Obama’s legacy threatened by incoming administration
Many students watching President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration today would understandably feel a deep sense of loss for the departure of one of America’s most respected leaders. President Barack Obama will be remembered, among accomplishments that include reforming American health care, championing a groundbreaking climate agreement and bringing the United States out of deep recession, as an eminently decent man — a role model.
The country is now helmed by the opposite — a braggart whose impulsiveness and peevish constitution pose a real threat to the safety of Americans at home and abroad. Trump’s authoritarian instincts, his empty promises and reckless lies, must not be allowed to remain unchecked to the extent they have by blind partisanship and feckless apologists. A new counterculture must exist to uphold the democratic ideals upon which this country was founded.
What exactly does America stand to lose? Start by looking at schools.
The Obama Administration made it a priority to hold colleges and universities that breached Title IX laws by failing to properly investigate cases of sexual assault accountable. President Trump’s pick to head the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, could not say in her utterly pathetic confirmation hearing whether she would continue that important policy.
It isn’t entirely surprising that Trump, who has made some derogatory comments about women that border on admissions of sexual assault — and is currently fighting allegations against him — would appoint someone similarly disinterested in taking steps to combat discrimination based on sex on college campuses.
But the consequences of such malfeasance could be dangerous, not least for the countless people of color, transgender, queer and gender-nonconforming individuals who are at increased risk of being marginalized when they face institutionalized bigotry at universities.
At the Women’s March on Washington tomorrow — the largest of a planned set of demonstrations across the country, including in Sacramento — Americans will have an opportunity to show just how forceful the opposition against Trump should be for the next four years.
A series of teach-ins in the Student Community Center at UC Davis today also highlighted the importance of understanding the perils Muslims, Jews, Latinx communities, undocumented persons and LGBTQIA individuals face under the Trump Administration. Students should take advantage of such forums and think critically about how education will be the greatest asset in navigating this new era of disinformation and outright lies.
No matter how much Trump tried to appeal to unity in his inaugural address, the fact remains: His meteoric rise to power was fueled by racist dog-whistles and ingenuous appeals to the baser instincts of a long-maligned portion of the American public. Trump does not deserve a second chance for conning the nation. If the public grants him a pass, it will be just as complicit in whatever disaster his administration is likely to deal this country.
President Obama wasn’t always perfect. His free press record was spotty — Obama prosecuted three times as many whistleblower cases as all previous administrations combined and allowed his FBI and Justice Department spy on journalists — and now Trump has more license to squelch and slander the Fourth Estate.
But Obama — and his predecessors, for that matter — didn’t pose a fundamental threat to American democracy. This is not an extreme statement. If we are to take Trump’s words literally — and we must, so as not to underestimate him — we are looking at a demagogue who would close America to the world and sow internal divisions so deep as to create decades of animus.
The United States has never been an equal country, but the aspiration to ensure that the Constitution will eventually protect citizens of all colors and creeds has always animated the nation for the better. No one man can take that away. But if President Trump does manage to erode confidence in our vital democratic institutions, he will have a chance to unwind the remarkable progress of the last eight years. That would be a tragedy.