The Call To Inaction

2 years ago Matthew Taylor

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My spidey-sense is tingling.

Like many people, I’ve been reading a range of responses to Trump’s victory—how it happened, what it means—and inundating myself with the reactions and analyses and stories (some empowering, others horrific) that gain traction on social media. Overarching narratives are already emerging, and many of them become more sophisticated with each new iteration.

Overall, it seems to me that this is a galvanizing moment for the American Left. I wish it weren’t a result of these particular circumstances, but I’m hopeful that we can carry this momentum through the Trump years and build something truly progressive out of the Democratic Party’s ashes.

But there is one thread popping up periodically that strikes me as completely wrongheaded. And I’ve got a nagging suspicion that it’s only in its nascent phase, soon to grow into a pervasive argument that is no less toxic for its familiarity and predictability. Maybe I’m completely wrong…but I doubt it. So I want to write against it now, before it becomes ubiquitous.

Against Dissent

Certain privileged and typically New-Agey liberals are already growing irritated with the subversive, disruptive, and loud denouncements of Trump. Sure, they don’t like Trump either, but isn’t this all a little rowdy? Couldn’t we practice radical mindfulness instead?

The large-scale protests and unequivocal condemnations of everything that he represents and will likely enact do not sit well with these folks. They implore others to try to find common ground with Trump supporters and—to the extent that they consider the actual work of politics at all—look for ways that Democratic politicians can compromise and reach agreements with the President-elect and his staff. Naturally, they cite the disappointingly conciliatory tone set by Democrats like President Obama and Hillary Clinton as evidence that we can “all work together.”

Not a chance.

Of course, the liberals saying these things are almost exclusively people with a safeguard of privilege. It ensures a high probability that they’ll make it through Trump’s America relatively unscathed. In that sense, they and I are similar. However, our paths diverge when they argue (for example) that cultivating compassion for a nationalist demagogue and his supporters through open chakra meditations is more pressing than fighting vehemently for the safety and wellbeing of our country’s most vulnerable people.

What is most reprehensible about their call for a superficial unity is that it calls attention away from the core issue, which is their fundamental conservatism. Tired platitudes about indiscriminate love and togetherness conceal a reactionary aversion to dissent and direct action.

That doesn’t work. It doesn’t effect change. Rather, it expedites the task of those whose goal it is to dominate and subdue. There’s a reason all the symbols of the predominantly white “peace and love” hippie era are now anodyne commodities, and it isn’t because they were ever liberatory for the truly oppressed. The species of liberalism I’m talking about here is no different. It positively reeks of white people with dreadlocks.

Of course, these milquetoast liberals aren’t only the stereotypical travel bloggers with trust funds or college acquaintances you would have long forgotten if not for your Facebook newsfeed. Plenty of people with money and clout will likely start making the same argument, especially as they’re beginning to see that something is at stake for them.

Silicon Valley CEOs, for example, who do Positive Affirmation workshops and attend Burning Man but have quickly realized that Trump’s promises of corporate tax cuts and deregulation could be a boon to their own bank accounts. Anecdotally, I’ve already seen Facebook statuses and tweets that frame Trump’s relative shift away from all-out boorishness and his minor “compromises” (which I read as overwhelmed incompetence) as evidence that he’s not as bad as we thought.

So maybe we ought to give him a chance. I’m fairly confident that with this reactionary atmosphere and the viral potential of superficial feel-good stories in divisive and scary times, we can expect to be hearing this argument with great frequency soon.

The Need For Action

This all amounts to a call to inaction. And passivity in these times is unconscionable for anyone who cares about collective interests and the many people that a Trump presidency will render to the periphery of society.

The notion that Trump’s America might be less perilous than we thought just because his behavior has been vaguely civil since Election Day is nonsense. Sure, there may be times that he appears more amenable to minor compromise than we would have anticipated. And yes, what he said during his campaign may well have been above all a tactic to win over supporters by tapping into their base fears and sense of nostalgia, offering easily digestible solutions and a return to a never-existent Golden Age. He is a media manipulator and con man par excellence, so I accept the possibility that he said what the angry masses wanted to hear more than what he had planned out as a long-term agenda.

But that doesn’t matter. Other repressive autocrats have risen to power on populist swells that they harnessed and didn’t necessarily fully identify with themselves. But the power is still repressive, particularly when the demagogue continues to appeal to these nationalist tendencies (Trump has “expressed interest in continuing to hold the large rallies that were a staple of his candidacy.”)

The point is that he has set the conditions for the brutality of nationalism and all that it entails. It’s entirely plausible that he will just be the angry puppet while Pence, Bannon, Giuliani, Gingrich, Huckabee, et al. do the actual work. But his words normalized the xenophobia, racism, and misogyny that are now resurgent. He is selecting the Cabinet that will actualize its regressive agenda and work to erase many of the most hard-fought civil liberties triumphs of recent activist generations.

This is not a time to seek common ground with the Right. (I would argue there is never such a time.) Rather, it’s a time to fight vigorously for the terrain of the Left. The most privileged among us should be advocating for the most vulnerable, while also not taking center stage.

And it’s critical to remember that resistance is also for those who can’t fight for themselves. For the voiceless and the disenfranchised. The sick who will lose their medical care. The elderly. The imprisoned. For the people hungry for justice and for dignity who for whatever reason cannot stand up themselves.

There needs to be vigilant defiance against the effete liberalism that encourages the Left to “come together” with those who seek to oppress. There are people who are legitimately threatened by Trump’s America. Asking them to compromise and work with their enemy is vacuous and wrong.

Featured image by Ed Crisostomo, Orange County Register/SCNG

We are a new blog intelligently reporting and analyzing current events through a leftist lens. We are trying to combat the digital media trends of clickbait and fake, misleading “news” with no substance. If you want to see more journalism like this, please like us on Facebook.