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By Jason Michael
As a model for resisting President Trump’s dangerous and frightening policy ideas, Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda is of great value and to be welcomed by all who have been compelled to take a stand against Trump and those things for which he stands. Over all this is a powerful tool for resistence, but there are, however, a number of problems within the document that may result in flawed efforts on the ground by groups and individual activists who are relying on the document. Thankfully the staffers behind the production of Indivisible have acknowledged their own limitations and have invited critical analysis and review.
In the spirit of their request that we, the readers, “Share it, amend it, make it [our] own,” I have decided to write a commentary of the document through the lens of what we have experienced and learned from political activism in the Scottish independence movement. While events in the United States and Scotland are different and unique to their own contexts, they share many similarities. In both the movement against Trump and Trumpism and the independence movement in Scotland it is the power of the state that is the principal antagonist. Before going further in this critique it is important that we iron out some problems and assumptions. We can do this by clearing up a number of problems in Indivisible’s terms of reference.
Donald Trump: It can’t be denied that it was the election of Donald Trump that has triggered this massive social protest across the United States and around the world, but it is wrong to imagine that Donald Trump is himself the locus of the problem. Trump did campaign on a platform of racism, xenophobia, and overt and aggressive Islamophobia, but this in itself is nothing new to Western political culture. We have known Trump for a long time, and so his reputation for greed and corruption, and his authoritarian charisma come as no surprise.
Donald Trump is not the problem, and personifying this crisis will ultimately achieve nothing; there are plenty more people just like him. In fact, as was pointed out throughout the general election, both the Republican and the Democrat candidates represented the same thing; the socio-political principle of corporate interests over people. What makes Donald Trump stand out is that he is less polished as a political actor. He is less refined, less articulate, and less diplomatic. What he represents is the fast-track option of hyper capitalism and racially and socially divisive politics.
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers and principalities of a globalised system of economic and political thinking that threatens human beings and our environment. Whether by continuing with an obviously broken and disordered system under Hillary Clinton or by opting for that same mode of elitist thinking on steroids with Donald Trump, it is clear that these issues were sooner or later coming to a head. Trump has merely accelerated this process.
Accepting Political Realities: Indivisible: A Practical Guide is introduced with the assertion by its authors that Trump was the “biggest popular vote loser in history to ever call himself President-Elect.” It goes on to make the claim that Donald Trump has no mandate to pursue his political agenda. This is sheer fantasy; at best it is wishful thinking, and at worst it is a form of delusional thinking that will only focus resistence on irrelevancies and derail many of our efforts. We simply do not have the time to entertain these notions.
Trump did lose the popular vote, but we all know that it is not necessarily the popular vote that determines the choice of president in the United States. A certain quirk of the structure of the US democratic system – namely the Electoral College – allows for the election of a president without securing the numerical majority. Changing this system should be one of the objectives of this movement, but, as it stands, it is legal and therefore the election of Trump was legal and constitutional. Furthermore, it is this constitutionality that gives Trump the mandate to do what he now hopes to do. It hurts, but this is the system the modern United States has inherited.
Our first order of business is to accept the reality of the situation in which we now find ourselves. The threat we are facing is a concrete reality and only by staying firmly grounded in the world of concrete reality can we mount an effective challenge to the agenda of Trumpism. Rather than going down the rabbit hole of ideological and conceptual abstractions we must engage in Realpolitik – accepting the reality of things as they are in practice and working within that reality until such a time as the status quo allows for a real change in that objective reality.