Ten Ways to Build a Broad Progressive Movement to Defeat Trump

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Ten Ways to Build a Broad Progressive Movement to Defeat Trump

People rally as they take part in a protest against Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump in New York on March 19,2016. (Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty)

1. Figure out the whole recipe.

There are many reasons Trump won and Hillary lost. Rather than fight over what’s the most important one, it’s more productive to explore the insidious ways different ingredients -- class resentment, white supremacy, patriarchy, nativism, media bias, Clinton elitism, voter suppression, the Electoral College, to name a few -- blended together to produce such a toxic stew.

2. Cut people some slack, and network, network, network.  

The holier-than-thou variety of identity politics has got to go. In building a broad coalition, we’ll have to work with people who don’t always pass the ideological purity test, but who will have our backs when push comes to shove. In Trump’s America, safety will be in our numbers. Without sacrificing core principles, we need to build political bridges whenever and wherever we can.

3. In watching the circus, strip the mask off the clown.

Mainstream media promoted the Trump spectacle to rake in advertising revenues. Now they’ll invite us to watch the daily circus of his blunders. As Trump acts like a deranged clown teetering on the tight rope, Steve Bannon will play the ringmaster and Mike Pence the loyal foil. But it’s not a circus and Trump’s not a clown. What’s going down is dead serious.  

4.  Speak the new F-word -- Fascism.

While it’s too soon to say we’re definitively on the road to fascism, we need to monitor and resist the possibility at every turn. One thing is clear: right-wing populism is on the rise in the U.S. and Europe, and around the globe. White supremacist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim forces are cooperating across national borders. As the Far Right becomes more transnational in focus and organization, so must we.

5. Support the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

Bernie Sanders’ strong run in the Democratic primary is just the beginning, not the end. However, it will take sustained political pressure from inside and outside the party to dislodge the old guard and move the party forwards. Now is the time to step in, not back.

6. Create positive models for the future.



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While the Republicans now dominate national politics, many spaces to make change exist at the local, state and regional levels. We should prepare now for Trump’s defeat in 2020 by having progressive social, economic, labor, and environmental policies and programs in place that can be rapidly scaled up.

6. Stand up for your rights and those of others.

In the face of a Trump strategy to divide and conquer, we need to make a firm commitment to the indivisibility of basic human rights and civil liberties. While each of us may have a particular set of rights we work on, we should resist the idea that we’ll be stretched too thin if we support other struggles too. In unity there is strength.

7.  Prepare to defend the communities most vulnerable to right-wing attacks.

The sanctuary movement is a positive example of what can be done in anticipation of Trump’s anti-immigrant crackdown. So is the strengthening of coalitions to fight hate crimes and hateful policies against people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, women, and people with disabilities.  We need to plan now how to make critical health services, including abortion, available and accessible to people denied them.

8. Ramp up pressure on fossil fuel and other polluting industries.

Even under Obama, the political power of the fossil fuel industry put a brake on climate progress. Under Trump it will be far worse. But as Standing Rock and other pipeline struggles prove, protest is powerful. We all belong in the fight for climate justice and clean air, water, and food. At the same time we shouldn’t turn our backs on workers and communities dependent on these industries. The transition to renewable energy should include new jobs for those who will lose out.

9. Revitalize the peace movement.

Our country is in a state of permanent war. That wouldn’t have changed under Hillary who is more of a hawk than Obama. Trump’s national security appointments and cavalier attitudes toward torture and nuclear weapons pose grave new dangers, however. The time is ripe to come together to build a new kind of peace movement, one that opposes U.S. militarism at multiple levels – from police shootings of black people, to border enforcement, to the war on drugs, to the prison-industrial complex, to the arms and nuclear industries, to U.S. military interventions overseas. They all feed and bleed into one other. Alliances with veterans, first responders, and progressive law enforcement officials are essential. The veterans who came to Standing Rock are showing the way.

10. Stay optimistic.

It sounds like a truism, but it’s true. As the late, great radical historian Howard Zinn wrote almost 30 years ago, “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness… If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction…The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”  

Betsy Hartmann

Betsy Hartmann is the author of The America Syndrome: Apocalypse, War and Our Call to Greatness, forthcoming in spring 2017 from Seven Stories Press. The third edition of her book Reproductive Rights and Wrongs has recently been published by Haymarket Books. See BetsyHartmann.com.

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