As I blogged last month, the Trumpocalypse doesn’t officially begin until 20 January, but we’ve been feeling the effects since the election. Here’s a look at some of the things that happened during the second month.
The big news in December was that Trump became the President-elect, for real this time. The Electoral College formally voted for the president and Trump secured 306 electoral votes. Like every other President, Trump was selected as TIME’s 2016 Person of the Year.
The US government announced in October that it was “confident” Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and leaked documents to WikiLeaks. In December, the CIA concluded that Russia intervened to help Trump win. The Obama administration announced measures to punish Russia. These included extensive sanctions, the expulsion of Russian diplomats, and the closure of compounds used by Russian intelligence agents and diplomats.
Trump dismissed reports of Russia’s interference calling it “ridiculous” and linking it to the Democrats’ embarrassment over their loss to him. Although there is some dissent over the CIA report, most congressional Republicans accepted intelligence and law enforcement officials’ conclusions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin did not immediately expel American diplomats from Russia in return. He said he would wait to see how relations developed under the incoming president. Trump praised him on Twitter, calling Putin “very smart”. Despite wanting to “move on to bigger and better things”, by the end of the month, Trump had agreed to an intelligence briefing on the issue.
It turns out that Trump doesn’t get daily intelligence briefings. He told Fox News Sunday that he doesn’t need them because, you know, he’s, like, a smart person. It’s not like daily briefings are important.
Not so long ago, the tobacco industry denied that smoking cigarettes was addictive or carried serious health risks. It was discovered that the major tobacco companies knew cigarette-smoking was bad for you. They knew and they conspired to conceal the risks associated with smoking and engaged in deceptive and fraudulent marketing. They also marketed their products to children and teens. Starting in 1994, the attorney generals of all 50 states sued Big Tobacco for Medicaid costs used to pay for smoking-related health conditions. In 1998, Big Tobacco settled and agreed to pay $206 billion.
Just as the tobacco industry gained decades of huge profits by obfuscating the dangers of smoking, one of America’s best known philanthropic families, the Rockefellers, claim that ExxonMobil has done the same thing with oil. Climate change wouldn’t be debated if it weren’t for Exxon. After eight months of investigation, journalists have learned that Exxon conducted cutting-edge climate research decades ago. Instead of taking the lead on renewable energy, Exxon chose short-term profits and worked at the forefront of climate denial, manufacturing doubt about the scientific consensus that its own scientists had confirmed.
What does this have to do with Trump? In December, Trump nominated the multimillionaire CEO of Exxon, Rex Tillerson, whose ties to Russia date back to the Boris Yeltsin administration, to be the next Secretary of State. Trump’s strategy appears to be to nominate people to lead agencies whose policies they generally oppose. Another example is Trump’s nomination of Andrew Puzder, the head of fast-food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, to become Secretary of Labour. Puzder was found guilty of by the Labor Department of at least one wage-and-hour violation in 60 percent of the department’s investigations of those chains’ restaurants. He has argued against increases to minimum wage and complained about the need for rest and meal breaks in the workplace. You can view the rest of Trump’s cringe-worthy, mostly white and male, cabinet picks here.
There are other important positions beyond the cabinet that are worth taking note of. Trump named Jeffrey Eisenach and Mark Jamison to advise him on Federal Communication Commission (FCC) matters. Both are staunch opponents of net neutrality.
Net neutrality is the principle that whoever provides you internet access should treat all your internet traffic the same. That is, government and service providers such as Comcast or Telstra, should not discriminate or charge differentially by user, content, website, etc. Rather than keeping the internet open and free, Eisenach, a former Verizon lobbyist, and Jamison, a former Sprint lobbyist, want cable companies, telecoms, and big ISPs to profit by controlling pricing. If the Trump administration strangles net neutrality, you can expect to pay more for a less private internet.
On the bright side, it looks like we may not have to worry about the fast-track Medicare “overhaul” that House Republicans promised. Privatising Medicare has been in the crosshairs of Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republicans for a long time. After the election, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) was promising that privatizing Medicare would be one of the first actions of the new legislative session. Then Trump nominated Price to be head of the Department of Health and Services. It requires Senate confirmation and Democrats will not work with Trump to privatise Medicare and some GOP senators have expressed reservations. The issue is “unresolved” for now.
In other news
The Southern Poverty Law Center continued to collect reports of incidents of racial violence. The SPLC also reported that boys and men had invoked Trump’s pussy-grabbing phrase to sexually threaten women.
Trump continued to tweet stupidly and irresponsibly. He antagonised China, called the United Nations “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time”, and tweeted the worst New Year’s message ever.
Trump’s conflicts of business continued to draw media attention. He spent New Year’s hosting and praising his business partners at a private event that was also generating income for his company. Of course, he still hasn’t released his taxes. Many Trump supporters don’t care about any of this because they live in an alternate state of reality where there are no such things as facts. Will they wake up? Well, there is a Tumblr dedicated to the social media posts of regretful Trump voters. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic.
What you can do
Don’t ease up. Following the election, there was a huge spike in support, donations, volunteers, and demonstrations. As the dust settles and the holidays approached, people have started to relax again. Don’t get complacent. Stay informed. Stay active.
Attend the Women’s March on Washington. It will take place on Saturday, 21 January in Washington D.C. It’s not just for women. According to its organizers, “any person, regardless of gender or gender identity, who believes women’s rights are human rights” is welcome to attend. This march is an opportunity for anybody who opposes Trump to get out there and be heard.
Call your senator. Voice your concerns over Trump’s cabinet picks. Click here to find your senator.
Support independent journalists. Like all skilled propagandists, Trump doesn’t like the media. He knows that journalists are threat to him and his efforts to control a false narrative. From the McCarthy witch hunts through Vietnam, the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and NSA surveillance, politicians are terrified of being exposed by prying journalists, official leakers, and congressional committees. For this oversight to continue, we need a thriving and free press.
Take care of yourself and each other.