Following the numerous large protests that have occurred in the first two weeks of this catastrophic administration, a lot of pundits and commentators still aren’t sure exactly what the protestors want. Whether it’s the anti-Trump protests that broke out after the election, or the vast Women’s March that took place across the country, these folks have criticized participants and organizers for not having one single clear goal. Still others take a historical perspective and likewise disregard these protests, saying they lack the clear purpose and demonstrated resolve of labor protests in the early 20th century. Clarity of purpose seems to be the biggest concern to these critics, particularly progressive critics.
I concede that neoliberals have muddied the water a bit around the Women’s March, mostly by trying to use the populist uprising as some indicator of their political strength. The cringe-worthy sight of the widely reviled and corrupt Debbie Wasserman-Schultz at the Washington rally was indicative of this. The supportive tweet from Hillary Clinton was likewise a taint on the proceedings and led some critics to characterize the protests as some kind of memoriam to Hillary Clinton. Given the lack of support Clinton got at the ballot, and the obvious lethargy of her base, this is transparently bullshit.
The Women’s March, despite what some of its organizers may have said, was a direct response to the blatant and shameless sexism displayed by the newly inaugurated president. It was a display of the raw populist power that could be mustered if this pussy-grabbing troglodyte tried to treat American women through policy the way he has treated them in his social circle. It was a show of force and dissent. If that message wasn’t clear, you’re probably still too invested in the pre-election clusterfuckery of Clinton v. Trump to clearly perceive that all earlier battles have been lost. You need to get over it. The piss-loving tyrannical lout is now President of the United States. No amount of Monday morning quarterbacking or despair is going to change that. So, no, the Women’s March was not a defense of poor fallen Hillary. It was a declaration of political war against an insecure, moronic blowhard who now leads the most powerful country on Earth.
Yet, as the weeks go on and the protests multiply, the Hamlets of punditry are still pondering what this is all about. Do these protestors want Trump impeached? Is that it, they ask? Then they tell you, with far too much smugness, that Pence is as bad as or worse than Trump. You’re not thinking this through, they say, firmly ensconced in a virtual world where the making of risky decisions is to be postponed and perseverated upon until it becomes meaningless, a.k.a. neoliberal political journalism.
The critics, however, are underestimating the protestors. This notion that these large, swift protests are momentary eruptions without practical goals, knee-jerk responses by soft, undisciplined whiners, is both insulting and foolish. Not every protestor may be able to articulate it, but most if not all are infuriated and inspired to action by a great many wrongs they routinely endure from politicians…from both parties.
These recent protests are just the beginning. There will likely be dozens of movements catalyzed into passionate and vast public action by this administration’s wildly unethical and oppressive policies. Some have been stewing for years, others will be brand new. Each will have their own goals. That isn’t a problem. In fact, it’s a sign of a citizenry waking from a decades’ long political coma in a huge, diverse country. We were bound to have a great many serious concerns.
The great progressive activist and organizer, Saul Alinsky, once wrote that ineffective community organizers upon realizing that “the problems of life are not wrapped up in individual cellophane packages,” abandon effective goals in search of “trivial, superficial ameliorations.” More realistic and flexible organizers, on the other hand, accept
“the overwhelming fact that all problems are related and that they are all the progeny of certain fundamental causes, that ultimate success in conquering these evils can be achieved only by victory over all evils. For that reason a people’s program is limited only by the horizon of humanity itself.”
Those dawdling pundits, so wary to endorse, so ready to hesitate in their (frankly unnecessary) approval, aren’t part of a real “people’s program” like those Alinsky referenced. They seem inclined to dismiss any movement of real ambition, one that accepts the challenge “limited only by the horizon of humanity itself.” They want, one might assume, protest in a soundbite.
You cannot reduce the cacophony of discontent and rage echoing across the United States to a soundbite.
However, if we were to attempt to stitch the various protests together to determine some kind of general shared goal, we need to first itemize some goals around which movements are growing:
- Get money out of politics.
- End exclusionary two-party politics and the rules that uphold them.
- Permanently and immediately end gerrymandering in the states.
- Immediately pass and implement (at least) a $15/hour minimum wage.
- Pass and implement single-payer healthcare for everyone.
- Provide free public college education for all citizens.
- Implement a substantial reinvestment in our public schools, and end all public funding for charter and private schools.
- Provide free public daycare for all of our children.
- Increase taxes to 1960s levels on everyone making over $500,000 per year.
- Assure unabridged rights to collective bargaining nationwide.
- Provide legal guarantee of equal rights for all LGBT people.
- Provide legal guarantee of equal rights for women.
- End militarized policing.
- Permanently close all for-profit prisons.
- Break up corporate news media monopolies and end the dominance of “news for profit.”
- End military interventionism in the Middle East, Africa and the rest of the world.
- End the use of private contractors in fighting U.S. wars.
- Institute a national popular vote for presidential elections.
- Institute instant runoff voting for all elections, and eliminate the Electoral College.
- Provide sane protections for our water, our land and our air, and staff agencies to adequately enforce them.
- Begin an immediate and vital investment in renewable energy nationwide, and end any and all tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry.
- Spend far more money tax dollars on rebuilding the social safety net, and far less on the military industrial complex.
- Immediately break up all big banks and financial institutions.
- Pay immediate restitution to every homeowner who was foreclosed on during the 2008 crash, funded 100% by every big bank that was given tax dollars to stay solvent.
- Immediately break up all monopolistic corporations in any industry.
- End corporate theft of public lands.
- Immediately pardon federal inmates serving time for non-violent drug violations.
- End the War on Drugs and decriminalize drugs.
- Vastly increase federal and state investments in healthcare for drug addiction.
- Pass and implement sane gun control laws that make it as hard to get a gun license as it does a driver’s license.
And, yes, absolutely:
- Throw this president, his administration, and most of Congress out of office.
I could go on for pages. The point is, this isn’t a movement about one or two things. This is a whole range of movements spawned by the political mismanagement and abuses by both Republicans and Democrats. This is the long repressed howl of outrage at the rampant oligarchy, greed and corruption that determines and administers our social, economic and foreign policies. It is not mere frustration anymore. It’s fury and resolve. It is an historic development of populist muscle and outrage.
The response to a government that has calcified into a permanent and unjust institution has finally found its voices, and there are millions of them. Those speaking up are reaching out, finding others, articulating both their frustration and their goals, coalescing into more formal organizations. Everyone is realizing that it doesn’t work – if it ever did – to ask our elected representatives to be decent, caring and compassionate. The shameless disregard of our politicians and their parties has sown seeds of discontent all across America. Now people everywhere are demanding, shouting, marching, interrupting the politicians’ placid, over-fed days of self-enrichment and endless corporate fellatio. People are rising up, organized, not organized, planned, not planned. It may not seem coherent at the moment, but it will once you add it all up. It won’t be long.
It’s a matter of linguistics. The plural of “political movement” is not “political movements.”