It feels like the beginning of a bad movie, I’ll admit that. Donald Trump has won the Presidency of the United States of America and many of us fear the progress that has been gained, not over the last eight years, but over the last 150 years is going to disintegrate in front of our eyes. Trump won by pandering to the fears of many Americans and by validating the hate speech that some kept in their whispers and minds in his stump speeches. He has been crass, abrupt, and unfiltered with rhetoric that resonated with the racist, xenophobic, and small minded folks lounging in the darkened corners of society and appealed to many who were simply tired of outright establishment politics and were hoping someone from the outside would shake things up (while sadly failing to realize that Trump has been bankrolling the establishment on both sides of the aisle for years).
He’s encapsulated everything distasteful about America and branded it with the slogan “Make America Great Again”—which of course harkens back to a time when racism, sexism, homophobia, and military supremacy were at all-time highs in this country. But maybe for those of us who are dizzied by this nightmarish scenario, there’s an opportunity for us to drop some meat in the slogan’s sauce and change the flavor.
You see, America has a great history of resistance and opposition becoming progress and equity. Already, just a few days out from Mr. Trump’s clean win in the election, there are people out in the streets protesting against The Donald and making clear that the agenda he set forth is not the unifying message that he purports it to be. There may be a mandate in the electoral college, but it appears that there is no mandate in the streets for the regressive agenda. The generation on the rise, the much maligned Millennials, are not going to lay down the sword and extend the olive branch. Neither are those who simply stand against an exclusive message of thinly veiled white supremacy and economic oppression. Instead they are going to fill the streets and disrupt the crowing of their political counterparts.
Baby Boomers who have started ironing and creasing their blue jeans since the 1960s ended are already complaining that “disrupting traffic” won’t solve anything in regards to the protests and that Millennials need to “accept the results” of the election. As it turns out, disrupting everyday life is very effective in non-violent protest. If you don’t believe me, just look back at the men and women sitting at the counter at the Woolworth’s. Take a look at the men and women walking to work in Montgomery and marching down the National Mall with Martin Luther King, Jr. Now, I’m not suffering from delusions of grandeur, there is no figure like King in the picture today, but his movement wasn’t built around him…he grew from it. During the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, people didn’t “accept the results” they mobilized against the results.
That is a great America to make again.
Additionally, aside from the normal complaints about the Electoral College, I haven’t heard anyone disputing the results of this election…only airing their disgust. People are trending the hashtag #NotMyPresident, but this doesn’t faze me, because I’ve been told by conservative family and friends for years that Obama was “my President” and by birthers that he wasn’t an American (in reality I only voted for Obama in 2008, and then I realized that he was a centrist wrapped in liberal rhetoric who pandered to progressives and decided that the two party oligarchy was the root of our political strife and division, but that’s beside the point). So not accepting the man in office isn’t exactly the invention of the disgruntled left.
The fact still remains that the best lies, the lies that get believed most earnestly have the kernel of truth at the center—in this case the truth may be in the interpretation. While simple red hats across the country may say in white letters “Make America Great Again” as the maxim of Trumpism, it may yet prove to be true in way unintended by the marketers of the President-Elect’s campaign. Perhaps the effectiveness of civil unrest and protest may have some teeth restored to it. Furthermore, activism and belief—the spirit of the First Amendment—may leave the social networks and the hash tags and find themselves meaningfully shaking up politics and not just traffic patterns if the opposition force (that’s what we are now) is systematic, methodical, thorough, and meticulous in its actions.
The sudden spontaneity of flash mob style protests is a call for attention in the moment, but must be bookended with translatable political action that has ramifications for the electorate and in elections. So, as it was in those halcyon days of great music and political unrest in the childhood of my parents, perhaps Trump will make America Great Again by giving those of us in the service of equity and social justice a true message and target to rally around as the antithesis of the very progress we wish to keep and continue.
The recipe to change the flavor of the “Make America Great Again” sauce is going to be outlined in the rest of this article ingredient by ingredient, and many might agree or disagree with it in part or in whole. The real substantive, meaningful opposition to the regression of our civil, labor, personal, and educational rights to come will be borne in conversations around clear ideas and not from protest for protest’s sake.
- Reject the Democrat Party and/or its Leadership
As I said earlier in this article, I believe that two-party politics are at the heart of this country’s deep political divisions. We identify with party over platform and rally around our political affiliations in a warlike tribalism that will never see us progressing toward an equitable society where voices are heard and people are allowed to choose, disagree, synthesize, and compromise for the sake of the Republic serving her people. We need to recognize that political parties, and this is especially and stereotypically true for the Democrat and Republican parties, are massive money making corporations whose best interest is in maintaining power and division.
Many felt that Bernie would be the next president by rallying the Democrats under him, but instead they attempted to co-opt his momentum and throw him from the train. The Democrats are just as politically offensive in their methods of politics as the Republicans are, even if their policy positions meaningfully seduce different sects of the population. We need more voices in the conversation, and by voices I mean we need more parties. It doesn’t have to be the Working Families, or the Women’s Equality, or the Green Party but the Star Spangled Ass, or at the very least the entrenched carrot waving farmers that ride it have got to go.
Real progress for progressive issues will come once toxic and corrupt establishment leadership is left bereft of sway over any masses. Maybe our disgruntled counterparts on the right will take the same advice someday. Then we can really break the Win-Lose mindset in Washington and start discussing real solutions to real problems in ways that represent the myriad American political experience, not just a supposed binary one.
(I want to be clear that this is not an appeal for a technocratic elite to come to power, that’s what appointed cabinet and other advisory positions are for. Sometimes talented field-oriented professionals are also natural politicians and sometimes they aren’t. I’m calling for a wider political conversation that represents real America’s wide array of thoughts and solutions.)
- We Need to Focus on the Townhouses, Statehouses, and Courthouses—as Third Parties Partnered with Unions
This is especially true for Third Parties like the Green Party who have well developed platforms and squander them on Presidential elections when there’s no track record of success. Before I open this argument up, this does not contradict the point about the general evils of political parties—but there needs to be a history of success associated with a party, movement, or idea before it gains any kind of national traction.
I will use the example of the Green Party, with the understanding that this is not an explicit endorsement of the Green Party. Run candidates in local elections, take the Mayor’s office of suburban towns and raid the State Legislatures and the City Councils with new parties focused on the local components of large scale national issues. Reform of police departments, protecting the environment from climate change, maintaining a public school system which is free of outside influence of corporate or political sponsorship, rehabilitation versus incarceration perspectives, equal pay for equal work, increased paid leave, redefining health care as an unalienable right, removing the influence of money from politics, and cementing equal marriage rights are all among the fundamental issues of our time.
Only once local successes have been brought not only to the ballot box, but to the law books will there be a shot as national change on Election Day; because there will be a history of creating that change locally and bringing it to the national stage. For the Green Party especially, how can you expect to grow without establishing some grass roots? It’s time to stop embarrassing ourselves on the national stage when there’s some real credibility to the fact the Jill Stein has never won an election—she just used every loss to promote herself higher in candidacy nominations. How many people would a political success record like that really persuade?
Additionally, Third Parties need to promote themselves with the working people that they aim to really support by allying with unions. We have a credibility problem. This will be especially hard to do because, as a union man myself, I can tell you that they have their own internal political issues that make them just as onerous as the Republican or Democrat machines. Furthermore, most unions are traditionally allied with the Democrat party—but since both the Unions and the Democrats seem to be experiencing a dry spell right now, it may be possible to take a few smaller unions and work with them in order to sway them to the movement. Overtime the roots of the movements will move from threads to mighty trees. It needn’t be a necessarily slow task, but it does have to start at the beginning.
With that alliance in place and the local positions and wins numerous and productive, it will be possible to pass local versions of the laws and protections we want and need to see on the national scale. If that happens, the protections of the local laws would be in place and a history of success would make a viable case for a move to national politics.
- Remember: Every Year is an Election Year
In order to really get those grassroots solidified, the constituency (that’s us, the opposition force) need to make sure that we show up in equal force for rallies, marches, hashtag trends, and other forms of protest as we do at Community Board and Town Hall Meetings and Elections. Whenever something is to be voted on—a proposition, a school board budget, a member of City Council…whatever it is, vote for it and make an informed decision. The things that happen on the local scale are important. The direction of our large city legislatures and state legislatures is especially important…and our Governors matter a great deal as well.
Just think of the cartoonish super villains in Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and Rick Scott right now. These are people who were being considered for the Republican nomination or thrown around as Vice President or Cabinet members. Mike Pence was Governor of Indiana and he created an HIV epidemic in his own state because he’s an insane zealot ideologue who denies any form of science he meets. Our local governance is important and it feeds our national governance.
Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years, Senators every 6 years and rotates one third of its members every 2 years, so nationally, mid-term elections are pretty important, too. But every year it is important to vote. In some places judges and Justices are elected. We need to the courts as well. We control our towns cities and states from there as well as the Federal Government.
We have to take the townhouses, state houses, and court houses…because then we can take the Chambers of Congress and the White House. But there has to be a history of success and a trail of legislation.
- We Have to Pressure the Democrats to Act Ahead of the Regressionist Agenda (Since They Are All We Have…For Now)
I’m not suggesting we just ignore everything that happens in Washington. The Democrats need to learn from the failures of the obstructionist Republican Congress. Though they are the minority, we need to pressure them to get ahead of the regressionist activity that is about to take over the country. Since the Republicans are so quick to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the Democrats should scramble to offer legislation that describes a better system, one that moves in the direction of socialized medicine and redefining health care as a right and health insurance as a bonus to care. Whatever the wind is, rather than obstructing it or attempting to oppose it with negativity, they need to get off their duffs and think of counter legislation and try to get comprise into the agenda. Maybe the falling tide can be slowed this way.
Additionally, they are going to have to bite the bullet and do what many Americans actually want, something which Trump has suggested, and offer up a Constitutional Amendment placing term limits on the Congress. Only they need to frame it with Term Limits on the Supreme Court as well, and with a clause to limit campaign funding and overturn Citizens United. Term limiting the Supreme Court would take the teeth out of any appointment that Trump ends up making and is really a necessity anyway. Nobody should be appointed for life in our country’s government.
In terms of legislation that we can’t see coming, solutions need to come from the localities and the population. We need to get in our Congressional Representatives faces. If they listen, great, we’re getting somewhere and we can strong arm that at re-election time with many of the items on the above list of ingredients for our sauce. If not, great, abandon the party and get someone who can be a grown-up and get to work by delivering a clear message and working on minor victories to build towards the major one.
Getting ahead with real solutions is important because the biggest complaint that people have about the Congress, specifically, and legislatures in general its that they are out of touch and do nothing. Do the job we hired you for, already.
Maybe you don’t like the ingredients I’ve selected to get the “Make America Great Again” sauce meaty enough for those of us in the opposition force, and maybe you do. This conversation needs to happen and it needs to be thoughtful, productive, and quick. There aren’t four years to waste…Mr. Trump claims to have a 100 Day Plan and Paul Ryan is getting on board. Either way, we’ve got to hijack this poison sauce that Trump has sent out that America’s greatness was in its 1950s paradigm of women in the kitchen, gays in the darkened public bathrooms, brown people in the ghettos, and whiteness as the accepted standard experience. We must show solidarity and keep the motion towards equity in our society alive…otherwise it may take 150 years to undo four to eight.