by L.A. Kauffman
We have the power to bring Trump down.
You might not feel this in your bones, but the resistance to Trump has already accomplished an extraordinary amount. More people have taken part in protests since Trump took office than at any other period in U.S. history, even the height of the Vietnam antiwar movement. Between 14 and 22 million Americans marched in the streets in the year and a half after the inauguration, and millions more have risen up in other ways: speaking out, flooding their representatives with phone calls and postcards, mobilizing voters, and much more.
During Trump’s two years in office, all of this protest and organized provided a formidable counterweight to the administration’s actions: defeating some key initiatives like Obamacare repeal, slowing the rollout of further repressive measures, and creating crucial noise and friction around those fights, like Kavanaugh, that we could not win. It energized bold progressive leaders to stand up, and helped mobilize huge numbers of volunteers to flip the House and many other races. The resistance energized bold progressive leaders to stand up, and helped mobilize huge numbers of volunteers to flip the House and many other races.
But we know that’s not enough; the stakes are too high. Two years into Trump’s presidency, with Democrats now controlling the House thanks to extraordinary hustle from the grassroots, how do we not just resist Trump and Trumpism but actually defeat them, building the future we want? How do we bring Trump down?
Bringing him down can of course mean many things. Most modestly, it can mean blunting his policy initiatives, tying his hands, obstructing his policies. More ambitiously, it can mean forcing him from office — whether that takes the form of resignation under pressure, impeachment and conviction, removal under the 25th Amendment, or defeat at the ballot box in 2020.
These paths to removing Trump complement each other: pushing for impeachment, say, can undermine the aura of legitimacy that enables Trump to move his policies through Congress, even if we’re unlikely to muster the two-thirds Senate vote that would be required to convict. We can’t know now which mechanism will best undermine this authoritarian presidency, and we don’t need to: For the grassroots resistance, the key task is to keep building the pressure that makes all of these scenarios more likely — and to do so in the most targeted and strategic ways possible.
Fortunately, there is a powerful body of collective wisdom we can turn to for guidance. Movements of the past offer concrete lessons and inspiration for moments like this one. Time and again, against long odds, popular movements around the world have dislodged dictators, overturned authoritarian policies, and advanced progressive goals. The people most affected by injustice have created powerful roadmaps to action. This action guide highlights a range of key insights gained from these movements and, where relevant, updates them.
The lessons are powerful but straightforward. Target institutions and leaders who support Trump — not Trump himself. Turn the political heat way up on leaders who say they oppose Trump but who in fact collude in treating him as a normal, legitimate president. Take leadership from those who are most affected by the injustices we’re fighting. Put forward a bold vision of what we want, not just what we oppose. Mobilize our side, and bring more people over to it, rather than trying to persuade Trump’s most diehard base. Look for ways to withdraw consent and cooperation, or to pressure those in power to withhold theirs.
Use all the tools in the activist toolbox. Be creative. Find joy and humor in the fight — we’re most powerful when we build movements that sustain rather than deplete us. Hold on to a sense of our collective might, and remember what we’ve accomplished so far, but don’t rest on any laurels: Now is the time to dream big — and act boldly.