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He really is the president. Steve Bannon is his Rasputin. The avalanche of decrees (oops, I meant executive orders; only dictators hand down decrees) is systematically demolishing President Obama’s legacy across a wide range of policy areas, from environment to health to immigration, to economic regulation. The mismanaged Democratic campaign has given Donald Trump complete control of the federal government, to go along with the Republican dominance in the majority of states that dates from the Democratic mismanagement of the election of 2010. There is no sugar coating it: they will have their way with us.

resistance

Resistance—John Peeler

How can we then, from our weakness, resist in ways that will swing the pendulum back again? Remember that the Republicans were in the same hole as recently as 2008. This is not a time for despair, but for resolve.

How can we then, from our weakness, resist in ways that will swing the pendulum back again? Remember that the Republicans were in the same hole as recently as 2008. This is not a time for despair, but for resolve.

There are three arenas. The most important is to rally the majority of people who did not vote for Trump. This task was admirably begun by the Women’s Marches on the day after the inauguration. We have to buck each other up, we have to get to work on issues like immigration, fair apportionment of legislative and congressional seats, environmental protection, and saving health care. We must never forget that we are the majority. And we have to do a lot better in getting all of our supporters to vote in every election, not just for the presidency.

The second arena is the nearly half of the electorate who voted for Trump and who have high hopes that he will somehow put the country back on what they conceive to be the right track. Demonstrations and marches won’t reach these people, and violent protests like what we saw recently in Berkeley certainly won’t. We have to relearn how to speak to their concerns. A substantial minority of Trump voters actually voted for Obama at least once. They are not beyond our reach. Probably the key is to put real bite into the kind of appeal that Bernie Sanders made to the working class that has been systematically left behind by decades of policy serving the interests of Wall Street and big business. This shouldn’t be a hard point to make, in light of Trump’s surrounding himself with Wall Street and big business types. Trump’s strategy is to keep distracting his base with red meat on social issues like abortion, immigration and Obamacare, while letting Wall Street run the economy. Our task must be to keep pointing out that Wall Street is running the economy and it’s hurting the working class.

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The third arena is the government itself. We obviously need to keep encouraging congressional Democrats to use what power they have to spotlight malfeasance by the Trump administration and congressional Republicans, and to delay and obstruct wrong-headed policies. Where we have Republicans in swing states or districts, we should keep the pressure on them to defy Trump when his appointments or policies are unpopular back home.

Another aspect of the government arena is the bureaucracy itself. Every president finds that his actual control over his supposed subordinates is limited. Trump won’t be any different. Civil servants and foreign service officers are the resident experts in any given department, without whom nothing gets done (and Trump, unlike some Republicans, really wants things to get done). They know the details of relevant laws and regulations, they draft new regulations, they exercise discretion in particular cases. If they are not supporters of the president’s policies, they have multiple ways of crippling or sabotaging the implementation.

Most spectacularly, bureaucrats can leak information to the press when they don’t agree with what’s going on. This has already happened to Trump several times, and he’s only been in office two weeks. Bureaucrats can’t be publicly associated with partisan activity, but they are nonetheless citizens and thinking people. When Trump appoints cabinet secretaries who manifestly oppose the missions of their departments (the EPA and the Education Department, for example) it should scarcely be surprising that employees of those departments will use whatever tools they have to throw sand into the gears of the Trump machine.

The courts are another source of resistance. Obama and Clinton appointees are heavily represented at all levels, so that even when Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court takes office (after prolonged delays by Senate Democrats), the lower courts still have the capacity to shape the majority of cases that never make it to the Supremes, and to craft decisions in ways that could fracture the conservative majority. And federal judges, even Republican appointees, with lifetime appointments, can never be entirely predicted, and certainly not controlled. Trump is quite likely to commit some egregious constitutional abuses; it is also likely that there will be some Republican judges and justices who will call him to account.

It is too soon to say whether Trump’s regime will evolve into something like full-blown Fascism, along the lines of Mussolini, for example. I doubt it, though it’s certainly possible. I think the roots of democracy are far deeper here than in places that have succumbed to Fascism, and our institutions are far stronger. The points of resistance will hold.

john peeler

John Peeler

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