I don’t know what we were all so worried about. President-elect Trump’s brilliance is already radiating through Washington, D.C. Before even taking office, Trump has done the unimaginable: He has convinced Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to start leveling with Kentuckians about the evaporation of coal jobs — there is no war on coal, just the market economics of cheaper natural gas and environmental regulations designed to save humans from extinction.
But, then, we already knew that, didn’t we?
This underscores why we can’t — and shouldn’t — wait for Trump, McConnell or any politician to be the leader we want and to make the changes we need.
We are, and have always been, able to create our own calls to action. Citizens make change, not politicians. They follow. America has never waited for its government to make progress.
The first example that comes to mind is the Civil Rights Act of 1964. America wasn’t content to wait for President Johnson to lead society to end segregation. Rather, it occurred because of groups and individuals who spent years organizing, marching and facing down evil.
Marriage equality is another example of society not waiting for progress. And it is an example of how fast that progress can occur if enough people apply enough pressure. America moved from the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 — which formalized discrimination against the LGBTQ community — to the acceptance of civil unions, and then on to full marriage equality as the law of the land. Marriage equality did not happen because of President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden or Congress. It was achieved by people who fought for what they knew was right, and who would not relent until they got what all Americans deserve — fairness and equality.
Across the nation, motivated, organized groups and individuals, including the Fairness Campaign in Louisville, led by Executive Director Chris Hartman, helped to clear the path for our elected representatives. Without these activists, Biden probably would not have found the fortitude to publicly support marriage equality, which would have meant that Obama would not have felt pressured to follow.
We should not be discouraged that we face single-party control both over Kentucky and federal governments. Instead, this is the next era for creating our own progress.
Why not start with making sure Trump and McConnell understand the threat of global warming? When the controlling party is notably… boastfully disinterested in taking action against climate change, the responsibility falls to us — individuals, groups and organizations who care.
Do whatever makes the best sense for yourself, but do take action:
If you are the cast of “Hamilton,” and you have the platform to make your call to action before the vice president, that is how you create progress.
If you can donate money — like the $1 million anonymously donated this week to the city to plant trees — that is how you can create change.
If you see injustice, call it out. Write letters, emails and tweets. Make noise. Protest. Organize. Volunteer.
The needs are manifold. We need to continue to push for national policy that requires all police to wear cameras. We need to continue to call for more transparency in law enforcement and public institutions.
It becomes even more important to refuse to allow into the White House the Steve Bannons of the world — racist, bigots and people who make a living off of pushing conspiracy theories… lies.
It is up to us to call out Gov. Matt Bevin when his midnight tweeting turns ugly, and let him know that we don’t accept his deceptive, hypocritical propaganda. We will hold our leaders accountable.
In some cases, it will feel like we are defending progress we have already made. But that is how it has always been. Progress is not linear. Progress is a three-dimensional path, on which you not only move forward and backward, but you also take detours.
We are watching and listening and protesting. Above all, we are not waiting. For that, I am optimistic.