Progressives Are Doing Exactly What Trump Would Have Us Do

By Larry McNeil, Executive Director, institute4change
July 30, 2017

Our Liar-in-Chief is twisting us in knots as we try to figure out how to respond to an onslaught of narcissistic, dangerous craziness unparalleled in US political history.  Just like he did in the campaign, Trump’s strategy is to control the daily news cycle. He wants to bury us in the immediate so that we are constantly twisting and twirling, reacting to his fulminations, not focused on building long-term power.

Like a shark fishermen throwing out chum, he will continue to throw out his venomous tweets, knowing full well that progressives will react to them.  We seemingly can’t resist that nasty red meat.

Let’s be clear:

Resistance is not enough.
Protest is foolishly predictable and therefore largely ineffective.
Organizing for power should be our mantra and our practice, winning and keeping our wins, our goal.

It was very heartening to see the millions of people who participated in the women’s march the day after the Inauguration.  On a personal level it was fantastic.  I was delighted that my 10-year old granddaughter and 7-year old grandson were part of the Seattle protest, a perfect learning experience now embedded in their young souls.  On a political level, it didn’t do much.

Putting a lot of people in the streets is not power.  It is putting a lot of people in the streets.  When the GOP has so Redmap-gerrymandered the country that overwhelmingly Democratic votes don’t add but a handful of new Democratic Congressmen/women, elected officials aren’t scared of Progressives at all.  They are scared of Big Pharma which as I write has 1100 K street lobbyists lobbying their interests on Capitol Hill, in Committee rooms in which legislation is being drafted, in the bars and dining rooms with Congress people and their aides where a lot of the details of regulation or lack of regulation are decided.

They are afraid of the gun lobby ensconced behind their front group, the NRA.  The NRA demands a 100% voting record on their issues and moves to take out any Congress person who votes against them, even those who support modest regulation on who can own a gun.  Not surprisingly … there are now more guns in America than there are people.

They are afraid of Wall Street, people who often make more money in an hour than most Americans make in their entire lives.  That’s why Trump has a billionaire Cabinet systematically destroying their respective departments.  That’s why Dodd-Frank, in particular, is being dismantled, removing the last vestige of democratic control over rampant Wall Street greed.  That is why five men possess the same wealth as ½ of the entire world’s population, 3 billion people!

Big Pharma and the NRA and Wall Street, just to use three glaring examples, care less about progressive protests, our side in the streets while theirs is inside the rooms writing legislation.

Protest is easy.  Organizing is hard.  Protest has the excitement of the immediate.  Organizing is a disciplined exercise in delayed gratification.  Protest is levelling, everybody more or less equal.  Organizing focuses on finding integrated leaders who are connected to other people and can move them to action.  Protest mobilizers look for hot anger, people ready to go to the streets now.  Organizers are wary of hot anger, knowing that deeply rooted cold anger is the route to sustainable, focused action.  Protest energy will fade.  Energy connected to one’s core values and personal history will sustain people in life-long commitments to social change.

The mission for progressive’s is to build lasting, scary organizations led by women and men so relationally and mission and strategically connected that elected officials and the now dominant power institutions fear them.  The road toward that mission goes through living rooms not the streets.  It listens to individual stories and weaves them into a shared story.

So let’s quit reacting to Trump’s distraction strategy and build the power required to build a vibrant democracy that works for everyone, not just the Venal .1% who want it all.  Let us get out of an election cycle mindset, thinking and acting long-term.  Let us organize before we mobilize.  Instead of standing in the streets with people who agree with us, let’s target the Venal .1%, going after them wherever they are vulnerable, making their lives miserable until the lives of millions of Americans are less miserable.  Let us play to win, forgoing temporary togetherness for lasting relational power embodied in organization.

As Dr. King was so clear, to be effective a movement must have an organizational base capable of sustained action and lasting power.  Let’s quit protesting and build it.