Musings —03.13.2017 05:06 PM—
What can you do?
How can you – a regular person who isn’t all that involved in politics, and who lives in another country, no less – oppose the unethical, immoral, hateful policies of the Trump regime?
In 2012, I wrote a book about how the Right seize power. It’s called Fight the Right. It talked about how the new batch of conservatives, like Donald Trump, manipulate words and values to win.
Progressives like me believe in the power of ideas and facts. Progressives like me sometimes get tongue-tied talking about values. Conservatives like Trump – and Rob Ford, the Tea Partiers, and the Brexit cabal – benefit from that. They know that the political brain is an organ that is fired up by emotion. Voters think with their guts – and logic plays only a supporting role. Guys like Donald Trump therefore always use the simplest words, and the gut-level appeal. It works – obviously.
But that doesn’t mean we should give up. That doesn’t mean we should become like them, either, and get down in the sewer. There are ten things that you can and should do to help oppose the global Trump/Brexit agenda – even if you’re a Canadian. They’re the ten things the Tea Partiers, and Donald Trump, did. You can make them work for you.
1. Grassroots advocacy works. That’s how the Tea Partiers stopped President Barack Obama so often. So, take a page from their manual. Start talking to other concerned progressives online. Form small, dedicated groups of like-minded activists where you live. And don’t get into internal battles developing your own policy agenda – simply have one goal: stopping the Trump/Brexit juggernaut, wherever it manifests itself. It’s a defensive strategy, sure. But it’s what we need to do in the hard years ahead.
2. Organize yourself. Say you want to form a group to push the Trudeau government to accept those seeking refuge from Trump’s bigoted executive orders. So, decide to form a group. Identify co-founders. Email everyone you know ask for help – people like to be asked for help. Invite them to the kick-off meeting. Manage it. Decide on a name; agree on principles. Get volunteers for specific roles. Communicate with each other regularly – and get to work.
3. Show up. In the Internet era, where trolls sit in their jammies in their Mommy’s basement and spew hate at women and Jews and Muslims and anyone who isn’t like them, you need to do one thing above all: show up. A tweet isn’t enough. A Facebook link isn’t enough. In Canada, with those who are pushing the Trump/Brexit plan – those like Kellie Leitch or Kevin O’Leary – that means peacefully confronting them on the stump or at their offices, and doing all that you can to put their election or re-election in peril. That’s what keeps them up at night. Show up, and make them worry. As Tip O’Neill said: all politics is local. So give the other side a problem that is local and that isn’t going away.
4. Stall, then stop the Trump/Brexit agenda. I’ve run war rooms for the winning campaigns of Jean Chretien and Dalton McGuinty, and this is always the winning war room strategy: get the other side to redirect energy away from their priorities. Mess up their day and their plans. Sap their energy, and demoralize them as they seek to impose their reactionary policies on the rest of us. Every day that you get them to focus on something that isn’t on their agenda is a day that you are winning. If you have enough days like that, they will give up and move on. Fight for every inch of territory, every single day.
5. Be what they aren’t. Don’t be like them! The other side aren’t diverse. They are overwhelmingly white, angry old men. Do all that you can to be unlike them, and reach out to others who are as concerned as you. Be diverse. Be positive. Be like a modern, civil society. Be what the Trump/Brexit cabal want to destroy. Your very existence, on an ongoing basis, reminds them they are losing the war.
6. Confront the other side where they are. It’s like hockey: get up in their grill. Get up close. That doesn’t mean breaking the law, or alienating the people you need to get onside. It means organized, localized, energized advocacy – because the other side knows that takes more effort, and poses a far greater threat to them. You need to show up at town halls, and public events, and political offices. Get prepared, get there early, get your people asking questions – and don’t give up the microphone until you get a straight answer. And make sure to record the exchange, so you can share it with those who weren’t there.
7. Reach out to media. Let the media know you are going to show up. Let them know when you show up. And, afterwards, show them that you showed up. Don’t assume the media is omnipresent, and is aware of everything you and your group do – there are now far fewer reporters doing far more stories. Help them do their jobs. Send them audio and video clips. Keep them in the loop on your activities. And, when they write about you, send that out to your people and others. It’ll create an outsized impact, and that’s what the other side fears most. Advertise your media successes, always.
8. Use social media as a sword, not just a shield. There’s a couple things we know about Donald Trump and his supporters: one, they don’t like to be confronted with opposition or facts. And, two, they use social media, a lot. So, troll the Troll-in-Chief. Push back, online. Don’t be angry and hateful like he is, however: use creativity and links and facts to drive the other side nuts. And remember what James Carville once told me: “When you are punching the other guy, do it with a great big smile on your face.” It’ll drive him crazy.
9. Astro-turf them. Bombard them with social media. Overwhelm them with letters and emails. Suffocate them with an avalanche of targeted, smart, effective communications – repeating your message, over and over. Use the tactics Trump so often used against us: overpower them with words and images, and make it so they’re gasping for air. Keep your foot on their figurative necks until we all know we have won.
10. Finally, remember this: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Barack Obama said that while he was still President – and never have his words been truer than they are now. No fairy-tale impeachment is going to take place. No Trump/Brexit voters are going to magically come to their senses, and say they were wrong to vote the way they did. This is going to be a grinding, tough war every step of the way.
The only way we can stop the forces of division and hate is to get organized, go grassroots and show up. The only way we are going to prevail is by being what the other side isn’t (diverse) and stalling (and then stopping) their hateful agenda. Confront them where they are, astro-turf them, reach out to media, and use social media against them for a change.
And, most of all, don’t give up. This will be a long war. But if we focus on winning the key battles?
We will win that war.