By Benjamin Yee
The ascension of Donald Trump changed America in a political instant, upending everything we knew about politics and elections, and ushering in new societal norms that overtook the American psyche. Anyone outside of Trump’s vision of a “Great” America stood demoralized, paralyzed, and anxious for what lay ahead.
I’ve been a grassroots organizer since 2007, working with galvanized Americans to catapult Barack Obama to the presidency. That progressive passion exists today among Democrats looking to pick up the pieces following an unexpected Republican victory. In mere months, thousands of grassroots groups have arisen nationwide to become the vanguard of resistance. From your neighbor, to experienced organizers, everyone is finding an avenue to activism.
Groups like Indivisible and Our Revolution are at the forefront of reforming the progressive agenda and engaging those previously disconnected. However, long-term victory requires targeted engagement to reorient the scattered Democratic Party and funnel today’s energy into tomorrow’s electoral victories.
First, the Democratic Party, which is adrift, needs to hear from its base: Unknown to most, the Democratic Party is composed of committees controlled by elected volunteer leaders. As one of those leaders, I have made it my mission to help educate a new base to lead the Party and reconnect it with voters.
Second, victory: While the myriad actions taken everyday are important, we must remember that this is the beginning. If you look at an electoral map of the U.S., you’ll see that most Congressional Districts are Republican, due to the Republican control of states in 2010. Ultimately, a representative Congress requires a Democratic presence in state legislatures. That fight has already begun. In 2017, we will see New Jersey and Virginia State elections, which will determine their governments for redistricting in 2020. 2018 will cover every other state, in tandem with Congressional midterms.
On November 18th, I hosted one of the first post-Trump events. For seasoned organizers, it demonstrated how much America had changed. Initially planned for a turnout of 80, nearly 800 attended the two-hour event on creating electoral change. Since then, I have held workshops nearly every week for groups ranging from 30 to 300, from NYC to Westchester. Since November, nearly 1,000 people have been trained on our opaque political system and the basics of organizing.
Donald Trump’s America is different from the country we knew—chaotic and unfamiliar. But in that chaos is opportunity to forge something new. Here in NYC, with our people and networks, we can build the special forces of the organizing to come. It may seem insignificant, but when regular people understand “real politics,” it scares politicians. When volunteers don’t need training, but instead train locals, it expands resources exponentially, instead of linearly.
Today, efforts to oppose Trump are still scattered. However, by spreading knowledge of the systems and processes that undergird grassroots America, we can ensure the practical outcomes we want. If we do, the scattered fingers may work together as a collective fist.
Benjamin Yee is a Democratic State Committeeman. He represents Manhattan’s 66th Assembly District. You can learn more about him by visiting: benjaminyee.com.
This is a very well crafted message.
On Saturday, February 18th, I watched Trump at a meeting of his followers, which was an exact re-creation of his campaign rallies.
The Times asked why he was having a campaign meeting three years before the next election season. The reason is that he enjoys them; they are a unique pleasure to feed a cavernous ego.
It was a different Trump from the press conference the day before. At the press conference, he was uptight. He said stupid things; he was angry; he was stuck. He is an adolescent and we don’t take teenagers seriously.
But at his imitation political rally, Trump was happy. He was relaxed and he enunciated clichés easily. He was gracious to an adoring fan who he asked to come up and speak fulsome words of Trump praise.
Trump asked that the hated media turn their cameras on the crowd to show how large it was, that it was “all the way out to the hangar door.”
“They won’t show how big the crowd is, he said.”
The best weapon against Trump is not reason but flattery—he hardens to facts, melts at praise.