A fellow political operative wisely opined on Facebook recently that opponents of President Trump are talking (and fighting) a lot of tactics and not a lot about overall strategy and achievable, consensus goals. What, he mused, are our goals?
First, let’s be realistic about the landscape: The Republicans control the Presidency, the House, Senate, 32 State Legislatures, and 33 Governor’s offices. With that level of power, they can do A LOT quickly and opposing everything at every turn has the potential to exhaust and force many new activists to give up by week 2. We are going to need to be very choosy in which issues we get behind. The NEA might have to be a sacrificial lamb so we can stop a Muslim registry.
There’s also a lot of talk of trying to pass new, progressive policies (dismantling the electoral college) when we just aren’t in a position to do so. America is bleeding and we need to put on a tourniquet. Trying to advance new gains in this climate where we don’t have the political mandate or capital is just an unwise use of resources. Save it for after we have saved the Republic.
Therefore, we need to focus on an institutional, systematic defense (and in some cases, offense) of our most precious liberties. In other words, we need to do what we fear President Trump, despite his oath, will not do: protect and defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These five strategies speak to that overarching goal:
- Oppose authoritarian moves. This Administration has proven already to be adept at the art of distraction. They may do ten things that inflame us ideologically in the space of a day or a week but we have to keep our eyes on attempts to erode our liberties. Here “our liberties” means “everyone’s”.
- Protect the fourth estate. While the media has certainly made their own bed – creating distrust through infotainment and sensationalism – it’s America that has to lay in it. We need a free press as the last check and balance to vett Trump policies; SCOTUS and Congress aren’t enough.
- Form an opposition within the only other check and balance – SCOTUS and Congress. This means insisting on, at the very least, a Supreme Court nominee who will check executive overreach and infringements on liberty. Mid-term gains in this environment no longer mean just electing Democrats. We now live in an environment where we need allies wherever we can find them. This is no longer about Democrat vs. Republican but Democracy vs. Authoritarianism. Republicans who value our democracy and have the guts to speak out against Trump should not be targeted. Period.
- Bring together the electorate. Put aside the fact Trump lost the popular vote and feelings about the electoral college. Take out the people who subscribe to the Alt Right point of view. What’s left is a very large swath of voters in this country who supported Trump because they believed he would help people like them and didn’t see the danger he poses to our long-term constitutional rights. How this translates tactically will be difficult to ascertain; certainly education and a free press helps but it’s not enough. But certainly it begins with people who think they have nothing in common talking to one another. If you haven’t been to a red state before, if you haven’t had a conversation with a (non-AltRight) Trump voter recently, try to build common ground (sports, faith, cooking, etc.) and a relationship. We need people in red districts calling their Members of Congress in opposition to Trump’s actions.
- Reclaim facts and logic. We are going down a very dangerous road where people are entitled to their own facts. Trump didn’t start this; conservative talk radio and Fox have been presenting “alternative facts” on climate change for at least a decade, paving the road away from reason. We need to call out lies when they come from the President or anyone in his Administration. Every. Single. Time.
Above all, we must recognize the new paradigm we live in – including an electorate that would choose a Trump Presidency – threatens the survival of our experiment in democracy. Therefore, the imperative patriots of all ilks face requires adoption of what former Massachusetts Governor Patrick used to say, “we don’t have to agree on everything before we work together on anything, and that you don’t have to hate the person with whom you disagree”. Let’s come together on these five action points for the good of the Republic.