A few days ago, Robert Reich posted a 12-point action plan “The First 100 Days Resistance Agenda” as a guideline and marching orders for progressives wanting to take action against Trump. It’s available on his website as well as on Newsweek.com and YesMagazine.com websites. We’ve featured it on our website under Strategic Plans and Guidebooks for Progressives – From 2017 Onward, and it’s provided below in its entirety along with the companion video.
Reich’s InequalityMedia channel on YouTube has an abundance of informative and captivating video presentations, including a video version of the Resistance Agenda. His top 10 most-viewed videos have collectively about 300,000 views.
Read the Robert Reich brief bio found at the bottom of this page and you’ll see why Reich is considered to be one of the most experienced, respected, and trusted voices of our day among those working for a more civilized and equitable world.
Rich’s 12-point Resistance Agenda is possibly one of the best organized and most comprehensive presentations of progressive thought and strategy. It’s considered to be one of the best plans to be put forth by progressive leadership in the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. election. It’s representative of the broader collective viewpoints prevalent among progressives today.
From my perspective, I see the Resistance Agenda as an itemized listing of just about everything progressives have done wrong in recent decades. It describes why progressives failed to win the 2016 election. It’s everything progressives must stop doing to avoid more loses in the future.
To understand where I’m coming from, please read “An 11-Point Action Plan for Progressives” which describes the basis for my assessment of Reich’s approach.
The following criticism isn’t really about Robert Reich. The action plan he proposed represents a collective mindset and strategy presently shared by many progressives. The following criticism is about the ineffective activism and social action approaches being broadly used by progressives and their leadership. Reich’s list simply provides a very good guideline for discussion.
Progressive Values and Goals
I’ve been a lifelong progressive. To me, being a progressive means:
- Promoting diplomacy and resisting war (hot or cold wars).
- Promoting sustainability and discouraging environmental destruction.
- Working for people to have safe working conditions and a fair livable wage.
- Creating a society that’s welcoming and supportive of minorities and others who might otherwise be targets of bullying or unfair treatment.
- Working for a fair, effective, and transformative justice system.
- Working toward greater funding for public education.
- Working for a more equitable, democratic, and inclusive world.
- Working against taxpayer money being used to fund the wealthy.
- Working for equal access to opportunity, which means equal access to education, jobs, and financial resources.
These aren’t necessarily partisan values or positions. There are examples of people from all political and social backgrounds advancing these causes. However, without a comprehensive progressive movement, I’m concerned these values are at risk of extinction. So, I’m concerned about anything that might erode the growth and effectiveness of a progressive movement.
Overemphasis on Trump
Before I get to each of the 12-points, I want to comment on a general observation. One of the pitfalls progressives have stumbled into is an excessive focus on reacting to the opposition.
Looking at the 12-point anti-Trump action plan on Reich’s website, I see in the side-bar of the website, Trump’s face as part of a promo for another video on the site, along with another video above it where the TRUMP name is in big bold print. For someone who advocates boycotting the Trump name, he’s repeatedly referring to it in his action plan. Again, this isn’t something that only Reich is focused on. Most progressives I know right now seem to have “I hate Trump” as their mantra and focus.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by someone we perceive to be a super-villain who is determined to destroy humanity and the planet. Yet, if our agenda is primarily focused on reacting to our enemy’s agenda, then we’re kind of being controlled by their next move. If we frame our agenda, goals, plans, and solutions around what our opponent is doing, we loose our own sense of identity and purpose.
I’m not entirely convinced that Donald Trump is 100% evil and the reincarnation of Hitler as many of my friends seem to believe. I think Trump has been vilified and demonized by misrepresentations that were invented by Democratic Party elites and propagated through collusion with the mainstream media. The resulting collective depression, hysteria, and immobilizing fear is excellent for increasing donations for the cause of ‘defeating the dragon threatening the village’ — but the basis for this narrative is not entirely honest. It’s temping to make up lies about people we wish to defeat, but when our repeated lies are exposed, our cause begins hemorrhaging.
An Hour a Day
Reich’s plan suggests that people invest an hour a day. That’s 7 hours a week — about 30 hours per month. That’s a big commitment, especially for the working poor. There are ways to integrate our activism into our existing daily activities. Purchasing from companies that use ethical sourcing would be an example of something that requires no additional investment of time. Buying from businesses run by women or immigrants, hiring minorities, providing equal pay to women, supporting local public interest groups — these are all examples of things we can do that don’t require 30 extra hours of effort per month.
As you’ll see from Reich’s whiteboard presentation, the progressives are almost exclusively portrayed with body language that’s sad, upset, mad, or defensive. Lots of frowning faces. This is an accurate portrayal of the stereotypical progressive. This needs to change. It’s not enough to simply change the ‘packaging’ and marketing materials for the progressive movement. Progressives need to be happier, more positive, more joyful. They need to be approachable, not judgmental. They need to be less insular.
Response to Reich’s Resistance Agenda
Okay, so here’s my response to Reich’s 12-point Resistance Agenda. I’m paraphrasing each title for purposes of my critique. The full 12-point plan offered by Reich is printed below in its entirety for reference.
1 – Oppose Everything
The first suggestion is that we get our “senators and representatives to pledge to oppose Trump’s agenda. Reject his nominees, prolong the process of approving them, draw out hearings on legislation. Call your senator and your representative and don’t stop calling.”
Here are a few things that I find problematic with this action point. (1) It assumes everything Trump will suggest is wrong. Trump has suggested we not go to war with Russia. Trump has suggested maybe we shouldn’t dismantle the ethics oversight for our legislators. Instead of opposing everything Trump suggests, we should be selective. We should oppose what we disagree with, but be very vocal in supporting what we agree with. (2) Any action plan which has a programatic mindless knee-jerk reaction to what our opponent is doing doesn’t inspire independent thinking, and can be perceived as mindless stubbornness just for the sake of rejecting anything someone says. (3) Prolonging the process of approving nominees doesn’t prevent them from being approved. It only irritates everyone involved, and results in voters thinking you’re part of the problem of stagnation in Washington caused by people not getting along and thus not getting things done. (4) The suggestion ‘don’t stop calling’ representatives is problematic. Such actions become annoyances. They don’t win our representatives over to our cause, but instead turns them off.
2 – March and Demonstrate
Depending on the tone, public gatherings can help build solidarity and raise a positive public awareness about issues. They can help show legislators that there is strong popular support for issues. Anyone wanting to be reelected will align with the masses. Those genuinely wanting to support and represent their constituents will convey their hopes and concerns. Large events can be a way to get free national media coverage, at least for a few seconds during primetime news.
That said, large demonstrations are hugely expensive and time consuming for everyone involved. They are like a huge gaping hole in a ship. While they may offer short-term camaraderie among attendees, and provide a little boost of morale, eventually people go their separate ways and return to their daily lives. The event is just a memory. If we had to choose, it would be better to have smaller local events and ongoing service projects to build long-term relationships. If the millions of people who attend such events were instead to donate the money they would have spent (often hundreds of dollars) toward a prime-time advertisement, the same outcome could be achieved for much less money.
For further reading, see “Big Trump Protests Are Fine, But Here’s a To-Do List for Lasting Change.” (Yes! Magazine, 18 January 2018)
3 – Don’t Cooperate with Federal Authorities
Point number three implicitly describes a time in the near future when deportation squads will descend on our cities, crashing in doors, to drag away and deport 11 million people currently in the U.S. without proper immigration papers.
First we must remember that “Obama Has Deported More People Than Any Other President.” (Source: ABC News, 29 August 2016) So, our previous silence, and now sudden concern about our undocumented neighbors will be perceived as politically motivated, and not the result of genuine compassion. Once we get a Democrat back in the White House, many of us will go back to business as usual, ignoring the fears and trauma of those being deported.
Rather than using immigrants as pawns to gain public support of our cause, instead we need to have ongoing meaningful support of immigrants that includes local community support for their real needs: education, housing, employment, and legal assistance for their ability to follow proper immigration processes. Having numerous testimonials and positive stories would help promote a positive public understanding of immigrants (legal and undocumented).
4 – Boycott Trump Products
Most people involved in supporting progressive causes are probably not presently playing golf at Trump resorts or purchasing Trump family brand products. So the suggestion that we start boycotting Trump products is irrelevant. It’s something we can tell our friends with great pride, “I’m boycotting Trump family products” but in reality it’s a meaningless gesture. Given that Trump is moving toward personally divesting from all his business enterprises, it’s a gesture that won’t impact him directly.
Usually when we boycott a company’s products or services, it’s a kind of political extortion where we are applying social pressure until our demands are met. In the case of Trump, our goal should be clearly written out so that when our demands are met, then we’ll start buying lots of Trump products as a reward. Without this part of the equation, the gesture is ineffective.
When people are pressured to do what we want, and the desired outcome is achieved in the short run, that’s not the same as having a transformative impact in the world. We’ve not changed anyone’s heart or viewpoint, we’ve simply threatened them. Progressives need to look instead for ways to created meaningful positive change in the world rather than simply going around threatening people until they reluctantly do our bidding.
Additionally, the suggestion to boycott stores that carry Trump family brands is too far reaching to be effective. The suggestion also seems uninformed. Most products can be purchased directly online from manufacturers. Trump products are available online.
The suggestion to boycott Trump family brand products also, has too much of a focus on the Trump name. Publicizing such a boycott simply amplifies the Trump name and brand.
5 – Letters to the Editor About Trump Initiatives
Once again, there’s a focus on protesting Trump rather than offering solutions. The Trump name is amplified. The public will read such things and conclude, “Okay, we get it, Trump is bad. Now what?” Solutions must be offered.
We need positive letters to the editor about progressive initiatives, policies, politicians, events, etc. that have nothing to do with protesting something that Trump is doing.
Again, the progressive agenda should not be an itemization of everything Trump is doing and conclude it’s all stupid.
6 – Talk About Trump on Social Media
Any social media campaign can’t simply be a knee-jerk mindless negative reaction to everything Trump says and does.
The approach that’s previously failed for progressives, and which will continue to fail, is the use of too much stick and not enough carrot. Too much criticism and not enough praise. In fact, there’s not a carrot to be found anywhere. What’s needed is 80% carrot and 20% stick.
What are the chances that Trump is 100% evil, and everything he says and does is bad? To claim this is dishonest, biased, and obviously politically motivated. It’s more effective to be honest and balanced.
Instead of spending 100% of our time criticizing Trump, we should instead be his greatest , most loyal and most vocal supporters — promoting the things he does that are compatible with a progressive agenda.
When Trump repeatedly publicly proclaims that the Iraq war was a waste of $5 trillion that could have better been spent on education, jobs, and infrastructure, we should create memes with that quote and Trump’s picture and cover social media with them. Not in a snarky way, but simply to genuinely support that message.
When conservatives across the nation were angry and foaming at the mouth over the transgender restroom issue, Trump got on national television with his family, and when asked about Caitlyn Jenner, he said something like, “She can use any restroom in Trump Tower that she wants.” He defused that issue, and said it was a complete waste of time. We should praise that.
When conservatives wanted to eliminate ethics oversight, Trump criticized that action, and he shut it down. We should praise that.
When Democrats wanted to ramp up the cold war with Russia, Trump instead defended diplomacy with Russia. Rather than using this to support the narrative of Trump being a puppet of Putin, we should have taken this as an opportunity to support Trump and advocate for diplomacy rather than war in all of our geopolitical relations.
When Trump appointed people to his cabinet that criticize Trump and hold progressive opinions that are contrary to Trump, we should praise that.
We’ve had many of these opportunities. We’ve consistently done nothing or the opposite of what we should have.
Imagine a child who gets punished severely when they do something wrong, and then when they do something good, they also get punished and their actions are misrepresented and spun as being something bad. This is how we’re treating Trump. It’s a dysfunctional basis for a relationship and it results in undesirable and unpredictable outcomes.
7 – Support Effective Opposition Groups
The organizations listed under point number seven are good ones: “American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Economic Policy Institute, Inequality Media, MoveOn, and others.”
Currently one of the problems that these organizations face is that they’ve fully bought into the “Trump is Hitler” narrative. This mobilizes people around fear and hatred of Trump with a belief that he’ll follow through with his campaign promises — much of which has been proven to be impossible. This unnecessarily diverts people’s attention from where the real threats are. It drains the collective public trust of time, energy, and money by directing those resources toward concerns that are unlikely to materialize. Rather than protesting and mobilizing people over events that haven’t happened yet, we really should be having a more accurately informed action plan. It’s wrong to keep the public attention by feeding the flames of their fears.
8 – Merchandising for the Resistance
Raising visibility is certainly important. However, we need to reexamine our mission. Rather than raising visibility for our anger, rage, and what we’re against, we need to raise awareness and visibility for a positive message of hope.
9 – Push Progressive Causes Locally
Hopefully this is what’s already being done. Reich offers this list for starters: “environmental reform, progressive taxes, a higher minimum wage, ending gerrymandering, stopping mass incarceration.”
We should do whatever we can to add to this list anything that builds communities that are organically and intrinsically supportive of progressive concerns and causes.
10 – Abolish the Electoral College
This point is for many people a knee-jerk reaction to the 2016 U.S. election loss. We didn’t hear much about abolishing the Electoral College prior to November 2016. So, a movement now seems like a partisan and politically motivated response. What if, after abolishing the electoral college, the popular vote elects someone worse than Trump? What will we abolish next? Democracy?
Rather than spending time and energy abolishing the Electoral College, we should be creating a society where whatever party wins an election, the people and progressive ideals will be represented and served.
11 – Reach Out to Independents and Trump Supporters
This action point is probably the most important in the list yet is made ineffective by all the other previously stated action points.
Independents, as the label suggests, are independent thinkers and don’t respond well to agendas that require lock-step loyalty to mindlessly rejecting everything one’s opponent says and does. They also don’t see a binary partisan world of good and evil, us and them, but instead they view a more complex world.
If you’re loyal to the above 10 points, how genuine and meaningful can a connection with Trump supporters be. Are you seriously willing to listen to a Trump supporter? Are you willing to agree with some of their views? Or, is it your intension to pretend to be interested in them so you can eventually win them over? Religious groups and cults have a friendly practice of evangelizing, but their real motive is to simply expand their numbers and move on to the next person. That’s not a genuine relationship.
Reaching out to Independents and Trump supporters needs to be genuine and sincere, without an underlying motive of ‘changing’ them. Imagine being the target of a religious group that pretended to be interested in having a friendship with you, only to later discover they wanted to convert you to their cult, or maybe you’re a gay person they want to convert to being straight.
12 – Your Idea Goes Here
This action point is tied with point number eleven in importance. More ideas are needed. New ideas are needed. Whatever has been done before, hasn’t worked. Not only has it been ineffective, it’s had a negative effect. It’s created (or not effectively resisted) the world we’re living in today. Insert long list of problems here ______. A completely new approach is needed.
We desperately need unified national leadership to provide vision and a multi-point action plan, but that plan needs to be as focused and fact based as possible. The agenda needs to be based on hopes, not fears, not anger.
To My Conservative Friends
At the outset of this article, under the heading Progressive Values and Goals, I list what I feel are core values and goals of progressivism. As you’ll probably agree, these values and goals aren’t entirely inconsistent with a conservative agenda. Working-class conservatives don’t really want war, except for the few who work for defense contractors. We all want equal access to quality education for future generations. Conservatives want to preserve our natural wilderness habitats — perhaps for hunting rather than bird watching and hiking, but everyone, regardless of political alignment, sees the value of preserving the environment.
Most of what we argue about as liberals and conservatives are petty criticisms and accusations, or differences regarding the means used to reach the same ends. We argue over gun control, but all want greater safety for everyone.
Sensible, peaceful, and reasonable people, liberals and conservatives alike, need to work together to achieve the outcomes and goals that we all share.
I think you’ll find what’s proposed here will not hinder conservative ideals, but will instead help foster better understanding and win-win alliances. I’d be happy if you were willing to share it with some friends.
Article Readership and Feedback
This article will likely have limited readership. It’s primarily directed to progressives, although some conservatives may also end up reading it. At a time when people are quick to be defensive and blaming others, it’s difficult to offer critiques and advice that people will accept and respond to. My hope would be to reach some progressives with this message. Feel free to share it with others.
I’ll reach out to Robert Reich for his feedback. I like to do that out of courtesy whenever an article I write relates to someone or their work.
My hope is to let this document inspire some discussion and conversation among me and my circle of friends.
As with all my writings, I’ll incorporate corrections and additions based on feedback from readers.
The map below shows recent visitors to this page as of 8:47 PM CT, prior to any promotion of the article.
The Resistance Agenda
The text below is provided for purposes of reference for the above commentary. It’s the Resistance Agenda proposed by Robert Reich.
The First 100 Days Resistance Agenda
Trump’s First 100 Day agenda includes repealing environmental regulations, Obamacare, and the Dodd-Frank Act, giving the rich and big corporations a huge tax cut, and putting in place a cabinet that doesn’t believe in the Voting Rights Act or public schools or Medicare or the Fair Housing Act.
Our 100 days of resistance begins a sustained and powerful opposition. Here’s what you can do (it will take about an hour of your time each day):
1. Get your senators and representatives to pledge to oppose Trump’s agenda. Reject his nominees, prolong the process of approving them, draw out hearings on legislation. Call your senator and your representative and don’t stop calling.
2. March and demonstrate. The Women’s March on Washington will be the day after the Inauguration. There should be “sister” marches around the country. And then monthly marches against hate. Keep the momentum alive and keep the message going.
3. Make your city and state sanctuaries that won’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities in deporting undocumented immigrants, especially people who have been here since they were very young.
4. Boycott all Trump products, real estate, hotels, resorts, everything. And then boycott all stores (like Nordstrom) that carry merchandise from Trump family brands.
5. Write letters to the editor of your newspaper and op-eds, with a steady flow of arguments about the fallacies and dangers of Trump’s First 100 Day policies and initiatives.
6. Contribute to social media with up-to-date daily bulletins on what Trump is up to, and actions in your region in opposition.
7. Contribute to the most effective opposition groups. The American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Economic Policy Institute, Inequality Media, MoveOn, and others.
8. Make the resistance visible with bumper stickers, lapel pins, wrist bands.
9. Push progressive causes at your state and local level – environmental reform, progressive taxes, a higher minimum wage, ending gerrymandering, stopping mass incarceration. Make your state a model of what the federal government should do.
10. Start a move in your state to abolish the electoral college by committing your state’s electors to vote for the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote.
11. Reach out to independents and even Trump supporters who agree with this agenda, and get them involved.
12. Your idea goes here. Meet with family and friends this weekend, and decide what you’ll contribute.
The First 100 Days Resistance Agenda. An hour a day. Send a powerful message. We aren’t going away.
The Resistance Agenda Video
Robert Reich Brief Bio
ROBERT B. REICH is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fourteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock“, “The Work of Nations,” and “Beyond Outrage,” and, his most recent, “Saving Capitalism.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, INEQUALITY FOR ALL. (Source: RobertReich.org)
I’m thankful for the work done by Robert Reich and his organization as well as other hard working and visionary leaders of the progressive movement.