Democracy and dissidence
The US has entered a revolutionary window
Today, January 25th, marks the anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. A revolution where the Egyptian people were able to rid themselves of a despot that ruled over them . Today the reality in Egypt is a dark one, one wherer the very hopes of attaining the democracy that the revolution has set out to achieve is long gone.
On the other side of the world, today, the US is facing its own democratic experiment, in the reverse order. One that has seen America’s standing drop to a “flawed democracy”. Leading this charge down the rabbit hole is Donald Trump, his cabinet, and alternative facts.
Donald Trump’s rise to power came as a rejection of the “establishment” and this shouldn’t be a surprise to any. American trust in US institutions and systems has been falling rapidly. Trump was the white knight to change all that.
With Trump’s election fears of authoritarianism have come to play, and these fears are now starting to pan out. Five days into his term and Trump has already signed 12 executive orders/memorandums with more expected to be signed in the immediate future. He has also made significant changes to public resources and information.
These are all normal behaviours, especially for a president who has promised such sweeping “reform”. However, with republicans having a majority in both houses and a supreme court justice nomination coming up, and the deep social impact these legislations could have there is validity in wondering whether or not Trump truly can be the President for all America.
This puts Trump’s ability to lead on the basis of plurality under serious question, and as protests start erupting across the country (and the world) amongst calls to “resist” it’s worth looking at what elements are at play here.
The ultimate question for those on the “opposition”, those who are calling for resistance, is what is their goal?
The instigation of this "revolt" is based on the social and environmental legislation suggested and taken by Trump. Yet, it seems that this is enough for many to take up the slogan of “not my president”. Does this mean they seek the impeachment of the president? If so, would they like to see a replacement? Who?
Democratically speaking, if their ultimate goal is the removal of Trump as president, then one could argue that their cause is legitimate, especially considering that the popular vote did not go to Trump. If this is the call to action, then ‘resist” would indeed be the wrong word to use, what protestors and the opposition seek is a revolution.
Although a popular vote lends legitimacy to a revolution, a change in leadership cannot be the sole request of a revolutionary movement. The systems that have led to such skewed results must be tackled all together. This would mean directly targeting the Electoral College, Gerrymandering, and potentially the ability of lobby’s and interest groups to impact politicians and prvide funds for politcal campaigns, essentially amending or changing the constitution.
Such a political manoeuvre would be hard to achieve legally, let alone fight in the arena of popular opinion. Either way, this does not seem to be the course of action that the opposition is seeking to pursue. However, the above does dispel the notion of why citizens aren’t coming together for a non-representative president.
The democratic process
If revolution is not the goal, then any impact the opposition seeks must go through the democratic process. This means grass roots action at the city, state, and federal level.
Gerrymandering has led to massive misrepresentation in both houses, but it would be foolish to assume that democracy exists only in the ballot box. With the voter turnout rate between 50 and 60% there are many citizens that didn’t cast a vote, but may now feel compelled to take action. Worth remembering here is that representatives are obliged to represent all constituents not just those that voted for them. This form of direct pressure can help impact what legislation passes. On a local level citizens can place pressure on governors to ensure that ordinances are passed to continue the social benefits that would otherwise be removed under federal direction.
All of this would mean that the opposition will need to accept 4 years of Trump in the Whitehouse, but they could potentially retake congress in two years’ time, if they play their cards right and continue to use effective non-violent direct action and build awarness on the detrimental effects of proposed legislation.
On the point of elections, the opposition must also seeks to create viable political alternatives to the trump administration, and quick. The presidential elections have proved that many would prefer to vote for a business mogul over a career politician put forward by the DNC. This means that the opposition would have it in their best interest to challenge the DNC along the way.
The legal establishment and administrations
Having to sit through a 4 year Trump presidency doesn’t necessarily mean that his mandate needs to go unchecked. In addition to the above routes, the opposition must, if it seeks to limit Trumps impact, challenge proposed legislation based on constitutional law.
Pressure can also be placed to encourage dissent within administrative branches, a gag on "scientific reporting" from the National Park Service has resulted in the creation of an “alternative” social media channel, an "alternative" NASA channel has also emerged. The governor of California, as well as the Mayors of New York, and boston, have pledged to become sanctuaries for immigrants, even though one of Trump’s executive orders puts their federal funding in the cross hairs.
The domestic and the international
Although this piece, as well as the majority of direct action taken against the Trump administration focuses on the domestic fall out of the Trump presidency, one ought not to forget about the impact of foreign policy on the domestic front.
Although Trump's foreign policy is significantly less interventionary, in the militaristic sense, than his previous opponenet, a reason that has gained him many votes. His policies of immigration and visa bans on Muslim majority countries, talks of a muslim registry and immigrant shaming site, as well as talks on reneging on the Iran nuclear deal, will do nothing but further feul anti-american sentiment abroad increasing domesitc security threats.
In the spirit of resistance the opposition will do well to also tackle the international dualities that were propagated by the previous administration and rid themselves of the image of either being in support of military intervention or xenophobic isolation.
Pluralism in motion
Over the next few months, the opposition will continue to organize itself. with more and more protests being planned, including an immigrants march and a scientists march, it would do well in learning the lessons of the Egyptian revolution. The movement must fill its ranks to accurately represent the plurality of all the US, including those who support Trump, as opposed to entrenching itself in being nothing more than representatives of the "plurality of minorities".
Furthermore, it’s important to avoid being overwhelmed with the many changes that are going on, identify in a critical manner which ones are detrimental and which ones are positive (such as the withdrawal of the US from the TPP) and to adjust their strategies accordingly.
Fortunately, America’s democracy is still far from the Fascist nightmare many are presenting it to be. There is no doubt that the balance, on the domestic and international front, remains a delicate one but we are not on the tipping point just yet. That doesn’t mean that point is too far away.
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