It’s been quite a year, and we have huge challenges facing us in 2017. They will not be easy, and they will test the bonds of the social contracts, long-standing institutions and the very Constitution that has guided our country and helped the United States resist tyranny for 240 years. Given the rise of Trumpism, the explosion of broad daylight racism and xenophobia, and the nation’s ugly political climate, we have our work cut out for us. These will be difficult years.
Despite the turn of events nationally, we have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. We enjoyed broad success with our local and state elections, especially with the renewal and implementation of the state’s 2014 plastic bag ban and the defeat of local Measures A, B and C. Our endorsed candidates did well too. In the city of San Diego both Georgette Gómez and Barbara Bry are joining city council. Cori Schumacher has been elected as the first Democrat on Carlsbad City Council, and fellow environmentalist Mark West has won a council seat in Imperial Beach. Esther Sanchez and Alejandra Sotelo-Solis were re-elected to their respective city council seats in Oceanside and National City, and both our endorsed candidates in Encinitas won – including incumbent councilmember Tony Kranz.
While I’m thankful we can relax, eat, laugh and spend time with friends and family during these special holidays, as drought and uncertainty increase we should be mindful that we are only one or two tough seasons away from significant food insecurity – whether by nature or, if things really take a turn for the worse in this country, by blockade. It’s worth remembering too that many of our fellow citizens already face food insecurity every day.
I’m thankful for the wisdom that has led to the environmental and conservation successes this nation has had, and which it may continue to pursue if it chooses to do so. The U.S. is a cleaner place today than it was 50 years ago, with more of our public land and natural resources protected than at any other time in our nation’s history. We continue to set the conservation template for much of the world. This is in no small part due to a small number of diligent legislators and agents of good government, who have opted to heed the words of scientists and citizens and moved to stop increased pollution of our environment, and demonstrated a willingness to prevent the wholesale destruction of ecosystems and species. Moving forward we must do everything to keep our air clean, and at last gain control over the runaway fracking that has dissected our nation’s habitat and harmed our water.
I’m thankful President Obama will continue to be our president for the next few weeks, and I’m thankful for the years of stability and stable leadership he has given this nation. Because of President Obama, our cars are more fuel efficient, the Roadless Rule in our National Forests remains in place, the administration has followed the markets in bringing the era of Big Coal to an end and committed to a course of no new offshore oil drilling, and has protected 265 million acres of public land – including three new National Monuments in the Mojave Desert and the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument near Los Angeles. Add in the additional public lands protections the president has made around the country, and Obama has built a sizable conservation legacy.
Despite the intransigence and insanity leveled at our president in the media and from across the aisle, President Obama has stood fast as a guardian of our best institutions, and continues to seek opportunities to build and make the lives of all Americans better. Our nation is a better place for having Obama and his family in the White House for eight years. Even those who have claimed to dislike Obama or his policies or raged with rudderless anger at his occasionally performative attempts to rein in Wall Street, make health care more accessible, stop polluters and wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will look back with longing at the overall stability of the Obama era – especially given what’s to come.
Indeed, when President Obama leaves office, those following him will seek to take a wrecking ball to his successes – as well as our institutions, our ability to govern, and perhaps even our basic rights. We will all have to respond to these challenges in our own way. After January 20th, it will be our job to push our lawmakers to protect what generations of our countrymen have built, and ensure that our agencies and institutions continue to function for all the people of this nation. With that, there can be no rest or let up. This is our charge. President Obama has shouldered great burdens for us for eight years. That duty now falls to us.
I’d like to think we’re not alone. We have some brave elected officials in our corner. We have the Constitution and the laws of our land behind us. And when it comes to the marketplace of ideas and evidence, Democrats win big in any fair match-up on a level playing field.
Happy Thanksgiving, and keep your chin up. We will lean in together.
President Barack Obama photo © 2015 Tommy Hough, all rights reserved.
San Mateo County Memorial Redwoods photo © 2016 Tommy Hough, all rights reserved.