The resistance, part one
It was 7:21 p.m. on November 8, 2016. I was leaving the house to do a political podcast with Ziva Branstetter, then-executive editor of The Frontier. The TV was on and as I opened the front door, I looked back and saw that in Florida, with 92 percent of the vote recorded, Trump was up by about 2 percent. The state wasn’t being called because, since the 2000 election, the state is never called.
North Carolina was gone. Virginia was too close.
You could tell.
Not just Florida. All of it.
Donald J. Trump would be president of the United States.
There was supposed to be history. Instead there was cheap wine.
The next day, talking with then-Esquire editor Mark Warren, I mentioned acceptance, will of the people, other pablum. He was furious. “The RESISTANCE,” he said—all caps—“begins today.”
And so it did.
What follows are some of those national voices in, of, and around the resistance—on this, its first anniversary.
American legal scholar, professor of law at the University of Baltimore, contributing editor for The Atlantic (Baltimore, MD)
My feelings on this issue are mixed. In some ways, the “hard-wired” parts of our system are functioning as designed. For example, the dismissal of Comey required the recusal of Sessions under DOJ rules that are written down, and that led to Mueller. The lower courts have been very careful in assessing the legality of apparently popular Trump initiatives like the “travel ban” and the “sanctuary city” crackdown. Trump keeps losing in lower court. On the other hand, the customary parts of the system are showing a lot of strain. For example, the First Amendment protects the right to protest, and it also protects the right of public officials to criticize protest. It does not, as a matter of custom and, to a lesser extent, law, protect the “right” of a powerful official to demand the dismissal of people who protest legally in ways he dislikes. Trump is attempting to change that norm and having some success in chilling the atmosphere of civil liberties in this country. The administration is having some success bending the executive branch to its will. In addition, as it learns from its mistakes, it is liable to become more effective in promulgating policies that seem racist and authoritarian but are less clumsy than the original travel ban and the sanctuary order. The administration is changing the nature of the federal judiciary by a systematic campaign to appoint extreme rightists, who are liable to be receptive to its arguments, not because they are personally pro-Trump, but because their ideology is authoritarian and in favor of executive power. So, the long-term prospects are very troubling.
Syndicated columnist, Pulitzer Prize winner (Miami, FL)
I see two predominant moods: anger and disgust. The fervently anti-Trump people, who loathe Trump and, increasingly, anybody who voted for him; and the fervently pro-Trump people who are angry that the other side refuses to accept the election result. Neither side talks, or listens, to the other. The disgust also comes from the people in the middle—the majority, I think—who are sick and tired of the relentless vitriol, the politicization of everything, and the feeling that we’re not going to get out of this impasse any time soon.
Former career officer and strategist, U.S. Army Infantry; International Security Fellow with New America (Chesapeake Bay)
For a quarter of a century I avoided politics. That was the ethic of my profession. My political neutrality made it easier to focus on my job and to maintain intellectual friendships across the spectrum. This is where the idea of #resist is failing America. The #resistance concept closes doors, emotionally and intellectually, that could lead to unification, and unified these efforts must be to be effective. Today I have friends, former Republicans, who are virulent in their opposition. Openly. In writing. Often. But #resistance throws them off, and thus any concept of unification of an effort in support of a common goal is bifurcated, trifurcated, split into fragments that can make each splinter feel empowered but which have little actual purchase. As a historian, all I can offer is an observation.
Senior editor at The Center for Investigative Reporting (Emery, CA)
We’d planned a broadcast via Facebook Live for the entire night. I asked my then-20-year-old son, Parker, to help out on election night at The Frontier because I wanted him to experience the excitement of a newsroom during a presidential election. I don’t remember exactly what I said to Parker, who was clearly upset about the results. I stashed away a few bottles of wine for after we wrapped up our coverage, and we also had a half-full bottle of some kind of peach vodka that someone had given us. As the results of the election became clear, I was glad we had alcohol on hand to numb the shock of what had just happened.
As a journalist, of course, I’m not part of the resistance or the opposition to President Trump or his agenda. As a profession, though, journalists certainly did our part to resist Trump’s attempt to make a wide swath of the public doubt our credibility, our commitment to the truth, our motivation, and even the most basic facts as we reported them. Thanks to the work of journalists since last November, there have been hundreds of revelations about conflicts of interest, lies, outrageous behavior, and just plain ineptitude that have contributed to a growing public understanding. Who knows where it will lead? As I often told my reporters through the years, this is a marathon, not a sprint. We all need to lace up our shoes and keep running.
Professor of English, Renaissance Studies, and Western European Studies, Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)
On this first anniversary of the resistance, there is a bunkering in. Literally, as some are digging bunkers for the nuclear apocalypse, but also figuratively. Many of us experienced an uncharacteristic magical thinking after November 8th—that someone—anyone—would ride in on a winged horse and nullify the election on the grounds of fraud, roll purging, gerrymandering, Russian interference, rank fraudulence of the orange huckster, his vulgarity, ignorance, and incompetence, his personality disorders, or even the Scotch Tape on the back of his overly-long red tie. But nobody rode in, and with a variety of coping mechanisms, we are now living with the shortening of our telomeres.
The resistance has achieved something wondrous: We’ve tripled the “Five Stages of Grief” to fifteen: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Overeating, Day-Drinking, Bargaining with Pets, Sheer Disbelief (the Director’s Cut), Pathetic Hope, Hedged Despair, Day-Sleeping, Marching, Signing Petitions, Head-Banging, and Mueller Worship. However, we did bump one category from the former Five: Acceptance. We do not accept, and we never will. The prognosis may not be good, but we defy augury because we are progressives. There is a special providence in the fall of an orange albatross. If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all.
Come what may, the rest will not be silence.
John H. Richardson
Journalist, author of “On the Road with the Birthers,” “My Father the Spy,” and “The Last Abortion Doctor,” (New Orleans, Manila, Mexico)
I’ve read all the stuff about Trump supporters being racists or full of nostalgia for a world that never was, and I’m not going to dispute it—there’s truth in it, no doubt—but when I meet a person, I like to try to see the person and not a sociological category. For instance, I met a guy at a gun show who hated Obama for reasons that seemed caught up in racism, but he also had a bi-racial grandchild and doted on her.
As to America in the age of Trump, it’s a horror show. He’s destabilizing our alliances, tearing apart our social fabric (such as it is), and injecting poison into our minds on a daily basis. My take is that the world is coming at us so fast. Globalism and the helplessness we all feel after the financial crash of 2008 revealed without a doubt that the supposedly smart people don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. [It] is destabilizing all of us.
In fact, that gives me more sympathy for the classic Republican arguments about small government and states’ rights and even a different perspective on gun rights. The world is out of our control. Maybe it always was. An eco-radical I know says a lot of eco-radicals voted for Trump because they figured he would be the candidate most likely to bring down the system. I tend to agree with the argument that “nihilism” like that is part of what motivated Trump voters—the system is so fucked up, why not just throw a bomb in it. I think we all feel a touch of that, and not without reason, even if liberals such as myself tend to frantically suppress it. Maybe it’s all wrapped up into a ball and half our explanations are wrong, but the intuition is more important than our explanations.
Amicus podcast host, reporter on courts and the law for Slate (Brooklyn, NY)
The resistance has both kept me alive in the past year and is slowly killing me. It keeps me alive because it connects me to a vast, sprawling, decentralized machine of outrage and passion—people who remind me every day that this is not normal, not okay, not even imaginable. It’s killing me because, like everyone, I am exhausted and numb, with every day fractionally worse than the day before, and the cruelty of targeting DACA kids, women, Muslims, NFL athletes, immigrants, the poor, and the sick takes a toll. And this all happens as a demonstrably unwell man tweets at us about his ratings and his ego. It is easy to get frustrated with our friends on the left, with their purity tests and their need to be right as opposed to effective.
But there is SUCH power in getting offline and going to rallies, marches, fundraisers, and events in which you see people at their best and not in their social media flatness. If you are at a computer slowly drowning, I think you need to shut it down. Not for “self care” in the check-out mani/pedi sense. But to join something really good and powerful on a street or in a café or your government.
My son tells me his best day of the last year was the night a bunch of moms made soup for Syrian refugees and raised thousands of dollars as a small Syrian kid followed him around the room. The resistance only works if you can find what’s best in one another, and that doesn’t happen refreshing social media or losing your mind at the tweets of a madman. The resistance has been maddening because we are casting about like children for leaders and, more often than not, we are the leaders we are looking for.