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If Protesting Fails, Then What Do We Do?

— July 9, 2018

Not everyone shares the values of the Resistance. What if protesting fails and November doesn’t produce the requisite blue wave? Here are some ideas.

After the votes were tallied in the 2016 Presidential election, the gap between the shocked and not-shocked was nearly as wide as the gulf between the haves and have-nots. While some Americans danced around in their MAGA hats toasting the new Chief Executive, others got to work. Adopting some of the key strategies that the Tea Party employed so effectively not long ago, the newly-minted Resistance started planning protest marches, writing postcards, and calling their Congresscritters to demand opposition to the Trump agenda. The political situation has changed drastically in the last two years, but not in the direction the Resistance would prefer. Now that we’re nearing the halfway point, it’s time to ask an important question: if protesting fails, what happens next?

Elections have consequences, and this one had some whoppers. It’s not only the crying children kept in chain-link cages, or the selling-out of environmental interests, or the tax cut giveaway to giant corporations that should bother us, though. (After all, some Americans like these changes and applaud the administration for enacting them.) It’s the sneaky stuff that an emboldened “conservative” majority is trying to pass that hurts everyday Americans more personally. As one small example, consider H.R. 5037, sponsored by four Republicans. If this bill passes, any American with an IRA or 401(k) is at greater risk of losing those retirement savings to fraudulent corporations or Wall Street firms because they’d be barred from joining together to defend their rights in court. Even States would lose their ability to pass laws defending their citizens. Would losing their retirements make Team MAGA take notice?

A man wearing a red hat that says "Make America Great Again."
Would losing their retirement funds to fraudsters make Team MAGA take notice of an Administration that’s willing to hurt them personally? Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

If protesting fails, one reason is that there are people who would rather take a chance at losing their retirement savings to fraudsters than grant “snowflakes” any kind of win in the culture war. This is something the Resistance should consider when aiming their barbs at the opposition.

With Reagan-appointed justice Anthony Kennedy retiring, the Supreme court will lose a key swing vote, opening the door to the repeal of Roe v. Wade and the loss of reproductive rights and a kind of bodily autonomy for millions of American women. If protesting fails and yelling louder doesn’t preserve Roe for future generations, what can the Resistance do to mitigate the damage? First, stop taking rights for granted. Despite its popularity, the countdown to losing Roe started when even Democrats began treating reproductive rights as an embarrassment that could lose moderate votes. Second, consider what you could do, besides protesting, to secure these rights on a state-by-state or individual basis. Would you be willing to host out-of-state women in your home if you live in a state where abortion remains legal? Are you willing to provide transportation for women with few options? Think about concrete actions that are possible even in a suboptimal legal environment.

Maybe the 2018 midterm will send a blue wave to Washington, but what if doesn’t? If protesting fails and other voters outside of your echo chamber signal even greater approval for Trumpism, there are still options for the would-be Resistance. It’s harder to marshal enough support to sway national elections than local ones, so consider thinking small. After all, Franklin Graham is. Graham recently advocated for evangelicals to run in school board elections, much like the Moral Majority did in the 1970s as a way of directing government from the bottom up. In this case, it’s specifically to reduce protections for LGBT+ students, but there’s no reason the Resistance couldn’t use the same strategy to protect students and their communities at the local level while raising up a new crop of political candidates the old fashioned way. There are already binders full of women running for office in 2018, so it’s a good start.

It’s also time to put away the Hillary Clinton vs Bernie Sanders fight. Unless cracking the party so wide that the whole GOP can march through to victory is the Left’s goal, understand that liberals and socialists have more goals in common than either have with the Trump administration. The political Right represents a coalition between evangelicals, the very wealthy, corporate power, free marketeers, and the beleaguered middle class skewered by the previous few. The Left needs to rebuild a diverse alliance that can stand together in the face of such a machine, and hopefully convince others, like Labor, to rejoin.

Not all Americans buy into the values held by the Resistance. If protesting fails, it could be that shrill yelping isn’t convincing beyond the choir. Perhaps it’s time to advance a new platform that guarantees all Americans a voice, such as this one suggested by neopagan author John Michael Greer. His recipe for political success includes individual liberty, representative democracy, and political federalism, because what pleases people in Oklahoma is never going to please those in Massachusetts, and vice versa. Allowing people who think differently to use their freedom differently is the mark of advocates for real freedom over advocates for control marketed as freedom. Strong federalism provides a way for all of the diverse American cultures to live together relatively peacefully, rather than trying to force their views on the nation as a whole as a form of ideological self defense.

Maybe we’ll wake up in November, or 2020, and all of this will fade away like a nightmare in the morning light. Considering, however, that a significant portion of America actually approves of the job Trump is doing, it’s highly unlikely. It’s good to know that if protesting fails, if the letters and calls and marches don’t work, that there’s still real-world action we can take to Make America Great Again.

Related: Whose job is it to protest, anyway?


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H.R.5037 – Securities Fraud Act of 2018
The End of Roe v. Wade Was Easy to See Coming
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Poll: Nearly 70 Percent of Voters Don’t Want Roe v. Wade Overturned
Franklin Graham wants Christians to take over school boards in new assault on LGBT kids
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