Monday, November 28, 2016

Responding to Trump: Mobilized Women, States’ Rights Advocacy, and Secession

Many liberals awoke the day after the election, assuming they slept at all, feeling that somehow they had been transported to an alien land that had somehow evaded the inevitability of civilization.  It will take some time to deal with this shock and come to grips with a new reality.  There were a few interesting notes on the subject of potential responses that appeared in The New Yorker by Ariel Levy and Jelani Cobb.

Ariel Levy’s piece is available online with the title Can Women Bring Down Trump?  Levy provides the advice and experience of Francesca Comincini who believes that she and other women activists were responsible for finally ending the political career of Silvio Berlusconi.  Berlusconi served several terms as Prime Minister of Italy and had a record of sexism and misogyny that even Trump couldn’t hope to match.

“Comencini pointed out that Trump and Berlusconi have a lot in common. They both amassed fortunes in real estate through questionable business practices. They share a taste for marble, extreme tans, and strongmen: Trump is impressed by Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein; Berlusconi was chummy with Muammar Qaddafi.”

“Both have a murky grasp on the concept of consent. (‘We don’t have enough soldiers to stop rape, because our women are so beautiful!’ Berlusconi said in 2009, commenting on new statistics concerning sexual violence. Trump defended himself against one of the many women who have accused him of sexual assault by sneering, ‘She would not be my first choice.’) Much as Trump complained that he ‘wasn’t impressed’ with the view of Hillary Clinton from behind, Berlusconi once dismissed Angela Merkel as ‘unfuckable’.”

Whereas Trump has only been accused of fraud and sexual predation, Berlusconi has actually been convicted on both counts (his conviction for having sex with an underage prostitute was later reversed).

Comencini’s advice for US women is to not despair at this loss, but to let it strengthen resolve.  Act, but act smartly.  She and her sister Cristina organized a series of demonstration in cities and towns across Italy.

“Berlusconi resigned nine months after her group, Se Non Ora, Quando (If Not Now, When), held its demonstrations, which attracted more than a million people.”

“’The rally was friendly, cool—like a rock concert,’ Cristina, a novelist and director, said. Like Trump, Berlusconi was a skilled manipulator of the media, with a keen sense of what messages resonate with his countrymen. The Comencinis strove to battle him with imagery as much as with ideology. They enlisted the Italian actress Angela Finocchiaro to make a video appeal to the nation’s men, asking them to ‘tell the world you don’t want to live in a bad fifties movie.’ They framed sexism and misogyny as not just wrong but lame.”

The Comencinis believes women in this country can also be successful and provide some advice.

“The sisters have a suggestion for their American counterparts as they prepare for the Million Women’s March on Washington, the day after Trump’s inauguration. ‘Do not make something against him, but communicate the idea that women are the nation,’ Cristina said. ‘This is strength—it’s there, it’s something that he has to face’.”

Jelani Cobb provided a note titled Post-Election, Liberals Invoke States’ Rights.  He opens with this lede.

“In response to Trump’s hostility toward immigrants, political leaders in New York and California vow to protect their most vulnerable.”

The fear that the rights of states will be trampled on by an overreaching federal government is usually expressed by conservative Republicans.  With the election of Trump, politicians in both California and New York have expressed the will to defy some of Trumps proclaimed intentions with respect to immigrants.

“On the day after the election, Kevin de León, the pro-tempore president of the California Senate, and Anthony Rendon, the speaker of the California Assembly, released a joint statement whose opening sentence—‘Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land’—perfectly summarized the disorientation that millions of Americans were experiencing. More important, the statement pointed out that Trump’s bigotry and misogyny were at odds with California’s values of inclusiveness and tolerance, and, the authors vowed, ‘we will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution’.”

“Charlie Beck, the chief of the L.A.P.D., added, ‘We are not going to work in conjunction with Homeland Security on deportation efforts. That is not our job, nor will I make it our job’.”

Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York issued this statement.

“Whether you are gay or straight, Muslim or Christian, rich or poor, black or white or brown, we respect all people in the state of New York.”

“It’s the very core of what we believe and who we are. But it’s not just what we say, we passed laws that reflect it, and we will continue to do so, no matter what happens nationally. We won’t allow a federal government that attacks immigrants to do so in our state.”

Cobb suggests that these are positions that should be taken seriously.

“Thirty-nine million people live in California—twelve per cent of the population of the United States. The state is home to the economic and cultural axes of Silicon Valley and Hollywood. Last year, its economy became the sixth largest in the world, a spot formerly held by France. Clinton beat Trump by twenty-eight points in California, and by twenty-one points in New York. Now the two states have triggered an uncommon development in a year that has offered us a great number of them: liberals invoking states’ rights.”

Cobb reminds us that we have been here before as a nation.

“In 1798, the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts increased the residency requirement from five years to fourteen before immigrants could vote, and authorized the executive branch to summarily deport immigrants who were deemed dangerous or who had come from hostile nations. In response, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, whose Democratic-Republican Party was favored by immigrants, wrote the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, which held that individual states had the right to nullify unconstitutional laws within their borders. They further stipulated that states had the right to ‘interpose’ themselves against the authority of the federal government.”

“Trump’s hostility toward immigration has taken various iterations, but the common theme is to rid the country of foreign residents deemed dangerous and to prohibit the entry of people from hostile nations. It would appear that, two hundred and eighteen years later, the principles of the Alien and Sedition Acts have sprung, with surprising vigor, from their resting place in history.”

It is not clear where this is going, but California and New York, assuming they are serious, have upped the ante considerably on any moves Trump and the Republicans might choose to make.  Meanwhile, it also provides a thread of hope to those who now live in greater fear for their future.

“The political leaders in New York and California have not yet proposed nullifying federal authority on immigration—they are only resisting it, in the service of the higher principle of democracy and inclusion. That alone can’t forestall the damage that a Trump Administration might do on the issue of immigration. But, for the millions of Americans, immigrants and non-immigrants alike, who also woke up last week feeling like strangers in a foreign land, it is as good a starting place as any.”

The two articles carry a similar message: Don’t despair; fight back.

There is another interesting development that could be worth following.  Consider this recent article: California secession initiative filed with Attorney General.

“Backers are seeking to get what they have dubbed “Calexit: The California Independence Plebiscite of 2019” on the November 2018 ballot.”

“If the initiative is approved by voters, it would force a vote on March 13, 2019, the election date for local, odd-year elections, on whether California should become a ‘free, sovereign and independent country’.”

“Signature gathering cannot begin until the Attorney General’s Office prepares a title and summary for the initiative. Backers expect to begin signature gathering in the spring, according to Louis J. Marinelli, president of the Yes California Independence Campaign.”

“Backers would then have six months to gather valid signatures from 585,407 registered voters — 8 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2014 general election — to qualify the measure for the ballot.”

This initiative predates Trump’s election.  One assumed it was going nowhere, but after the election one can only wonder how many Californians will see this as a means to express their emotions, if not their will.

We may be living in interesting times.

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