Fight Harder And Smarter Against Trumpism

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Above photo: President Trump celebrates with congressional Republicans outside the White House on Wednesday after Congress passed sweeping tax overhaul legislation. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP)

The Republican Party is celebrating the passage of a deeply unpopular and comprehensive rewrite of the U.S. tax code, which critics argue is skewed unjustly toward the rich. Members of the party, however, are convinced that we will learn to love the new tax code, as House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday. “When people see their withholding improving, when they see jobs occurring, when they see bigger paychecks, a fairer tax system, a simpler tax code, that’s what going to produce the results,” he said at his weekly press conference. “Results are going to make this popular,” he added, sounding like parents telling their child, “When you’re older, you’re going to thank me for forcing you to take violin lessons.” But like a child who grows up resenting a domineering parent, voters are likely to punish the GOP at the ballot box, as some have predicted. And unlike my analogy, voters are not children.

My actual child recently approached me, wondering if he could ask me a serious question. I braced myself, sat him down on my lap and nudged him to speak. Some of his schoolmates had been discussing writing letters to Congress about outlawing shark fin soup in order to protect endangered sharks. But another friend worried that if they did so, President Trump would know where they live and might retaliate. My son wanted to know if it is dangerous to write letters to Congress.

My heart broke a little with the realization that there are children in America who are afraid of exercising their democratic rights because a tyrannical president and party foists unjust policies on us, and that my own child—who listens in on his parents’ spirited dinnertime political discussions—is among them. I explained that not only is it OK to write to Congress, it is our job as citizens to do so—and it is the job of Congress to listen to us.

After we discussed at length who our local, state and national representatives are and how easy it is to write to them, my son asked if Trump could fire senators like Bernie Sanders for standing up to him. I replied that, on the contrary, members of Congress could fire Trump if they wanted to. My son did not understand why Congress has not yet done so.

The Republican Party and their president have done a number on all of us. We feel defeated. Despite our best efforts, wealthy elites have managed to grab political power and enrich themselves, and the tax bill is the latest and perhaps greatest blow this year. But this is part of a tactic designed to leave us feeling disoriented and helpless. A party that openly resorts to redrawing district lines and disenfranchising opposition voters in order to cling to power realizes that its days are numbered and acts at breakneck speed to seize power before we know what has hit us. A president who knows deep down that he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million people and that his poll numbers are decreasing steadily, even among his own base, knows he has only so much time to carry out his heist. He is keenly aware that if he leaves us reeling with horror each week (so that we forget the indignity of the week before and the week before that), we are less likely to revolt—or so the unspoken logic goes.

While we may feel overwhelmed by losses, what we have witnessed over the past year is that despite their best efforts, Trump and his cohorts have few victories to show for their domination of both chambers of Congress and the presidency. After months of wrangling with the courts, Trump has pushed through a lesser version of his original “Muslim ban.” Despite Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Accord, state governors and mayors across the U.S. and nations around the world remain committed to the modest agreement. Even though Republicans have targeted the Affordable Care Act in piecemeal ways, they were unable to keep their promise to “repeal and replace” the law in its entirety. While the year ends with a major blow to economic justice in the form of this tax bill, the Republican Party knows it has passed a hugely unpopular bill just so it could have something to show before Dec. 31—and the bill is likely to come at serious political cost.

The recent win by a Democrat (albeit one who might be friendly to Republicans) in Alabama could mean that the opposition party will win enough midterm election races in 2018 to flip the Senate and even the House. Democratic Party leaders certainly hope so. But for social movements to pour their energy back into the Democratic Party is not a long-term solution either, because time and time again the party has taken progressive voters for granted and betrayed its stated ideals.

What we need instead is a stark reminder of the relationship between elected politicians and the electorate—a lesson similar to the one I found myself sharing with my son. Members of Congress should neither be championed nor relied upon. They are serving their terms at our whim: They are literally public servants. While they ought to be instruments of our bidding, they understand how to rig the system to feed their power and brainwash us into thinking that we are either on their team or are helpless against their power. Neither is true.

Just as Republicans are desperate to do the bidding of their paymasters, Democrats (and any member of any party) ought to work for our votes. Trump and his party are doing as much damage as fast as possible in the hopes that people will accept it. The Democratic opposition is gleefully expecting a backlash to feed its return to power. We cannot assume either truly cares about ordinary Americans.

The most effective way to express our demands is through political organizing that is entirely independent of any political party. A year after the historic Women’s March, there will be a second march on Jan. 20, 2018. Last January, Trump was clearly threatened by the sheer number of protesters, as evidenced by his desperate need to inflate his inauguration crowd numbers over Women’s March attendees. Despite the temptation to give in to activism fatigue, it is critical that turnout be even greater in 2018. Last January, we protested against what we feared would come to pass. Now we have evidence that our fears were, in fact, understated.

Of course, a single march or even series of marches will not be enough. Our challenge is multifold. We have to show politicians how deeply unpopular their schemes are. While we ensure that lesser evils replace the worst evils, we also have to insist that no matter who is in power, our demands for social, racial, gender, environmental and economic justice be met. The tax bill is a depressing end to a depressing year. But Trump and his party are counting on us feeling disoriented and powerless. Let’s agree to a New Year’s resolution: Fight the injustice of the Christmas tax cuts and prepare ourselves to battle Trumpism better in 2018.

  • rgaura

    No one can prove that Trump lost the popular vote, certainly not quote numbers to that effect. The vote was uncountable by design. There were enormous amounts of money used for ages to cut the vote numbers by disenfranchisement schemes, voting machine rigging, and many of the tricks used against Sen. Sanders in the primary. Even the challenges did not count the votes and areas in dispute. My observation is that both parties have been cheating as much as possible, even colluding, and both serve the same masters. It is not Trumpism we must fight, but 40 years of catering to special financial and corporate interests.

  • Robert Hodge

    Every time I hear the “both sides are the same argument” I want to puke…. Do DEMOCRATS start wars and create economic chaos? Do RepubliCONS attempt to insure healthcare for ALL of America while fighting off the attacks from the opposition? Do Democrats create useless and costly bureaucracies (“Homeland” Security preceded by the much maligned TSA as examples) to showcase their “fiscal responsibility”?. Do RepubliCONS care about “Joe the Plumber” or the CEO of Goldman Sachs…? I’m not saying this is Angels and Demons, but it has to be clear that LAZY THINKING is what produces the “both sides are the same” crap. Cut it out.

  • Margaret Flowers

    Robert – please allow me to try to explain without evoking a visceral response by you. There are differences between the Republicans and Democrats, but both parties operate to serve the interests of the wealthy (the donor class) and large corporations. Both parties fail to represent the interests and needs of the population they were elected to serve. They operate within a narrow spectrum of domestic and foreign policies that fail to address the crises we face. And they are used to divide the population, pit people against each other as a distraction while they serve their wealthy masters – the Republicans more overtly and the Democrats a bit more covertly. When it comes to war, the Democrats have been the party of war from the start. Focusing on recent history, remember it was Obama that increased our military presence in Africa, something Bush failed to do; it was Obama who escalated drone warfare into countries with which we are not technically at war; it was Obama who tried to attack Syria in 2013 and was met with widespread public disapproval; it was Obama who made bombing Palestinians one of his first acts as President, and we can talk about the Honduras, Venezuela, Libya, the Asian Pivot, record arms sales and more. It was the Democrats who forced through a neo-liberal health law to enrich the medical industrial complex when their base was calling for single payer health care. Let’s not fool ourselves that they could not do it because of opposition. I was there. The health effort was a Democratic Party-driven effort with very effective arm-twisting to get enough votes by Democrats to pass it. It was the Obama administration who brought in CitiGroup to run the government, while Trump favors Goldman Sachs. We see little difference there between the two. The reality is that the two-party system is broken, so arguing over which party is worse misses the point that we need to build political power outside of the electoral system to force whomever is in power to have to heed our demands and to change the dysfunctional systems within which we live.

  • Robert H. Stiver

    I (another Robert) like your reply, Ms. Flowers! Ralph Nader’s counsel: Don’t vote for the lesser worse…my guideline going back to at least 2000.

  • Clash_1

    Speak of resisting Trumpism, just a waste of time, the requiem for another dying republic. The poor are being eliminated, left to die in the streets, mass incarceration for profit and now as before no safety net at all. All the while the righteous few dump millions of pills in towns with populations of less than 3000 people,and all the while their fine neighbors pocket the crumbs left by big pharmaceutical corporations. Uneducated believe the propaganda left and right, fake news, it is just the slight of hand working.

    The life support system is failing who’s next?

  • Robert Hodge

    Thank you Margaret for your thoughtful response. I do understand that ‘both’ parties have failed the people, and if we need to parse blame (for whatever benefit that does) I would happily concede a 60/40 split, with 60 going to republCONS and 40 going to Democrats for inept culpability and malfeasance.

  • Bob Beal

    The Democratic party is counterrevolutionary–and reform isn’t an option.

    US Congress passes tax windfall for corporations and the rich
    by Barry Grey, Dec. 21, 2017
    “The Democrats support tax cuts for corporations and did nothing to seriously oppose this naked piece of class legislation.”
    “Congress’ passage of the Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion tax cut for corporations and the rich marks a new stage in the decades-long social counterrevolution in the United States. It will make America, already the most unequal advanced economy in the world, far more unequal, entrenching the rule of an unaccountable financial oligarchy.”