Leaders of the Resistance

The reappearance and partial rehabilitation of George W Bush on the public stage, following his tacitly critical comments about Donald Trump, has inevitably raised some eyebrows. The man who presided over Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and Katrina should perhaps not be in a position to comment on the sins of his successors.

Certainly it’s a sign of how far Trump has traversed from the norms of executive government. But Bush’s brief reemergence is also a good opportunity to remember not only the mostly disastrous policies he pursued, but also the multitudinous resistance he encountered in doing so.

Today I attended a forum entitled Leaders of the Resistance at the Harvard Kennedy School. The title was somewhat tongue-in-cheek: #theresistance has become social media shorthand for civic attempts to counter Trump’s first moves. The panellists – all, deliberately, women – represented a wide range of organisations, many set up only in the past few months in direct response to the administration.

Two things stuck out the most. First, while there is a vast array of technologies at the disposal of civic activists today, the way they are being used is to move people in the physical realm. Whether it’s Occupying Airports, getting voters registered for the next election, or even encouraging them to run in them, the focus is on using technological tools to bring about real-world change. (Point being: for every political Facebook fight or Twitter spat you engage in, there’s always a better and more productive use of your time elsewhere.)

The second thing to note is how complementary all these diverse strategies seem. When you take a step back it becomes obvious that we need strong candidates in elections as much as we need people to vote for them, and we need protests to take place in a range of different places for myriad different purposes. But whereas the media spotlight will continue to constantly direction – from this protest to that town hall to, most likely, that tweet – its great to see so many organisations setting up to provide the sustainable undergirding and longer-term planing to support these actions. An all-of-the-above approach to civic engagement requires a diverse and distributed yet interconnected set of radical activists. It was great to see so many of them in one place this evening.

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