The federal courts, those troublesome upholders of the rule of law, constitutional guarantees and due process, continue to thwart the worst aspects of the Trump administration’s ideological assault on existing federal policies — that is, policies promulgated by any previous administration, Republican or Democrat, but most notably Barack Obama’s.
In fact, it cannot be argued that the Trump administration is actually making policy. Rather, it is systematically attacking policies, rules, laws and actions that have been in place, and largely effective, for some time — meanwhile leaving behind a trash heap of human, economic and environmental damage with callous disregard for harmful consequences. Trump’s minions don’t have positive ideas — they only know what they hate, and are furiously determined to eradicate whatever that is.
Case by case, some existing policies that demonstrate basic decency, common sense and a concern for the nation’s well-being — things the Trump administration has shown no interest in — are being at least temporarily supported in the courts.
Those courtroom decisions, no matter where they are, resonate profoundly in places like the Methow Valley, where national decisions affect local outcomes. Recently, a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot cut off funding for a grant that supports teen pregnancy prevention programs, including one at our own Room One in Twisp.
Think about that: An educational and outreach program to prevent teenage girls from getting pregnant, at a time when teen pregnancies remain an issue. Okanogan County has one the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state. In a Methow Valley News article last week, Room One Executive Director Elana Mainer pointed out that teen parents are more likely to drop out of school, rely on public assistance and have children with poor educational, behavioral and health outcomes.
In other words, the practical and societal costs of unwanted pregnancies are severe and cyclical. Who would not want to do something about that if they could? How is this even a partisan issue?
But here’s an administration that supports conservative values (when it’s convenient, otherwise forget it, as in paying off prostitutes and porn stars for their silence) while trying to undermine a program whose goal is to reduce teen pregnancies through educational programs and research. Not abort them. Prevent them.
The court decision called the administration’s action to cut off the pregnancy prevention grants “arbitrary and capricious” — which, if you are a fan of dark humor, could be said to at least consistently represent the Trump administration’s method of operation. If nothing else, they are predictably reckless with people’s lives.
One judge’s decision, even a decision that is supported in other federal court jurisdictions, is only a passing comfort, as something else is sure to come along soon. It is perilous to count on the courts for protection from the administration’s remorseless wrecking ball. Enlightenment will not be emanating soon from the nation’s capital.
Now more than ever, the balance of powers our founding fathers ordained among the three branches of government — executive, legislative and judicial — is crucial to the survival of our democracy. The Trump administration’s clear intent is to demean and diminish the legislative branch, and neuter the judicial branch by appointing lap-dog judges, so that power is concentrated and isolated in the executive. In other parts of the world, that’s known as a dictatorship. The strategy for that outcome includes undermining the credibility of legitimate news media while trotting out big lie after big lie after big lie. Historically, it’s a tried-and-true formula for wannabe tyrants.
The only countervailing power we have at the local and/or state level is to hold elected officials accountable for their actions and political positions. The November elections will be an opportunity to do that. Ask candidates to explain and defend their views, not with the usual political blarney or party slogans but rather with facts, philosophies and creative ideas. If we want to influence how the “other Washington” affects us right down to the nitty-gritty local level, this Washington needs to make its voice heard other than in courtrooms. Our election day decisions about the direction of this country will have more long-term impacts than any one judge’s ruling on a single issue.
— Don Nelson