A common meme among President Trump’s supporters—and even from some misguided progressives—is that he hasn’t actually done much of anything, so how can we be in such strong opposition already? They argue it makes us look like whiners and sore losers who won’t give him a fair chance, the honeymoon every new president deserves.
I used to be a big believer myself in the concept of a “loyal opposition,” and I always loved a childhood memory (I was a teen actually) of watching a pre-Inaugural show honoring President-elect Jimmy Carter, and staunch conservative Gen. Omar Bradley being wheeled out to salute him and gave a short, cranky speech about how he disagreed with much of what Carter stood for, but wished him success as part of that loyal opposition.
As a staunch progressive, I was disheartened—depressed even—by Trump’s stump of an electoral victory. I was ready to suck it up however, and wish him well, in honor of a great American tradition, if not the man. This despite the hypocrisy of those who never gave President Barack Obama much of a chance at all—from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s infamous early “one term only” declaration to the Tea Party madness that began within three months of his swearing in.
This has been a paradigm-shattering campaign, and this is a paradigm-shattering president, and I mean neither in any positive sense at all. Still, despite the misogyny, blatant and dog-whistle racism, and so much else, I held my breath and my tongue as long as I could. As the days of the Worst Presidential Transition Ever passed, followed by the Worst Presidential Opening Weeks Ever, it became even more obvious that yet another great American tradition—of the loyal opposition—had to be, at least temporarily, shucked aside.
It’s clear now, more than ever as his presidency tweets and stutters forward, that the nation—and progressives in particular—cannot afford to wait to be in active, willful and even aggressive (but nonviolent) opposition to the Trump administration.
Full disclosure, I marched (in New York) at what was ostensibly the Women’s March but was really the Trump Opposition’s full coming-out party. While the demographics and regional balance undoubtedly matched the unsuccessful Democratic presidential election turnout, it filled me with hope that, if sustained at anywhere near that energy-level, the worst wishes of the Trump-Pence-Bannon triumvirate can be, if not entirely stopped, at least slowed down or altered toward some semblance of reasonableness.
But why not patiently wait for the standard political process to take hold, the nip and tuck and horse trading of the Beltway? And why was everyone hatin’ on poor DJT right from the get-go of the transition?
The reason is that he is a leader so dangerous to our democracy—to our very social fabric—that to not oppose him early, often, and vigorously is to invite the dissolution of our beautiful, if flawed, 200+ year democratic experiment. It goes beyond merely sticking one’s head in the sand, it’s akin to handing over the axe to an axe murderer (thank you Electoral College).
Isn’t that an exaggeration? Isn’t this just ideological whining because conservative public policy will now win out after eight years of liberal ascendancy? Granted, the policy repercussions alone are terrifying: women’s reproductive rights, climate change, immigrant rights, economic inequality, healthcare, foreign policy instability and so much more, and topped off by a Supreme Court that by all norms should have shifted to 5-4 moderate now possibly tilting as far as 6-3, or worse, solid conservative.
All that would be enough, by itself, to dictate strong opposition within normal political bounds. But the opening salvo of his presidential campaign, his rant characterizing many Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists, started But 6-3 or worse blic policy will now win out after eigthis nation down an escalator ride toward the acceptance of division and hatred.
That was just the beginning. You know the rest of the story. In over a year of angry, blustering campaign venom, from both him and many of his followers, he managed to insult and spread hatred toward—and fear within—so many segments of our society, notably excepting white males: women, Muslims, the disabled, Mexicans (not just legal or illegal immigrants mind you, but American-born of that heritage, of which I am one), LGBTQ people…and did I say women, women, women. I’m sure I’ve left out other groups in this listing of “other,” forgive me.
Just words, you say, locker room talk and such. Policy matters more. Yes, policy does matter, and I won’t argue which matters more, but words are tremendously important. Bigly. Why? Because they are a key element of leadership, especially from the bully pulpit of the presidency, now definitely living up to its name.
Presidential leadership in that regard sets the tone for civil society, it sends ineffable and perhaps indelible signals, especially to those looking for a sort of “permission” that certain views are now acceptable and expressible. Comedian Aziz Ansari brilliantly characterized these, in his brilliant Saturday Night Live opening monologue Jan. 17, as “lower case kkk.”
One of my favorite Broadway songs is Avenue Q’s “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” I get that, and I’ll fully admit to not being 100% perfect in that regard. There’s always been a good dose of hypocrisy and condescension on race issues in this country, from all political leanings.
But we’re talking about a sowing of divisiveness unheralded from the top, no matter how many times he calls himself a uniter. That’s just one of his many gaslighting claims—an approach Trump has absolutely mastered. What was once politely confined to conservative dog whistles is now out there clear as day.
Instead of a serious look at why the Rust Belt is rusting or how terrorism is so difficult to fight, the racial and ethnic scapegoating reigns supreme. Mexicans are stealing your jobs, African-Americans and “their” entitlements—including, unsaid but so obvious, Obamacare—are eating up your tax dollars, Muslims, all Muslims are too violent to take any kind of chance on.
These are the many reasons why it was never too early, friendly transition be damned, to strike up the resistance, on the streets, on the internet, with the pen. And as concrete, negative actions to destroy constructive progressive policies begin, if you’ve had your head in the sand till now, well pull it the hell up. Giving him too much of a “fair chance” is not option, if it allows him to build power past a point of no return.
The “Women’s March” was heartening. Who cares about the supposedly disparate agendas, the clarion call to resist was clear. If sustained and skillfully organized, this could be progressives’ Tea Party movement. Kudos to women for taking the lead, akin to white males’ supposed anger in 2009. They were probably the most insulted of Trumps parade of “others,” so it’s only fitting.