Sure, Donald Trump’s tweet in which he taunted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to use his “Nuclear Button” wasn’t exactly a great start to 2018.
And there were a lot of terrible, damaging actions that the Trump administration took over the holidays, under the radar of the media and the American people ― from overturning fracking regulations to firing all members of the presidential AIDS commission ― many of which we didn’t realize until the new year.
But that said, there are things to celebrate in these first days of 2018, and they reveal the fears of the GOP and the White House, and, more importantly, the continued, if slow, loss of their grip on power.
There’s the most obvious: Democrat Doug Jones was sworn in this week as Alabama senator, causing the Republicans to lose a precious seat in the Senate and dropping their majority to 51. Then there’s Utah GOP senator Orin Hatch, a major Trump ally who pushed through the GOP tax scam, who announced this week he’ll retire by year’s end ( joining a slew of GOP Senate and House members), a blow to Trump (who pleaded with him to stay) and another sign of GOP legislators seeing the handwriting on the wall. And there’s also Democrat Tina Smith, added to the ranks of women in the Senate and sworn in this week on the power of the #MeToo movement, replacing Minnesota’s retiring Democratic senator Al Franken, who slammed Trump in his last speech on the Senate floor.
Less focused on in much of media, however, was the White House clearly seeing the end of the line on Trump’s attempt to ban transgender people from the military, which will be viewed as cowardice by religious right supporters who praised Trump’s despicable and discriminatory action. These supporters will no doubt express their anger to the White House in coming days for caving in to pressure.
In a surprise over the holidays and in what transgender advocates called a “huge win,” the Justice Department decided to allow enlistments to go forward for January 1 as scheduled, and transgender people indeed began enlisting. Per the Washington Blade:
With multiple court rulings ensuring the Pentagon must admit qualified openly transgender people into the U.S. military starting Monday, the U.S. Justice Department is giving up on litigation fighting those decisions in federal appeals courts and won’t seek a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court.
By accepting new trans recruits, the White House has all but signed the death certificate on any ban as legal challenges proceed, possibly knowing that a study it commissioned will find what every other study has found: that trans people are no threat to the military and serve dutifully and honorably.
Similarly, Trump’s dubious voter fraud commission, created solely for the purpose of attempting to prove Trump’s lie that he really won the popular vote but for millions of supposedly fraudulent votes, has collapsed ― dissolved by the administration itself yesterday under the weight of legal opposition and withering media criticism.
This is an enormous win considering the commission would have been used to allow further voter suppression and validate voter ID laws. With states refusing to cooperate, as well as with legal challenges ― including from one of its own members ― the fraudulent fraud panel could not go on. And all the energy pushing the states, the legal challenges and awakening the American people came from the Resistance.
And, in a spectacle of unprecedented proportions, Trump yesterday said in a statementthat his former senior White House advisor and chief strategist Steve Bannon has “lost his mind.” The infuriated president was responding to Bannon having been quoted in a new book calling the infamous Trump Tower 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives “treasonous,” in addition to many other harsh things Bannon is quoted as claiming about the dysfunctional, dangerous Trump White House.
As Bannon didn’t deny the statements all day ― and as his Breitbart News promoted the story ― the Trump base, including the alt-right (to which Breitbart is “home”), splintered into factions, taking sides. The comments on Breitbart look like a war zone, and this is only going to get much bigger.
White House press spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Bannon’s claims “outrageous” and laughably tried to distance Bannon from Trump, saying he “didn’t have a lot of influence.” By nightfall, Trump, who hadn’t outright denied any of the comments specifically while excoriating Bannon as “only in it for himself,” did what he always does as a desperate last resort: His lawyers sent Bannon a cease and desist letter regarding the “disparaging” remarks.
All of this benefits the Resistance enormously. The GOP’s influence is challenged not only in the Senate and the White House, but even among Trump″s already dwindled base, now splitting apart. Only 10 months away from the 2018 mid-term elections, progressives have come together, surging in off-year and special elections, marching and continuing to protest, and putting up record numbers of women running for office.
We’re of course still dealing with an onslaught of attacks and challenges, including the new assault by the Justice Department on legalized marijuana this week, and the fate of the Dreamers in coming days as Congress comes up against the spending bill deadline and a possible government shutdown.
But all things considered, it’s not a bad start to the new year.