Simple Steps to Overcoming Trumpery: an Action Guide

16. Accentuate the positive

Take heart and continue to work for what is right, no matter how bleak current circumstances may appear. As Peter Leyden points out, this is probably just the darkest hour before the dawn. A distinct majority of Americans did not vote for Trump, and do not approve of policies currently being enacted in Washington.

We should not only think positively, but communicate positively. Publicize not only the administration’s atrocities, but the resistance’s successes in countering them — and indeed there have been some. We  must focus more on what we want to achieve than on what we want to avoid or get rid of. For one thing, it makes it less likely that we’ll slip into tribalism and combativeness. Notice that item number 10 is “avoid tribalism” rather than “don’t indulge in tribalism”. It’s a subtle difference, but many small differences add up to one big one.

And here’s where it gets really tricky. We want to put more energy into what we want to replace Trumpery with than on Trumpery itself; but at the same time, it’s  important to be informed about his outrages. Just be cautious about repeating his lies, even to denounce them. As noted linguistics professor George Lakoff observes, repeating his words just helps give them legs. Don’t provide Trump a free ride on the public’s train of thought. Discredit his outrages without quoting his lies. (President Obama was rather masterful at debunking lies without repeating them.) In fact, some people are refusing even to say his name, but are referring to him instead as 45. You must admit that it evokes far less revulsion.

17. Hold up the mirror

Notwithstanding the above, people in power sometimes utter phrases that make them sound very foolish. We all remember “I didn’t inhale”, “They misunderestimated me”, and “I was for it before I was against it”. (Sometimes propagandists distort such phrases — e.g.,”You didn’t build that” and “basket of deplorables”; or just fabricate them altogether — e.g., “I invented the Internet”.)  The 45 administration promises many such gems: “alternative facts”, “grab them by the pussy”, “disagree with the facts”, etc. Make sure they get repeated and circulated as often as possible. This is not you attacking politicians; it’s politicians attacking themselves. You just provide the hashtag.

18. Quell fake news

In one word, the key to Forty-Five’s victory in the election is misinformation. Voters relied more on bogus stories and silly rumors spread online than on real news and real issues. The term “fake news” came into vogue; and not surprisingly, 45 stole it and has been applying it to respectable journalists who dare challenge or criticize him (while himself maintaining strong ties to tabloid website figures like Alex Jones and Steve Bannon).

Actual fake news, however, is a deliberately false or misleading story presented as fact. It has had a devastating effect. And it’s still going strong. (One notable example: the claim that Obama issued a “stand down” order during the siege of Benghazi.) Because it’s very profitable — fake news gets lots of clicks that pay off handsomely for advertisers. So contact the advertisers you see on sites that carry fake news and urge them to stop sponsoring such content. In most cases, they will be unaware that they have been doing so, because advertising is arranged through a third party.

19. Greet the elephant — and repackage it

There has been a huge elephant hanging out in America’s living room for many years now, and it has really damaged the furniture. Because manipulators have been using it as an extremely effective wedge issue that persuades citizens to vote against their own interests. That issue is abortion.

Many of us make the mistake of framing abortion as a matter of a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body. But that has become, to an increasing degree, a losing proposition in the public forum. Because the manipulators have presented themselves a “pro-life”, and labeled pro-choice individuals as “pro-abortion”; and they have succeeded in redefining the debate as a question of whether it’s right to “kill babies”. When people are convinced that they are on a holy crusade to protect the sanctity of life itself, they aren’t terribly interested in hearing about women’s rights.

What we really need to do is emphasize that nobody thinks abortion is a good thing — and most certainly not women who’ve actually had them. We need to get the message out that you can’t ban abortion, you can only ban safe abortion; and that the only way to prevent abortion is to prevent unwanted pregnancies; and that “pro-life” politicians tend to enact policies that have the opposite effect, and increase the toll of human misery.

20. Keep your edge

Part of the 45 strategy is to bombard you with so many outrages and lies that you become numb or distracted, and just accept the new normal. (This is sometimes called gaslighting.) We must never allow this to happen.

Stay focused and stay outraged. This might mean taking occasional breaks from 45, and from social media, just so you can catch your breath and then plunge back in with renewed vigor.  And look for ways to make resistance fun and invigorating. The nation, and the whole world, are depending on you.


Further Resources

A couple of these ideas are borrowed from the book 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Fight the Right (Earthworks Press, 2006) which was written back in an innocent era when we figured Dubya was as bad as it could possibly get. Despite the title that hints at tribalism and combativeness, it’s still worth reading.

Srdja Popovic’s book is also worth checking out. The title alone should tell you that: Blueprint for Revolution; How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Just Change the World.

No Labels is a timely movement that encourages people to overcome their differences and work toward common goals.

Professor Lakoff is an expert on framing, and his book Don’t Think of an Elephant is required reading. And his blog is informative and stimulating.

An evolving Resistance Manual is available free online.

Indivisible is another useful guide you can download.

Swing Left is a movement dedicated to breaking up the Republican monopoly by targeting swing districts.

Dan Rather has a new website, News and Guts, to counter fake news and “alternative facts”.


  1. Good to see your recommendations for how to overcome “Trumpery.”
    Personally, my own preferred way to express activism is to write and write, to all the local newspapers, politicians, pundits, and news outlets like CNN and MSNBC. The area I live in does often include organized protests on a much smaller scale than those in larger cities, and we also have many citizens who are not now, nor ever were, Trump supporters. But what I often find frustrating is that the local newspapers seldom allow letters of opinion to exceed 300 words, so I can often provide only a very general outline of my views, which should contain more facts and figures that can be verified in order to give them clout. I don’t believe this limitation is the newspaper’s fault, because short letters make for opinion pages containing more letters than do those with high word limits. Yet when I am only allowed a bare-bones reply, to me, I might as well be reduced to saying something like, “Trump very bad man.” Which I hear Stephen Hawking’s uttered about him, partly to be satirically cheeky in response to the mentality of Trump and his supporters. That’s a good reply in itself, but sadly does not include many facts and figures, or even a decent slew of adjectives.

    I do think you’re right about the fascist elements in Trump’s administration, as well as the glaring conflicts of interests which are bound to exists concerning his various appointees. Then there is the fact that some nominees apparently know very little about the Posts they have been nominated to fill. The Department of Education Secretary (you know, what’s her name), reportedly has never attended a public school and home schooled her own children. So at the very least, she’d be a cabinet member who would most likely attempt to replace the public school system with a bunch of private ones, (as long as they have “the freedom,” to teach their students about Jesus). So, she Is about the most absurd choice possible. Then there’s Trump’s choice for head of the EPA, who flat out denies that climate change exists, as well as his choice of a billionaire oil executive to serve as secretary of State? In the face of such lunacy, many of us (not just liberals) commonly display puzzled looks on our faces and seek assurances from our friends that what we are seeing with our own eyes is really happening, while Trump’s surrogates on various news broadcasts, have been given the daunting daily task of making ugliness and stupidity sound normal.

    As far as social media goes, its sometimes truly laughable to glance at the list of recent comments posted on the forums in News outlets like Media Matters, and not just break out in laughter, as one reads one childish taunt and insult after another used mostly to vent a writer’s frustrations, rather than actually suppling a cogent position to be debated. The only trouble is that, almost everyone who tries to explain their positions eventually becomes frustrated and angry, and even the most well-meaning of us, keeps slipping up by answering with insults—thus making our comments a completely fruitless endeavor.

    Your suggestion to bug the media is something I have been doing for a long time. But, one can hardly include enough information in a 250 or 300-word letter to adequately express one’s own opinions. Consequently, I have been sending more informed letters made specifically for the perusal of opinion page editor and those who worked for particular news outlets. I have sent many debunking the views expressed by AGW deniers, along with a polite reminder that I only hope they can read my letters when they have the chance to, and that they are not obligated to answer them in any way—as well as the fact that my letters are not meant for publication. My feeling is that most opinion page editors and the higher ups working in most of our newspapers, are not denying global warming out of spite, or for political reasons—they have merely been convinced that the existence of AGW is not a fact, and therefore, remains a topic that needs to be vigorously debated. It’s just too bad more of them don’t realize that we have been vigorously debating this issue for many years, and have not gotten anywhere—due to the very well-funded campaign of denial run by big coal and oil, via artful deniers and Republican think tanks. However, the scientific consensus simply regards the basic facts that global warming exists, and that man is its primary contributor. But, as in any field of scientific study, climate scientists are always going to be challenged with different pertinent questions to answer—unfortunately, we have been debating the basics with deniers for more than three decades, and as long as any small peripheral issue is presented as a major rebuttal of AGW, we have apparently been expected to keep on “discussing,” the issue for many more decades—while more and more damage to the climate is being done. The editors and reporter for many news outlets, remain unaware that this kind of endless uncertainty is precisely the result that big oil and big coal want us to be caught up in—because even doubts about a peripheral issue can be quickly used to criticize distinguished PhDs worldwide (who come from many different political systems, religions, and social or ethnic backgrounds) yet all agree that AGW does exist, and that human beings are its primary cause. My wife and I are both disabled and so it’s hard to physically attend rallies and protests, but we are doing everything else we can.

    One thing I have got to say, so as not to present myself as a “liberal drone,” is that I don’t think Trump likes to attack and/or rape women—I see him as an alpha male with a jock achiever’s mentality who never really grew beyond that stage of development. In the old school he comes from, men typically like to brag about their sexual conquests in the locker room, and women have been seen primarily as objects of men’s desires. So gross as he may be, he is probably that way from following the unspoken macho playbook that so many men read and share. Yes, its wrong, but it’s a far cry from being a wanton rapist, or someone who attacks and hates women.

    In a larger sense though, what is truly upsetting is the way our American electorate can be so easily swayed by any candidate who promises to create jobs and put money in their pockets—even at the exclusion of everything else.

    What exactly does make so many people accept a man of such obvious low and immature character? —perhaps the fact that he’s perceived as the good dude standing up for the average forgotten man—one who just wants a job and a means to provide for his family. In this light, electing a President who has insulted disabled reporter, offered to pay the legal bills of any supporter who punches anti-Trump protesters in the nose, stated that he likes hero’s that don’t get caught, insults the family of a fallen war hero, insults women, wants to deny illegal aliens the chance to stay with their families, says only HE can beat ISIS since he knows more than our generals, and refuses to admit the many times he had been wrong, etc. etc. etc.—somehow became acceptable?

    I could go on forever, but I think the most crucial issue with Trump is that he won votes on the basis of promising American’s jobs while adhering to a chauvinist right wing sense of self-righteous Superiority! I can’t help but be reminded of a statement I have heard often, but cannot verify the origin of—an outsider asked German citizens after WWII why they were coaxed into following someone as evil as Hitler? One citizen answered quite simply, “The trains ran on time.”

    What moral price are we willing to pay, just to have a President create jobs and defend “us first” policies which frequently have negative results. How much do we really need financial security, without requiring that our elected official also display a modicum of morality and ethical behavior? Would we rather have the trains run on time, work jobs minus living wages, permit our children to be educated to reject science, allow employers not to provide safe work places, deny health care to those who are too poor to afford it, or hold a superior attitude about ourselves just because we were smart enough, not to go broke? –etc. etc.

    Remember that in Nazi Germany the trains did run on time, but they also made regular stops at Dachau, and Buchenwald. So how much are we willing to risk for the opportunity to receive long awaited economic benefits while sacrificing our own human dignity—without even caring if our leaders strive to act morally as parts of the human race? Is there really any reason not to support a candidate who displays morality as well as a sound path to economic progress?

  2. I found that it was Mussolini who was given credit for making the trains run on time, However, I don’t know if he originally said it. However, HItler could just as well represent a greedy Fascist who sought to win over the public by pointing to supposed improved efficiencies like this, none of which has anything to do with the spiritual ethics of a Nation.

    Hitler—Mussolini—apples to oranges I guess.

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