Donald Trump’s 100th day as president is upon us, and the early reviews aren’t good. Although he now calls it a “ridiculous standard,” Trump once touted his 100-day plan on the campaign trail. This flip-flop can be explained by his unimpressive record of accomplishment to date. Trump has reversed himself on campaign promises that range from job creation to “draining the swamp,” and has already reached record levels of unpopularity.
Thankfully, Trump even seems to do bad things badly, as evidenced by his initial failure to ban Muslims (his second attempt also faces stiff legal challenges) or repeal the Affordable Care Act. He’s not even able to perform some of the basic functions of his office, like filling staff positions.
Trump’s opposition has performed considerably better. From the Women’s March that inaugurated his presidency to the town-hall activism that blunted his first healthcare bill, the progressive resistance to Trump and his party has outperformed even the most optimistic expectations.
Michael Moore launched a “resistance calendar” in February, and its entries already read like a photo album. City names flash by, one after the other: Selma. Houston. New York City. Minneapolis. Newark. Philadelphia. Nashville. Smaller towns show up too, like Hagerstown, MD and Ogden, UT.
Then there are the causes: Protect the environment. End the Muslim ban. Black Lives Matter. Stop the wall. Prevent fast-food CEO Andy Puzder from becoming Labor Secretary. (Mission accomplished there.) Stand up for racial justice. Strengthen Muslim-Jewish solidarity. Protect our air and water. Stand with Standing Rock.
That’s the right way to resist. We already know what you hate. Tell us what you love.
It seems like a lifetime but, as these words are being written, only 99 days have passed since Trump’s inauguration. That means it’s only been 98 days since that gloomy spectacle was followed by a global wave of women’s marches against Trump and the things he represents: greed, bigotry, sexism, and an old-fashioned Republican hatred of public service.
The Women’s March was the first sign that this new movement was not going to be drawn into dark fields of negativity or the politics of personality. Its anti-Trump hostility was matched by the positive vision of a world we can still call into being. Its anger was accompanied by an even feeling of love: love for one another, love of country, love of humanity, love for the planet.
And yes, the Women’s March in Washington was larger than Trump’s inaugural crowd – three times as large, according to scientists. Overall, the Washington Post concluded that between 3.2 million and 5.3 million people marched in the United States (its best guess was 4,157,894), and that an additional 307,275 people attended 261 global marches in places like Nairobi, Sydney, Athens, Moscow, Tokyo, Antarctica, and Zimbabwe.
Anti-corruption protests took place during Senate hearings the following Tuesday. Then came the spontaneous demonstrations against Trump’s first attempt at a Muslim ban in airports around the country, starting with New York’s JFK airport. The pro-Muslim marches that followed, including the one I attended at the White House, were moving expressions of solidarity with a beleaguered religious minority – one of several minority groups Trump has targeted for persecution. (Like many people, I especially appreciated this placard, which is as unprintable as it is heartwarming.)
Two weeks after the resistance first appeared, it had already surpassed Trump in popularity, with a sixty percent approval rating that outstripped both Trump’s and the tea party’s at a similar moment in its history. But the movement was just getting started. Republican members of Congress like Michigan’s Dave Trott were confronted by furious constituents during February’s congressional recess, as concerted activism blocked the GOP’s first attempt at passing that lethal giveaway to rich people known as “Trumpcare.”
The next major milestone is the April 29 Climate March in Washington DC. And the movement has elections on its mind. “Elections matter,” as Nina Turner told participants in an Our Revolution webcast this week, “from the school house to the White House.”
Opposition to Trump will not be enough to carry these candidates to victory. In an era when so many people are struggling to survive, it will take a hopeful vision to break big money’s political power. Hatred and anger will not mobilize the base or bring persuadable voters around. It may sound trite, but it’s as true today as it was when Marvin Gaye first sang it from a million radios: only love can conquer hate.
The “resistance” name is a badge of honor. Resistance leaders in nations like France, Spain and Europe’s Third World colonies paid for their service with years in prison or exile, and often with their lives. It is not a word to be used lightly, and it cannot be earned without hard work and sacrifice.
There were those who tried to claim leadership of the resistance for the corporate-funded wing of the Democratic Party in the weeks after Trump’s election, usually from positions of privilege and power. Their goal was to focus its attention solely on Donald Trump’s negative qualities, without addressing the underlying structural flaws in our democracy. They would have been wise to remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi. “A non-violent revolution is not a program of seizure of power,” Gandhi said. “It is a program of transformation of relationships, ending in a peaceful transfer of power.”
Perhaps the most hopeful aspect of the new resistance movement is in the relationships it has transformed, the communities it has formed and strengthened, the many people it has called into service.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that this country needs “a radical revolution of values.” It’s heartening to see the anti-Trump resistance move so quickly toward that revolution, toward an affirmative vision that rejects the limited political choices of the past and demands broader horizons of possibility. If it holds to those high-minded ideals, we may remember the past 100 days as a turning point in our history.