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One-year anniversary the perfect time for repudiation of Trump's reign: Westwood

Twelve months after the White House was changed forever, this week's wave of Democrat wins provided a boost to the many lives Trump has negatively impacted.

Ravinder Bhalla fought racist opposition in his bid to become mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey — and he won.

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Ravinder Bhalla fought racist opposition in his bid to become mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey — and he won.

In her important and worthy campaign memoir, What Happened, Hillary Clinton writes about the days and months following the 2016 election, and the many people who approached her (rather self-servingly) to apologize for not voting.

She describes attempts to accept those sentiments with as little rage as possible.

But as Donald Trump’s election victory passes its one-year anniversary, I’ve been wondering how those apologies would land on the doorsteps of people whose lives have been altered dramatically by his presidency.

About one-third of Americans — Trump’s and the Republican base — are feeling good about his administration thus far, according to various polls. Since few substantive new laws or policies have been implemented that would impact the lives of most of those supporters (health care, tax, trade and infrastructure plans remain somewhere between in-the-works and aspirational), we might surmise that the tone of Trump’s White House and the issues on which he’s focused are resonating.

Many others are similarly relatively unimpacted by the last year in our day-to-day lives, if far less pleased.

But the same can’t be said for undocumented immigrants, like Santos in New Orleans, who in the spring told me how he’d been living in fear that he’ll be deported and torn from his family (he’s also been too afraid to fight for thousands of dollars in unpaid wages, lest that alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, he said). It also can’t be said for so-called “Dreamers,” those brought as undocumented children to the U.S. and to whom President Barack Obama promised a future life in America, which Trump has thrown into uncertainty.

The same can’t be said for U.S. Muslims, who’ve experienced spikes in hate crimes over the last three years. According to FBI data, hate crimes surged 67 per cent from 2014 to 2015, when Trump announced his presidency. The Council on American-Islamic Relations documented a 44 per cent rise in hate crimes from 2015 to 2016, and a nine per cent rise in religious discrimination the first three quarters of 2017 compared to 2016.

It can’t be said for Puerto Ricans, who have suffered from lack of access to the very basic necessities of life — running water, electricity and food — after Hurricane Maria made devastating landfall in September. Not long after the storm hit, Trump passed out paper towels and claimed Puerto Ricans didn’t need flashlights. This week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced the highly unusual plan to evacuate 3,000 resident still on the island (100,000 have already evacuated to the U.S. mainland). Puerto Rico remains largely uninhabitable, triggering scathing criticisms over the Trump administration’s response.

Women in need of birth control or abortions can’t call themselves unaffected, either. Trump and his cabinet have proclaimed themselves soldiers in the anti-choice fight, taking a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant to court to prevent her from obtaining an abortion in Texas (and losing). Trump has sought to curtail women’s access to birth control through a health care executive order.

Trump’s justice department has also declared itself opposed to policing reforms that would reduce the criminalization of black Americans. In Trump’s American, a Sikh man running for mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, was labeled a terrorist by campaign fliers — and yet, he won.

The turnout in 2016 was not, overall, out of the norm, hovering around 58 per cent. But it was down in some swing states among democratic leaning voters, according to post election analysis, and many have blamed that in part on apathy towards Hillary Clinton.

If that’s the case, this week’s sweep of Democratic victories in state elections in Virginia and New Jersey — including Ravinder Bhalla’s win in Hoboken — flipped that apathy on its head.

Whether grassroots resistance groups or established Democratic party leaders deserve the credit is unclear. But it seems that some Americans have been galvanized out of the complacent idea that civic participation is a selfish endeavour. In repudiating Trump’s reign thus far, voters cast ballots not just on Trump’s tweets, but on his treatment of others.

And whatever that means for the Democratic Party, I imagine it means a lot to those whose lives have been changed by just nine months of Trump.

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