Where is the mass resistance against Trump?

Anti-Trump protests in the US have failed to coalesce into a coherent mass movement. Why?

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    People sit for a moment of silence during a protest in New York against President Donald Trump, in the aftermath of a car attack that killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, VA [AP/Craig Ruttle]
    People sit for a moment of silence during a protest in New York against President Donald Trump, in the aftermath of a car attack that killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, VA [AP/Craig Ruttle]

    In the cacophonous age of Donald Trump, Americans would do well to recall Isaac Newton's Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    Americans would be wise not only to remember this axiom of physics and, indeed, politics, but they must be prepared to exercise it finally and emphatically, en masse, in defiance of a dystopian regime's toxic actions at home and abroad.

    The United States is edging nearer, it seems, to the constitutional precipice - pitting a preening, impetuous authoritarian against decency and the purported enlightened "will" of Americans. A long overdue and definitive confrontation between Trump and his acolytes and the disparate forces that oppose him appears to be in the offing.

    Along the way, Trump has already lost political proxy wars in Alabama and Virginia that have been interpreted as a precursor to the possible penultimate showdown that may occur when, and if, special counsel, Robert Mueller, completes his secret inquiry into Trump's allegedly covert dealings with Russia.

    Who will win remains in doubt. But the "resistance" - diffuse, leaderless and lacking coherence - will have to coalesce quickly, somehow, someway, in order to expel a common, but wily and intransigent foe.

    Whether that happens or not is also in question. To date, every Trump-engineered outrage - and there have been so many offences to propriety, probity and "good" governance - has been greeted by ephemeral spasms of outrage from La Resistance that last, invariably, for a news cycle or two.

    To be sure, the noxious spirit of Joe McCarthy continues to inhabit much of America's psyche.

     

    Though wounded, Trump has cheerfully survived again and again, in part, because the mechanisms and institutions that theoretically exist to disqualify him have, instead, not only emboldened but shielded him from the impeachment he has so impressively earned.  

    And the political party Trump leads, with equal measure of impunity and a delinquent's delight, has fused with a propaganda network whose sole and defining raison d'etre is to vilify any objection, from any quarter, to his legitimacy and wretched presence in the Oval Office.

    Taken together, Trump has, so far, successfully inoculated himself against any meaningful or lasting sanction, let alone any meaningful or lasting challenge to his authority as president.

    Arguably, Trump's exasperating endurance is also a reflection of the humiliating failure of Americans to take a principled and necessary stand in wholesale opposition to a foul regime, not simply through Twitter threads in the electronic ether, but in the streets.

    Apparently, on this score, Americans have forgotten that sustained, people-propelled protests have dramatically and permanently altered even relatively recent US history, and eventually dislodged other recalcitrant presidents from office and power.

    But this inexplicable, pan-American amnesia may not be the only, nor the paramount, reason for America's largely rhetorical, and ultimately docile and fruitless resistance to Trump et al.

    Concrete exhibitions of dissent - whether they involve occupying Wall Street (figuratively and literally), asking questions about a fabricated, state-sanctioned "case" for a disastrous war, or kneeling during the US national anthem - have been dismissed by centrist and conservative jingoists alike as the unpatriotic acts of a disloyal few, at the expense of the "national interests" of the many.

    To be sure, the noxious spirit of Joe McCarthy continues to inhabit much of America's psyche.

    The instructive irony is that the so-called "liberal voices" in and outside the establishment media that supposedly constitute the "resistance" to Trump these days, were enthusiastically party yesterday to the McCarthy-like efforts to smear Americans who said no to the lie-laced invasion of Iraq.

    The lasting, inescapable consequence of this pervasive effort not only to discredit, but to criminalise dissent, has been to neuter and incapacitate opposition movements preferably before or, if need be, after they gather momentum where they can truly count - in cities across America, in front of the White House and on the Washington Mall.

    How else to explain the limp, hesitant - to put it charitably - campaign to mount mass demonstrations to evict an openly and avowedly racist regime that offers ideological succour to fascists?

    That the resistance is pining for the mid-term Congressional elections to help, no doubt, rid the US and the world of Trump ever so gingerly is an indictment of the "patience" of Americans who are content to, in effect, wait out a bigoted serial liar and admitted sexual harasser.

    The other irony, of course, is that scores of Americans have celebrated and admired other people, in other nations, who have been a lot more impatient when it comes to excising a rancid political cancer in their midst via "people power". 

    The self-proclaimed "greatest democracy on earth" could learn an important lesson about the value of impatience and the potentially transformative effect of "people power" from tiny Iceland - population 330,00.

    In April 2016, Icelanders descended on the parliament in Reykjavik in the aftermath of disclosures contained in the Panama Papers, that revealed that then Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson's family had sheltered money offshore. Much of Iceland stayed put until he stepped down.

    Not content with a political scalp, Icelanders demanded systemic change. Earlier this month, Katrin Jakobsdottir - dubbed "anti-Trump" because she thinks and reads, is a feminist and believes that climate change is real and human-made - became prime minister in a coalition government. 

    Icelanders didn't expect calculating politicians, the federal police or a sanctified lawyer to deliver the dividends of "people power". They led and prevailed. It's past time Americans engaged in people power too.

    The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.


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