What happened Nov. 8 is for many of us (especially liberal white people) literally unthinkable — which may be why our bodies are getting involved, with many reporting stomach problems and nausea, or intense cravings for human company combined with irritability. It’s as if we’re reconfiguring ourselves for the awful new world we’re stuck in now, and it kind of hurts.
Big-picture protests against Trump Tower may help with that, a bit. They feel great, and may help build community, while reminding us that we absolutely have to stay angry and never fear “polarization.” (Spilling fake blood on the top floor of a Trump hotel also feels kind of good.)
But that’s not nearly enough. And as the cloud of our bewilderment lifts, we’ll realize there are some more strategic things we need to do, too.
To really achieve anything in these darkest times in American history, we’re going to need to start with strategic battles — that might feel a bit small next to the immensity of what’s happened, but it’s only strategic, winnable battles that can combine into a movement, and it’s only a movement that can change what we’re living.
Remember, it took several decades for the racist virus spread by Republicans, as part of their strategy to win away Southern Democrats, to take over and turn their own party into a fascist one. We can’t reverse all that all at once, but with hard work and strategy, we can reverse it — and make a much better world, just as the Nordic countries did after they’d been through worse than even this. Let’s learn from the Vikings!
Here are a few ways that people are already getting started.
Take over the DNC
We need to pressure the Democratic National Committee to reinvent itself at the top, by electing Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison to chair it.
Whether or not we think that Bernie Sanders would have been a better choice than Hillary Clinton, it’s clear some enormous mistakes have been made, and for a whole lot longer than this election. Like: While Republicans appealed to racism to win over voters, Democrats just left those voters behind, and went from championing working people to championing a consensus technocracy: a beautiful but false vision that you can just let the world run itself thanks to the market’s magic, applying a few polite tweaks here and there. That vision, shared also by mainstream Republicans, left out millions — who, now, have found a sick, dangerous, magic-based vision that exploits their need to be listened to.
Electing Ellison would signify a necessary massive shift in direction for the Democratic National Committee. Many in the DNC already know this shift is necessary, but they need your support — or pressure — to make the right decision.
Perhaps the most immediately actionable battle is to stop former Breitbart News chief Stephen Bannon, who Trump has appointed to be his chief strategist. This can be done; several of Bill Clinton’s cabinet appointees were blocked by Republicans way back when.
Sure, Bannon is only one of the most toxic of all the many toxic byproducts of this election, but we need to start somewhere, because, again, we can’t win all at once.
And if the future of the whole planet is more your cup of tea, 350.org has a campaign to stop the demented Myron Ebell from heading the EPA.
Make your city or campus a sanctuary
Restore the Voting Rights Act
The 2016 presidential election was the first election in 50 years without the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court gutted it in 2013, and Republicans immediately went to work to ensure that people of color would have a harder time casting their ballots. Why? Because people of color vote against white supremacy. And their plan worked.
In Wisconsin, a federal court found that 300,000 fewer voters cast ballots because of new ID restrictions; Trump won there by only 27,000 votes, and similar suppression efforts in other states were equally effective.
In North Carolina, there were 158 fewer polling locations in 40 predominantly African American districts. African American turnout decreased there by 16 percent.
Voter suppression is why Trump won, pure and simple.
Take over the entire Democratic Party (not just the top)
The DNC is one thing (see above) — but we can also just take over the whole party and make it ours. Remember the Tea Party? They drove establishment Republicans crazy. And now we need to do the same.
“Most of all, get offline and get talking,” adds documentary filmmaker Astra Taylor. “Meet with friends and make new ones. Get to know each other, so you can spring into action when the going gets tough, when you need to elect a local progressive leader or fight deportation.”
Fight for universal health care, and other really big things
One of Trump’s first targets is likely to be Obamacare. While our initial instinct may be to defend it, we shouldn’t: We should, instead, think much bigger: single-payer, universal health care, like all the other rich countries have. And here’s where we should take a lesson from the civil rights movement and another health movement: ACT-UP.
“With the disaster of Reagan,” says Waging Nonviolence columnist George Lakey, “almost every significant social movement in the United States went on the defensive — trying to save school reform initiatives, union density and rights to organize, voting rights, etc. — and they all lost ground. The only one that didn’t was the LGBT movement.”
ACT-UP — always on the offensive and always in-your-face — forced the development of treatments that saved millions of lives. And then that segued into a movement that eventually won equal marriage on state and federal levels.
“Multiple victories were followed by increasing intensity by the movement: demanding, demanding, demanding,” says Lakey. “I don’t recall a single time when gays organized a major campaign to save some previously won achievement, like a city human rights commission or that kind of thing. It was always: onward, forward, we demand more!”
The alienated white working-class people who voted for Trump don’t like Obamacare because, well, it isn’t that great. But they would like free health care, and there’s a way we can get it — if we set our sights high.
“Inspired by the LGBT movement, we can enter the game determined to win,” says Lakey. “We can mount a civil rights movement-level campaign, occupy the insurance companies and Big Pharma, the private hospitals, etc. We can go to jail in massive numbers. There’s a target everywhere, and everybody who’s not rich has an infuriating story to tell about someone they know who has had inadequate, delayed, or nonexistent care or are bankrupt because they recovered from cancer.
“We will never deserve to have the society we want if we don’t take charge of the battleground. That doesn’t mean protest and defensive postures — it means assertive nonviolent direct action campaigns of the sort that SCLC and SNCC proved enable people even to take on the Klan and win.”
Get rid of the Electoral College
National Popular Vote wants to finally get rid of the Electoral College. Eleven states have already passed the bill, and even some Republican ones. Yes, it’s nauseating to work on something endorsed by you-know-who, but still.
Everything else. These are just a few of the campaigns that are gathering steam, or will be soon. Many groups already getting down to the business of building action campaigns. Join in! This is the time — or will be, anyhow, after your stomach problems get under control.
A UMass Dissenters organizer discusses the growing youth-led antiwar movement and how they are organizing against weapons manufacturers and the war in Gaza.
A comprehensive new book by Vietnam War draft resister Jerry Elmer documents over a century of U.S. opposition to war and the military draft.
It takes effort to track the impacts of mass mobilizations like #MeToo, Occupy or Black Lives Matter, but understanding social change is impossible without such work.