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What’s the Best Protest Tactic?

Don Rose 3 July 2018 One Comment

There’s a lot of back-and-forth about “civility” in determining organized protest tactics against Donald Trump and his cohort–generated, among other incidents, by the Red Hen restaurant  owner booting out Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Congresswoman Maxine Waters calling for regular such confrontations to publicly berate other complicit officials.

   I must say I loved hearing that crowd at Yankee Stadium spontaneously booing Rudolph Giuliani–who hasn’t been in the headlines much lately.


   Let’s stipulate that Trump sets new lows in incivility and cruelty every day. He should be protested and called out early and often with marches like last Saturday,  picket lines  and other creative nonviolent protests. The only serious strategic question is what will work to activate more people against him, with the immediate goal being winning back the House and Senate in November’s mid-term elections.

   Those of my friends who follow Waters’s dicta argue essentially that Democrats have not fought back hard enough.  Turning up the pressure  not only on Trump but those who work for him–picketing their homes, shaming them in public spaces etc.–will activate a massive, hitherto quiescent body on the left who will finally get out and vote.

   They note that Trump’s voters will not be persuaded to change and therefore we must energize that legendary “sleeping giant” on the left without worrying about being “uncivil” or otherwise offensive to society’s norms. It is similar to the argument of the violent Antifas.

   Those opposing their view suggest that there remains a body of independents who might yet be persuadable and using “uncivil” tactics will turn them off and invoke some kind of moral equivalency with Trump himself. There are polls indicating such self-identified independents make up a plurality of  voters now–with many of them being former Republicans who, for various reasons, won’t identify as GOP.

       I think a stronger case can be made for targeting those middle-middle folk, who are more clearly identifiable than the presumed inert left who may correctly believe that the leaders of the Democratic establishment have not been sufficiently vigorous. Recent election victories by Bernie Sanders-type progressives certainly make the case that many are tired of the old leadership–but the Bernie people still won by using traditional methods–not “incivility.”

     Put it this way: what if we shamed and berated Huckabee Sanders and denied her public accommodations for weeks and she finally quit, what would be gained?  Trump would just find a bigger liar to replace her. We still would have no idea whether we gained any new voters–and might have lost some potential prospects.

     I’ve been involved in a lot of protests through the years, most of which helped build our movement while others turned people off. I recall once picketing  Mayor Richard J. Daley’s home, which resulted in more sympathy for Daley than our cause.

    If I thought picketing Mike Pence’s home or shaming Kirstjen Nielsen in a restaurant would help flip a congressional district or two, I’d be willing to risk it.  But I’d rather spend that energy working a precinct in a flippable district.

    However, that crowd spontaneously booing Giuliani still warms my heart.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

One Comment »

  • Ahem! said:

    Difficult to heed calls for civility or listen to condemnations of Trump for coarsening the political culture from proponents of Saul Alinsky methods of community organizing. It is literally the pot calling the kettle black.

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