Not a Moment. A Movement: The #Resistance and its Opponent in the NRA.

Banner reading “Resist” hung from atop a construction crane by activists of Greenpeace — January 25, 2017. Washington D.C.

President Donald J. Trump — the improbable victor of a highly contested election who was ascended to his station by the result of a 77 Electoral College vote in his favor, and not by virtue of the 2,864,974 popular votes in favor of his opponent. His acquisition of the White House, and the Conservative’s acquisition of both the House and Senate, was both seen as a legal, yet unjust aberration of a peaceful partisan revolution.

Adding to the disappointment, the new President installed White House advisors who are widely considered as white-supremacists, and others who were beneficiaries of overt nepotism. On Capitol Hill, the Republican Congress proceeded to approve Trump’s appointments of unqualified and industry/banking-connected officials to the administration’s top posts — in some cases, to oversee functions of government they don’t even believe should exist. Even from inside the White House, their contended purpose is widely viewed as the “destruction of the administrative state”, or at least the profiting from it.

Compelled by both their anger at Trump’s actions and the threat he represents to the principles of American democracy, the progressives in America organized. Out of necessity for their equal protection and dignity in the face of nationalist-sympathizers, racial-minority and civil rights groups organized. Out of necessity for their safety and acceptance, Muslim and immigrant’s groups organized. Out of necessity for their hard-fought equity and respect, women of all colors organized.

Climate March procession in front of Trump International Hotel — April 29, 2017. Washington, D.C. Photo by Christian L. Smith

The People organized for quality education, access in public schools and affordable college education. The People organized to maintain affordable and accessible healthcare. The People organized for the long-term repair and protection of the environment, for clean drinking water, and for better representation of their needs against the lobbying of corporate and banking interests.

The People organized for better government, and thus they took up the mantel of the “Resistance.”

The Resistance isn’t a new phenomenon. While it technically began on January 20th with the Women’s March on Washington, the activities and causes associated with the movement have been underway since the Bush 43 years, and continued into the Obama years. Republican antagonism and disappointment in the Democrats are nothing new to people like me: civil rights organizers in the South. We couldn’t lower the intensity of our immigration reform advocacy just because Obama was President — quite the contrary. The Resistance — now with a name and a national profile — has grown beyond partisan loyalties or local focus.

The Resistance movement is national. It is justified, and has its accomplishments.

A recent poll by the Gallup Presidential Job Approval Center showed that Trump’s approval rating in his first 100 days is hovering around 40% as of April 23,2017. In late March, and before Trump was ingratiated by the media for his recent military actions in Syria, his approval was at its lowest rating of 35% — a rating that wasn’t just low for him, but historically low for every President in the last 70 years.

Protester, identified as “old doctor for ObamaCare”, attending the rally in the hours before the U.S. House of Representatives voted on their second attempt to “repeal and replace” the ACA — May 4, 2017. Washington, D.C. Photo by Christian L. Smith

Progressive resistance to Trump grows as more moderates and independents realize that parts (I would argue, many parts) of the Trump agenda betray the ideals of this nation, and the only choice is to fight against it. And as those independents and moderates come around to this understanding, the streets, the town halls, and the halls of the state and national capitols are alive with the chants of frustrated Americans, and the songs of progressive resistance are sung with every grassroots and legal victory in the dawn of this new political awakening in America.

Thus far, a 500,000-person march for Women in D.C. energized a nation that then transferred its energy into massively-attended town halls, with activists holding Republicans accountable for aiding Trump’s agenda and Democrats for not standing firm by their proclaimed-progressivism in the face of the Republicans. We’ve seen a swell in the number, membership, and financial support for civic education organizing and legal groups dedicated to fighting Trump’s unconstitutional actions. We’ve seen Muslim travel bans struck down and “anti-sanctuary” policies for immigrants frustrated by the courts after massive protests and well-coordinate legal efforts. We’ve seen consumers boycott and companies drop their investment in Trump-brand products as to not “endorse with dollars” the policies and the character of the man himself. In healthcare, while at present the Republican House has passed their “Repeal and Replacement” of the Affordable Care Act, popular outrage by citizens and healthcare groups alike over its draconian provisions portends further rejection of Republicans’ approach to policy. And more encouraging, we are seeing more young, diverse, and progressive candidates finding themselves motivated to run for public office at the local and national levels — inspired by the Resistance and the new political idealism that many found spurred within them by the 2016 Presidential candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders, and the corporate-government-accountability crusade of Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Who stands in the way of progress?

But one lobbying organization and its bombastic leader are staking their position firmly in support of the new President. They are household names — not by virtue of their pursuit of democratic idealism, but for their ability to frighten both the policy makers who wish to enact popular, common sense laws, and the citizenry who they find susceptible to red herrings meant to benefit the lobby’s corporate interests.

The self-proclaimed “Counter-Resistance” will be led by non-other than the National Rifle Association and its Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre.

Despite the fact that rallies, town halls, and citizen lobbying events have been angry yet largely peaceful — and organizers have gone through great pains to make sure they stay that way — LaPierre has attempted to associate the Resistance with udder bedlam, and portrays it as a harbinger of destruction for American freedom. In their video announcing the NRA’s “Counter-Resistance” before LaPierre’s speech at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference, they use pointed examples of riots and flag-burnings to wholly-characterize the recent surge in democratic activity to be synonymous with “Riot”, “Agitation”, “Insurrection”, and “Anarchy”.

The National Rifle Association unveiling its “Counter Resistance” prior to LaPierre’s speech at 2017 CPAC.

I will note that in other videos and events by NRA , Islam has been characterized as a dangerous religion that is taking over America…one that conveniently requires us to arm ourselves against them.

Mike Spies of The Trace wrote about the motivations for the NRA appointing itself as the Counter Resistance as “a way for the NRA to maintain its voice, and keep its five million claimed members mobilized, at a time when the group’s ideology is ascendant and the risk of new, national gun regulations is practically nonexistent. Spies further theorizes that this action “may represent a bid for increased influence in the Right-wing movement that has now dominates the Republican party and American Conservatism.”

I tend to agree: The Counter Resistance moniker the NRA has adopted is indicative of its broader political goals beyond “2nd Amendment” advocacy. At best, and as exemplified by its early endorsement and monetary contribution of then-candidate Trump when few groups would, the NRA is endeavoring to have its brand and its base of supporters be the leading entity among the “Trump-Wing” of the Conservative movement.

That distinction must be made clear: While the Resistance fights against the tandem agenda of the “Right-wing” and the “Trump wing”, at the very least, one should give the Republicans who only voted for their party a way to disassociate themselves from the white-nationalists and other Trump defenders that compose his camp. With its Counter Resistance call, NRA has clearly set up its tent in that camp, and desires to pitch it as close to the Trump White House as it can. This metaphor lends itself to the assumption that Wayne LaPierre and others in the NRA may even be trying to enter the administration to accomplish their ascendancy. After all, the public is well aware about how Trump treats-well the prominent figures who support him, especially those who also make contributions to his campaign. Exhibit: the present Cabinet.

Aside from suspected personal ambitions, the NRA has certainly taken up a broader Right-Wing agenda in recent years. The 2nd Amendment and guns rights are no longer the soul focus of their lobby. Next to their advocacy for legalizing gun silencers, reducing or even eliminating gun license requirements, and legalizing the parading of guns around the streets and on college campuses, the NRA has broadened its agenda to include the demonization of undocumented immigrants, associating Islam wholly with terrorism, and propping-up the “American Carnage” narrative of Trump to say that violent crime is on the rise (which crime statistics indicate to the contrary). The NRA’s alignment with Trump’s rhetoric may even be a “chicken or the egg” scenario, but nevertheless the alignment is evident just given LaPierre’s 2017 CPAC speech. That is not to say, however, that the NRA’s membership nor Republicans at-large necessarily endorse the agendas of the White House and the NRA.

Why the Resistance must win

Tax Day March — April 15, 2016. Washington D.C. Photo by Christian L. Smith

A “Resistance” puts itself opposed to the actions of the state, and seeks its reformation. A “Counter Resistance” aligns itself with the state, and seeks its present course. For all its aesthetic and bluster associating itself with “patriots”, “freedom”, the Founding Fathers, and its unnuanced-Constitutional fundamentalism in defense of the “need to bear arms against government oppression”, the NRA with its Counter Resistance can no longer pervert and profit off our American heritage and its founding principles. I would argue those principles and their fulfillment over the past two centuries include such things as abiding by the constitutional protections for racial minorities and religious groups from brutality and discrimination committed by the state and its agents. Through blood and protest, America had to fulfill those principles over the course of generations of fighting. The NRA’s opposition to accountability for police practices, and its demonization of Muslims are but two examples of how they disassociate themselves from those hard-fought-for American principles.

If the NRA seeks to be the external-governmental organization that supports this government as it hurtles into litigation after litigation over its unconstitutional actions, then it will fail. If the NRA and LaPierre want to support those Congressional representatives who aid and abet Trump despite Republicans’ disappointment among the grassroots, then they will fail. If they cannot see the irony of the position they’ve taken in the face of its rhetoric and of the growing progressive movement, then they will fail.

However, they will only fail, as they must, if the Resistance stays energized behind the causes and the advocacy groups that oppose Trump. Just as importantly, the Resistance will only succeed comprehensively if it puts its popular momentum, manpower, and grassroots fundraising behind principled, engaged, and inspiring progressive candidates. Failure in these efforts, and faltering in our resolve, will result in Trump and his ilk forever staining the escuchen of a nation whose highest ideals (if realized and protected) embrace diversity, democratic inclusion, and the notion that government of and by the people serves the needs of those people to promote the prosperity and security of all, and not solely the needs of an increasingly-exclusionary class of elites.

Rally to save the ACA May 4, 2017. Washington, D.C. Photo by Christian L. Smith

What we fight for is policy. Name brands and partisan labels mean little after the 2016 election, and progressives, not just “Democrats”, need to win the court cases, elect the officials, and pass the laws to make a better government. The progressives must lead, and put pressure on government before and after administrations like Trump’s in order to combat the powerful interests that would regress society for their own benefit. The NRA is a powerful lobby, but it is unpopular for what it fights for in juxtaposition to what the public wants. Just like Trump. LaPierre says to his Counter Resistance, “will need every ounce of energy we can muster.” As do we.

If we stay resolute and empower all the people and causes that lie at the intersections of our advocacy, I believe that we, the Resistance, will win.

Image by Christian L. Smith