Here are just a few thoughts about how to approach the next four years.
Leftists, in and out of social movements, should instead seize the opportunity that Hillary Clinton’s defeat has given them. Join local chapters of the Democratic Party. Start Democratic clubs where liberals, moderates, and radicals can debate how to challenge Trump and his allies at every level. Consider running for the city council or the state legislature or Congress—and seek out advice about how to set up a campaign and, yes, raise money to finance it. Come up with a strategy to convince registered Democrats to vote in midterm elections. President Obama woefully neglected party-building during his eight years in office. The result, in part, is that Democrats hold power securely only in big cities and a few states.
To beat back the man who might become the most destructive president in U.S. history, we will also need a bit of empathy for those white folks who voted for Obama twice, warmed up to Sanders, and then switched to Trump. Some were certainly motivated by fear or hatred of Latino immigrants, Muslims, women, or all of the above. But many also have anxieties about their own lives that we should be able to understand. We are not going to convince them to spurn the man they elected if we call them names and mock their worries. Don’t curse, organize.
Democrats seemed to spend half of their time with a Democratic president and congressional majority dicking around trying to figure out which move would upset people least. Trump hasn’t even been sworn in yet, and already the GOP has announced a forthcoming repeal of Obamacare and the defunding Planned Parenthood. They attempted to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, and they will spend the next two weeks tongue-bathing a roster of cabinet members so ludicrous and ethically compromised that it’s like opening a housesitting website and finding every employee profile is just another picture of The Hamburglar. They do not heed polite norms, because polite norms are things that chickenshits obey.
Against this, the left and social media has arrayed a democratization of the zinger-gig economy—”Uber, but for pointing out the politically contradictory!”—balanced with the performative how dare you, sir of the electorate and even louder lamentations about America, heartbreak, and loss. Apart from being almost wholly ineffectual on its own terms, all it does is vindicate the conservative message.
Logging onto social media to announce that you feel terrified and heartsick just vindicates these people. Your fearful tingling sensation tells them that it’s working. Friends on your side of the ideological fence see the hopelessness and feel a pang of empathy. But any attempt at broader entreaty to the people inspiring this feeling is founded on a mistake.
The talk of possible cooperation came as Republicans spoke of repealing Obamacare and overhauling the tax code through reconciliation, an arcane process that allows the GOP’s narrow Senate majority to evade the supermajority requirement.
Indeed, it’s very much an open question how Trump might work with Democrats — or if he even has to. If Democrats launch a strategy of blanket opposition, Republicans will have the votes to unilaterally change Senate rules or use reconciliation to move legislation to the White House for Trump’s signature. The threat of getting steamrolled could put pressure on Democrats to come to the table.
The most effective ways for people to resist aren’t through indignant tweets. It’s by taking on their own members of Congress, on their turf. One of the guide’s more useful charts shows what members of Congress care about versus what they don’t. They care about “local press and editorials, maybe national press”; they don’t care about “wonky D.C.-based news,” though it “depends on the member.” (If I may: Somewhere between zero and no members of the incoming majority care about wonky D.C.-based news.) Members do care about “an interest group’s endorsement.” They don’t care about “your thoughtful analysis of the proposed bill.” They don’t care about “form letters, a Tweet, or Facebook comment.” But they care if you and a group of like-minded individuals show up to their town hall or ribbon-cutting, ask difficult questions or register dissent, and turn their hoped-for sunny 15-second spot on the local news into a longer story about the anger they faced from constituents.
My thoughts: I am against pointless moaning and flailing about as a form of opposition to a president or policy. Simple crying, “this is not normal!” is a poor strategy to actually challenge Trump. Those of us against Trump need to avoid blaming “racists” for his win and look at why Democrats lost around the country. A new approach to electoral politics is necessary as well as a better effort at messaging.
I plan to spend more time at church and with local organizations in my community. Working with my local Democratic Party club is something my wife and I have agreed to do as well. Going local and helping shape the messaging and debates within our community seems the best political and social remedy to the next four years.