America's proud tradition of political resistance is re-emerging again and Donald Trump is the target.
IN THE EARLY 1990s a writer for the New Republic magazine warned his readers of a "a permanent adversarial culture" in the United States.
Howard Zinn seized on this description for an updated edition of his book A People's History of the United States. He agreed that there was indeed such a "adversarial culture' - but it was not a culture to issue warnings about, but one to take strength from and to celebrate.
Zinn observed :
"Despite the political consensus of Democrats and Republicans in Washington which set limits on American reform, making sure that capitalism was in place, that national military strength was maintained, that wealth and power remained in the hands of a few, there were millions of Americans, probably tens of millions, who refused, either actively or silently, to go along. Their activities were largely unreported by the media. They constituted this "permanent adversarial culture."
In a chapter titled 'The Unreported Resistance' Zinn writes:
"As the United States entered the nineties, the political system, whether Democrats or Republicans were in power, remained in the control of those who had great wealth. The main instruments of information were also dominated by corporate wealth. The country was divided, though no mainstream political leader would speak of it, into classes of extreme wealth and extreme poverty, separated by an insecure and jeopardized middle class."
Just six years after Zinn's death, America remains not only a country divided but, under the malevolent presidency of Donald Trump, risks seeing those divisions widened and reinforced. If ever America was threatened by barbarism, it is now.
But in response, and again largely unreported by corporate America, the "adversarial culture'" is beginning to flex its muscles. There is a growing recognition that the right wing populism of Trump will not be defeated in the quagmire of 'politics as usual'. Indeed it is 'politics as usual', represented by the arrogance and complacency of the Democratic Party establishment and its failed presidential candidate, that has aided the rise of Donald Trump.
America's "permanent adversarial culture" will assert itself on January 20, the day of Trump's inauguration. Most news reports suggest that there could be anywhere between 750,000 and a million people in Washington on that day to protest the Trump presidency. As well there will be the Women's March on January 21 and over 200,000 people are expected to attend that.
Film maker Michael Moore, one of the few to predict a Trump victory, says "We are going to resist. We are going to oppose."
A march organiser comments : “We cannot and should not legitimise the transfer of authority to a right-wing populist who has neo-fascist orientations. We shouldn’t legitimise that rule in any form or fashion. We need to build a program of being ungovernable.”
But, just as the New Republic writer attacked 'unpatriotic elements' in American society , we can expect similar attacks from Trump's bully boys such as Fox News and the Breitbart website.
They would like to vanquish the hope that lies in the "permanent adversarial culture' that,as Zinn writes, refuses ..." to surrender the possibility of a more equal, more humane society."
If there is hope for America, it lies in the promise of that refusal.
No political leader , regardless of their trappings of power, can remain legitimate when the people decide to withdraw that legitimacy. That's the point Zinn makes in his essay 'The Chorus of War':
"There is a basic weakness in governments - however massive their armies, however wealthy their treasuries, however they control the information given to the public - because their power depends on the obedience of citizens, of soldiers, of civil servants, of journalists and writers and teachers and artists. When these people begin to suspect they have been deceived, and when they withdraw their support, the government loses its legitimacy, and its power."