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Is Trump Our New Vietnam?

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Is Trump Our New Vietnam?

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Reprinted with permission from the Washington Spectator. 

On October 15, 1969, more than two million people in dozens of cities across the United States participated in a day of marches, vigils, and teach-ins against the Vietnam War. The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam was the largest nationwide protest in U.S. history at the time, and it signaled to President Nixon that the anti-war movement had mainstream support and could no longer be considered a marginal movement of a few thousand radicals and hippies.

Forty-eight years later, as 3.3 million women marched last Saturday in 500 locations nation-wide, including unlikely places like Roanoke, Virginia and Omaha, Nebraska, I couldn’t help but compare the 2017 Women’s March on Washington to the 1969 Moratorium. Like the Moratorium, the numbers of Women’s March participants far exceeded expectations, and protests took place in regions of our country that rarely host left-leaning political demonstrations.

The 1969 Moratorium took two months to plan with ol’ fashioned communication tools like telephone trees, mass mailings, and newspaper advertisements. With the help of social media, the Women’s March went viral. The Moratorium’s big turnout in red states and with people of all ages and economic backgrounds suggested to the Nixon administration that it had a growing mass movement to contend with. Nixon spent most of late 1969 and 1970 cowering inside the White House, pretending to watch football on TV, while chanting, sign-waving protesters heckled him from outside the White House fence on Pennsylvania Avenue. By May of 1970, following the Kent State shootings, protests in Washington, D.C., had grown so large and angry that the 82nd Airborne was deployed inside the Executive Office Building, and hundreds of school buses literally barricaded the White House grounds. “If you didn’t experience it back then, you would have no idea how close we were, as a country, to revolution,” Nixon aide Stephen Bull told me.

At the end of last week’s Women’s March, hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children wearing knitted pink pussy (cat) hats exited the Mall and poured up 15th Street, next to the Treasury Building and just one block from the East Wing of the White House, chanting at the top of their lungs, “Hey Ho, Hey Ho Donald Trump has got to go!” I wondered, could Trump and the White House staff hear these mocking chants? Could they see the colorful “Free Melania,” “Lock him up,” and “Women’s rights are human rights” signs waving in the distance at the edge of the Ellipse? Only 24 hours after his swearing-in, the 45th president was publicly pilloried in Nixon-era-like protests. As one veteran 60s agitator predicted after spending the day at the march in Washington, “Trump is our new Vietnam.”

I don’t think anyone under 65 could have imagined how moving it would be to be part of a huge crowd of people uniting against a common foe. Born in 1963, I had only read and written about what it felt like to be part of a movement. Not until I was swept up in the jubilant, peaceful, purposeful crowd on the Mall on January 20 did I discover how empowering it is to share political opinions with hundreds of thousands of complete strangers and be a bit player in participatory democracy.

“It was fantastic and inspiring and it made us feel like this is the beginning of the resistance,” veteran activist and organizer Heather Booth told me at the Women’s March. “If people find the way to refocus this energy, it can be the beginning of people rising up.” Sam Brown, one of the four members of the 1969 Vietnam Moratorium Committee, told me that marching in Key West, Florida “was the first moment of uplift I felt since I crawled under the covers and hid my head on November 8.”

All of the former 60s movement leaders whom I spoke to agreed that today’s protesters need to learn from the successes and mistakes of their predecessors. “The New Left forgot power, or we thought that power was going to fall into place somehow automatically,” former SDS and Weather Underground leader Mark Rudd told me. “We thought the liberals would take power and we would be to the left of them. But that’s not what happened. What happened was a far-right reaction took place. . . .”

Rudd acknowledges that the backlash from the Republican right was in part a reaction to how violent and ideologically extreme some parts of the antiwar left, like the Weather Underground, had become. Today Rudd is trying to build movements, not bombs. “We need to build mass movements around specific issues—global warming, income inequality, women’s reproductive rights, etcetera, and use the power of the mass movements to overwhelm and transform the Democratic Party into a party of the people. Here in Albuquerque we’re organizing like little bunnies.”

“This was just one demonstration. But we make progress when we organize when times are the most difficult,” said Booth, who was a young activist during the Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964. “That’s when you expose what the opposition is really doing. The three things we need to do next is focus on unity and standing with those who have come under the greatest fire, hold Trump accountable to what he has said and expose his lies, and organize deeply for the long haul, both in communities of color as well as the white working-class. Unity, accountability, and organizing.”

The problem with taking the time to organize locally (as the Tea Party did) by electing Democrats to school boards, city councils, state legislatures, governors, is it will take years to put into place. “I think the incrementalism of it is not adequate to the challenge,” Sam Brown told me. “We need a national movement, but one sufficiently rooted in non-urban areas that we can change the tide more quickly. But a sense of urgency is not a substitute for a thoughtful strategy. I am reminded that in 1969 we, people from the anti-war movement, spent months focusing on the most effective way to reach middle America and involve them locally.” Brown is hoping that someone on the front lines of the Trump resistance will discover how to include and engage people in middle America the way he and his Clean for Gene colleagues did in October, 1969. “In the meantime, I will keep focused on the things I can do, and listening for that thoughtful idea that we can all follow.”

Clara Bingham is the author of Witness to the Revolution: Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year America Lost Its Mind and Found Its Soul (Random House, 2016). You can read an excerpt of that book here.

IMAGE: Demonstrators yell slogans during anti-Donald Trump travel ban protests outside Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller

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41 Comments

  1. dbtheonly February 3, 2017

    ” “I think the incrementalism of it is not adequate to the challenge,” Sam Brown…”

    Sam Brown is incorrect.

    The New Left did not bring Nixon down. Nixon’s crimes, investigated and proved by the “system” brought Nixon down.

    The New Left so fractured the Democratic Party such that 1972 was an electoral disaster. It then joined with Republicans to hinder and tear down President Carter, which lead to another dozen years of RW entrenchment.

    I’ll add that there is now a 24/7/365 RWMO ready to promote Trump and denigrate, humiliate, misrepresent, the Left in whatever it tries to accomplish.

    Unity among Democrats is the key.

    So yes, engage “Middle America”. But the only, ONLY, way to hinder Trump and his agenda is by the vote. Every election. Every voter. No exceptions.

    Reply
    1. Eleanore Whitaker February 3, 2017

      All I see now is an attempt by the Republicans to rewrite history. How do they expect us to unring the bell of memory that we have all experienced over the last 4 decades?

      The entire world sees Trump as a mentally ill, unqualified president. Why is he still in office? Because the same mental illness exists among the other 2 “shadow” CEOs who hold the most power of our government, Charles and David Koch. They are the reason for 8 years of obstruction to the Obama presidency. They are now the reason for keeping the mentally deranged Trump in office.

      Reply
      1. dbtheonly February 3, 2017

        Ms. E, There are people driving cars today, who weren’t alive when Bill Clinton was President.

        We are as far away from the assassination of Jack Kennedy as that date was from the inauguration of Bill Taft.

        The point being that many of us have not lived through the last four decades and the RWMO actively is trying to write that history. With their attack on Public Schools, I’m afraid of their level of success..

        Trump is in office because there is no legal way to depose him. And are you ready for Pence? Pence, the cheaper version of Trump. Pence as opposed to the Guinea?

        Reply
        1. Eleanore Whitaker February 3, 2017

          I wasn’t alive either when Thomas Jefferson spent 17 days writing the Declaration of Independence or when James Madison formatted and wrote the U.S. Constitution. The right wing is only after one thing: The Bannon Doctrine: Bomb the Establishment. And when they say “establishment,” that is Republican double talk for “government.”

          I watched the opening statements of the investigation into the Russian hacking into the election. Anyone who heard and saw Chaffetz could not have missed that his and the Republicans intention is to just shove interference by a foreign government in our election under the rug. That cannot and will not be done.

          Chaffetz duked it out with Rep. Elijah Cummings who wasn’t having any of the double talk and Republican innuendo they are so famous for.

          The point is that if Trump, Tillerson, Bannon or Flynn in any way colluded with the Russians and the RNC knew it, they are guilty of treason and therefore, an illegitimate presidency. Under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, Americans have the right to “redress the government for grievances.” Is allowing Russian hacking into our government not worthy of redress for grievances?”

          I am not now nor ever have been afraid of any man. I know men well enough to know that their brains are wired solely for combat. Already you have the newly appointed Russian Ambassador, Nikki Haley, in conflict with Trump on Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine.

          I am nothing is not persistently altruistic. I do not condone what I know is wrong. If being a conservative Republican is more important than being an American, then these right wingers only prove what we all suspected, they are not patriots. They are traitors.

          Reply
  2. I of John February 3, 2017

    A little revolution now and then is a good thing.

    Reply
    1. itsfun February 3, 2017

      Burning property, looting, hurting people, throwing things at police, denying free speech is not protesting, it is rioting.

      Reply
      1. I of John February 3, 2017

        riot then

        Reply
        1. itsfun February 3, 2017

          Yep – more of the tolerant and loving left.

          Reply
          1. I of John February 3, 2017

            the time for tolerance has ended. Who said the left was ever tolerent anyway.

            Reply
          2. itsfun February 3, 2017

            That is what the left claims to be. You would rather hurt people and destroy property, then expect taxpayers to pay for the damage you do.

            Reply
          3. I of John February 3, 2017

            That’s in the past now. Tolerance is over, The future is only Trump. As for who’s paying for it? we all are aren’t we?

            Reply
          4. itsfun February 3, 2017

            The left has lost 1000 seats in state and federal government the last 8 years. More of this rioting by the left is only going to cost more seats in government. Americans are sick of this kind of BS. Rioters will end up in prison and/or paying for all the damage they do. Victims will be pressing charges and suing the rioters.

            Reply
      2. ron February 3, 2017

        Would like to know who this small band of people that show up dressed in black, really are, and what their real agenda is. They sure don’t represent us !

        Reply
        1. itsfun February 3, 2017

          We just need to let the police do their jobs and arrest them.

          Reply
          1. JPHALL February 3, 2017

            So why don’t they get arrested. They are Whites. If they were non Whites, the jails would be full.

            Reply
          2. itsfun February 3, 2017

            Yea right just like Baltimore, As usual from you nothing but racial BS.

            Reply
          3. JPHALL February 3, 2017

            Did you even see the videos on what happened at UC Berkeley? As usual you are stuck on the wrong incident. Catch up. I know you need to wait till your masters tell you what to say, but catch up with reality anyway.

            Reply
          4. dbtheonly February 4, 2017

            itsfun gets his jollies out of tweaking us and may well get paid based on the number of replies he gets.

            For example, he is eager for the police to arrest the UCB or Baltimore protesters. Much less so on Cliven Bundy’s armed insurrection.

            Where the outrage when a white supremacist Trump supporter kills 9 in Quebec?

            Respectfully suggest you consider not playing his game. As game it is.

            Reply
          5. itsfun February 4, 2017

            Wish I did get paid.

            Reply
          6. dbtheonly February 4, 2017

            Talk to Mama Bear. She may know the contacts to make.

            As they once said of the army, it can take your hobby and turn it into a career.

            Reply
          7. itsfun February 4, 2017

            Yes I saw the video and saw more than one race of people. You said they didn’t get arrested because they are were white. I pointed out your racist comment was wrong by using Baltimore as a example. Police are ordered by their PC local politicians not to do anything to these poor little innocent college kids and paid rioters If you want to ignore what happened, that’s up to you.

            Reply
          8. JPHALL February 5, 2017

            STILL BS. THESE ANARCHISTS SHOW UP EVERYWHERE. And wherever they show up there is trouble. They were in Baltimore, Ferguson, Portland and Chicago to name a few. They are rarely arrested, and to the best of my memory never convicted.

            As to what happened at Berkeley, the police were campus police and a joke. The troublemakers were outsiders. Look at the video. Students stood by protesting while these masked idiots in black set fires and threw things.

            Reply
          9. itsfun February 5, 2017

            You were trying to make this a race issue, not me. I say every looter, burner, person that hurts someone should be arrested and prosecuted. I don’t care if they white, black, green, blue or whatever. I don’t care if they are students, paid protesters, or local idiots. I don’t think the police are the problem, but the local leaders and college presidents are. The police only can do what they are ordered to do.

            Reply
    2. dbtheonly February 3, 2017

      Ah John,

      The problem is that revolutions are a lot like nuclear power. It’s really hard to have a little of it and things go very wrong when it gets out of hand.

      Revolutions, Civil War, two sides of the same coin, lead to death, destruction, and misery for many. Pick any one. Mexico 1910. Russia 1917, Italy 1925, China 1949, almost all of Africa 1960s, how many of these can you say ended well?

      Then the “final solution” to most revolutions is a military dictatorship and the elimination of the revolutionaries.

      I’m a conservative old man and, up until 11/9/2016, I thought the country was pretty much on a good path. Not eager to tear it all down.

      Reply
      1. I of John February 3, 2017

        One of the grand things about democracy is that revolutions aren’t always about tearing down but listening to people speak up.

        Reply
        1. dbtheonly February 3, 2017

          People can speak all they want, but until they vote, it’s just a joke.

          Reply
          1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth February 3, 2017

            Before one votes, it’s necessary to know what one is voting for.
            This is where voicing concerns in a polite manner, and still being able to emote anger, comes in to give the voter a sense of what’s at stake. And if anyone attempts to dissuade or mute such conversations, or maintain that protests aren’t necessary, then such individuals tacitly are saying “let’s maintain the status quo and hope that a vote will change minds. Protests via boycotts and sit-ins, NOT votes, put the pedal to the metal in Jim Crow Mississippi. Besides, half the population was prevented from voting by law.

            Hearts must be changed foremost—something that “votes” are ineffective at doing, and not intended to do so.

            Reply
          2. dbtheonly February 3, 2017

            Not to get into a causation argument but the protests didn’t break segregation. The Civil Rights Act did. Protests didn’t get Black Folks the vote. The Voting Rights Act did.

            Unless and until we can threaten the Republicans with electoral defeat, they’re going to ignore us at best. Protests in the street aren’t going to move them. Protests in the voting booth will.

            Reply
          3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth February 3, 2017

            It’s not an either/or situation. It’s a PARALLEL two-prong effort that’s required. Voting is important, but that’s an instrument, and instruments don’t change hearts. We can force the doors of a building open, but if the heart remains closed then the problem will fester and wait to rear its head again another day.

            As you may recall, the Voting Rights Act was enacted in 1965, and then recall the turbulence in the 70’s around race and the Vietnam War. People were voting but the divide just kept getting wider. And here we are today—Most of us voted, but the GOP, for example, is still interfering with ease of voting. Systemic racism remains despite people voting. Recall the events between Nov. 2008 and Nov 2016—overwhelming support via massive voter turnout, but many hearts are more calcified than ever.

            I don’t mean to be didactic, but our over-emphasis on politics is a fatal flaw, as we should all be well aware of by now. Linear thinking is a major problem with us Westerners—myself included at times.

            Reply
          4. dbtheonly February 4, 2017

            I truly share your desire for a renewal of the heart. But I question whether Republicans want to come to Jesus, or prefer the political power their hate has engendered.

            I’ll use our resident trolls as an example. Do they seek to engage? Do they seek the betterment of the country or us as individuals? Or, mocking John Locke, do they seek the greatest good for the fewest number? To what effect do we engage with them?

            I’ve already suggested that we, as Democrats, offer free assistance to help people comply with the Republican Voter ID Laws. I suggest we need to start running ads pointing out how Trump and the Republicans are repealing the Wall Street Regulations enacted after 2008. We need to publicize their repeal of the “fiduciary rule”.

            I agree that interests have been widening the political gap for their own political and financial advantage.

            We need to break them, or be broken by them. There is no third choice.

            Reply
  3. FireBaron February 3, 2017

    The problem with taking the time to organize locally (as the Tea Party
    did) by electing Democrats to school boards, city councils, state
    legislatures, governors, is it will take years to put into place. “I
    think the incrementalism of it is not adequate to the challenge,” Sam
    Brown told me. That is exactly what is needed. You build change, like the GOP did, from the bottom up, not the top down!

    Reply
  4. Eleanore Whitaker February 3, 2017

    The problem in the US is that this country has two kinds of men…altruists who live by the golden rule and selfish, self-important, greedheads for whom being Republican is more important than being American.

    Not two weeks into his so called presidency and he bombs Yemen and kills and injures our own US military and not to mention Yemeni citizens.

    But Benghazi Benghazi Benghazi…Watch Jason Chaffetz, R-UT, that pigfaced little weasel during the Russian hacking investigation and all he does is try to dispute facts and documents.

    He got taken down by Elijah Cummings who was having none of Chaffetz’s sneaky GOP sabotage. He got taken down again by an amazing House Rep, Jamie Raskin D-MD, who without mentioning party at all ripped apart Chaffetz’s attempts to say it wasn’t the Russians who hacked into the DNC but the Chinese. It was House Rep. Brenda Laurence (D-NV) who then got to the heart of the matter. Why the FBI has not provided unclassified documentation that is evidence of Russian election hacking.

    The reality is that the entire educated American population KNOWS Trump is mentally deranged and ONLY the right wing mental defectives and the Republicans FIGHT like hell to keep him in office. Just like they did with Reagan whom they knew was already suffering 2nd stage Alzheimers when they allowed him to run for office.

    Ask yourselves why they are keeping a mentally ill loony like Trump in office when it is evident to the entire world he is crazy?

    Reply
  5. itsfun February 3, 2017

    If burning property, destroying small businesses, hurting people, looting, denying free speech are signs of what the tolerant left stands for, then be prepared to lose even more government seats in 2020.

    Reply
    1. I of John February 3, 2017

      riot then more then

      Reply
    2. KDJ54 February 4, 2017

      So says the proud man of the right with his head stuck in the sand. Since 2002 48 people have been killed by right wing terrorists, we probably should call them radical Christian extremists to be consistent. Check out this link where your buddies Eric and Glenn were actively plotting to blow up some innocent folks. So in comparison, property damage v. 48 dead, I think your side has us beat by a country mile. The photo is particularly haunting with two children being indoctrinated in the ways of violence by their heavily armed father. http://www.newsweek.com/2016/02/12/right-wing-extremists-militants-bigger-threat-america-isis-jihadists-422743.html

      Reply
      1. itsfun February 4, 2017

        There is no excuse whatever for murder, rioting, destroying property, looting, denying free speech. Its not really a matter of sides but more a matter of human dignity and respect for others. Its common decently to allow people we don’t agree with to express their ideas and opinions. You have never seen me agree with any murder, rioting, looting, etc.

        Reply
  6. dpaano February 3, 2017

    Clare has hit the nail on the head…..we, as Democrats, must continue to march against ANYTHING that goes against our Democracy!!! We need to get these Vietnam marchers out to show the younger crowd how to do it! With social media, it should be a lot easier to get people together all over the nation to protest the inequities!! If we protest much like the Women’s March, on everything that 45 does that is unconstitutional, we will make our voices heard!!!

    Reply
  7. jointerjohn February 3, 2017

    Those of us who were part of the anti-war movement of the sixties are the children of those who endured the Great Depression. Our parents distrusted the wealthy and corporations, for good reason. Today wealth is worshipped. Billy Graham and the televangelists who followed him changed the terms of Christianity in America. They convinced us that God rewards the faithful with wealth. Before that transformation of doctrine a wealthy Christian was mistrusted. Jesus turned away a wealthy man because he would not give up his wealth, today Christians elevate them as leaders. Until the dominant religion in this country returns to it’s roots we will continue to have disastrous decisions like the SCOTUS Americans United ruling and money will run the show. Heck, we might even elect an unscrupulous, lying, vulture capitalist to be president someday!

    Reply
    1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth February 3, 2017

      “…Heck, we might even elect an unscrupulous, lying, vulture capitalist to be president someday!”

      You know, I believe there’s a very good chance that we might. In fact—I’m certain the Electoral College will, now that you bring up that possibility. I feel a strange tremor in The Force.
      (SMILE and FROWN)

      Reply
  8. heinzng1 February 4, 2017

    Trump has his thumbs to rumble America and the world which Elector voters were stupid.

    Reply

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