Opposition to Trump Must Be About More Than Defending Norms
As we approach inauguration there is a question being asked about what type of opposition is needed to stop Trump. For those in the center and slightly left of center, there has been a focus on how Trump violates norms, how he’s hurting civil discourse, and is some sort of Russian Manchurian candidate. One of their greatest concerns is that Trump is mean and rude to establishment figures like John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
While Trump’s general demeanor and his violation of norms like not releasing his tax returns is clearly a bad thing, these are not issues to effectively organize around. Focusing on abstract concepts that have little tangible effect on the lives of Americans will lead to continued losses by Democrats at all levels of government. Trump must be opposed on policy issues, from healthcare to taxes to immigration and more. That’s where he must be opposed and where people must be mobilized. That means there must be an ideological opposition that is unified in their counter proposals to what Trump does. The opposition cannot present itself as the “Not Trump” option but a distinct and clear alternative.
An opposition to Trump that centers on a civil discourse, norms, Russia, and unity will not only lose, but rehabilitate a terrible cast of politicians and pundits whose opposition to Trump has everything to do with his style, and not the substance. Whether it’s politicians like John McCain, Evan McMullin, and Lindsey Graham, former Bush administration officials like David Frum, or pundits like Ben Shapiro, including these people that are just as monstrous as Trump will not just rehabilitate their reputations, but utterly hamper any sort of resistance. By including conservatives, even those that present themselves as “moderate”, it turns the opposition into the Establishment vs Trump and Trump already won that fight. For all the talk of normalizing Trump, including Glenn Beck into the anti-Trump resistance, as Samantha Bee has, normalizes a man that spent the past 8 years fostering the very attitudes and ideas that led to Trump.
Any opposition can’t treat Trump and Republicans as just good people who happen to disagree. This is not just a debate or argument that can be won by presenting the proper set of facts. If the past eight years has shown us anything, it is that there is a side that is incapable or unwilling to agree on basic principles or objectives. Despite every attempt to reach out in good faith by Obama and treating his opponents with civility and decency, he suffered policy losses that had devastating impacts on people. Where Obama showed charity, his opponents showed a sense of ruthlessness that has hurt and will continue to hurt millions. If the “resistance” looks like Trevor Noah interviewing Tomi Lahren on the Daily Show and calling for “unity” in the New York Times, we will not just lose elections but people will lose lives. There can be no unity when there’s no justice and there will be no respect for people who are content with African Americans living as second class citizens and Native Americans’ homes being defiled by oil pipelines.
This is a fight that will determine who lives and dies. If 20 million people lose their insurance, thousands will die. If people are deported at an even further rate, countless families will be destroyed. If Planned Parenthood is defunded, women will not be able to afford vital health services and will die. These are not just natural disasters that occur, these are devastating outcomes engineered by human hands. We are in a battle with people that do not care who lives and dies as long as the rich stay rich and corporations are given free reign. They don’t care about the casualties of their baseless morality war. These are not people to be respected in media or in government. Politics is not a game where we simply have different teams and no consequences when it ends. Politics is simply about who can obtain power and policies are made by those who have power. To treat it as anything less than that is a disservice to those that are impacted by it.
Trump and Republicans don’t care what the rules or norms are. They will trample over them regardless of the consequences that result. Cries of partisanship and hypocrisy will not deter them if they have the power to do what they want. They are unrepentant monsters and the only way we are going to fight back against them is by seeing them for what they truly are. The reality is that one party, the Republicans, do not care if we die on the street and that the other party, the Democrats, show a capacity to care. The mission of the opposition must be to defend policies like the ACA and forcing Democrats to demand single payer, climate action and other policies that bring about economic and social justice. If we do not do this, people will suffer and die, and that means a hell of a lot more to me than some dumb norms about not calling Speaker Paul Ryan a monstrous asshole.