The Trump resistance IS organized

Finally, something at least a little accurate from Trump’s Twitter feed:

Republican members of Congress stalwart enough to meet with their constituents have faced crowds that really are angry. Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who won reelection to represent Utah’s 3rd district by nearly 50 percentage points, probably felt safe coming home to talk. Two weeks ago, however, he found an auditorium packed with activists angry about many issues, including health care, Congressional oversight on conflicts of interest, public lands, and Trump in general. Rep. Chaffetz ended the meeting early and refused to take questions from the media. These days, anyone with access to a computer can see meeting excerpts (as below) or even the entire hour.

I’m not willing to bet that this town hall meeting will influence Rep. Chaffetz’s reelection prospects or his decisions, save for avoiding town hall meetings in the future. Meanwhile, local groups across the country have worked to set up meetings large and small with their elected officials. Wary of creating viral Youtube moments, members of Congress are staying away in droves, as the Republican leadership advises them to find other, less visible and recordable ways to interact with constituents. Activists are holding district meetings anyway. The meetings call legislators out and force them to take positions–or to avoid doing so in the most transparent and damaging ways.

Of course this is organized, just like the Tea Party town meetings in 2009, and almost all large demonstrations in the United States. Spontaneity is highly overrated.

Resistance to the Trump presidency continues to develop, and it’s being organized on many fronts. Below is an extremely partial (e.g., none of the local groups and none of the hundreds of Facebook sites) and superficially vetted listing of groups working to organize activism nationally. Fee free to dip in and offer updates and additions.

The Women’s March staged the first national demonstration, with sister demonstrations across the country, on the day after Trump took the oath of office, and stage anothers action every ten days.

Indivisible, a group of former Congressional staffers, posted a practical guide for resistance focused on Congress and elections, and is tracking events.

March for Science is planning demonstrations across the country on Earth Day, April 22.People's Climate Movement 2017

The following weekend, on April 29, the People’s Climate March is demonstrating in Washington, DC, for “jobs, justice, and the climate.”

The Town Hall Project encourages and tracks open meetings with legislators, crowdsourcing a list of events.

Michael Moore has posted The Resistance Calendar, a crowdsourced collection of events across the country.

Veterans of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign are organizing grassroots politics across the country, trying to encourage greater participation and new candidates for office locally, through #KNOCKEVERYDOOR.

Swing Left is working to organize for the 2018 election by focusing on districts that Democrats might win, encouraging the vast majority of Americans who live in districts that are safe for one party or another to redirect their efforts where they might matter.

The White Rose resistance project takes inspiration from a tragic short-lived Christian campaign against the Nazis in Germany, offering strategies for influence across many issues.

The DJT Resistance calls for a boycott of Trump, and of all the companies whose leaders support him.

I’m certain I’ve provided only a fraction of what’s going on.

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All-star politics and the messy influence of protest; Black Lives Matter and basketball

The Miami Heat take a photo wearing hoodies in support of Trayvon Martin, who was tragically killed last month. The photo was posted on LeBron James' Twitter account with the hashtags "#WeAreTrayvonMartin #Hoodies #Stereotyped #WeWantJustice."

Miami stand for Trayvon Martin, March 2012

The National Basketball League plays its annual All-Star Game in New Orleans this long weekend, offering an odd window into an impact of protest movements. (Note: David Zirin has been writing about this for a while.)

Despite its charms, New Orleans was not the NBA’s first choice location for the game. The league relocated the game from Charlotte months ago, a protest against anti-gay legislation passed by North Carolina.  Here’s the NBA’s statement from July:

The NBA has decided to relocate the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte with the hope of rescheduling for 2019.

Since March, when North Carolina enacted HB2 and the issue of legal protections for the LGBT community in Charlotte became prominent, the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets have been working diligently to foster constructive dialogue and try to effect positive change. We have been guided in these discussions by the long-standing core values of our league. These include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view.

Our week-long schedule of All-Star events and activities is intended to be a global celebration of basketball, our league, and the values for which we stand, and to bring together all members of the NBA community — current and former players, league and team officials, business partners, and fans. While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2.

We are particularly mindful of the impact of this decision on our fans in North Carolina, who are among the most passionate in our league. It is also important to stress that the City of Charlotte and the Hornets organization have sought to provide an inclusive environment and that the Hornets will continue to ensure that all patrons — including members of the LGBT community — feel welcome while attending games and events in their arena.

We look forward to re-starting plans for our All-Star festivities in Charlotte for 2019 provided there is an appropriate resolution to this matter.

Moving the All-Star game puts a little bit of financial and social pressure on the people of North Carolina, perhaps weakening soft support among conservatives willing to sanction freedom to discriminate. It also makes a national statement of the league’s values. No doubt, some basketball executives see the move as a statement of their values, but those who made the decision surely also see it as a way to get in front of social values that are changing quickly. Whatever else the statement is, it’s also a business decision.

The league’s diversity stance did not spontaneously arise in response to one piecImage result for NBA gay rightse of legislation, but built over time. Reserve center Jason Collins, at right, came out in 2013, after more than a decade in the league. With the explicit support of the management and players of the league, he finished out a career in accord with his basketball contributions to his teams.

But the league and its players have become outspoken on many issues. Above you can see the Miami Heat, posing with hoods up to stand up for Trayvon Martin, identified as suspicious and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer put off by Martin’s hoodie.

Below superstar player LeBron James was one of many players who warmed up for games wearing a jersey intended to draw attention to the police killing of Eric Garner in New York. Garner’s last words, repeated as he was sprawled on the ground and choked by an armed officer, became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter. James and other players took up the call. It’s hard to imagine such a strong public stance on the courts without thousands of other people taking even stronger stances in the streets. The protests focused players’ attention on the issue of police violence, and the players gave the movement an additional public face.

And as players see themselves as citizens as well as athletes–extraordinarily well-compensated workers–they don’t draw sharp lines around the issues they engage.

Donald Trump’s election has produced more provocations, and the league’s stars have responded. The top coaches in the league, including Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich, have consistently challenged Trump on racism and misogyny. The league has featured star players from diverse backgrounds for many years, including Muslims for decades, and the coaches criticized the travel ban and defended diversity. Following their players, at least three teams have announced that they will no longer stay in Trump’s hotels when traveling.

Superstar Stephen Curry challenged his sponsor, Under Armour, when its CEO Kevin Plank described Trump as an “asset” to the country.  According to Curry: perhaps if you deleted the “et.” Plank walked back his praise, announcing the company’s commitment to diversity and its commitment to opposing the travel ban.

The players are making their own decisions, but they’re responding to the environment they’re living in, an environment that Black Lives Matter has helped create. And the athletes’ actions and statements give more life to the concerns Black Lives Matter has advanced.

It’s not a consequence you can easily code, but the lines of influence are really clear.

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As protest spreads….renegotiating bad deals

I gave up on keeping on top of all the anti-Trump protests spreading across the United States, but the emerging resistance certainly isn’t giving up. People who marched in one of the women’s march or protested ant-Muslim travel restrictions at the airports–or just cheered those who did–have fanned out to carry on the political battle.

Some of it is focused on specific issues, like reproductive rights. Last weekend when anti-abortion activists staged protests at Planned Parenthood clinics, their opponents held larger rallies away from the clinics on behalf of the cause and the organization.

Abortion politics hasn’t really disappeared since Roe v. Wade, but the new wave of protests signals an uptick in public concern, which will only increase during hearings on the next appointment to the Supreme Court.  Candidate Trump promised to push to restrict abortion and stop funding Planned Parenthood. Anti-abortion activists will expect him to deliver on these promises, while reproductive rights activists will work hard to stop him. There’s absolutely no ready resolution in sight, and the protests and conflicts will continue even when there’s little national attention.

Image result for Dakota access pipeline protestTrump’s commitment to resurrecting the Dakota Access Pipeline invites the resumption of contention. The Standing Rock Sioux have environmental groups have both continued their opposition in the courts, and protests at the construction site will soon resume as well. Meanwhile, supporters across the nation who are not prepared to decamp to the Standing Rock reservation are looking for more proximate targets, organizing divestment campaigns, for example, from pipeline investors like Wells Fargo.

In an odd reprise of the Tea Party protests at Congressional town hall meetings in 2009, opponents of the promised repeal of the Affordable Care Act have swarmed meetings organized by Roseville police escort Rep. Tom McClintock through an audience from the Tower Theatre in Roseville, California on Feb. 4.Republican legislators. They’re bringing questions about health care, mass deportations, and conflicts of interest; even more obviously, they’re bringing anger and vigorous political engagement. Across the country, activists are downloading the Indivisible Guide for coordinated resistance, engaging mainstream politics as well as protest.

Thus far, most Republican members of Congress have postponed their own town meetings, perhaps hoping that the anger will dissipate some time in the next two years. I’m not sure that’s a good bet.

Hillary Clinton carried 23 districts that elected Republicans to the House of Representatives, creating obvious electoral targets for the emerging resistance. In California’s 45th district, where I live, demonstrators have regularly turned out to protest  Republican Rep. Mimi Walters’s refusal to meet with them. I suspect there are similar campaigns across the country that are not generating national headlines.

And public school teachers, unable to prevent Senate confirmation of Betsy Protesters gather outside Jefferson Middle School Academy in Washington to oppose a visit by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.DeVos as Secretary of Education, tried to keep her from physically entering their schools.

It’s all overwhelming and exhausting. The anti-Trump protesters don’t agree on everything, but share a contempt for the new president and a commitment to stop his administration from delivering on its agenda. Thus far, the administration’s simultaneously aggressive and sloppy approaches to politics and policy have fed the resistance.

Trump’s opponents face the challenge of finding ways to continue in the face of the policy defeats they’ll face in the short term. They must also forge connections among their issues to present a relatively unified political movement. The administration is trying to make policy gains on many fronts at once, defying the conventional wisdom for presidents to prioritize and focus. As a result, the opposition is also fighting on many fronts at the same time as well.

These diverse efforts can all make progress in the same way, increasing the costs and risks to Republican politicians for supporting Trump. Many already disagree with the administration on some issues: immigration, Russia, health care. They’ve made an explicit bargain to look the other way on differences in hopes of making inroads on issues they care about: cutting taxes or restricting access to abortion. The activists are working to make that bargain look like a very bad deal.

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David S. Meyer’s voice, just in case you’re interested

Although a massive demand for my voice online has not yet crossed my desk, here are links to two recent recorded conversations. I was fortunate to draw two very good interviewers, and the topics will be familiar.

From Top of Mind, with Julie Rose at BYU Radio, here’s “Lessons in Protest from Lunch Counters to Airports.”


FroOn The Mediam WNYC’s On the Media, here’s an interview with Bob Garfield, here’s “Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook: Protest Edition,” distilled to 8 tips in the poster below.

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More airport protest consequences; a dissent channel

The conditions that help protest movements grow also generate institutional efforts at Protesters jam the north security gate to San Francisco International Airport, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, condemning President Trump's executive order banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)resistance. So, sorting out the impact of protest on policy is tough.

Scholars generally want to employ tight measures of protest movements (the number or size of demonstrations, the volume of publicity, for example), and measures of influence at least as rigorous, like measurable changes in policy or Congressional votes on a resolution. But something that matters might not be so obvious or easy to count, and influence may play out over a longer time frame than an activist or analyst hopes.

Really, I’ve gotten notes from former students who explain that they now see the importance of something we’d discussed in class a decade earlier. The recognition matters, but it won’t change any grades.

Here’s another example that makes the point:

Yesterday, in trying to puzzle out the consequences of the airport protests, I ran through reactions from government officers, elected officials, activists, and the media. I should have mentioned protest within the State Department.

Since 1971, the Department of State offers its officials the opportunity to express dissent without fear of reprisal:

a. It is Department of State policy that all U.S.  citizen employees, foreign and domestic, be able to express dissenting or alternative views on substantive issues of policy, in a manner which ensures serious, high-level review and response.

b. The State Department has a strong interest in facilitating open, creative, and uncensored dialogue on substantive foreign policy issues within the professional foreign affairs community, and a responsibility to foster an atmosphere supportive of such dialogue, including the opportunity to offer alternative or dissenting opinions without fear of penalty.  The Dissent Channel was created to allow its users the opportunity to bring dissenting or alternative views on substantive foreign policy issues, when such views cannot be communicated in a full and timely manner through regular operating channels or procedures, to the attention of the Secretary of State and other senior State Department officials in a manner which protects the author from any penalty, reprisal, or recrimination.

 Over the past forty-plus years, foreign service officers have regularly responded critically to government policies, expressing their presumably well-informed opinions. Wikipedia reports that cables are typically signed by a few committed officials; sometimes, a controversial policy might generate a few dozen signatures.

Opposition to the travel ban was far more extensive: the dissent cable included about 1,000 signatures. (Here’s a draft of the cable unearthed by Josh Rogin at the Washington Post.) People who worked in diplomacy and foreign affairs saw the travel ban as unwise and unAmerican.

Rogin quotes the memo: “We are better than this ban. Looking beyond its effectiveness, this ban stands in opposition to the core American and constitutional values that we, as federal employees, took an oath to uphold.”

It’s hard to believe that an official would change his or her mind on policy in response to protest, but it’s not difficult to imagine that protest in the streets might intensify the sense of urgency that officials feel. Surely, it’s tougher to be the third signature than the 300th, and each signature makes the next one a little easier to collect. The official considering support might see a distant cousin sporting a pussy hat in a Facebook photo, reminded of just how provocative the new policy is.

The unprecedented opposition to the policy within the State Department was yet another factor that activists, attorneys, and even judges might consider in plotting out their next actions.

Many things can matter.

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Assessing the airport protests: a first cut at consequences

As of 3:15 Pacific Standard Time today, Trump’s travel ban remains on hold. A 9th circuit appellate panel unanimously agreed to let District court Judge James L. Robart’s temporary injunction on enforcement stand.

Of course, the appellate ruling is by no means the end of litigation or political conflict on this matter, but it’s a significant blow to the Trump administration.

Our question: did the airport protests that started ten days ago have anything to do with what’s happened since?

The influence of protest on policy remains the critical question for activists and scholars People opposed to President Donald Trumps executive order barring entry to the U.S. by Muslims from certain countries demonstrate at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. alike. People who braved poor mass transit connections to metropolitan airports, pushed their way through restless pussy-hatted crowds, considered airport foods, and dodged traffic, surely wondered whether it was all worth the effort. No politician will say that she did something she thought wrong in order to appease a protest movement, and protesters never get all they ask for anyway. So how do you know?

Honestly sorting out the connections between all the events since Americans first began reacting to an ill-considered and poorly implemented embargo on travelers from seven mostly Muslim countries helps us understand how protest might work. It also points to a few places where academics who try to make sense of influence may go astray.

Americans and other expatriates gather to protest PresidentTo start: the airport protests were really an extraordinary set of events. Although the crowds that turned out for Women’s Marches the previous weekend were impressive, they weren’t all that surprising. Since his election Trump continued to be provocative and unpopular. The large demonstration is a familiar way to protest, and organizers worked hard to get spread the word and rally their supporters.

The spontaneous protests at big city airports were something very different. With no advance warning, angry people started turning up, on behalf of people they didn’t know, but even more in support of a vision of America. They crowded and pushed for religious tolerance and ethnic pluralism, and very much against a president ready to feed an uglier side of America. When travelers occasionally cleared ill-defined new strictures and walked out, sometimes aided by court orders, the demonstrators cheered. Meanwhile, volunteer lawyers streamed along the corridors, offering to help.

Trump’s Executive Order provoked lots of other push back on its own, but it’s helpful to imagine what, if anything, might have been different without the public demonstrations.

As soon as the ban became public, civil liberties groups like the ACLU and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) began filing suits in federal district courts.  These groups don’t depend directly on public opinion, and surely would have filed suit whether or not people were publicly protesting. At the same time, I’m confident that both groups enjoyed a wave of contributions for their efforts.

But the suit that led to the 9th circuit appeal was filed by Bob Ferguson, the Attorney General of Washington state.  Ferguson was just elected to a second term, and apparently has higher political aspirations. The public outcry against the Trump ban made it easier for him to take the bold step of filing suit without seeming to risk his political future. The demonstrators lined up Ferguson’s legal judgment with his political interests.

Meanwhile, Acting US Attorney General Sally Yates ordered the Department of Justice not to defend the travel ban; Trump fired her in short order. Apparently, after determining that the policy was neither “wise nor just,” Yates considered resigning. She chose to defy the president instead, perhaps encouraged by the protesters at the airport gates. Public opinion, narrowly, followed the protesters, turning against the ban and against Trump.

I don’t believe that Federal judges normally interpret the law in the light of public opinion or protests; I think they try to focus on the law and the Constitution. I do think, however, that their opinions get more extensive coverage and more public attention when people are protesting and rooting for particular outcomes. The Trump administration had to answer more questions about the policy publicly than they expected, questions they were clearly unprepared for.

What’s more, critical commentary about the ban, particularly from conservative sources, received more attention than it otherwise would have. (See Benjamin Wittes, “Malevolence Tempered by Incompetence.”) When John Yoo, who was critical in drafting the memos justifying torture for the Bush Administration, writes that the president has taken executive power too far, people take notice. The protests made it more likely that the New No Ban Protests at Pittsburgh International Airport People protest President Donald Trump's travel ban at the baggage claim area at Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon on Sunday.York Times would solicit such a piece. Many Republicans who wanted to work with Trump, even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, found ways to distance themselves and criticize the ban. If the courts struck down the ban, McConnell was clear, Congress would not save it.

And the president’s extraordinarily thin skin allowed the protests to go even deeper. Trump could not help being trolled, responding by gratuitously attacking all his opponents, including federal judges, for their judgment and their motives. It’s hard to imagine his explanations did anything at all to build support for his policies.

Regardless of what happens next, the Trump administration has expended a great deal of political capital defending the policy, and the protests raised the costs. Even if the policy is ultimately upheld, the Trump administration will find it more difficult to take the next step, whatever that is, and to keep its supporters in line for the next controversy.


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Quick responses in Romania don’t mean resolution

When Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu announced a new polA general view of the massive protest at Victory Square in Bucharest on Feb. 5, 2017.icy decriminalizing  slighter smaller-scale official corruption , Romanians took to the streets quickly and in very large numbers.  An estimated 600,000 people demonstrated across the country, with perhaps 250,00 in Bucharest.

Relatively quickly, after six nights of protest, the government withdrew the new policy. Romanian leaders did not feel comfortable ignoring the voices in the streets.

Remember, it’s not all that long ago, in 1989, when the Army deserted the government after days of fighting demonstrators in the streets. Protesters overthrew the government, captured President Nicolae Ceausescu, and summarily tried and executed him. Communist governments fell in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, East Germany, and Bulgaria within a few months, but no transition was as violent and scary as the one in Romania. Surely, everyone in government making decisions is well aware of those events.

At this writing, the protesters continue; the current president, a critic of the current coalition government, has described this moment as a “full-fledged” political crisis.

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