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How To Build A Sustainable Trump Resistance

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How To Build A Sustainable Trump Resistance

Immigration Ban, Trump, Resistance

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Resistance is breaking out all over: the women’s marches, the immigration airport protests and Sally Yates, the State Department mass dissents,and  the battle for the Supreme Court with much more to come.

But where are we going?  Are we simply calling for a return to the pre-Trump status quo of runaway inequality, the largest prison population in the world, inadequate and costly health care, unjust immigration policies, and accelerating climate change? Or do we have a new vision for America? If so, what is it and how do we fight for it?

Resist Trump is a protest by spontaneous combustion trigged by tweets and Facebook posts. Too often, however, such uprisings lack staying power. Occupy Wall Street grew to 900 encampments around the world and changed the conversation in America from austerity to inequality. But it evaporated within six months. The spirited Arab Spring in Egypt took down the government, but paved the way for the highly organized Muslim Brotherhood and then a military dictatorship. We should know by now that without organizational infrastructure such wondrous uprisings are fragile at best. They require leadership, dues paying members, legislative agendas, and ways for participants to engage in decision making. Such constructions require very hard work that social media can assist but not replace.

Where’s the glue?

Some hope that the Democratic Party will provide the infrastructure for an alternative vision and movement.  Not likely. Too many party leaders are still deeply committed to Wall Street. Too many Democratic officials refuse to interfere with corporations that shift jobs abroad simply to secure lower paid labor and weaker environmental regulations. And, far too party leaders have an eye towards securing lucrative positions among America’s financial elites.

Could labor unions form the organizational core? In the 1930s the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) played this role by organizing unskilled workers and pushing for an aggressive worker agenda that helped to secure Social Security, a minimum wage, the 40-hour work week, and much more. But today labor is torn. The Building Trades are applauding Trump for restarting the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. Manufacturing unions are taking a wait and see attitude given Trump’s interventions to stop the off-shoring of jobs, his withdrawal from the anti-worker trade agreement (TPP), and his upcoming plans for massive infrastructure investments. Meanwhile, the public and service sector unions, who after going all in for Hillary against Bernie, have yet to  respond vociferously to Trump.

Can the remnants of the Sanders campaign fill this vacuum?  The jury is out.  U.S. presidential campaigns tend to unravel unless the candidate decides to run again.  Campaign operatives go back to their day jobs or school. Our Revolution, the political extension of the Sanders campaign, has possibilities but so far it has not attracted a mass following.  But all those young Bernie supporters are still interested in the broad social democratic agenda he so effectively popularized. How do they express their support?

A new formation?

There are many significant institutions with dues-paying members that could play a vital role. For starters there are the unions that supported Sanders, including the National Nurses United, the Communications Workers of America, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and American Postal Workers Unions. With a combined membership in the millions, they have enough funds and troops to launch a new national organization.

Ideally, they could be joined by the more progressive service sector unions like the Service Employees International Union as well as church, community and environmental organizations that represent millions of immigrants, lower income residents and environmentalists. Together they could form a new national political organization that we all could join.

The goal would be to popularize a Sanders-like agenda, organize protests to resist Trump while also building an alternative agenda for the next round of elections.

Another key goal would be to bring back the working class Trump voters who previously voted for Obama and Sanders. There are millions of them. Unions that represent workers in manufacturing have found that up to 50 percent of their members who voted, voted for Trump, largely because of Clinton’s record on anti-worker trade deals like NAFTA and TPP. The goal of any new formation should be to recruit those working class Sanders’ supporters.

An Impossible Dream?

Of course, it’s a long shot. After all, the unions involved do not have a stellar history of working together. The community groups also have their own issue silos and funding imperatives that lead them to travel down separate paths. Environmentalists and manufacturing unions are likely to clash over jobs. Also, the questions of race, class, and identity politics are certain to create tensions within any progressive formation.

But Trump could do wonders to help us overcome these difficulties. While we were in our silos, squabbling amongst ourselves, the hard right took control of the country — not just ideologically, but over the real levers of power. Since 2009, when Obama took office, the Democrats have lost 919 state legislative seats. The Republicans now control 68% of all state legislative chambers and have control of state chambers and the governorship in 24 states while the Democrats have such tri-partite control in only 6 states.

We can’t blame this on Comey or Putin, or Stein or Bernie. No, we also have to look in the mirror and face up to the fact that as a progressive movement, we’ve been losing overall even as we’ve made some significant gains on human rights for the LBGT communities. The rise of the hard right to some degree is the result of our lack-luster movement building efforts over the past three decades — our failure to get out of our silos and link together. Our current organization models and theories are failing against the challenges from the hard right.

The American Populist Movement

We could learn a great deal about organizing from the American Populist movement of the late 19th century. That movement, the first to challenge the power of Wall Street, called for the public ownership of railroads, public banks, a progressive income tax, and grain/livestock cooperatives. The Populists put 6,000 educators into the field to spread the word and build local chapters mostly among black and white small farmers in the Midwest and South. Although they were eventually defeated, the Populists set the agenda for American progressivism, the New Deal and even the Sanders campaign. (For chapter and verse see The Populist Moment by Lawrence Goodwyn).

Before we can make sense of such organizational structures, however, we need an attitude adjustment. We need to broaden our identities to see ourselves as movement builders — as activists who strive to put all the pieces together no matter which silo we may inhabit. I may be a climate change activist but I also need to be a movement builder who is challenging the power of Wall Street. I may be fighting for criminal justice reform but I also need to be a movement builder uniting with others for Medicare for All and a $15 per hour minimum wage. It’s all one fight. We are tied together by runaway inequality — a system designed to enrich the few at the expense of the many.

Will resist turn  into something more?

Due to Trump’s divisive politics, the protests will continue. At some point, one would hope that those involved will begin building real structures to sustain these efforts and initiate more. Sooner or later, we should go beyond resistance and advocate a vision for the future — a common agenda that includes a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street, free higher education, Medicare for All, an end to outsourcing, fair trade, and a guaranteed job at a living wage for all those willing and able.

Perhaps a little more time spent with the craziness of Trump will wake us up from our organizational stupor.

Les Leopold, the director of the Labor Institute, is currently working with unions and community organizations to build the educational infrastructure for a new anti-Wall Street movement.

IMAGE: Protesters hold signs in opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump’s ban on immigration and travel outside Terminal 4 at JFK airport in Queens, New York City, New York, U.S. January 29, 2017.  REUTERS/Joe Penney



  1. Phil Christensen February 25, 2017

    “Occupy Wall Street”
    “Arab Spring”
    “Resist Trump”

    It’s right there in front of you. Docile lambs baring their throats for the knife.

  2. Phil Christensen February 25, 2017

    “Arab Spring.”
    “Occupy Wallstreet”
    “Resist Trump”

    It’s right there in front of you. Docile lambs bearing their throats for the knife.


  3. Duane February 25, 2017

    Call it the way you (anyone) wants to but opinions are as thick as the leaves falling from trees.
    As with this one, more a voice of greed saturated with opinions with little substance than one of common sense and honesty. It comes not from integrity and honesty but from unrealistic iews. Basically it fits the Obama and Hillary Clinton mentality; point fingers and blame others for the problems.
    The problems we see in society has come from the “give everyone everything” attitudes taking the responsibility on the person out of any formula. It seems that goal has taken our society into a mindset where whatever we want our government will pay for it for us! We insist on more and more through blogs, marches on our streets and campuses, at almost any event, bothersome, poster bearing people feeling frustrated because they have not got their “freebies” or what they think the government should have given them years ago. The attitude seems to be that whatever we want it should be and will be paid for by the tax payers, the working people. America has come to think we need to be a society that never has to “earn” their way through life but rather one that relies upon more free support.
    Both Sanders and Clinton built their campaign around promises that basically told supporters all they were expected to do was vote one of those candidates into office and the rest of their future they could enjoy their life doing nothing to earn their way, forget responsibilities, forget work, forget personal obligations!

    Now, as hundreds of thousands of people suddenly find they are not getting free passage through life, they are ready to rebel. Amazing how suggestions such as this article spring up. All follow the same pattern; join us, pay us, we will change the world for you. There is no sincerity in fixing the mess our country has fallen into from another Pay Me organization; just another effort to pocket money. The networks have become saturated with similar organizations seeking pay to fight what is being deemed, the needs of our country; mostly just more of the same!

    We do not need another of these greedy groups – we need an individual hard look at what has happened to America. We need honest people making honest efforts, to get the facts through deep study instead of Nay-Sayers and twisted social media nonsense. We need to return to the idea that this nation is a nation of men and women who for years were driven by an “American Dream” that fell apart during the last two presidential administrations.

    We seem to have become a nation that seems to have given up on ourselves as we allow anyone from anywhere to tell us what we are to think and accept.

    Two presidential administrations, Bush then Obama.left significant problems for their replacements to face; Bush first dumping massive unemployment, weak economy and growing immigration problems for Obama. Obama did little to nothing to fix the problems left by Bush or the ones developed during his term in office. Obama elected to ignore laws and programs that for years and years had served previous presidents and our nation well. During his administration he was challenged in the courts almost a hundred times and lost in almost every case. Obama had his own agenda and ignored the nation’s needs and the American people. Today, after two presidents and twelve plus years of failing to face the problems, we are facing even greater challenges. The “do nothing and the problems will go away” attitude in the Obama White House has caught up with us.
    We Do Not Need More Organizations creating hate and discontent on the streets and through the media; we need REAL AMERICANS who are ready to tell the media, the demonstrators, the politicians who seem to be following a “get even” agenda that it is time to start working toward fixing the mess we are in. It is time those we have sent to Washington to start doing their jobs; start debating the issues as history will show we have done for over 200 years ! Instead of gathering in front of T.V. cameras and sniveling to the public in hopes they (the people) will do the job for them (the politicians), we need to insist our representatives will meet, will debate, will seek out the best collective resolution to our problems and get us back on track! Today, they seem content on short periods of time in chambers then long finger pointing sessions in front of TV cameras complaining about others.

    Sniveling, complaining and finger pointing politicians get us nowhere! We elected and sent these men and women to Washington to attend to the nations business; instead they fall in behind party leaders who have taken control of our political system and no longer serve their constituents as much as they just “follow the party leaders.” Our concerns, our interests, our nation needs seem to no longer mean much anymore as party leaders set the standard, the pace and the route our representatives in Washington are expected to follow; basically the party leaders agenda all elected party members and voters are almost mandated to follow.

    Trump inherited problems left by Bush and by Obama. He has made promises to fix them and we will hold him to those promises. BUT, he will never get anything done as long as his daily challenge comes from party stressed politicians, an insurgent media and street gangs. We the people MUST INSIST that our government follow our constitution and that law is made the same as it has always been done; not on the streets, not appeasing influential special interest groups, not by paid for media, groups or grudge driven campaigners who failed to get themselves elected.
    – – – Most certainly – we do not need another of these “Pay to Say” organizations!- – –

  4. Gabriel Lawson February 25, 2017

    I got paid $104000 in last twelve months by working on-line and I was able to do it by work­ing in my own time f­­o­­r 3 or sometimes more hrs daily. I followed a business opportunity I came across from company that i found online and I am happy that i made so much extra income. It’s very user-friendly a­n­d I am just so grateful that i found this. Here is what i did… http://twitter.com/StinnettMargar1/status/835567639929880576

  5. Aaron_of_Portsmouth February 25, 2017

    So, here America and the world stand, as a direct result of having ignored the first call by Baha’u’llah in His summons to the leaders of world in the 19th Century, offering humanity to accept the destiny foretold by all the Messengers of the past pertaining to humanity’s inexorable progression(not a “conservative” retrogression[my editorial note]) towards a time when we will have achieved the capacity and potential to affect a monumental change in human society. A change not restricted to any one “race”, region, any one religious community, or hemisphere, but one requiring a Will to move beyond national provincialism, religious divisiveness, group/tribal allegiance and the myth of “blood ties”, regional/national interests. A consciousness embracing the Vision centered around the reality expressed as “The Oneness of Humankind” is what will get humanity past the bleak and desolate vision of the GOP, Trump, racists, and religious fanatics.

    This is a vision foreseen and alluded to by numerous major and minor Prophets, “رسل”(Rasula) and الأنبياء(AnNabiyaa), respectively, of the past. And the time is now to allow their prescience to take effect. The literal interpretations current among a variety of religious groups regarding things like “Coming in the clouds”, “Armageddon”, “666”, and similar metaphors and events alluded to in the Book of Revelations and elsewhere, have already come to past, but not in the manner literalists expect.

    Trump grows more delusional with each passing day, the Administration around him is filled with supine and mindless career-seeking avaricious small-minded men and women, some of whom are rabid with the disease of racial superiority, others paranoid about “them” and anyone else who looks unfamiliar, while at the same time quickening the pace of destruction of earth’s biosphere and displaying a level of greed fueled by an excessive materialism.

    Political activism is great and lets Trump and the GOP know that people are angry, but without the Vision of Baha’u’llah being incorporated fully into future deliberations at home and abroad, conservative forces will drive the country to an edge, with one wrong step causing catastrophic results and a one-way trip to certain extinction of the current generation. And Trump’s madness calling for more nuclear weapons, putting extra pressure on immigrants and a continuation of an isolationist mentality, unethical conduct, and a nihilistic obsession with wholesale deregulation by conservatives,are all the “matches” required to set off a chain reaction that can’t be reversed.

    Politics as it exists now in America and in the world can only best serve as a facilitator for change, but has NO effect on the heart or the ability to transmute the “copper” of hate, rancor, and bigotry into the “gold” of a noble, spiritual, and generous nature.

    This can only be achieved by a Force that has proven the ability to edify hearts and minds in the past, unlike what man-made political, economic, social theories can never achieve on their own or in concert with one another, and can still accomplish such a transmuting of the heart and mind but only if Progressive Revelation is allowed to take hold in human affairs on a global scale without being hamstrung by another man-made notion called “national sovereignty”—a quaint antiquated notion that is unfit for this Day and Age, and utterly meaningless in the sight of God.

    “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established. This unity can never be achieved so long as the counsels which the Pen of the Most High hath revealed are suffered to pass unheeded.
    (“Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh”, p. 286)


  6. Independent1 February 26, 2017

    If Trump and GOP follow through on their planned agenda of deporting the illegals, drastically cutting taxes and turning Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid into voucher programs which essentially are a pig-in-a-poke; it’s not going to be too long before setting up resistance to Trump will transform into working feverishly to save America from total economic collapse; essentially what took another notorious business man named Hoover 8 months to start the Great Depression.

    Despite the efforts of numerous companies spurred by Trump’s removal of legislation that was creating a nuisance to running their companies to expand and add workers, all that is going to have trouble getting traction when the loss of critical immigrants starts undermining millions of native-born Americans’ jobs; along with the loss of the stimulant to our economy that the spending of illegals provided to many states (in 2014 Texas estimated that the spending of illegals added billions to the Texas economy).

    Just where to today’s conservatives have their minds when the create these hodgepodge agendas? Do they sit back at all and do any research to figure out what deporting millions of illegals is going to do to our economy? Do the do any research to figure just how much the elderly spend on our economy and what may happen if the destroy the retirement and healthcare guarantees that America’s older citizens worked their lifetimes to set up? What removing those guarantees is going to mean in the way of spending by this fairly significant block of Americans???

    Are conservatives doing any thinking beyond their immediate pocketbooks and envisioning all the monies tax breaks can put into their pockets? While not giving an ounce of thought to what even those tax breaks are going to do with respect to crippling America by drastically reducing tax revenues?? And if conservatives think that tax revenues are not going to fall drastically with the tax cuts Trump has projected to make – they’re clearly more stupid than I’ve actually previously believed them to be.

    There’s no historic evidence that tax cuts have ever really spurred the economy. All one has to do is look back at the GWB Administration which provided two unfunded tax cuts and a number of unfunded wars and since those were enacted, America ran up about 15 Trillion in debts!!

    So some may want to give some thought to – how are we going to save America from the economic destruction that Trump and the GOP are destined to create!!

  7. HowardBrazee February 26, 2017

    They waited out “Occupy Wall Street”, and figure they can wait us out too.


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