Just one full week into Donald Trump’s presidency, the dizzying pace of news has left many of us feeling a sense of political vertigo — and dread.
The new administration began with a poorly attended inauguration that led a wounded Trump to lash out at the media in a bizarre speech at the CIA’s headquarters. As millions of women and men marched in Washington and cities around the world, press secretary Sean Spicer summoned reporters to the White House briefing room and, defying clear evidence to the contrary, brazenly and falsely claimed that Trump drew “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration — period.” A day later, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway went on national television and rebranded Spicer’s bald-faced lies as “alternative facts.” Later in the week, White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon launched a calculated strategy of open war on the press, saying the “elite media” should “keep its mouth shut.”
All of this established the tone for Trump’s full-blown, Orwellian assault on reality. After scrubbing mentions of global warming from the White House website, Trump imposed gag orders on the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies. Attempting to rewrite the history of his election, Trump doubled down on his widely debunked claim that he lost the popular vote only because of massive voter fraud and promised to launch a “major investigation” into the alleged crimes. In an interview with ABC News, Trump reiterated his belief, contradicted by intelligence experts, that torture “absolutely” works. The problem with these “alternative facts” is not just that Trump is either pathologically dishonest or completely divorced from reality; they could be laying the groundwork for pernicious policies such as a systemic attack on voting rights or the reinstatement of CIA “black sites” overseas.
Add to that a string of controversial Cabinet confirmations and an ever-growing list of executive actions — on issues including the Affordable Care Act, the “global gag rule” on abortion, the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects, the Mexican border wall, and the grotesque Muslim ban — and it’s hard not to be sickened by it all.
However, Trump’s cascading attacks on the body politic, including instigating a potential constitutional crisis by firing the acting attorney general for ordering Justice Department lawyers not to defend his un-American travel ban, cannot erase the fundamental truth that he does not represent a majority of the American people. The incredible turnout for the Women’s March, which turned out to be the largest single day of mass political action in U.S. history, made that much clear. The resistance to Trump is big, diverse and ferocious, and it’s not going away.
We saw more of that passion and energy on display over the weekend, as demonstrations against Trump’s de facto Muslim ban spontaneously erupted on Saturday at airports across the country. Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups moved swiftly to file legal challenges to Trump’s order, winning temporary victories in federal court. And the protests continued into Sunday, with tens of thousands attending rallies in more than 30 cities nationwide.
We also got an early look at how city and state governments will help drive the resistance. In response to a Trump order to cut off funds for sanctuary cities, a number of mayors defiantly promised not to back down, while leaders in the California legislature signaled that they will fight the order in court. Also in California, Gov. Jerry Brown delivered a fiery State of the State address vowing opposition to Trump and declaring that “California is not turning back.”
Looking ahead, organizers are planning another day of mass demonstrations on Tax Day to protest Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. There are promising signs that the resistance will carry over into the electoral arena as well. A day after the Women’s March, Emily’s List held a training session for 500 women who are interested in running for office, 40 percent of whom were between 25 and 34 years old. Run For Something, which is dedicated to helping progressive candidates under 35 run in state and local elections, says it signed up more than 1,000 recruits this weekend alone. VoteRunLead, an organization committed to recruiting and training female candidates to run in state and local races, has also reported a surge in interest since November. Trump’s war on science and facts is also inspiring scientists to get more involved. Plans for a Scientists’ March on Washington are underway, and a new group, 314 Action, recently formed to help members of the scientific community get elected.
For progressives, continuing the momentum for grass-roots efforts such as these is key to rebuilding and taking back power. That’s why, in the face of so much daily outrage, it’s sometimes important to step back and take a deep breath — and remember that it will take sustained and strategic action on many fronts to defend our democracy while building a bigger, stronger progressive movement. Trump wants to suffocate his opposition. Resistance and reconstruction need oxygen in order to survive.
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