So are you surprised that chaos is prevailing as Week 2 begins? The ban on immigration from seven Muslim countries and the partiality to Christians over Muslims is wreaking havoc at airports and points of entry and exit and is causing pain and hardship for many who have already suffered beyond measure. Hundreds of spontaneous protests broke out yesterday across the U.S. Courts have ruled that some of the Trump bans are unconstitutional. Trump has not indicated whether or not he will comply with the court ruling. Our allies are scratching their heads in dismay. Putin must be smiling.
Trump has taken more unilateral presidential, executive actions than any other president during his first week, and there is no sign of his letting up. He started with the repeal of Obamacare, put the nail in the coffin of the Trans Pacific Trade Pact, announced defunding the Sanctuary Cities, authorized The Wall construction, revived the two pipelines, said he was “renegotiating” NAFTA and was requiring an investigation of non existent “massive voter fraud.” Now he has taken painful, disruptive action on vetted immigrants seeking asylum. This will be the first of many disturbing immigration initiatives. The list goes on.
And we are only at the beginning of Week 2. Trump’s core supporters are euphoric. His detractors like me and many others are terrified. We seem to be on the cusp of a revolution, which could rip our country apart.
What happens next? The forced deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants, starting with the American Dreamers? Trade war with China? Massive tax cuts for the rich and sky rocketing budget deficits? Getting out of the Paris Climate Accord? Ripping up the social safety net? Getting out of NATO? Nominating Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade?
There is no indication that Trump will shy away from doing any of these things. His goal appears to be to fundamentally change America as we know it, and he thinks he has a mandate to do this. Witness his blatantly false assertion that over one and a half million attended his inauguration, the largest crowd in American history.
One of the many tragedies that we are witnessing is that it did not have to start out this way. Trump could have used the fleeting good will that usually follows an election to move toward the center, to reach out to the opposition, and to get through bipartisan legislation, which he could have done had he started with jobs and infrastructure as he hinted he would. The Democrats would have gone along with this. What is the chance of this happening now? Has any president ever gotten off to a worse start?
So what do we do? We have got him for at least four years. Even if he were impeached, we would end up with Pence. If Pence were impeached, we would end up with Ryan. Folks, we are stuck.
Non-violent resistance appears to be the only option. We attended an extraordinary dance concert yesterday by Pelobius, a renown, avant garde dance troupe. Toward the end of the show, they used their bodies to spell out “RESISTANCE” as their shadows appeared on a screen. The audience jumped to their feet, and the entire theater of over a thousand erupted with cheers. Resistance is already happening.
But what does resistance mean? Here are some thoughts:
- First there needs to be strong leadership, thoughtful planning and coordination. The Occupy Wall Street Movement is an example of what does not work. Spontaneous action without leadership eventually peters out. We need leadership, and we need commitment for the long haul. The Civil Rights Movement provides some clues. The protests were not spontaneous but rather carefully planned and thought-out. The various civil rights groups coordinated their actions and for the most part worked together even though there was often disagreement between the various groups. Strong leaders made all the difference. Where would the Civil Rights Movement have gone without Martin Luther King Jr.? There are many groups opposing Trump and more forming every day—Move On, People For the American Way, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, CREDO Action, Avaaz, and C Street Democrats to name just a few. We need a coordinating council to pull the various efforts together, and we need a few visible, strong leaders to spearhead the effort.
- The effort needs to be ongoing and multi dimensional. Having a plan in place is critical. Determining priorities is important. There are various actions available to the movement —massive marches and demonstrations, peaceful civil disobedience, letter writing/email/phone-in campaigns to Congress, on going use of social media, aggressive voter registration and voter education focusing on the 2018 elections, pressure on Senate Democrats to use all methods available to slow down or stop the Trump initiatives, targeted demonstrations at Trump appearances and appearances of elected or appointed Trump officials, organizing at the local level to get more people involved, organizing on college campuses, and similar actions. The key words here are ongoing and well planned. We are not going to get rid of Trump. The goal and message should be for him to modify his agenda and move toward the center, representing not just his angry base and the Alt Right. The price he pays for throwing red meat to the far right is chaos.
- The best tool we have is legal action to stop moves that are unconstitutional or illegal. The court rulings this weekend are the results of ACLU actions. Aggressive legal defense, especially in deportation and freedom of the press cases, will be critical.
- Resistance should hit Trump where it will hurt most: the Trump businesses. The resistance movement should call for boycotts of his hotels and various business interests and should organize peaceful, ongoing protests in front of his hotels, office buildings, resorts, and golf courses worldwide. This could very well turn out to be the most effective action of all since it is still not apparent that he really cares about anything else.
- The movement should reach out to moderate Republicans who can’t stomach some of what Trump is doing. Surely there must be some. Lindsay Graham, John McCain and Susan Collins are candidates in the Senate. Certainly there must be others—especially in the area of foreign policy, mushrooming deficits due to tax cuts, and free trade. We need to put pressure on them to stand up for what is right when Trump moves are clearly disastrous.
- It should also reach out to the disaffected white working class supporters who are about to realize they have been duped when they lose their health care and the promised new jobs are not forthcoming. Labor Unions need to be involved in this effort.
- Resistance should hold out a carrot as well as a stick. When Trump takes actions that are moderate, we should applaud this. When he is able to work out a jobs program that makes sense, we should support it. When he moves to the middle, we should back off. But when this does not happen, when he pursues a path that is harmful to America, that is vicious and harmful to innocent people and that leads us toward destruction of all we believe is precious about our country, we must continue to fight with all the peaceful tools we have at our disposal. We must not give up. We must keep going. We may ultimately lose, but we can look ourselves in the mirror and know that we have given it our best.
We live on a small, fragile planet at a decisive time. We are watching history in the making. What will we tell our grandchildren about the role we played in the earth shaking events that occurred in the second decade of the Twenty-first Century?