We’re Building An INFRASTRUCTURE of Resistance to the Trump Agenda

Fights will be at the Federal, State AND Local Level

Thankfully, just about everyone reading this will have signed up for the resistance. Great! Now the only question is what does resistance mean? We’ve probably all seen or heard that word more in the last 3 months than in the previous ten years. In truth though, I think resistance as we’ve been using it on the left has taken on two somewhat different meanings. Let’s first look at what these two are and then I’ll offer NN’s take on how we think the word should be understood.
First Definition: Resistance Means Disruption

The resistance notion that’s gotten the most play has come from a guide written by three Democratic Congressional staffers called Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda. In it the authors suggest that the left use against the new Administration the same tactics the Tea Party used against President Obama. In their view that was mostly Tea Partiers showing up everywhere there was a camera to loudly and even rudely proclaim how un-American Obama and his programs were. And then they would denounce, disrupt and shout over, every word uttered by anyone in defense of him.

Based on that history, the Indivisible authors suggest that we all ought to form small groups, go forth and turn the tables on the right. We should find when and where Congressional Town Hall meetings are happening and be there in numbers. Once there we should spread out and ask pointed questions. We should be rude, obstreperous and most importantly, interesting to the media, which will then flock to wherever we go, embarrassing Congressional Trump boosters and weakening their support.

Inspired by that simple idea, the manual has sparked the growth of hundreds of Indivisible groups across the country, including several in Philly, and a great one right here in Mt. Airy. In addition to using the techniques outlined in the manual, many similar ones have been improvised, including regular demonstrations outside the Philly office of Senator Pat Toomey that organizers are calling “Tuesdays with Toomey.”

Second Definition: Resistance Means Working Locally To Advance the Progressive Agenda

The Nation magazine, particularly its publisher, Katrina vanden Heuvel, has been promoting a somewhat different idea. Resistance, they say, should be primarily focused on organizing locally for policies that not only get in the way of the Trumpian agenda but move forward a progressive one of our own. Thus various mayors and governors have proclaimed that their jurisdictions will become sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. While Trump is holding the minimum wage steady nationally, local organizers would push to raise it in cities and states. While Trump tries to boil away the planet we could push municipalities to cut emissions in a wide variety of ways.

Many more potential campaigns come to mind from marijuana decriminalization, to reducing prison populations, to making local taxes progressive, to demilitarizing police forces, to retraining police forces to make the use of deadly force a truly last resort, to supporting public education in the face of Trump’s efforts to destroy it from above.

The Neighborhood Networks Point of View: Resistance Means All of the Above, And More
What’s Neighborhood Networks’ understanding of the term resistance? You’ve probably guessed. We mean all of the above. We must relentlessly attack Trump’s policies and every single member of Congress who supports them. And we must also continue to fight and achieve victories locally. We want to win local campaigns on their own merits. But we also want to win them because that’s how we demonstrate to the world that the majority of this country that voted against Trump will not merely resist him, but will also move around and past him.

Apart from issues, the connection between the national and local struggles is particularly apparent in electoral politics, into which NN has put the bulk of its resources over recent years.

For instance we know that unless we break the Republican stranglehold on the state legislature, they will again control redistricting in 2020, the state will again be gerrymandered and Pennsylvania Democrats will again have several fewer seats than they should in Congress. So that’s why we’ve developed a Turn the Suburbs Blue campaign that will target races that with a little help from City folks and suburban folks working together, can be turned around.

We Need an INFRASTRUCTURE of Resistance

But succeeding in those races means moving past mere resistance, to building an infrastructure of resistance to the Republican Party and all that it represents. That infrastructure should be found within the organizational framework of the Democratic Party, but as we can see from how the Party operates in Philadelphia where most of us live, there’s little there, there.

For those of you who don’t know, the Party in Philly is organized into geographical segments. The smallest segment is the division, an area that’s usually home to about 800 voters. In each division there are two Party leaders, called Committeepeople, who carry out the will of the Party in supporting its candidates. You will usually find these good folks outside your polling place on election day handing out the official Party ballot.

In all there are 1686 divisions in the City and thus approximately 3,400 Committeepeople. These folks are the army that make the Democratic machine so potent. When they’re all rowing in the same direction on election day, Party candidates are hard to beat.

But, paradoxically, part of the reason Party candidates are so hard to beat is that the Committeepeople — with some notable exceptions — are so bad at actually bringing voters out. The ones they do bring out are folks who know them, look to them for political direction and can be depended upon to follow their advice. But that leaves out massive numbers of potential voters, who, if they did come out, would assure us that we would never lose another statewide election to Republicans. So what is good for Committeepeople in local elections, is terrible for the rest of us in statewide elections.

There’s a better model for a committeeperson. That would be someone who actively solicits the views and concerns of their neighbors. Someone who educates their neighbors on who their elected officials are, what their responsibilities are and how well they’re doing to support policies that are important to them. Someone who tells folks about organizations that are out there working hard to promote progressive values. In other words, someone who doesn’t just ask their neighbors to support them, but provides a service to their neighbors by connecting them in a meaningful way to the political process.

If we have enough people like that as Committeepeople we will have transformed the Democratic Party from one that asks people to go along to get along, to one that is a fiery participant with us in using the electoral and organizing process to change Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the country. It would enable us to recruit candidates who share our vision because they know that we will have put in place a political army that will support them, not the usual suspects. Building a Party like that would mean we will have gone beyond plain vanilla resistance. We will have built an infrastructure of resistance, a wall against continuing right wing dominance of our politics.

Committee people are elected at polling places across the City in a Primary Election every four years. The next election will occur in May, 2018. Stay tuned for our plans to change the face of the Democratic Party when that election rolls around.

Summarizing NN’s Three-Pronged Approach to the Resistance.

I’ll end by summarizing NN’s 3 pronged approach to building the infrastructure of resistance in the age of Trump. It includes:

  1. Emergency Defensive Actions- Fighting back against the right wing agenda of the Trump administration including cabinet and judicial nominations, proposed legislation, regulatory actions by the President. We will just say No, no, no, linking arms with Indivisible: Northwest Philadelphia. Our NN Resisting Trump Action Group will be sending weekly calls to action to all our members.
  2. Organize on the Local Level- Our local action committees work in opposition to the national Trump agenda by advancing a sustainable, justice agenda within Philadelphia. Our current focus is on ways to advance our values in the realms of education and the environment.
  3. Building a Progressive Electoral Force by doing the following:
    – Transforming the Philly Democratic Party.
    – Supporting Keith Ellison’s election as Chair of the DNC to promote grass-roots organizing in the Democratic Party thereby increasing turnout and winning elections at all levels of government
    – Electing progressive Democrats in the Suburbs through our Turn the Suburbs Blue project

Ready to build this thing? Drop me a note at shapsj@comcast.net and we’ll sign you up!

And if you’d like to help pay for building this tremendous structure that symbolically and also in a very real way is our answer to the one Trump keeps obsessing about, please go to our Act Blue site and make a contribution. Thanks so much.

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Stan Shapiro

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