Raising our voices to save our democracy

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During the opening session of TEACH, AFT President Randi Weingarten introduced members to a powerful champion of democracy, author Amy Siskind, who has made it her mission to call out the misdeeds of the Trump administration.

Amy Siskind and Randi Weingarten

It’s been a horrendous task, ever since two days after the inauguration, when President Trump’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway, coined the term “alternative facts.”

Siskind compiles the real (not alternative) facts on her website, The Weekly List. Originally intended for her friends and followers on social media, her list of news stories that reflect American politics’ “eroding norms” has grown to detail at least 100 new abnormalities every week. In her latest installment, Siskind outlines how Trump’s July 4 “Salute to America” rolled an array of military hardware into the nation’s capital, drawing comparisons to the authoritarian regimes he admires, including North Korea. More than two years into Trump’s presidency, Siskind has documented thousands of examples of the lies his administration uses to confuse and divide Americans.

Luckily for our democracy, Weingarten said, Siskind is uniquely suited to sort truth from lies. As a former Wall Street executive, she has spent much of her career synthesizing financial data. After leaving Wall Street, she co-founded The New Agenda, a national women’s advocacy group.

Question during Siskind conversation

At TEACH, Siskind joined Weingarten for a question-and-answer session about her book, The List, which compiles, week by week, Trump’s departures from our democratic processes during his first year as president.

Using whoppers like the fabricated “Bowling Green Massacre,” which Conway invented as a justification for Trump’s travel and immigration ban from seven Muslim-majority countries, the president has tried to create an alternative reality, Siskind said. In addition, she says, Trump has weakened the federal government by appointing “acting” Cabinet members and agency chiefs like the current acting defense secretary.

“The world knows what’s going on,” Siskind said. “He’s had no accountability, no consequences for anything he’s done. We have to check Twitter every hour to make sure he hasn’t started World War III. These are all things, week after week, that have gotten lost in the chaos.”

For AFT members who asked what they can do to stop this assault on our country, Siskind advocated calling their members of Congress every day. “We need public hearings on all that’s happened,” she said, demanding that Congress start an inquiry into impeachment. “The American people need to be educated.”

The danger, she added, is that Trump may well try to carry out the plans he has intimated, including expelling immigrants by the millions, refusing to leave office at the end of his term, and installing his daughter as president.

“Every single day, showing up, staying involved” is the antidote to Trump, she said. “We have to keep up the activism. We have to stop playing nice.”

Our union can perform an important role in this process, Weingarten added. “We have to safeguard our democracy,” she said, “but it’s going to take all of us.”

 [Annette Licitra/Miisha Nash photos]