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The Demoralizing Impact of Trump, But Hope Has Arrived

Photo by kellybdc | CC BY 2.0

It has been one defeat after another for working people, particularly the most oppressed: Native Americans, African Americans, undocumented immigrants, and the LGBTQ community. The corporate agenda is on a winning spree at the expense of almost everyone else.

The Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines were allowed to proceed. The Affordable Care Act has been repeatedly targeted; one successful strike will kill it. The attacks on immigrants have spiked. The climate-change treaty was abandoned. The Utah national monuments have been eviscerated. It is not clear if the DACA program will survive. Bank regulations are being shredded. Transgender people in the military were told their service was no longer welcome. Net neutrality is under fire. When some form of the proposed tax reform bill passes, it will transfer huge sums of money from the majority of us to those at the very top, since these tax cuts for the rich will mean less money is available for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The Israeli U.S. embassy is set to move to Jerusalem, in violation of a U.N. resolution. And the list goes on.

Although Republicans have vigorously promoted this agenda, Democrats have done little to oppose it. They register their perfunctory opposition votes but do nothing to mobilize the vast majority of the population into an effective movement that could stop it. After all, much of the Democratic Party funding comes from corporations and the very rich who will profit handsomely from these measures. The last thing the Democratic Party wants is a mobilized working class that is aware of how little the Democrats serve their interests.

This one-sided class war has been relentless. It is fueled by greed, but it is also energized by an idiotically simplistic ideology that portrays the rich as hard-working, intelligent innovators while the rest of us, but particularly those most in need, are lazy and want the government to do things for us.

In all battles, one key component is to demoralize the opponent, and Trump’s repeated assaults have included this aim. When the other side is demoralized and gives up, time and money are no longer required to subdue them. And because the vast majority of us are so atomized, it has been difficult to mount an effective fight-back, given the magnitude of the challenge and the depth of the demoralization.

Monday, December 4, however, marked the beginning of a counter-offensive. Dr. William J. Barber II, who initiated the Moral Mondays campaign in North Carolina, joined with other religious leaders to announce the revival of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign of 50 years ago.

Dr. Barber is an experienced organizer. His Moral Mondays campaign, which fought attacks on voting rights and cuts to social services, started small but at times drew as many as 80,000 participants. Some have credited this movement with the ouster of the conservative Republican governor.

The current national “Poor People’s Campaign – a National Call for Moral Revival” will focus on such issues as wages, health care, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, criminal justice reform, racism, the war economy, and the environment. The organizers have been reaching out to churches and unions with the hope of mounting large demonstrations in at least 25 state capitals and other locations, concluding with a convergence in Washington, D.C. in June.

By focusing on these fundamentally popular, inclusive issues while remaining nonpartisan, the campaign has the potential to mobilize hundreds of thousands of working people into a real grassroots force. It could grow into the millions. Instead of funneling political discontent into the electoral arena, where most people remain inactive and are forced to vote for the lesser evil, this campaign will be energized by large numbers of people in the street where they begin to have a sense of their own power and understand that many of their interests are directly opposed to the interests of the rich. It will engender a sense of class-consciousness.

The campaign has a website where individuals can sign up (poorpeoplescampaign.org), but people belonging to unions can encourage them to get involved by passing resolutions of support in their locals. The participation of unions is invaluable because of their substantial financial resources and their ability to mobilize their members who overall total in the millions. This movement will offer the unions an opportunity to become a genuine fighting force for the working class once again. It will also give working people an opportunity to unite and fight for the interests of the majority.

Ann Robertson is a Lecturer in the Philosophy Department at San Francisco State University and a member of the California Faculty Association. Bill Leumer is a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 853 (ret.). Both are writers for Workers Action and may be reached at sanfrancisco@workerscompass.org

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