The lead-up to last week's swearing in of Donald Trump felt more like a coronation than an inauguration. But like the emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s fable, there are many of us who question how well Trump is clothed for the job.
Our views are not through a prism of politics but instead the consensus-building nature of cooperation. Wisconsin has a long history of co-ops, successful co-ops, that we believe have brought us to a threshold of a new historical stage. It is a stage that can be marked by cooperation, democracy, the equitable distribution of resources, and a sustainable relationship with nature.
Trump's campaign pronouncements that he does not believe in human-created climate change preceded the Walker administration's recent decision to rewrite Wisconsin's position. Where Trump denies there is consensus, Gov. Walker insists on an illusion of debate.
Neither option is attractive for Wisconsin, especially when you consider our historical commitment to the environment.
The administration-in-waiting also distributed a survey to the Energy Department, asking about past involvement of its employees in climate change-repeated issues. The survey is reminiscent of a darker time in Wisconsin politics. "Are you now or have you ever been a believer in climate change?”
The irony is that if Trump has his way, the U.S., as a signatory of the Paris Accord on Climate Change, could end up facing sanctions by the same treaty it championed. If Trump insists on ignoring climate change, the same American exports he pledged to protect could be hit with additional tariffs.
Domestically, one of our biggest concerns has been the relentless drive to repeal Obamacare. In decimating the signature accomplishment of the Obama administration, the majority party pays scant attention to the "then what" question.
In a cooperative society, risk is shared for the benefit of all. Repealing the Affordable Care Act would provide tax benefits to the wealthiest, but it could also mean dire consequences for the millions of people left without health insurance.
Now that the primary discussion has shifted to a longer-term strategy for terminating parts of the ACA and gradually phasing in a replacement national insurance program. The result is likely to be less comprehensive than the ACA, but not as onerous as some have feared. Our one note of optimism is a drumbeat coming from some Republican quarters that they not vote on repeal until they can define replacement.
Trump has said he would like to reduce the role of the United States as the world's policeman but at the same time goes out of his way to pick arguments with other global leaders. (See: Wall, Mexico, Payment Plan)
It's also difficult to tell how Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric will translate into policy. It's interesting to note that on the first day of confirmation hearings, Trump's attorney general nominee, Jeff Sessions, spoke out against the possibility of a Muslim ban. If the administration did try and expel millions of illegal immigrants, Muslim or Hispanic, these actions may precipitate increased domestic unrest.
The global future of co-ops could also be threatened by this administration. One of the political targets may be the United States Agency for International Development. Recent administrations, Republican and Democrat, have supported USAID in its worldwide effort to spread democracy through this arm of the State Department.
There are countless examples of small-scale success stories because of USAID. From banks offering micro-loans to entrepreneurs to community health centers providing vaccinations to legal clinics defending the unjustly accused. The cooperative community has been integral in launching many of these efforts.
Candidly, the transition to a more cooperative society in the next few years looks dismal, but the biggest advantage we may all have is time. Establishing a truly cooperative society does not happen quickly but on a grander, more long-term scale.
As frightening as some aspects of a Trump administration may be we, as a species, are not destined to destroy ourselves and our planet. However, we must be vigilant against the forces promoting division and conflict.
Ironically, it's that message of divisiveness that Trump rode to the White House that could lead to a revitalized spirit of cooperation in the next four years. Unless he triggers a catastrophe of biblical proportions, his own history of contradictory and overblown promises could, in the end, bring out the best in us instead of the worst.
We can only hope – and continue to take actions that demonstrate the power of cooperation.
"The Cooperative Society," which informed this op/ed, was written by Wisconsin natives E.G. and Luc Nadeau. E.G. has a Ph.D. in sociology and has spent most of his career developing cooperatives worldwide. Luc has a Master's of Science in ecology and is an active environmentalist. The book is available at TheCooperativeSociety.org.
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