By Mark Engler
This piece first appeared at Waging Nonviolence.
On November 14, six days after the election of Donald Trump, some 40 young people walked into the office of New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, calling on the senior lawmaker to step aside in his bid to be Senate minority leader. Carrying a banner that read “Wall St. Democrats Failed Us,” they argued that Schumer, who has received more than $3 million in campaign contributions from the securities and investment industry in the last five years, was exactly the wrong figure to lead the opposition to Donald Trump. When the senator refused to meet with them, the protesters sat on the floor to barricade the office, filling the halls of the Hart Office Building with protest songs. In the end, 17 were arrested.
Asked about the purpose of the protest, organizer Yong Jung Cho stated, “The establishment Democrats have failed the American people. The establishment Democrats failed to stop Donald Trump.” Another leader, Waleed Shahid, added that the group, #AllOfUs, would continue to target Democratic senators “who don’t do anything they can to filibuster Trump’s legislation that promotes his hatred or his greed.”
At a time when so many people are furious at Donald Trump and terrified of his agenda, some will ask why these activists are targeting leading Democrats. After all, isn’t that attacking the wrong side?
A look at the history of social movements under hostile governments provides a counterintuitive answer. At a time when Donald Trump has risen to the presidency by railing against the Washington establishment and upending the traditional rules of politics, the Democratic Party’s propensity for compromise and triangulation only plays into his hands. The only hope for unseating Trump and minimizing the damage of his agenda will be to fight his racist right-wing populism with a progressive vision. This vision must express a genuine disgust for Washington politics, but be devoted to eliminating the corrupting power of the wealthiest one percent, rather than scapegoating immigrants and people of color.
In the short run, this will require pressuring fickle and opportunist politicians to stubbornly oppose and filibuster White House extremism, even at the risk of being labeled obstructionist by critics. In the longer term, it will involve creating an effective opposition in the Democratic Party to ensure that Trump’s next opponent will not be another establishment candidate, deeply compromised by ties to corporate America. Rather, this opponent must be someone who can genuinely speak to the disenfranchisement and frustration that many in this country feel.
In choosing targets such as Schumer, organizers recognize that, in the next few years, direct opportunities to win concessions from the Trump-Pence administration will be slim. In contrast, social movements will have a much greater role in rallying and reorganizing the opposition. They have the power to tarnish politicians who once denounced Trump but now say they want to cut deals with the president. And they can work — at local, state and national levels — to elevate insurgent challengers willing to pursue a different type of Read the Original