Week One: Pay More Attention to the Men Behind the Curtain

Is it ever easy to get worked up about Donald Trump. The guy is a walking, talking premise for a blog post, a Facebook update, a Tweet, or whatever a Snap is. In fact, chances are you don’t have to try very hard to find a take on our Orange Overlord, and it’s likely even easier to find one that’s funny, or snarky, that makes you laugh, that makes you mad, or that even drives you to protest him. And that’s good.

But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if we’re somewhat taking our eye off the ball a bit. Yes, Trump deserves ridicule. He deserves protest. He deserves the invectives that will undoubtedly be hurled at him from every corner of the internet for as long as he’s in office, but… when it comes to the change his presidency promises to bring about, Trump is nothing more than a useful idiot for the Republican Congress.

I’ve long been fascinated with the relationship between “typical” Republican politicians and Trump, and have settled in on a dynamic where the Paul Ryans and Mitch McConnells of the world have made a decision that there is simply nobody repugnant enough that they won’t allow him to sign their legislation. And that’s where I think more of our focus should be.

While the Women’s March highlighted just how engaged anti-Trump forces are in opposing him, what’s truly been heartening to me over the last few days is how many of my social media brethren are sharing links from GovTrack, and Thomas, and other legislative tracking services available on the internet. The Congressional elections of 2018, (along with making sure we gather the low-hanging fruit of the big-city Mayor’s races this year) are our first chance at meaningful pushback against not Trump himself, but Trumpism. Also, the more or less daily machinations of the House and Senate are a good way to keep our engagement levels high.

Now, I have to admit my own shortcomings in this regard – it’s been a long time since I studied Legislative process or really kept up with the nitty-gritty of policy. My specialty, such as it was, had always been electoral politics. In a somewhat fortunate way, 2016 tore that down once and for all. I’m out of the predictions business, and need to work toward re-educating myself when it comes to the things that matter – the things I’ve always been critical of the media for not focusing enough on.

In that way, I’m in the same boat as a lot of you. Americans, by and large, are not known for their deep understanding of the levers of power. Our civic knowledge has atrophied, in large part because of that same obsession with horse-race politics that I myself was a small part of. But as I said yesterday: if not now, when? If I want my daughters to grow up educated about what makes their country the way it is, I need to go back to school on this. If we’re not all going to take this opportunity for a little continuing education, then our activism will mean nothing.

To that end, I’ll be using this space as my notebook as I audit The Legislative Process. If there are any bills you think I should focus on, feel free to let me know about them in the comments.

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