Response to Trump Takes Action, Not Just Reaction

Citizen Wealth Community Organizing Financial Justice Ideas and Issues Organizing
Protesters hold up signs during a march and rally against the election of Donald Trump in Los Angeles on Nov. 12. LUCY NICHOLSON / Reuters

New Orleans   The election is in the rear-view mirror now, but for many people the shock and awe of the Trump victory is a raw and open wound, bleeding profusely, and demanding attention.

The first response after disbelief at the election returns for many seems to be denial. Quixotic efforts are being promoted in social media about trying to flip votes for some uncommitted Electoral College voters sufficiently to deny Trump the presidency. I’m not going to say that such a strategy is a waste of time, but I will say that in the end it will be futile.

Others are advocating resistance. The teachers’ union in San Francisco put out a lesson plan labeling Trump as a racist and fascist for their 6000 members. Demonstrations and rallies followed the election in cities around the country. College campuses across the country rallied demanding that their administrations protect undocumented students and workers. Some cities have vowed to become sanctuaries to resist deportation efforts. Boycotts are being loudly announced for Trump properties and for just about anything Trump and his campaign have touched. I even heard of one in effect for Nationbuilder, because the Trump campaign used that database. I saw a link to a Facebook group with various committees and subgroups planning all manner of responses. The energy and detail of these efforts is amazing and encouraging.

Donations to necessary and embattled organizations in the coming years have soared. Emily’s List, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood report records numbers of contributions since the election. Environmental groups speak confidentially that they expect they will have the resources to amount fights against initiatives to impose draconian new rules, although not necessarily to prevent some rollback of regulations.

All of this is good and appropriate, but I am most encouraged when I hear about meetings about the need for independent politics as part of the rebuilding strategy for progressives. We can’t just defend. We also have to attack. We have to have an offense to go with our defense. Our campaigns can’t just be to stop the right, but also to advance the left.

Here’s one example. We hear constantly that there will be an effort to toss Dodd-Frank and its regime of banking regulations and reporting onto the trash bin of history to allow our financial system to return to the precarious situation we faced in the Great Recession eight years ago. The head of the House Committee on financial affairs wants to open the door wide to payday lenders again for example. Surely, we will resist and defend on these issues that so adversely affect lower income and working families, but we also need to open up new fronts to drive them back on their heels.

I think a concerted national campaign against contract-for-deed house purchases is a good example of the new fronts we should open targeting hedge funds, predatory financial practices, Wall Street, inadequate lending, unaffordable housing, racial and ethnic discrimination, and the inadequacy of existing regulations. Who can defend stealing peoples’ homes over and over again? Even as conservatives prepare to do the opposite, we need to advance our message with the real meat of organizing and moving our base aggressively to promote our own interests and not simply to defend against attacks. We need to send clear signals, not just read their tea leaves that we maintain majority popular support for fairness, justice, and equity, and we will fight furiously led by the people and supported by the people. We won’t just wait for winter to come, we’ll bring the heat now and scorch the opposition. We can’t win in the bunkers. We have to mount the barricades.