“All over the world right now, outraged citizens are taking to the streets. Mass protests in Hong Kong have been going on for months, at one point drawing about a quarter of the territory’s population. For the last five days, hundreds of thousands of people have been marching against austerity and corruption in Lebanon, and the government has pushed through a package of reforms to address their grievances. In Chile, protests over a subway fare increase have exploded into a broader uprising against inequality.”
So begins NYT’s Michelle Goldberg’s recent column in The Palm Beach Post questioning why Americans are not following suit.
My husband and I joined in 2016 protests after Trump appropriated our country as his personal asset. There were a lot of us on the streets, in West Palm Beach, in Washington DC, in other big cities across the country. After decades of serving in the public sector myself, during which I stayed anonymous and loyal to my organization, it felt great being able to shout: “Tell me what democracy looks like. THIS is what democracy looks like.”
Things have gotten quieter since then. The dueling crowds reacting to Trump’s arrival in Palm Beach have shrunk. The only marching I do is physical therapy, and I still scream, but indoors at the television set.
My father’s career was spent in upholding the structures that define our democracy — checks and balances, open elections, a free press. I believe these structures will continue to protect my country.
“The whole question for the last two years, would our institutions hold? And I would say, given the testimonies of the last week …, I think the institutions are sort of holding. And the result is this impeachment, a guy who — president who doesn’t go by any institutional logic, doesn’t obey institutional rules, and yet the institutions are sort of standing up for those rules.”
So said David Brooks on the October 25 PBS NewsHour during the conversation between him, Mark Shields, and Judy Woodruff that puts our feet on solid ground every Friday evening.
Those “standing up for the rules” included Ambassador William Taylor and the other career foreign service officers who have testified before Congress about the White House’s quid pro quo dealings with Ukraine.
On October 25, Mark Shields said: “Ambassador Taylor’s testimony wasn’t a smoking gun. It was a smoking armory. I mean, it really did. David’s right. It was specific. It was factual. It was compelling. And what I found most revealing about this is, I went through Michael Atkinson, who was the inspector general, Michael McKinley, 37 years of service at the State Department, Ambassador Taylor, Marie Yovanovitch, Laura Cooper, Fiona Hill, 163 years of public service, no hedge funds, no high-tech buyouts or whatever else.”
A career civil servant at Justice, John Durham, has been given the lead in the White House’s criminal investigation of the FBI. May he, too, stand up for the rules.
Protests are erupting all over the world. In addition to Lebanon, Chile, and Hong Kong, Indonesia is seeing marches against draconian government actions, and yellow-vest activists in France will soon mark a year of protests against a range of government policies. Food and fuel shortages have stimulated protests in Haiti.
As the descendant of farmers and a recent beneficiary of calorie-laden delicious dairy products in Amsterdam, I was tickled to see that Dutch farmers recently brought traffic around the Hague to a stand-still by driving their tractors to protest being blamed for global warming. Nothing says “Hey!” like a John Deere.
We believe in our American institutions. The impeachment process per the Constitution. The free press, especially the NYT and the Washington Post whose subscriptions the White House just cancelled. And elections. Dear God, the elections.
But heed Michelle Goldberg’s closing words:
“Americans might feel that democracy in our country is more robust than in places disrupted by enormous protests. But at this dangerous phase of a dangerous presidency, enormous turnout in the streets may be the only way to make sure it stays that way.”