Since the election nearly two weeks ago a chorus of Democrats have come out and argued that people should ‘give Trump a chance’. This has come from people of the Left like Bernie Sanders and people pretending to be of the Left like Hillary Clinton. Both of them are wrong. I understand that this is part of the peaceful transition of powers but if they legitimately mean that the entire country should essentially let their guard down to see what Trump will do then they are wrong. It is important that everyone who opposes what Trump has said he will do doubles down.
To be fair to Clinton and Sanders the full context what they have both said is that if Trump wants to improve the lives of ordinary people then that’s fine, but if he wants to push hatred then this is not okay. There’s nothing wrong with this statement because it’s devoid of meaning. People who have echoed these sentiments have essentially said that if Trump does good things that is good, and if he does bad things then that is bad. Surely that’s a given.
What should actually happen is the complete opposite. We live in a world in which technology has empowered citizens in way that authoritarians of the past would not have believed. The propaganda of the government can be undermined by alternative sources on the internet. The lies about equality before the law can be debunked by a mobile phone footage of police harassment of black people. Politicians who claim to be of the people can be recorded talking to the elite about how their fuck-ups are not really their fault. People are powerful.
The media is run for profit and as such won’t fact-check Congressional Republicans or the Trump White House unless it impacts their profits in some way. We as individuals must challenge Trump and the GOP on day one through activism and organising. If Trump says that he will kill free trade agreements, it is up to the Left to argue against the corporatists in both parties, but if Trump argues for open racism then the Left must be there to mount legal challenges and protests. It is incumbent that the Left organise and insist that members of the Senate filibuster all horrible legislation.
Throughout Obama’s time in office the GOP made intransigence the norm, but Trump came in arguing that he would get rid of gridlock. If the Democrats hold firm and stop him doing horrific legislation that discriminates against minorities and cuts taxes for the wealthy, gridlock remains and Trump would have failed his objective. The Democrats won’t hold firm of their own volition because they’re all pathetically weak, but if thousands of people are ringing them every other day demanding filibusters on basically everything the have to act out of fear of being primaried.
When I talk about legal challenges the instant reaction of some people is that if he controls the Supreme Court then legal challenges will be fruitless. I disagree. Take the example of “opening up the libel laws” so Trump can sue newspapers who criticise him. Firstly there is no executive order that Trump could personally institute that wouldn’t be unconstitutional. Secondly, if Congress passed a law that did allow people to sue newspapers, the law would go to the Supreme Court. What would the Supreme Court do?
I believe an apt comparison is United States v. Eichman, which was a case in 1990 about the extent of free speech. The case in question was about whether burning the American flag was constitutionally protected free speech. This is much more of an emotive issue that suing newspapers because of the political symbolism of the American flag for right-wingers. The Court ruled 5-4 that flag burning was free speech, and in the majority opinion was one Antonin Scalia.
How is this directly relevant? Scalia is one of the most conservative Supreme Court justices in the modern era, and if he was willing to rule that the First Amendment covered such an emotive subject, a justice in the mould of Scalia would likely argue that you cannot sue newspapers out of existence. Also, if one looks at the jurisprudence of the other right-wing justices on the Court, only Clarence Thomas has a question-mark over his head on this issue. Five of the other justices have a decent track record on the scope of the First Amendment, and even those with a checkered history (Kennedy and Alito) has points against them in terms of the Establishment Clause, not freedom of the press. The only way Trump could get a law like that passed is if you had four or possibly five justices appointed that ignored the First Amendment, which would be difficult to do in four or even eight years.
Abraham Lincoln once said that “if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything”, and this has never been truer today; people fell for Trump’s snake-oil because they hadn’t been politicised by left-wingers. It is up to people across the US to put an unapologetically left-wing argument to people without the baggage of the Democratic Party. If you can get people in Nebraska, Kansas, and Georgia to support universal healthcare, a high minimum wage, improved workers rights, higher taxes on the wealthy, universal college education just on their merits, Trump’s attempt to do the opposite will hit a wall in his ‘heartlands’. We have to lay the ideological foundations for the next set of elections so that people stop voting against the economic best interests. This means opposing Trump on day one, not allowing him time to get his feet under the desk.