[This article first appeared on billmoyers.com on January 23, 2017. It’s the fourth in my series and you can read the first three installments here, here, and here.]
“It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our great strength lies…”
— Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)
Americans acting in good faith are destined to disagree on many issues of public concern. Colonists fighting the Revolutionary War couldn’t agree on much either, but they fought side-by-side for independence from foreign governments and the rejection of official corruption. Those two founding principles formed central pillars of American democracy. They still do.
Facts Are Stubborn Things
The truth is that on a critical issue, we are more united today than most people may realize, but not in a way Donald Trump likes. His approval ratings have plummeted to dramatic and historic pre-inauguration lows:
ABC News/Washington Post: 40% — Compare that to the three most recent presidents-elect immediately prior to their inaugurations: Obama – 80%; G. W. Bush – 72%; Clinton 81%
Every major poll confirms Trump’s dismal standing with the American people:
Trump famously ignores or denies the accuracy of polls that disfavor him, as he did in this January 17 tweet: “The same people who did the phony election polls, and were so wrong, are now doing approval rating polls. They are rigged just like before.”
That’s Trump’s “Three-D’s Strategy” in action: deflect, divert, and distract. Although pre-election polls missed on individual state totals that determined the electoral college results, they got the popular vote outcome about right: he lost by two percent compared to the final average of all pre-election polls that had him behind by three — well within the polls’ three percent margin of error. Giving Trump the benefit of the same margin barely moves the needle.
Former career pollster Kellyanne Conway and Republicans in Congress surely grasp the harsh truth. Already a historic popular vote loser, Trump is rapidly becoming a regret for many who chose him. As the Republican Party’s albatross, he grows heavier by the hour.
It’s time for Americans to demonstrate their unity, strengthen it, and mobilize.
TRP Unity Strategy #1: Unite in Opposition
Abandon the circular firing squad and look at the big picture: Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump played all of us against each other, and they’re still at it. Rather than continue an internecine battle over how the last war was lost, resolve to prevail in this one.
The disenfranchised American majority should stop squabbling with itself. Some Sanders supporters believe that party regulars betrayed them by tilting the playing field against their guy. Some Clinton supporters think Sanders people didn’t respond with sufficient enthusiasm to her nomination. Jill Stein and Gary Johnson voters think that neither party focused on the correct issues. All of them have a point. Acknowledge it, shake hands, join arms, and move forward together.
TRP Unity Strategy #2: Embrace Trump Voters
Most Trump voters are American patriots, and many are now having buyer’s remorse. Welcome them to the Trump Resistance Plan. Loyal citizens take differing sides on many social and political questions. Organized, issue-related, protests should continue in earnest. But unity in the defense of democracy is now a transcendent imperative for all.
TRP Unity Strategy #3: Search for Senate Help
Guarding against foreign interference in our elections and resisting institutionalized corruption in the presidency are central to preservation of the republic. If Trump prevails in his assault on those fundamental principles, party labels will cease to have meaning. Many Republican senators already understand that vital point, which makes them natural allies of the TRP.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee seeking the truth about Putin’s interference with the 2016 election. He and Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) are leading that charge. Likewise, Senator Richard Burr’s (R-NC) Intelligence Committee is investigating possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. Three more Republicans represent states that Hillary Clinton carried: Maine’s Susan Collins, Colorado’s Cory Gardner, and Nevada’s Dean Heller. And another six found candidate Trump’s behavior especially problematic, to say the least: Arizona’s Jeff Flake, Utah’s Mike Lee, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, Ohio’s Rob Portman, and Nebraska’s Ben Sasse.
Contact all of them – as well as the senators from your own state – and demand a relentless search for the truth. Write and repeat. Every week, send a message that conveys this central point:
On the January 8 edition of “Meet The Press,” Senator Graham promised to take the Trump/Russia election investigation wherever it leads, including Trump’s business conflicts of interest. Hold him to that promise and support his efforts.
With Democrats unified, it takes only three Republicans to deprive Trump of his leverage over the Senate. Then he’ll have to deal with those representing a majority of Americans who never wanted him in the Oval Office. Most Republicans in Congress will be reluctant warriors. But love of country and the encouragement of fellow citizens will help them do the right thing. Support the brave and bolster the wary.
Unity Strategy #4: Don’t Forget the House
The House of Representatives poses special challenges. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) heads the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that could follow the Senate’s lead. But Nunes was also on Trump’s transition team, so send him a message along these lines:
The House must follow the Senate’s lead in pursuing the Trump/Russia election investigation wherever it leads. Choose democracy over the defense of a dangerous president’s reputation.
Even better, give him a call or visit one of his offices. Contact his fellow Republicans on the committee. Encourage Democrats on the committee – especially ranking member Adam Schiff (D-CA) – to remain though and stand strong. In messages to your own state’s representatives who aren’t on Nunes’ committee, express your fear that democracy is in peril.
Unity Strategy #5: Shine a Spotlight on Corruption
Trump’s stonewalling with respect to his financial conflicts of interest undermines the institutional integrity of the presidency. But so far, that crucial norm of democracy has not found strong Republican defenders comparable to Senators McCain and Graham on Russian election interference.
Until a courageous Republican voice emerges, it’s up to Senate Democrats to keep the public focused on the issue. In questioning HUD Secretary-designate Ben Carson, Senator Elizabeth Warren demonstrated skillfully how pervasive Trump’s financial conflict of interest problems are. As Trump’s agenda makes its way through Congress, those problems will become ubiquitous and the spotlight on them must shine ever brighter.
Unity Strategy #6: Think Beyond Your Own Bubble
Regardless of party, support any member of Congress — and anyone else — who stands up to Trump in defending the two central pillars of democracy that he’s attacking. They’re worried about Trump’s branding skills and thinking twice before risking his wrath. That’s a testament to the effectiveness of Trump’s “Bully and Intimidate Strategy.”
As brave patriots step forward – especially those from Trump’s own party and others who voted for him – reward them and rebrand them: America’s New Heroes.