Watchwords for Trump Time

Part of the New Orleans March on Friday, Jan 20th, 2017

New Orleans   I read that the former spokesperson for the Clinton campaign and communications whiz for President Obama had left Washington during the Inauguration for New Orleans, essentially embracing the its popular slogan of being “the city that care forgot.” That was not quite true this time since 1700 people marched in the afternoon on Inauguration Day in protest and many more are expected for the Women’s March in this city, as they are in cities around the country.

Interviewing Becky Bond, a former senior adviser to the Sanders’ campaign and co-author of the new book, Rules for Revolutionaries, on my weekly radio show, in talking about the hollowness of the Democratic Party, she noted the paradoxical point that the Republican candidate, meaning President Trump, had “run to the left of the Democratic nominee on economic issues.” The point struck like a hammer, it was so true.

And, listen to this from Trump’s hardline and brief inaugural address:

“For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share the wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs, and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all around our land.”

I have trouble disagreeing with him. He’s right, even repeating the old Huey Long populist slogan, “share the wealth.”

But when he says,

We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action constantly complaining but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.

I have trouble not believing that this is all talk, because so far his actions still look the opposite of the words that framed whatever his words might lure us to believe.

Indeed we’ll see. Perhaps at our peril.

But, finally, I noted another quote in the papers commemorating the inaugural from the major British funder of the Brexit campaign, and at $11 million, the single largest political donor in British history, Arron Banks. He claimed that the advice he has given Trump when they met was simple: “Never apologize, facts are just white noise, emotions rule.”

Given the electoral campaign and the run up to this new presidency, it sounds frighteningly true.

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Corporations May be Buying Trump Late, but They’re Buying Big

protests outside Union Station in DC this morning

New Orleans   Pinch yourself and snap out of it. The day has finally come no matter how much you lived in dread and denial. By noon, Donald J. Trump will be President, and Barack Obama will be out on the street like the rest of us. There’s no place to hide, the disruption has begun.

It may not be business as usual, but believe me, it’s going to be big business all the time. Of course it starts with Trump landing with his entourage in Washington, DC and hurrying off to party, of course he does so at his own new 236-room luxury hotel that many have noted will be a constant ethical millstone around his neck. Not that he will notice or particularly care, mind you, since he will just bluster and bluff over any niggling from the media or ethics lawyers.

Big business and their minions know how to make a deal with Trump. They may have held their nose up in the air during the campaign, and many withheld their contributions including brand name mainstays that usually funded the Republican conventions in the past for example. In a transactional town with a transactional Trump, they got with the program quickly. For the Inauguration, businesses, along with other favor seekers, ponied up $90 million, more than double the amount tallied for Obama’s last inaugural. If you didn’t buy early, you can always buy a piece of Trump later. For example for $500,000, they would get to attend a special access, candlelight dinner with Trump and his wife.

“You get what you pay for” is going to be the new motto for America now and will soon replace “in God we trust” on the dollar bill.

Of course every verse is the same as his first. Trump claimed that the concert in front of the Lincoln Statue was unique, while the papers had to point out that it was a common location. Trump claims the crowds coming in are going to be the largest ever, while estimates put the expected numbers in the medium range. In fact, the Women’s March on Washington the following day has now swollen to an estimated 400,000, double the original numbers, and of course not counting the likely millions that will be stepping in their own cities and states around the country. A road report I received from one of the first stops on the New Jersey Turnpike before inaugural day, said it was jam packed with young people already in route to DC.

We need to brace ourselves. As Trump has proven repeatedly to date, this is going to be a ready-or-not kind of affair. In a last minute move, fifty Obama top appointees, including an interim Secretary of State, were approved since only two Trump appointees have made muster through Congress. Of 660 executive appointments being tracked by an independent nonprofit, Trump has named only 29.

Here comes our future. He can’t be fired, and we have to focus on how to survive. Business has already learned how to buy-in, while the rest of us are hoping for a discount or a layaway.

***

Please enjoy Easy Target by John Mellencamp.

Thanks to KABF.

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Resistance Manual is an Interesting Tool

New Orleans    The other day activists associated with Stay Woke, We Are the Protestors, Campaign Zero, and much of the Black Lives Matter movement among other groups, released something that they called the Resistance Manual. The manual was described in the Huffington Post as “an open-source platform which houses resources people can use to ‘resist the impact of a Trump presidency and to continue to make progress in our communities.’” Obviously, it’s a work-in-progress, but an innovative idea that with support could become a very useful organizing tool.

When I opened the site, I saw a clean page with a list of issues in the main frame and a sidebar of links to other organizations and information. Once I clicked on one of the issue areas, like voting rights for example which I hit first, I did a double-take. I thought I had somehow klutzed around and opened Wikipedia instead. Then I realized that the manual is designed almost exactly on a wiki-template. There are clear sections under each main topic:

1 Recent Updates
2 Trump/GOP Strategy
3 Projected Impact
4 Vulnerabilities in Their Strategy
5 How You Can Resist

In voting rights, there were recommendations of other organizations that you could work with including Project Vote and the League of Women Voters. The recent update was red hot and mentioned a Brennan Center report just released. The ways you could resist were somewhat old school and involved calling to oppose Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions nomination as US Attorney General or to call your local state legislators to oppose the introduction of new restricts to voting rights.

The other issues listed were what most would expect: immigration, Obamacare, policing, incarceration, tax cuts on the wealthy, housing, women’s rights, LGBT, education, climate, Muslim registry, and consumer protection. There is also a way to link to state and local activities, which has potential as well.

This is a work-in-progress though and needs help to be effective. When I checked housing-and-infrastructure for example, the sections on “vulnerabilities” and “how you can resist” were blank and waiting for suggestions. When I hit consumer-and-financial protections, there seemed to be subject matter confusion between protecting minimum wage, welfare, and food stamp benefits and saving the Consumer Finance & Protection Bureau and Dodd-Frank, which probably should have been two issue areas. When they recommend the League of Women Voters and calling your legislators, no one could say this is an inflammatory or radical manual, and I’m sure there were arguments, given the history of the sponsors, on whether or not this was even resistance.

But, this is the strength and weakness of “open source.” We will have to see what evolves. On one page, helpfully, I could see the revision and the email source that had suggested it, as well as the fact that it was waiting to be approved. As they say, front and center, they are looking for partners and help make this a powerful tool, and something even more effective as a Resistance Manual. In their words:

If you’d like to begin organizing or become a partner in maintaining the site, reach out at info@staywoke.org. This is an open-source site – feel free to add and edit as new information arises.

That’s a call to action as well to turn a promising start into a weapon. I’m hoping that many answer and respond.

***

Please enjoy Hungry Ghost by Hurray For the Riff Raff.

Thanks to KABF.

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Women’s March on Washington Has Stepped Up to a Strong Platform

New Orleans   More numbers have started to roll in on the delegations coming from the states to the Women’s March on Washington the Saturday after the Inauguration. Two thousand have signed up from Texas, three hundred from Arkansas, and twelve hundred from Louisiana. A story in my local paper had a picture of women making purple and silver sashes for the march, recalling those worn by the suffragettes one-hundred years ago.

The one knock I’ve heard repeatedly about the march though is, “what’s it about?” Is this just a stepping for solidarity or is there a platform undergirding the marchers and pushing for change? It was a fair criticism at least in the beginning when the initial organizers seemed to be resisting a real program thinking that a big tent was enough message in itself. For whatever reason though, they have one now. Maybe organizers were responding to criticism. Maybe they just thought the numbers were a strong enough hammer that it was time to add the nails. Whatever the reason, the platform is out, and the Women’s March on Washington has stepped up.

Unity Principles

 

We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights. We must create a society in which women – including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women – are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.

 

ENDING VIOLENCE

 

Women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of all forms of violence against our bodies. We believe in accountability and justice in cases of police brutality and ending racial profiling and targeting of communities of color. It is our moral imperative to dismantle the gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system.

 

REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

 

We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education.

 

LGBTQIA RIGHTS

 

We firmly declare that LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights and that it is our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings. We must have the power to control our bodies and be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.

 

WORKER’S RIGHTS

 

We believe in an economy powered by transparency, accountability, security and equity. All women should be paid equitably, with access to affordable childcare, sick days, healthcare, paid family leave, and healthy work environments. All workers – including domestic and farm workers, undocumented and migrant workers – must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage.

 

CIVIL RIGHTS

 

We believe Civil Rights are our birthright, including voting rights, freedom to worship without fear of intimidation or harassment, freedom of speech, and protections for all citizens regardless of race, gender, age or disability. We believe it is time for an all-inclusive Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

 

DISABILITY RIGHTS

 

We believe that all women’s issues are issues faced by women with disabilities and Deaf women. As mothers, sisters, daughters, and contributing members of this great nation, we seek to break barriers to access, inclusion, independence, and the full enjoyment of citizenship at home and around the world. We strive to be fully included in and contribute to all aspects of American life, economy, and culture.

 

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS

 

Rooted in the promise of America’s call for huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we believe in immigrant and refugee rights regardless of status or country of origin. We believe migration is a human right and that no human being is illegal.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

 

We believe that every person and every community in our nation has the right to clean water, clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands. We believe that our environment and our climate must be protected, and that our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for corporate gain or greed – especially at the risk of public safety and health.

That may be too many words to put on a sash, but we can all print them out and put them in a pocket close to our hearts.

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The Women are Coming to Washington

New Orleans    The number of bus permits issued for the Women’s March in Washington on the Saturday after the Inauguration has passed 1800 and reportedly all the seats on Amtrak between DC and New York City are booked. Police and other city officials, rather than the march organizers, are saying that from their experience, the numbers will exceed the 200,000 estimated in the march permit.

One-thousand fewer bus permits have been issued for Inauguration Day itself, yet the Metro, the DC subway, is running a rush hour schedule from 4 AM until on that date. On the Saturday of the march despite the huge expected crowd, they have thus far announced that they are only running a normal Saturday schedule beginning at 7 AM. I talked to two young women planning to attend who are planning to drive in on a Thursday in the middle of the night just to beat the crowds and are debating exit plans for Saturday afternoon. One of the co-owners of the bar next to Fair Grinds Coffeehouse on St. Claude surprised me by saying she was absolutely going to attend.

In the age of Trump, if these are the kinds of crowd estimates coming into the nation’s capital then it won’t be long before the Chamber of Commerce starts to apply a multiplier for how much the tourism and visitor revenue delivers to the city. Mass protest may become big business.

It’s not just DC. There are local marches popping up everywhere.

There are four marches in super-red state Wyoming in Cody, Cheyenne, Sheridan, and Casper. In Montana, over two-thousand women have signed up on a Facebook page that they are marching in-state so that they can be heard. In New Orleans there is a women’s march on Saturday at 3PM, and events throughout the state. They even have a name for this spreading phenomena: sister marches.

And, that’s not all. More than twenty countries are listed as having marches to show solidarity and stand with American women from Australia to the Netherlands to our neighbors in Mexico and Canada. I was surprised not to see Google ads, jumping on the website for comfortable shoes!

God knows what the new President and Tweeter-in-Chief will have to say, but who cares, really.

Solidarity, sisterhood, resistance or whatever you want to call it. The issue is not whether or not Trump is President, but is more about the world being assured that human rights, all rights are important to Americans.

In this case, women are going to lead. There’s an opportunity for all of us to follow.

***

Please enjoy Sheryl Crow with Burt Bacharach Dancing with Your Shadow

Thanks to KABF.

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Leslie Dunbar, John Lewis, and Heeding the Call of the Civil Rights Movement


Leslie W. Dunbar speaking to the Loyal Democrats of Mississippi Convention in 1968. Credit Tony Dunbar

New Orleans   Thus far President-elect Trump and his office have said nothing formally in commemoration of Martin Luther King Day. His Twitter-attack on civil rights warrior and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis capsulizes his own special oblivion to the struggles and aspirations of tens of millions who don’t live in Manhattan and winter in Florida.

I was struck by the contrast as I recently read the obituary of Leslie Dunbar in my local newspaper when he passed away at nearly 96 years old. I didn’t know Leslie well, but I knew him from his time as executive director of the Field Foundation when I tried to raise money from him in the 1970s. During the time that Field operated the foundation was famous, especially under Dunbar’s direction as a funder of voting rights and civil rights efforts, particularly in the South.

Several years after founding ACORN in 1970, as we made our first ventures to New York in 1974 to try and raise foundation money, Leslie and Field were on the short list as “naturals” to support a growing community organization with roots in Arkansas. My first visit didn’t go well and in a follow-up letter when I described ACORN’s mission as trying to build an AFL-CIO of membership-based community organizations of low and moderate income families, he dismissed the whole effort somewhat brusquely with a hand scribbled note saying that, “the last thing we need in this country is another AFL-CIO.” That stung, even though decades later, I can concede the point as the AFL-CIO becomes more and more sclerotic, and eventually Field became one of our consistent funders until it closed its doors. After Hurricane Katrina a decade ago, it was great to talk with Leslie and his son, Tony, when he visited New Orleans before moving to the city in the last years of his life.

His obituary spoke to the transformational power of the civil rights movement though and the clarity of its call to men and women who cared about people and equal rights and justice for all. It turned out Leslie had a PhD in political philosophy and constitutional law from Cornell and had bounced around on the track between academia and government service until ending up running the political science department at Mount Holyoke when in 1958 he jumped into the fray. Remember that the Montgomery Bus Boycott which propelled Martin Luther King, Jr. into national prominence ran from early December 1955 until about the same time 1956. The power of this emerging civil rights movement was life changing for millions, and Leslie Dunbar was clearly one of the many who ached for a way to align their convictions with their actions or move in Trump’s sense from all talk to as close to all action as they might get. In Dunbar’s case he moved to the Southern Regional Council, which was a mainstay of research and advocacy around race and voting rights at the time and for many years thereafter. When I’m in Little Rock I still take note on most visits of the plaque that remains in our building’s meeting room when ACORN was named by the SRC as the outstanding organization in the South in 1973.

Leslie’s obit notes with some pride his role at the SRC along with King at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP’s Roy Wilkins in establishing the Voter Education Project, and the 2 million people it helped register. In these early years of ACORN we were proud to work with VEP during the years that John Lewis ran the project from 1970 to 1977. As organizations ran from voter registration and the modern attacks on voting rights that have accelerated in the 21st Century, there is no organization that began in the South as ACORN did in Arkansas in 1970 that didn’t understand that every peoples’ organization had a commitment forever to expand and protect voting rights, regardless of the consequences, if was to be accountable to his membership and their aspirations.

In the sense that John Lewis today is a headline example of such lifetime commitments, Leslie Dunbar and tens of thousands like him, playing roles large and small, uprooted their lives and sometimes gave their lives, as King did, at the call and in service to doing whatever they could and whatever they were able in order to build a movement to change America.

We watch the first African-America president leave office in the legacy of that movement at the same time we watch a new president move to office while trying to ignore and perhaps destroy that movement. He has to be taught once again that we shall not be moved.

Civil Rights activists lead the March on Washington on August 28, 1963 including John Lewis (far left) and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (middle). (Photo by Robert w. Kelley/Getty Images)

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