The grassroots-led resistance is the most heartening and hopeful thing I have ever seen in my 40 years in politics. Fueled not by organizations or politicians or donors or celebrities, but by regular folks throughout America, we are seeing hopeful tangible signs that Trump will not be able to run roughshod over our freedoms and our lives without one hell of a fight.
The Women’s Marches all over America were so thrilling, and all the protests and solidarity online and on the streets happening every day are sustaining our very democracy. The spontaneous protests at airports everywhere this weekend is one more amazing sign of the power of this resistance. One recent mobilizing call sponsored by MoveOn, Indivisible, Working families Party, and People’s Action had over 60,000 people on it, which as far as I know breaks all records for people on one political organizing call.
People are demonstrating at congressional offices all across the country, and not just showing up once — organizations and grassroots activists are planning to show up every single week, similar to the Moral Mondays Movement in North Carolina which set the stage for Democrat Roy Cooper’s victory in the Governor’s race last year. And plans are being hatched to have another day of protests on Tax Day, April 15th, to protest Trump’s refusal to disclose his taxes and the Republicans’ terribly regressive tax policies, which would massively cut taxes for the wealthy and big business while adding massively to the tax burden of poor and middle income folks.
Hopefully, Democrats in D.C., who so far have seemed mostly disconnected from this outpouring of energy and passion, are getting the message that we need them to show the same fire in resisting Trump as their constituents have. It is time for them to start making some noise and showing some defiance. Insider strategies are great if they result in stopping things, but if Democrats are going to lose on every nomination fight anyway, they should make things as messy and painful for the Republicans ramming through all these terrible Cabinet picks as they can. And they need to make a huge deal, an official red alert, five-alarm fire kind of BFD, over the reprehensible Muslim ban Trump has instituted. It is horrible in and of itself, but it is also clear evidence that the fascist tendencies Trump exhibited in the campaign will be turned into policy.
I see evidence in my recent discussions with Senators that they are listening to the grassroots and starting to get the message. Statements from Democrats about the Muslim ban yesterday showed real passion, thank goodness. And upcoming confirmation battles on many of Trump’s Cabinet appointments will be a lot tougher in the days to come. Senate rules allow for Democrats to slow things down in a major way, and I hope we will see exactly that kind of action. If the progressive grassroots and the Democrats on the Hill equally engage the big battles all-out, we can win some and cause Trump and the Republicans an enormous amount of damage, even on the ones we don’t have the votes to win.
The challenge is that we will have to fight an enormous number of those battles, as the Trump/Republican Congress agenda is broadly evil — yes, evil. This is going to be a war fought on a hundred fronts at the same time, and we have to be ready for that prospect. And we have to understand that with Trump following through on the worst of his campaign promises like the Muslim ban, we are entering a world of darkness unseen in this country at least since the days when Nixon was plotting to break into and even bomb the offices of his political enemies. During the campaign, Trump said his role model was Nixon, and he might turn out to be worse.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter last year, Trump’s Chief Strategist Steve Bannon said that “darkness is good” and spoke admirably of Lucifer and Darth Vader, saying in awe, “that’s power”. And Trump himself has praised dictators around the world while being BFF with Russian autocrat and war criminal Vladimir Putin. So make no mistake, we are going to have fight the darkness with everything we have.
The way I am thinking about these times is to amend that wonderful old saying “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” I think in this case, we have no choice but to curse the darkness, or at least stand up to it and speak against it. But we do also need to light our own candle, to show people what America can be that would be the opposite of Trumpism. Maybe the revised saying needs to be “Fight the darkness. And light your candle very bright.”
The profoundly wonderful thing about the Women’s March, an idea that arose entirely through local grassroots activists online, was that even while they standing up to Trump’s agenda, they were lighting their own candle by showing a better way. The marches all over the country were peaceful, positive expressions of determination and hope that we could build a better world.
We need to resist in very way we can think of, and with everything we’ve got. We need to show grit and creativity in figuring out how to slow Trump and his sycophants in the Republican party from enacting their evil agenda. But let’s also show the American people what the opposite of Trumpism will be. We want an America where freedom of religion and respectfulness to Americans of all religious (or non-religious) beliefs are held sacred. We want an America that understands our country’s history is one of being a nation of immigrants and refugees, and that welcoming them strengthens us instead of weakening us. We want to go back to the sacred vision of this nation as being a land of,by, and for the people instead of a country ruled and rigged by billionaires, big business, and their buddies. We want to be a nation where we lift each other up rather than pushing each other down so that a few can make it while everyone else fights among themselves.
In addition to resistance and rhetoric, let’s show the country what believe in instead. Instead of a Muslim ban, we want to welcome Muslims to this country and show them friendship so that the radical extremism which Trump is always talking about never has a chance to grow. Instead of insulting hard working immigrants and obsessing about kicking them out of our country, let’s welcome them as permanent citizens and help them in starting businesses and getting them jobs and good education, which lifts us all up. Instead of slashing health care coverage and Social Security, let’s make sure seniors and all our citizens have good health coverage and a decent income, which helps us all live in a healthier economy and healthier society. Instead of a radical plan to lower taxes for the wealthy and big business and giving them even more power and wealth than they already have, let’s have a fair tax system and rising wages for all workers. Instead of Wall Street banks being able to run roughshod over the American economy like they did a decade ago, let’s break up the Too Big To Fail banks and create more opportunities for community banks and credit unions to flourish. Instead of stripping away funding for public education, let’s invest in our public schools so that our entire society benefits from a better educated citizenry.
Trumpism is an ugly ideology, and we have to fight it in the streets, at the airports, and in the halls of Congress. The good news is that Americans will turn away from it quickly if we can given them a vision and an agenda they can embrace. Let’s resist at full tilt, and light our candle to show people the way forward.