Don’t mourn. Organize!

There’s been lots of discussion about who should have done what this year and in the past. Too late and not useful.

What seems important and worth doing now is creating an organization devoted to fighting Trump and Trumpism now, in 2018, and in 2020. Alas, the DNC – dominated by political professionals with their own ambitions, hamstrung by faction-fighting, and focused on fundraising seemingly to the exclusion of all other forms of citizen enagement – doesn’t seem to be the right vehicle for that. What we need is an organization that can harness now the sort of energy that goes into the last two months of a Presidential campaign. That would usually be fool’s errand, but there’s a deep well of anger and despair out there that could be tapped and turned to good purpose.

I imagine a group of with monthly dues, constant activities, and a social dimension: it’s hard to keep people engaged unless they see others so engaged face-to-face and share meals with them.

No, I don’t know who’s going to lead that organization; the obvious candidate seems to be Barack Obama, with his huge net positive job rating, but if anyone knows his plans I haven’t been let in on the secret.

But it strikes me that I can get a start, and so can anyone with a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, an email address book, or just a group of friends. We can ask everyone we know to sign up in advance for the Democratic Resistance when it comes into existence, and keep a list of the people who say yes.

Those with more imagination than I can probably figure out useful things we can have people do even before there’s a formal group. (I don’t count marching as a “useful thing;” your mileage may vary.) But it doesn’t take any imagination at all to suggest making the process snowball: everyone who signs up should ask everyone else he or she knows to sign up.

If this idea appeals to you – if you’re willing to devote time, energy, and money to creating a 2010-in-reverse in 2018, and throwing the rest of the rascals out in 2020, and in the meantime resisting the stream of outrages sure to flow from Washington, D.C. – please send me an email: markarkleiman (at) gmail (dot) com, and start working your own networks.


Update Twenty responses so far, only four of them from people I know. That seems like a good sign. Now, if each of those people signs up 20 friends who in turn sign up 20 new people each, in six iterations the group will include more people than voted for Clinton this year. Math is easier than politics.

Second update One possible early focus for such a group: electing state legislators in 2018 pledged to embracing the National Popular Vote compact for the 2020 election, eliminating the madness of the Electoral College.

Third update Now up to forty responses, still mostly previously strangers to me. In the spirit of biparisanship, I’d like to extend my warmest thanks to the President-Elect for appointing the chief of a hate-oriented media website to co-equal status with the White House Chief of Staff. That should help keep us focused.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

13 thoughts on “Don’t mourn. Organize!”

  1. Mark–I've read your post and also read Harold's and his WaPo opinion piece. Ordinarily, I would jump up and say "Let's start. I'm all in." But we've never before faced this new normality.

    It is not that my candidate lost or even that my party lost. It is that we are facing opponents who long ago abandoned any pretense of living up to long followed societal and political norms. Not only are procedural norms ignored (e.g., not holding the debt ceiling hostage, the use of the filibuster to require 60 votes to pass even non-controversial matters), but norms about how we address problems are jettisoned as well. Thus, we have a CBO that evaluates policy positions based upon wishes. The Trump appointed transition chief for the EPA simply doesn't acknowledge science. And, of course, in my chosen field, we have judges ready, willing, and soon to be able, to ignore the law and uphold injustice. (Imagine when, not if, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals is again faced with rank voter intimidation as it was in NC. We know that the outcome will be different and the intimidation will be ignored not addressed.)

    You are right, of course. And yes, I'm willing to "work my networks." I will write and cajole and speak and even organize. But today, November 13, 2016, my efforts will not be supported by the sense of energy and optimism that I had just five days ago.

    1. I'm troubled by "my candidate lost." We shouldn't so readily acknowledge that. How about, "as in 2000, my candidate won the most votes but was prevented by the Electoral College from taking office." Talk about a "new normality"!

    2. "…we have a CBO that evaluates policy positions based upon wishes." Could you clarify what you are referring to?

      If you're thinking of something like "The Long-Term Budgetary Impact of Paths for Federal Revenues and Spending Specified by Chairman Ryan" (, note this language: "Those calculations do not represent a cost estimate for legislation or an analysis of the effects of any given policies. In particular, CBO has not considered whether the specified paths are consistent with the policy proposals or budget figures released today by Chairman Ryan as part of his proposed budget resolution."

  2. Go to it. Not clear what non-Americans can do except to say you will have our support and gratitude. The first reactions from negotiators at the COP-22 climate meeting in Marrakesh are pretty firm: there is no sign of a "without the USA it's dead" panic.

    Mark ".. and in the meantime resisting the stream of outrages sure to flow from Washington, D.C." One sure thing is the scandals and infighting. We know a lot about Trump's management style, from his campaign and the TV show. He sets subordinates against each other, watches them fight, and changes them frequently. He has already appointed both Reince Priebus as chief of staff, and Bannon as "chief strategy adviser". I wonder how that will work out?

    There are, as in any political coalition, plenty of fault lines in Trump's. A normal politician – even a mediocre one like GW Bush Jnr – sees managing points of conflict as part of the daily grind. Trump does not. Ryan wants to replace Medicare with vouchers, Trump said he will protect Medicare. The oil and gas industry is quite prepared to let coal die. And so on. Trump despises losers, and will not offer consolation prizes. So the losers will leak to the press. It would be fun to watch, except for the stakes.

    Hashtag: #neveragaintrump.

    PS: The Electoral College is folly but not madness. The Founders knew what they were doing with their White slaver counter-revolution against democracy. Plan A – true indirect election – didn't work, but as things turned out the College reinforced the over-representation of small and rural states, which was almost as good.

    1. Oh, is that Bernie Sanders' organization? I'm pleased if you want to support it – good for you and all that – but it's not my cup of tea.

  3. It's hard for me to imagine that yet another organization nipping at the flanks of the Dems is going to strengthen anti-Trump activism. Both parties nominated staggeringly weak candidates this time, and on the Dem side the problem was partly that the Clintons had been playing the long game for this ever since 2008 and squeezed everybody else out. The Dems, it seems to me, need to move them out of any power role. But none of that gets fixed by a new organization.

  4. It's my instinct that "Rules for Surviving the Autocrat" is very much on point:
    Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization.
    Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
    Rule #3: Institutions will not save you
    Thanks for listening.

  5. Honestly? I'd like to speak out, but I don't think anyone will listen. This group you're proposing looks a lot like me, and therefore not a lot like America. We're too elite, too coastal, too intellectual, too rich, too white, and, to be blunt, too Jewish. I'm just afraid that this sort of thing won't break out of our own little bubble – if the force of the Clinton campaign couldn't do it, how can anyone?

    I wish you well, but for now I think I ought to cultivate my own garden.

  6. I’d like to extend my warmest thanks to the President-Elect for appointing the chief of a hate-oriented media website to co-equal status with the White House Chief of Staff. That should help keep us focused.

    It sounds like New Yorkers will be kept focused by the fact that the streets around Trump Tower are going to be closed off most of the time, as Trump lives there instead of where everything is set up for him. This is just insane. What happens to residents of the Tower who can't pass a background check? Will all residents have to go through full Secret Service screening every time they enter or leave their own residences?

    1. "That should help keep us focused." It's also very much the Trump style of management to set subordinates at odds with each other, focused on survival. Compare the Third Reich, the courts of the Borgias and Nero, or the yard at San Quentin. This can work for a short while, but it's no way to build lasting institutions, and requires a skilful and charismatic Leader to work at all. Cheney and Rumsfeld were horrible people but seasoned and competent bureaucrats. Trump's White House will look more like The Game of Thrones.

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