In high school, I had a girlfriend who was involved in student government and all sorts of good works. While she paid attention to all that was happening in those years of the early '60s, she essentially was a moderate -- certainly not some movement rebel. Or so we thought... until one lazy, Sunday afternoon. As we aimlessly "cruised the drag" of our small town in a '54 Chevy, we were paused at a red light across from a root beer stand where a group of teens was hanging out. Suddenly, my "moderate" girlfriend lunged halfway out of the backseat window and SHOUTED: "Wake up and piss, kids, the world's on fire!"
I stared at her wide-eyed and whopperjawed, wondering where that came from.
I've thought of that moment recently as I've seen instance after instance of the innate rebelliousness of the American people erupting across the country in surprising ways, unexpected numbers, and with astonishing intensity. No need to wonder where this comes from, however. The outbursts are a spontaneous, rapidly expanding mass rejection of Trumpism.
Our Twitter-president plays to his most frenzied partisans with his daily rata-tat-tat of executive orders and public fulminations -- firing at refugees, federal judges, Chuck Schumer, the media, Nordstrom, the EPA, Mexico's president, Elizabeth Warren, laws that protect consumers from Wall Street greed, Sweden, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and... no telling who's next.
But while some delightedly squeal at his wild moves, many more see Trump as not merely unpresidential, but bullgoose bonkers! And dangerous -- recklessly using the enormous power of the presidency as a personal cudgel to attack, stigmatize, and seriously harm individuals, entire religions and races, the Bill of Rights, and our nation's basic values of tolerance, fairness, and opportunity for all.
In a twist of ironic justice, The Donald's deep darkness has sparked a prairie fire of mass opposition, raging political activism, and movement organizing for the long haul. The rebellion is on!
Many of us Lowdowners are activists, ranging from occasional campaigners to us warped gluttons for full-time, full-tilt punishment. No matter your past involvement, with our ship of state entering dire straits, each of us must do a bit extra. And we Lowdowners, especially, can help focus the anger roiling the countryside by sharing some how-to-make-a-difference tips to friends, co-workers, et al. "Traump-atized" by Washington's new extremist kakistocracy (government by the worst). One longtime Lowdowne r emailed: "It is time to have an issue of the Lowdown devoted to what it means to be an activist, how to get involved ... how to be most effective."
Right. After all, millions of our neighbors have long been disengaged, viewing the political scrum as somewhere between irrelevant and repugnant. But, suddenly they're back -- alert not only to Trump, but to their congress critters and to that menagerie of freaky, rightwing corporate mutants that Trump-Pence has put in charge of our government. In January, one red-district Texan told a reporter: "I think of politics the way I think of my car. I just want it to run [without my spending] a lot of time." Only a few weeks into the Trump-Does-Washington spectacle, he's now learned a fundamental lesson: "You get the politics you work for."
Exactly. And it's not just a one-time, resist-and-dump Trump campaign we're undertaking, but the mobilization of a long-term grassroots movement to reject the systemic corporate takeover of our elections and government at every level, from our local school boards to our White House. Simply ousting Trump won't do that.
The job, then, is as simple as it is difficult: To have a People's government, We the People must build it. Democracy requires us common people to join together, with each of us doing as much as we can, as strategically as we can, for as long as we can.
To help people find their way into (and their comfort level within) this collegial community of democratic activists, three longtime progressive agitators/organizers on our Lowdown team--Laura Ehrlich, Jay Harris, and Deanna Zandt -- offer basic tips and tidbits.
Please read, share -- and send your own activism tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you find these useful, we will do a "part 2."
Jim Hightower is an American populist, spreading his message of democratic hope via national radio commentaries, columns, books, his award-winning monthly newsletter (The Hightower Lowdown) and barnstorming tours all across America.