In a year like this one, people show what they’re made of. Are we content to live with the train wreck playing out in Washington, an administration that lurches, crows and saber-rattles with disregard for decency, truth and individual rights? Or do we have the courage to call it out and demand better?
Do we treat the tsunami of sex-abuse allegations against powerful, prominent men in entertainment, media and politics as a set of unfortunate coincidences? Or do we acknowledge there is something seriously wrong in our culture whose root causes need exploring and addressing?
Will we passively step aside and let a foreign government meddle in our elections because a would-be president invited its help in digging up dirt on his opponent?
The answer: No, we won’t. For as tumultuous a year as it has been, testing core American values, people have pushed back and stood in the way of significant disruption. Since this is a day for giving thanks, let’s focus on them.
It’s a more daunting task to challenge a leader of your own party. John McCain, the longstanding Republican Arizona senator who blew his chances of becoming president when he named Sarah Palin his running mate, has distinguished himself this year with his truth-telling. He has called out Donald Trump many times for his tone and fought his agenda, citing the president’s “crackpot conspiracy theories,” as well as isolationism, protectionism and nativism.
Thanks to him and some other Republicans in Congress, including Susan Collins of Maine, Trump repeatedly failed to get the much-needed Obamacare rescinded. Collins and McCain were also among a group of Republicans — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney, Orrin Hatch, Mike Lee, Steve Daines, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake and Cory Gardner — who, without having to be prodded, called on Roy Moore to drop out of the Alabama Senate race.
The president says Alabama voters should decide the fate of Moore, who is alleged to have made sexual advances on multiple teenage girls (one of them 14) while in his 30s. Then again, with a dozen or more women accusing Trump of sexual misconduct, anything Trump says could backfire on him.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, meanwhile, said she believed Moore’s accusers but also made it clear she would take a child abuser over a Democrat in that seat. Heaven help us.
The number of sexual harassment or assault accusations against prominent men is making it feel like we’re living through an epidemic. And they include men many of us would consider enlightened or progressive, who might even call themselves feminists. There’s Democratic Minnesota senator and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Al Franken; actor Kevin Spacey; comedian Louis C.K.; and celebrated TV journalist Charlie Rose. And 80 women have named movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
The fact that these claims involving people with authority are so ubiquitous is deeply disturbing. But the fact that so many women and even men have been emboldened to speak up about their experiences, prompted in part by the #MeToo hashtag, is progress. Instead of shaming and stigmatizing victims into silence, we’re beginning to put the blame where it belongs. Thank you Leigh Corfman, Leeann Tweeden and many others.
Some Republican members of Congress also deserve thanks for recognizing that people who were too young to have any say in the matter when they were brought to America and raised here should have the right to call America home.
And thanks are due the nine Republicans senators, including Iowa’s Joni Ernst, who came out against Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from the military for no good reason.
Thanks to federal district court judges in Maryland, Hawaii and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for having the guts to state the obvious in rejecting the president’s travel bans on people from particular countries: that they were biased against Muslims.
And on the subject of foreign arrivals, I have a thank you that is personal. Late last week, a federal court in New York State ordered the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia to stop holding asylum seekers who are awaiting hearings on their claims of fleeing violence or political persecution without fair access to parole or bond. The officials at Batavia reportedly had stopped granting parole releases in January after Trump took office. Some applicants have been imprisoned many months without a bond hearing. The New York Civil Liberties Union and the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center sued and won. My daughter-in-law Aadhithi Padmanabhan is one of the N.Y. Civil Liberties Union attorneys who handled the case. Thanks, Aadhithi.
In fact, ACLU chapters everywhere deserve a round of thanks. They’ve had a busy year fighting encroachments on civil liberties. So do Planned Parenthood chapters, especially our own Iowa-Nebraska one, for carrying the torch for women’s health in the face of defunding.
It’s in times like these that leadership shows itself, when people do the right thing regardless of potential costs. Thanks to all of you who do.