It is now two months since Trump was elected, and certain things are becoming clearer that give an eternal optimist like me some reason for hope. Let me suggest four.
First, there has been an astonishing spontaneous outpouring of vocal grass-roots opposition to the new administration and a flood of local and national organizing efforts. Usually the period after an election is a downtime for such activities. People are weary from the long run-up to the vote, they are tapped out financially, and they give the new president some small period of grace in which to prove himself [and, yes, it is still “he” or “him,” at least for the moment.] But this time, people have not even waited until the inauguration to start organizing.
Because so many efforts are underway [or, to be precise, under weigh], and because they are not being centrally coordinated, there is a good deal of overlap, duplication, and, even in this age of cyber-sophistication, failed coordination. That does not dismay me at all. As I have so often observed, political change is like a landslide, not brain surgery. In time, things will get sorted out, at least sufficiently to make an impact on the public life of the country.
Every day, I learn about new ways to be active and effective. The latest is contacting your local Democratic Party and volunteering to be a precinct captain. This gives you a vote on the selection of higher up officials in the State party, which in turn gives you some say in who is chosen as national Democratic chairperson. [And please, no rants about the malign evil of the Democratic Party. If this form of activism does not appeal to you, don’t do it, but don’t waste your time and mine inveighing against it. As soon as you have a plausible means by which a few thousand simon pure lefties can take over a party that just pulled 63,000,000 votes, you can count on me to be on board.]
The second reason for hope is the evidence that at least on some things that matter, the Senate Democrats are prepared to use all the tricks in the Senate rule book to stop Trump. Now, let me be clear. There are maybe two dozen sitting Democratic senators whom I would prefer as Senate Minority Leader to the egregious Chuck Schumer. But Schumer is whom we’ve got, and there is no realistic opposition to him, so we shall simply have to make do.
At this point, let me pause in my itemization of reasons for hope to note one major problem on our side of the aisle that we must be aware of and work against. I refer to the Clintons, who are not going anywhere, much as we would like them to. They remain the most powerful people in the Democratic Party, and they have made it clear that they intend to maintain their control of the party if they can. This is not exactly surprising. Hilary Clinton just won the popular vote by almost three million. It is just a delusion to imagine that she is going to fade into the woodwork and disappear. However, the two most popular politicians in the party are Sanders and Warren, both of whom are chomping at the bit to change the party, so if all of us who support them will just become politically active, we can beat back the Clintons and their vast center-left conspiracy, to adapt one of HRC’s best known phrases.
The third cause for optimism is the evidence now building that Trump cannot count on the undivided support of Republicans in the Senate for the wide array of bad things he wants to do. It is increasingly likely that enough Republican senators will defect to block abrupt cancellation of the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s bromance with Russia has a small but significant group of Republican war hawks up in arms, which will, in turn, weaken his ability to take actions that would threaten the rather shaky world economy. I am perfectly happy to see the CIA and the NSA taken down a peg, but I think those on the left who yearn for détente with the Russians are deluding themselves.
Finally, there is Trump himself. He remains ignorant, distractable, unable to concentrate even on the things he appears to want, and easily baited into scattershot Twitter rants that undermine his ability to govern. Since virtually everything he claims to want to do is bad, the less competent he is the better we will be.
Remember, Trump has not even taken office yet!
I conclude with my oft-repeated advice: Find what you enjoy doing in the way of opposition to Trump and do it. Don’t worry about whether it is the most important thing you could be doing. Just do it and keep on doing it. What about me? Well, S. Wallerstein thinks that I ought to make my contribution by offering YouTube lectures on Marx. I confess that reminds me of this lovely passage from the Preface to the Philosophical Fragments:
“When Philip threatened to lay siege to the city of Corinth, and all its inhabitants hastily bestirred themselves in defense, some polishing weapons, some gathering stones, some repairing the walls, Diogenes seeing all this hurriedly folded his mantle about him and began to roll his tub zealously back and forth through the streets. When asked why he did this he replied that he wished to be busy like all the rest, and rolled his tub lest he should be the only idler among so many industrious citizens.”
So let us bestir ourselves polishing weapons and gathering stones.