Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Mighty Coalition of the Unwilling

Here below is a good article by  Susan Milligan of the US News.
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First, the women came for Donald Trump. Then it was defenders of immigrants and refugees. Then it was scientists, followed by career diplomats. Segments of the business community joined in, as did congressional Democrats and civil servants on Twitter, determined to counter the "alternative facts" offered up by the nascent Trump administration.
It was a grassroots movement that spurred Trump to an unexpected victory in November, and now it's an organized movement in revolt against him and his policies. There have been daily demonstrations of some kind against Trump in the two weeks since he took office, ranging from the massive Women's March on Washington the day after his swearing-in to scattered lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights demonstrations around the country since then. Historians say the pushback is unprecedented for a new president (though noting that modern social media makes such a repudiation far easier to organize and express). Further, the protests against Trump have not been limited to traditional leftist groups: big businesses and professional organizations, especially those connected with the technology industry, have railed against Trump's travel ban on refugees and nationals from seven majority-Muslim countries.
Something is happening, experts agree. But will it fizzle – or is it the beginning of something much bigger?
"What's happening is for the first time we see a really wide swath of the American public fearful for the direction of democracy, for the survival of democracy," says Temple University history professor Ralph Young, who teaches a course called "Dissent in America" and who is author of the book "Dissent: The History of an American Idea." For opponents of Trump, "the one good thing is that he's reinvigorated protest. He's got people excited about doing something," Young says.
While Trump clearly mobilized enough people in enough states to score an Electoral College win, the aftermath of his election underscores the asterisk to his stunning win, that he lost the popular vote by about three million ballots. Those foes lacked the geography or organization to keep him out of the Oval Office, but now, they hope to keep him from fulfilling his campaign promises on matters ranging from cutting Planned Parenthood funding to building a wall on the border with Mexico to banning refugees and certain other migrants from entering the country.
After demonstrations at airports last weekend against the travel ban, immigrant and refugee activists have scheduled 26 events in 17 states today to protest Trump's executive order on refugees and migrants. Scientists, meanwhile, are taking a page from the women's march, planning an April 26 Earth Day march to highlight climate change and other issues where, they say, facts are being distorted by politics.
 
"We need to remind government agencies that fund research, and by extension, education of the public, that science and the arts are of great value to society," says Safiya Umoja Noble, an assistant professor in the department of Education and Information Studies at UCLA who is planning to attend the April March for Science. "In my community, the struggle for human and civil rights has included the right to read and be educated, which includes the right to know and be informed about all matters that may affect our humanity. These are rights I don't want to see rolled back," Noble says.
Anti-Trump rallies are also in the works for April 15, tax day, to protest the fact that Trump, unlike presidential candidates for the last 40 years, has not released his tax returns. And the leading women's group EMILY's List is recruiting record numbers of Democratic females to run for office at all levels. EMILY's List raised record amounts of unsolicited donations – 60 percent of them from first-time donors – in the weeks following the election. The ACLU has hit a nerve as well, raising a record $24 million in one weekend after Trump's immigration/refugee executive order was issued.
Meanwhile, those in the government are mounting their forms of rebellion as well. Senate Democrats, after merely grilling Trump cabinet picks at confirmation hearings, took to boycotting the hearing and committee votes after Trump's immigration executive order was issued, saying they needed to know more about how his cabinet members felt about the order, and whether they would stand up to the new president if they disagreed with him or felt he was breaking the law. As of earlier this week, more than 1,000 State Department diplomats and workers around the world had signed onto a "Dissent Memo" decrying the president's order – marking what experts say is one of the biggest repudiations by government employees against their own president.
Scores of "alt" or "rogue" government agency Twitter accounts have sprung up, offering information and views on everything from Justice to Homeland Security and public health that run counter to the official White House line. While it's not certain that the accounts are being run by current career staffers, the tweets and the account descriptions suggest a deep knowledge of agency missions. The initial "alt" accounts appear to have been a reaction to White House memos ordering at least four agencies not to communicate with the public on social media, and to clear all communications with the news media with the White House. Since then, numerous rogue accounts, each with tens of thousands of followers, have become active.
"It's absolutely unprecedented," says Hannah Gurman, a New York University professor and author of "The Dissent Papers," a history of bureaucratic opposition to presidential policies. "We're in an age when questions about conscience are really trumping these rules about duty to the organization." For example, she says, a government employee might consider it more patriotic to leak something to the press than to remain silent. "It really complicates these more conservative claims about the dutiful public servant," Gurman says.
The bigger question, says Todd Gitlin, a Columbia Journalism School professor who has written books on the 60s and on the Occupy movement of this century, is whether the immediate shock and outrage over Trump will be sustained as an ongoing and successful pressure group. Unlike the 1960s, when (mostly campus) demonstrators had the very targeted goal of stopping the Vietnam War and civil rights groups had a very specific goal of ending Jim Crow laws, the current uprising is much broader and multi-faceted, experts note. That could cause it to fall from its own weight – especially if the anti-Trump groups end up in competition. Or, it could signal a broader, small-r revolution against Trump's entire approach to policy and governing.
"I think that there are signs that there's a movement here. The test is time," Gitlin says. "The question about a big mobilization is, do participants resolve to go on working – where it's not a 100-day plan, but a 1,000-day plan?"
There are surely signs that the movement is organized, Gitlin and others note. The women's march drew an estimated 500,000 in Washington (more than twice what organizers expected) and million more demonstrated at "sister marches" around the world. And if the immigrant rights movement had not been so efficient, Gitlin says, there would not have been so many protests at airports right after Trump's order became public.
And polling shows Americans – especially liberals – are motivated to act. A Washington Post survey shows that 25 percent of adults plan to get more involved in political causes in the next year. That breaks down to 45 percent of self-described liberals, and 18 percent of self-identified conservatives. A Harvard Institute of Politics poll of 18-29 year-olds shows 33 percent of young Democrats and 19 percent of young Republicans say they are more inclined now to get politically active.
 EMILY's List is confident their movement is in it for the long haul. The group scheduled a training seminar for would-be female candidates on Jan. 22, getting a room that would fit 500 people. They ended up with a waiting list, and in total an "unprecedented" 4,000-plus women have reached out to EMILY's List looking for guidance on how to run for office, says spokeswoman Rachel Thomas. That makes the reaction bigger than that which preceded the 1992 "Year of the Woman," when legions of females were spurred to run after the conformation of Clarence Thomas, accused of sexual harassment, to the Supreme Court.
"It really shows that there is a movement happening and it's not going away," Thomas says. Nor, it appears, are scientists, immigrants, Muslims, LGBT people and a slew of others bracing for the next four years.

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