A pre-election silence hanging over the Mueller investigation likely ends this week. With Trump’s Congressional firewall destroyed, the ugly endgame is about to unfold. For the resistance, all the energy poured into the elections should now take a new direction. We should concentrate our attention on the financial foundations of the Trump/Republican machine.
Trump’s clumsy attempt to place a partisan hack in control of the Justice Department signals both his desperation and his continuing ineptitude. Outsmarting a force of Idiocrats won’t be much of a challenge. Our challenge will be containing the harm they are willing to inflict on their way down. Trump’s loyalists will burn everything in sight to protect themselves from justice. Limiting the damage probably depends on bringing pain early to the right power centers. Timeless wisdom from the film Trading Places should be our guide in the days ahead: “The best way to hurt rich people is to turn them into poor people.” Attack the money.
No one should feel like their donations to Trump or his Republican enablers will escape notice. Everyone should understand that they will be held publicly accountable for a decision to deliver financial support to America’s Fascists. As Trump and the Republicans scramble to escape the consequences of their crimes, we should ensure that this fight extends all the way to their bank accounts.
Start now by putting pressure on businesses. It is a common practice for big corporations to donate to both parties, sometimes even to both candidates in a single election. Under normal conditions, companies care less about who wins an election than they do about protecting their relationship to the winner. These are not normal conditions. We have tools at our disposal that can strip away the cover from this practice and make support for Republican candidates radioactive. Those tools were deployed with great success against Iowa Nazi Steve King, almost toppling him in an R+27 district.
Corporations do not like to publicly “own” their political contributions. They’d rather not be spending that money in the first place. It’s a practice that developed as a form of insurance, only because the public never saw or cared about these payments. Land O’Lakes wasn’t giving money to Steve King’s campaigns because of their enthusiasm for Steve King. They were paying protection money to a local power-broker as insurance. Nobody cared enough to make the practice inconvenient, which also meant that no one in the public would rush to their support if they took a stand. We can change both dynamics, making it dangerous for companies to continue these mindless donations and also providing financial protection for companies that put themselves at risk to do the right thing.
As you might imagine, companies really hate having their political spending discussed in public. Attack that pressure point.
Here are some simple steps to take now.
– First, get our heads straight. Every step we take should be focused as locally as possible. Find out which candidates your employer is supporting. Find out who is supporting the most obnoxious local Republicans in your area. Take the most prominent companies in your area and drill into their donations. Work your way to national impact from the precinct up.
– Get connected with Sleeping Giants on social media. Their campaign has written the book on commercial activism.
– Spend a little time learning to use OpenSecrets.com.
– Using Open Secrets, Sleeping Giants, and other resources, start identifying major local supporters of the Trump administration and of your local Republicans.
– Start calling out those companies (and individuals’) donations on social media. Sleeping Giants has some excellent templates for this kind of communications. Be persistent and make sure others locally see this information. Connect with others locally and more broadly to coordinate your efforts. A local campaign with a few dozen social media participants can be a serious nuisance to a local company or politician.
– Finally, take your politics to the store. Brands that fail to distance themselves from the Trump administration should be distanced from your money. Be obnoxious about it. Everyone should know why you’re wearing Nikes.
Let me share a dirty little secret from three decades of Republican politics. There is no Republican ground game. None. Republican candidates have no wellspring of public support either financially or at the volunteer level. That was all demolished during the Roosevelt years. Republicans thrive on political apathy.
Democrats’ ability to get people in the street and attract a mass of small-dollar donation has always been the envy of the GOP. The Tea Party was a multi-million project of the Koch Brothers that took almost a decade of work to gin up before collapsing in a heap of racist paranoia. Republican politics has always had a weak appeal among people with the talent and initiative to take local, grassroots, political action. That weakness translates into the marketplace with enormous force. The vast majority of America’s wealth is generated in deep blue states by Democratic voters. Use that power.
Without a discreet lifeline of largely reluctant corporate donors there is no Republican Party. A popular campaign to destroy the legitimacy of donations to Fascists won’t dry up all of the party’s money. There will still be wealthy coal barons, religious nuts or casino owners who will shell out millions to elect Nazis. What we can accomplish by attacking the money is to deny Republicans access to legitimate lines of support. This will make life extremely difficult for Republican collaborators at all levels of our system. The same campaign that dries up corporate support makes it very difficult for someone to place their Republican activism on a resume. Not so long ago, a stint as a staffer for Steve King might have been seen by a hiring director as simply as time spent in public service. We can make service to Republican candidates a black mark people have to explain the way you’d have to explain a DUI. If Republicans had to depend on Fascist true-believers for support, not just in financial terms, but also for campaign volunteers, staffers, PR professionals, and every other form of infrastructure, they would change course very quickly.
Here’s an object lesson in how to wage this war. A racist jerk showed up to a polling place in Mississippi wearing a Confederate flag t-shirt with a noose. Someone took a photo and shared it. That photo spread widely. Said jerk lost his job. That’s how you fight a civil war right now and win without firing a shot.
Attack the money. If you have followed this blog for any time, you know you’re your author is a huge fan of markets. Make bigotry expensive and it will recede from public life.
The most dangerous period of the Trump administration is about to unfold. Attacking the financial pillars of Republican support offers a peaceful way to weaken Trump’s movement while we still have time for peaceful methods.