I would not have expected to find a manifesto for resistance to Donald Trump on Rooflines, a wonky publication of the National Housing Institute.
But there it was. With a reference to Gandhi, no less.
“Public opinion alone can keep a society pure and healthy.” – Gandhi
Gandhi believed in people—all people. He believed that everyday people both in India and England would reject colonialism if they really understood it. Gandhi’s civil disobedience, built on this faith, was carefully calculated to hold up a mirror to show people (on both sides) the true face of British colonialism. Rather than confront the superior British military, Ghandi won independence by changing public opinion.
Seen from Gandhi’s point of view, Donald Trump is a gift.
The critical problem the author identifies is a lack of public awareness. When large numbers of Americans don’t see injustices and corruption, when we are unaware of the fault-lines in our society, the result is apathy. History confirms the insight: it wasn’t until television brought images of vicious dogs being loosed upon peaceful demonstrators that public opinion coalesced behind civil rights; it wasn’t until that same television brought the Viet Nam war into American living rooms that support for the war decisively turned. It wasn’t until ubiquitous cell-phone cameras documented police misconduct that calls for better training and appropriate disciplinary action became too numerous to ignore.
Trump is the face that America has been hiding since the 1970s. It is almost impossible to fight an invisible enemy, but with the enemy out in the open, we have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to pick the kinds of fights that permanently change people’s hearts and minds and fundamentally alter what is politically possible…A majority of American adults (96 percent) believe in equal rights for women, and 87 percent have a personal relationship with someone who is gay. I don’t believe that the vast majority of Americans will let people be pushed back into the closet—if they manage to notice it happening. Given a clear choice, they won’t allow Muslims to be targeted or immigrant families divided.
The post makes the obvious point that as long as the people who voted for Trump continue to support him, Congress won’t stop him. The only strategy that will work is a strategy that will change public opinion–and that will require a unified effort by the various groups now working to protect everything from the environment to reproductive rights to fair housing laws.
If we fight for our separate issues separately, we have no chance of penetrating anyone’s media bubble or changing anyone’s mind. But if we stand together we can draw clear lines in the sand that highlight (sometimes symbolically) the choice we are facing about what kind of country to be. And if we draw the lines in the right places, when Trump crosses them, the American people will stand with us—and they will remember that choice for generations.
I would add two observations: first, those of us who are opposed to–and terrified by–Trump and Ryan and McConnell begin with a solid lead in that all-important public opinion. Thanks to the archaic Electoral College, Trump will be President, but Clinton won nearly 3 million more votes. The majority of people who are already engaged with the system, the people who have been paying attention, are with us. Our task is to engage those who have been passive, inattentive and oblivious.
Second, history and political psychology (and more recently social media) teach us how to engage those people. It isn’t through graphs, or philosophical arguments, or blogs like the one I’ve quoted. It isn’t even through exposes of Trump’s conflicts of interest, sexual assault history and corrupt practices. It isn’t through blogs like mine. It’s through stories. Pictures. Videos. The effects of Trumpism on our neighbors and friends. We need to support good journalism that tells those human stories, that brings individual examples of injustice and self-dealing out of obscurity and into the light.
We need a constant stream of stories illuminating the human toll of Trump’s appeal to the racist, mysogynistic, xenophobic underside of American society, stories illustrating the effects of policies that ravage the environment, benefit the plutocrats and crush the hardworking poor.
Sometimes, you have to paint a picture. This is one of those times.