Today was the first of many “Resist Trump Tuesdays” to come, organized by MoveOn, Working Families, and People’s Action. At least two hundred actions took place all across the US today, with over 10,000 people showing up at their senators’ offices, whether Democrat or Republican, to “Stop the Swamp Cabinet.” Here in New York City, hundreds gathered in front of the offices of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand on Third Avenue IN THE POURING RAIN. We chanted all manner of energizing battle cries like “We’ll remember in November,” “Save our schools” (a direct reference to the appalling possibility of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education), and “Drain the swamp.” Doing actions like this are straight out of the Tea Party’s playbook. The Tea Party succeeded because of squeaky wheel disruptions whenever and wherever their elected representatives happened to be.
Next Tuesday we meet at 6 PM at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn to protest outside of Senator Schumer’s apartment building. A few weeks ago Schumer appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show and I was so impressed, I wrote him a letter the day after that appearance, as follows. Perhaps I put too much hope in him, but as Martin Luther King said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”:
Dear Senator Schumer,
I was thrilled to see you last night on the Rachel Maddow Show with such a fighting spirit. I have worried that you might compromise on too many of our core Democratic values as we go into a new Congressional term with a new and “unpresidented” Commander-in-Chief. But Rachel’s introduction of you, and then your own words, helped me understand the “bulldog” side of you. What a relief!
As you made clear last night, so many of us are fearful, disgusted, and ready to organize. We just need leadership, like yours, to help us figure out what needs doing and how to keep obstructionist Republican feet to the fire.
I am sure you are familiar with the Book of Esther, and the line that I hope you will remember is Esther 4:14 when Mordecai says to Esther:
“If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance… will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your position for such a time as this?”
You indicated a sense of excitement about the fights to come, and perhaps you have come to your current position for just such a crisis as this. Perhaps you are a contemporary Esther, along with our other outspoken Democratic Senators and Congresspeople. If the Democrats do not write that line in the sand with the Republicans of what is inviolable and not negotiable, I do believe it is possible that we will all “perish” — if not physically, then surely spiritually. We need hope and we need purpose.
I wish you strength, courage, and resolve in the new year ahead, and please know that so many of us New Yorkers and Americans around the country are counting on you…
If our politicians won’t do it, WE need to nonetheless stand for truth, for right, for the moral high ground as this country tilts ever more dangerously toward totalitarianism. We MUST speak up. We must ALL be Esther, placed in this time, in this place, for this tremendous task before us — to save the soul of America.
I am reminded of the four freedoms for which I walked and rallied in Pittsfield MA on January 7: Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship. This is what we stand for, what we fight for.
An easy action: Today I bought 60 postcards that I plan to give out at work tomorrow for others to write to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand so that we might express our disgust, our outrage, our fear. Go out, buy postcards, give them to your friends, make it as easy as possible for others to engage in the democratic process.
One important thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years (thanks to AJWS for sending me to the Paul Wellstone organizing training two years ago) is that signing petitions is at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of its effect in swaying opinions of our elected officials — phone calls, snail-mail letters, and actual face-to-face meetings count far more heavily in their gauge of constituent sentiment.
The books for this absurdly dystopian age are George Orwell’s 1984, Phillip Roth’s The Plot Against America, and Eugene Ionesco’s The Rhinoceros. And for a touch of terrifying reality: the must-read Dark Money by Jane Mayer, whose subtitle is “The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.” Anyone want to join me for a book group, maybe virtually, to read and discuss timely and relevant books for our time?