In Five Simple Steps
I keep reading articles with teasers like this in the title, but none seem to actually lay out any semblance of a plausible strategy. They make the case for doing something, with hypothetical (and often frantic) questions about what people might have done during Hitler’s rise to power, but then are incredibly thin on actual advice for what we should do here and now. This left me frustrated and depressed, until I realized that I shouldn’t wait for someone else to tell me what I needed to do. I should think about it and come up with a plan myself. So I did, and I have.
First, the caveats. Although the strategy outlined here truly is simple, it’s not easy. Some of it will require a great deal of hard work, dedication and sustained resolve. Even with all of that, success may seem evasive if not elusive.
Also, it needs to be said that I’m not a sociologist, historian, data analyst or professional political strategist. All I can offer is the work of an informed and engaged mind.
Finally, do not read this expecting a foolproof plan for keeping Donald Trump out of the White House in 2016. That would be one desired outcome, but it’s not the main goal. The main goal is to defeat not only Trump, but “Trumpism.” If we can pull that off, then it won’t matter nearly as much who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, because we will also have ushered in a new era in American politics where the people call the shots.
I don’t know if Trump’s rise is really comparable to Hitler’s. He’s certainly brought some of the most despicable and frightening tendencies in the body politic of our nation into the light of day. Whether or not he is the Antichrist of our era, in the vein of Hitler and Napoleon, it is crucial that we stand up to the racism, religious bigotry, warmongering, red-baiting, anti-intellectualism and other assorted evils and asshattery he proclaims. We must stand up, we must fight, and we must win.
So, take a deep breath, grab a cup of coffee (or a tumbler of whiskey), and consider the following step-by-step outline for banishing The Donald to the footnotes of history.
Forget about the Presidential Election of 2016.
Okay, you don’t have to forget about it completely. But you do have to think beyond it. Part of the problem with our politics in this country is that every few years we get all wrapped up in election campaigns, we put all our energy into them, and that steals attention and resources from important things that we ought to be doing day in and day out in our own communities. If all you do is vote and encourage others to do so, we’ve already lost. Some of the most effective activists I know don’t vote at all, despite all of the hoopla and constant berating messages like “if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.” I vote, and I pay special attention to local and state races. I don’t discourage people from voting, but it is not the only thing. It’s not even the most important thing.
Do I really need to say it? CHICAGO.
On the evening of March 11th, the people of Chicago already showed us what to do. We will need to organize and mobilize thousands of people in all of our major cities who are willing to get out in the street and shut things down. This is important between now and November, but will be even more crucial after November should Trump prevail. Please note that what happened in Chicago was possible because of years of organization and struggle there, and because of the incredible spirit of solidarity in the town. Black Lives Matter supports the teachers. The CTU supports the Fight for Fifteen. Fight for Fifteen stands tall for immigrant rights. Each one of the significant social movements in the city recognizes the relationship between the other fights for justice and their own. This is why they were able to put their stunning demonstration together in less than a week. If you’re not organizing together with others in your community already, get to it.
Give the people what they need.
Donald Trump did not create his base. People know in their hearts that we’re all getting cheated and deceived by the ruling class in this country. We know that our political leaders present little but lies and empty promises. We know that they have no solutions. Neither the neoliberalism of the Democrats nor the corporate cronyism of the GOP offers a way forward to decent lives in the future. Defending the status quo or the lesser of two evils will not stem the current tide of lunacy. People who are frustrated and frightened are looking for real hope and real help.
Trump’s message is simple: authoritarian, nationalistic and populist. His mantra of “they’re killing us on trade” because our leaders aren’t strong and don’t know how to negotiate, resonates with people facing economic hardship (real or anticipated) after nearly four decades of neoliberalism.
Those of us who care about defeating Trump and his ilk must present a powerful, plausible alternative. More of the same won’t cut it.
Strike a blow for liberty. Screw the Democrats.
If we are to present an attractive alternative to Trump and his message, it will require an independent political movement of the great masses of working folks, and a willingness to break with the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton’s campaign, in particular, is a dead end. Showing any support for Clinton, either now or in the general election campaign, will be counterproductive. Whether or not she might beat Trump in 2016 is one question, but in the long run she cannot defeat Trumpism. Supporting her candidacy is not only wasted effort, it is destructive. This goes for any other Democrat who isn’t campaigning hard for things that will make a real difference in our lives and in the lives of our children. Things like single-payer universal health care, free tuition at public universities, a $15 minimum wage, higher taxes on Wall Street, opposition to big oil and smashing the oligarchy are a damned good list, for starters – and that brings me to my final point.
Support the Anti-Trump.
Despite my reasoned and heartfelt condemnation of the Democratic Party, as long as Sanders is in the race for their Presidential nomination, he will have my support. As far as the election of 2016 goes, he has been the single visible Trump antidote. Every day that Bernie is out there railing against the corporate stranglehold on our lives, it’s another opportunity for people to wake up and to feel a sense of what might be possible if thoughtful, decent people came together in large numbers to demand thoughtful, decent government. Although his populist economic message is similar in some ways to Trump’s, his prescriptions are sound. It is obvious that the Democratic Party does not share his zeal for economic justice, and his own foreign policy framework leaves a lot to be desired, but Sanders is focusing the public’s attention on issues and solutions that would have been left out of the discourse entirely absent his campaign. We can build on that, and we should do what we can to see that his message continues to be heard.
More than anything else, our opposition to the darkness in American politics must be based on real solutions, and on a willingness to get off our couches and out into the streets in pursuit of those solutions. Our determination and steadfastness in this effort may literally be the difference between life and death for many of us – perhaps even for humankind. In some ways I’m thankful to Donald Trump for shocking us out of our complacency.
Now let’s go kick his ass.