Nov 23, 2016
Many have issued clarion calls for resistance against the neofascist headed for the White House, his odious henchmen in tow. Few, however, have outlined all the steps needed to block Trump's repugnant agenda and build a united movement that can upend the power dynamic in this country. Here's my list: two popular suggestions, and four that take us well outside our comfort zone.
First, we need to have each other's backs. Yes, I know, many have already said this. Now we need to make it concrete. We need hotlines, safe houses, support groups, and community meetings to share experiences and identify needs. Some will need body guards. We need methods of networking that exclude informants. We need to define a new ethic of intervention in public spaces when we see something that needs to be stopped. We need to exchange information across identity lines so we know what's happening to others, and can ask for or offer help. We need an early warning system.
Second, we need to resist everything Trump, whether executive, legislative, judicial, national, local, corporate or social. Resistance can't just be a catchy slogan; we need to actually do what it takes. Block it. Tie it up in court. Do an end run around it. Defund it. Walk out. Strike. Don't cooperate. Refuse to comply. Gene Sharp, the famous non-violent resistance theorist, has written books on how ordinary people can make it impossible for governments to act against the public interest by withdrawing their consent and cooperation.
We need to get involved in decision-making at every level. By the time a national-level candidate is running, all the important decisions were made long ago. Join (or create) a political party at the local level. Run for mayor, city council, county commissioner or school board. Get involved at the state level - run for office or intervene in meetings of the public utilities commission, water permitting board, or legislative committees. Economic decision-making may be even more important. Join or create a workers' or consumers' cooperative. Push to set up a community or state bank. Establish a neighborhood small-scale renewable energy grid. If enough of us get involved at the local level, together we can change the political and economic equation throughout the entire nation.
We need to take back our time and money for political engagement. Public participation used to be commonplace in the US. But now, with worsening economic status and growing material expectations, most of us are working so long and hard that there is virtually no time left for political engagement. The people who can fully engage in politics now are those whose time is paid for as a candidate, consultant, party operative, or within a non-profit. Yet if we depend on corporate wealth and private foundations to make our political engagement possible, we have already lost. The only realistic way for most of us to gain more time is through reduced material consumption and increased collaboration. We need to stop buying excess stuff - donate to independent media or kick-ass political organizing instead! We need to learn how to share jobs, housing, vehicles, entertainment, childcare, eldercare, and all the other things that people think they have to do or enjoy individually. It's time to break out of the rat race and find time for many more of us to be involved in community, state and national political life.
We need to build bridges with those who think differently from us. The right, despite serving the worst corporate masters, has successfully recruited large numbers of working people who are dissatisfied with the status quo. The Democrats, meanwhile, have abandoned them, while progressives have been unwilling to reach out and establish a dialogue with the white working class in recent years. In low-key conversations, I've been repeatedly amazed to find out that my right-leaning neighbors are mad about many of the same economic trends and abuses of power, and wish for many of the same outcomes. Yes, vocal Trump supporters tend to have views that can only be described as hateful. Once you identify common ground, however, you will learn when you can call on them to help fight an important battle. Even more powerful would be organizing to protect their economic survival when Trump throws them under the bus, as he inevitably will. Working toward shared goals can lead to increased tolerance and, eventually, respect. Change is possible.
We need to shift to a politics based on solidarity rather than identity. Wait--don't we need to take a stand against Trump's virulently racist, sexist, anti-immigrant and homophobic agenda? Yes. But going along with their divide-and-conquer strategy will only make things worse. We need to focus on building a united front that is strong enough to take on an authoritarian government backed by powerful corporations. If progressives remain Balkanized based on identity and refuse to join forces because of very real, long-standing and legitimate grievances, we are done for. We need to form coalitions, networks, and political parties that unite, not divide. We can take on Trump and address these urgent identity-based grievances in the process, by coming together in solidarity around common agendas. Will there be huge fights about what that common agenda is; what kind of internal decision-making to use; which policies to promote? Of course! It's incredibly difficult to work through political and social differences. But it's absolutely essential if we intend to take back power.
A quick fix is neither possible nor desirable in the urgent need to prevent Trump and his ilk from ramming through their devastating agenda. Ultimately, we can succeed only if we unite in solidarity, moving out of the "protest paradigm" and learning to exercise the power we have. Let's get started now, before it's too late!