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Thursday, January 26, 2017


I have spent virtually my entire life thinking and writing about subjects that interested only a few: The Critique of Pure Reason, A Treatise of Human Nature, the less erotic aspects of Marx’s economic theory, even anarchism, although what I wrote on that last topic won a rather larger audience than I anticipated.  Now, in my dotage, I find myself writing about subjects so current in the public consciousness that I am truly, as I so often say, merely a pebble rolling down a hill in a landslide.

Today, I should like to start talking about what we can all do to fight Trump, and I anticipate that virtually nothing I say will be at all new.  Indeed, much, if not all, of what I shall say has been anticipated just yesterday on this blog by the comment of David.  So be it.  In this fight, we need not a few, not thousands, but millions and tens of millions of actions.  If, in this obscure corner of the blogosphere, I can encourage a few of you to take actions you might not otherwise have considered, I shall be content.  And if, as Unknown suggests, my anxiety is excessive, my comments “hyperbolic,” I shall breath a deep sigh of relief and return to the contemplation of my circles, as Kierkegaard would have it.

Perhaps it will be useful to distinguish actions designed to affect the existing constellation of political forces, actions designed to change the constellation of political forces, actions designed to counteract Trump’s malign decisions, and actions designed to destabilize or unhinge Trump himself.

I.  Actions designed to affect the existing constellation of forces.

The American political system is extremely complex, more so even than the political systems of other large advanced capitalist states.  The Federal structure of our government creates a great many centers of power, each of which affects and is affected by the others but is itself semi-independent.  Here are some things we can do to influence the actions of those who control those centers of power.

A   Bring pressure to bear on Democratic senators to use the considerable resources of their office to block everything that Trump proposes.  That includes a large infrastructure bill putatively designed to create working class and middle class jobs.  If such a bill is passed, it will strengthen Trump’s political hand, and the fact that it passed with Democratic votes will serve to legitimate him.  It is vital to delegitimate Trump in every way available.  The threat he poses is too great for any compromise.

B.  Affirmatively support mayors and governors who declare sanctuary cities and resist Trump’s attempt to destroy them.  Hundreds of mayors and governors have already taken this step, and they need to hear that you support them.  This is important for two reasons:  First, because of the protection it will give to at-risk undocumented men, women, and children, and Second, because Trump will experience this resistance as a threat to his dominance, which is what he really cares about.  Anything that makes him feel weak, a “loser,” disrespected, will work to destabilize him.

C.  Bring pressure on the working press to call out Trump’s lies, challenge the putative normality of his behavior and statements, and refuse to serve as conduits for his fantasies.  Sixty seconds of Googling yielded this list of officers of the White House Press Corps:

Officers And Board, 2016-2017
President: Jeff Mason, Reuters
Vice President: Margaret Talev, Bloomberg
Secretary: Todd Gillman, Dallas Morning News
Treasurer: Doug Mills, New York Times

Board Members

Olivier Knox, Yahoo News, At-Large
Zeke Miller, Time, New Media Seat
Alicia Jennings, Nbc News, Television Seat
Jon Decker, Fox News, Radio Seat
Julie Pace, Associated Press, Wire Seat

You will notice that none of these is a household name.  I bet they do not get all that many messages from the public, compared with, say, Jim Acosta, Major Garrett, or Chris Jansing.

D.        Contact existing State Representatives, State Senators, and Governors [Google will give you their phone numbers and identities.]  I have repeatedly read or heard that even a few hundred calls from constituents make a disproportionately large impression on these folks.  Call your reps if they are Democrats, call them if the Republicans, but call them.  Yesterday I called the North Carolina House and Senate majority leaders [both republicans] urging them not to block the new Democratic Governor’s attempt to accept Medicare expansion in North Carolina.  The young staffers who answered the phone made it clear they had been swamped with calls.

Enough for today.  Tomorrow I will talk about ways of changing the existing constellation of political forces.


Chris said...

Professor Wolff,
I'm wondering what you think of the new Justice Democrats movement, to take over the house and senate in 2018.

The part platform seems nearly impeccable:

It seems like this movement might be useful, since a lot of current democrats are okaying all Trump's cabinet picks (13-14 okayed his terrible CIA pick, and Chuck Schumer has okayed everything).

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Well, it looks great. I am all for it. Most of it is unattainable as things now stand, but if we can elect even a few Democrats on this platform it will make a difference.

s. wallerstein said...

Wouldn't it be wiser for Democrats to vote for Trump's infrastructure bill if they want to woo white working class voters for the next election? You can imagine how Trump's propaganda apparatus will use a Democratic vote against the infrastructure bill, claiming that that vote shows that the Democrats don't care about creating working class jobs.

I'm sure that the bill will include juicy contracts for Trump's construction companies and those of all his cabinet members and their pals, but the unemployed want jobs and don't particularly care who is making money off of them.

Not voting for anything Trump proposes seems like the purist leftwing policies, which you have rightly condemned elsewhere on your blog.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I don't think that is correct in this case, as I will try to explain in the next few days. It is a tactical judgment, not one based on leftwing politics. But of course I could be wrong.

TheDudeDiogenes said...

Professor, what might you have to say to someone who says that the Left generally, but specifically in trying to be as obstructionist as possible to Trump, will only create a stronger backlash? I certainly don't agree with Mr. Dreher's views, but I do find his views worth taking seriously, at least in a tactical sense.

Bernie has continued to expound on economic issues, and others, such as Mark Lilla have challenged the standard Democratic view on "identity politics" which might alienate otherwise sympathetic working class voters.

I certainly don't want to weaken my commitment to equal rights, but I do see some merit to their views, in terms of practical coalition building. What do you think?

s. wallerstein said...

It's, as you say, a tactical judgment.

If Trumpism begins to weaken its appeal, then that's the moment to refuse to have anything to do with it, but if it is successful in continuing to command the support of many white working class and middle class voters, then we'd have to pretend that we see it as more legitimate than we actually do, because when we claim that the Trump is not legitimate, we are saying to a lot of people that their electoral choice is not legitimate, that they voted like fools or like proto-fascists and that is not a good way to seduce them over to our side.

Anonymous said...

"Bring pressure to bear on Democratic senators to use the considerable resources of their office to block everything that Trump proposes. That includes a large infrastructure bill putatively designed to create working class and middle class jobs. If such a bill is passed, it will strengthen Trump’s political hand, and the fact that it passed with Democratic votes will serve to legitimate him. It is vital to delegitimate Trump in every way available."

When you find yourself deliberately harming the American people in order to oppose the President for political points... you are done. You have lost ideologically and ethically.

Jerry Fresia said...

Trump's likely infrastructure plan:

It's not what one might think; according to Michael Hudson it will be designed so that the 99%
pay for it while the 1% will profit.

Check out video interview with Michael Hudson, economics professor and author of Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy: