In the coming days, local as well as national and international news will be filled with news of Donald Trump’s inauguration, his and the Republican-led Congress’s efforts to dismantle, well, whatever they can, and the public’s response to it.
It’s a fair statement that much of Seattle is not pleased about all of this. This year’s annual MLK Day Celebration and march at Garfield High School will be all about refuting the Trump version of America. On Inauguration Day, students across the city are walking out and protesting. Immigrants will march from Judkins Park to the Federal Building downtown, where they’ll join another Anti-Trump rally and march that will go to Westlake Park, and so on. The following day, a women’s march, held in conjunction with a sister march in DC, will be enormous in its own right.
Marches are great for primal scream therapy and for community solidarity. They lubricate activist networking and inspire future organizing. They convince nobody of anything, but those other elements are essential. After the marchers go home, Donald Trump will still be President. On fronts as varied as immigration, health care, environmental protection, housing, education, veterans’ services, and so many more, many Seattleites will still rightfully fear the future. What can be done next?
To mash together two cliches: Mourn globally. Organize locally.
While the Inauguration hoopla unfolds, Washington’s state legislature remains in contempt of the state supreme court due to legislators’ failure to meet their constitutional obligation to adequately fund K-12 education. Raising the necessary revenue to fix this is made far more difficult by the control of the state senate by Republicans ideologically opposed to almost all types of revenue increases – and mortally opposed to a progressive income tax, our lack of which helps make Washington state’s budget chronically strapped for money and our taxes by far the most regressive in the country. Instead, Republicans are offering a bill this year that would “solve” the school funding problem by amending the state constitution to delete the requirement that education be funded at all. Seriously.
Now, imagine adding to those existing fiscal pressures the dilemmas the state
will face if all federal education funding suddenly comes, say, attached to a requirement that we fund charter schools (which is unconstitutional in our state). Or if federal block grants for low income housing disappear, compounding our region’s existing crises in affordable housing and homelessnesx. Or if the Affordable Care Act is abolished with no replacement, and the state is suddenly on the hook for ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid and AppleCare. Or if all federal monitoring of environmental regulations – including cleanup at Hanford – simply evaporates. All of these proposals, and many more, are being seriously advocated by Congress and by Trump’s Cabinet appointees.
Our state will, in the next year, likely have to cope with multiple federally inflicted crises, both predictable and capricious. The state simply doesn’t have enough money to go around, and deciding what to prioritize will be a life and death issue for some people. Beyond marching, that’s where organizing and public pressure can have an impact.
The city of Seattle will be affected by all this as well – on top of which, Trump has threatened to pull all federal funding from Seattle and the dozens of other cities nationally that have declared themselves sanctuary cities, in open defiance of Trump’s deportation focus.
Unlike the state, Seattle actually has the money to address a lot of these problems for its residents. With its median household income now well over $80,000 a year, Seattle has far more wealth than any other city in the region. Our problem is both the state’s antiquated tax structure, which limits local taxing options, and an ingrained political culture that’s reluctant to use the non-regressive tools it does have (like closing corporate loopholes, taxing developers fairly for the services their new properties’ occupants will use, or the high-earners’ tax long proposed by councilmember Kshama Sawant) to fund urgent social needs.
Here, again, sustained local organizing can have an impact, on both the type and scale of the city’s responses to the coming crisis.
But such organizing can’t be just about pressuring governments. Our only community security in Trump’s America, where virtually every facet of federal governance is likely to face attack, is in each other. We need our own institutions and security – whether large scale one like nonprofit banks and credit unions, small business and housing cooperatives, or private funding of public education, to supporting the essential expansion of life-saving front line nonprofits like food banks, health clinics, and homeless shelters and encampments.
Virtually everyone can play a role that will make a big difference in peoples’ lives in the coming months and years. We’d better get busy.