What separates us from any other species on the planet is our ability to reason. That ability forces us, too, to consider ourselves in the context of others. How close do we live to one another? How much do we interact? With whom do we interact? How much business do we do with them? How much do we care for another?
We know pleasure and we often give it. We know abundance and we share it. We know love and we offer it.
But we also know pain and yet we inflict it upon others. We know poverty and oppression and yet we turn our backs, sometimes even jeer. We know loneliness and yet we exclude.
I have no idea which way the president-elect will take us as a nation. He strikes me as someone loyal to no party, no ideology, no particular principle but his own self-promotion. Maybe he will come to the conclusion as many others have that we are at the top of the food chain, and, therefore, closer to God and that there is more to our presence on this earth than accumulating as much as we can for ourselves.
Whether you are pro-Trump or anti-, I doubt that anyone reading this would believe that somehow the president-elect will have an epiphany and decide that, indeed, we are all better when we are all better.
When one considers the cabinet he has chosen, one would have an even tougher time believing that that epiphany might be coming. Assuming all of his nominees are approved, almost every federal department will be headed by someone with extreme views on those issues. You can almost see some of these people licking their chops at the prospect of dismantling the apparatus that protects our water, guarantees equal opportunity, educates our kids or feeds the hungry and shelters the homeless.
So, what are we to do? We can pray (I think many of us already have been). We can be patient. We can fight like hell. We can sell out, join his camp, turn our backs.
Here is our only hope: Charles W. Dent, Member of Congress. Charlie is a conservative in the traditional sense of the word; he is not in the Ted Cruz strain of conservatism that is all too popular in today’s Republican Party. He is thoughtful, he has guts and he has gained considerable clout as a moderate by today’s standards.
“Charles W. Dent,” is also a metaphor for dozens of Republicans who make up the moderate Republican caucus our Charlie Dent co-chairs called the Tuesday Group. When Trump moves too far right, we need to make sure that our congressman and dozens of his moderate peers around the nation hear the loud but beautifully harmonic refrain of constituents saying, “this is not okay,” or, “we can do better,” or, “you do that and you have no chance of getting re-elected.”
Charlie’s party is in the majority in both chambers. He and his colleagues call the shots as chairs of every committee and subcommittee. Once you experience that leadership role it is hard to go back, so you act in ways that protect your position; one doesn’t do that by appealing to a narrow sliver of the population.
Charlie has now achieved coveted “cardinal” status as one of just 12 chairs of the subcommittees of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. From my perspective, he has used this role effectively, protecting and even enhancing funding for some programs that are important to my agency and tens of thousands of our neighbors. I can almost guarantee that everyone reading this article is or knows someone whose life has been enhanced by our work. Millions of Americans in communities throughout this land have benefited from similar organizations in their own communities. Charlie knows how funding for infrastructure makes a difference in his district, how much his constituents appreciate a clean environment or well-paying jobs. He won’t abandon us; if he does, he puts his own job and agenda at risk. But he can’t balance the many interests that compete for his support if he doesn’t know about those interests.
That means we have work to do. If we do it well, maybe next year or at least four years from now, Charlie’s party will moderate because guys like him showed those few folks who really call the shots that they will only be so lucky if they are smart enough to keep people like him in Congress. Otherwise, they will overreach, the American people will get another harsh education about the realities of their government and throw a whole new set of bums out. Charlie ain’t no bum.