Just as the generosity of Angel Tree donations and turkey giveaways clash with the kill-or-be-killed stampede of folks looking for a Black Friday bargain, the warm holiday greetings lawmakers disseminate this time of year might strike a dissonant cord when compared to the current policies and politics coming out of Washington.
Pre-holiday news has included a tidal wave of charges and accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault, with some lawmakers preferring to view the stories of women and some men through a lens of partisan politics rather than right and wrong — surely not a positive lesson for the kids gathered around the turkey.
Female congresswomen such as Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., have shined a light on a history of harassment transgressions on Capitol Hill and pledged investigation and reform. And now, there are promises of ethics inquiries into charges against and settlements paid by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., who has denied wrongdoing, and others, including some who may have joined the list since this column was written.
But in the matter of the egregious charges of abuse and assault of teen and underage girls against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama, who will face the voters in three weeks, partisanship has, in some cases, made the decision.
After steering clear of Moore’s close race with Democrat Doug Jones, President Donald Trump, himself the subject of multiple women’s accusations of harassment, has weighed in with what looks and smells like a Moore endorsement.
“We don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat,” Trump said Tuesday, before labeling Jones, a former federal prosecutor who won convictions against two of the men responsible for bombing a Birmingham church and killing four little girls, as “terrible on crime.”
Trump also pointed to Moore’s denials, perhaps remembering his own when charges and a videotape threatened his presidential candidacy last year. Of course, that means dismissing the testimonials of the women who have come forward, knowing the partisan attacks that would follow.
Pastors in Alabama and the Southeast, are split on their decision whether or not to continue their support of Moore, with those on either side of the fence claiming the same “values” argument. On the other hand, the Young Republican Federation of Alabama, representing party members between the ages of 18 and 40, has withdrawn its support in a resolution that states “our duty is not to the individual candidates but to the longstanding growth and sustainability of the Republican Party.”
Perhaps its members should give the Thanksgiving sermons.
Immigration reform is another issue that might cause a split — generational and otherwise — as families gather, given that our country’s leaders have chosen this time to announce what might be considered harsh news.
Whether you view it as a matter of enforcing laws and ensuring safe borders or an attempt to slow America’s demographic shifts, the Trump administration, from the president to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and senior adviser Stephen Miller, and supporters are certainly transforming immigration policy, envisioning a different America that seems more throwback than 21st century.
There will be increased anxiety for many families this season. The Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which granted work permits to about 690,000 young immigrants brought here as children, is being phased out. The Trump administration has sought to lessen the importance of family connections for those seeking immigration and to suspend the program fast-tracking immigration for those who serve in uniform. And this week, the Department of Homeland Security set a deadline for the close to 60,000 Haitians permitted a U.S. stay after their country’s 2010 earthquake.
Of course, the Congress, that is, Republicans in Congress, have been expending most of their energies on pushing through a tax package. Public opinion is decidedly negative, though individual provisions of the House and Senate plans have their adherents, as well. No matter the sales job now going on, polls show that a majority of Americas believe the plan will disproportionately benefit the rich and not give them much of a tax break.
Speedy action on taxes contrasts to the way the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provided low-cost health insurance to 9 million children, was allowed to expire. Schools and parents may be less worried about the games and toys they can’t provide than children’s medical needs.
The holiday season always provides a space to reflect on priorities, and on what individuals, and a country, value. Besides the usual tables piled high, this particular year also offers plenty of food for thought.
Roll Call columnist Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.