by Sakara Remmu
photo: Alex Garland, Seattle
I am a lifelong democrat, from generations of democrats. I am a progressive, liberal, black woman who has fought at each level of community and government, from the grassroots to the federal level. Emphasis and success of this work has largely depended on bipartisan efforts; Democrats and Republicans working together to get things done, from education to criminal justice reform, food access, housing for homelessness, youth violence, exploitation of women and girls, and the never-ending-underlying-everything anti-blackness and anti-POC practices, procedures, and policies that keep the fight relevant and necessary.
Not to mention the cultural and racial identity and history wrapped up in political party affiliation; cornerstones of the history and experiences, particularly, of African Americans. For as long as most of us can remember, it has been the Democratic Party that has stood for “us”- leaving the truth of that statement debatable. Nevertheless, generally speaking as progressives and liberals in America, no matter racial identity, declared devotion to the Democrats has been almost a requirement for anyone claiming to work in the interest of anti-oppression work, or to see the country become more equitable and accountable to the people.
Yet, if we stretch just a bit into history, that simply wasn’t always the case. The Democratic Party used to be the conservative party, and the Republicans the liberals, formed to push for the abolition of slavery- it wasn’t just Lincoln as the leader of the party making a declaration, this position, for which the country would go to war, was the foundation of the Republican Party- freeing of the slaves. It called the African slave trade “a crime against humanity and a burning shame to our country. These are the broad strokes of a complex painting of the history of party morals and strategy. The point is, parties change.
It has been said and written probably thousands of times: no one knew what Trump was going to do when he became President. In reality, no one believed he would do what he said he would on the campaign- the most controversial of all, banning Muslims from the United States based on their religion.
Instead we focused on the moral stain such an act would leave on the reputation of the nation, and surely, no President would allow for such a blemish to the land of the free. Instead we focused on the stunning illegality of such an act, with clear case precedent for decades. Surely no President would completely ignore that his Executive Order is illegal, from the introduction to signature, and didn’t some of us roll our eyes at the seeming ridiculousness of it?
And then we saw what happens when an Executive Order of this magnitude is immediately set into motion. Suddenly legal, American residents no longer had access to their country. Detained. Turned away. Shrugged at, basically. Watching it on television, seeing social media feed updates by the thousands every second, from across the country, and then across the world. Stranded students. Children separated from parents. The medically frail. American patriots. Members of the economic workforce. Political dignitaries from those Nations impacted by the ban.
From disbelief, to incredulous, to rage. Legal experts and advocates sprang into action. Protesters filled airports and city streets in solidarity, and because what else can be done? Constituents jammed their legislative representatives phone lines 24 hours a day.
Democratic elected officials condemned the ban. Republicans were more of a mixed bag, with support, flip-flopping, and outright dissent. The President of the United States maintained his position on Twitter, his immediate form of announcing decisions and of spreading disinformation to the world.
It didn’t take long for courts to intervene in the mayhem caused by Trump’s Executive Order. No less than four Federal Courts across the country issued stays against the order. Some of the people detained at airports were allowed entry. Others were not. And across the world, legal residents of the United States aren’t allowed to fly home. Most notably, after these courts issued their orders, Homeland Security, charged along with Immigration for enforcing the order, posted a statement on their website in defiance of the courts; they would continue to act in accordance with Trump’s Executive Order; every sentence, every word.
So he were are, in fully uncharted territory. Sure, Presidents do things that violate the Constitution and laws of this country all the time. Now we have a Presidential regime that has openly expressed its intention to defy court orders. The courts are (supposed to be) a required part of the democratic process. They can’t just be ignored. But in fact, they can. Power dictates so. We have seen it happen and we must believe with every fiber of our being that this will continue on every issue integral to the identity and purpose of progressive liberals.
We feel deeply, morally connected to our political affiliation; dem, R, indie, green, or none of the above. It’s almost sacred. Wasn’t so many years ago it wasn’t socially acceptable to ask a person their affiliation, or their vote on a candidate and ballot measure. Now it’s all we do.
In many areas where it matter most, the Democratic Party is powerless, not to mention rudderless. At the national level, where leadership matters, there isn’t any. There is no clear, implementation, offense or strategy, no uncompromising line drawn in the sand, no fight. In short, what has the Democratic Party done for us lately? Nothing. What are they willing to do? What have they demonstrated to us, who have fought for, donated, to, help elect and reelect? Not enough. Sure, speaking up is great. Vowing to fight is encouraging. But what is actually been done, and do they even have the power to make it happen- anything, anything at all- besides verbal expressions of dissent? The November election results by the simple numbers of who won and who lost at every level, suggests absolutely not.
Expressed displeasure at the actions of the Trump regime is not enough. Within 7 days of is administration lives are at stake. We are all in this system of American society, and being a conscientious objector is not enough. The status-quo democratic process as we know it has been upended and will continue to be so, and we have to do more than march in the streets; we have to disrupt the process at every opportunity. That includes party affiliation.
While Obama was President, the Republicans openly declared themselves “the party of no.” No to anything and everything Obama said, did, thought about doing, or was successful at. By all accounts, and probably to the detriment of tangible progress in some areas, Obama really wanted to be a bipartisan President. It was not within any realm of possibility against the Party of No.
With the election of the Trump regime, the Party of No is now the Party of well, many things, but in this case, the Party of We Don’t Care, Get Over Yourselves. They don’t care about facts, the constitution, the courts, the will of the American people, and, as an aside, arguably we should add in, national security. They don’t care. Get over it. They are going to do what they want to do, regardless, get over it.
This is going to trickle down to every level of politics, including states, counties, and cities steeped in the two party system. The Republican motto is, “we have the power, you don’t.” If you are a non-R, calling the office of a Republican representative, they are going to want to know 2 things; what district do you live in, and are you a registered Republican. Translation; they will be accountable only, in fact, exclusively, to their own. Our moral call for them to do the right thing will be written off without a second thought.
On the other hand, Republicans are also in a state of shock and seem unsure of how to react to the actions of their President and Party leader from one day to the next. Identified Republican lawmakers have backed down on pre-election condemnation of the President, and promises to hold him accountable. They side with him, duck the issue, or stay silent. Protect democracy and the Constitution, they are not. Thus far, they don’t have to. Their current constituency isn’t taking to the streets demanding action against the Trump Regime, the protection of the American people or national security.
Bipartisanship as a saving grace of politics is on life support, but in truth, it’s in a vegetative state and isn’t ever going to be the process we have relied on for so long. At the federal level, the Democrats do not have the numbers or political position to do anything to prevent Trump’s actions. The only people who have the power to do anything about Trump at this point, are the Republicans.
Conclusion: It is time to stage a grassroots coupe and become a registered Republican. Today. We cannot allow dismissal of our voices to rest on political affiliation. Voter registration is a piece of paper, it does not solely define who you are, and in doesn’t prevent you from the progressive advocacy you already engage in. In fact, Under the Trump regime, it strengthens it. This is the ultimate “change from the inside” strategic move that we as a people we can do right now, and all it costs us is the price to mail in an updated voter registration.
It’s time to adjust our voter identity, and force Republicans to represent us, and our dissent, with action in DC; the people in the streets is essential to the resistance, but it’s not enough. Not even close.
Disruption must come at every level, including within which political party we fight.