Nationally, it's been a depressing week for progressives like me.
Just when I thought things couldn't get worse with 5-4 Supreme Court decisions that ratified Trump's travel ban, gave a green light to gerrymandering, and trashed public employee unions, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement today.
That gives Trump another crack at appointing a highly conservative justice who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, thereby allowing states to make abortion illegal. Which surely would happen in many red states. Also, a compliant Supreme Court could refuse to put any check on Trump's authoritarian desires, making the United States a constitutional democracy in name only.
There's not much that can be done on the national front regarding Trump's next Supreme Court nominee.
Sure, Democrats already are trying to get Mitch McConnell to invoke his "Merrick Garland" rule that doesn't allow a vote on a Supreme Court nominee in an election year. But the chances of that happening range from none to none.
You can bet that McConnell will pull out all the Senate stops to get Trump's Supreme Court nominee approved before Senators elected this November take their seats in January 2019.
So that leaves lobbying semi-moderate Senators like Murkowski, Collins, Flake, and Corker to not vote for a rabidly right-wing Trump nominee who would overturn Roe v. Wade as the most feasible Democratic resistance tactic. However, Senate Republicans tend to talk about resisting Trump much more often than they actually vote against him.
Thus there's good reason for progressives to feel dismayed at how things are going at the national level right now.
With so much going wrong in Washington, D.C., this makes it more important than ever that things go right here in Salem, Oregon, and that progressives get fired up about making those changes.
I mean, of course, not right as in conservative, but right as in improving the quality of life for ordinary citizens -- as opposed to making the already cushy lifestyle of the Privileged Powers That Be even cushier. This is going to require the five progressives on the Salem City Council, a majority of the nine-member body, to exercise their influence with more vigor.
Now, I realize that local politics has a different tone than national politics.
Salem's elected officials are nominally non-partisan. The Mayor and city councilors do their best to get along with each other, even though they differ a lot politically. Gentle words are more prevalent at City Council meetings than impassioned calls-to-action.
Yet I was inspired by talk I heard on CNN and MSNBC this afternoon following Kennedy's announcement of his retirement from the Supreme Court.
Both Republican and Democratic critics of Trump were saying that the time is past to play nice, to play by the rules, to expect that reasonableness is going to win out over authoritarianism. In other words, it's time to take the gloves off and start fighting with bare knuckles, just like Trump and his supporters have been doing since he was elected (with a clear minority of the popular vote, and by just 78,000 votes scattered over three swing states).
I realize that many people in Salem would consider that such tactics either aren't needed here at the local level, or are at odds with the "go along to get along" mentality that progressive elected officials in this town tend to embrace. Not always, but certainly to a greater degree than Salem conservatives engage in when they have the reins of power at City Hall.
I also understand the oft-heard argument that it takes time to change policies at the local level. Ordinances, rules, and regulations have to be followed until they are altered. Ditto for plans, such as the Comprehensive Plan that guides development in Salem.
To which my progressive self replies, fueled by anger and depression at how quickly conservatives are worsening things at the national level, Salem can do better, and it needs to do so sooner rather than later.
For example, and there are plenty more examples (affordable housing, homelessness, public transit, outreach to minorities, greenhouse gas reductions, etc. etc.)...
Salem shouldn't be OK with a giant big-box store, Costco, relocating to a residential neighborhood.
Salem shouldn't be OK with a developer clear-cutting a 27-acre urban forest prior to asking for a subdivision to be approved that would have required a tree conservation plan if there were any trees left to plan for.
Salem shouldn't be OK with moving at glacial speed to get dedicated bike lanes built throughout the city when other towns have been able to do this in a few years, not decades.
The more things are falling apart for progressive values at the national level, the more urgency there should be at the local level to stand up for the broad public good. Understand: I'm not calling for meanness or animosity to be directed at the 38% of Salem voters who cast a ballot for Trump in the 2016 election.
I'm just saying that Salem is a liberal-leaninbg city, with a progressive majority on the City Council, so local policies at City Hall should be moving more rapidly in that direction than they have been.