Donald Trump

Alabama Senate candidacy may redefine decency

Alabama Senate candidacy may redefine decency

Beverly Young Nelson says then-Deputy District Attorney Roy Moore signed her high school yearbook. She alleges he offered her a ride home from her restaurant job when she was 16, then groped her and kicked her out the car door.

Business leaders abandon Trump after Charlottesvile remarks

Business leaders abandon Trump after Charlottesvile remarks

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, left, and six other members of Donald Trump's manufacturing advisory council resigned when the president equated white nationalist marchers with those who came out to protest them in Charlottesville, Virginia, the weekend of Aug. 12. Trump disbanded the council rather than accept the rebuke.

Trump's antics stoke opposition

President Donald Trump's continuing assaults on cherished American ideals, like protecting the environment and providing health care, are having an intriguing side effect. His administration is keeping the outrage at a boil.

For organizations that encourage and train women to run for political office, that has made for a very busy four months since Election Day.

Tens of thousands marched against President Trump in New York City on Jan. 21, 2017, and the total nationwide was in the millions. (Photo: mathiaswasik/flickr/cc)

Tens of thousands marched against President Trump in New York City on Jan. 21, 2017, and the total nationwide was in the millions. (Photo: mathiaswasik/flickr/cc)

Activism has spiked in many areas, from demonstrations in airports to raucous town halls to protests at politicians' doorsteps. But the events of the last few months have fundamentally changed attitudes about politics, particularly among women. Organizers say many more women are embracing the value of running for office.

VoteRunLead, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that offers classes with titles like "30 Things Every Woman Needs to Know to Run for Office," recently surveyed women who had signed up for the program. In the past, two-thirds of VoteRunLead's students said they were thinking of running in the next five years or so. When their children were grown, perhaps.

Now, according to VoteRunLead founder Erin Vilardi, 66 percent want to run in the next two years.

"In the past, we heard, it's on my mind, but it's not urgent," she said. "A new crop of women are raising their hands and accelerating the schedule."

VoteRunLead, which is based in New York, unveiled a website this week under the banner "Run as you are." An important function of groups like this is matching the skills and passions of individuals with the right offices.

"Probably, the number one question I get is what to run for," Vilardi says. She begins by asking what policies they want to change. Most will end up seeking school board or local offices, with a sprinkling interested in federal posts.

From September 2014 to the November election, VoteRunLead trained about 5,000 women at conferences and online. Since Nov. 8, another 5,565 have signed up. Organizations like the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, She Should Run and Ignite National are reporting similar surging interest.

Even optimists thought interest might fade after the Jan. 21 women's marches. But Anne Moses, president of Ignite National, which offers programs for high school and college women, says so far, apathy has been a stranger. "I thought maybe it would slow down," she said, "but this administration is doing a good job of keeping people angry."

Cue Hillary Clinton. On Tuesday, she gave a major speech in San Francisco to an audience of 6,000, and she's scheduled today to address the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security in Washington. On Tuesday, she tried out a new mantra: "Resist, insist, persist, enlist."

Her timing was perfect. Last week brought the image of a room of men in Congress debating whether to cover maternity care, along with Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts making light of losing mammograms. He was forced to apologize.

Such moments are raising awareness in young women that "sexism is real, it's not just something my mom is talking about," said Moses of Ignite National, which is based in San Francisco.

The recent ineptitude of the White House - failing on two travel bans and Obamacare repeal - also demonstrates, like a reality show, that no experience is necessary to try governing. The missteps have been liberating for potential candidates, and especially women, who research shows tend to underestimate how well-prepared they already are for jobs.

Who knew that Trump's Washington would offer so much inspiration?

First published in Newsday. Anne Michaud is the Interactive Opinion Editor for Newsday.

 

Melania Trump goes at own pace

There's one Trump whose approval ratings are climbing fast, and it's not the guy in the Oval Office.

First lady Melania Trump has picked up 16 percentage points since before the inauguration, according to a recent poll by CNN/ORC. Fifty-two percent said they have a "favorable" opinion of Trump, even as her husband's numbers remain mired in the low 40s.

Americans, it seems, are getting to know the former model from Slovenia. The same poll found that 23 percent had "no opinion" of her before President Donald Trump's inauguration; afterward, only 12 percent hadn't yet made a judgment.

First Lady Melania Trump arrives at a luncheon she hosted to mark International Women's Day in the State Dining Room at the White House March 8, 2017. (Photo: Getty Images)

First Lady Melania Trump arrives at a luncheon she hosted to mark International Women's Day in the State Dining Room at the White House March 8, 2017. (Photo: Getty Images)

This first lady is like no other in recent memory. She had no experience in the political spotlight before landing in this high-profile, if poorly defined, role at the top of American public life. She was known in New York celebrity circles, of course, and pictured in society coverage as the wife of a publicity-loving billionaire whose name adorns skyscrapers, hotels and golf courses.

But national politics, unlike celebrity and fame, often demands more gravitas and homage to tradition. Melania Trump is navigating this all in real time, without the training wheels her predecessors had, and with a partner whose political brand is built on upending Washington norms.

Before becoming first lady, Michelle Obama was the wife of a state senator and then a U.S. senator. Laura Bush was married to a Texas governor and a member of a family steeped in politics. Hillary Clinton's husband had been the attorney general and then governor of Arkansas. Barbara Bush had a wealth of experience as the wife of a former CIA director, ambassador to China, congressman and vice president.

As political spouses, these women made mistakes and learned from them.

Trump's first major foray was publicly bruising. She was the wife of the candidate then, supporting him as he accepted the Republican Party nomination. Her speech at the convention was cribbed from her predecessor's - and the plagiarism was rightly blasted.

It's enough to make a person want to hole up in a posh Manhattan penthouse and tend to her 10-year-old son. Get back to basics.

Now, though, there are signs that Trump is testing the waters as first lady. Earlier this month, she visited a hospital in Manhattan to read to sick children. She chose the classic, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" In the lore of first ladies, this is public relations gold.

Trump's visit cast her as nurturing and selfless, with little risk. No tyke was going to pop up and ask whether she had permission to quote Dr. Seuss.

Last week, she hosted an invitation-only luncheon at the White House in honor of International Women's Day and spoke about equality, freedom and women helping each other achieve success. Also, the Trumps will honor the 139-year-old custom next month of rolling Easter eggs across the White House South Lawn.

Step by step, Trump is adopting traditions we associate with first ladies. Her next challenge will be the gravitas.

Before Election Day, Trump said she was interested in working to combat cyberbullying, but she hasn't begun, at least not publicly. Nancy Reagan is remembered for her anti-drug message, Obama for encouraging kids to exercise and Laura Bush for reminding children to read. Must each first lady have a cause? It will be interesting to see how Trump answers that question.

For now, she's made it clear that she will remain in New York until son Barron finishes his school year. This also allows her to approach her new role with caution.

First published in Newsday. Anne Michaud is the Interactive Opinion Editor for Newsday.

 

A women's agenda for Trump era

If the participants in women's marches around the country last weekend are looking for a public policy road map, they would do well to pick up a copy of "Work Pause Thrive."

Published this month, author Lisen Stromberg's ambitious book lays out an agenda for legislative changes and describes policies that progressive employers are putting in place. The goal is to help along a new generation of men and women who say they want both involved parenting and rewarding work.

A new book from journalist Lisen Stromberg,  Work Pause Thrive , offers a collective agenda for working families. (Photo: LisenStromberg.com)

A new book from journalist Lisen Stromberg, Work Pause Thrive, offers a collective agenda for working families. (Photo: LisenStromberg.com)

As a devotee of advice on work-life balance, I found "Work Pause Thrive" dealt well with both policy and practical advice for would-be parents just starting their careers. The book navigates an economy still churning from the expansive entry of mothers into the workforce since the 1970s, without having put into place adequate affordable child care or altering the "all-in, all-the-time" workplace culture.

Stromberg tells this story from experience. She met a group of women in 1996 in a new mother training class recommended by their doctors. Twenty years later, the women are still in touch, and many of their careers look like "a direct trajectory to the top of our professions," she writes, "but buried deep within our resumes are twists and turns, pull backs and pauses."

The women crafted "nonlinear" careers that often required soul-searching, risk and straightforward negotiation with employers. But she wants the millennial generation to know it can be done - and that technology and attitudes are moving in this direction.

Putting family first for a time doesn't have to mean sacrificing one's career, according to Stromberg's survey of nearly 1,500 women. She highlighted women like Ann Fudge to make her point.

One of the most successful African-American women in business in 2001, Fudge quit her job as a division president for Kraft Foods to spend more time raising her two children. Fudge had recently been named by Fortune magazine as one of the 50 most powerful women in business.

When she left her corporate job, there was a brouhaha in the media about how she couldn't hack being both a mother and a top businesswoman.

The rest of her story received much less attention. Within a few years, she returned to work as president of the Young & Rubicam advertising agency.

Stromberg focused on college-educated women and men, she told me in an email, because that's the world she knows. "I was motivated to understand why even women with resources can't find solutions for challenges in the workplace when it comes to dealing with caregiving," she wrote.

However, middle- and lower-class families - in which Stromberg says women are increasingly opting out of paid work - would also benefit from her policy prescriptions for national paid leave, high-quality universal child care and paid sick leave.

Lower earners find it cheaper to stay home with children because they can't find work that covers the cost of child care. Meanwhile, many young parents struggle with student debt - never mind saving for college or retirement.

"We have been distracted by the notion that work/life integration is a privilege," Stromberg wrote in her email. "The reality is we lack public and workplace policies to support working parents. Let's focus on that issue and stop pitting women of different socio-economic classes against each other."

Women's Marchers, take notice.

First published in Newsday. Anne Michaud is the Interactive Opinion Editor for Newsday.

Trump's bully pulpit: Twitter

Melania and Barron are staying in New York, and now it's not even clear that Donald Trump needs to move to the White House to make public policy. All he needs is a smartphone and a Twitter account.

The president-elect has had a pretty good week on Twitter, nixing a backroom deal in Congress that would have defanged an ethics watchdog and nudging Ford Motor Co. to expand in Michigan instead of Mexico.

President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter on Nov. 16, 2017 to announce that Ford Motor Co. won’t be moving Lincoln production from Kentucky to Mexico.

President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter on Nov. 16, 2017 to announce that Ford Motor Co. won’t be moving Lincoln production from Kentucky to Mexico.

Why would Trump change what's working for him? Why heed Tuesday's advice from top congressional Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer and dispense with this "Twitter presidency"?

Trump has achieved what many leaders have tried: talking around and over the news media and Congress directly to his supporters. Unfiltered to 18.6 million followers. But make no mistake, today's victories are riddled with risk.

Of course a journalist would say that, you're thinking. The press doesn't want to be made irrelevant.

But consider this: Issuing orders by tweet runs the risk of inflaming fear and setting in motion forces that Trump doesn't intend and can't control.

The late Italian novelist Umberto Eco listed fascist traits that Trump appears to have in common with former dictator Benito Mussolini: Taking action for action's sake. Dissent equated to treason. Fear of the other. Appeal to social frustration. Machismo. Selective populism.

Mussolini reigned by means of fear.

What was the motive for Ford's reversal if not the fear of a threat, which Trump has made repeatedly, that he will attach a 35 percent tariff on products made in Mexico coming into the United States? In public statements, Ford CEO Mark Fields attributed the decision to market forces and called it a "vote of confidence for President-elect Trump."

Whether he believes the 35 percent tariff will materialize or not, Fields is playing it safe. Trump's threats hold extra power at the moment, because nobody knows which of his statements he will back up once he gets into office.

House Republicans acted out of fear, as well. When Trump got wind of the plan to gut a congressional ethics panel, he tweeted, "do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog . . . their number one act and priority."

Within two hours, House GOP leaders held an emergency meeting and dropped the plan.

One has to smile at Trump's success in reversing this secret backroom deal. Does anyone outside of Congress really want a lighter ethical touch for Washington lawmakers?

But it doesn't stretch the imagination to think congressional leaders felt threatened. Certainly, 140 characters - or even a string of tweets - isn't the best way to change minds through logical discourse. The lawmakers kowtowed to power, and that's worrisome. It doesn't feel like democracy.

Think of the times when a Trump tweet has not saved jobs or embarrassed Congress but its effect has turned the other way. The president-elect used Twitter in early December to criticize Chuck Jones, a union leader at Indiana's Carrier plant. Afterward, Jones said he received threats from Trump's supporters.

The Anti-Defamation League has reported a surge of anti-Semitic tweets directed at journalists, many of them from Trump fans.

In a nod to more traditional communication, Trump has announced that he will hold a news conference next week to talk about separating his private business interests from his new public role.

That's a step in the right direction. Complex issues like this one deserve more than 140 characters.

First published in Newsday. Anne Michaud is the Interactive Opinion Editor for Newsday.

what voter suppression brings

On his national "thank you" tour of states that voted Republican, President-elect Donald Trump gave a shout-out to an unlikely group. He claimed at an event in Michigan that African-Americans came through for him "big league," and those that didn't vote were "almost as good" in helping him win.

It was a bizarre claim, because exit polls showed that nationally, Hillary Clinton won African-American voters 89 percent to Trump's 8 percent.

Known as the "Stump for Trump Girls," Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson made waves when they endorsed Trump for president on CNN back in August. (Photo:CNN)

Known as the "Stump for Trump Girls," Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson made waves when they endorsed Trump for president on CNN back in August. (Photo:CNN)

But coming after the first presidential election since the Voting Rights Act was gutted by the Supreme Court, Trump's claim is not only bizarre, it's Orwellian. Was he signaling to his supporters that they had done well in suppressing Democratic votes?

It's hard to know with Trump. As unscripted as he appears, he often laces his speech with music to the ears of the "alt-right," a white nationalist movement

We don't know for sure how many Americans were disenfranchised on Election Day. Some civil rights groups - the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights - say that Republican-backed voter suppression laws probably helped tip the election in Trump's favor.

No one should vote who doesn't have that right. However, there's been almost zero evidence of voting fraud, while suppression efforts around the country have put disproportionate pressure on voters who traditionally vote Democratic: minorities, the poor, college students and other young voters.

Fourteen states had new voting restrictions this year for the first time in a presidential election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law. These include stricter voter ID laws, more stringent registration requirements, reduced early voting and greater hurdles to restoring voting rights to people with criminal convictions.

On the face of it, these measures look like well-intentioned efforts to safeguard our democracy and the voting rights of citizens. But look a little deeper to witness how these rules are employed.

In Alabama, a driver's license or special picture ID is required at polling places. Before Election Day, eight counties with the highest percentages of nonwhite voters closed driver's license bureaus.

In Arizona, Republican election officials in Maricopa County reduced the number of polling places to 60 from 200 in 2012 and 400 in 2008. More than half the county's population is nonwhite, and one-third is Hispanic.

In North Carolina, citizen activists calling themselves the Voter Integrity Project petitioned to purge voter rolls. They sent mail to addresses in Beaufort, Cumberland and Moore counties, and tracked those that came back as undeliverable. In August and September, activists submitted some 4,500 names to the county elections boards, which canceled the voters' registrations.

Thousands of North Carolinians who tried to vote found they had been taken off the rolls, and a disproportionate number were black, said the NAACP, which has filed a federal lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs called the purge "insane," and something out of the Jim Crow era.

Yet, Trump amped up his supporters' fears with claims - wholly discredited - that "millions" voted illegally in November. Two days after he tweeted that, Michigan Republicans introduced legislation to tighten the state's already strict voter ID law.

Trump nation is ready to act on his inferences, even without evidence. How frightening is that?

First published in Newsday. Anne Michaud is the Interactive Opinion Editor for Newsday.