The Resistance Begins: What Shape Will It Take?

trump-demoFor fifty years, I’ve been waiting for a sustained, multi-issue, multi-racial, grassroots movement focused on national policy. Now Trump’s election may have sparked one. Afraid he’ll do what he said, a broad range of folks have been in the street — not just for themselves and their own people, but for others as well. That is very encouraging.

No doubt the resistance will take many forms. Critics of Trump have voiced various opinions about how to react to his election.

Elizabeth Warren has said, “If Donald Trump will advance the kinds of policies, the kinds of measures that can be helpful, then man let’s jump up and work with him. Let’s make that happen because these are things, not just that Democrats want, these are things that Americans want.” Examples she cited were infrastructure spending, social security, raising the minimum wage, and paid family leave. She also said, “But on those core issues about treating every single human being in this country with dignity, on that we stand up and we fight back. We do not back down. We do not compromise, not today, not tomorrow, not ever.” I tend to support that approach.

As best I can, I try to understand the anger directed at Trump. As a relatively privileged white man with a college degree, I cannot fully understand the fear of those who are most vulnerable, especially people of color. And I would decline to argue with or try to persuade people who choose to adopt an anger-filled, uncompromising stance, partly because I affirm, “One struggle, many fronts.” Nevertheless, I feel obligated to echo counsel from people of color with which I agree. In a nutshell, it seems to me that if we allow anger to harden into hatred, it tends to be counterproductive.

I just re-read, as I have countless times, Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman, which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. carried with him when he traveled. The last two chapters are “Hate” and “Love.” I posted excerpts here. The following quotes seem most relevant:

Above and beyond all else it must be borne in mind that hatred tends to dry up the springs of creative thought in the life of the hater, so that his resourcefulness becomes completely focused on the negative aspects of his environment….

To love the Roman meant first to lift him out of the general classification of enemy. The Roman had to emerge as a person…

No evil deed — and no good deed, either — was named by him as an expression of the total mind of the doer…. No evil deed represents the full intent of the doer….

Though it’s hard to know, because Trump has exhibited multiple personalities, I suspect those words apply to Trump. At his core, he probably has some humanity. The Autocratic Trump will likely be on frequent display, which will intensify the resistance.  Trump is a dangerous man who will likely accumulate as much power for himself as he can. I suspect his moral compass is very weak.

But let us remember. When Richard Nixon tried to create a virtual police state with his Huston Plan, within a year or so Congress forced him from office. Americans love liberty. We do have some checks-and-balances. Several Republican Senators never endorsed Trump. Hillary Clinton got more votes than Trump did. Only about 25% of the electorate voted for Trump. Most of his voters did not do so because they supported any specific policy that he advocated. Rather, they are mad as hell and had a primal scream. And I pray that his desire to be loved will restrain his fascistic tendencies. Regardless, if Autocratic Trump prevails, and the resistance remains largely nonviolent, I trust the American people will prevail.

In the meantime, collaborating with him when he supports something positive makes sense to me. Others disagree. They refuse to “give Trump a chance” and are unwilling to seek any “reconciliation.” On Nov. 10, the New York Review of Books blog posted Autocracy: Rules for Survival, by Masha Gessen, who was a guest on the Rachel Maddow Show. Gessen recommends: “Believe the autocrat….Do not be taken in by small signs of normality…. Institutions will not save you…. Be outraged…. Don’t make compromises….Remember the future….”

If the Autocratic Trump asserts himself full bore, Gessen’s advice may be warranted. And when he pushes oppressive measures, Warren’s uncompromising approach will be justified.

Otherwise, what other options are on the table? Trump crushed what was left of the Democratic Party Establishment, which I argued here and here has long been more myth than reality. Hopefully progressive populists will fill the void left by Clinton’s defeat and transform the Democratic Party into a grassroots activist organization that fights for its platform year-round, as I argued here. Merely electing progressives to public office is not sufficient. The Party needs to redefine its purpose and modify its structure. If Keith Ellison is selected to head the Democratic National Committee, taking over the Democratic Party is a possible focus for effective progressive activism on the local level.

The Next System offers another option. Three days after the election that project posted, “Dark times call for brighter new visions of the world we want to see.” In that statement, they declare:

We must defend what we mistakenly thought was secure, or what we already knew was in jeopardy…. At the same time, we must not allow ourselves to be trapped on the defensive…. Our response must begin with a new politics but also recognize the need to build a new system – one that offers a new vision and new institutions to support a new politics as we go forward.

Backed by an impressive group of supporters, The Next System has announced:

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing you to some of our work to date, including a series of papers that elaborate on possible models for the next system, short format videos that highlight critical elements in alternative system models, and ways to engage with us to help bring about the next system.

Supporters can subscribe to their newsletter and sign their statement of principles at their homepage, as I have. I believe they’re doing great work, especially in terms of spreading the word about community-based alternatives.

But as is the case with most people who talk about “the system,” they address only the economy and the government. And I still favor a holistic approach that aims to better understand how the System consists of all of our major institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals, who reinforce the System in our daily actions. According to that perspective, we need personal, social, and cultural change as well as political and economic.

So I continue working with colleagues to write a statement that articulates that perspective and presents a proposal for action. We are focused on answering this question: What is “the system” and how can we help build a national grassroots movement that is powerful enough to transform it? The current working title is “Transform the System with a Purple Community.” The latest draft will always be at You are welcome to share feedback and attend our next meeting, Saturday, Nov. 19, 11 am. Please let me know if you’re interested.

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