It seems a vast understatement to say that we find ourselves in uncertain times.
We made outstanding progress in 2018 with our Democrats Abroad Australia 2018 Get-Out-The-Vote. The National Leadership, Local Chapter Chairs, activists and our members not only gave Australia an outstanding result of a close 2nd in the Asia-Pacific region for Vote-From-Abroad engagement, but have worked together in possibly the biggest mobilisation since Obama in 2008.
We, the National Leadership and Executive Committee, put our hands up to run 2 years ago - we knew what we were in for.
We have made outstanding progress with the Blue Wave in 2018. We have a long way to go before equality and justice are realised and oppression is lifted in the United States. We cannot compromise on our ideals as we know we are situated in a challenging reality.
This current administration continues politics of division and attacks everything that we stand for. We have known this far too well over the past 2 years being inundated into disbelief at the multitude of depths that they will plunge.
Yet when we ponder what has led to this trend, we can see it’s one that has not happened overnight. In fact, it’s history spans several decades in our country. The graphs shown depict the long trend of inequality with sobering statistics. Here shows stark income inequality by the richest amongst us, gendered inequality in positions of power, that black and Latino families are twice as likely to have zero wealth, that transgender poverty rate is twice the average, and finally that the top 1% income share has doubled while poverty level has stayed the same. Sadly, much more information can be found at inequality.org. Most of the research on this site goes back decades.
These oppressive trends were heavily aggravated by someone we know too well. They were exacerbated by the project of “neoliberalism” - put into practice by Thatcher in the UK and of course Reagan in the 1980s. Under neoliberalism, not only are individuals solely accountable and responsible for their actions, but this belief system asserts a complete rejection of any kind of welfare support or collectivism. This mindset breeds, or enforces, alienation and isolation. It is no surprise that a pillar of this project is vast deregulation - cutting of public services. Reagan summed it up in this ironic statement: “as government expands, liberty contracts”. Under this mindset, it is your “fault” if you cannot keep up. Combined with a brutal history of racism and sexism, makes for the situation we find ourselves in today.
It is not a far stretch to see how synonymous this mindset is with the politics of division. The belief itself divides us from each other; it asserts that we are isolated. This effect is felt and internalised as it is reinforced by punitive economic measures. This favours the privileged in this heartless and cowardly system.
We now must experience the visible outbursts of misogyny, sexism, racism, xenophobia, transphobia and all other sorts of vitriolic rhetoric that does nothing but divide. At the same time, this administration pushes out policies which remove protections for the most vulnerable, most of all the working middle Americans and every marginalised group.
This historic trend over the past few decades puts our current situation in perspective. If gives us context for the extremism we are dealing with.
These attacks are visible every single day and are mirrored by the less apparent, but equally harmful, continual legislative attacks on our rights. Both create an overwhelming challenge and overwhelming rage.
So, how do we deal with this atrocity at every level? When I have asked that question, I think of two recent examples. They are Nathan Phillips, a Native American and Veteran who challenged a group of disturbed young men, and Christine Blasey Ford, who boldly challenged the weight of rape culture in an enormous catalyst for the #MeToo movement.
Both of these individuals faced this insurmountable rage directly. They stared it in the face. They met this challenge with moral courage and in doing so, inspired millions.
This indeed is how we truly can and should confront Trump-ism. For we will not rid ourselves of that which we loathe by becoming it, nor by fighting the symptom and not the cause. This is how we can challenge it and not become what we detest in the process.
Nor can we turn away. Both Phillips and Ford offer heroic inspiration - by finding bravery through vulnerability and resolve. It is this most noble example that should always aim to practice.
There is so much rage at what is coming out of this administration. There is a huge risk to either be overwhelmed by spite or for it to be normalised. Both causes end in the same outcome, desperation and inaction.
When we realise our agency, our power, our ability, to resist what seems insurmountable odds, we know we have a choice.
Our choice was to act. It is the choice we made for the past two years.
Instead of bitter inaction, we here in Democrats Abroad Australia chose to make a difference. Instead of bemoaning the current state of affairs, overwhelming though it is, we acted. Our National leadership, our Chapter Chairs, Activists, Organisers, Volunteers, and Members across Australia decided to make a difference.
Instead of division, we organise, we create community. We fundamentally know that it is not one person who will make the change, it is all of us. We have acted through the past 2 years to create nearly 400 Healthcare Stories, a project initiated by DA Australia and DA Japan. Our members joined thousands in the Women’s March here in Australia to resist gendered oppression. We organised in solidarity for the March for our Lives for direly needed sensible gun reform. We joined many other global campaigns to have solidarity with our fellow Americans back home.
We did this as we know it will take a movement. Not one person, not one Representative, Senator, Governor, not even a President. This will take our continual involvement not working against one another, but for one another.
This must be reflected in the ways in which we govern. The individualistic method that demeans, that boasts ego before cause, does not serve us any longer. We must create systems and structures of equity, policies which remove oppression, policies of shared mutual accountability - and above all, those based on compassion and nurture. This is truly as aspect of solidarity - that which affects another, affects me.
We don’t do this in isolation, self-serving causes are not working any longer with the numerous global threats we face. Of course, we will still act of our individual will, but do so in a new method of interdependence.
But this is indeed not foreign to us in Democrats Abroad Australia. Even from our local meetups, our social connection builds that community from which we act. Here, we invite and we are inclusive. It is by small acts such as these that do indeed challenge and stop this division. Sometimes the simplest act of kindness can make a world of difference.
This is how we will win and ensure a politics of inclusion. This must be our path forward, by however we define ourselves as Americans living overseas.
We cannot turn away from this threat before us. Neither can we lose ourselves in doing so. We must both rid ourselves of the atrocity of this current administration and the divisive, hurtful policies which have for too long impeded liberation. That means not just getting rid of Trump, but getting rid of the conditions which allowed him to be even vaguely competitive.
This is the charge that we carry forward for the next two years. We do this in unity, striving always to be better, challenging ourselves to go further - and supporting one another, together.
Kent Getsinger, National Chair
Extended version of the Chair Report submitted to 2019 Democrats Abroad Australia AGM, 6 April 2019, Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Democrats Abroad Australia (Democratic Party Caucus Abroad, DPCA) is the official overseas wing of the Democratic Party for American citizens living outside the US and its territories.