Saturday, December 24, 2016

A "To Do List" for Opposing Donald Trump

The next four years will likely be a nightmare for thinking, rational Americans who are not motivated by greed, racism, hated of others, Christian extremism, homophobia and/or some combination thereof.  Donald Trump may have won the presidency due to electors betraying the Founding Fathers' intent, but he will never be my President.  Despite holding the title, the man will continue to be the crude, boorish, narcissistic, psychopath that he has always been and will remain the antithesis of men like Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.  Thus, the task becomes one of resisting and opposing the poison that Trump brings to the office and the likely dangerous policies he will likely push.   A piece in Moyers & Co. provided a list of things to do to oppose the ruining of America which Trump represents.  Here are some highlights:

Activists around the country — young and old, reformers and radicals — are now trying to figure out not only how to fight Trump and Trumpism, but also how to think strategically about building a powerful progressive movement based on action and informed by past and recent activism. Progressives should expect the unexpected, be agile and flexible and invest in rebuilding progressive organizations’ capacity.

So here is my 10-point “to do” list for fighting for working people.

1. Don’t forget: Trump does not have a mandate. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by close to 3 million votes. Only 27 percent of the nation’s 231 million eligible voters voted for Trump. 

2. Challenge Trump’s Nominees. Progressive activists, liberal watchdog groups and think tanks, congressional Democrats and responsible journalists have a rare opportunity, prior to and during the hearings, to challenge Trump’s Cabinet nominees and other high-level appointees as incompetent and unqualified. As a group, they represent a Hall of Shame of greedy billionaires, right-wing lunatics, scam artists and military mad hatters. Rather than see each nominee as an individual, they should look at the overall pattern of Trump nominees as lacking experience and caught in multiple conflict-of-interest webs, like Trump himself.

Senate Democrats have a responsibility to expose this web of ignorance, incompetence and intolerance, grill the candidates at the hearings and challenge the fundamental legitimacy of Trump’s administration. Along with progressive watchdog and activist groups, they should map the corporate bigwigs in Trump’s world — who they are, what they own — and make their businesses toxic targets of protest. 

3. Don’t Normalize Trump. Journalists should not normalize Trump. They need to get over their addiction to reporting everything he says and persisting in the allegedly even-handed “he said/she said” formula that creates misleading reporting. And they should continuously fact-check his statements and lies. During the campaign, the media let Trump set the agenda. His every statement and tweet — no matter how trivial or false — became news, and reporters rarely challenged his lies. With a few exceptions, news outlets failed to focus on his ignorance of basic policy ideas and his outrageous track record of business malfeasance. At no point did the media report on how his global business interests would compromise his presidency.

4. Focus on Real People. Reporters should focus on how Trump’s rhetoric and policy ideas affect real people. Major media outlets should keep a daily tally (and human stories) of how Trump’s policy proposals — like eliminating Obamacare, weakening the EPA and the National Labor Relations Board, slashing the Dodd-Frank law and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, expanding private for-profit charter schools, privatizing government functions and deporting immigrants — will hurt real people, remove important protections for consumers, workers and the environment and redistribute income upward.

They also should maintain a running count of hate crimes and violence triggered around the country by Trump’s election and rhetoric — perhaps in conjunction with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which regularly reports on hate crimes, bigotry and bullying directed at immigrants, African-Americans, Muslims, Jews, gays and lesbians, the disabled and others. And the media should not allow Trump to get away with his impulsive, childish, authoritarian and narcissistic bullying, often via Twitter, of anyone who criticizes him. They should not, as Boston Globe columnist Michael Cohen suggested, “treat Trump’s actions as a topic of political debate” but instead “as evidence of his derangement.”

5. Protest and Engage in Civil Disobedience. Anti-Trump rallies and demonstrations across the country on Inauguration Day should be just the beginning of an ongoing campaign of protest and civil disobedience to challenge and obstruct Trump’s initiatives. Americans need to channel their anger into strategic and constructive dissent, which has a long tradition in our country’s history.

Not everyone has to be on the front lines. People can donate (or increase their contributions) to organizations engaged in active opposition to Trump and the GOP agenda, such as Planned Parenthood, SPLC, Sierra Club, NAACP, Black Lives Matter, Human Rights Campaign and others.

But millions of Americans need to take to the streets regularly, reminding their countrymen and women that Trump’s plans for the country violate American values and will greatly harm the vast majority of Americans. Moreover, protests should challenge Trump’s entire agenda.

These protests must target members of Congress, demanding they oppose harmful legislation, corporations and business lobby groups that peddle political influence to advance a right-wing agenda. For example, millions of Americans who live in Republican House districts — many of whom voted for Trump or did not vote — will be harmed if Trump is able to eliminate Obamacare; a campaign to pressure those House members to oppose the Trump plan could have an impact.

Further, activists should target Trump’s business empire, which he refuses to divest from, claiming disingenuously that it will be run by his children without his knowledge or participation. They should boycott hotels, casinos, luxury apartments, golf courses and consumer products affiliated with his brand. If Trump has truly divested from these interests, it won’t hurt him. But if he squeals and impulsively attacks those involved in the boycott, we’ll know he still profits from his global business empire. 

6. Oppose Trump’s infrastructure plan. The first major legislative battle is likely to be over Trump’s infrastructure plan. The anti-Trump coalition should unite to oppose this corporate welfare scam, which the con artist is selling as a large investment to “rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals.” On the surface, it looks like a job-creating liberal initiative, but as always, the devil is in the details — and the details are incredibly bad. Trump’s plan is based on a report by his advisers Peter Navarro (a conservative economist recently appointed as his key trade adviser) and Commerce Secretary-designate Ross (see above), which calls for $1 trillion of spending over 10 years, funded largely by private sources that would be repaid with tax credits and usage taxes (such as toll roads).

As Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote, the Trump plan is “basically fraudulent,” a scam that would “enrich a few well-connected people at taxpayers’ expense while doing very little to cure our investment shortfall. Progressives should not associate themselves with this exercise in crony capitalism.”

7. Obstruct Trump’s Presidency. People who live in large blue states like California, New York, Washington, Minnesota and Illinois have a particular opportunity and responsibility to obstruct Trump’s presidency. The day after the election, California Senate Leader Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon issued a combative pledge to defend the state’s progressive policies against assault by the Trump administration and to serve as a counterweight to the president-elect. 

Blue states and liberal cities like Los Angeles, New York, Minneapolis, Chicago, Seattle and others can declare themselves “sanctuary” states and cities, vowing to resist cooperation with federal immigration officials seeking to deport undocumented immigrants, and fight any Trump administration attempt to undermine their progressive environmental, minimum wage, workers’ rights and anti-discrimination laws. Progressives must support elected leaders who take on Trump and hold them accountable when Trump seeks retaliation with threats to withhold funding. Cities and states also can withdraw their massive public pension funds from gun manufacturers, energy corporations that profit from fossil fuels and drug and insurance companies that lobby to kill Obamacare. 

8. Exploit Republican Infighting. The progressive anti-Trump movement should take advantage of infighting among Republicans, conservatives and business groups. Many Republicans who reluctantly endorsed Trump during the campaign disagree with his policy ideas and are disgusted by his personal behavior and business practices. Trump will inevitably say and do things that will embarrass Republicans and make it harder for them to win re-election. House Speaker Paul Ryan wants to run for US president in 2020 and has a stake in making Trump a one-term president. Ryan has his own right-wing agenda that overlaps but is not totally in sync with Trump’s promises during the campaign.
Many Trump voters will soon suffer from some form of buyer’s remorse or oppose some of his words and deeds. 

9. Mobilize for the Next Elections. Progressives and Democrats should start organizing now to win back the House and gubernatorial seats in 2018, laying groundwork to retake the Senate and the White House in 2020. Democrats need to gain 24 seats in 2018 to get a 218-seat majority. Some doubt this is possible with so many gerrymandered districts. But that task will test the ability of key Democratic constituency groups — including the AFL-CIO and major unions like SEIU and AFSCME, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, NAACP, immigrant rights groups, the Human Rights Campaign, the major community organizing networks (People’s Action, Working Families Party, Center for Popular Democracy, Center for Community Change) and the liberal billionaires affiliated with the Democracy Alliance — to work together. They should jointly identify 30 congressional districts where Republican candidates won by the narrowest margins this year, as well as another 20 districts where they need to defend Democrats who won by slim margins.

10. Start Presidential Vetting Now. Can Democrats find a presidential candidate who is both progressive and electable? Much depends on how much Trump damages the country and his reputation. One assumes Trump will run for re-election, but it is possible he won’t want to run again or that he will be impeached or dethroned by the Republicans after causing enormous chaos and intraparty division. In that case, the most likely GOP front-runners are Paul Ryan and Mike Pence. But it is not too soon for Democrats to start road-testing a policy agenda and strategy to win back the White House and Congress in 2020.

We need a movement that explains what it is for, not just what it is against. Simply attacking Trump’s corruption and cronyism further alienates people from the idea that government can be a force for good. So progressives need a government reform agenda that articulates the values of real democratic governance — such as campaign finance reform, voting rights reform and eliminating wasteful corporate welfare. This year’s Democratic platform was the most progressive in its history, but Hillary Clinton was unable to convey it to many voters — especially white voters in swing states.

A successful Democratic candidate in 2020 will have a record of accomplishment, play a key role leading opposition to Trump’s policy initiatives, be able to win the Democratic primaries dominated by liberal voters, inspire “irregular” but Democratic-leaning (black, Latino, young, low-income) voters to vote, and win back some white working-class Trump voters in swing states. 

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