Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Scale of action

My friend Andree Zalesk linked on FB to a post by Yonatan Zunger, Trial balloon for a coup. It's not uplifting reading, but I think it is very well argued, and I recommend it.

In comments on Andree's page, someone wrote, "Bannon must go. Period." And Andree responded:
Do you have a strategy in mind? I have NO IDEA how we organize against something this complex and interior. Even some of the best activists I know are refusing to take this in.
I weighed in with some thoughts about government as the organ for collective action combined with the legitimate wielding of compulsion, and the possibility - but more the difficulty - of building alternative means of collective action.

Andree observed, "I don't see here where you're suggesting a strategy for resistance." And she was right. As I wrote to her.
In retrospect, I was answering in a limited way, "What can we do?" But I don't know what we do to resist beyond what we're doing: demonstrating, calling members of Congress, connecting with other people. In the end, if the judiciary declines to declare the executive to be in violation of the law, or the executive decides to ignore the judiciary (as it is apparently already doing), and the arms of the executive (like Customs and Border Patrol) obey the boss rather than the courts, and Congress declines to assert itself (or it asserts itself but the executive ignores Congress and the arms of the executive obey), then I don't know what you do.
Last night I remembered the term "people power" from when the Filipinos turned out in such massive numbers that Marcos fled. What scale of nonviolent action would it take to render Bannon's plans ineffective?
Andree gave me a pat on the back: "There you go: That last sentence is the real question."

OK, but if it is the real question, it's actually just the first real question. Because the one after that is, "How do you achieve that scale of action?"

It's an organizational question, and also one of messaging.

Yesterday I wrote about the all-purpose alibi, the mindset among some Trump voters that "Washington is broken" and Trump is what we need to shake the place up and finally "get something done in this country." Once someone's in that mindset, it doesn't matter how much experience someone has, whether they've worked for Democratic presidents, Republican presidents or both. If you have experience in actually carrying out the work of government, you're part of "broken Washington," so when you rationally explain just how damaging Trump's actions are, all you do is confirm how right and necessary those actions are.

I suspect there's a similar dynamic at work in this question of how do we mobilize more people.

There are different mixes of motivation for opposing Trump. There are policy differences, such as the conviction that the Muslim ban is illegal, immoral, and counterproductive, or the argument that repeal of Obamacare without an actual better replacement is immoral and will lead to great suffering.

The Muslim ban seems pretty widely unpopular. Of course it has its rabid fans on Facebook and elsewhere who argue their case with anti-Muslim bigotry and/or misrepresentation of the order and/or the inaccurate claim that this is just acting on an "Obama" law from 2011. But my conservative Republican House Rep issued a statement yesterday disagreeing with the order (I'm calling him to suggest that he act, rather than merely talk a good game, since he's one of the relatively few people in the country in a position to actually do something about it within the structure of government).

ACA repeal has broader support. If you combine the people who want to leave the law more or less alone, the people who want to strengthen it, and the people who want "changes" rather than repeal, you get a solid majority. But I think in many case, the "changes" people want are along the lines of removing the mandate for people to buy insurance while still requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing condition. As I've explained, those people want a unicorn, but that doesn't change the fact that if you combine them with the people who want repeal, you probably have a plurality, maybe a majority.

I haven't seen any polling, but I can imagine that his directive on regulations is fairly popular. Yes, it's insane to run government with as broad a brush as saying, "If you create a new rule, you have to take away two," but lots of people have had experiences with regulations that they thought were ill-advised (sometimes they are ill-advised; sometimes the regulation has a reasonable goal and there's simply no cleaner way to accomplish it). So it sounds good to "take bold action."

So there's policy opposition to Trump's specific actions (past and predicted), with some of hi positions being unpopular while others have pretty broad support.

Then there's process opposition: Trump is putting Bannon at the center of the National Security Council and removing people who are supposed to be there by law. Agents of Customs and Border Patrol simply ignore a court order reversing parts of the Muslim ban. Trump (or more likely Bannon) worked on the Muslim ban with staffers to Rep. Goodlatte, but apparently had them sign non-disclosure agreements that they wouldn't tell their own boss what they were doing.

As some people commented in response to the Zunger piece linked at the top, is this a trial balloon for a coup, or it just a straight-up coup?

I don't remember who made the observation, but when you have an executive branch that doesn't listen to the courts, you have a regime rather than a government.

I would hope that the great majority of Americans would be opposed to the creation of a regime in this country.

But it gets complicated when that regime is doing things that many Americans want, like dismantling Obamacare, or "getting those burdensome regulations off our backs."

How do we make common cause with people who don't want a dictator, but who do want many of the things the dictator promises?

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