INDEED, MANY AMERICANS—not just liberals and progressives—view the prospect of four years of Donald Trump in the White House as frightening. He has already inflicted much suffering on vulnerable Americans, and more pain is in the offing. It is uncharted territory. Nobody has a clear road map. But the upsurge of protest in the streets and political activism in the precincts is promising—not only to win back the House next year and put a progressive Democrat in the White House in 2020, but also to build an ongoing movement for change.
Containing Trump, and using that energy to rebuild a persuasive progressivism, is a challenge unlike any other we’ve faced. Looking back on a century of organizing, there were periods when large numbers of ordinary people were mobilized for years, even for decades. But the struggles to build unions, the anti-war movement of the 1960s, and the fights for civil rights, women’s rights, disability rights, LGBT rights, and environmental justice were each about a reasonably well-defined project with concrete objectives.
The movement to resist Trump is in a whole other category. Its goal is nothing less than to save American democracy, and then to use that mass mobilization to resume the project of creating a humane America that is more like social democracy than corporate plutocracy. The challenges are on multiple fronts, but never has the need for solidarity been so urgent. To succeed, this movement will require a permanent increase in the level of popular engagement—a reinvigoration of democracy to save democracy.
The stakes have never been higher. Trump is too dark a threat to use words like “blessing in disguise.” The best response is to defeat Trump’s fake populism and his appeals to fear and bigotry by showing the world that the American people are more decent than he is.