Taking On Trump


Editor’s Note: Our views on the strategy for progressives in the Trump years ahead are put forward in the Winter 2017 issue of Tikkun. But it is our practice to share other views in these columns, some of which we agree with and some of which we do not, because it is only through considering a range of ideas that challenge each other that we can arrive at the deepest understanding of how best to heal and transform (tikkun) our world.
~Rabbi Michael Lerner
There is only one way that I can see Trump succeeding with his outrageous efforts—such as his Cabinet nominations–to turn back the clock to the 50’s, or further: if most of us who supported the Bernie movement of 2015-2016 shut up, take no action, and allow this pathological liar to do what he wants to do without any serious resistance.
I can’t see that happening, I really can’t. There are too many of us. 15 million voted for Bernie in the primaries, and there are hundreds of thousands of us, at least, probably more like millions, who, irrespective of Bernie, see ourselves as activists for a better society, a new world, a more just, peaceful and environmentally sustainable future.
I know that Bernie isn’t shutting up. He has made it clear that he will continue giving leadership on the major issues. And as the most popular national politician in the country, with about 60% positive in a recent poll, compared to Trump’s 40% approval rating, his voice will be a powerful one.
The Bernie factor, and Trump’s unpopularity, are facts that those of us who are bummed out by Trump’s electoral college victory need to keep in mind. Here’s the latest re Trump’s unpopularity, from a Pew poll: “The latest national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Nov. 30-Dec. 5 among 1,502 adults, finds that 40% approve of Trump’s cabinet choices and high-level appointments, while 41% approve of the job he has done so far in explaining his policies and plans for the future.
In December 2008, 71% of Americans approved of Barack Obama’s cabinet “choices, and 58% expressed positive views of George W. Bush’s high-level appointments in January 2001, prior to his inauguration. Similarly, higher shares approved of the way that both Obama (72%) and Bush (50%) explained their policies and plans for the future than say that about Trump today.”
If the broad progressive movement—issue-oriented activists, those who supported Bernie—speaks out, takes action, organizes strategically and smartly, and works together, it will be hard for Trump to raise his polling numbers. There’s a lot of disgust and anger with him firmly baked-in within the body politic, and his Cabinet nominations have made clear that on the majority of issues, his administration will be going against majority sentiment.
Does this mean that we can stop all or most of the Trumpist executive actions? No, it doesn’t. Does it mean that undocumented immigrants, Muslims, Syrian refugees, and people of color generally are not going to suffer more and more broadly during his presidency? No, it doesn’t, though if we respond as a progressive movement to the varied repressive efforts they try to enact, following the lead of those directly impacted by those efforts, as well as speaking up whenever there are racist or discriminatory statements in general, we can have some effect.
Does it mean that we shouldn’t be very concerned about all of the potential things that can go wrong internationally because of Trump’s vanity, narcissism, arrogance, ignorance, and business interests? No, but we aren’t the only ones concerned about all of that. Many in the corporate media have made clear they are not going to be intimidated by Trump, will speak out and counter his lies and distortions, and oppose him publicly. Two Republican U.S. Senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have already indicated their intention to do the same on some issues.
Trump is a minority President. He lost the popular vote by over 2 ½ million votes. He is a President within a system that is not monolithic, certainly not politically, and there are laws, regulations, and societal norms that he and the alt-right white supremacists cannot easily swat away like a bombastic Godzilla. And in two years there will be Congressional elections. If he and the Republicans push numerous unpopular policies, they are at risk of losing big in November, 2018, and some of them know that.
Then there is what is happening within the Democratic Party. Because of Clinton’s electoral college loss and Sanders’ political strength, there is great pressure on the Democrats to jettison their pro-corporate policies and follow Bernie’s leadership in going after Wall Street and standing up for working people. There are internal struggles already happening between the corporatist wing and the progressive wing, and it is likely that the progressive wing will grow stronger and the corporatist wing will weaken. This should mean more Democrats in Congress willing to take on Trump and the Republicans in a stronger way than they have done in the past.
Mass demonstrations by large numbers in the streets, and nonviolent direct action to underline the urgency and disrupt business as usual, are essential. They would have been necessary under Clinton too, but it’s even more needed with Trump in the White House and the Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, though their Senate majority is very narrow, 52-48.
We should normalize demos and direct action wherever Trump or his terrible Cabinet officials go to speak publicly. To the extent that this happens, to that extent will timider Democrats in Congress and the mass media be strengthened to say and do more than they would otherwise. The overall impact can be a sense of the country as a whole, most of it, rising up against this illegitimate President and his administration.
The inaugural weekend on January 20th is a good place for this to begin. Groups are already organizing for actions on that date, there is the big women’s march on the 21st, and I know there are other actions in the works during that time, both in DC and localities around the country.
It is important that the nation see that there are large numbers of us who plan to speak up, organize and fight for the people and the planet against the Trumpists.
Finally, those of us who are white need to take seriously our responsibilities to work with our white brothers and sisters, particularly working-class and low-income people, who voted for Trump. Some, the hard-core racists, we’re not going to be able to change, with exceptions. But there are millions who voted for the guy mainly because they hated the Clintons for all of their personal corruption and corporate connections and Trump’s “I’m different” rhetoric. As some are seeing by his Cabinet appointments and will see further, he’s not what they thought they were getting. They will be open to more of the Bernie message, the need for working people of all races and nationalities to unite against Wall Street and the corporate elite.
When it all seems like too much, take a long walk in the woods or a nearby park, and remember Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth and Sitting Bull and Tecumseh and Susan B. Anthony and Ella Baker and so many others who have come before us and who refused to give-in under much harsher conditions. Let’s keep working, day after day, like the fate of the earth depended upon us doing so, because it really does.
Ted Glick has been a progressive activist and organizer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.

3 thoughts on “Taking On Trump

  1. I believe there should be a major campaign to stress just how serious the climate crisis is and that Trump will be the only national leader who is in denial about climate change. All his appointed climate deniers should be challenged repeatedly.

  2. It is tragic that instead of coming together to form a “more perfect union” in order to more effectively address Climate Change and Social Inequality, American politics so shifted to the Right (with the help of Foxnews, Rush Limbaugh and others) that Donald Trump was elected. As a Haitian-American who has actively participated in the Green and sustainable development movements since the mid-80’s, historic movements many like me had counted on to catalyze this “more perfect union,” I have witnessed that these movements remained tragically lily-white and elitist harboring too many downright racist or opportunist “loose cannons.” BTW, had Hillary spent the 3 years preceding her campaign mobilizing broad support for Obama’s Clean Power Plan and raising a few millions to address the poisoning of the Flint water system instead of pursuing a neocon war agenda, she would not have lost the election. I voted for Bernie Sanders and then Jill Stein but the dysfunctionality, lack of material or moral support and racism I experienced in the U.S. Green/green movements makes me feel uncomfortable about recommending such movements to the young generation of Haitian-Americans. I have run Green Cities – Green Villages, a green energy/ sustainable development incubator led by Haitian professionals but we have had a difficult time obtaining funding not only because of racism but also because of the indifference by white leftists. I only hope that white progressives really learn after the election of Trump that building a serious green multi-racial movement requires careful vetting of potential leaders and members, holding them accountable and making the effort necessary to raise funds to sustain the movement over the long haul. I really hope that white progressives will be shocked enough to move beyond the elitism, mediocrity and insularity that has kept the U.S. Green Party so ineffective and lily-white. I will stress that young Haitian-Americans focus on building a progressive electoral alliance including those in the Democratic Party and organizations outside of it and working on local and global economic alternatives that can create green jobs and incentives such as internships and fellowships for retraining the unemployed and underemployed.

  3. Thank you for all you do. We must stand together. It seems amazingly difficult right now but we must remember history. We have to look at the big picture and support one another.

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