In 2012, I wrote a book about how the right seize power. It’s called Fight the Right. It talks about how the new batch of conservatives (U.S. President Donald Trump now being the best example) manipulate words and values to win.
Progressives like me believe in the power of ideas and facts. But progressives like me sometimes get tongue-tied talking about values. Conservatives like Trump – and Rob Ford, the Tea Partiers and the Brexit cabal – benefit from that. They know that the political brain is an organ fired up by emotion.
Voters think with their guts – and logic plays only a supporting role. Guys like Trump, therefore, always use the simplest words and the gut-level appeal. It works, obviously.
But that doesn’t mean we should give up.
That doesn’t mean we should become like them, either, and get down in the sewer. There are 10 things you can and should do to help oppose the global Trump/Brexit agenda – even if you’re a Canadian. They’re the 10 things the Tea Partiers, and Trump, did. You can make them work for you.
Grassroots advocacy works
That’s how the Tea Partiers stopped President Barack Obama so often. So take a page from their manual.
Start talking to other concerned progressives online. Form small, dedicated groups of like-minded activists where you live.
And don’t get into internal battles developing your policy agenda – simply have one goal: stopping the Trump/Brexit juggernaut, wherever it manifests itself.
It’s a defensive strategy, sure. But it’s what we need to do in the difficult years ahead.
Say you want to form a group to push Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to accept those seeking refuge from Trump’s bigoted executive orders.
So decide to form a group.
Identify co-founders. Email everyone you know ask for help – people like to be asked for help. Invite them to the kickoff meeting. Manage it. Decide on a name. Agree on principles. Get volunteers for specific roles. Communicate with each other regularly. And then get to work.
In the Internet era, where trolls sit in their pyjamas in their mommy’s basement and spew hate at women, Jews, Muslims and anyone else who isn’t like them, you need to do one thing above all: show up.
A tweet isn’t enough. A Facebook link isn’t enough.
In Canada, with those who are pushing the Trump/Brexit plan – like Kellie Leitch and Kevin O’Leary – that means peacefully confronting them on the stump or at their offices, and doing all you can to put their election or re-election in peril.
That’s what keeps them up at night. Show up and make them worry.
As the late American politician Tip O’Neill said, all politics is local. So give the other side a problem that’s local and isn’t going away.
Stall, then stop the Trump/Brexit agenda
I’ve run war rooms for the winning campaigns of Jean Chretien and Dalton McGuinty, and this is always the winning war room strategy: get the other side to redirect energy away from their priorities.
Mess up their day and their plans. Sap their energy and demoralize them as they seek to impose their reactionary policies on the rest of us.
Every day that you get them to focus on something that isn’t on their agenda is a day that you’re winning. If you have enough days like that, they’ll give up and move on.
Fight for every inch of territory, every single day.
Be what they aren’t
Don’t be like them!
The other side aren’t diverse. They’re overwhelmingly white, angry old men.
Do all that you can to be unlike them and reach out to others who are as concerned as you.
Be diverse. Be positive. Be like a modern, civil society. Be what the Trump/Brexit cabal want to destroy.
Your very existence, on an ongoing basis, reminds them they’re losing the war.
Confront the other side where they are
It’s like hockey: get up in their grill. Get up close.
That doesn’t mean breaking the law or alienating the people you need to get onside. It means organized, localized, energized advocacy – because the other side knows that takes more effort and poses a far greater threat to them.
You need to show up at town halls, public events and political offices.
Get prepared, get there early, get your people asking questions – and don’t give up the microphone until you get a straight answer. And make sure to record the exchange, so you can share it with those who weren’t there.
Reach out to media
Let the media know you’re going to show up. Let them know when you show up. And, afterwards, show them that you showed up.
Don’t assume the media is omnipresent, and is aware of everything you and your group do – there are now far fewer reporters doing far more stories. Help them do their jobs. Send them audio and video clips. Keep them in the loop on your activities.
And when they write about you, send that out to your people and others. It’ll create an outsized impact and that’s what the other side fears most. Always advertise your media successes.
Use social media as a sword, not just a shield
We know a couple of things about Trump and his supporters: they don’t like to be confronted with opposition or facts. And they use social media, a lot.
So troll the troll-in-chief. Push back, online. Don’t be angry and hateful like he is – use creativity and links and facts to drive the other side nuts
And remember what American political commentator James Carville once told me: “When you are punching the other guy, do it with a great big smile on your face.” It’ll drive him crazy.
Bombard them with social media. Overwhelm them with letters and emails. Suffocate them with an avalanche of targeted, smart, effective communications – repeating your message, over and over.
Use the tactics Trump so often used against his opponents: overpower them with words and images, and make it so they’re gasping for air.
Keep your foot on their figurative necks until we all know we’ve won.
Finally, remember this:
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Obama said that while he was still president – and never have his words been truer than they are now.
No fairy-tale impeachment is going to take place. No Trump/Brexit voters are going to magically come to their senses and say they were wrong to vote the way they did. This is going to be a grinding, tough war every step of the way.
The only way we can stop the forces of division and hate is to get organized, go grassroots and show up.
The only way we’re going to prevail is by being what the other side isn’t (diverse) and stalling (and then stopping) their hateful agenda.
Confront them where they are, astro-turf them, reach out to media and use social media against them for a change.
And, most of all, don’t give up. This will be a long war. But if we focus on winning the key battles?
We will win that war.
Warren Kinsella is a Canadian journalist, political adviser and commentator.