Yesterday and today I have spent a good deal of time, online and in person, with devastated people. We cry. We hug. We shake. We are exhausted. What, we ask, what are we going to do?
We talk about Barack Obama, how great his presidency has been, and how scary it is for his legacy to be left with Trump. He is, for many of my millennial friends, the first president they voted for, the president they came to political maturity under. And as we licked our wounds and comforted each other and tried not to freak out, I thought back to the Bush years. Thinking about how I and others felt and acted is helping me map out my plan for resisting Trump.
I really related to a lot of the concerns I heard from younger voters in this election, because they echoed things I thought and felt in 2000 and 2004. I was in my late 20s in 2000, and totally uninspired by the Democratic party candidate. Both he and his opponent were scions of privilege, inheriting wealth and political names. I was disgusted that the Democrats had as their best nominee a wealthy political insider, out of touch with ordinary people. Today I think of Al Gore as a good candidate, but I didn’t then. I’ve tried to use that to understand the way some progressive people felt about Clinton, as someone they struggled to support. I was also beyond disgusted with the Republican party, of course. But both parties seemed mired in corruption and complaisance.
I voted for Nader. I didn’t care who won, I told myself. The parties were the same.
As the election returns came in, I began to feel sicker and sicker about it. As I waited anxiously and it became clearer Bush would assume power, I realized that I actually *had* preferred a candidate. I had wanted Gore to win. Not that walking disaster of a Bush. So if you are one of those folks out there who voted 3rd party and is feeling sick today, I really feel you. I really do. Even though I knew my vote hadn’t “counted” (I didn’t live in one of the hotly contested Florida counties where Nader votes might have made a difference) over the years I reflected on it all and decided that in future, I would vote strategically. I didn't have the luxury of always voting the person who matched my views best, so I would pick the one who had a chance to win and would do the most good.
In 2003-2004 I got enthusiastic about a candidate: Wes Clark. He was an outsider and an idealist, not a typical politician, and I loved his plans for healthcare and education. (Sound familiar?) I also thought, in the rah-rah riled up pro-military Bush era, that an Army man might be able to persuade some GOP voters to go Dem. When Clark dropped out I was devastated. He urged his followers to support John Kerry and so I did, though not with any great enthusiasm. Slowly I warmed to him—he was, after all, a good and decent person. His platform was not as liberal as I was, but it was in the right direction. I was appalled at the media coverage of him and the way the GOP took one of his great strengths, his Vietnam service, and mocked it and lied about it and turned it into a liability. All of which are dynamics some folks have seen with Clinton this year, too.
In that year, we were certain of victory. As in this year, we woke up to a nightmare. No one saw it coming. And now we had the execrable W for four. More. Years.
I share all this with an eye to using lesson from those dreadful years as a guide to surviving President (ugh) Trump. If you are in a place where you want to start planning and strategizing, this is for you. (If you’re not, that’s totally and completely valid, of course). For me, it’s part of how I am coping.
Let’s acknowledge the obvious. Trump is worse than Bush. For all his many many many flaws, George W. Bush was at least a decent husband and father. To my knowledge, he is not a serial sexual assaulter. In his dim little way, I think he cared about doing the right thing, even if he was always horribly, terribly, disastrously wrong about what the right thing was.
By contrast, Trump has no such compunctions. He seems to be a horrible human, one whose moral compass points only towards himself, to his own enrichment and aggrandizement. Bush sowed death and destruction and was a disaster for the nation and the world. But we know that Trump is probably going to be worse.
Deep breath. Okay.
Under Bush, what did we do? First and foremost, we found communities. The election of 2004 was a turning point for me, and I think for many others. We found blogs, mailing lists, and other online spaces, where we commiserated, organized, and kept the faith alive. I found Shakesville at that time, along with Daily Kos and Pandagon and Pam’s House Blend and many others, some now defunct or changed beyond recognition. Like Liss said in her piece this morning, I made friendships that have lasted over a decade.
With the mainstream press acting as Bush lapdogs, we became our own journalists and pundits. We marched. There were lawsuits, petitions, and protests of all kinds. We worked to elect progressives to the House and Senate. We gave money to progressive causes, to keep them alive. We Gen Xers listened to the Baby Boomer who had done this in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. We adapted. We learned.
We loved and supported each other. Financially and emotionally—we used Paypal and other tools to help those in need, those who, thanks to Bush’s policies, became homeless, needed medical care and couldn’t afford it, who went bankrupt.
I’ll be honest: we also fought amongst ourselves. We squabbled over big things, and over little things. Those with privilege often silenced and marginalized those without. We were imperfect, sometimes very wrong, and often not well organized.
But we had rare victories, and we cherished them. We looked for bright spots. In 2000, one of my small comforts was Hillary Clinton’s election to the New York Senate. A First Lady had a political career of her own! A feminist, fabulous First Lady! In 2004, I had the pleasure of voting for a guy called Barack Obama as my Senator. I never imagined then that 4 years later he would lead the Dems to victory as the first black president, but I sure knew he was going to be a star.
So, applying the lessons of history, what can we do to survive under Trump? Here are some things that I think I will do.
Well, let’s start with finding progressive politicians to support. It’s vital for the country that the Dems cultivate new blood. Elizabeth Warren is fantastic, but she is 67. Fortunately, there were a few bright spots Tuesday night, that Liss has highlighted. Could Tammy Duckworth be the next Barack Obama? Or Kamala Harris? I don’t know, but I plan to find the good ones and support them with all my might. I’ll try to stiffen the spine and encourage any Dem who’s willing to stand up to the awful legislation and policies that will doubtless come from the right. I’ll cheer them –and DONATE-- if they use every trick in the political book to slow the harm and stop the hate.
Speaking of donations, I plan to find organizations to support that will help resist Trump’s evil and support those in need. The ACLU will be filing lawsuits, I’ve no doubt. Planned Parenthood is going to be in a fight for its life. The NAACP will need support (and you do not have to be African-American to join). Older organizations like NOW and HRC, and newer movements like Black Lives Matter and the anti-DAPL protestors, will need money as well as people. I’ve sometimes been impatient with some of the groups I listed because they are not always as intersectional and inclusive, or as radical, as they could be. But to be honest, I think I will be a bit more forgiving in the near future, because who knows how Trump will crap on them and try to shut them down. I won’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, at least not until we get the Democrats back in charge. I hope to give those fighting him every weapon I can.
Today we have so much more media than we did under Bush, and we have more and more ways to organize and connect every day. There will be petitions. There will be protests. There will be Tweetstorms. There will be actions of many kinds. I will support them as I am able to do so.
On a personal level, I am going to hug my friends and family closer than ever, as well as take good care of myself. I will remember that self-care is a feminist act, and in Trump’s America, it’s going to be a downright radical act. I will defy him by valuing myself when he and his movement try to convince me I am less. Not all of us will be able to march or sing or lay down on the ground. But simply surviving in our queer bodies, in our brown bodies, in our black bodies, in our disabled bodies, in our female bodies, in our Muslim bodies, in all of our “lesser” bodies, is going to be a rebuke to Trump and Pence. Take that, you hateful asshats.
I hope to pool resources with those hurt most by his policies, try to keep each other going physically, mentally, and economically. In the areas where I have privilege, I will try to wield it to promote, and if necessary, to protect the voices and persons of those without privilege. I will give food to those I find in need, and I will give shelter in my home to friends who may become homeless under Trump. I’m going to find inspiration where I can and use it to nourish my soul. Like Liss, I will be the light when I can.
Now, is there anywhere where I think we of the resistance will have the upper hand? Sort of. One thing is: we know Trump. We have his number. He’s made no secret of his plans and he has years, YEARS, of history to guide us as to his moves. George W campaigned on “compassionate conservatism,” and we really didn’t have a full picture of how badly he would govern. With Trump, we know what we’re getting and have a sense of how bad it will be. Small comfort, I am sure. But it’s better to see the storm coming, to strengthen the area it’s going to hit, than to be taken by surprise. We can predict at least some of his awful moves.
And in one area, we have a real embarrassment (literally) of riches with Trump: there is no shortage of scandal, corruption, and crime in his past and present. The Republicans have used investigations and threats of impeachment for years to hamper progressive politicians and organizations—I’m sure they will do it under Trump, too. I remember Whitewater, which started as an investigation into land deals in Arkansas before winding through everything else in Bill and Hillary’s past before finally finding ONE THING to stick—Bill lied about an affair. We’re not going to have to look that far with Trump. The main thing will be getting there before his people burn the documents. (And even there we have a chance—they’re so fucking incompetent I’m sure they will leave us plenty.) If the GOP convinced a lot of people that a basically nice, honest, helpful Methodist lady was a crooked lying demon, then I think there’s a good chance we can convince people that an actually awful human is an awful human.
It’s true that the Democrats are a minority, so they can’t tie up Trump in Benghazi-style hearings (except these would be about actual real things in the world). But individual Congressfolk and Senators can investigate and publicize. I have little faith in corporate media, but there was some genuinely good journalism about Trump’s frauds (albeit coming late). At least some will take his threats to loosen libel laws and weaken journalistic protections seriously and investigate him further and publicize his crimes. This will weaken him politically. I plan to donate and/or subscribe to those news organizations that actually cover his crimes in a meaningful way as much as I can.
I will do all I can do encourage those politicians and people who exploit the divisions within the Republicans in order to stop their harmful agenda. Trump’s election has left the GOP in charge, and yet in disarray. That they control both houses and the White House is scary and will be very harmful, I’ve no doubt. But Trump is already miffed at some of them because they denounced him. I don’t see him being able to maintain a unified front. And as Trump’s awfulness continues to pile up, I rather suspect some of them will not want to stand with him. And I will encourage every Republican who defies him in a meaningful way. I won’t approve the rest of their garbage agendas. I’m not making nice with racists and homophobes. But I’m willing to work with anyone who will fight against hate, and I’ll encourage Dems to work across the aisle whenever that rare creature, a Republican with a sense of decency, is spotted in Congress.
And I’ll also encourage them to exploit every stupid thing Trump does to full effect. If Obama’s motto was “don’t do stupid stuff,” then Trumps is surely DO ALL THE STUFF--THE STUPID STUFF---BIGLY AND MUCHLY. I don’t mean to make light, because unfortunately some of his stupid stuff will be grievously harmful to the nation and the world. But I have little doubt that he will also hinder himself through his incompetence. He has a certain low cunning, I will grant. But honestly, he’s not too bright. He’s so intellectually lazy, his brain makes sloths look like Olympic sprinters. He’s going to be hoisted on his own petard at some point, and I plan to cheer it on.
Of course we can’t overlook Pence, and all the others he has on his team who are equally morally bereft, but far better at getting their evil shit done. Impeaching Trump and putting Pence in office sounds pretty bad, so I don’t entertain it. But I predict a certain disarray and disunity will slow them down as well. I’m going to work like hell in the 2018 elections for the Dems; I imagine they will have plenty of fodder to exploit as we try to get at least one house back.
Finally I’m not going to minimize how much this is going to suck, how deadly and dreadful it may become. But right now I am trying to imagine my resistance, to see what it’s going to be like, so when the time comes, I can do this.
Many people are familiar with Winston Churchill’s “We Will Fight On The Beaches” speech, given in 1940, as German armies swept across the continent of Europe and allied forces withdrew from France to the UK. (And yes, I’m aware there is huge irony in using a racist, sexist, imperialist like Churchill to talk about resisting Trump. But humor me for a moment). The speech reads in part:
…Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…
Do you see what he is doing? He is giving the listener specific visions of resistance. The places, the methods, listed out in detail. There was power in that. There’s a reason it’s a famous speech. At an hour when actual Nazis were threatening to invade, when the British people had every expectation that German soldiers would be upon them in weeks or even days, Churchill asked them to see themselves fighting, to think of it, to internalize it.
And if you’ve ever listened to the speech ( there’s an excerpt here), you know that Churchill’s sing-song delivery is almost matter of fact. His voice rises at “We will never surrender,” but only after the remarkably undramatic listing of the very dramatic scenes he’s invoking. It will happen, this fighting, these acts of resistance. It simply will, because it simply must.
I’ve been writing my own fighting on beaches speech in my head, trying to imagine and visualize what I can and will do. I don’t think there’s one single way to put it for all of us. As mentioned, for some, simply surviving will be what we do. Some will fight quietly. Others will fight more openly.
I can’t even begin to imagine the fear and anxiety of the people Churchill was addressing with actual Nazis at their door. But I certainly have an idea of how fearful Americans are today, indeed, how fearful much of the world is today. Trump may not fit the actual definition of a Nazi, but he certainly enjoys the support of Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, virulent misogynists, violent homophobes and a slew of other, yes, deplorable and violent people. He has pledged to wage war on the very pillars of our democracy, to assail what’s left of our safety net with all his might, to persecute the powerless with glee and delight. And that’s just at home. I am still reeling from the implications of what he will do abroad.
But like those people nearly 80 years ago, I am trying to imagine myself in the fight. I do not know quite what it will look like yet, but I am planning. I take some comfort in knowing I am not alone, and I will not be alone during the Trump years either.
We will support each other, we will love each other, we will strengthen and protect each other, in our many different ways. We will never surrender.
We will be, now, in the future, and always: Stronger Together.