Newsletter: The Problem Isn’t Trump, It’s Bigger

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The awakening of mass protests against Donald Trump’s executive orders and appointments could become a real movement, but it must realize a critically important point: Trump is not the problem, the system is.

Illusion of Democracy hides oligarchyTrump is a symptom of a long-term trend of a failing democracy that is too closely tied to Wall Street and the war machine. Both the Republican and Democratic parties are part of this failed system that does not represent the people of the United States.

This week the Economist Intelligence Unit issued its ninth annual Democracy Index. In doing so the report described the decline of US democracy as developing over decades. People have lost faith in the elected government with “political disaffection with the functioning of democracy.” They also describe Donald Trump as “being a beneficiary of the low esteem in which U.S. voters hold their government, elected representatives and political parties, but he was not responsible for a problem that has had a long gestation.”

In short, the United States is in a crisis of Democracy and Donald Trump is a symptom of that crisis. To be an effective political movement we must see the crisis for what it is and focus on the root causes of failed democracy. Our movement should not be about Trump but about transformation of the United States.

Immigration Prejudice Has Deep Roots

We could go back to previous generations and more than 100 years of examples of the mixed views of the United States both being a nation of immigrants but also one that commonly mistreats and is prejudiced against immigrants. This prejudice has been seen in every recent president of the last several decades, as one said:Clinton and Trump on immigration.

“All Americans . . . are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. . . they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. . . our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders . . . by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens. . . we will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes, to better identify illegal aliens in the workplace . . .”

NAFTA border protestThis statement was from Bill Clinton’s State of the Union in 1995. Clinton was urging NAFTA at the time, which became law in 1996, and which undermined the Mexican economy by destroying its agricultural economy, forcing people into cities, lowering wages and requiring many of them to cross the border in order to survive. Perhaps Clinton saw this coming with NAFTA and tried to restrict the borders

And, as the United States’ never-ending wars of the 21st Century have created chaos around the world and mass refugees, especially in the Middle East and parts of Africa, presidents have sought to prevent those who are victims of US destruction from coming to the United States where they could seek revenge for the destruction of their countries and deaths of family members and friends.

Immigration justice protest during Obama era.

Immigration justice protest during Obama era.

Donald Trump’s executive order stopping travel from seven Muslim nations built on a program enacted by President Obama. According to Trump’s executive order, the action applies to “countries designated pursuant to Division O, Title II, Section 203 of the 2016 consolidated Appropriations Act.” That refers to a 2015 act, signed into law by Obama concerning people who had visited Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. President Obama’s Department of Homeland Security announced restrictions on travel from those same countries.

Millions of people were deported during the Obama era, a record. There were consistent protests against his immigration policy.

Millions of people were deported during the Obama era, a record. There were consistent protests against his immigration policy.

Similarly, the Trump announcement of a ban on refugees from Syria is very similar to a ban during the Obama era on people from Iraq. In 2011, Obama’s state department stopped processing Iraqi refugee requests for six months, though it didn’t disclose the policy like Trump did. It was not until ABC reported in 2013 that some potential Iraqi terrorists came into the United States that the policy was made public. Obama did not tweet about it or make a big display about the ban like Trump did. Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report points out that Trump is just a “less effective evil” than previous presidents because of the way he puts forward the same policies. While other presidents hide, or disguise their evil, Trump she writes does “just the opposite. He is openly evil…”

Let’s Not Forget

Fight for 15 Protesters hold signs at a rally in support of minimum wage increase in New York City on April 15th, 2015. By Victor J. Blue for GettyWe should not have short memories and put all of our focus on Trump. It was during the Obama era that the revolt of the occupy occurred in 2011, three years into his time in office. The revolts against foreclosures, massive debt, particularly student debt, followed. Then came protests and strikes around the country demanding a $15 an hour minimum wage, and protests against the militarization and violence of police in black communities as well as protests against fossil fuel infrastructure, assaults on Indigenous rights, corporate trade agreements and more.

People were protesting not only because of Obama’s policies but against decades of bi-partisan rule for the rich that had created widespread poverty and high unemployment, stagnant wages and economic insecurity for most people in the US, unaffordable healthcare that made it too expensive to go to the doctor when someone was ill (problems that continue today under Obamacare), failing schools that were being corporatized and privatized as well as never-ending ongoing wars that made the nation  less secure and created chaos around the world.Inequality hurts all of us

While 60 million people voted for Donald Trump in the hope that these trends would end; hoping they would gain economic security, healthcare that would be accessible and schools that would serve their children and that the US would stop massive spending on war and militarism, the reality is, these trends and policies will continue.

As a movement, we must remember that when Trump acts, he is often following the path of previous presidents. This week the Trump administration may have put the US on a path to war with Iran. National Security advisor, Michael Flynn drew a red line saying they were putting Iran “on notice” and the United States would not rule out an attack. Trump backed up Flynn in a tweet writing “Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile.” Iran did not violate any agreement by firing a medium range ballistic missile so the threat was based on nothing.

Give peace a chance no more warBefore the Trump threat against Iran, Rep. Alcee Hastings introduced a resolution authorizing the use of the military to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Hastings is a close ally of Hillary Clinton and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. After Trump’s escalated rhetoric against Iran the neocons and bi-partisan war supporters started to push for more aggressive action against Iran. Trump may have started a cascade of war talk from both parties. As Pat Buchanan wrote by making a public threat it becomes very difficult for Trump or Iran to back down, making “a collision with Iran almost unavoidable, and a war with Iran quite possible.” It may be that organized popular opposition to an attack on Iran is our only hope of preventing it.

No war with IranIf military action occurs, let’s remember the US has been in continuous war for almost all of this century and that Obama broke Bush’s record for bombs dropped with more than 100,000 compared to Bush’s 70,000. Further, let’s not forget General Wesley Clark’s report during the Bush administration that listed the seven nations the United States intended to destroy: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran. All but Iran have been attacked, destroyed or made dysfunctional. In 2002 Al Gore said Iran needed to be at the top of the list when he endorsed George W. Bush’s war on terror and Iraq War in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Trump is a continuation of much of US policy, not an aberration. This is so hard for people to see because Trump is less artful and less politic and therefore brings long-term problems out into the open.Occupy-Wall-St-All-Our-Grievances-are-Connected By Susan Rutman

Our Task

We are all working to build a mass movement for economic, racial and environmental justice that is bigger than Donald Trump. As the extremist actions of the Trump administration are put in place we need to remember that extremism for the wealthy, for war and ignoring of environmental catastrophe is consistent with the actions of all recent presidents and the leadership of both corporate parties. Playing political ping-pong by electing a Democrat to replace the Republican will not confront the root cause of these problems. The issues of racism, anti-immigration and bigotry have even deeper histories in the US. The movement we need must be clear in understanding and politically educated enough to understand, Donald Trump is a symptom of a system that is in crisis; transforming that system is our task.Healthcare for All march 2

While we resist, we also need to promote a positive agenda of what we want to see, In addition to pushing for peace, another major issue is health care. The threatened repeal of the so-called Affordable Care Act has opened political space to organize and demand what the majority of people want and what works, a National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA). We launched this week to provide tools and actions to make NIMA the only politically viable solution. Please visit the Health Over Profit for Everyone website and consider getting involved.





  • Aquifer

    The Left does movements, the Right does elections, and here we are …

  • Bill_Perdue

    Trump deserves every bit of his unpopularity among women, those fighting for a decent minimum wage and people of color.

    And Democrats deserve all their unpopularity among workers.

    Trump’s regime is going to accelerate the gaping class divisions between the people who work for a living and the rich. ” In his Inaugural Address, having nominated the wealthiest cabinet in American history, he proclaimed, “For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth.” Under Trump, an even smaller group will flourish — in particular, a cadre of former Goldman Sachs executives. To put the matter bluntly, two of them (along with the Federal Reserve) are likely to control our economy and financial system in the years to come.

    No less than six Trump administration appointments already hail from that single banking outfit. Of those, two will impact your life strikingly: former Goldman partner and soon-to-be Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and incoming top economic adviser and National Economic Council Chair Gary Cohn, former president and “number two” at Goldman Sachs.” via Truthout

    Trump is on the same road as the Clintons, the Bushes and Obama – a road that leads to more and more impoverishment for working people, increasingly hamfisted attacks on unions and vastly increased wealth for the rich.

    In 2008 Democrats and Republicans each got about 31% of the eligible vote.

    In 2012 Democrats and Republicans each got about 29% of the eligible vote.

    In 2016 Democrats and Republicans each got about 25% of the eligible vote with 1 or 2% going to the Libertarians and the Greens.

    Those declines, combined with the rigid, totalitarian partisanship of Democrats and Republicans and their increasing reliance on repression and massive internal spying are the most telling characteristics of the evolving political situation.

  • kevinzeese

    That’s because the electoral system is designed for money and has two big business parties that prevent real participation by anyone else.

  • Aquifer

    I suggest it has as much to do with the facts that a) lefties have been sold on the idea that elections are useless as agents of change, that “movements” are all, ” don’t spend any more time on elections than the 5 minutes it takes to vote” – that they are principally an afterthought for folks who devote most of their activist time in various causes – re peace environment, justice issues of various hues, etc., and they themselves don’t really believe they can win at the polls b) lefties are wrapped up in identity politics, don’t really know how to talk to folks who don’t find themselves in those identities – dismiss their concerns as lesser if not downright illegitimate … prefer confrontation to dialogue, talk about “capitalism” or “socialism” or “class analysis”, “neoliberalism”, “imperialism”, etc., – all abstract or academic terms that mean little to the man on the street – c) lefties have bought into the idea that “money” and “the media” are pretty much determinative as to who “can win” and don’t utilize low tech, cheaper ways to communicate or educate …. And there is more …

    i learned some time ago that you can march ’til your soles (or souls) wear out, phone ’til you ears fall off, type your fingers to the bone – but all the good you do can be undone in the next election – it seems to me this last election is a stark illustration of that … until the left starts taking elections as seriously as the right does, we will continue to forever be on the defense, with little or no prospect of advancing a truly progressive vision ….

  • twopesos

    Thank you. This is the clearest explanation of Washington that I have ever read.

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  • Frank Taylor

    So, now what?

  • Aquifer

    Time for the left to take elections seriously and coalesce around a 3rd party …

  • twopesos

    That is the trap. Blaming “lefties” or “righties” instead of understanding a rigged political system that tag team rapes them both while insidiously convincing the victims du jour that the perpetrators of the crime are those bastards on the other side.

    Actually it is a brilliant strategy that is sending the whole country down the tubes, lefties and righties attached.

  • Aquifer

    We can unrig that political system if we choose – instead we choose to simply discard it as useless …

  • Billy Joe Gissinger


  • rgaura

    NIMA and clean elections are the most pressing concerns, if we want to have any semblance of democracy. By the way, nima means sun or sunlight in Tibetan, it is a common name.

  • Aquifer


  • jemcgloin

    Right now Democrat operatives are actually planning protests, and the global corporate mass media its covering them, probably because the other billionaires don’t want one of them too have that much power.
    Many people are going to avoid these protests for that reason. This it’s a mistake.
    Those of us that know the truth need to go to these events and educate the new protesters in a thoughtful and empathetic way. People know in their gut the system was rigged before Trump, but they need to know some key details.
    For example put Clinton’s quote from the Democratic Debate, “I like and respect Henry Kissinger and took his advice as Secretary of State,” next to Kissinger quote from Gorsuch’s Year book, “The illegal we do right away. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.”
    Those of us that know better need to discredit the fake corporate “center” that masquerades as a compromise between left and right voters, while actually pushing a global corporate agenda while ignoring what the People really want.
    We don’t need to change everyone’s mind, but we need to move a sizable chunk of the anti Trump newbies to the next level, so they can rise above the false Democrat/Republican dichotomy.
    People are energized. Don’t dismiss them. Bring them into our side.

  • Phil Ford


    I’ve literally been disgusted by my partisan Democrat friends who can’t seem to come to grips with the fact that their party (Bernie voters are excused) has been hijacked by the neocons. That Obama, Hillary, Kerry, and the CIA repeated every single error of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Co. They are completely ignorant of the fact that we’re complicit in the murder of 450,000 human beings in Syria but NOW after Trump’s Muslim ban they’re actually marching in the streets. The cognitive dissonance is bewildering.

  • PaulK2

    1. I want progressives to personally reach out, first to disillusioned poor white unemployed discarded voters, second to people who insist that they believe in what Jesus taught and third to Jews stung by the White House denial that Jews were connected with the Nazi Holocaust.

    2. I want progressives to form a genuinely democratic shadow government that includes the above groups (but that pointedly excludes Goldman Sachs, Monsanto/Bayer and Pharma). If few people in the above groups want to participate, go and find those who do and make sure proper representatives of these groups can participate.

    3. I want the democratic shadow government to use an inherently corruption-resistant form of election. None, zero, of this “you must trust me with your life” business!! The Cambridge, MA method of electing their city council is inherently corruption-resistant and it has been tested continuously since 1940. Get this in writing!

  • PaulK2

    I’ve probably been objecting to this same creep elsewhere in comments sections. However, I think she/he/ze has deleted their comment at this point.

    The U.S. has a long history of getting hardened criminals to act as violent agents provocateurs to see if they can attract stupid people to a violent movement. Then the stupids (if there are any) get handed fake explosives, get framed and get sent to jail.

  • Lorraine Ortega

    “Transforming that system is our task”. We need to seize this opportunity to challenge as much oppressive law as we can; the judicial system may be our beacon of hope to achieve most of that change. Our responsibility is to become proficient in law.

  • Agree.

    America is already protected by walls. The Bill of Rights is a tall wall protecting Americans from our government. These amendments to the Constitution prohibit our government from shutting you up, attacking your religion, putting you in jail without a jury trial, torturing you, taking away your guns, invading your home without a warrant, taking your property for profit.

    These rights are strong when they defend everybody, including people you hate. Because when the government can shut down others, you are next.

    That’s why government has always stirred up fear, against anarchists, socialists, communists, pot smokers, foreigners, blacks, mexicans, muslims. Makes it easier for government –whether Democrat or Republican –to weaken your rights. Because when you’re weaker the corporations and bankers can foreclose your homes, export your jobs, raise insurance premiums, take your guns, or cancel your liberties. The first wall we need is around Wall Street.

  • Hate to break it to you, but that strategy doesn’t seem to be working out so well here in the US…

  • AlanMacDonald

    Yes, Kevin and Margaret “It’s much Bigger” — and it’s not just the ‘system’ — it’s the EMPIRE!

    No “so-called” judges, or even “so-called” Justice Department Acting Attorney Generals can Defy Emperor TRUMP! [period]

    Soon. certainly, no “so-called” Senators will be able to Defy Emperor TRUMP! [period]

    And now as at U Cal Berkeley, no University presidents nor students can Defy Emperor Trump — or federal funds will be ‘clawed-back” by the EMPIRE.

    “This is my comment to the NYT Sunday Review by Linda Greenhouse re. “Supreme Court Standing Up to Trump”:

    “It’s not up to the Supreme Court to Stand Up to Trump.

    And the Democratic Party is dead with respect to standing up to anything — let alone Emperor Trump.

    But if the principled left, and even the supposed fourth estate of a free-speech media, is so dumb as to not take this last opportunity to stand-up to the most obvious and virtual ‘Poster-boy’ of Empire, when this ‘Empire-building’, ‘Empire-owning’, and ‘Empire-thinking’ neo-fascist threat to our country can be so clearly tagged with being an Emperor, and can so easily be excised with massive demonstrations and protests in the streets focused on a; loud, public, brave, sustained, but non-violent Second American “Political Revolution against EMPIRE” now — then we Americans will have given up on our last chance to defend democracy anywhere.”

  • AlanMacDonald

    Phil, the leftish, progressive-lite weights, and pseudo alt media at asleep at the switch, out to lunch, deaf, dumb, blind, and gutless for not attacking this EMPIRE (and Emperor Trump) for driving our whole world over the cliff!

  • Aquifer

    How do you know it hasn’t worked – we haven’t tried it …

  • AlanMacDonald

    Yes, YES, jemcgloin, and the “key details” the kids in the streets need to know is that it’s an effin EMPIRE that we are up against!

  • BeJebus

    fuck off wth this self-defeating horseshit. people aren’t perfect, so no system with human beings is, either. vote blue no matter who!

  • kevinzeese

    Vote Blue No Matter Who would make Wall Street, healthcare profiteers and weapons makers very happy. Giving into that is defeat without trying.

  • Harriet Heywood

    Thank you both for speaking truth to power. We need to get the word out. Not sure why people refuse to acknowledge the long term crisis of democracy. But the Bernie campaign and primary theft did open lots of eyes. We need to take advantage of that. .

  • Thank you! Obama gave us $870B TARP plus $50B/mth bond stimulus = $4.27T gift to Wall Street and none of it was used to keep people in their houses. In fact the banks had a reverse incentive because they would write the foreclosure off against their books even though they no longer even owned the loan! Over 7 million homes were foreclosed on, needlessly kicking tens of millions of people out of their homes. Clinton got rid of Glass Steagall that allowed the banks to gamble, gave us the Commodity Futures Modernization Act that allowed the banks to bundle the loans and sell them and gave us the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to keep the news from telling on Wall Street, since they now owned it. Oh, you say Bush gave us the TARP… well, he did that at Obama’s request AND Obama was the one who appointed the Goldman Sachs crew who kept the bonuses rolling and gave everyone a get out of jail free card. I volunteered for Obama in 2008 and was LIVID once I saw who his appointments were! I hated Bush and was very sad once I realized Obama wasn’t going to be much better.

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  • Robert Hodge

    Wow! Very good article and equally as good comments herein. I’ve taken all this in and have concluded rightly, that a PARADIGM SHIFT is in the making if we choose to recognize it. Currently we have the “OUR REVOLUTION” organization, the Sanders campaign has morphed into. First CAUTION: I don’t believe we need to fracture ourselves into more and more pieces with even more and more moving parts of a(nother) iteration of a ‘system’ to combat the SYSTEM. Second CAUTION: Yes, focusing on the ‘shiny’ distractions will get us nowhere. I’m not expressly advocating for the “Our Revolution” movement to be the “ONE”, even though it seems to already be in place, but if there’s anything A revolution needs at this point, its a head start. Third CAUTION: Do your best (self included) to NOT alienate those that may be mis informed (self included) and find the common bond of HUMANITY that we are intricately a part of. I had been told by trump supporters that they would have voted for Bernie (!) if he had not been sidelined by the Clinton machine. THAT was an eye opener! We HAVE an opening..whether it be Our Revolution or something else…lets take it! Hindsight is BERNIE SANDERS 20/20. (Who cares if he’s 75, he’s our champion, and completely capable of breaking this putrid system in the CORRECT way!) If not Bernie, then someone with equal credentials and positions who is in place to take on (with OUR help!) this travesty of a ‘system’.

  • cpapermaster

    Well said. If we vote in a unified way for candidates who don’t take corporate money, have progressive values, and agree to represent their constituents, we can take over Congress, which controls the federal budget and makes the laws. It doesn’t matter which party the candidates belong to. I disagree that the problem is the system. The problem is who’s manipulating the system. If we can get control of Congress we can change the system incrementally. And all of the pressing issues we face can be handled sanely and humanely.

  • cpapermaster

    The problem with the third party idea is the difficulty of ballot access. We tried to start the Justice Party in 2012 to elect Rocky Anderson since we felt both major parties were corrupt. It’s almost impossible to get a new party certified to be on the ballot in many states. I think it would work much better to take over the Democratic Party, and that’s already starting here in California and elsewhere. It’s not difficult to do actually– just have to go to a lot of meetings and organize to get your people elected to key positions. We can do this.

  • cpapermaster

    I disagree that “the system” is to blame for our corrupt government. I’d prefer a parliamentary system, but the one we have could actually work fairly well if the Congress was elected by and responsive to the voters. As I wrote below, “If we vote in a unified way for candidates who don’t take corporate
    money, have progressive values, and agree to represent their
    constituents, we can take over Congress, which controls the federal
    budget and makes the laws. It doesn’t matter which party the candidates
    belong to. I disagree that the problem is the system. The problem is
    who’s manipulating the system. If we can get control of Congress we can
    change the system incrementally. And all of the pressing issues we face
    can be handled sanely and humanely.”

  • Aquifer

    From my observations over the past couple of decades – party affiliation DOES matter – electing “prog” Ds is a waste of time, energy and money, because, for all the rhetoric, down the road, when push comes to shove, it’s party over principle – i have seen it over and over and i think if we are honest we will admit that recent political history has, once again, demonstrated this quite clearly –
    We need to make clear, IMO that folks who profess prog ideals will not get our support if they choose to run as a duopoly candidate …. AND by the same token, if they do run as a non-corp 3rd party candidate, e.g. Green, we will not only vote for them but bust our buns to work for them …

  • Aquifer

    Frankly, that run by Anderson puzzled me – i saw a debate between 3rd party candidates in ’12, and it was pretty clear that there was hardly a paper’s worth of distance, if any at all, between the positions of the Green candidate, Stein, and the JP candidate, Anderson – so, given the ability of the GP to get its candidate on enough state ballots to get enough popular AND EC votes to actually win (only 4 parties have done that in the last 2 elections, at least – D, R, G, and Libertar.) why didn’t Anderson contend for the GP nomination?

    That seems to be a big part of the problem – a whole lot of lefty/prog parties essentially competing against each other, squabbling, instead of coalescing …

    If your default position is the Dems – because “it’s not difficult” – perhaps it’s not been made difficult for a reason. think about it … 🙂 And would these new “improved” Dems pass laws making it easier for 3rd parties to contest? Seems to me that “top 2” business is distinctly pro duopoly …

  • BeJebus

    it also would have given us the first liberal supreme court in 50 years instead of what we’re going to get, which is more abortion restrictions and/or the loss of roe, maybe send obergfell back to the states, more laws that favor “religious freedom” over lgbtq rights, and the gutting of the consumer financial protection bureau, the epa, and put idiots in charge of education and energy. scalia’s replacement was put on the bench by w years ago, and trump is going to fill a lot of judicial appointments who will also cause a lot of damage. shortsighted, pompous purists like you kept bernie afloat too long after it was impossible for him to do anything but hurt the dem candidate, and this is the result. you can puff out your pathetic little chest all you want and prance around your progressive fantasyland with delusions of grandeur but the simple fact is that you’ve gravely damaged real world progressive causes beyond your obviously limited imagination.

  • Billy Joe Gissinger

    Nothing popular, nothing progressive in here. This is Ukraine alike destabilization done by CIA with the goal to bring back Bush / Rockefeller pawn like hillary or obama and or to force Trump to obey. Trump is not their friend. All those before Trump and Sanders were nothing but Bush / Rockefeller pawns.

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