Amid mounting evidence that the sitting President of the United States, his campaign staff, and some close advisers from his Administration were (and potentially still are) colluding with a foreign power to disrupt our elections, destabilize our democracy and enrich themselves, there is a sense brewing on the left that the standard political opposition strategies of marching, letter-writing and calling representatives may be insufficiently proportionate to Trump’s perceived offenses.
Indeed, if the campaign did work with Vladimir Putin’s Russia to boost Trump to the presidency, then a cunning foreign leader’s hands may have deep reach into our country’s current affairs, potentially influencing domestic and foreign policy decisions, as well as military strategies. Even a slight chance that this is possible should elicit broad, bipartisan demands for meaningful investigation.
Congressional Republicans have shown unwavering obstinacy, as they stonewall and slow-walk efforts to get to the bottom of #TrumpRussia. They. Don’t. Care. But the American people do.
And urgency is paramount. We’re not talking about an everyday policy dispute between left and right that can afford to sit on the legislative back-burner. We can’t slow-walk this. Investigations take long enough as it is, and in one plausible scenario, Russian assets are literally designing and implementing subversive policy within our government. To put it crudely, that would be a big f***ing deal and would require immediate action to reverse damage and implement appropriate counter measures.
So what tools can the Resistance employ to push Congress to take its oversight role over the Executive Branch seriously? Marches and large-scale demonstrations make a statement about the passion and size of the Resistance, but the movement doesn’t need to simply make a statement right now. It needs to disrupt.
This country has a long, honorable history of non-violent protest and civil disobedience that can be tapped for insight. The problem with civil disobedience in this age is that Congressional Republicans don’t care for civil rights, civility or even for civilians generally. They don’t speak the language of compassion or share a belief in universal human rights. How do you influence people like that?
Perhaps the Resistance needs to speak in a language that the GOP can understand: The dialect of capitalism. The vernacular of profit-making. The jargon of the market.
The problem with civil disobedience in this age is that Congressional Republicans don’t care for civil rights, civility or even for civilians generally.
If there is one thing this Republican Party has shown compassion toward, it is corporate profit and stock market success. They care about companies, and worship at the feet of the business community. If the Republicans who control Congress can’t comprehend peoples’ demands for an independent Russia investigation, perhaps they’ll respond if The Resistance switches to a capitalist dialect and organizes an Economic Walk-Out. Not civil disobedience, but economic disobedience.
In an Economic Walk-Out, demonstrators wouldn’t have to attend an event or proactively do anything at all. Instead, they would withdraw from commerce, holding their money, and refusing to participate for a time.
The threat of a coordinated, timed boycott of the economy by millions would send a clear warning shot to Republicans that the Resistance is formidable and we mean business. If you, Congress, continue to be complicit in stonewalling investigation and tearing down our democratic system, then we, the Resistance, will withhold the fuel that powers our economic system. The Walk-Out would occur if Congress fails to do its job prior to a given date. The common-sense demands from the Resistance could look like this:
- Institute a formal, independent investigation into the Russian hacking of the election, including all of the former and ongoing personal, financial and political ties between Trump’s team and Russia. This could take the form of an independent, 9/11-style commission or assignment of a special council. Both are warranted.
- Arrange for the release by the IRS of the ten most recent years of Donald Trump’s full tax returns, so that Congress and the American people can get further insight into how the President and his family are beholden to foreign governments – especially Russia. The House Ways and Means Committee already has the power to see the returns, and the Intelligence Committees could likewise subpoena them.
Congress would have a certain number of weeks – perhaps four to five – to make meaningful progress toward meeting these demands before the American people would commence the Walk-Out. This approach has a strong grounding on the left, as labor unions have for years used their collective power and threats of work stoppages to demand safer conditions, fairer wages and increased benefits.
In reality, the stated demands aren’t even things we should have to ask for. The release of a president’s tax returns and the non-partisan investigation of foreign influence in our elections should be givens. They’re not, apparently, because the GOP cares more about winning legislative victories than our sovereignty. Because of their weakness in character, we must be all the stronger in our resolve. The Resistance would have to be prepared to engage in the Walk-Out – effectively a commerce strike – if Republicans fail to see the light.
What Would an Economic Walk-Out Look Like?
A large-scale, coordinated withdrawal from the economy could occur for a day, multiple days, a week or even longer. A menu of rules would guide participation, akin to those below. Participants would be encouraged to engage as deeply as their life circumstances would allow:
- No purchasing. Forego extravagance. If you must purchase to sustain yourself, purchase only what is necessary, go minimalist, and shop at local stores that sell locally produced products/food if possible. There can’t be pre-buying or post-buying supplies, or the effect will be diluted. This is meant to be a sacrifice.
- No web traffic outside of what is required for basic life functionality. Media sites in particular must be avoided so that they get the message about what we expect them to investigate, and what questions we expect them to ask. Clicks deliver revenue, so no clicks.
- No TV. Advertisers need to be mobilized and feel the pinch.
- Only drive when and where absolutely necessary. Don’t support the fossil fuel industry.
- Give amply to charities and volunteer locally during the Walk-Out.
Resisters may respond to this idea with a smattering of reservations and equivocations: Can I skip the TV one? What about impact on businesses? Isn’t this a bit extreme? Shouldn’t we just do a coordinated letter writing campaign?
I hear you. But a reminder of a now-familiar refrain: this situation is NOT NORMAL.
Do you believe democracy is circling the drain under Trump? Do you believe in your heart that the sitting President of the United States of America and his team colluded with a foreign government to win the election? If you answer affirmatively, then you have no choice but to do all you can. This is it – there is no going back. If we let these investigations and pursuit for the truth slip through our fingers, then what happens is as much on us as it is on the GOP (well, almost). We have to use each and every non-violent tool at our disposal to pry the truth out of the clinched fists of these obfuscating would-be tyrants. If we wait to flip the House and Senate in 2018, it could be too late. Yes, a Walk-Out strategy presents risk for individuals, businesses, and the economy. Is that risk greater than the risk presented by an unfettered Trump presidency? No.
And, the hope would be that the Walk-Out would never have to come to full fruition.
How Would This Whole Thing Work?
To be feasible, large Resistance organizations would need to coalesce around this strategy and release a joint statement notifying Congress of their intent to organize an Economic Walk-Out in roughly one-month’s time. Hopefully, ensuing pressure from business groups and constituents would then help Congressional Republicans “realize” that it’s in the best interest of the country to commission an independent investigation and “clear the air” by instigating review of Trump’s tax returns. Never forget, the fact that Republicans in Congress have - to this point - taken these common-sense measures off the table is cause for deep suspicion.
While waiting for a response from Congress, Resistance organizations would prepare for the worst – organizing and mobilizing the public for the first in a potential series of Walk-Outs, if they indeed are necessary. A single petition shared and disseminated by all organizations would allow would-be protesters to declare their intent to participate in the Walk-Out, a ballooning tally that would signal to Congress the potential impact as they deliberate the request.
An initial Walk-Out could be a three-day affair, perhaps a Friday-to-Sunday, as data show people tend to spend on the weekends. This initial Walk-Out would be followed by a reset where commerce returns and Congress can re-consider their position, and then the threat of continued Walk-Outs so long as Congress keeps failing to do its job.
Is This Necessary?
Well, that really is the gut-check question for the Resistance. How unacceptable is it that Congress has abdicated their responsibility to look into what could be the greatest hoax ever perpetrated upon the American people? Either we’re concerned that our sitting President and his team colluded with a foreign government to influence our sovereign election or we’re not. If there was collusion, then our very democracy is at stake and we should be ready to employ all conscientious, non-violent protest options until our government takes action to get some answers. Since general reason has failed to convince them, the Walk-Out strategy suggests that the Resistance stop trying to convince Republicans to do the right thing in a dialect of ethics, and consider speaking in a language that Congressional Republicans can understand: money and markets.