Sad emojis mark for the 3 counterproductive items that end the list. Pressed for time? Read #1 and #2 (the most promising items); then skip ahead to #9 and #10 (the most counterproductive items).
First, let me say where I am coming from. In ancient times (before the phrase liberal Republican became an oxymoron), progressives could be Republicans. Tho imperfect, that option made sense for pragmatic progressives who disliked deficits, knew how the road to Hell is paved, and would not kowtow to “conservative Democrats” (white racists in what was then the “Solid South”) for the sake of party unity. In ancient times, I was a Republican. Now I am a Sanders/Warren Democrat who also donates to the Working Families Party. That imperfect option is the best available for me today.
America has changed a lot more than I have. Many changes for the better are in imminent danger of being undone. Many changes for the worse accelerated when George W Bush became POTUS, were slowed but not stopped under Obama, and have accelerated drastically under Donald Trump. Paranoia is not one of my faults; I hope I am mistaken in seeing a clear and present danger to liberal democracy itself (on top of 4+ years of monumentally bad governance) in the Age of Trumpery.
- Tea Party Tactics
The all-too successful efforts of the Tea Party to obstruct Obama’s agenda included many tactics that could also be used by honorable people to obstruct Trump’s. Some progressive former Congressional staffers have compiled the Indivisible Guide for badgering legislators. In addition to many helpful refinements of what I already vaguely knew, the guide has an insight so jolting that I will discuss it separately, after this list.
- Voting Rights
There are many ways to prevent elections from throwing the bums out. Savvy modern tyrants need not be so crude as to refuse to hold elections or refuse to let any serious opponents campaign. Republican state legislators have raised gerrymandering to a high art, passed voter ID laws carefully tailored to depress voting by “conservatives” much less than voting by other groups, and so on. Election administrators can open fewer polling places in areas where the “wrong” kind of voters are common.
One of the many ways that the ACLU defends civil liberties is by filing lawsuits against such shenanigans. Please support the ACLU and anybody else who defends voting rights. For more on subtle ways that voting rights can be hollowed out behind a facade of democracy, see While Democrats Chase Russians, Republicans Keep Rigging Elections by Richard Eskow.
- State & Local Elections
Far too many progressives act as if voting for POTUS once every 4 years would suffice to make good things happen. Government in the USA is not that simple. Pseudoconservatives also pay attention down-ballot and in off years. It shows. Our fragmented system makes it extremely difficult for POTUS alone to get much done that is worth doing. Down-ballot results in one election can also have nasty consequences up-ballot in the next one.
- Boycotting Trump-branded Stuff
Tho Trump’s claim to be a “successful businessman” is a wild exaggeration, he does care about money. The website #GRABYOURWALLET lists many casinos, hotels, products, and retailers. With careful reading of the website’s spreadsheet, U can separate the retailers who actively push Trump-branded products (or otherwise support Trump) from those who just sell them along with various competitive products. Boycotting the retailers who just sell them is counterproductive.
- Protest Marches
They seem to have mobilized and heartened opposition, but I cannot help wondering how many of those who march and shout now were perfectionists then, when many progressive purists refused to hold their noses and support the only alternative to Trump who could have won on 2016-11-08. I hope nobody thinks that denouncing Trump in a raucous crowd is as good as thwarting him.
My big worry is that protest marches will become old news and that some protestors will try to freshen them up by marching w/o permits, snarling traffic, provoking cops to overreact, and so on. The resulting legal battles will divert resources from the defense of voting rights.
- Ridiculing Trump
Intense and well-deserved ridicule did not keep Trump out of the White House. It is hard to ridicule Trump w/o also ridiculing his supporters. I must confess to having sometimes yielded to temptation on this point. But anything that is perceived as ridicule will only delay the awakening of those Trump voters who are not bigots or plutocrats but who had good cause to feel abandoned by smug neoliberals and turned to Trump in desperation.
On the other hand, years of relentless attacks on Hillary Clinton eventually built up an exaggerated and indelible image of dishonesty. (Tho far from being a paragon of integrity, HRC is relatively honest, as pols go. The last paragon at the presidential level was Abraham Lincoln, whose honesty did not preclude being calculating and shrewd.) Maybe years of apt and varied ridicule can accomplish something beyond catharsis for snipers like me.
- Fact Checking
Copious documentation of staggering mendacity did not keep Trump out of the White House. That those who ridicule Trump are more likely to amuse each other than erode his support is sad but not shocking. That much of the electorate does not give a rat’s ass for truth is another story. As with ridicule, I see some small hope that years of hammering away may eventually break thru.
- Calls for Impeachment 😦
The question is not whether Trump deserves to be impeached and convicted. He does. So what? Impeachment and conviction cannot happen unless both the House and the Senate are flipped. Suppose that unlikely event happens in 2018. Trump’s term would be served out by Mike Pence, whose agenda is just as vile. By being less abrasive than Trump, Pence might be even more effective in pushing for bad laws and lulling people into accepting thinly veiled fascism.
- Centrism 😦 😦
Obviously, the Democratic Party must somehow reach out to the Reagan Democrats who came back for Obama but did not stay back for Clinton. How to do that is controversial. Despite my own broadly centrist inclinations, I believe it would be a huge mistake now to take any more advice from Third Way or anybody else who thinks Dems can win by sounding at all like decaffeinated Republicans. Dems need a coherent progressive alternative that seriously addresses Rust Belt concerns, not an echo of Republican quackery pasted onto support for LGBTQ/reproductive rights and sanity about guns. While I do support those rights and that sanity, I am starting to understand why they have so little traction.
- Normalizing Trump 😦 😦 😦
Exhortations to come together after a bitterly contested election are a venerable American tradition, dating back to Jefferson’s inaugural address in 1801. Still in shock on 2016-11-09, I reblogged an eloquent one. At the same time, I reblogged a very different reaction that was also eloquent. It was a struggle to work out my own subtler response with a look back to 1814.
Looking back not quite so far as 1814, I recall that paranoid slave owners violently rejected the results of the 1860 election. That did not end well. Looking just a little ways back, I recall my own anger at McConnell’s nauseating pledge to subordinate governing to making Obama a 1-term POTUS, after Obama won in 2008 w/o any help from vote suppression or Russian meddling.
Putting this item last in the list was painful, but not as painful as seeing Trump confirm a truckload of grim expectations (bigotry; chaos; corruption; …) within a month of inauguration. A wait-and-see attitude did make sense on 2016-11-09. It does not make sense today. Will the sane and decent people in the USA wait until it is too late to avoid covert fascism behind a facade of democracy?
What is the jolting insight mentioned in list item #1? When opposing a nasty Trump initiative that advances a subversive hidden agenda, do not (repeat—not!) try be constructive by offering a better way to deal with whatever problem the Trump initiative purports to address. Keep the opposition to Trump broadly based and unified, focused on the vileness of the snake oil and not distracted by internal debates about what should be done instead of swallowing snake oil.
I come from the very collegial culture of STEM and can remember when American politics was less adversarial and more collegial than it is now, tho never as collegial as STEM. (Yes, there are rivalries in STEM and maybe still a few chances to do some good by reaching across the aisle in politics.) Tho jolting and saddening, the advice to oppose w/o trying to be constructive is wise.
Does my claim in list item #9 that “Dems need a coherent progressive alternative that seriously addresses Rust Belt concerns” contradict that advice? No. Context is crucial. Trying to prevent a particular criminal folly by those currently in office is one context. Trying to elect officials who are much less likely to engage in criminal folly is another context.
Image published in the US before 1923 and public domain in the US
In some ways, the American Experiment is back in 1778: hanging by a thread (in what Thomas Paine rightly said were “times that try men’s souls”). Many images of Valley Forge would be appropriate; I especially like the well-known painting by Edwin Austin Abbey of Baron von Steuben instructing George Washington’s pickup army in carefully selected European tactics/techniques that would help it win.
Washington’s eye for talent looked beyond billionaires who had donated lavishly. Washington did not tweet jabs at “Krauts” while assuming that anybody who sounded like a Hessian was on the other side. Washington saw that an immigrant from Prussia could kick ass for the cause. The rest is history.