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Saturday, January 21, 2017


Resistance Saturday

by Tom Sullivan

Those of you in the Eastern Time Zone not already at the Women's March on Washington are probably already heading to your local sister marches. Those further west still have a bit more time to make your local events.

For those of us on the front lines in North Carolina, another important event is just over the time horizon. Three weeks from today on Saturday February 11, the Forward Together Movement gathers in Raleigh, NC at 8:30 a.m. for the 11th annual HKonJ rally (Historic Thousands on Jones Street) led by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II.

The last time I attended HKonJ in 2014, the rally was tens of thousands and, save for The Nation's Ari Berman, received little national press. Gov. Pat McCrory's legislature had passed the most restrictive new voting law in the country the summer before. Since then, McCrory got turned out of office in a Republican sweep year, largely because of the persistent Moral Monday protests led by Barber and the NC NAACP. In the Trump era, this year's rally should be even larger. And after the international spectacle now former governor McCrory and the Republican-dominated legislature staged in December, the national press has its eyes on North Carolina. Barring a tasty, 3 a.m. tweet by Trump I the night before, there will be press.

To refresh:

Part of what makes Moral Mondays successful is that it is a nonpartisan, "fusion politics" movement, a populist coalition in which a host of issues move "Forward Together," as the movement's name suggests, and no one's pet issue takes precedence. Don't expect Moral Mondays to go away because Pat McCrory did. Newer and bluer oranger Meanies have been sighted in the vicinity of the nation's capitol. Barber's is a successful template for taking them on.
Barber has succeeded in something at which many in the progressive movement regularly fail: getting progressive issue advocacy groups to work collaboratively rather than competitively. For Forward Together, an attack on one coalition member is an attack on all, and all respond. Sort of a nonviolent NATO. Ordinarily, advocacy groups worry about defending their turf and their donors. In campaign work, organizers worry about having another campaign "poach" their volunteers. The donor/volunteer pie is fixed in size, supposedly, and Group A worries that gains by Group B will come at A's expense. It's been a zero-sum world. Except it's not. And it needn't be. Not now. People (mostly women) are still leaving telephone messages, almost desperate to do something/anything to push back against the Orange Meanie. They'll be out in force this morning. Donald Trump just "made the pie higher," to borrow from Bush II, but in a different sense. The volunteer pie is growing, not fixed.

A few days ago, I wrote about Trump's threat to evict the press from the White House and how that might actually lead to better reporting. But the competitive nature of news gathering works against that in the same way that competing rather than cooperating for scarce resources weakens issue advocacy groups. The Competitive Enterprise Institute may believe competition "answereth all things," as prosperity gospel con men say about money, but not here. Not now. Ahead of press conferences (assuming Trump has any more), reporters ought to meet to assemble a list of key questions the public wants answered, and when Trump blows off one reporter or evades answering, the next reporter called should ask the same question and so forth until he answers. Only then would they move on to the next question. But that would take, you know, cooperation.