The Civic Upswell

Eric Liu has a piece in The Atlantic that looks at the civic upswell that’s happened in response to Trump. It’s overall encouraging, celebrating that “people are exercising both power and character.” It’s optimistic in a dark time.

This line is something I might be skeptical of:

“The surge will likely outlast his presidency. Americans today are rushing to make up for decades of atrophy and neglect in civic education and engagement.”

Let’s say something – Russia, lying about what he knew, corruption, emoluments, being certifiably crazy – forces Trump from office, either with impeachment or resignation or removal under the 25th Amendment, Section 4. In that case, Mike Pence would become president. Pence is just as extreme a conservative as Trump, if not more. However Pence speaks the language of civil governance. He doesn’t tweet crazy things. He sounds like any other politician.

My fear is that even if Trump is removed from office (which I want to see happen!), the removal of the tangibly insane thread from conservative governance would quell the popular civic outpouring that is currently taking place.

Pence would feel normal, even if he still pursuit draconian immigration/deportation policies, gutted social programs and took a bellicose posture towards Iran, China or Russia. The normality, the leveling-down of extreme policies by the press because of being more normal than Trump, would be a cold splash of water on the current civic upswell.

It would be up to us as organizers to keep it going, but it would be far less self-sustaining and require even more coherent, intentional organizing.

2 thoughts on “The Civic Upswell

  1. The “surge” is only partially about Trump – what it is really about is the reaction to the implementation of the Republican agenda for America – tax cuts for the rich, deregulation for the fossil fuel industry and Wall Street (among others), a savage reduction of anything that benefits Americans in the lower 50% of the income brackets and hostility to immigrants and people of color. Imagine if Hillary had won – the Republican Congress would have blocked every initiative and Supreme Court nominee and people would have shrugged and said “it’s the same old politics”. Now we have a chance to implement the California solution – vote the Republicans out of every office and regain control of the House and Senate. Not because of a sentimental attachment to the Democratic Party, but because once the Republican program goes from rhetoric to implementation, people will experience how devastating it is to there lives. So I say worse is better and let the engagement begin.


    1. I think we have a really long way to go before the California solution is implemented nationwide. I think it’s far more likely in the near term that the inverse happens and Democrats continue to be voted out of power at every level of government nationwide.


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