Like many of my fellow progressives, my first reaction to Barr’s summary of Mueller’s report is disappointment. The daily grind of enduring the Trumpocalypse is so draining that I hoped that the report would be unequivocally damning, revealing smoking guns that no presidency could survive. Instead, we’re watching Trumpists crow and the mainstream media in a position to potentially flub the story and echo RW talking points. Which narrative will win out in the coming days? The Trumpist narrative that the Mueller Report is totally exonerating? Or a fact-centered narrative, pointing out that Barr’s letter to Congress states that Mueller’s report does not exonerate Trump of Obstruction of Justice charges? Or something else entirely?
Will the whole report be made public? Will the Dems go all in on continuing to investigate what happened? If they do, will the public side with them or decide that Trump has been the victim of a witch hunt? Will the congressional Dems cave? Will the 2020 presidential candidates get stymied and lose their mojo? Will they pivot or build on the issues they’ve championed in a way that enables a Dem to win next year? Who knows?
2016 taught me that the problem is the make-up of the American voters, and the willingness of white Americans in particular to embrace Trumpism. Mueller’s Report needed to be a public revelation of indisputable conspiracy on the part of Trump and those closest to him in order to override the 45% of the American public that is essentially willing to go along with a white supremacist demagogic regime.
The truth is, we don’t know what the ultimate political impacts of the Mueller Report will be. Barr’s summary is round one of the post-Mueller-investigation period. And it has played out about as well as Trumpists could’ve hoped.
What I’m reminded of by this moment is the underlying reality: there are no shortcuts to building a majority of voters who want to change this country for the better. It’s so painful to be living during these times that I can’t help but wish for the events of the day to cast Trump out of power and bring enduring disrepute upon all his supporters. But I can’t count on that happening.
The only thing I can do – the only power we really have as progressive Americans – is to keep building a robust, grassroots political movement that fields strong candidates at every level of government and that turns out in big numbers at every election. That’s the work that yielded such success for Dems in 2018 – not just at the Congressional election level, but in state and local races all across the country. That’s the work that has built the Women’s March, the Sunrise Movement, the push for a Green New Deal, the Indivisible Network, and other vibrant and growing centers of political organizing and power. That’s the work that won elections in districts that went for Trump – in 2018, and in special elections across the country in 2019.
I don’t know if Dems will win in 2020. I don’t know if Trump will serve out his whole first term, or if we’re stuck with him for another 5 and a half years. I don’t know if the mainstream news media will fall for the same spin tactics that Republicans and Putin-sponsored propaganda peddlers have used to guide them before, or whether impressive journalism with the conviction to avoid being scammed will win out. I don’t know much at all about what will happen in upcoming elections, court decisions, or media moments.
All I know is that the kind of change that is enduring is the change that happens as a result of long-standing organizing, years of hard work reaching people, and learning to stay active in growing political movements at all levels of government. – All that those of us who share a progressive vision of America have any power to do is keep plugging away doing that work. That’s the work that not only wins more elections, but that also continues strengthening as a center of power regardless of whether we win or lose any given election.
There are no shortcuts. We have to stay focused on continuing to build progressive constituencies who are determined, who are in it for the long-haul, who are in it for the community and friendships and values that they make in the process, and who are determined to keep inviting more and more people to join. We have to keep building and organizing, keep training people and fielding candidates for school boards and state legislatures, keep marching and writing and calling and trying out experimental organizing and mobilizing strategies. That has to be a permanent commitment. We have to play the long game – the game that’s won by building an enduring and growing network of people sharing values and goals and voting in every election.
Some days the news of the day will swing the general American voting public our direction, and other days it will go the other way. That’s beyond anyone’s control. But a deep running, stable, growing, grinding political activism that keeps focused on core goals and outreach is what we have within our power to do. And in the long run, it works. It wins more elections, and it endures electoral losses more successfully.
I just reached out to the Sunrise Movement, and I plan to get involved. I also plan to step up my Indivisible work. This is what I can influence – this is the only control I have – over what I choose to do with my time and resources. It’s a long game – let’s keep building the team and playing hard in every contest.