April 27, 2017

The only rational, principled response to the way Donald Trump and his cronies have run the federal government for the last 100 days is steadfast, unwavering resistance.

The new administration can be described in three ways:

  1. A white nationalist regime bent on stoking the flames of our country’s history of prejudice across lines of racial, ethnic, gender, religious and other differences;
  2. A gaggle of corporate goons bent on funneling money from the poor and middle class to the rich – benefiting themselves, along with Trump’s friends and associates;
  3. A hopelessly incompetent regime that acts erratically and unpredictably based on the outcomes of internal power struggles and the uninformed, impulsive whims of Mr. Trump himself.

What’s worse than a government that is any one of those three things? A government that is all three at the same time. And that’s the story of Trump’s first 100 days.

It has been an administration that has made virulent racism and xenophobia a matter of national policy.

It has put businessmen for whom the term ‘conflict of interest’ has zero meaning at the head of regulatory agencies meant to protect the public interest.

And it has been an administration that has shown a flagrant disregard for decisions based on facts, expertise, or diverse perspectives.

If we’re honest about the way the Trump administration is doing business, we can’t help but conclude that there’s no way to engage him and his appointees other than through staunch resistance.

To attempt to “work with” this administration, as long as it continues on its current course, is to normalize racism, hatred, corporate capture of government and the public sector, and sheer incompetence.

And yet the fact remains that, rock-bottom approval ratings notwithstanding, a significant percentage of the U.S. voting population supported this man and some subset of his ideas, and continues to do so.

What are we to do about this?

One of the things I’m increasingly convinced of is that we have to tell a more compelling story. The rise of the populist right is in no small part a failure of the left.

The global economy is in crisis. Inequality is rampant. Working people are feeling left behind.

Marginalized communities remain exploited and disenfranchised. Humanitarian crises are at an all-time high.

This should be a golden opportunity for us to paint a clear picture of the better world that’s possible. A society based on the core belief that “we all do better when we all do better,” rather than the hateful reactionary rhetoric and policy that is on the rise not only in the United States but in many countries around the world.

We have this narrative. It has been told before, many times and in many places. But we don’t have institutions capable of carrying it convincingly – both in terms of social institutions that reach across lines of difference, as well as a genuinely progressive political party.

It’s become clear that we now have an opportunity to build this narrative and these institutions, and the work that has been done so far has been truly inspiring – though the jury is still out on whether the Democratic Party will respond in a meaningful way. But if we’re to be successful, this can’t just focus on what’s happening within our own country.

If we really believe that we all do better when we all do better, “we all” must include everyone around the world, not just those of us who happen to live in the United States.

This means that we must recognize that the fate of the poorest and most vulnerable in the world is interlinked with ours.

It means we must tackle humanitarian crises not as a matter of national security but as a matter of shared humanity.

It means we must tackle migration compassionately, understanding the reasons why people pack up and move their entire lives – including when our country’s actions are among those reasons.

It means we must tackle trade and economic integration, taking into account the well-being of workers – not just seeing them as numbers on a balance sheet.

It means we must tackle climate change together, as a shared responsibility, with those most responsible for the problem doing the most to fix it – us!

It means we must fight racism and sexism and all the other ways we are supposedly divided, anywhere and everywhere.

We’re living in a time when grassroots organizing and community-level struggles are paramount. When the hope is that progress at a local level will build momentum to stop and eventually reverse damaging policies at the national level – this is the key role for international organizing.

Local struggles must be linked and in solidarity with other local struggles, around the world. That’s the contribution ActionAid intends to make to the global resistance against Trump and right-wing reactionaries like him.