Donald Trump Doesn’t Care What I Think…
I’m starting to get the impression that President-elect Donald Trump isn’t interested in how I think he should run his White House.
And I am not the only one. There are many knowledgeable and credible voices rising up in opposition to anything Trump is believed to be planning, anyone he might consider hiring, and whatever he might possibly consider pursuing in terms of policy. But the President-elect doesn’t seem to be listening to the passionate rebukes, the reasoned criticisms, or the logical alternatives being offered.
We keep offering our opinions. He keeps doing whatever he thinks is best. Those two things aren’t even close to being aligned. And I don’t expect that to change any time soon. And why should he change? Trump was at his strongest during the campaign when mainstream media, liberal groups, and political insiders complained the loudest. The louder the opposition raises its voice, the more Trump’s base felt compelled to support his plans — regardless of the issue or topic. And now, there are tens-of-millions of people across the country who voted for Donald Trump and they are celebrating his plans. He doesn’t need to start listening. Every time he has been attacked for what he says, or what he promise, or who we associates with, he has won. And I don’t expect that to change any time soon either.
For example… on Sunday, we learned that Stephen Bannon, an anti-Semite who ran the white nationalist “alt-right” website Breitbart News before taking a leave of absence to become the Trump campaign CEO, will be the new President’s chief strategist and senior counselor in the White House. The choice of Bannon sends a pretty clear signal about what kinds of policies the new Administration will likely pursue and how they will go about advancing their agenda. I can’t find any positive spin to put on the hiring of Bannon. Countless groups have spoken out against the pick as well. President-elect Trump went ahead with the announcement and shows no signs of backing down.
Trump’s choice of Bannon did not surprise me, nor should it surprise you. Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump promised to change the way things are done in Washington — and Stephen Bannon is about as far outside the mold of your traditional presidential adviser as can be found. Bannon’s combative and unfiltered style is well known by political insiders and the media, he has been credited with shaping many of the President-elect’s most successful messages and strategies during the campaign — and if you were to ask the people who voted for Trump, and who want change, and who are tired of the same old voices dictating how this country has run… Bannon seems like a pretty good choice. There were plenty of articles written and TV commentary offered warning of the potentially dangerous influence that Bannon was having on Trump and that it would likely carry over to his time in the White House. But no matter. Trump won. The warnings went unheeded. The prospects of a Bannon-shaped world were not enough to spark support for Hillary Clinton (or at very least provide a reason for people not to vote for Donald Trump). And now, while more articles are written and more TV commentary is offered, Bannon, and whoever else is invited into the President-elect’s inner circle, will get to lead the country.
Why are we still writing articles and offering TV commentary when its clearly not having much of an impact? We are seven days out from Election Day and we are still trying to beat Donald Trump and his team, still running a version of the same campaign against Donald Trump that proved unsuccessful. It hasn’t worked for the last two years, what makes you think it will work now, or in the future?
Opposition is important. We should be calling attention to what Bannon has said and done in the past, what he stands for, and what it could mean for the future of the country. But don’t be surprised when protests, panel discussions, tweetstorms and press releases don’t actually make a dent in the decision-making process of the President-elect, or the policies that get offered by his Administration. By all means, continue to issue strongly worded statements condemning everything about Stephen Bannon, the President-elect, and whatever else you want.
But while you do that, please at least acknowledge that a big part of the motivation for doing those things is selfish. Being the loyal voice of opposition benefits the people powering the opposition more than it influences the behaviors of those you oppose. The committed opposition helps to generate fundraising dollars, attract more people to your email mailing list, and claim media impressions. But it won’t change the course of events that are unfolding. Opposition has value, but let’s not fool ourselves into believing that strongly criticizing Donald Trump, his team and his agenda will turn things around when it comes to deciding who serves in his Cabinet, or which bills he signs — or, if we continue on this track, dramatically change the outcome of the next round of elections. Opposition is valuable, but it will not get us what we want, which is a different future for this country than the one we expect will be delivered by Donald Trump and his team.
Some other things to consider…
I do not think we should stop fighting. We (Americans, voters, people who believe in certain values and principles as Americans — this is not Democrats or Republicans, not partisan or political at all)… can’t just accept whatever President-elect Trump chooses to do, the policies he decides to pursue, the people he hires or appoints, simply because he won the election. But we also shouldn’t blanket oppose what he plans to do for those reasons either. We shouldn’t compromise just to compromise, and maybe we shouldn’t compromise at all. And we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security (e.g. by giving them the benefit of the doubt) or stand by and allow the dangerous rhetoric and the repugnant beliefs to flourish without because the prospects of successfully fighting back in the short-term are very slim. We must hold the President-elect and his team accountable.
But… we will need to be much smarter and more strategic in how we choose to fight, and what we believe is important. There is no consensus on either of these things at the moment. We can’t fight everyone or everything. There aren’t enough resources or energy to sustain that kind of opposition. Moreover, if we expend all our energy on simply fighting back, we won’t have anything left to build new and move forward. And we need to do a lot of building new and moving forward.
If we set the expectation that protest and anger will prevent President-elect Trump from advancing his agenda and fail, we will be disappointed. Moreover, we risk sending the wrong message to those who are angry now and motivated to get involved but don’t know how complicated all of this can be. Who says waging a permanent opposition will deliver the desired results? The permanent opposition was a core part of the campaign strategy this past cycle and as a strategy it fell short. It didn’t inspire voters to get involved as was hoped. In fact, it inspired a lot of people to support Donald Trump. Doing more of the same, with more funding and louder voices, will most likely lead to the same outcome.
We need a new approach, a different plan. What happened has happened — let’s not try to run another campaign against Trump. Let’s figure out what kind of country we want — on our own, not because it is the opposite of what Donald Trump is proposing. Let’s figure out what success really means, and hopefully include more than just electoral victories on that list of priorities. Let’s figure out ways that we can have influence, directly and indirectly, that don’t rely solely on trying to attack, demean, disqualify and undermine the President-elect. What would you put on that list?
What would happen if we walked away instead of putting our fists and spoiling for a fight? How would you promote what we think is important and stand up for what you think is right if attacking the other side wasn’t an option?
Instead of focusing our anger and frustration on what is happening in DC, what if we spent more time fanning out across the country, listening and learning, planning and preparing? Instead of listening for every dog whistle or pulling the fire alarm every time another piece of the Trump administration puzzle is revealed, what would happen if nobody went on CNN to spin or speculated about what going to happen?
What would happen if we ignored President-elect Trump for a while — paid close attention and took copious notes, but resisted the urge to parse his words every time he speaks, or pre-buttal everything we expect he will announce? What if we put the burden on Trump and his team to explain their choices and actions directly to the American public? What if we, as Americans, demanded that the President-elect and his team answer questions from the public directly?
If we are so confident that the American people will not be well served by the policies of a Trump administration, then the best thing we can do is let the Trump administration do its thing — and watch as things start to fall apart. If we pick a fight on everything, all the time, it will be hard to tell what is truly important, and what we care about — other than opposing Donald Trump. If we give the public direct access to the President-elect and his team and let their actions should speak for themselves, maybe they will star to hear things differently, maybe they will come to the same conclusions that so many others- myself included — have already made.
If we have learned anything from this past election cycle, it should be that politics sucks right now. The vehicles that we have in place for pushing information out — the media, political leaders, celebrities, influencers — are not reaching most Americans, and for those that are reached, they don’t prove to be the best messengers. There is no tool or piece of technology that will change everything. There is no simple solution. So let’s stop waging a simple strategy. Let’s not fight just to fight (and let’s not fight because it bolsters existing organizations or elevates potential leaders). Let’s give the President-elect and his team the opportunity to do their job, to spread their message far and wide. Let’s encourage people to look for themselves at what Stephen Bannon and everyone else who follows him into the White House are doing, what they believe. Let’s provide a microphone to amplify what is being said, a spotlight to show who they are making deals with, but resist the urge to put our own filter on top of everything.
We already lost a head-to-head battle with Donald Trump… I don’t think it makes sense to keep fighting, in the hopes of a different outcome. So instead, let’s consider a different approach. Let President-Elect Trump and his team fight themselves. Let them talk directly to the American people and be judged and held accountable for their actions. Let’s see what happens, and as all that unfolds, we can figure out what the country needs, what Donald Trump and his team will never be able to provide, and how we can make that happen going forward.