Trump delivered another rousing campaign-style rally, where fans both in the stadium and in their homes all over the country were chanting along and pumping their fists as he touched on the major themes of the populist and nationalist movement -- getting out of NAFTA, building The Wall, draining the Swamp, and on and on.
But what happens the day after the rally, or the week after? I asked this question in an earlier post last month when he held a rally in Youngstown, Ohio.
During the campaign, there was an action that all Trump supporters could take as a collective, and make their force felt by the Establishment -- "Get out there and VOTE!" Each of those collective actions at the ballot box delivered blow after blow to the GOP Establishment during the primaries, and finally to the Democrat Establishment on the day of the general election.
Now there are no more elections. The federal government isn't going to hold "special issue" elections every couple of weeks when a big topic like healthcare comes up, or even an election to determine what topic will be tackled next -- should they go after healthcare first, or immigration, or infrastructure, or something else (please specify)?
Without monthly plebiscites as a way for the people to participate, there needs to some other kind of collective action to take. Just because a large number of individuals wants policy X, or does not want policy Y, doesn't mean it will happen. Even if the government were mind-readers or had good opinion poll data, they don't have to do anything we tell them to, if they have a way of avoiding negative consequences from us.
This means it's irrelevant if Trump still has strong support -- the Swamp does not recognize "popular support" per se as a legitimate form of political capital, unless that support could make their lives painful.
I don't pretend to have all the answers, but it's what we need to start brainstorming, discussing, planning, and carrying out -- while excluding the gay embarrassment of the Alt-Right who destroyed their attempt at collective action. I'm talking about things that the attendees of any given Trump rally, 99% of whom are normies, can go do the next day or the next week.
Why is this so important in the Trump era, unlike Democrat voters under Obama or Republican voters under Bush? Because Trump's own party is opposed to his agenda and refuses to cooperate with him. As far as they're concerned, Trump came to Washington not with political capital but with political debt for having burned down their worthless do-nothing sell-out party.
That means Trump is unusually constrained in what he can accomplish single-handedly, even though he won a presidential election, and no matter how much he says the right words to his base. Bush, Obama, and every other President was not just an election winner, but part of a broader network of politicians and other movers and shakers who help each other out. Not only was Trump not a part of such a network, he campaigned proudly on that fact and argued for how great it would be if those networks disintegrated.
Unfortunately, that means that no one in DC will return his phone calls, carry out his instructions, or in general seek to implement the vision that Trump ran on and won with. It is easier for organized hostile factions to gang up on him and pressure him into doing the opposite of what he campaigned on (e.g. the junta from the Pentagon twisting his arm on war policy).
Still, it's not the end of the conflict since Trump does have a form of capital or leverage that no one else in DC does -- he has us, the tens of millions of citizens who voted for him. We are his only leverage.
If we were properly aware of who to vote for, and motivated to turn out again, we could eject all of the elitists and globalists from the government, and put populists and nationalists in their place. Suddenly Congress would treat Trump fairly and act more enthusiastically to carry out his agenda. Suddenly, Trump would not be so under siege within the Executive branch.
Trump represents none of the oligarchic power groups that jockey for control over the government -- not the Pentagon, not Wall Street, not big farms, not healthcare providers, not the media, and not the schools. They all have their own distinct forms of leverage in the struggle for power, stemming from the control they have over whatever domain they're from -- control over the military, over financial transactions, over food production and delivery, over health treatments, over the flow of information, and over enculturation of the next generation.
He is instead a man of the people, and his bargaining chip against those other hostile power groups is his ability to influence the collective behavior and action of millions, and even tens of millions, of ordinary citizens.
The oligarchic groups all desperately want the general public to butt out of politics, and Trump has a unique and distinct ability to turn the public loose on the political battlefield, and the oligarchs have no way to immediately shove the public back off. So that's quite a bit of leverage, if applied.
Maybe that means motivating them to turn out at the polling stations to determine the winner of an election, and maybe it means motivating them to turn out to the Mall in DC, where millions of citizens assemble to order the Pentagon to get the hell out of Afghanistan (and other places).
What is the RNC or the DNC going to do to counter-act our collective action at the ballot box -- rig tens of millions of votes? And what is the Pentagon going to do to counter-act a massive assembly demanding an end to our failed and wasteful foreign policies -- open fire on millions of normal citizens? I don't think so. They won't be able to ignore that level of escalation from the people, and will have to fold lest it get worse.
I'm not sure that Trump understands these power dynamics, although he must be getting pretty close to the same conclusion by now. He thought they would honor the electoral outcome and treat him like they would any other President -- but he's learning just how little they're doing for him and his voters, and how much they're outright sabotaging those goals.
But so far his response has been to try to shame them on Twitter, which does not work. Unless the tweet motivates his supporters to act collectively in a way that hurts the target of the shaming, the target will just blow Trump off. Again, he seems to be thinking that they either fear or respect him just because he won the election to the highest office, so that an admonishment from the election-winner will cause the target to change their behavior. There could also be a mindset carrying over from his long career as the dictator of the Trump Organization.
But left by himself, Trump has very little power to inflict damage on the enemy groups or individuals -- he needs his supporters to act as a force multiplier.
I'm also not sure that organizing from the grassroots level will do too much in the short term, since Trump supporters have been conditioned for the past two years to act collectively on orders from the man himself -- "Get out there and VOTE!" It is Trump who needs to rally his troops into battle, not the troops who need to organize themselves.
Over the medium term, though, grassroots organizing will prove more helpful -- especially if ordinary Trump supporters become aware of how little Trump can get done by himself, with every group in DC being so opposed to his agenda. It will feel like they have captured our leader, and we need to storm the gates to set him free so he can lead us again.
This view shows who among Trump supporters will be involved in that effort -- not the ones who assume that the Trump agenda is being accomplished, perhaps secretly, just because Trump won the election and therefore has enough power to do what he promised. And certainly it won't come from people who would be "rallying" all of 500 people across the entire nation -- no force multiplier there.
Maybe for the time being, something as milquetoast as signing petitions would be enough to get the ball rolling. "Recognize Antifa as a domestic terrorist group" has gotten into the hundreds of thousands of signatures so far, and Trump called them out by name at the rally this week. Once the petitions hit those numbers, it will be impossible for the information gatekeeper General Kelly to hide what the President's supporters are all riled up about.
Next up -- a write-in campaign or petition to the RNC demanding that Paul Ryan be removed as Speaker and some specific Trump supporter be put in his place?