Culture & Conversation Politics

Moments of Hope, Inspiration During Trump’s First Year

Christine Grimaldi

From all-out efforts to stop Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act to counter-protests against white supremacists, 2017 demonstrated the power of resistance.

A year-end recap under the Trump presidency doesn’t have to be depressing. At Rewire, we don’t want it to be.

We’ve reviewed the inspirational moments that punctuated the fraught months since Inauguration Day and how they’ll power us through holding the powerful accountable in 2018 and beyond. Here are just a few of our favorites. By no means do they represent an exhaustive list, but they do give us hope, and we hope they’ll do the same for you.

Constituents and Activists Largely Preserve Health Care

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, remains the law of the land thanks in large part to public outcry and organizing. Many constituents became first-time activists, overwhelming the congressional switchboard to demand that their U.S. senators and representatives vote down repeated GOP legislative repeal attempts. The disability rights group ADAPT and people with disabilities repeatedly put their bodies on the line in sit-ins and die-ins, playing an outsized role in saving Obamacare.

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Carrie Ann Lucas was arrested and removed from Colorado GOP Sen. Cory Gardner’s Denver office with other ADAPT protesters. “This issue is just too critically important for my own independence and that of my children so I felt like it was time to do more,” Lucas told Robyn Powell, a disability rights attorney reporting for Rewire.

The GOP-controlled U.S. Congress was able to repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate as part of a regressive year-end tax overhaul. As Vox‘s Dylan Scott reported, there’s still reason to be hopeful for the ACA’s continuation, not least of which is Doug Jones’ victory in the special election for Alabama’s open Senate seat. “The bare Republican majority seems to have no viable path left for a more substantial repeal plan,” Scott wrote. And there’s more:

Repealing the individual mandate is a legitimate blow to the Obamacare marketplaces, but doing so won’t unravel the markets entirely. They will function worse than they did before, and premiums will rise. But millions of people who receive generous tax subsidies to buy coverage will not feel the brunt of those cost increases. The law’s rules prohibiting health insurers from discriminating against pre-existing conditions remain on the books. Finally, and most importantly, Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which covered upward of 15 million people, remains untouched.

“The heart of the ACA has always been the Medicaid expansion, the premium subsidies to make insurance more affordable to lower-income people, and the protections for pre-existing conditions,” Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told me. “Those things will all still be in place.”

Obamacare won’t function as well as it might have under a Democratic administration of if Republicans in Congress weren’t bent on repealing the individual mandate. But it will still be here.

The Trump administration is still waging a regulatory war against key Obamacare regulations, including the popular birth control benefit. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights jointly filed suit against the administration, as did the National Women’s Law Center and Americans United for Separation of Church and State in another pending case. As of December 15, a federal judge in another case temporarily blocked the birth control benefit rollback via a nationwide injunction.

The court of public opinion is in the birth control benefit’s favor; the majority of the general public, across party lines and various polls, support it. More than a dozen advocacy groups hand delivered more than 500,000 comments they gathered from the public to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Together, members of the public and advocates fought on behalf of the 62.4 million cisgender women and untold number of transgender and gender nonconforming people who rely on the benefit.

Resistance Trumped Hate

The Charlottesville, Virginia, “alt-right” rally of white supremacists and neo-Nazis left counter-protester Heather Heyer dead and President Trump scrambling to defend “some very fine people on both sides.” But the racist violence in August didn’t stop people from speaking up and speaking out. About 100 people later that month began a 111-mile march from Charlottesville to Washington, D.C., in a nonviolent response to the hate groups. As Jackson Landers reported for Rewire, the marchers encountered insults, stalkers, and an armed man—”and a lot of supportive horn honks.” And they vowed to keep up the fight upon reaching the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in the nation’s capital.

“The next step, resisting, is a matter of day by day,” said Mateo Guerrero, a Colombian immigrant who identifies as a transgender man of color. “Waking up and just looking for a job. After the march we’re going to do an action and then take this energy into our local communities.”

A prominent example of channeling energy into resistance occurred in Boston, a city known for pervasive racism beneath its progressive surface. Rewire‘s Amy Littlefield documented how some 40,000 counter-protesters shut down a so-called free-speech rally that numbered just a few dozen people advocating for hate.

“I saw Black folks out here today. I saw queer folks out here today. I saw Muslims out here today. I know we have undocumented comrades among us. I saw Jewish comrades out here today. I see women out here today. There were trans folks out here today,” activist Khury Petersen-Smith said to cheers.

“We know what it is like if you belong to any one of those groups, to walk down the street with your eye over your shoulder, watching your back. And what we’re saying is: We’ve got your back,” Petersen-Smith declared. “We’ve got your back.”

Diverse Candidates Won Elections …

LGBTQ candidates, people of color, and women achieved groundbreaking victories in 2017 down-ballot races. Minneapolis City Council member-elect Andrea Jenkins became the first openly transgender Black woman elected to public office in the United States. Manka Dhingra flipped control of the state senate in Washington with her win. Ravinder Bhalla will be one of the nation’s first Sikh mayors after he takes office in January.

And Danica Roem triumphed over an avowedly anti-transgender incumbent in her race for the Virginia House of Delegates.

Roem is the first openly transgender candidate to be elected and seated in a state legislature. She’s already working on her campaign pledge to improve local infrastructure.

… And More Women Will Run Next Year

On the federal level, the “most women House candidates ever”—369 of them—are running or plan to run for Congress in 2018, Axios reported by way of Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics. That number could grow with the approach of filing deadlines.

As of December 20, more than 25,000 women interested in pursuing state, local, and federal office had reached out to EMILY’s List, an organization that helps elect pro-choice Democratic women.

Black women—the same demographic that propelled Jones from Alabama to Washington, D.C.—are already competing at all levels of government.

Stacey Abrams is aiming to be the nation’s first Black woman governor. She has criticized fellow Democrats who claim the party needs to welcome anti-choice candidates into its ranks to win races in places like the South.

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