I admit that I am embarrassed by the post-election opposition to Trump.

Millions of dollars were raised by the Greens for a recount that went no where. It was obvious from the start that the actual outcome of the election was not going to be changed by the recount. Was anything found that has identified a practice that must be stopped, or a reform that must be made?

Millions of signatures were collected in an effort to change the minds of the electors. The result was that GOP electors held firm, while leftwing Democrats started wandering off to other candidates, including Sanders. Not a shred of strategy and coordination visible to the naked eye. Again, the chances of success were so small that the effort was guaranteed to fail. It was not only doomed to fail, but doomed to never even get off the ground.

Now, I read that we are all supposed to turn our lights off the night of the Inauguration. Because it can be seen from space! I doubt it. And who is up there to be impressed?

The whole safety-pin thing was equally ill-considered, promising more than could be delivered.

It seems that the talk of churches becoming "sanctuaries" is also very premature. Most churches don't even have showers.

The requirements of leadership include not leading people on wild-goose chases. Having a strategy beneath the tactics. Not projecting images of ineffectuality or frivolity. Not promising more than can be delivered. Not endangering people and institutions without careful consideration. Demonstrating a realistic sense of what is possible in the moment and what is not. 

I'm not saying that every campaign has to be for a winnable reform. But if you say that you are calling for a truly massive demonstration on the National Mall, you better have the capacity to get more people there than can be counted.

Huge numbers of people are frightened and boiling mad. The leadership that will turn this moment into a movement has not fully emerged yet. Maybe it will and maybe it won't. (Remember how the massive demonstrations against the War in Iraq did not give birth to a mass-based antiwar movement once the war started.)

I am looking for the emergence of serious leadership. I suspect it will come from the sources that have been effective leaders in the past, and from the communities that have long histories of struggle: the sparkplugs of the sustained movement for Black Lives, the North Carolina Moral movement, the protracted struggle for the water at Standing Rock.

But enough of the silly, symbolic, and substance-free campaigns.


  1. I could not agree more, dear Tom. While I am sad, frustrated and searching - the endless letter writing, petition signing and faux saber rattling and safety pin sporting will not help. Hoping the new year brings new focus and that the senate does its job in the appointment process!

  2. I agree totally with your analysis of the silliness and cluelessness of many of the reactions. Indeed, here in Portland it felt like a tantrum. With all the people filling the streets with no objective in mind. I am hoping this is just the craziness of grief and not the political cluelessness of liberals but given some of the behavior we saw in the primaries, I'm worried. Even the normally organized NGO's seem to be galloping of in all directions.

  3. In my- regretful- opinion, mass demonstrations influence only potentially sympathetic holders of power. Needless to say, there will be none of those in the Trump Administration. People would do better to e.g., pack any town halls held by their local Congresscritter.

  4. I strongly disagree. Not about the larger efficacy, but about the reasons behind why we do these things. I don't think we do them because they will change the world. I think we do them becuase they change US.

    I think that often, these smaller actions allow us to take courage where we can - courage that can sustain us and enable us to more effectively engage the larger, mass actions. The person who is at the inauguration who turns their back as the Trump motorcade passes will feel more empowered to step up physically the next time they are needed. The person wearing the safety-pin may not ever even have a chance to be a safe person, but most of them are watching the world around them more carefully, are more engaged. Many congregations will never be called upon to be sanctuaries of the kind you mention, but to have the conversation about what it would be like if they WERE required is an important conversation.

    Most people can't go from couch potato to active resistance overnight, or even in a few weeks. And most progressives have been, activism-wise, couch potatoes. These smaller activities help us begin to get in shape for the marathon we have ahead, as silly as they may seem.

    So I might suggest that folks examine where their embarrassment comes from - especially becuase embarrassment and shaming from peers over the the earnestness of people trying to get in shape for the difficulties ahead should not be one of the obstacles that new resistors need to overcome.

    ps - I am NOT talking about turning off the lights, I think that is just silly, mostly because the inauguration is at noon.

  5. Thank you, Dawn. I think people are looking for something to do. The leaders should take this to heart and use the energy that is evident and shape it into actions that will truly make a difference.


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