The Polish Resistance (post-WWII), Solidarity, took on the Soviet-dominated government of Poland and won. During WWII, the French resistance, led by Charles de Gaulle, battled the Vichy government, which collaborated with the Nazis. After the war, de Gaulle formed and led France’s Fifth Republic. History is filled with heroic resistance efforts, often movements of life or death.
So now we come to the American resistance movement circa 2017, against all things Trump. I have several thoughts.
President Donald Trump was elected. All who oppose him — left, right and center — need to understand the underlying human dynamics of the 2016 election and in 2018 demonstrate what they have learned. Also, resistance movements feed on suppression; a singular focus and intense loyalty develop as its members seek to avoid being crushed by the secret police. In our hemisphere, heroism is now in the streets in Venezuela.
In America, we enjoy a form of institutional resistance to over-reach. America has very rocky soil when it comes to sowing the seeds of authoritarianism. The Courts have pushed back against Trump orders. The Congress is tied in knots as Trump is quick to thunder expectations but incapable of making a public case for legislative change — tweets won’t do it.
As the resistance movement was outlined in a Rolling Stone article, it is entirely too institutional; its agenda is an amalgamation of support group policies, many of whose causes helped lead to Trump’s victory. It also includes Evan McMullin, who, as a conservative, ran an independent campaign for president. Recently, it became even more mainstream as Hillary Clinton announced her intention to help fund it.
In the president’s chosen party, it is now becoming evident that he, rather than suppressing wayward elements, has freed them. There is now an outspoken moderate movement. The primaries of 2016 made it clear that hard-edged conservative orthodoxy was not what the Republican voters wanted.
On the left, it is hard to believe that somebody to the left of Clinton could have defeated Trump. Unfortunately, Clinton’s flaws as a candidate serve a narrative that her loss was not determined by policy. And the Russian intervention serves those who avert their eyes when it comes to unpopular government prescriptions.
One of the great ironies of the 21st century is that great businesses are being built on an increasingly precise understanding of human behavior, while political parties increasingly wallow in opinions. Amazon, Google and Facebook, to name the headliners, know how we behave and now sit atop capital markets worldwide. Frighteningly, they have turned knowledge about us into money machines.
Perversely, America has elected its first businessman, and he, too, wallows in opinions, often ones based on false assumptions. At the Oscars, they ask for the “envelope please;” Trump needs to ask for the data.
It is of course plausible to conclude that a resistance built on Never-Trump across the ideological spectrum will not harm the country. An oft-repeated refrain is that the country is safer when Congress is in recess.
But, we all better hope that the resistance does not so weaken the president that foreign provocations become more likely and that Trump, failing domestically, asserts himself abroad. My advice: take on the president’s policies if you can identify them. All this focus on Trump the personality is a restatement of the obvious.
I would suggest that the Never-Trump movement be unlike the president — discerning.
Al Sikes’ leadership helped shape the arc of 21st century communication technologies from positions as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and then President of Hearst New Media. In 2004, the Manhattan Institute chose Sikes as one of eight winners of the Social Entrepreneurship Award for having founded READ ALLIANCE, which trains teenagers to tutor children with reading deficiencies. Sikes second book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow was recently published by Koehler Books.