I’m not arguing that we should stop “resisting” Donald Trump’s presidency. It is one of, if not the greatest threat to America in my lifetime; and protesting, calling Senators and getting your fellow citizens involved and active in politics is as important as ever. Keep resisting.
What I’m saying is that we should drop the slogan “The Resistance.”
Firstly, it’s a bit juvenile. It comes off as a bunch of privileged (white) people who watched Egypt free itself from decades of actual autocracy in 2011, and who now want their own version of the Arab Spring. This sentiment is embodied by Keith Olbermann’s “resistance” logo for his GQ web series where he literally wraps himself in the flag and cowers in the corner. Frankly, if you’re a healthy middle class white person, the Donald Trump presidency is not the fascist nightmare that “the resistance” plays it out to be (yet). ICE agents are not waiting outside of your kid’s school to kick you out of the country. Your relatives are not barred from visiting you. You don’t have to worry about a health care law passed in Congress that will force you to choose between death and bankruptcy. The ultimate nightmare is still mostly in your head, and it is created by anxiety about what is potentially coming next.
Which is understandable. As someone who deals with anxiety, I fully understand how your brain can create a reality that doesn’t exist—but the central issue with “the resistance” is that this unreality is inherently exclusionary. By classifying yourself as a persecuted class battling the embodiment of evil, anyone who does not feel under siege automatically does not qualify for “the resistance.” You want to cut Trump’s support down? Start by courting those who sympathize with him, as opposed to preaching to the choir of the roughly 55% of Americans who disapprove of him. By creating an instant purity test, even people who did not vote for Trump, but have friends or family who did, are barred from this exclusive club.
In essence, “the resistance” is a self-congratulatory version of Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” line. If you are a part of “the resistance,” that means that anyone who does not consider themselves to be part of the movement is not battling the tyranny that Donald Trump is attempting to create. It’s just a different way of telling people that you’re either with us or against us. It’s not enough to feel lukewarm about Trump or have doubt that he can fulfill his promises, “the resistance” requires you to pledge complete and total fealty to a cause with a narrow, yet amorphous definition.
The Democrats are supposed to be the big tent party, but “the resistance” follows Congressional Democrats’ exclusionary tone—where the only people who are truly heard live in the northeast corridor and the West Coast’s major population centers. There is no room in “the resistance” for people with a shred of doubt about its efficacy. This slogan that liberals have adopted in opposition to Trump exacerbates the issues that lead to his election.
Liberals must communicate how Trump’s presidency is dangerous to those supporting him by explaining how it will affect them—not by inventing a club whose theoretical model is based off Star Wars. Comparing Trump supporters to Darth Vader will never bring them over to the “light side.” A significant amount of Trump fans are not the stubborn, ignorant ideologues that many play them out to be. This election was decided by the Obama-Trump voter, which means that those who put Trump in office have the power to remove him. The 2016 campaign revealed how small the liberal coalition really is when identity politics and opposition to a candidate serve as the entire basis of one’s vote.
“The resistance” will not kick Donald Trump out of office. “The resistance” effectively began last summer, and we all saw how that worked out. Liberals need to stop mirroring the language of the Democrats, and truly seek out a big tent party. Policy still matters, and there are plenty of ways to denigrate Trump’s platform without making a Trump voter/sympathizer feel like they are personally under attack. The Republican Party controls all three branches of government, and hasn’t been able to pass any meaningful laws. They’re simply rolling back the gains made from Obama’s time in office, and escalating the escalation in executive power bestowed on the presidency by George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
The GOP’s hypocrisy is on display for all to see, and they are creating a wide opening for the Democrats to recoup many former Obama voters who ventured to the other side of the aisle in 2016. Incompetence is incredibly dangerous, and that is an easy message to convey. Trump won with economically populist message, and liberals would be wise to echo the frustration that he tapped in to—not to effectively classify that frustration as somehow being in support of tyranny.
“The resistance” embodies so many things that liberals and conservatives hate about the Democrats. It is literally a slogan from a Hollywood movie that is mostly repeated by those in California and the northeast corridor. The Republicans could not ask for a better political cudgel, and we are doing their work for them. Again, this image of a multimillionaire former cable news anchor looking like a small child trying to hide behind the flag is effectively the face of the movement. Conservatives’ main line of attack is to call liberals a bunch of reactionary noobs who don’t understand politics, and Keith Olbermann’s iconic logo is all the ammo they need to drive that point home.
So please, keep resisting, but stop calling it “the resistance.” We need as many allies as we can get, and a self-congratulatory purity test is the opposite of what we are striving towards. We can defeat Trump by coopting his economically populist message, and by espousing actual policies that work towards that goal. Barack Obama did not win over future Trump voters by forcing them to pick a side in a tribal squabble, and he strove to include the forgotten centers of America in his campaign to take on the corruption in Washington D.C. It’s time that “the resistance” grew up, and acknowledged that in order to create a coalition that effectively resists Donald Trump, we must first establish common ground with many of those who support him.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.