The people were not happy

Jeff vonKaenel

In his inauguration speech, Donald Trump declared that “we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the American people.”

Eight days later, on Saturday, January 28, 330 of those people jammed the Elk Grove City Council chambers for a Community Engagement Forum. This very vocal, very engaged citizenry submitted more than 200 questions. They wanted to ask Congressman Ami Bera how to stop Donald Trump. The people were not happy.

They were not happy about the Muslim immigration ban. They were not happy about plans for ending the Affordable Care Act. They were not happy about talk of wasting money to build a wall. They were not happy that Trump had threatened to take away federal funds from sanctuary cities. They were not happy about the crackdown on the Environmental Protection Agency. And many more things—alternative facts; foreign policy changes that could lead to trade wars; Trump’s attacks on the media. The list goes on and on.

But more than unhappy, they were angry and afraid. They came to the meeting to find out what was happening and what they could do. On the podium were Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly, Elk Grove City Councilman Darren Suen, Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli and Bera. But nearly all the questions were directed at Bera.

It was as if they heard there was a hurricane coming and Bera was the closest thing to a weatherman.

Bera’s answers were not that reassuring. He said repeatedly that America is in “uncharted waters.” America has had conservative presidents and has had liberal presidents, but Trump is different. Bera told us that Trump is making executive decision after executive decision without involving Congress or his cabinet nominees. And without understanding the implications of what he is doing.

The problem, according to Bera, is that because the Democrats are the minority in both the House and the Senate, they cannot stop Trump without finding a few Republicans who are willing to oppose their president. While there are many Republicans who know what Trump is proposing is wrong, crazy and against their values, will they put their country first and their political future second? Stay tuned.

We are in uncharted waters. More than 1 percent of Americans participated in hundreds of Women’s Marches around the country. An action of this magnitude has never happened before.

After the town hall meeting, I spoke with attendees. Three out of four said that this was the first time they have ever gone to a political meeting.

Brenda, from Elk Grove, told me that she has never done anything political before, but now she is very frightened. Her parents were born in Mexico. Tearing up, she said, “This thing just makes me want to cry. I just came here to find out what we can do.”

Karen Freemyers, from Sacramento, told me that she did not vote for Bera because she did not like his negative campaign ads. But she was impressed with him today. He was “really answering our questions.”

At the end of the town hall meeting, Ly, America’s first Hmong mayor, said that “this is what democracy looks like.”

He was right. The people were coming together to take part in their government. And to stop Trump. One act leads to the other.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.