Doctors and psychologists are reporting spikes in depression and other psychosomatic responses among the general citizenry in response to the daily reports of dysfunction, corruption and regression in Washington.
Those responses are understandable. But as I keep reminding myself, the news isn’t all bad. We are seeing a genuine resurgence of civic engagement at a level I have never previously seen, and there are growing indications that announcements of the death of journalism may also have been premature.
Despite concerns that “outrage fatigue” would cause activism to dwindle, groups opposed to Trumpism have continued to proliferate–even in red states like Indiana.
For example, Women4Change Indiana was formed immediately after the election. It has four task forces, focused upon guaranteeing the dignity and safety of all women, especially in regard to sexual assault, reproductive health, and LGBTQ rights; mentoring and empowering women to achieve greater political leadership; fighting racism and promoting civility in political discourse; fighting against gerrymandering and voter suppression and improving civics education.
Formed just five months ago, it currently has 14,000 members across the state. In Indiana.
In even more good news from Indiana; “old school” Republicans (not old chronologically, just advocates for what used to be Republican values) have formed a group called “Enterprise Republicans,” which they describe as “diverse and inclusive” and devoted to protecting the human rights of all Hoosiers. I’m told they plan to primary selected Republican culture warriors, a welcome tactic in Indiana, where gerrymandering has created so many safe Republican seats that there has been no politically realistic way to effectively counter the most rabid rightwing zealots.
Then there’s journalism. According to the Washington Post,
The philanthropy established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar will contribute $100 million to support investigative journalism, fight misinformation and counteract hate speech around the world…
“We think it’s really important to act now to keep dangerous trends from becoming the norm,” Stephen King, who heads the Omidyar Network’s civic engagement initiative, told The Washington Post in the philanthropic group’s first public comments on the three-year funding commitment….
The newly announced funding is intended to address “a worrying resurgence of authoritarian politics that is undermining progress toward a more open and inclusive society,” said Omidyar Network managing partner Matt Bannick.
The network is also concerned about the declining trust in democratic institutions around the world, including the news media, he said.
“Increasingly, facts are being devalued, misinformation spread, accountability ignored and channels that give citizens a voice withdrawn,” he said. “These trends cannot become the norm.”
The story–which is very encouraging–ended with a recitation of other philanthropic efforts to bolster legitimate journalism and combat “alternative facts.”
On Monday, a group including Facebook and Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, announced the News Integrity Initiative, a $14 million effort to advance news literacy and increase trust in journalism. It will be based at City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism in Manhattan.
And last month, the Democracy Fund and First Look Media, both founded by Omidyar, announced that they would award $12 million to news organizations including the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Center for Public Integrity and ProPublica.
We can only hope that these efforts reach the Indianapolis Star at some point….
There are also encouraging signs that local governments are stepping up to address pressing issues. Cities across the globe have increased their efforts to protect the environment and advance social justice. Cityscope reports that in Toronto, for example, the city is using its contracting clout to encourage the employment of disadvantaged populations, and cities in the U.S. are looking to follow suit. Cities are protecting immigrants, addressing police misconduct (even as Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department retreats from Obama-era oversight agreements), and investigating other ways to compensate for the damage being done in Washington.
The Sixty-Four Thousand Dollar Question, of course, is whether these efforts, and the many other promising movements and activism tools that are emerging, will be able to turn a very threatening tide of authoritarian incompetence.
As David Brooks wrote this week, in a scathing (and laugh-out-loud funny) column,
The human imagination is not capacious enough to comprehend all the many ways the Trumpians can find to screw this thing up.
It’s We the People versus the Trumpians, and I wouldn’t count us out.