By Adam Hefty (January 31, 2017)
The problem with these medium.com shock pieces is that they’re demobilizing. It’s hard to tell how much of Trump’s first week is strategy and how much of it is incompetence. But we know that one thing that has slowed previous Republican over-reaches (Contract with America, government shutdowns, etc.) is protest and outrage, and this week has seen a bigger and quicker mobilization than many.
Meanwhile, the Jake Fuentes piece suggests that protesters may be unwitting pawns in Trump’s game, and the Yonatan Zunger piece suggests that a goal of Trump’s actions is to create “resistance fatigue.” Both of these arguments are so bad that refuting them makes you dumber. Neither author has any deep knowledge of or experience thinking about social movements. Fuentes is an executive or mid-level manager, I can’t quite tell which, at Capital One. Zunger is a computer engineer for Google. (I’m sure that there are lots of computer engineers who have interesting things to say about social movements, but to do so, you have to put in some time studying them. Zunger’s articles don’t suggest a deep engagement with the topic.)
Even Michael Moore has gotten in on the action. And he does have a deep engagement with politics and social movements. But he’s also notoriously inconsistent.
Keep up the pressure! I have no idea how things will unfold, but this is a president who is historically unpopular as a newly elected president, with a majority in Congress which is suspicious of much of his agenda and a national security establishment that is at least partly quite concerned about him, too. The leaders of major, mainstream corporations have been speaking out loudly and confidently against the signature policy of his first week. That sounds more like a recipe for a coup against Trump (oddly contemplated here in a Chicago Tribune commentary) than a coup by him. (And for the record, we shouldn’t be supporting either.)
I wonder about the psychological payoff of reading and sharing these kinds of pieces. I love reading them too. Right after Donald Trump was elected, all I wanted to read for a while was climate change apocalypse articles. There’s something exciting (in the analytical sense, not the “fun” sense) about seeing the potential for doom in the present. I feel kind of like the protagonist of Melancholia, reacting differently. I’m not sure that impending doom always produces inaction and quiescense. Obviously the last week has *not* generally produced that. But I wonder if the inital spark of outrage could dull into the quiet contemplation of possible doom if we are not careful. I, for one, felt much better when I was shaken out of that.