How to Organize Against President Trump

Grassroots activists reflect on the road ahead.

Kate Aronoff November 10, 2016

(Scott Olson / Getty Images) Protesters in action at University of Illinois Chicago last Friday.

In the wake of Don­ald Trump’s upset vic­to­ry over Hillary Clin­ton, In These Times asked orga­niz­ers who have worked in the cli­mate, racial jus­tice, immi­grant rights and oth­er move­ments for their reac­tions and their ideas on what comes next. Here’s what they said. 

In the moment of great despair, sad ears are receptive to messages of hope. They don't believe; they dismiss. But they listen.

I am still work­ing on get­ting my bear­ings, but one thought kept run­ning through my head last night: we need to move through this peri­od dif­fer­ent­ly than we did dur­ing the last moment of ground-shift­ing roll­back for the left, after Sep­tem­ber 11th, 2001. I was a young orga­niz­er then, part of an emer­gent youth move­ment in Cal­i­for­nia that was find­ing our momen­tum togeth­er with poor peo­ples’ move­ments that had grown up in response to the cuts to wel­fare, the anti-glob­al­iza­tion move­ment that had just shut down Seat­tle and com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions resist­ing gen­tri­fi­ca­tion. We were on an upswing, and we were start­ing to have real impact. And then the planes hit the tow­ers, and every­thing changed. We got scared, right­ly so. We turned inward. We lost faith in the peo­ple of the coun­try, and we turned away from them. And now — in the wake of a peri­od where we were final­ly once again gain­ing real momen­tum — we are fac­ing an even big­ger chal­lenge, and we need to make a dif­fer­ent choice.

We need to defend our broth­ers and sis­ters who will face real and grow­ing dan­gers: Mus­lims and immi­grants and queer peo­ple and Black peo­ple. And we need to deep­en our faith in all of the peo­ple of this coun­try, includ­ing the white com­mu­ni­ties that vot­ed for Trump, rec­og­niz­ing that peo­ple are scared and suf­fer­ing for real rea­sons. We need fight like hell to help all of us make a dif­fer­ent mean­ing out of that pain.” 

-Har­mo­ny Goldberg

Co-founder, School of Uni­ty and Lib­er­a­tion (SOUL)

We can spend the next 4 years bela­bor­ing the point that Bernie Sanders could have beat Trump, or we can stay steady on our course and con­tin­ue to orga­nize for the things we were so close to getting.

Now is the best time to purge the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of its worst actors and gear up to win some very impor­tant races in 2018. If we believe Trump will oppose the pas­sage of TPP, then we must make sure he knows that we will hold him account­able to his words. Hillary Clin­ton and The DNC must take full respon­si­bil­i­ty for the fail­ures of her cam­paign. Don’t blame us, we’re out here orga­niz­ing for jus­tice. Kick­ing ass for the work­ing class.

Black, Brown, Yel­low and Red Lives mat­ter, and it’s time that the White-led Left give way to a new Left led by peo­ple of col­or. This is not up for debate. This is a demand.”

-Win­nie Wong

Founder, Peo­ple For Bernie

My heart phys­i­cal­ly hurts for peo­ple of col­or, for women, for any vul­ner­a­ble demo­graph­ic, for the plan­et and future gen­er­a­tions. Today’s Amer­i­ca chose intol­er­ance — I can only hope those who seek progress, equal­i­ty, and under­stand­ing stand strong, together.”

-Tara Hous­ka

Trib­al attor­ney and Nation­al Cam­paigns Direc­tor, Hon­or the Earth

We are liv­ing through an enor­mous amount of push­back to a bold, inclu­sive vision that would pre­vent true cli­mate cat­a­stro­phe. It is fueled by a fear that the sta­tus quo will change. We know that to pre­serve a liv­able future on this plan­et, it must, and so we will find new ways to build the cli­mate move­ment here and around the world.”

-May Boeve

Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, 350​.org

At the COP22 cli­mate sum­mit in Mar­rakech, peo­ple are stunned: some in tears, some in uproar, some in strate­gic hud­dles. What does it mean for cli­mate jus­tice pol­i­tics that a man who has argued that cli­mate change is a hoax cooked up by the Chi­nese” is about to become pres­i­dent of this declin­ing hege­mon, the U.S.?

It means two things: first, that glob­al gov­er­nance as we know it — as a U.S.-led set of more or less neolib­er­al insti­tu­tions that some­times, just some­times do decent stuff — is over. Sec­ond, that the rest of the world has to step up: Move­ments every­where have to redou­ble their efforts to shut down every coal-mine, every oil-refin­ery and every coal-fired pow­er plant there is. The pro­gres­sive move­ments in the US will have enough fights on their hands as it is. If we are to show our sol­i­dar­i­ty with them, let’s get our act togeth­er, and enforce cli­mate jus­tice from below. The attempt to do so from above is now, as of this new 911 (in the Euro­pean way of writ­ing the date), dead.”

-Tadzio Mueller

Pol­i­cy ana­lyst for cli­mate jus­tice and ener­gy democ­ra­cy, Rosa Lux­em­burg Foundation

Trump is a reflec­tion of where the US is at cul­tur­al­ly and polit­i­cal­ly and just goes to show that the so called left needs to undo its rela­tion­ship with cen­trist democrats.”

-Edgar Franks

Coor­di­na­tor for Civic Engage­ment, Com­mu­ni­ty to Com­mu­ni­ty Development

The cli­mate and vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties around the coun­try and the world don’t have four years to wait. The path for­ward may be hard to see, but some things are crys­tal clear: We must unite like nev­er before and we must fight like hell.”

-David Turn­bull

Cam­paigns Direc­tor, Oil Change USA

Don­ald Trump won because of racism. Don­ald Trump used an age-old lie to win: peo­ple of col­or and immi­grants — my fam­i­ly and friends — are to blame for our eco­nom­ic inse­cu­ri­ty. I’m sad and scared for the peo­ple I love, our democ­ra­cy and our country.”

-Yong Jung Cho

Orga­niz­er, #AllOfUS2016 and #GOPHand­sOffMe

Trump’s appar­ent vic­to­ry requires both deep­er resis­tance to a rigged glob­al econ­o­my and polit­i­cal sys­tem and a real chal­lenge to the struc­ture and big mon­ey ori­en­ta­tion of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty. Our Rev­o­lu­tion, the suc­ces­sor to the Bernie Sanders cam­paign is pre­pared to do both.”

-Lar­ry Cohen

Board Chair, Our Rev­o­lu­tion

Over the past year and half, our social move­ments have put their bod­ies on the line to dis­rupt racism, misog­y­ny and xeno­pho­bia. We have always elect­ed to orga­nize and will con­tin­ue by lift­ing up our demands and vision for change. There are mil­lions of fear­less Women, Black, Latina/​o, Indige­nous, Mus­lim, migrant, queer, trans, work­ing and poor vision­ar­ies that are yearn­ing and are build­ing the world that we deserve: one where our dig­ni­ty, self-deter­mi­na­tion, and rela­tion­ships to each oth­er and Moth­er Earth are para­mount. Grass­roots orga­niz­ing and the fight back are the key ingre­di­ents to ensur­ing we live in an inclu­sive democracy.”

-Cindy Wies­ner

Nation­al Coor­di­na­tor, Grass­roots Glob­al Justice

My imme­di­ate reac­tion is that we can­not give into sec­tar­i­an impuls­es in this moment. A debate is emerg­ing on the Left about whether or not Trump’s vic­to­ry was a result of fail­ures with­in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (i.e. the sink­ing of Bernie Sanders’ pri­ma­ry cam­paign) or an alarm­ing amount of racism and misog­y­ny among the white working-class.

The answer is that both of these things can be true at the same time. A Trump régime offers per­haps the great­est oppor­tu­ni­ty for a unit­ed and mas­sive pro­gres­sive move­ment in U.S. his­to­ry. How­ev­er, it means that for the first time since the 1930s and 1940s, pro­gres­sives need an actu­al syn­the­sis of the ways race, class and gen­der func­tion in Amer­i­ca today.”

-Austin Belali Thompson

Direct of Youth Engage­ment Fund, Democ­ra­cy Alliance

In the moment of great despair, sad ears are recep­tive to mes­sages of hope. They don’t believe; they dis­miss. But they lis­ten. And in moments like these it’s okay to sound crazy, to promise the impos­si­ble. And to demand the impos­si­ble. No effect in the short run, but the seeds are sown.”

Ivan Marovic

Founder, Otpor! (“Resis­tance,” the Ser­bian rev­o­lu­tion­ary movement)

Kate Aronoff is a Brook­lyn-based jour­nal­ist cov­er­ing cli­mate and U.S. pol­i­tics, and a con­tribut­ing writer at The Inter­cept. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @katearonoff.
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