Fourth in a series, Annals of Resistance
Since the Democrats lost the special Congressional election in Georgia last week---the fourth they’ve lost since Donald Trump’s victory in November---a new media narrative is emerging: that Democrats need to find a theme more compelling than just being anti-Trump or echoing the anti-Trump resistance (also here, here, and here).
As The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker declared on “Charlie Rose,” “Hashtag Resistance…is not going to be enough.”
But the resistance is not merely a negative force, rising against Trump for opposition’s sake only. While it starts in opposition, it has taken on a more constructive meaning.
Properly understood, the resistance stands against the normalization of the proto-autocratic, amoral Trump and his administration in their dismantling of America’s institutions and foundational ideals.
And standing against the normalization of Trumpism means the resistance stands for the re-normalization of American life. We have been not-normal for a long, long time.
Trump seems not to understand how a democratic government is supposed to work, that it functions by laws and rules, not the whims of one (unbalanced) individual. The resistance, by its various actions and its ideological and intellectual firepower, is giving new life to our democracy, which has grown tired and dysfunctional. Thus the energy of the resistance, its dynamism, its passion. The sleeping giant awakens.
The Women’s March, for example. Declaring, among other causes, that Trump’s repellant behavior toward women---his boast of groping their private parts---cannot ever become normalized, women by the millions poured into the streets of our cities the day after Trump’s inauguration, making it the biggest march in history. The follow-on? By one count, 13,000 women have announced plans to run for office.
To protest the normalization of Trump’s anti-science policies, including the denial of climate change, scientists massed by the thousands in hundreds of cities across the country and the world on Earth Day, April 22, in the March for Science. As follow-up, the March for Science website announces: “We marched. Now we act.” In unhinged times, score one for reason, the scientific method, and re-normalization.
Resisters are becoming constitutionalists: Protesting Trump’s refusal to divest his vast business empire from the presidency, we now know about the Emoluments Clause, banning presidents from receiving payments or gifts from foreign governments. (This month the Attorneys General of Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against Trump for “flagrantly” violating this clause.) With Trump’s several efforts to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., resisters now know about the Establishment Clause, forbidding discrimination on the basis of religion.
On myriad other fronts working for America’s re-normalization, resisters are also becoming ethicists, relearning the need to make value judgments, and becoming small-d democrats, relearning the truth that democracy, based on the demos or the people, needs the people’s active participation---getting informed, running for office, voting, resisting.
All this re-normalizing activity is the very “juice” (as they say in Washington) of the resistance movement. This juice comes from a positive, not a negative place. Kicking in instantaneously after the November election, the resistance shows America’s immune system---fighting against Trumpism---is in good working order.
And if the Democratic party had one fraction of this juice right now, it would be in better shape. Running parallel to the Democratic party, the resistance is where the new blood is flowing, with young people signing on. Resisters who run for elective office will likely run as Democrats, or as Independents.
Losing a presidential election always prompts major self-examination, and since November’s earthquake loss, Democratic leaders in Washington have been caught up in a debate over the party’s direction: whether, in taking on Trumpism, to stay centrist or take a left turn. The party’s problems, then, are not with the resistance, but are internal. The Democratic party itself needs to re-normalize and get back to representing the middle- and working-classes.
At this moment of Democratic disarray, the resistance provides the through-line for liberal thought and energy. Resisters must push back at the negative connotation now being ascribed to them, of being merely anti-Trump. Controlling the narrative---that the resistance is working against the normalization of Trump’s anti-democratic politics and for re-normalization of American life---is vital. Vive la resistance.
Carla Seaquist’s latest book is titled “Can America Save Itself from Decline?: Politics, Culture, Morality.” An earlier book is titled “Manufacturing Hope: Post-9/11 Notes on Politics, Culture, Torture, and the American Character.” Also a playwright, she published “Two Plays of Life and Death” and is at work on a play titled “Prodigal.”