This is a column about our new president, Voldemort. My colleague Ms. Johnston has not photographed Mr. Mort, so in his place she offers photographs of the people mostly likely to be screwed over by the new administration: The poor.
I assume by now that you have gotten through four of the five stages of grief. You’ve passed through denial (“No he’s not”), anger (“but he’s a stupid racist self-promoting narcissist”), bargaining (“dear God, I’ll stop smoking if Trump is impeached”) and depression (“I’ll just go lie down until 2020”). I trust you have not reached acceptance, because the Donald Trump presidency must always be resisted. If we give up, we abandon our principles.
Also, we abandon our friends. A lot of them are not moving to Canada; a lot of them are going to hang around and await developments. They’re going to find something to do. They’re going to fight.
But how? This column is about that.
The Trump presidency is a different kind of animal. It is rooted almost exclusively in lies and bigotry. The People of the Left clearly thought they had put a lid on that sort of thing, what with wide acceptance of abortion rights, gay marriage, voting rights and all, but they hadn’t. They hadn’t considered that lies and bigotry could get a president elected. Surprise!
The Left was, lets face it, smug. They didn’t read the signs; they didn’t read the prophecies of many political philosophers. A totalitarian America is a real thing now. All the rules have changed. What do we do to resist? How do we do it? What would it look like?
Let me say right here, despite the immense power granted to me by merely having a blog, I have no idea what the answer is. Below are some thoughts and notes that might help us (or anyway, me) figure that out.
There is a #resist hashtag, but the people who employ it on social media seem to be uncertain what it means. Resist — by joining our march for justice. Resist — by refusing to buy Ivanka Trump products. Resist — by signing a petition to (a) pardon Chelsea Manning, (b) demand recess appointments of judges blocked by Congress, (c) investigate Putin-Trump ties, (d) protect a woman’s right to choose, (e) urge California to secede, (f) support those Rockettes who resisted an invitation to the Inauguration. And so on.
Do people think that petitions will be read by anyone in the Trump administration? Do you think they will pay attention to a march down Main Street in any town in California — or New York, or Oregon? I said this to my friend D, who reminded me that public pressure — marches, petitions, speeches — changed the administration’s view on Vietnam. The ending of that war was a mess, but at least enough people agreed that it should end.
All the United States presidents, probably since Andrew Jackson, came from and believed in, more or less, the political process. They’d toiled in its vineyards; they believed in its assumptions, even as they sought to avoid them. They believed, for instance, that telling a lie was a bad idea. They believed that the machinery of government was necessary to provide the things that people need. They believed that presidents are required to seek reliable information on which to base decisions. They believed, however imperfectly, in freedom.
So something like an massive anti-war movement had an effect. The burden of public opinion could not be ignored, because winning elections required voters. Plus, the idea of a moral imperative was understood, however dimly, by the majority of politicians.
Donald Trump doesn’t believe in any of those things. He disdains all ideas that he didn’t understand, or that didn’t apply in his egocentric worldview. And he really doesn’t care about citizens, other than conning them into voting for him. He can’t even bring himself to pay his workers their agreed-upon fee. He and his Republican colleagues do not care who suffers in their mania for low taxes and decreased regulation. Why? Because they won. The most important thing to Trump about his victory over Hillary Clinton was the very winning of it. And of course he has to claim that the victory was larger than it actually was.
So what about direct action? What about taking to the streets? Fine. Black Lives Matter has opened a lot of minds — none of them, alas, belonging to the people who will soon govern the country. Also, there are many nutjobs in this country who would like nothing better than a civil insurrection. There would be blood; lots of blood. Worse, there would be subsequent repression. You like freedom of speech? Fine — just as long as you confine it to (a) sports, (b) the drug problems of child stars, (c) iPhones.
So, economic boycotts. Fine by me. But let’s get smart and confine it to a few egregious corporations. In the past, the boycotts were about, say, grapes, or Nike, or apartheid. Now people are talking about boycotting GiantCorp because the CEO has agreed to serve on Trump’s task force on trade policies. Do you boycott GiantCorp? Or do you boycott American arms manufacturers, or oil companies that deny climate change, or Ivanka’s damn perfume? Or something else. It’s pretty chaotic out there in #resistville.
Or do we just throw cream pies at James Inhofe? I have to say, that’s a very good idea.
I don’t think we can trust the Democratic Party. They don’t seem to have a clue, and attempts by younger members (or older: See Sanders, Bernie) to rethink the party have been blocked by the elderly Old Guard. (I can say “elderly”, because these folks are older than me. Nancy Pelosi: 76. Harry Reid: 79; Dianne Feinstein: 83. Just like black people can say the n-word, I can toss around ageist stereotypes. Because old wealthy entrenched white people: Hardly ever a good idea).
All through the final week of the campaign, it was clear that an information war was being waged, and we were losing. During that time, I got at least 10 emails a day from Hillary or her close associates. They wanted money. More money! I figured they had enough money — a lack of money was never blamed for Hillary’s defeat. What they needed was a clue. They would have needed a clue even if they’d won.
I even distrust organizations like MoveOn. They wanted a lot of money too in the closing weeks of December. Their emails were little miracles of scare headlines. If you’re giving money, choose organizations, preferably local organizations, that do good directly. Rather than the corrupt and toothless Democratic Party, I prefer the Alameda County Food Bank, or the Woman’s Community Health Center, or High Country News, or (goes without saying) Planned Parenthood.
In 1856, the Whig Party, which had elected four presidents (none of them notable), finally dissolved. Some of its members (like Abraham Lincoln) quit politics entirely. Out of the Whig ashes rose the Republican Party and its first president, that Lincoln chap (whose retirement was short-lived).
What I’m saying is, the dissolving of a political party is not unprecedented. Sixty-three million people voted for Hillary. Throw out 20 million on general principles and you still have a Fabulous Party base of 40 million, and if each of those people gave $1, we’d have coffers. Coffers! Then we could recruit a bunch of Jewish socialists and rule the world! Just joking. We’d need black socialists as well.
Vote Fabulous! Because we understand how special you are.
Seriously: Forming a third party is really an idea worth thinking about.
For a while there, I was thinking about education. The people who don’t believe in climate change can surely be swayed, I thought. Yes, there’d have to be a new kind of messenger, but it could happen. Or maybe people who didn’t understand the nature of the kleptocracy could be encouraged to look at it anew. Or maybe a small tutorial on why voting against your own interests is historically a bad idea. Or why dismantling Obamacare…you get the idea.
I proposed this idea to my friend C. She said: “Fuck ’em. They had their chance.”
C is African-American. Can you imagine how fed up black people are in the era of Trump? Can you feel the anger when you walk along the street? Trump voters are well beyond the last straw. (Slavery was probably the true last straw). I don’t think they’re in a conciliatory mood. But that’s not the business of white people now. We have a different task: We have to protect the rights of black people, poor people and immigrants first, because they’ll be the first real victims of a Trump presidency. Trump respects power. Bad news for the powerless.
I have one idea. It’s mostly for me, but it may have broader implications. I have a lot of retired or semi-retired journalist friends. We have skills; we know stuff. Perhaps we could offer our services to ProPublica or CIR, to research things, interview sources, wait in corporate offices for hours until someone agrees to meet with us. Or maybe we could offer our services to law firms engaged in worthy lawsuits. We could file FOIA requests or track down timorous scientists or whatever they need.
I think maybe we need to use more than our feet or our voices or our money. I think we need to use our skills. I think we need to be maximally useful in the fight against tyranny.
I know there will be defeats. I know there will be cynicism and hopelessness. There are large monsters out there, and they have teeth. There are evil powers we can’t even imagine. There will be fireballs and dragons.
In other words, it’s an adventure. We’re like a bunch of Frodos, or an army of Luke Skywalkers, or 40 million Harry Potters. We should sing songs and tell stories around campfires and stand shoulder to shoulder when the bad shit comes down. There is bliss in fighting a totalitarian idiot — and shame in sitting out the battle. Be joyful!
Change happens. Change always happens.