Are we in the midst of a progressive awakening? Are the marches, rallies, and town-hall meetings the beginnings of a committed and long-term movement? The answer might be radically different depending on where you live. In New York State, where I live, the answer appears to be a resounding “yes.”
What I’m seeing in my community is that the gut-wrenching shock of election night has morphed into a steely determination to speak out and defend hard-fought gains in affordable healthcare; social justice; women’s, minorities’, and LGBT rights; and environmental policy. Organizing here is broad based and energetic, with two Indivisible groups—Indivisible Chatham and Indivisible CD19—cropping up within a distance of about twenty miles.
A day doesn’t go by without a torrent of emails, texts, and phone conversations sharing disbelief and anger about radical policy shifts based not on facts but on blind ideology. There’s a deluge of emails screaming for signatures on petitions. There’s the never-ending stream of online solicitations for donations. There are local and national calls for volunteers to brainstorm on tactics, organize and attend rallies, and make signs, protest, and write letters. The need to do something has become nearly overwhelming.
The resistance to Trump and the Republican-dominated House and Senate is strong and determined. Now that Democrats and progressives are in the minority in the halls of government the race is on to find the most effective tactics for influencing policy out on the streets. Hopefully, the new robust network of concerned citizens can maintain its super-charged momentum beyond the first one hundred days.
Is there anything positive for progressives in the post-Trump political wilderness?
Actually, there are many positives. Progressives are energized and coming out into the streets and engaging in public dialogue to define values, debate strategy, and set long-term goals. Individuals who were strangers before election night in November are becoming a community of activists and concerned citizens galvanized by the shock of Trump’s election. Resistance and protest are being channeled in multiple ways. Some of us attend rallies or visit the offices of our elected officials. Others write letters to local editorial pages or compose posts like this one. Still others feel most comfortable making phone calls or sending emails to elected officials.
And don’t forget the defeat of “repeal and replace.” Following that success, progressives may be justified in feeling cautiously empowered.
However, important questions remain. Can the progressive protest movement hold together and stay motivated as Trump and the conservative ideologues deepen their assault on the fundamental responsibilities and functions of the federal government? Will the movement coalesce around a unified voice? Will the movement find qualified and electable candidates that can flip their districts in the 2018 elections? Only time will tell, but I believe that progressives’ abhorrence of Trump and opposition to his administration’s dishonesty, incompetence, and corrupt nature will surely deepen over time and grow as the real-life effects of Trump’s executive orders and Republican complicity begin to be more broadly felt.
We’re certainly not out of the clouds yet, and stormy days may be coming—both on the domestic and the international fronts. So now is a good time for progressives to pay heed to the lessons learned from earlier protest movements. Who better to give progressives advice than Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., and CEO of the King Center? Shortly after inauguration day, Ms. King shared on Facebook her recommendations on tactics for opposing Trump and the Republican majority. Here are a few.
“Don’t use his [Trump’s] name—ever. Remember, this is a regime and he’s not acting alone.”
“Do not argue with those who support him—it doesn’t work.”
“Focus on his policies . . . not his mental state.”
“Keep your message positive. They want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies grow.”
“When you post or talk about him [Trump], don’t assign his actions to him, assign them to the Republican administration or the Republicans.”
“[Make Republicans] take responsibility for their association with him or stand up for what some of them don’t like.”
“Deny Trump the focus or attention he craves.”