To: Justice-minded People and Organizations

Democratic Principles for Antidemocratic Times: Engaging Trump, Defending Human Rights, and Preve...

Join us in committing to the following principles for engaging with the Trump administration!

Why is this important?

The bigotry and false solutions championed by President Donald Trump are not a new phenomenon in American politics. Indeed, the idea that one person’s dignity requires another’s subjugation has been a central contradiction in this country’s founding principles and practices from the beginning. An economic system that enriches the few by exploiting the many has fostered savage rivalries. President Trump’s misogyny, racism, and xenophobia serve to stoke resentment and violence, and his policies would further benefit the ultra rich. President Trump’s election also signals a dramatic break from contemporary norms. We now face a scale of threat to democratic values and institutions unseen since at least the McCarthy period, and quite probably since Redemption—the backlash against the liberation of enslaved African Americans that ushered in the prolonged and deadly Jim Crow regime in the South.

We stand at the precipice of history. On January 20th, 2017, a ruthless team of corporate profiteers, racial bigots, religious zealots, climate deniers, and anti-democracy crusaders began to take control of the executive branch and govern, advancing the agenda of a President whose party dominates all three branches of the federal government. In the states, the Republican Party holds executive as well as both legislative branches in fully half the country, and both chambers (without governorship) in seven additional states. The Supreme Court is poised to accelerate the rollback of democratic rights for at least a generation. Hawkish ex-generals are inheriting a military apparatus with unprecedented capacity both domestically and internationally. Ascendant forces within the GOP are seeking to enforce a racially and culturally exclusive vision of America while converting public services into profit-making ventures. Billionaires who have profited from fossil fuel, home foreclosure, and low-wage industries are or will soon be in charge of America’s economic, environmental, labor, education, and foreign policy.

This scale of threat to human, civil, and constitutional rights, and associated potential for violence and harm, goes far beyond what the country experienced under the conservative Nixon, Reagan, and George W. Bush administrations. The likelihood of massive transfers of wealth to the already rich, and governance by oligarchs, surpasses the harm we’ve already experienced under George W. Bush and Obama.

Many are searching for the compass we need to navigate this unfamiliar and frightening new terrain. Responses from civil society sectors have ranged from efforts to deny Mr. Trump the presidency at the Electoral College to expressions of readiness to work with him on particular issues. Social justice-minded people should agree on a set of basic principles to guide our dealings with the new regime. We otherwise risk yielding to authoritarianism and normalizing the racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, greed, and indifference to basic human needs that brought us to this brink. We risk consenting to rivalries over those sacred things that should never be put at such risk – life, health, home, family, community, and democracy.

To reverse the momentum of fear and bigotry we must refuse the cynical politics of division and become the most powerful we can be together. To do this, the most expansive version of we the people – that most prophetic yet contested of American identities – will play a crucial role in the coming period. Who we can be together will determine whether America protects and advances the principles of democracy and pluralism or succumbs to the forces that threaten to unmake them.

Two priorities now demand our allegiance:

1. Build and maintain unity by adopting a set of principles to guide our engagement with the Trump regime and with each other; and
2. Prevent the rise of authoritarianism by taking affirmative steps to defend and expand democratic practices and institutions.

Why are these actions necessary? Here is what we know:

● A man who ran as a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, and anti-establishment demagogue is now President of the United States.
● President Trump’s election is part of a global trend toward xenophobia and right-wing authoritarianism that includes the Erdogan regime in Turkey, the parliamentary coup in Brazil, and the Brexit vote in Great Britain. This trend will not stop without compelling alternatives to a broken global system of massive economic inequality and deep-seated racial divisions.
● President Trump’s disdain for human and constitutional rights and democratic principles is a matter of public record. He has advocated torture, religious tests for immigrants and refugees, the deportation of millions of immigrants, and the criminalization of speech currently protected by the Constitution. He has intimidated the press, threatened his opponents with incarceration, incited his supporters to violence, and boasted about committing serial sexual assault. He has publicly denigrated Native, Black, Mexican, Muslim, and Asian Americans; LGBT people; disabled people; and women. He pretends to represent working class White people, which is an insult to the many working people he has defrauded throughout his business career.
● President Trump’s public statements and appointments since the election align with his stated priorities and bombastic behavior on the campaign trail. He has brought leading apologists and strategists for racial exclusion and domination into his inner circle and has repeatedly amplified racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism.
● GOP control of all branches of the federal government and most state governments affords President Trump extraordinary power and compromise normal checks on abuse of executive authority.
● Those who now call for giving President Trump a chance to lead either fail to appreciate the crises before us, support his agenda in whole or in part, or are driven by fear to avoid injury to their s...