On Building Opposition, Not Just Resistance, to the Trump Coalition


The incoming Administration brings with it sweeping threats to human rights and inclusive democracy and is bringing our country into uncharted and hostile waters. While some of those threats appear certain, others unclear and yet some others unlikely, there is almost no social system being left untouched by Trump’s agenda. There is much to be gleaned from his public positions, his cabinet nominees, transition team members and Congressional allies. And combined with evermore extremists soon to control all three branches of the federal government, in addition to a majority of governorships and statehouses, the coming period will be brutal both on the ground and on the policy front.

It is not enough to build resistance or to fight this agenda. We must build a permanent opposition through an enduring vision that provides a compelling alternative for our country. Only then can we shift power and build leaders that will ensure racial, gender and economic justice through human rights and an inclusive democracy.

The Threats

The specific policy threats all flow from Trump’s worldview that he advances through divisive rhetoric that is re-normalizing racism and white supremacy in the United States, as well as his attacks, rhetorical so far, on dissent. This rhetoric combined with his appointments, including possible future Supreme Court appointments, builds on years of an evolving and ever more extreme far right agenda.

The agenda is far ranging but includes: attacking voting and labor rights through suppression tactics and undermining enforcement; dismantling public goods, financing and services for basic needs through privatization and defunding; marginalizing and damaging immigrant and Black communities through criminalization; and reversing civil rights and environmental protection and climate justice through weakening legal protection and deregulation. Trump foreign policy appointments have also been hawkish indicating far higher risks of the United States entering into war or conflict abroad.

The Opposition

We must resist, fight but also build a proactive opposition to the far right take over of the national government and many state governments.  Our opposition will be made up of many sectors – labor, progressive national organizations, workers centers, community based groups, courageous local governments, professionals moving as a bloc from nurses to teachers, our movements for racial, gender, economic and climate justice, and even some private sector groups that have begun to call for an inclusive economy.  We must move together to build voice and counter the rhetoric of hate, which requires every wing of our opposition to take a broad stand against the Trump agenda beyond their specific areas and issues.  But we most also move together to build a pathway to power that will bring progressive people grounded deeply in a morality of human dignity and equality into leadership roles in both institutions – particularly media — and elected office.  This has to begin with organizing our communities and building leaders that can move into local positions of power from the local, school boards, community boards, city council and activating a base that can support them. But local work is far from sufficient and we must have a far more robust pipeline to statehouses and our national government, as well as to national platforms that reach key constituencies. We must build this opposition in order to rebuild our beautiful country that has suffered under decades of regressive neoliberal policies and now faces and onslaught of extremist authoritarian rule.  It is a moral imperative.

The Vision

Our vision for our opposition must be one of human rights and inclusive democracy.  Human rights are expansive spanning civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and a human rights vision recognizes and requires that we dismantle and realign the structures that have produced and maintained the ugly white supremacy we see today.  This requires far more than a legal change. It is self-evident that in order to ensure education, healthcare, housing, a safe and healthy environment, decent jobs, basic economic security and a decent standard of living for all we must commit to structural and cultural change.  We must build community and support and foster an inclusive and participatory democracy.  This vision is grounded in a belief that when we create systems that work for those most marginalized, we will be create systems that work better for everyone.  It reflects a deep and abiding faith in human dignity that we must all protect with particular ferocity at this moment.

An Alternative Future

Finally, for our opposition movement to succeed in bringing its vision to fruition, we must be able to imagine an alternative future.  We are already building that future through the work of our many movements and community organizing efforts.

  • We have generated demands to building public goods and supporting public services through equitable taxation,
  • We have fueled efforts to create green jobs that can sustain families and protect the health of our people and environment.
  • We have joined together to call for divestment from criminalization and investment in community control and local democracy.
  • We have built community land trusts and shared equity for housing and energy where neighbors drive economic development through joint ownership and stewardship.
  • We have created models for participatory democracy through community decision-making for everything from budgets to zoning.
  • We have worked to redefine gender equity and have identified structural racism and the need for a sophisticated reparations strategy as key priority to heal our nation’s wounds.

There are many visionary framework from Just Transition to Vision for Black Lives that all echo each other in profound ways, and are becoming increasingly integrated and aligned as a way forward to our alternative future.

We must remember that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. Our opposition movement will change the landscape of hate into one of building community, inclusion, equity and dignity for all of us.