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Opinion: What we’ve lost during Trump’s first year

Rep. Karen Bass (Calif.) | 1/31/2018, 10:18 a.m.
The year leading up to his inauguration in 2017, as the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump espoused senseless, baseless and ...
The year leading up to his inauguration in 2017, as the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump espoused senseless, baseless and ultimately empty assertions about the state of Black Americans and our communities. Submitted photo

The year leading up to his inauguration in 2017, as the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump espoused senseless, baseless and ultimately empty assertions about the state of Black Americans and our communities.

“What the hell do you have to lose?" he screamed in front of a predominantly White crowd in a small, predominantly White suburb of Lansing, Michigan.

After Trump was inaugurated, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) found it prudent to answer his question. In March, the CBC Executive Committee, led by our Chairman Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.), presented Trump with a 130-page policy document entitled, “We Have A Lot To Lose: Solutions to Advance Black Families in the 21st Century.”

The document, which was compiled by the entire 49-member Caucus, outlined policy solutions down to the bill text for issues facing our communities. Voting rights, criminal justice reform, economic justice, education, health care, immigration – these were just some of the topics we presented to continue our progress.

Unfortunately, these are the issues that Trump and his administration have chosen to ignore. The President, who has not commented on the document since we presented it to him, obviously has had other ideas, almost as if he wanted to answer his own question in his first year, to show us what we can lose.

The truth is that in this first year, we’ve lost a lot.

Almost immediately after being elected, Trump established the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity and appointed a known vote suppressor to lead it. The commission was designed to intimidate voters and Trump—because of political and legal pressure—recently decided to dissolve it into the Department of Homeland Security.

Throughout the past year, Trump has stacked the federal courts with judges with nothing short of scandalous records when it comes to voting rights. Among his nominee group was Thomas Farr, who helped lawmakers draft and defend a 2013 law that the Fourth Circuit Court of North Carolina ruled targeted African American voters “with almost surgical precision.”

On the criminal justice front, Trump has used the Department of Justice to embrace mass incarceration and shy away from transparent policing. One example of this is an FBI report published last August entitled, “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers.” One problem with the report is that the term “Black Identity Extremists” is an invented group that does not exist. There are no Black people organized to kill law enforcement officers. When I asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray about the origins of this report, none of them could tell me what the report was even based on or how the term was created.

Economically, Trump has gone after our consumer protections. Congress is working to repeal Dodd-Frank, a landmark piece of legislation designed to protect consumers from the wreck of the 2009 recession. Trump’s favoring of big banks will ultimately leave consumers in the same spot they were during the recession, or worse. The education of our children is also under attack. In 2014, for the first time ever, the majority of public school students in the United States were non-White. Secretary DeVos has been less than helpful to these institutions, ignoring grave disparities in how students of color are disciplined compared to White students, and supporting a budget that would further attack services that public schools provide.