Urgent Next Steps in the Anti-Trump Movement

Trump’s presidency takes gruesome shape with every vile appointee. Each choice signals an intent to follow through with sinister campaign promises, threatening every demographic of working people.

His appointments are a hodgepodge of the right-wing fringe, the “loyalists” who endorsed Trump early because they had nothing to lose: their extremist, unhinged views made them irrelevant wing-nuts of the establishment, destined for obscurity.

Now these reactionaries have been elevated to the highest levels of power, in charge of federal agencies that exercise an Orwellian authority bestowed upon them by the Obama-Bush surveillance state. They are a menacing crew now in control of omnipotent institutions.

For example, Trump’s chief strategist, Steven Bannon, will help run the White House after spending years promoting the white supremacist movement, that he euphemistically calls “Alt Right.” Although he doesn’t call himself a white supremacist, Bannon was a lead publicist for the neo-Nazi movement and is therefore, by definition, a crucially important white supremacist leader.

Trump’s pick for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, will be responsible for dispensing justice at the federal level. And he’s a known racist, having been denied past court appointments because of his overt racism. Meanwhile, the new head of the CIA will be a raging Islamophobe who uses “crusader”-like language in describing the battle between Islam and Christianity.

Trump’s future pick for Director of Homeland Security is likely to share the anti-immigrant nightmare vision he campaigned on, while his unnamed Labor Secretary will certainly be anti-union and thus anti-working people.

And of course Trump will get to appoint Supreme Court judges who inevitably will be anti LGBTQ, anti-labor, anti-civil rights, anti-women’s rights, and pro-corporation.

This collective assault against the working class requires a collective response, lest each section be attacked and defeated individually. No single demographic is capable of defeating the machinery of state power that Trump will inherit. Although there are pockets of spontaneous organizing everywhere, combining these struggles requires intention and coordination, i.e. leadership.

A united front response to Trump is possible, but won’t happen by itself. Building these anti-Trump coalitions on the local level, immediately, will require organizers proactively reaching out to other groups for collective action.

Forming local anti-Trump coalitions can be done quickly, and after that, national coordination is just a Facebook search away. A large movement can quickly spring into action that carries momentum past the inauguration date, creating a lasting protection for those targeted by Trump.

A crucial first step of organizing is assessing the potential in a situation. This is a unique moment that should be exploited to the maximum degree. Social movement energy is rare, and the unique opportunities it affords –– if effective coalitions can be formed — should be taken advantage of. The special energy allows goals that were too radical pre-Trump to be achieved in weeks, if the energy is organized and funneled effectively.

What are the demands of the anti-Trump movement? Being “against Trump” is what currently unifies this movement, though without specific demands. Revolutions often begin with a population simply being against a ruler (see the Egyptian revolution and the current revolution in South Korea).

Therefore, “Stop Trump” is a fine demand for the moment. Full-scale opposition and resistance is what’s needed, by any effective means necessary. Trump didn’t win the popular vote, and there is widespread fraud detected in swing states, as Jill Stein’s recount effort in Wisconsin has the potential to help prove. Ultimately the legal legitimacy matters less than the population’s willingness to accept him as their president.

If nationally coordinated, pre-inauguration protests were organized weekly that demanded Stop Trump, it’s possible that millions of people would respond. At the moment anything is possible: stopping Trump is an achievable demand if the movement grows wings.

But even if a best-case scenario isn’t achieved — smashing Trump’s presidency — the working class would benefit immensely from merely practicing collective action. In the same way that soldiers endlessly march in formation during boot camp — in order to attack collectively in war time — working people need to practice working together in coalitions, and practice the art of organizing mass demonstrations and other mass actions. Giving people the chance to hone their organizing skills and experience their collective power can lay the foundations for bigger and bolder actions, accompanied by bigger and bolder demands, creating a stronger more self-confident working class that isn’t scared of Trump, but acts as a constant threat to his administration. The reason that France still has a 35-hour workweek is because the French corporate establishment is terrified of its working class.

Such a movement also needs locally achievable goals, which can serve as a way help provide protection to a Trump Presidency, creating a firewall between national agencies and local governments. If the movement only provides a place to let off steam instead of winning demands and consolidating power locally, a hopelessness can creep in as Trump’s grip tightens.

Trump has stirred a broader layer of people into action, and they must be shown a pathway that leads to real victories. If organizers create mobilizing space — combined with inspiring demands — it’s possible that a large number of people will respond positively, putting enormous pressure on government institutions, potentially to the point of breaking them.

This call and response tactic has been successful in various revolutions: the organizers in Egypt demanded the fall of the dictator, and within weeks millions of people responded to the call that quickly brought down Mubarak. Today in South Korea a similar dynamic is happening: a call was made five weeks ago for the downfall of the president, and the weekly protest grows bigger every week, the last one attended by 1.5 million people. The social movement in Korea became revolutionary overnight, and the president is now widely considered to be doomed.

An immediate danger facing the anti-Trump movement is inaction. People are scared and need hope. Processing our fears and anxieties must be followed by action in order to actually reassure the populations Trump is targeting. The organized power of the state must be met with the organized power of the people, not endless analysis and critiquing.

Some groups are adopting the suicidal strategy of “hunkering down,” instead of adopting an action plan to fight back, hoping in vain they can weather a four-year storm. Other groups are trying to predict Trump’s actions in order to react to them. Planning for worse case scenarios is of course appropriate — especially for the most vulnerable populations — but the current moment demands that we act preemptively, while the wind is at our back.

Sitting on the sidelines during this moment is inexcusable for leaders of organizations. Making demands for a 3rd party, although necessary, is sorely insufficient. The people need immediate next steps. The valid fears of millions of people are best met with bold action proposals that include ways for rank-and-file members to participate in the planning and execution of these plans. The people organized and mobilized is ultimately our only security.

What are some possible next steps for organizing?

1. Plan a weekly demonstration until inauguration day, seeking out labor and community groups and groups such as Black Lives Matter that will co-sponsor the demonstrations; ask that co-sponsoring organizations help plan and do outreach for the demonstrations, making them as big as possible. Reach out to groups in the region or nationally to coordinate the actions.

2. Make local demands. Several regions are demanding that local city councils declare “sanctuary cities,” which has historically meant that city law enforcement does not cooperate with immigration enforcement. Students have been demanding that their high schools, colleges and universities become “sanctuary schools.” By winning local demands, the local movement is strengthened and more demands can be raised as the leverage of the movement grows.

3. Expand the definition of sanctuary cities to include united front demands, such as bold police accountability measures, rent control and other tenant protections, free day care, universal health care, a public jobs program, bold climate change legislation, the rejection of charter schools, taxing the rich to pay for making public colleges and universities free, so that government is made to serve the people and local people feel more secure in their homes and work as they enter the insecurity that a post-Trump world implies.

4. . Keep local jurisdictions safe from Trumpism by demanding that no local authorities cooperate with any Trump-led agency, or demanding that city council declare Trump a “Persona Non Grata” (an unwelcome person), who will receive no public funds such as police assistance if he enters the city. Creative demands of this sort have the potential to inspire people into action, and inspiration is the jet fuel of social movements.

Community leaders must take advantage of this movement, not only to build and strengthen their own organizations but to lead the broader movement into a real fighting force able to resist Trump, or dethrone him. Anything is possible with the harnessed power of a social movement, and the best-case possibilities should be the aim, accompanied by a strategic action plan to reach the goal.

A danger facing the movement is inauguration day, where a giant nationwide protest seems to be taking shape. If this enormous demonstration is a “one off” event, demoralization may set in, as it did in 2003 when the enormous antiwar demonstrations ended after the war began. But if weekly national protests begin before the inauguration, it’s possible that enough momentum may carry the movement past inauguration.

Real movement energy exists, and it can be ignored, seized, or squandered. Leaders of labor and community groups have a duty to defend their members and the broader community, by any means necessary, and to step up into the public arena to help strengthen this anti-Trump movement and help lead it to victory.

Victory is possible, but only through sustained, mass collective action. Ongoing demonstrations of millions of people can lead to citywide general strikes and beyond, while coordinated student walkouts can lead to occupations, creating a “dual power” dynamic, where working people began to directly exercise power over public institutions via mass direct action. Direct democracy can be produced out of a mass, revolutionary movement.

The era of social stability has ended, as we are entering a period of political-economic instability. The best protection for the working family in this context is a powerful, organized movement of working people who are dedicated to defending one another.

Shamus Cooke is a member of the Portland branch of Democratic Socialists of America. He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

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