Pass the peas and pay attention

The temptation, beginning today and lasting right on through until that big bright ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, will be to put politics aside and to rejoice in the holidays.

After a long, hard-fought and divisive campaign, we could all use a little relief from the stress and the worry generated by the election and the coming Trump administration.

We’ll try talk about the things that matter to us most: family, friends, the spirit of giving and acceptance.

We’ll get distracted by Black Friday, big sales, new gadgets, holiday parties and the annual War on Christmas.

With all the merriment, food and drink – Eggnog anyone? A little more turkey? – we might even lose track of what’s happening in New York and Washington, D.C., assuming Ryan Seacrest hasn’t been secretly riding on buses with President-elect Donald Trump.

But the new Trump administration demands a level of attention and vigilance that means we can’t take the season off. Otherwise we risk coal in our stockings (but no rebirth of the coal industry).

Right now, he’s stocking the White House and Cabinet with a who’s who of dangerous white guys who have their sights set on undoing new overtime rules, weakening environmental regulations and launching a modern-day inquisition against religious minorities.

“Hey, pass the mashed potatoes.”

The unhinged conspiracy theorists, the Sandy Hook deniers, the white supremacists: They’ve all got something to be thankful for.

“Love the green bean casserole.”

And his friends in Congress are planning a quick strike that could upend our health care system in a way that might favor private markets but would be devastating to seniors, children, the poor and the sick – and frankly, just about everyone.

Their targets go well beyond Obamacare and include Medicare and Medicaid, too.

As Drew Altman wrote for the Wall Street Journal this week, “The larger story is GOP preparations for a health policy trifecta: to fundamentally change the ACA, Medicaid and Medicare – all three of health care’s major programs – and in the process, fundamentally alter the direction of the federal role in health and core elements of the social contract.”

As Altman makes clear, the proposed changes aren’t about making the current programs work better or cover more people, they’re about fundamentally altering the health care safety net in a way that will hurt millions of people. They really do want to keep government out of your Medicare (and trust me, that’s not a good thing.)

“Can I have the other turkey leg? And hand me the peas, please.”

And while we’re sitting around the Thanksgiving table, trying desperately not to talk politics, we might want to take a few minutes to think about some of the people in our lives who are really worried about what the next year will bring.

Our LGBT friends or relatives, our neighbors from Somalia, the couple who adopted two black or Asian babies, friends who will be celebrating Hanukkah, they all have reasons to be afraid.

Hate crimes have spiked since the election and there have even been high-profile incidents in Maine and who knows how many smaller, scary encounters that weren’t reported to the police.

The radical, dangerous bigots have been inspired and they’re out in the open.

“I think I’ll have some more wine.”

While it comes as a relief that Trump has said “he” won’t prosecute or investigate Hillary Clinton for her emails – very gracious, indeed – the decision really should be made based on the evidence, not the whim of the president.

“A toast to the passing of the rule of law, anyone?”

Even in those places where Democrats might find common ground with the new president, trouble lurks. Trump’s infrastructure plan is a tangled mess of potential corruption and is a complicated scheme that looks more likely to line the pockets of big business with tax breaks than rebuild the country’s roads, bridges and water systems.

And that’s before we even consider the pay-to-play and everyday corruption that could emerge from a president whose family runs a multinational business empire. Conflict of many interests.

“I think I’ll have another drink with dessert.”

From now until Jan. 20, Trump and his supporters will lay the groundwork for their agenda for the next four years. We’ll get our first look at just how big their appetite is.

“One more drink before bed. It’s Thanksgiving after all!”

If we tune out between now and the new year, the hangover we’re going to wake up with won’t be cured by an aspirin, a coffee and bacon.

It’ll take stronger medicine than that and our first chance to see a doctor won’t come until November 2018.


David Farmer

About David Farmer

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at