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Thursday, 12 April 2018 05:44

Marching to a Transformative Future

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robertmuellerHundreds of thousands of people are reportedly ready to march if Robert Mueller is fired by Trump. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

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Peter Dreier wrote in a 2017 American Prospect article:

Over the past few years, efforts like Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, the Dreamers immigrant-rights movement, the battles against the Keystone pipeline and for marriage equality, and the Fight for 15 generated a new wave of activism, but nothing has inspired more protest than Trump’s election.

As we see resistance build and sustain itself during Trump's administration, with the massive multi-city March for Our Lives being the most recent example, it is worth remembering that the modern era of progressive populist protest began many years before Trump assumed office, reigniting since January 20, 1917, to oppose and support various issues. Some analysts would trace this recent surge back to the street dissent against the Iraq War. Others would point to the protests against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker -- the Koch brothers' sock puppet -- and his push to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public unions in 2011. The Wisconsin protests lasted for weeks and made Madison, the state's capital, into an encampment of mass upheaval.

Enormously strong movements such as Occupy Wall Street, the Movement for Black Lives and pro-immigrant gatherings were part of a wave of progressive populism actions that indeed laid the groundwork for resistance in the age of Trump.

Against this background of a reignited activist movement, Trump's calamitous actions and vile behaviors have given progressives a key emotional edge. They appear to have a higher intensity of feeling than those who identify as Trump supporters (currently between 35 percent and 40 percent of the population), who have not mustered similar momentum for their public manifestations. Intensity of feeling is a vital component in political and social change, because if it is high, individuals tend to act rather than find excuses for their failure to attend rallies or engage in political activity.

That may account for why a Guardian article published today reports that at least 300,000 people have pledged to attend “rapid response” protests across the US to express their opposition to the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, should that occur as Trump reaches his boiling point:

The activist website MoveOn said it had more than 800 “emergency” rallies around the country prepared if Trump dismisses Mueller, who is investigating whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Activists would spring into action within hours, MoveOn said, marching in cities and towns in each of the 50 states. The mass protest would also be triggered if Trump moved to replace the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein -- which could clear a path for Mueller to be fired -- or if Trump pardoned key witnesses in the Russia investigation.

It is important to remember that mass support for Mueller's investigation of Trump, of Trump's campaign and of the White House staff does not mean crowds of indignant protesters are aligning themselves uncritically with the FBI. Indeed, protesters continue to face repressive scrutiny from the FBI themselves. As Aaron J. Leonard wrote in Truthout on April 10:

The Bureau's problem with certain social justice activism ... [results from] its desire to exercise domestic control. Movements and protests that are deemed disruptive of the social order, to say nothing of the larger stability of the US, are as a result, potential targets of the Bureau.

Following this scenario to its logical conclusion, the FBI would likely be monitoring the protesters who would assemble in the event that Mueller is fired. Thus, it is important that progressive resistance be specific about its targets. In this case, progressive resistance should focus on the obstruction of justice and Trump's attempt to hold himself above the law, not on a defense of FBI tactics in general. Nevertheless, the rising momentum of resistance against Trump's attacks on the Mueller investigation reflects a promising broader trend of progressive momentum. As Joshua Holland pointed out early in 2017 in The Nation:

The election of Donald Trump was a catastrophe for progressive America, but the damage may be mitigated over the long term by a remarkable surge of energy on the left in response to his election. As many as 5.2 million people participated in hastily organized Women’s Marches across the country, senators’ phones have reportedly been jammed with calls protesting Trump’s cabinet nominees and other early moves, and, according to a poll conducted by The Washington Post, more than one in three Democrats say they plan to become “more involved in the political process in the next year” as a result of the election. That’s true of 40 percent of Democratic women, and almost half of self-identified liberal Democrats.

This prediction has been borne out, with large crowds continuing to show up to defy Trump administration policy. These ongoing mass protests, such as the second Women's March a few weeks ago, sustain the intensity of feeling and hope for a transformative future.