Trump was sworn in just over three weeks ago. It has felt like months.
There has been a lot of terribleness, but also silver linings. One is the incredible show of resistance to Trump’s agenda. It’s bigger and more beautiful than I could have imagined. The other is the deluge of interesting articles and essays dissecting every aspect of the Trump administration, but also – and perhaps more importantly – articles challenging us to think critically about the ways we’re trying to create change.
Since January 20th, I’ve had dozens of tabs open with half-read articles and even more bookmarked for later. It has been a lot to take in. I imagine others are feeling the same.
So, I sat down and read all the most interesting articles I’ve come across and have included a snapshot from 10 of my favorites below.
Our cynicism will not build a movement. Collaboration will.
Author: Alicia Garza
Hundreds of thousands of people are trying to figure out what it means to join a movement. If we demonstrate that to be a part of a movement, you must believe that people cannot change, that transformation is not possible, that it’s more important to be right than to be connected and interdependent, we will not win.
If our movement is not serious about building power, then we are just engaged in a futile exercise of who can be the most radical.
This is a moment for all of us to remember who we were when we stepped into the movement — to remember the organizers who were patient with us, who disagreed with us and yet stayed connected, who smiled knowingly when our self-righteousness consumed us.
Think the Women’s March wasn’t radical enough? Do something about it
Author: Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
Liberals become radicals through their own frustrating experiences with the system, but also through becoming engaged with people who became radical before them. So when radicals who have already come to some important conclusions about the shortcomings of the existing system mock, deride or dismiss those who have not achieved the same level of consciousness, they are helping no one…
The point isn’t to bury our arguments. If we want to win people to more radical politics, we must learn how to make our arguments while operating in political arenas that aren’t just our own… We must do a better job at facilitating debate, discussion and argument so that we talk about how to build the kind of movement we want. But endless social media critiques with no commitment to diving into that struggle for the kind of movement we want is not a serious approach.
How to Maintain Your Sanity During Politically Insane Times
Author: Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D.
- Walk the middle ground between complacency and hysteria.
- Don’t succumb to clickbait.
- Slow down your quest for information.
- Limit your screen time.
- Expand your advocacy beyond Facebook.
- Post responsibly.
- Spend your energy wisely.
- Don’t cave into your baser instincts.
- Seek out ways to buoy your spirits.
- Excel in life.
The big lesson of Trump’s first 2 weeks: resistance works
Author: Matthew Yglesias
The main concrete victories of resistance thus far are:
- House Republicans abandoned a plan to gut the Congressional Ethics Office.
- The Trump administration abandoned a plan to cancel Affordable Care Act enrollment advertising.
- The VA was granted an exemption from Trump’s hiring freeze.
- 500,000 green card holders were granted exemption from Trump’s immigration orders.
- The Department of Defense has secured permission to grant exemptions to the ban for Iraqis who work with the US military.
- Most dual citizens (Germans, most recently) seem to be getting exemptions from the Trump ban.
- A House Republican plan for a massive sell-off of public lands has been canceled.
Those walkbacks do not, unfortunately, change the reality that Trump’s cruel new approach to immigration will continue to hurt people. The threat to the health insurance of millions remains real.
But this is still a remarkable amount for a new president to need to walk back in his first 10 days in office.
A 10-point plan to stop Trump and make gains in justice and equality
Author: George Lakey
- Recognize that we represent the majority, not Trump.
- Strengthen civic institutions and their connections with targeted populations.
- Play offense, not defense.
- Link campaigns to build movements.
- Link movements to create a movement of movements.
- Avoid one-off demonstrations.
- Heighten the contrast in confrontations between the campaigners’ behavior and our right-wing opponents.
- Aim to unite around a vision for justice, equality and freedom.
- Make the vision more real by extending new economy institutions and coops.
- See U.S. polarization as opportunity.
‘Data-Driven’ Campaigns Are Killing the Democratic Party
Author: Dave Gold
For four straight election cycles, Democrats have ignored research from the fields of cognitive linguistics and psychology that the most effective way to communicate with other humans is by telling emotional stories. Instead, the Democratic Party’s affiliates and allied organizations in Washington have increasingly mandated “data-driven” campaigns instead of ones that are message-driven and data-informed. And over four straight cycles, Democrats have suffered historic losses.
We Democrats have allowed microtargeting to become microthinking. Each cycle, we speak to fewer and fewer people and have less and less to say. We all know the results: the loss of 63 seats and control of the House, the loss of 11 seats and control of the Senate, the loss of 13 governorships, the loss of over 900 state legislative seats and control of 27 state legislative chambers.
Yet despite losses on top of losses, we have continued to double down on data-driven campaigns at the expense of narrative framing and emotional storytelling.
The Labor Movement Must Learn These Lessons From the Election
Author: D.D. Guttenplan (interview with Jane McAlevey)
The Nation: What’s your critique of advocacy?
McAlevey: That it can’t win any serious fight. It can win a small gain. There’s a role for advocacy, there’s a role for mobilizing, and there’s a role for organizing. There’s even a role for charity…
It’s just that the key argument I’m making in the book [is that] to win the hardest fights—like to win a presidential race, to reclaim the United States of America at the statehouse level, to actually tame global capital—we cannot rely on advocacy and mobilizing to do it, because they surrender the most important and only weapon that ordinary people have ever had, which is large numbers.
People think when they go out to a protest, “Hey, that’s large numbers.” I went to Occupy—wasn’t that a lot of people? That’s what we all think.
Question one: What people were there? Question two: Did we do a power analysis that told us what it would take to actually occupy Wall Street in a significant way?
It isn’t just “Can we get some people to a rally?” It’s who are we getting to a rally, it’s who got them to the rally, and it’s how long can we sustain the rally? That’s a really, really fundamental difference. Are ordinary Americans in large numbers turning out to challenge Wall Street? Or are a handful of the most predictable, sane, wonderful, and lovely people that we see at every rally—the same ones—back on the steps of Wall Street? That’s not doing it.
Organizing is about base expansion. We have to significantly expand the base of people in this country who are standing with us, from which we then mobilize. That’s what we’ve stopped doing since about the early 1970s.
The Nation: You also talk about the difference between activists and leaders. I think that’s pertinent in the same way.
McAlevey: Yeah, it’s absolutely crucial. Mobilizing is an activist-driven approach. Activists are the already converted who are not full-time professionals, or it could be full-time professionals in the movement—either one—but it’s people who are already with us…
The problem is, our numbers aren’t great enough anymore, because we’ve let our base wither for about 45 years. At the same time progressive movements were shifting from grassroots organizing to an activist-centric and staff-centric mobilizing model, the right wing in the 1970s—starting with Phyllis Schlafly [defeating] the Equal Rights Amendment—began to build a huge grassroots base.
- Do not obey in advance.
- Defend an institution.
- Recall professional ethics.
- When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words.
- Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.
- Be kind to our language.
- Stand out.
- Believe in truth.
- Practice corporeal politics.
- Make eye contact and small talk.
- Take responsibility for the face of the world.
- Hinder the one-party state.
- Give regularly to good causes, if you can.
- Establish a private life.
- Learn from others in other countries.
- Watch out for the paramilitaries.
- Be reflective if you must be armed.
- Be as courageous as you can.
- Be a patriot.
In Venezuela, we couldn’t stop Chávez. Don’t make the same mistakes we did.
Author: Andrés Miguel Rondón
Don’t forget who the enemy is: Never forget that you’re that enemy. Trump needs you to be the enemy, just like all religions need a demon. A scapegoat. “But facts!” you’ll say, missing the point entirely.
Show no contempt: The worst you can do is bundle moderates and extremists together and think that America is divided between racists and liberals.
Don’t try to force him out: In Venezuela, the opposition focused on trying to reject the dictator by any means possible — when we should have just kept pointing out how badly Chávez’s rule was hurting the very people he claimed to be serving.
Find a counterargument: It took opposition leaders 10 years to figure out that they needed to actually go to the slums and the countryside. Not for a speech or a rally, but for a game of dominoes or to dance salsa — to show they were Venezuelans, too, that they weren’t just dour scolds and could hit a baseball, could tell a joke that landed.
[Note from Matt: I feel this article misses the mark whith its definition of ‘populism’. The larger points remain thought provoking, so it’s included here.]
It may only take 3.5% of the population to topple a dictator – with civil resistance
Author: Erica Chenoweth
At no time in recorded history have people been more equipped to effectively resist injustice using civil resistance.
Today, those seeking knowledge about the theory and practice of civil resistance can find a wealth of information at their fingertips. In virtually any language, one can find training manuals, strategy-building tools, facilitation guides and documentation about successes and mistakes of past nonviolent campaigns.
Material is available in many formats, including graphic novels, e-classes, films and documentaries, scholarly books, novels, websites, research monographs, research inventories, and children’s books. And of course, the world is full of experienced activists with wisdom to share…
Crucially, nonviolent resistance works not by melting the heart of the opponent but by constraining their options. A leader and his inner circle cannot pass and implement policies alone. They require cooperation and obedience from many people to carry out plans and policies.
Two additional articles worth mentioning are “Trial Balloon for a Coup?” and “The Data That Turned the World Upside Down.” Both of these articles spread like wildfire and each had compelling counter-point articles explaining problems with the analysis in each: “Weak and Incompetent Leaders act like Strong Leaders” and “Will the Real Psychometric Targeters Please Stand Up?”
Honorable Mention: The Indivisible Guide – An in-depth guide on influencing members of congress, written by former congressional staffers.
Photo Credit: Julia DeSantis