“When the levers of power are seized by the small hands of hateful men, you work hard, you stand with those who are most vulnerable, and you don’t give up until it’s morning again. The rest is commentary.” — Liel Leibovitz, Tablet Magazine
Donald Trump will be our next President. Let’s not give him a chance. Because we already know he’s up to no good. If I’ve lost you already, that’s fine because you are of little use to the future of America right now. Perhaps you’ll save this for future reference.
What we face is not normal. (Here’s a handy list of the radical, abnormal things DT had already done by November 15 if you need convincing. The list grows exponentially every day.) The most dangerous aspect of the dangerous abnormality is the plunge into no agreed-on version of reality. Perhaps naively, I am grasping at this familiar thought from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
Most living Americans have never lived in extraordinary times. The elderly may remember the gathering storms in Europe before World War II and the internment camps in this country when war was declared. The somewhat less elderly will remember the turmoil of the civil rights era and the Vietnam War, but there were checks and balances in place, effective court systems and a free press with credibility. How long we will have such checks and balances now is seriously in doubt. The decay of these institutions which protect us will not happen overnight, but they will slip away quickly enough if we normalize the transfer of power that is currently underway. I speak not of armed rebellion, but of the full exercise of Free Speech and Due Process.
Rather than sit in despair and let the United States of America turn into an authoritarian oligarchy, I think it’s useful to do two things:
First, REMEMBER that Trump is a Minority President. He’s a Loser — he lost the popular vote by over 2.8 million votes (larger than the winning margins of ten Presidents who served). It’s only the unfortunate distribution of 80,000 votes across three states that place him in the White House. Perhaps he had an illegal assist from the Russians. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives, the People’s House, while still in Republican hands thanks to corrupt gerrymandering, gained more Democrats. Trump does NOT have a mandate from the American people. The Trump transition team and its affiliated media are touting a mandate they do not have. Remembering the facts is important. The mind is a pliable thing, and repetition of lies will make the best of us forget.
Second, RESIST. Let’s not go quietly into darkness. Let’s not give up the progress made in the 20th Century and over the last eight years. Because that is what is at stake; don’t doubt it. We’re talking not only about losing Obamacare and gay marriage (although losing those will be wildly important). At stake are Medicare (enacted 1965), Social Security (enacted 1935), the rights to equal access to housing, to employment, to lunch counters and other public accommodations (enacted 1964), food stamps, WIC, Head Start, school lunches, and the national minimum wage. Respect for women as equal human beings is at stake, and with it, access to contraception, much less to abortion. Our institution of Free Press is at stake. Climate change deserves its own blog post but just a note in passing: I remember the rivers and lakes and the air before the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts — they were not pretty.
“Rising diversity isn’t going away. Income inequality isn’t going away. Support for redistribution isn’t going away.” Those cats are out of the bag and no chanting of “Make America Great Again” is going to put them back. The only issue is how we choose to manage them. Trump’s version of management will be authoritarian with a PR overcoat that could effectively disguise the corruption and profiteering at the core of his plan. He can’t make America white again, but he can appeal to white supremacists as cover for his profiteering. He can tweet bizarre ideas about flag-burning to distract from his plan to transfer public administration of social security and Medicare to Wall Street profiteers. He has and he will keep doing these things. Our job is to resist; to call him out; to expose the truth.
We should analyze what went wrong in the Democrats’ election strategy. More importantly, we should look for examples of what went right, as in Governor-Elect McCrory’s victory in North Carolina. But these are relatively long-term projects. We have an urgent need for leadership and strategies to resist as the Trump Administration takes over our government. This is my attempt to provide a stab at leadership and offer a few tactics and resources.
Michelle Obama admonished us, “When they go low, we go high.” Indeed, but working with Trump or failing to refute his propaganda is not “going high.” There are two fine pieces already written about this, so I won’t elaborate here. See Robin Alperstein, Resistance Is Not Futile; Jamelle Bouie, The Democrats Are Screwing Up the Resistance to Donald Trump. Some brave members of Congress, including our own Arizona Representative, Congressman Ruben Gallego, have stood up to Trump. We must, too.
As James Fallows recently explicated in The Atlantic, society is suffering from both a chronic and an acute version of a public information crisis. The chronic version, which has been building for nearly thirty years, has given rise to “separate fact-universes” into which “segments of society silo themselves.” We need a long-term strategy for dealing with this. But we will not have the freedom to implement a long-term strategy if we do not deal with the acute version of the public information crisis.
The acute version is personified by our President-Elect and his trumpeters: Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, and Kellyanne Conway. As Fallows writes, “Most people would hesitate before telling easily disprovable lies like these, much as shoplifters would hesitate if the store owner is looking at them. Most people are fazed if caught in an outright lie.” Trump and his crew are not fazed. As one rather benign example, Fallows reminds us that on a single day during the campaign, “Trump claimed that the National Football League had sent him a letter complaining that the presidential-debate schedule conflicted with NFL games (which the NFL immediately denied), and then he said the Koch brothers had begged him to accept their donations (which they also flat-out denied).” (Of course, the Koch Brothers themselves are not above lying so who knows about that one.) As Fallows points out, our news media, until now, has not been built to deal with something like this. We’ve seen some examples of adjustments, but they are minor. The New York Times, apparently, cannot bring itself to use the word “lie” or “liar” in the same headline with reference to the President-Elect. It should, and it must.
What can we, mere citizens, do? Many suggestions for resistance have been made. I’ll put a list of citations at the end of this article. Here are some thoughts for immediate action:
- Don’t let a lie go unchallenged. You don’t have to be mean about it, but when someone states an untruth about Trump or one of his minions, correct them. If you’re accused of attacking them or Trump, simply say, “I was just pointing out a fact,” and move on.
- We have an obligation to be active on social media. “Trump is a social media politician. It is the heart and soul of how he campaigned, how he floats his racist and tyrannical ideas, and how he communicates with his constituents.” Meet the enemy where he and his audience are.
- Write letters to your local paper, too. Some people still read it.
- Trump is going to be on a continuous campaign for the next four years. His rallies may not be as large as they were during the campaign, but they will garner the same high-level of media coverage. If there is a rally in your town, turn-out and protest. Put yourself in front of the cameras with a sign that says “#Resistance, #NotNormal,” or something else of your own
- Object to every crazy cabinet appointment Trump is making. Write and call (both) your Senators. They keep count of the calls and letters and pay more attention to those communications than they do to online petition numbers (but I sign those, too). Send notes to the Democratic Leadership as well. Bookmark this site: http://whoismyrepresentative.com/
- Demand that Congress investigate Russian interference in our election as much as they investigated Benghazi.
- Make monthly, recurring donations to the ACLU or one of the other fine resistance organizations named in this article.
- Get paid subscriptions to credible news sources like the Washington Post, New York Times, The Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, and your local and statewide papers. They need your support; buy subscriptions — as many as you can afford.
- Attend the Day to Defend Democracy, December 19 demonstration in your state capital.
- Attend the Women’s March on Washington on January 21. If you can’t go to D.C., satellite demonstrations are being organized around the country, including in my hometown of Flagstaff, AZ.
- Organize or join a supportive group of friends (old or new) who want to be part of the Resistance. The purpose is to organize and support each other. What happens will develop.
- Encourage and harass Democrats to oppose Trump at every turn. The Trump Administration is #NotNormal; therefore, cooperating with it is a bad thing to do. This is not sour grapes, it’s protecting our country.
- Support Senator Gillibrand’s call to filibuster the repeal of the law blocking retired military from being Secretaries of Defense until they have been out of the military for seven years. We need to block this move, or try with everything we’ve got to block it, not only because separating the military from civilian government is a bedrock of our democracy, but also because it is one of the first moves of the Trump Administration to yank us away from normal government.
- Don’t give up on the two-party system. This institution is nearly as old as the Republic and while parties have risen and fallen and morphed, their power works when the people are involved. Trump didn’t win because of Citizen’s United; he won because the people did not vote in sufficient numbers to defeat him in three Midwestern states.
- Connect with your fellow citizens, and protect them. If you see someone being harassed, call the police but also take the hand of the victim and speak to him or her. Ignore the attacker. In the ten days following the election, there were almost 900 reports of harassment and intimidation from across the nation. Many harassers invoked Trump’s name during assaults, making it clear that the outbreak of hate stemmed in large part from his electoral success. This is an outrage; we must stop it. Thank Delta Airlines for joining this fight.
Look for more action items. Resolve to take an action every day: Make a phone call, click a link, register a voter, talk with a stranger, march in a protest, write a letter. Our goal is to blockade as much of the Trump agenda as possible, to protect our fellow citizens, and to win elections in 2018 and 2020. In sum, the goal is to preserve our Republic.