last night’s rally in Tulsa, the latest incarnation of Mr. Trump’s inimitable selfishness. What should have been billed as “Coronafest 2020,” was meant to hit the reset button of Mr. Trump’s sputtering re-election campaign. After all, nothing says victory better than thousands crammed into the Petri dish of an indoor arena in a city where coronavirus cases are spiking. The fact that a Fox News poll found that 59% thought the indoor rally was a terrible idea should have been a tip-off that perhaps even Mr. Trump’s fanatically loyal base might balk at showing up. Still, as one White House source predicted, “If it meant standing in line for days and gargling with Covid, that’s just what Trump’s base would do to get into one of his rallies.”  Maybe not — as the sea of thousands of empty blue seats last night attested.

And, in an omen that may bode well for November’s election, even politically elusive youths finally surfaced last night. As former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt gleefully Tweeted, his 16-year old daughter was just one of an army of Gen Z teens who reserved thousands of tickets then didn’t show up. Mr. Trump’s latest debacle capped off one of his presidency’s worst weeks, which started with a fresh round of polls showing him losing even more ground to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. As Greg Sargent wrote in this Washington Post piece tracking Trump’s deteriorating support, "Simply put, we’re living through truly seismic events right now, and Trump has handled both of them horribly. Some pundits got temporarily lulled into believing that both crises would help Trump, but the bottom line is he’s in charge, and for now, anyway, he’s being held accountable for the epic disasters unfolding on his watch.” Next, a shocking, but not surprising, volley of damning revelations from Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton broke: how Mr. Trump had served as Cheerleader-in-Chief for President Xi Jinping of China’s plan to build concentration camps for its Muslim Uighur minority, perhaps the largest internment of people based on religion since the Holocaust; how Mr. Trump mixed into the Justice Department investigations against foreign companies to “give personal favors to dictators he liked” which, as Bolton noted, translates into “obstruction of justice as a way of life.” It was also the week where two stunning — and surprising — Supreme Court verdicts left Democrats euphoric and Republicans apoplectic. Seen as setbacks for the Trump administration, the twin landmark decisions brought L.G.B.T.Q. people within the protection of federal anti-discrimination laws and offered a reprieve for some 700,000 DACA immigrants known as “dreamers.” As inestimable SCOTUS expert Linda Greenhouse wrote in the NYT, the message that Chief Justice John Roberts sent to Mr. Trump was unmistakable: Don’t take the Supreme Court for granted.  Then, even as Mr. Trump again said the quiet part out loud about mail-in voting — that it would hamper his bid for re-election — a groundswell of new initiatives that will make it easier for Americans to vote is growing. As reported in Axios, "the protests sweeping the nation around racial inequality have elevated the conversation in America about the suppression of black voters. Many corporations are tying their efforts around race to election activism. Hundreds of U.S. companies are vowing to give workers paid time off to vote on Election Day — and some are using their technology to help register voters or direct them to polling locations.” “Companies realize that taking a stand meaningfully on racial justice also means empowering your voice to vote,” said Vote.org’s Nora Gilbert. Today, on Father’s Day, I’m thinking about how my father would have found the corruption, the cruelty and the cataclysmic destruction wrought by this administration soul crushing. At the same time, his spirits would have been lifted by witnessing countless Americans of all races rising up to start to unravel the toxic thread slavery wove into this country. As my Congresswoman Jahana Hayes marveled yesterday over a socially distanced visit, she has been struck by how many white faces populate the pictures of every protest. The racial and socioeconomic inequities revealed by Covid-19 plus the tragic cases of fatal police violence have motivated millions to demand better. It is in that spirit, and in my father’s honor, that next week I’ll moderate a panel featuring MSNBC’s Joy Reid, civil rights activist Maya Wiley and political analyst Jason Johnson on whether they see this moment as an inflection point for real systemic change. You can register for the free virtual livestream session, which starts on Sunday, June 28 at 3:00 PM EDT via the flyer below. With every best wish to all of the fathers among us. Onward, Jane


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