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Progressives Must Play Offense, Too

Act… Don’t just react


On Wednesday, Senator Bernie Sanders posted a video on Twitter making the argument that we must play offense as well as defense in our battle against President Donald Trump. I’m going to nitpick a little here because it seems that Bernie’s argument is more that we should play offense against the oligarchy and that President Trump can be made an ally in this fight. Right now, the oligarchs have us right where they want us  the 99% fighting amongst themselves about cultural issues, while they continue to gain power and rob us blind. We have to disrupt their game plan; we can’t just exhaust ourselves reacting (largely ineffectively) to every horrible thing that Trump does.

Plus, on a personal level, I know I won’t survive the psychological assault that Bannon and the GOP are waging if I do nothing pro-active. Every time I look at the news, I’m in a near panic attack and I know I’m not alone. This kind of waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop stress is horrible for anyone’s mental and physical health. And again, that’s right where they want us — exhausted and tuned-out, escaping into alcohol, drugs, Little Debbie Snack Cakes, reality tv — trying our best not to feel our rage about the abuses being perpetrated against us. That way we won’t fight back as they complete the transformation of the U.S. into some neo-feudal dystopia.

I don’t know about y’all, but the whiskey and the Little Debbie’s aren’t doing it for me anymore. I have to DO SOMETHING positive! I have to try to get control over some part of this situation, not just react to the horrors. And, luckily, as Bernie pointed out, there are places where we can play offense on policy positions where we have an agreement with Trump, so that’s something we can do.

Saying that there are places where we have an agreement with Trump is really saying that there are places that we have an agreement with Steve Bannon. Shocking, I know, but reading this Vanity Fair article is like getting a look at the opposing team’s playbook. And this Business Insider piece provides even greater context for how Bannon sees himself and this time in history. Bannon’s influence over Trump is not as complete as Bannon would like, however.

One thing that works in our favor, that Bannon cannot control, is that Trump is greatly affected by how “the people” are reacting to him. The crowds at his rallies validated his populist ideas — strengthening Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security; reinstating a modernized version of Glass-Steagall; embarrassing politicians by revealing how he bought influence with them. Unfortunately, the crowds at his rallies also validated his horrible xenophobic and nationalistic ideas as well. His shock/horror/rage about the relatively small size of the inauguration crowd there to support and praise him, and the record-breakingly huge crowd at the Women’s March there to protest him, show just how much he depends on and craves the adulation of “the people” for his self-worth.

Trump’s sensitivity to praise and criticism from his audience is how he can be encouraged to pursue the populist elements of Bannon’s plan, while at the same time discouraged from pursuing the xenophobic/nationalistic elements. This works because the crowds are now Washington, D.C. crowds, not Mississippi and Indiana crowds, but Trump still needs the love and approval of his audience.

Part of the Bannon plan put forth in this speech given by Trump in October 2016 is to win the allegiance of black voters with a New Deal for Black America, which provides job opportunities and increases safety in low-income, black residential areas. They plan to do this by applying economic pressure to manufacturers to relocate their manufacturing plants to urban regions of the U.S. and by increasing policing. These policies will likely fail horribly — manufacturing will return to the U.S. and be automated, and black communities are already over-policed. But this New Deal idea goes to the core of the Bannon/Trump philosophy/obsession/delusion. Bannon believes that we are repeating a cycle like the Great Depression-New Deal-WWII cycle, and this New Deal for Black America seems as integral to his plan as getting us into a full-blown war with the Middle East or China.

We can play offense on the New Deal for Black America issue to great advantage. Not only are Trump and Bannon strongly motivated to act in this area, but if gains are made for the black community under Trump, then the Democrats will be under enormous pressure to pursue pro-black legislation in order to maintain that segment of their base. If the Democrats see the Progressives working with Trump, it will scare the hell out of them, leading to a bidding war for the “black vote” in 2018.

The New Deal for Black America is actually a good idea in theory, but Trump’s planned implementation is wrong. Many new manufacturing jobs actually require college degrees, or else they will be automated; and over-policing will lead to more black and brown deaths, and less of a sense of security, not more.

Instead, he should invest in training programs for jobs in heavy construction (building roads and bridges) where workers are already in high demand, most jobs do not require a high school diploma, and most employers don’t discriminate against people with criminal records. Men who have struggled with un- and underemployment could be trained and working good-paying jobs in a matter of months. He should put Ben Carson to work reimagining how HUD works. Instead of isolating poor black people in “projects,” HUD could subsidize rent in mixed-income housing. These policies would truly result in the good jobs and safe neighborhoods that Trump envisions resulting from his New Deal for Black America.

The thing is, oddly enough, I think if we rally in front of the White House and tell him that this is what we want, he might act on it. He has expressed his desire for help in this area by reaching out to Steve Harvey and even requesting input from John Lewis, saying he can “use all the help he can get” on this issue in a tweet to the congressman. It is certainly worth a try.

In the fantasy land of my head, Trump acts on these ideas and that puts the Democrats in a difficult position. They will actually have to do something in order to retain the now shaky, maybe splintering or crumbling “black vote.” It would seem that that would be the time for us to demand a repeal of the exception clause of the 13th amendment (which says slavery is legal for incarcerated individuals). It seems that playing offense might be fun! Or, at least a whole lot better than curling up in the fetal position under a heavy piece of furniture with my whiskey and Little Debbie’s.



Former academic research nerd, desperately trying to "be the change", chronic headache from banging my head against the wall. Follow Christine on Twitter @CMVCat.

Christine Valuquette is a Guest Contributor to Progressive Army.

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Progressives Must Play Offense, Too