Sunday, January 29, 2017

ANS -- After the Women's March -- what next?

And now for something different --  This is a conversation from Facebook about after the Women's March and does the movement need a name?   I am sending it because there are some interesting concepts in it about movements and winning and losing.  
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Sara Robinson

12 hrs · 

It's come to my attention that certain corners of Progressiveworld are putting a huge amount of energy into trying to put a name to the anti-Trump resistance movement.

I think this is a terrible idea, and a mistaken waste of valuable time and energy. Giving this upswelling a name would be hugely counterproductive. Right now, people are engaging where they are, how they can, out of whatever identities they claim. This thousand-flowers aspect of it makes us incredibly nimble and diffuse -- and thus hard to predict and target. Over the long run, it will be the source of our durability and resilience, as one set of groups rises to one challenge and then drops back, only to be reinforced by another set of groups emerging to fight the next assault on our liberties.

Naming things puts a handle on them that makes them easier to control. I'm sure a lot of leaders would like this -- but it makes us brittle and finite. It unites people into a single identity, which can be easily targeted and discredited. It encourages people to hand their power off to leaders -- who then fight among themselves for power, diverting precious time, energy, and resources. It makes us easy for the fascists to decapitate. It excludes people who don't identify with whatever stereotype comes to be associated with the movement, making it easier for them to opt out of doing what they're able to do.

I think it's a huge strategic error -- and no further energy should be put into solving a problem that is actually one of our great strengths. We will call ourselves different names at different times and places -- and in many cases, there will be no name at all, just a group that's taken on some battle as its own.

Let that be. Don't limit us by forcing us into the box of a common name. We're so much bigger and more powerful than that.

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Lorelei Kelly hear, hear!

Natasha Chart Believe in democracy. No one person or group is smarter than everyone else working at the same problem.

David Clow Exactly. This isn't a branding war and using a branding tactic only plays into the hands of the Trump side.

Sara Robinson This is a war within a larger war. The era that began with Reaganism in the 80s must end. For the past 40 years, we've been living with the free-market values that were central to that era's worldview. Branding was one of the ways people gained power in that model, so it's natural that people would reflexively go to that as a way of getting some control now.

But Trump's election was a major political discontinuity -- and one of the things that's breaking is that free-market model. Power will accrue and deploy differently now. Branding, in particular, needs to be discredited: it's the main source of Trump's power, and I think we've now seen the danger of that. 

You do not fight a brand like his with a brand of your own. You do it with anti-branding -- with masses of people who are acting out of their own identities, without handing their personal power over to that of a brand.

Guy Saperstein This didn't seem to be a problem for the Tea Party!A


Sara Robinson Two things. One: they DID lose a lot of energy due to in-fighting and schism over ownership of the name. It cost them dearly, in fact, as local activists were stepped on by pro organizers paid for by FW and AFP. 

Two: Despite that drain, it still worked out fairly well for them because they're conservative authoritarians, who will reflexively look to leaders. Being progressives, that won't work for us. We tend to destroy our own leaders, not follow them. 

Let's not provide targets for both our enemies and our own corps of bomb-throwers. Far better to find our own niches and do what we can within them. We'll get more done, be far more efficient, suffer less burnout, be harder for the enemy to detect and persecute, and lose far less energy to movement politics that way.


Cheryl Rofer Exactly, Sara! Thanks!

Natasha Chart We can't let these guys have a single target. They're very good at demonizing whatever we do.

Natasha Chart Also, when they end up going after individuals and small groups, it makes them look more like the petty tyrants they are.

Craig Belanger Well said, Sara. A brand or catchy name makes it look ad hoc when it's not.

David Thompson Well said. A national identity to Trump resistance will probably coalesce, but it will happen organically if we let it and don't interfere.

James Scaminaci III Modern social movements are held together by their common narratives and shared values and shared experiences. Sara Robinson is correct that we do not need an overarching name. Each movement has its own name. The current progressive movement has several movements within it and spans several segments. It also very geographically diverse. I'm off to a resistance organizing meeting in the reddest part of a red state. And the progressive is much larger than just being anti-Trump. This is largely a Republican agenda, not just Trump's mental eruptions.


David Thompson "...Not just Trump's mental eruptions." 

True. Trump simply tapped into, and fed, a movement that's been brewing for a long time. It's the same white Christian brand of regressive, repressive conservatism liberals been fighting since before the civil war. 

I, too, don't think this is a fight we can win by marching under the Democrat banner. The Democrats blew it. Any outrage from The Democratic Party will simply seem like political grandstanding and be met with coordinated resistance. 

Beating back this fascism is going to require more energy and genuine grassroots outrage.


Beth Corbin I agree in essence with you Sara, yet I see nothing wrong with referring to ALL of our collective movements as the resistance. Where our movement differs from the Tea Party is that WE are a TRUE grassroots movement. Dick Army and other conservative Republicans not only funded the Tea Party movement, but would clear their government offices to make Tea Party events look bigger! We must work intersectionally, because we are ALL under attack. When one group is singled out, we must all rise up in response.


Sara Robinson Absolutely agreed, Beth. But I think we'll be more effective at having each other's backs if we're not seen as being allied under one central organization, brand, or set of leaders. Today, it's NARAL's turn. Tomorrow, it's BLM's. The next day, the religious freedom orgs will need to step up. And each one of those orgs will perform faster and better if left to its own leadership, without having to clear things through channels. Especially since so much of this resistance (as we are seeing again today at JFK) will have to be extremely local, and extremely nimble. 

It will work much better if everyone works on a "you do you" basis. Yes, there will be toe-stepping; that's part of it, and I think that James is right that a shared narrative is far more potent at sorting that stuff out than any leader can be.


Beth Corbin Sara, we are actually saying the same thing! I don't want another "governing body" interfering with our grassroots work. Each group, NOW, NARAL, PP, etc, must remain autonomous, accountable only to their boards/members/supporters etc. But in total, we are the resistance!

Sara Robinson Exactly. And will last longer, fight harder, act smarter, and have more fun being so.


Jill Cozzi Naming things is also an easy substitute for actually doing things.


Cheryl Rofer Protests now springing up at major airports. Today it's their turn.

Bill Stewart A name creates a media target. Bad idea.

Pierce Nichols We need to have each other's backs but not take each other's orders.

Cheryl Rofer Here we go: Last Saturday was the Women's March. Tonight was the lawyers' night. Tax March and March for Science coming.



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