Commentary by KAY MATTHEWS
La Jicarita readers are no doubt familiar with the Trump administration’s right wing train wreck that continues to derail on a daily basis since his inauguration, but just to recap:
- Trump lied and had his press secretary Sean Spicer lie about the number of people who attended his inauguration.
- Trump advisor—spokesperson—and perhaps scapegoat—Kellyanne Conway referred to the numbers put forth by the administration as “alternative facts.”
- Trump advisor Steve Bannon told the media it is the opposition party and should “keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.”
- Trump signed an executive order banning refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries that has been struck down by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and is arguably unconstitutional.
- At Jeff Sessions’ swearing in ceremony as Attorney General Trump said that the country was experiencing the worst ever hike in crime with a murder rate at a 47-year high. Statistics show that while there has been a slight elevation in criminal activity over the past year the overall crime rate is well below that of the 1990s and the murder rate is at a 57-year low.
- Kellyanne Conway, during an interview with Fox News about Nordstrom’s decision to not carry Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, told everybody to go “buy Ivanka’s stuff.”
- Documents show that Trump is still running and profiting from his business interests while in the Oval Office.
- Trump directed the Army Corps of Engineers to issue the permit to continue the Dakota Access Pipeline construction under the Missouri River even though the Environmental Impact Statement has not been completed.
- National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn resigned on February 13 after admitting that he discussed US sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Trump was inaugurated. (As the story continues to play out about the role the intelligence community played in the leaks that brought Flynn down we may see just who is actually running the country.)
Who are these folks who don’t mind the idea of “alternative facts” or care much about what’s legal or illegal? It’s not an easily parsed bunch, as we’ve come to learn over this long political slog through a never ending campaign and an in-your-face presidency. There is the white, fundamentalist Christian right of the south and Midwest, revealed to the rest of us in blogs like Foresetti’s Justice, “On Rural American: Understanding Isn’t the Problem.” These writers who were born and bred in these communities believe it is both the insular culture that creates a disdain of “others” (which often translates as racism), and lack of economic opportunity that keep them uneducated, fearful, and bound to their Christian beliefs that are not bound to fact. If they can literally believe in the Bible they can easily believe in Trump.
Rich Republicans had every reason to vote for Trump. Despite his campaign claims that he was going to drain the Wall Street swamp, they knew full well he was going to feed the greed that fed him. His cabinet is filled with millionaires and billionaires with former and current ties to Wall Street. He’s already attacking financial regulations like Dodd-Frank that attempt to provide oversight and consumer protection. Middle class Republicans, who may not have been all that enthusiastic about candidate Trump but were left with no one else to vote for, will stay on board as long as Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan also stay on board, which will be as long as they think they can get their agenda through Congress and their personal careers assured (Ryan has made his career denigrating the poor who are largely poor because of policies he has promoted and implemented). On a good note, I saw today that they’re being criticized by ultra-rightest Matt Drudge because they’re not focusing on what the populist movement is all about: getting rid of Obamacare and cutting taxes for corporations.
Then there are the 53 percent of white women who voted for Trump. One theory that helps explain this shocking figure is that of linguist George Lakoff who has written extensively about the duality of the “strict” versus “nurturing” family that largely defines one’s world view and political affiliation. The conservative strict father believes in the hierarchical God above man, man above woman and nature, rich above poor, whites above people of color, straights above gays, Western culture above every other culture, and winning above everything. Ergo, the insulting, competitive Donald Trump fits right into this worldview. These strict fathers are distinguished from the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians by being “pragmatic conservatives” who care more about their personal authority than religion. Their wives are not going to rebel against the family and will vote as their husbands do.
And finally, there are those Rust Belt former Democrats, abandoned by the Democrat Party, who found themselves jobless and decided to “shake things up” by voting for Trump. This group has been heavily investigated because it’s seen as the swing vote that could have elected Hilary Clinton to office. It remains to be seen how long their loyalty to Trump endures once the reality sinks in that the overseas jobs are not coming back, that automation will continue to destroy jobs, and that Republican will be taking away what few safety nets remain in the face of their unemployment, housing losses, and lack of educational opportunity (Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services, Tom Price—who just got approved—has a long history of trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and reduce Medicaid and Medicare coverage).
While the Trump train could completely run off the track any day now, we can’t sit back and wait. Instead, the left has to be on the move in every imaginable sphere both resisting and organizing. And while we have to be strategic, smart, and energized, most importantly we have to unburden our movement from its long history of internecine bickering, put-downs, and factionalism that has so often torn us apart. This is not to say we’re ever going to agree on the methods, philosophical underpinnings, or analyses of what exactly we’re fighting. But it must, in my opinion, be based on a fundamental understanding that not only do we have to defeat Trumpism we must never settle for what helped put him there in the first place: neoliberal policies that have created rampant inequality, racist policies that have oppressed Black, Latino, and Native American communities, the privatization of our public spheres and places, an immoral and imperial foreign policy, and the deportation of immigrants who are the lifeblood of so many of our agricultural and industrial communities (their employers are worried they’re all going to be deported and many are indeed not showing up). In the words of journalist and activist Arun Gupta, ““What we’re fighting for is a complete social transformation where Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the right wing of the progressive movement.”
From what I’m seeing on the ground the resistance component of the strategy is alive and well. Lawyers fought back against the immigration ban and have held it at bay. People on the streets of Phoenix, Arizona tried to stop an ICE van from deporting a woman from Mexico who has lived in the US since she was brought here at 14, separating her from her husband and children (her felony was falsifying a social security number so she could get a job). People all over the county flooded airports to protest the ban while taxi drivers went on strike at JFK airport in solidarity. US senators and representatives have had their phone lines and e-mail inboxes jammed with shout outs from their constituents protesting Trump’s cabinet nominations. My nephew, a member of ResistFascism, got arrested protesting Jeff Sessions’ hearing. Federal employees are refusing to obey gag orders and work stoppages. The water protectors are headed back to Standing Rock and Oglala Sioux just filed an injunction to stop DAPL. Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz got shouted down at a town hall meeting in Salt Lake City and had to leave 45 minutes early. (Both he and Trump are accusing all the protestors of getting paid to be there.)
The resistance in Utah (and other places around the country) was organized by the Indivisible Movement, a nonprofit helping people set up local groups for congressional advocacy, the perfect melding of the two strategies. With the Republican assault and breakdown of unions, which have always represented a cross section of people and communities, we have to find new ways to bring people together, and one of the most effective ways to do so is at the local level, municipal and county. This can be at the electoral level, such as the defeat of the recent Tea Party candidates for school board in Albuquerque or the election of socialists to city councils. These progressives, along with the grassroots organizations that have been working in communities for years, can then help push for city sanctuary designations, where law enforcement is restrained from aiding ICE in surveillance and deportation of immigrants (and getting rid of “broken windows” policing), and living wage ordinances. Santa Fe has both, and Mayor Javier Gonzales is now considering filing a preemptive lawsuit against the federal government over sanctuary city rights (Trump keeps threatening to take away federal funding from sanctuary cities). Many other groups like MoveOn.org, New Mexico Progressives (sponsoring a Moral Monday & People’s Rally at the Roundhouse East Entrance on February 20 ), along with other long established grassroots organizations continue to address issues of food security, homelessness, nuclear proliferation, and climate change. La Jicarita spent 20 years in the trenches working with land-based communities to protect their livelihoods and the forest and watersheds that sustain us all.
Trump is also threatening to deny funding to the University of California after the protest at Berkeley that prevented Milo Yiannopoulas from spewing his anti-Semitic, bigoted, and misogynistic rhetoric and his pledge to identify undocumented students so they could be deported. This elicited a firestorm of controversy within the left, once again heading us down that fractional path. Remember, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell prevented Elizabeth Warren from reading Coretta Scott King’s letter regarding Jess Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General. While many may disagree with the tactic, let’s focus on the real enemy, not each other. (See this analysis of what exactly we mean by “free speech.”)
That raises the question of just who exactly is the enemy. #TheResistanceMedia Community posted this page: While the meme is meant to be funny, the message seems to be true: Bannon is running the White House. As he has acknowledged in various interviews and on Breitbart News, the alt-right publication he used to edit, Bannon’s vision is “civilizational war” between ISIS and the West, or his version of the West as a conservative Christian Catholic who’s on board with the Institute for Human Dignity, an ultra-traditionalist group based in Rome that is a sharp critic of Pope Francis. He’s a proponent of the theory of the Fourth Turnings: the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War II, and now the apocalypse of the Christian West versus the Islamic East. With Jeff Sessions on board as Attorney General, they can institute a domestic policy of stoking white nationalism towards their ultimate goal of white Christian domination.
Last week I heard an interview on KSFR’s Living on the Edge program with Lyla June Johnston, a Diné activist and masters degree student at UNM. She’s been very involved in the Standing Rock Sioux resistance movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline and has also appeared on Taos’s Cultural Energy radio station KCEI. What I was struck by in this most recent interview was her emphasis on the process of resistance, not the outcome or the “win.” We keep working so that ultimately there is a “win,” that the pipeline is stopped, but as Johnston pointed out, the process of its resistance has opened up a plethora of positive outcomes: focusing on the fundamental discussion of how we can free ourselves from fossil fuel dependence; the worldwide coalitions that were formed among Indigenous groups; the empowerment of Indigenous youth; and the profound apology our veterans made to the Sioux elders.
Juxtapose this with a recent Rahm Emanuel’s rant about “winning.” “Winning’s everything,” he said. “If you don’t win, you can’t make the public policy. I say that because it is hard for people in our party to accept that principle. Sometimes, you’ve just got to win, OK?” This is from the mayor of Chicago where more than 750 people were murdered in 2016, that has seen repeated killings of black men by a police department known for its racism and corruption, and who closed 54 mostly black community schools. He is the face of Clinton Democrats, having helped push the party to the center right. What he thinks he’s “winning,” other than his own political career within a dysfunctional, regressive party, I don’t know.
Let’s remember Lyla June Johnston’s emphasis on the process as we resist, as we organize, as we leave the Rahm Emanuels behind.