Donald Is Distracting Us

Last Wednesday, I thought that the biggest political story this week would continue to be the Senate’s apparently unstoppable confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, and all of the damage to our future democracy that his confirmation would likely bring. I should have known better.

Living in today’s weird world of Trump, it seems that his White House reign keeps producing unsettling surprises virtually every week. The latest was The New York Times’ publication of an anonymous letter from a White House staffer who described him/herself as part of “the resistance.” The letter appeared almost simultaneously with legendary reporter Bob Woodward’s release of his new bombshell book “Fear: Trump in the White House.”

It’s too soon to know whether either of those developments will have a meaningful impact on the outcome of the November midterm elections. (They should…but then Trump’s outrageous behavior and statements in 2016 should have kept him from being elected in the first place.) We’re already seeing vigorous push-back from the White House and the GOP, and millions of right wing dollars are being spent for midterm Republican candidates to counter voter uncertainty.

During the remaining months of Trump’s time in office (however long that might be), I’m sure there will be many more occasions when we will learn disturbing facts about “The Donald’s” behavior as our nation’s chief executive. We can hope they don’t do too much damage. — And for now, that’s all I’m going to say about this latest strange chapter in our American history.

However, the fact that President Trump dominates so much of our attention, even when he doesn’t want it, is what’s behind my essay today. This reality registered with me at last weekend’s NTDO Annual Picnic. (I will save the details about the actual meeting for a P.S. below this commentary.) As usual, the picnic – indoors this year – drew an impressive group of Democratic legislators, officials and candidates.

As I listened to their comments I realized that in today’s “everything is about Trump” environment, it’s easy to lose sight of the critically important contests being waged in our home state – from the governor’s race on down the ticket.

Our Township Committeeman, Dean Maragos, spoke of the U.S. House seats in Illinois that can be flipped from red to blue if we do all we can to get out the vote. Illinois can play a huge role in winning back the House. So, each week from now until November, listed on our website and in our newsletter, you’ll find a variety of opportunities to help make that — and much more –happen. (Wisconsin’s on the radar too.)

Comments from State Rep. Robyn Gabel and State Rep. (and Senate candidate) Laura Fine made clear how important it will be to keep our state’s legislation true to Democratic Party values. As a strong blue state, Illinois can be an important counterforce to the destructive Republican policies generated by Trump’s radical Republican administration. Illinois House candidate Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz also expressed that concern from her perspective as an experienced immigrant rights lawyer. — We now know that right wing dark money is flowing into these local races. Conservative reactionaries hate the values that our legislators champion. We must help our candidates win.

But it was when our present State Senator, Daniel Biss, wrapped up the gathering’s comments segment that I realized how President Trump’s media-wide domination of our attention could dilute the attention we need to pay to activities that are immediately important.

In November we will be electing the next governor of our state. This is a really big deal. Bruce Rauner has been a lousy governor, but we cannot assume that he will lose in November. Senator Biss spoke passionately about the importance of ending the disastrous policies of the Rauner administration. Governor Rauner and his misguided theories on governance have, in the words of Senator Biss, actually killed people. And I would add that this is no surprise, given Rauner’s financial success using “vulture investment” financial models. It is a shortsighted and heartless approach to governing a state.

We cannot let Trump’s antics distract us from the actions we should take to help every one of our candidates win. So, for the next few weeks let’s not think so much about the strange man in the Oval Office. Fascinating as he might be, he’s not on any November ballot. Instead, let’s think about what’s going on right here at home. Each office on the Illinois ballot has the potential to impact your lives. Let’s make sure all the winners have Democratic values.

Nels Howard
NTDO member since 1973

P.S. – Last Saturday the New Trier Dems gathered in Wilmette’s Mallinkrodt Center for our annual meeting and picnic . This year’s picnic was indoors in Mallinkrodt’s conference room due to the renovation of the Gillson Park Lakeview Center. (Next year, we’ll be back on the beach.)

As things turned out, Saturday’s weather wasn’t ideal for an outdoor picnic anyway. The forty+ NTDO members who showed up heard opening comments from Committeeman Maragos, followed by reports from NTDO President Mandel, Secretary/Communications Chair Rich Brill and Treasurer John Ungashick. As the weekly commentator for the NTD News, I also got to say a few words.

The next order of business was the election of NTDO officers for the coming 12 months. President Mandel and Treasurer Ungashick were reelected, as was Secretary Brill in an interim capacity until a new volunteer Secretary steps forward.

The elected officials and candidates who attended the picnic and joined in conversations with NTD members included State Rep. Robyn Gabel, State Rep. (and Senate candidate) Laura Fine, retiring State Senator Daniel Biss, Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, 58th District House candidate Bob Morgan, Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Mike Cabonargi, New Trier Township Trustee Gail Schnitzer Eisenberg and 12th Sub Circuit Court candidate Joel Chupak.