Thursday, January 26, 2017

Welcome to the Resistance

I've been grappling with what to post as a follow up to the presidential election in November for, oh, about eleven weeks now. I've had dozens of conversations about it and the way forward. Donald Trump and his administration are every bit as dangerous a threat as the pre-election warnings promised. This is the biggest threat to our democratic institutions in a long time, maybe since the Civil War. The delusional premise among some pundits that Trump would move to the middle to find common ground with Democrats was laughable. So now we have a Cabinet full of bankers, oil men, climate deniers, unqualified dopes, and a white supremacist as chief strategist attempting to carry out the bold and divisive campaign promises. Great job, voters.

The Democratic party is powerless at every level of the federal government, save for the bills and nominations the U.S. Senate is able to filibuster. And the GOP has dominant holds on 30+ governors and state houses. So dig in, it's going to be a long 2-4 years. 

And the chances of the Dems retaking one of the two houses of Congress in 2018 are both long shots, unless Trump remains deeply unpopular. The Senate map for the Dems in 2018 is terrible with them mostly playing defense in states Trump won. So realistically the best case scenario is probably just a loss of a few seats and not a disaster, where their minority shrinks to the point that they are unable to win a majority in 2020. 

The House may provide more fertile terrain, but with only 40-50 competitive seats, they will need to do very well to reclaim a majority there. So that's what we're up against nationally. At the state level, there are some prime opportunities to pick up wins in gubernatorial elections in OH, MI, WI, MA, MD, FL, and some other swing or blue states where Dems lost badly in 2010 and 2014. And aside from that just organize locally. Treat things like State Senate elections with increased importance. If Barack Obama didn't win his Illinois State Senate election in 1996, he probably would not have been a presidential candidate in 2008. Start small and pay attention to every election.

But forget all that for a minute because that is the finish line for the first leg of this battle. And we have a lot of work ahead as #TheResistance before we get to the next election. So what can we do in the meantime? I'm not quite sure the leadership of the Democratic party and the old White House media people covering the Trump administration have reckoned with this new reality. I saw an unattributed quote passed around on Twitter this week (sic): "it's like democrats and republicans were playing a board game, then the republicans were like 'fuck it' and lit the house on fire, but dems are still just sitting in the burning house trying to win the board game." And I think this nails a little of bit of my impression of what is happening. The opposition needs to be stronger and better organized.

I knew it was going to be bad, but I didn't quite grasp all of what was coming until after the election. I believe in institutions as a check on power, to make the world more peaceful, to prevent humanity from acting on its worst impulses. The institutions we set up after the 20th century world wars - NATO, the United Nations, International Criminal Court, etc., while imperfect, have served to ultimately keep the world much more peaceful than it was prior to their creation. There is accountability and you risk economic sanctions by not complying with the rules and norms established by the institutions. Free trade also serves to keep us connected and more peaceful, with obvious economic disincentives to go to war. But the last few years have seen right-wing nationalism spread through Europe and now the United States, threatening the institutions, signaling exits from said institutions and trade agreements. There will be a power and influence vacuum and Russia and China seem more than willing to step in to fill the void with unknowable consequences for the rest of the world.

I'm ultimately a liberal institutionalist at heart, so I believed our institutions and rules would protect us from authoritarians and tyrants here in the United States. But there is little I've seen from our institutions so far to give me hope in the near future. You can't count on the Electoral College, Congress, the agencies the Trump regime is attempting to silence, etc. All of the usual checks on executive power will be hamstrung or will be going along in silent agreement. We are left with independent media and hopefully lawyers and courts. And ourselves. We can't assume everything will be OK and that the Democratic opposition and institutions will be sufficient to thwart an authoritarian regime. This is a fight you will need to stay engaged in daily, doing whatever you are able to do. This Sarah Kendzior piece really nails it - required reading for how to handle this regime. 

The good news is we are in the majority (if we could stop having purity/purge litmus tests among ourselves that would be great). We need to find common cause with liberals, leftists, #NeverTrump conservatives, and independents. We may disagree with some of these people on many issues, but we all agree Trump is an unprecedented threat to our republic and must be defeated at all costs. I think we all mouthed those platitudes to each other last summer but then went right ahead and allowed our common cause to be divided over petty issues and the result was the person with 46% of the vote, 2.8M less than the winner, becoming President. Let's not repeat that mistake.

If you aren't already you should immediately follow these people on Twitter:

Several of them are experts in covering authoritarian regimes and how they manipulate people. Re-reading a lot of Sarah Kendzior's posts from November are prescient for predicting what was to come in the opening days of the Trump administration. A flurry of activity, seemingly frantic or chaotic. Lots of distractions. Multiple stories being leaked to different reporters, neither of which turn out to be true, so then the administration can attempt to discredit the media. 

Do your best to stop focusing on Trump's tweets or whatever boldface lies the administration told, realized it looked ridiculous, and then walked back that particular day. It provides some comic relief for us liberals, but ultimately it's just an empty sugar rush. Keep your eye on the ball and don't get distracted from whatever executive orders or bills are due to be signed or voted on that day.

What else can you do? Contribute money to the ACLU and other organizations who will be vital in this fight. Call your congressional representative and Senators about every issue that is a concern. Even if you are in a deep blue or deep red district or state, make your voice heard. Order of preference to make an impact: phone calls, handwritten letters, emails. Social media contact means nothing. Check out for more info on where your contact can make the most impact. It'll tell you where your closest geographical swing district is. Join local or national social media groups to find out where protests are happening and how you can be a part of it. 

That's a lot to digest for now. I'll probably be blogging a lot more this year. Hopefully many more short posts rather than occasional long ones. Stay tuned. 

In the meantime, Organize. March. Protest. Resist. 

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