By Andrew J. Mackay
Since the election of Donald Trump this past November, the term “resistance” has been everywhere. His policies must be disrupted and a new, stronger opposition must coalesce. While Democratic political leadership pledges resistance, the facts state otherwise.
When an oppressive force takes over a country, the opposition gravitates towards two ends of a continuum. On one side stands resistance, the other, collaboration. As linked on SDFP, Erik Loomis correctly points out that building trade unions want to collaborate with Trump, despite the existential threat to the environment and unions themselves.
But it’s not just the conservative unions with memberships that swung towards Trump in the Rust Belt. Progressive champions are also guilty. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren, who liberals usually speak fondly of, both say they support the utterly unqualified Ben Carson for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary. All but one Democratic senator confirmed Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis for Secretary of Defense. This despite Mattis having what can only be called bloodlust; a military man who can’t wait to kill foreigners. These same senators will in a year’s time decry what Mattis does in office, but they chose to approve him. This is not resistance, not even close.
When the Germans invaded France in 1940, every person had a choice to make. Many rejected the Nazi occupation. They banded together to undermine enemy control, through intelligence gathering, noncooperation, and sabotage. The French Resistance was integral to Allied victory and the end of the Nazi state.
Others decided to seek peace and coexist with the occupation. Philippe Pétain, perhaps France’s greatest living military hero, turned the destroyed republic into a puppet regime based in the city of Vichy. Some collaborators were authoritarians eager for the chance. But others thought they were doing noble work, shielding France from the world of the Nazis. They were willing to work with a power that history knows was irredeemable.
Because the middle ground is treacherous between resistance and collaboration, accommodation, whatever you want to call it. For the last half century, activists have been trying to change the Democratic Party from within. This strategy failed in the past, and some Bernie supporters and Black Lives Matter activists are trying again today. But today’s activist can easily be tomorrow’s apologist, as social movements are co-opted. Given how much progressive work and resources went into campaigns like Warren’s senate run, it is disturbing to see her choice to work with Trump. If there is widespread belief that Trump is an illegitimate, dangerous precedent, confirming his extremist nominees and having chummy meetings to talk about pipeline jobs is not the way to go.
Those in the streets, blocking streetcars and shutting down intersections, they see Trump for what he is. To have a “wait and see” approach is a privilege many do not have. Women, people of color, LGBTQ+, indigenous peoples, they are under attack now. Accepting Trump as legitimate is to sanction their oppression.
Total resistance is the only way forward. But the frontlines need dedicated people. And as much as the Women’s March was a show of opposition, it seems to be headed towards more symbolic resistance that colors within the lines. The economic and political structures that hold Trump and his ideology up are never under threat.
If elected leaders are unwilling to resist Trump, then it is on all of us to organize despite them.
Andrew J. Mackay is the creator of the Unspoken Politics blog.