Building on Saturday’s historic marches

Building on Saturday’s historic marches

What they mean and what they don’t for the fight against Trumpism

The global resistance to the dark and troubling new world order promised by President Donald Trump got off to a fabulous start this past Saturday. All across the planet, caring and thinking women and men took to the streets by the millions to register their opposition and to commence the process of pushing back.

Standing amidst 20,000 or so inspired souls in Raleigh’s damp and drizzly Moore Square, I was struck and moved by the passion, compassion, intelligence and remarkable creativity of the protesters. With a sound system that was clearly designed for a much smaller gathering – like just about every march on Saturday, the Raleigh event drew far more people than had been expected – it was difficult to hear everything that was emanating from the podium, where an inspiring roster of speakers attempted to address the crowd. Happily, though, the amazing array of inventive signs was enough to keep a body fully occupied and inspired. Some were outrageous and provocative, while some others were profoundly moving. One of the best simply said: “Donald Trump will lie about this.”

All in all, it was an enormously successful and inspiring day and just what the doctor ordered for millions of people who found themselves horrified by Trump’s ill-informed bluster during Friday’s inauguration ceremony. In a world in which hope has been in such short supply of late, the marches were a powerful reminder that all is far from lost and that there is every reason to expect that Trumpism can be fought, contained and defeated in the years ahead.

As veteran columnist E.J. Dionne wrote in the Washington Post about the half-million person strong turnout in the nation’s capital:

There was a jubilance in the Washington gathering because so many were grateful to each other for showing up in such large numbers. Those who had spent Jan. 20 in gloom spent Jan. 21 experiencing a sense of relief: In the face of the political troubles to come, they would have allies and friends ready to act.”

Things are going to get ugly

As inspiring and encouraging as Saturday was, however, the greatest challenge in the days and weeks to come may involve coming to terms with the hard reality of how little immediate effect the marches will have. In this world of instant communication and gratification, it may be tough for a lot of people – especially those with little experience in policy and politics – to grasp and cope with the reality of how thoroughly the protests will be ignored and how bad things are going to get.

And make no mistake; things are going to go downhill quickly. Within hours of taking office, the Trump team was already doing its best impersonation of a bull in a china shop when it came to any number of important regulatory matters and sending plentiful signals about its destructive intentions going forward.

Whether it was embracing the astonishingly ignorant position of climate change deniers, working to undo reproductive freedom for women around the world, or continuing to advance the President’s bizarre and worrisome “bro-mance” with Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin, the new administration seemed to have the throttle all the way to the floor on a host of “macro” issues.

A similar pattern was also evident on a host of more modest, but still very important issues as well. One prime example that will resonate with North Carolinians was reported yesterday by NC Policy Watch reporter Melissa Boughton:

President Donald Trump has chosen John M. Gore, a partner at the law firm Jones Day, to assume the top civil-rights-enforcement position in the Department of Justice.

Gore will become deputy assistant attorney general to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

As New York Magazine points out, Gore does boast some expertise in civil-rights litigation — “specifically, he has considerable experience defending the Republican Party against allegations that its voting laws violate civil rights.”

And if his name sounds familiar to North Carolinians, it may be because his most recent high-profile civil rights case involved the infamous House Bill 2. Gore defended the University of North Carolina in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU challenging the sweeping anti-LGBTQ legislation….

It’s also worth noting that Gore is an expert at defending Republican redistricting, an issue that’s spawned many a lawsuit in North Carolina. There are currently five pending lawsuits over redistricting in the state.”

As the through-the-looking glass, “alternative fact” reality of Trumpism began to take hold, even some state-level lawmakers seemed inspired to get in on the action. Take North Carolina State Senator Dan Bishop, for example. Bishop, a lawyer, for heaven’s sake, and a man who claims that God told him to sponsor HB2, appeared to indicate yesterday that he would draft legislation to criminalize the activity of, in effect, yelling at politicians.

Bishop’s remarkable plan was in response to a somewhat uncomfortable incident that occurred in Washington over the weekend in which a handful of protesters spotted former Governor Pat McCrory walking into the backdoor of a hotel and proceeded to yell un-pleasantries at him – most notably the repeated shout of “shame” for his championing of HB2. None of the protesters appeared to threaten McCrory or any of the people he was with or even come close to making any physical contact, but nonetheless, Bishop was outraged.

He told Raleigh’s News & Observer that he plans to introduce legislation that would “make it a crime to threaten, intimidate, or retaliate against a present or former North Carolina official in the course of, or on account of, the performance of his or her duties.” Bishop even channeled his inner-Putin to call the protesters “rioters” and “a mob” and promised a five year prison sentence for those who would run afoul of his new law.

So, now what?

The central lesson in all of this, of course, is that the battle against Trumpism and its many poisonous entrails is a marathon, not a sprint. If Saturday’s marches are going to amount to anything more and better than mere mass therapy sessions, there are several things that progressives must do, embrace and make a part of their lives.

People must, for instance, steel themselves for the long haul and support each other psychologically through the inevitable defeats that will come.

They must contribute more of their time and income to the groups and politicians leading the resistance.

They must make themselves heard and seen on Twitter, Facebook and other social media like never before.

They must redouble efforts to generate letters to the editor, comments on mainstream news websites, talk radio and even push back directly on conservative websites.

They must attend each and every “town hall” and community meeting held by members of Congress and the state legislature.

They must respond to calls to action from progressive advocacy groups and flood the White House and lawmakers with letters, email and phone calls.

Most of all, however, caring and thinking people must prepare for and commit themselves to a prolonged period of personal self- sacrifice. The hard reality of the situation we face right now is that it is ultimately the byproduct of decades of assiduous effort by the far Right to change the national debate, swing the political pendulum and win the “battle of ideas.” Noxious as their mission and messages may be, the Right has worked hard for this moment in the sun and will not cede their power readily.

If caring and thinking people are going to take back the momentum and defeat Trumpism, millions of people must alter their lives to give policy, politics and activism a much more prominent place.

It won’t be easy or fun. The pleasures of modernity and our growing national prosperity can, for many, be an alluring distraction – especially when battling and even listening to the other side can be so miserably unpleasant. Ultimately, however, we simply don’t have a choice. As the events of the past few days make clear, there are powerful forces at work right now that would take our nation (and state) to a very dark place.

We must fight as if our lives and those of our children and grandchildren depend on it because, in point of fact, they do.