As the year comes to a close, the job of making sense of it begins.
This year, I heard so many people ask, "Is this really happening?" It felt at times as if we were living in an alternate reality. There's no denying that 2017 was both bizarre and a rallying of all sorts. The question is, who will be left standing when the rally is over?
Will it be the participants in the Women's Marches all over the world or the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville? Will political polarization worsen or will bipartisanship return? Will the mass shooting in Vegas stand as the worst in modern US history, or be tragically outdone next year? Will America continue to be punked and manipulated by Russia, or will we start to protect our elections like we do our borders?
Will we remember the brave voices of the #MeToo movement and the ousting of alleged serial abusers like Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly (who denies it), and Matt Lauer (who apologized), or will we remember that Bill Cosby had more than 50 women accuse him of sexual assault and he still wasn't convicted?
Time magazine offered the perfect metaphor for 2017's rally of contradictions. It named "The Silence Breakers" -- the voices against sexual harassment -- as the defining "person" of the year. Its runner-up, however, was President Donald Trump who admitted sexual assault on tape and faces many serious and credible sexual harassment accusations (he denies them all), and still has his job.
While the year saw the rise of Trump, this is not the beginning of his term, it is the end. As painful as it has been to watch him and his supporters rally, theirs is merely a last gasp of a dying world view.
Ten years ago, when my father-in-law was dying of esophageal cancer, we called hospice in. I'll never forget what they told us: that just before death, we might see a surprising surge of energy in him, something that doctors refer to as "terminal lucidity."
They cautioned us that this would not be a sign of strength, but rather that death was near. Sure enough, a few weeks before his death, he was out of bed and had a surprising amount of energy. It was a last gasp at life. He died shortly after that.
That's what 2017 represents for me: a last gasp by Trump and the bigoted, sexist, nationalist and greedy forces that propelled him to power.
Trump has demonized the free press, world leaders, Muslims, immigrants, women and the NFL. He has bullied, barked and insulted his way through the year. There are too many affronts to list here. But every tweet has pushed us one inch closer to his alternate view of the world -- to normalizing this un-American behavior. The fact is, Trump and his dying world view can rally for a little while, but his alternate reality can't win -- and here are just a few signs of why:
In reality, America is more diverse than ever. It is easy to see that Trump's world is white. Just look at who he has appointed -- more white male judges than any president in three decades. His nominees for 24 Cabinet and cabinet-level posts included only six women and nonwhites. That's more white male representation than any of the past five presidents. Here is an interesting breakdown of the White House intern cohort this year. I will let you judge with your own eyes how well it reflects America. This whitewash rally? A last gasp.
In reality, the majority of Americans are women. It is easy to see that Trump's world is by men for men. His administration is attacking women's reproductive rights at every turn. Trump has pushed repeatedly -- in failed attempts to repeal Obamacare -- to end the Medicaid expansion. The reality is the majority of Medicaid enrollees are women, and more than half of all US births are covered by Medicaid.
In April, behind a closed door, he signed a law that allows states to withhold federal funding from Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide family planning services, like contraception, breast cancer screening and fertility counseling -- if they also provide abortion services. According to the Guttmacher Institute, "Planned Parenthood health centers serve two million (32%) of the 6.2 million women who obtain contraceptive care from some type of safety-net family planning center."
And two months ago, his Department of Health and Human Services issued new rules that would allow employers to opt out of covering birth control under the Affordable Care Act for "moral" reasons.
This attack on women's rights? A last gasp.
In reality, the vast majority of Americans support gay marriage and equal rights.
Trump's world does not. His lawyers just told the Supreme Court that businesses should have the right to hang signs in their windows stating that gays will not be served. When Trump tried to ban transgender citizens from serving in the military, our armed forces ignored him. His anti-LBGT opinions? Extremely offensive ... and a last gasp.
In reality, the vast majority of Americans -- including Republicans -- support net neutrality.
Trump just traded your open Internet for corporate greed when his Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality rules. Companies can now feel free to block websites or charge internet users -- that means all of us; you and me -- for higher-quality service or specific content that has long been accessible to all. It was a 3-2 vote. Care to guess how the three men and two women voted?
Out here in reality -- in real America, not the world Trump envisions -- many wonder "if it's really happening."
I'm here to tell you -- despite his twitter temper tantrums -- Trump's rally and world view is dying.
This is the beginning of the end of Trump and his "idea" of America. The turning point was when Trump endorsed Roy Moore, who is accused of sexually abusing teenage girls, in his failed Senate bid. Moore was the one who said the last time America was great was when "families were united ... even though we had slavery," letting America know that the ex-judge, who held the full support of the America's President, did not see black families.
There is a desperation in the air. There always is when someone is dying -- you can smell it.
From the macho threats of nuclear war to the disgraceful ending of a health care program that serves 9 million poor children in America, to taking away tax exemptions on student debt; from building walls and ending DACA to keep out new Americans, to loosening regulations to allow polluting industries to resume polluting, to muzzling science and clamping down on speech. It's all a last gasp.
Trump's maniacal obsession with undoing of Obama's legacy- - the last gasp.
His refusal to denounce white supremacists in Charlottesville -- the last gasp.
His demonization of Black Lives Matter and the Women's March -- the last gasp.
The term "fake news" and the attacks on the free press -- the last gasp.
Trump's support isn't growing, it's shrinking. Ignore his blustering. He's got the lowest approval ratings of any sitting president.
That's the reality.
Millennials are leaving the Republican Party in record numbers, with nearly a quarter of them defecting from Trump's party.
That's the reality.
Oh, and then there's Robert Mueller's expanding investigation.
That's the reality.
2017 is the last gasp. Trump's world will come to an end. In fact, just remove Trump and much of this madness disappears. And he will be removed. He'll cross too many lines. Hell, he might even be removed from office. There will be another president. The damage will get reversed -- and Americans, proud of who we really are, will be the ones left standing.
The best thing for us to do, as he seems to lose his grip on reality, is to hold tight to ours. Continue to show up to the polls, ask questions, demand answers, speak up and step up, run for office.
Just ask the black (women!) voters in Alabama who turned out in record numbers to elect Alabama's first Democrat in three decades and the record number of women and minority candidates who are running for office in 2018.
America, in reality, hasn't gone anywhere.