By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News
08 February 17
onald Trump is uniting the left. I hear you – he’s the great divider as well, dividing the country into racial, religious and gender factions. He is, however, also uniting the left. Of course, I would rather have a real uniter like Bernie Sanders lead the way (good thing he is). But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a role to be played for someone like Trump. I wish it hadn’t come to this, but Trump is clearly motivating unity on the left.
Bernie-crats, greeners, Clinton supporters, and even anarchists are together in the streets protesting Trump’s policies. We need to build on this unity, strengthening coalitions in our outside strategy. Of course, down the road we will have to fight it out to decide who takes on Trump in 2020, but until that time let’s work together.
We’ve had our time to blame each other. While many of us won’t admit it, we all had a part in electing Trump. I could list things all of us could have done differently. I guess we could learn from them, but I think we’ve already blamed each other enough. There is plenty of blame to go around, and those willing to learn have taken responsibility. It’s time to move forward and leave the past behind.
During the next primary season, we will battle it out again and hopefully unite under one flag to beat Trump and take back Congress. In the meantime, primary your congressperson if you think we can put someone in who will do a better job. That’s politics. That is the inside game; the outside strategy can be less competitive. We don’t have to agree on everything, just the issue we’re protesting that day.
You don’t have to oppose all pipelines to be against the use of eminent domain to seize a farmer’s land. Environmentalists and farmers can unite against the Dakota Access Pipeline. You don’t have to support abortion to be for funding women’s health.
With issue after issue, we can build coalitions that may not work on Election Day, but work on the day of a national march. Guess what? Building coalitions on issues also helps party-building.
When I was a young student at Syracuse University, I walked past a rally for divestment from South Africa. The story I heard from the stage grabbed my attention. Before that experience, I was a Reagan-supporting, not-very-political young man. I took a flier from a student activist announcing a future meeting.
It didn’t happen overnight, but that was the seed that turned me into an activist. The work of many other activists over the years shaped my activism. So today it might be a rally to save Obamacare or funding for Planned Parenthood that gets someone involved. Our job is to nurture that seed and keep people involved. You never know, that student coming to a rally for the first time might one day be your member of Congress because you invited them to a forum. At that forum, they might meet the person who could become their mentor the same way I met people like Mitch Snyder and Phillip Berrigan. If I didn’t go to that meeting on apartheid, I might never have heard Paul Wellstone or Bernie Sanders, or if I did, I wouldn’t have been prepared to hear them. I mean really “hear” them.
It sucks that Donald Trump is President. We would be facing different obstacles if he had lost, and as I argued we would be better off. That said, we have to take advantage of the opportunities to organize that his presidency is providing. Those opportunities, unfortunately, are numerous.
Someone recently asked in a Facebook discussion I’m in: What good are all these “impotent” demonstrations? The answer is they are tools for building a movement. It is what we do with those demonstrations that are the key. The organizers have to get the contact information for everyone who attends and engage them after the event.
A follow-up action should be a part of the program. Perhaps phone numbers of a targeted elected official should be announced or handed out. Most important, whenever possible include an invitation to a meeting where they can express their opinion on the issue.
Far too often, a major rally or event becomes the end goal of an organizing effort. Organizations work very hard to hold a major event, and when the event is over they move on to the next project, wasting the valuable resources and momentum the event created.
The Women’s March was amazing, but now what? Were relationships made that day that we can grow? In Washington, the stage was shared by Berners and Clinton supporters; the question is will they continue to work together? A major event should be the beginning and be used as one step toward building a movement to bring about change. Everyone who attends an event should be empowered to do more.
Donald Trump is giving us opportunities daily to organize people. As I have said in past articles, our job is to meet people where they are and welcome them into the movement. Many who voted for Trump will be joining us as he continues to betray their trust. We must stop expecting ideological purity and instead provide an environment where a person’s views can evolve. Donald Trump can help us formulate progressive views if we let him.
Scott Galindez attended Syracuse University, where he first became politically active. The writings of El Salvador’s slain archbishop Oscar Romero and the on-campus South Africa divestment movement converted him from a Reagan supporter to an activist for Peace and Justice. Over the years he has been influenced by the likes of Philip Berrigan, William Thomas, Mitch Snyder, Don White, Lisa Fithian, and Paul Wellstone. Scott met Marc Ash while organizing counterinaugural events after George W. Bush’s first stolen election. Scott will be spending a year covering the presidential election from Iowa.
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