-By Peter Hogness. Peter was for 15 years the newspaper editor at Prof. Staff Congress/AFT Local 2334.
There are several recent postings (on Medium & elsewhere) that portray every move of the Trump administration as part of a deeply thought-out plan, with every stumble and reversal framed as part of a master scheme of deception. The writers are not wrong about the level of threat to democracy posed by this regime.
They’re not wrong about how hard we have to fight, or the urgency of the struggle, and the articles include some useful observations. But they overstate the level of competence & intention within Trump’s inner circle– based on speculation, not actual data– and that’s a serious mistake. Among the staff drafting Trump’s recent decrees was a 2016 college grad– which shocked career State Department personnel accustomed to a certain baseline of competence. Given the almost complete lack of government experience of Trump’s team, we should be skeptical of evidence-free guesswork which assumes that things like the backtracking on green-card holders was “all part of the plan” all along.
No question that Trump, Bannon & co. are dangerous authoritarians, & that we can expect them to try blatantly illegal moves and see if they can get away with it. But the shoot-from-the-hip style and disregard for the law of this first week are not strengths of this regime, they are weaknesses. We will win nothing that we don’t fight for, and it will be a hard fight. But a speculative narrative that sees great planning behind every move of this unprepared administration (even its retreats) is not accurate & ignores real weaknesses in the enemy camp.
Thousands spontaneously turned up at international airports all across the country to protest Trump’s Muslim ban executive order.
Bannon & Co. want us to think that they are highly competent and all-powerful. Intimidation is part of their strategy. They are certainly dangerous motherfuckers who are striving for authoritarian rule, and we must fight them tooth and nail. But they are not as powerful as they want you to think; let’s not make the mistake of believing their own macho PR. That’s not accurate, and is disempowering for progressives.
P.S. Just as our analysis needs to be rooted in the facts, our resistance needs to be rooted in people’s real lives. Kenzo Shibata puts his finger on a different but related problem with the trend of thinking described above:
“There’s a thinkpiece (not an article) going around on Medium dot com explaining that Trump’s moves are a “headfake” and distraction. It’s not “fake news” technically, but it’s a garbage opinion. Trump’s executive orders have real impacts on real people. This is not House of Cards on Netflix. We cannot be armchair pundits. We need to fight him at every corner. I invite the author of the blog to put down his laptop and join us in the streets.”
To say that Trump’s immigration and refugee bans were a “head fake” or a “distraction” treats his attacks on immigrants & refugees as not being real issues. For folks directly affected, they are all too real. And all of us need to be organizing on the time-tested principle, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” The immigration ban was a very real policy move, and our side’s pushback on it was not falling for a distraction– it was a good first step.