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Sunday, January 01, 2017


Repeat defenders

by Tom Sullivan

A few weeks from now, Donald J. Trump will take the oath of office, becoming the country's 45th president. He issued twisted New Year's greetings yesterday to "my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do. Love!." Based on the popular vote count that is over half the United States of America. In Trump's old neighborhood, his message might amount to a throw down, as in it's on.

Already the resistance is forming. Overnight, an invitation arrived to join a group, "I am a Resistor." The group's name and logo cleverly repurposes the circuitry symbol for an electrical resistor:

The group issues a call to action for January 19 to "RESIST in any (peaceful) way you can." The site offers bland suggestions like writing your members of Congress, donating to the ACLU, and challenging people to visit a museum and bring friends wearing RESIST stickers. oh-kay.

It recalls that scene in Aliens when the Marine squad members receive orders to give up their live ammunition:

Private Hudson: Is he fuckin' crazy?
Private Frost: What the hell are we supposed to use, man, harsh language?
Perhaps more effective than stickers will be a return to 1960s-style “democracy is in the streets,” as Jelani Cobb writes at the New Yorker:
Movements are born in the moments when abstract principles become concrete concerns. MoveOn arose in response to what was perceived as the Republican congressional overreach that resulted in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. The Occupy movement was a backlash to the financial crisis. The message of Black Lives Matter was inspired by the death of Trayvon Martin and the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Occupy’s version of anti-corporate populism helped to create the climate in which Senator Bernie Sanders’s insurgent campaign could not only exist but essentially shape the Democratic Party platform. Black Lives Matter brought national attention to local instances of police brutality, prompting the Obama Administration to launch the Task Force on 21st Century Policing and helping defeat prosecutors in Chicago and Cleveland, who had sought reëlection after initially failing to bring charges against police officers accused of using excessive force.


In that context, the waves of protests in Portland, Los Angeles, Oakland, New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., in the days after the election look less like spontaneous outrage and more like a preview of what the next four years may hold. Unlike the specific protests that emerged during the Obama Administration, the post-election demonstrations have been directed at the general state of American democracy. Two hundred thousand women are expected to assemble in front of the Capitol, on January 21st, the day after the Inauguration, for the Women’s March on Washington. Born of one woman’s invitation to forty friends, the event is meant as a rejoinder to the fact that a candidate with a troubling history regarding women’s rights—one who actually bragged about committing sexual assault—has made it to the White House.
But the most effective of the protests from half a century ago were those led by black clergy including Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. With the passage of the Voting Rights (1965) and Civil Rights Acts (1968) and the end of the Vietnam War, the American left's partnership with black churches waned. With voting rights under assault again across the country, it is time to renew that partnership. Perhaps by repenting for letting it wane in the first place.

That partnership is already renewed in the Moral Monday protests that began in 2013 in North Carolina. Those protests against radical legislation included about 1,000 civil disobedience arrests, and are credited with helping defeat Gov. Pat McCrory in November. Some of those committed protesters — repeat defenders — were arrested again last month. Tom Jensen at Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling wrote:
But the Moral Monday movement pushed back hard. Its constant visibility forced all of these issues to stay in the headlines. Its efforts ensured that voters in the state were educated about what was going on in Raleigh, and as voters became aware of what was going on, they got mad. All those people who had seen McCrory as a moderate, as a different kind of Republican, had those views quickly changed. By July McCrory had a negative approval rating- 40% of voters approving of him to 49% who disapproved. By September it was all the way down to 35/53, and he never did fully recover from the damage the rest of his term.

Moral Mondays became a very rare thing- a popular protest movement. In August 2013 we found 49% of voters had a favorable opinion of the protesters to only 35% with an unfavorable opinion of them. And their message was resonating- 50% of voters in the state felt state government was causing North Carolina national embarrassment to only 34% who disagreed with that notion.
How effective similar actions might be against a Trump who enters office with his approval rating already under water remains to be seen, but applying pressure at the state level is where the Republican legislatures are most vulnerable. Trump may have won the presidency, but he won by defeating not one but two weakened parties. His is in control in most state capitols.

Ross Douthat observes today:
I had thought that the G.O.P. was run by true believers in a dated catechism. But really it was run by people for whom the Reaganite catechism only mattered because they controlled the inquisition, and once Trump’s army of heretics refused to disperse they had no stomach for a fight.
Even after Trump's surprise win, that may still be true. The next question is do Democrats in the states have the stomach for a fight? Reverend Dr. William Barber II, leader of the Moral Mondays movement, was in Washington, D.C. last night gearing up to take North Carolina's movement national. The Trump train is not the only one inviting people to get on board.

Happy New Year.