Protests, Politics and Strategic Gains

by Ken Burnside


Some conservatives consider protests with property damage to be an abnegation of all claims of a moral higher ground. I’m not among their number, but I’m a libertarian, not a conservative.  I ask for pragmatism and “do minimum amounts of harm,” rather than moral certitude.

Likewise, I’m seeing calls from liberals demanding that someone, anyone, in the Executive branch denounce racist behavior.  Donald Trump did so in a 60 Minutes interview. Apparently, this was insufficient.  This is the same rhetorical tactic used by conservatives regarding Muslims denouncing extremists (they did, but it was insufficient).

In both cases, both sides want the other to capitulate and say their opponents are right, not apologize. It’s painting the opposition as unreasonable and dishonorable.

Which leads me back to protests, protesters, and actually making things better.

I am glad people are protesting the Trump election.  I’m more relieved with this outcome than the armed revolt threatened if Clinton had won a close election.  I’d’ve been happier still with a Clinton landslide.

So, right now protesters are protesting. The people who voted the other way are telling them “you lost, get over it…” (which was the message when Obama came into office in ’08, and I recall it quite well.).  Mind you, I still laugh my ass off at “you lost, get over it” from the side waving the Confederate flag.

What comes after the protest?

Organized resistance on a political front, on the Federal level.

We’ve had a master class in obstructionism from Congress for the last eight years.  I see absolutely no reason for the Democrats to eschew the same tactics the Republicans used, and I can see a compelling realpolitik reason to do so.

Democrats reaching across the aisle with the current Tea Party-infused version of the Republican party accomplish nothing but building a monument of regret.

I won’t go so far as to say that every Republican member of Congress is an enemy of the Republic, but it’s the way to bet.

You, as voters, especially as voters with Democratic Senators and Congressmen, need to spend time communicating with your congressional delegation. Tell them, in no uncertain terms, that cooperation with Republicans is against your interests, the country’s interests, and their re-election chances.  No matter how much the Republicans try to “appeal to reason” and “our shared national purpose…” the right response is:

“You’ve got majorities in both chambers of Congress, an incompetent sycophant in the White House, and spent 10 months preventing Merrick Garland from being discussed.  You’ve had eight years of being the party of obstruction.  Now we’re going to see how well you can govern.”

Encourage your Democratic delegations to do last-minute addendums to spending bills.  Here are some I can recommend:

“No state shall receive more in Federal funding than it has paid into the federal till via taxation.”

“Any state hosting a military base or facility must provide subsidized long term birth control without any questions asked to girls as part of their high school education.”

“No law concerning religious freedom shall be construed as placing non-adherents under the restrictions of the religion of an employer or service provider. If a business owner provides a service for believers, they must provide the same service to non-believers. Exception: A church or tax-exempt religious organization is not obligated to provide services that go against the moral teachings of its faith.”

Encourage your Democratic Senators to utilize all of the rules of the Senate. Yes, this means those rules will be dismantled…but they’ll stay that way when there’s a Democratic majority.

Above all else, do this while being calm, polite, and reasonable.  Encourage your Congressional delegation to do the same.

In short: No cooperation, and pull on the Republicans exactly the same thing they did to Obama’s Administration.

But not forever.

Long term, the Democratic Party needs to focus on the 2020 election cycle, and that means focusing on state level races in the near-term.  The Republican party gained its strength from building a deep bench in the State Legislatures.  They’ve been doing this since the late 1990s, and it’s why the Republicans seem to have more young, charismatic and energetic political candidates than the Democrats do.  It’s given them locks on governor’s mansions.

This situation needs to be countered.  For that to happen, the Democratic National Committee needs to change its operational strategy – the DNC is a much more top-down organization than the RNC; the RNC is a “states up” organization, while the DNC focuses on urban coalition building.

The Libertarian Party also needs to focus on state legislative races, especially in states where, due to the 2016 election, they have automatic ballot access.  Get a couple of Libertarians in state legislatures, and work from there on up.

It’s not that the voters who put Republicans into state legislatures are happy with the Republican Party.  It’s that they see every other option as being worse.

Both the Democratic Party and Libertarian Party can present better, valid options at the state level. The Republican base seems strong because nobody has actually tried to engage them and present them with a better deal.