Last week I overheard someone deriding activists who proclaim, “He’s not my president.” The detractor said that making that statement is a pointless exercise that allows people to feel good about themselves without actually taking action.
I believe saying Trump is not our president is one of the most powerful things we can do — as long as we also act upon that truth. In fact, Trump is not our president and he won’t be until January 20. The facts about the election — like Clinton having received over 2 million more votes than Trump and Russia’s (and the FBI’s) interference in the process — suggest Trump’s rise to power wasn’t so much the will of the American populace, as it was a 21st century bloodless coup.
If we believe this, if we think the election was tampered with and/or that Clinton is the candidate chosen by the people, it seems to me that we have no other choice but to refuse to accept Trump and his regime’s legitimacy.
What makes a government function is a little like what makes money function: through thousands of small, and often routine, daily actions we demonstrate our agreement to accept it. After all, a $100 dollar bill is really just a piece of paper. If a cashier, business, bank, or someone’s grandkids refuse to accept it as legitimate money (or “legal tender”), it is useless. Our government runs because we accept that its rules are valid and we follow them, no matter how ridiculous they seem.
I think we should stop doing so. In fact, I’m calling on those who can to reject any of the laws or policies that this administration attempts to put in place; and refuse to give up any official practice that this administration attempts to repeal or rescind.
Our country has a long history with civil disobedience. In fact, it was through civil disobedience that America first became a country. After all, it was the Boston Tea Party (not to be confused with the right wing Tea Party of today) — in which patriots dumped British tea into the ocean — and the colony’s refusal to pay the King of England taxes, that sparked the Revolutionary War.
Still, I say “those who can” because there are risks involved in civil disobedience, and those risks can be much greater for people of color and those without resources. But for many white, middle class Americans who can afford the potential of paying a fine or sitting in a county jail, the risks may be lower than one might think. If the recent case of those who took over a federal facility in Oregon is any indication, imprisoning those who blatantly break the law and refuse lawful orders out of protest — even when they are heavily armed — isn’t that simple, especially if the law breakers are white.
In Oregon, what seemed like a slam-dunk case, the federal government charged seven people with weapons charges and conspiracy to intimidate federal workers in relation to the take over of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge — where the anti-government protesters videotaped themselves (with guns) illegally occupying the facility and using government equipment. They were acquitted on all charges, when the jury decided that the government hadn’t proven there was a “conspiracy.”
Since the late 1980s we have seen numerous countries in which an illegitimate government has been peacefully overthrown by the people. From the dissolution of the Soviet Union to the Arab Spring of 2011, many of those governments toppled claimed to have been voted in via free and fair elections. The people disagreed. Sure, in most of these cases, people didn’t rise up in mass until the illegitimate government had already wrecked havoc on their countries. And few of the Arab Spring saw democracies rise to fill the vacuum of overthrown dictators. But they also didn’t start with a democracy as robust as the one we are building in the United States.
Right at this moment, Trump is not our president. The easiest way to prevent the damage he’ll do is to keep him from taking office.
Protest. Call on the electors to vote for Hillary Clinton when they attend the Electoral College. Demand an investigation into election tampering. Stop Trump’s takeover of our government before it actually starts. The next 35 days are critical.
If you asked the people of those countries if they would rather have prevented the authoritative governments from wrecking their country in the first place, I doubt they’d say no. Our vision may always be 20/20 in hindsight. But one difference in this current situation is that we can already see an endless array of ways Trump and his cronies will attempt to dismantle the government as we know it. Indeed, many of his regime picks seem deliberately chosen to destroy the very departments they’ve been assigned to lead.
“The fact is many of these folks are at odds with the stated mission of the agencies they have been tapped to run,” Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), told The Washington Post.
There’s Andrew Puzder, chosen as labor secretary, who runs CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., who is opposed to raising the minimum wage and making more workers eligible for overtime pay. He thinks the restaurant industry is too heavily regulated: asBloomberg BNA noted previously, labor violations do seem particularly rampant in the fast-food industry. It’s likely we’ll see those labor regulations change, rather than violators being brought up to standards.
There’s Scott Pruitt, picked as Trump’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, who hails from an oil and gas state, has previously sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its Clean Power Plan aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
There’s Betsy DeVos, a Michigan billionaire who supports the privatization of public schools; she was chosen as education secretary. Ben Carson, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon who is against safety-net programs could be leading the Housing and Urban Development. And to lead the Health and Human Services department, Trump picked Tom Price, who hopes to both dismantle the Affordable Care Act and turn Medicare into a voucher system with a flat fee given to beneficiaries to buy their own private insurance.
The Advocate has done some great reporting on all the ways Trump’s cronie cabinet picks would be bad for those who are LGBT. For example, Price has indicated that he believes LGBT people’s non-normative “activity” means their health is more likely to cost more. That raises concerns about whether he’ll push for higher insurance premiums and copays for those who are LGBT or are living with HIV (another group of people often stigmatized as being ‘other’).
Advocate reports that as a Senator, Jeff Sessions, who Trump has nominated for Attorney General, “voted to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage; voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; is a cosponsor of the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow discrimination against LGBT people and others in the name of ‘religious freedom;’ and voted against repealing ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’”
So what’s the answer? How can we stop what’s already in motion? If our situation seems intractable because of an election mere months ago — look to the protestors involved in the Arab Spring protests. Their dictators had been wielding political power long before Trump and yet they literally risked their lives to demand change. No nonviolent effort we take to protest, hamper, disavow, or refuse to legitimate a Trump administration carries the kind of risk. Yes, Black men are being shot by cops, yes Standing Rock protestors’ lives were at risk when they were hit with firehoses in freezing temperatures. But our federal government does not routinely authorize military force and live rounds to be used against peaceful protestors. There are no secret mass graves of those who dared speak out against the current political leadership. We cannot be imprisoned in droves, or jailed indefinitely without due process in this country. At least not yet.
Take to the streets, write letters to elected officials, post on social media, sign petitions, proclaim, ‘He’s not my president’ to the world at large. Share your opinion, if for no other reason than to show just how big the resistance is. Demand full vetting and a real consideration of whether nominees for cabinet positions have the qualifications to run their departments. Insist that Democrats refuse to accept the worst of the worst. Call on the millions of government workers who are still in their jobs to refuse to comply with any demand that seems suspicious (like the recent request sent to the Department of Energy asking for the names of employees who believe in climate change). Demand a full investigation into Russia interference in our political system; and insist that the investigation is independent and occurs before Trump’s cronies can destroy all evidence that could exist to prove or disprove the allegations. Call out those trying to deny the CIA’s intelligence findings regarding Russian hacking and its interference in our elections.
Insist on the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Don’t believe it when Trump seems to have softened, or is meeting with someone reasonable like Al Gore, or claims to have “an open mind.” Those are misdirections. Trump is like a magician who has you looking at his empty hand while his other hand is grabbing you by the crotch. He is skilled at appearances, he knows we are hoping, praying, begging for him to pivot, to become reasonable, to jump out of a cake and laugh, “Gottcha!” But it’s not going to happen. If he’s appearing reasonable it’s because something is happening elsewhere, something horrible. Don’t get distracted by his subterfuge; keep your eyes on what his cronies are doing.
Refuse to legitimate Trump and his cronies as the government. Question their right to run the country. Protest every change they attempt to make, especially those with long lasting implications, and particularly any that further damage our democracy. Civil disobedience is refusing to obey certain laws, demands, or commands of a government, or occupying force. Refuse to follow new laws and regulations made by a Trump regime. Act like he really is hell bent on not only consolidating power for himself and his businesses but codifying his rule in U.S. law. Don’t allow him to turn our democracy into a dictatorship or oligarchy modeled after Putin’s Russia. Don’t count on being able to roll back these kinds of changes with the next election.
If January 20 does see a Trump inauguration, don’t give up. Don’t accept that as a loss, don’t just wait four years and hope we’ll be able to fix all the damage he’s done. Continue to demand new elections, continue to refuse to legitimize his rule. Donald Trump is not, and will never be, my president.