So you’re an activist trying to make sense of the Donald Trump administration, and wondering how we could possibly counter it? Or you’re just miffed about what is going on in our country and world right now, and you won’t sit idly by.
And let’s say you’re busy with life—tired and stressed, like a great many of us are. Perhaps you only have time to read one book, and only if it’s really worth reading.
So you asked me, a person who respects your time and intelligence, what book to read! (I’m honored.)
While I’ve not read every book released this year (of course), it’s difficult for me to imagine a book more relevant than Naomi Klein’s new book, No is Not Enough.
Klein delves into many subjects in No is Not Enough, but they are all intertwined. She has stated that this book is a sort of mash-up of her previous works, and she’s applied much of what she’s learned over the years to this new one. And of course, the Trump administration presents a new challenge.
Part One (“How we got here”) is a look at Donald Trump’s bizarre life of slowly transforming into a real estate “brand,” something which has extended to his entire family. It is also a look at his strategy (and sometimes lack thereof) and his presidential campaign. It examines the Trump administration so far. If you wanted to understand Donald Trump and what is going on right now, it helps to understand a few things:
First, Donald Trump is a life-long con, and on some level, he still believes he’s doing reality TV. Really, it is something of a game to him. But that’s the end logic of being “successful” in the predatory business world: The Art (act) of the Deal (screwing people over and building your brand).
Two, you have to see the corporate forces that have converged around Trump. These forces were already swarming before Trump’s presidential campaign, hidden behind the curtain since the 1970s, scheming in public and private on how to tame democratic movements. But now these corporate forces have seen their chance to take off the mask, moving forward more powerfully and less shamefully than before.
Three, as Naomi Klein writes, “Trump, extreme as he is, is less an aberration than a logical conclusion — a pastiche of pretty much all the worst trends of the past half century.”
Part II: “Where we are now” looks further into the current administration, but is concerned with the political climate as a whole—its relationship to the social climate in the United States, and Earth’s climate generally. Needless to say, our “environment” is on the decline. It’s really good to be aware of just how urgent the situation is. Our environmental problems are not impossible to solve, but will require strategic and deliberate action to solve.
Part III: “How it could get worse”: Bad things have happened already, but much worse could happen (and probably will). The administration is clearly hoping and waiting for a “shock” so that they will have a greater opportunity to push through an even more extreme agenda. In a practical sense, it won’t matter to the Trump administration whether that shock is manufactured, or simply a natural disaster that could prove politically useful.
The strongest shocks are often not initiated by humans, but simply capitalized upon. There are abundant political examples through the 20th- and 21st centuries. One is the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when private industry swept in to rebuild New Orleans after the city became a disaster site.
What many still don’t know about this event, which is briefly examined in the book, is that the hurricane, actually downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hit New Orleans, wasn’t what ultimately doomed New Orleans. Much of the disaster fallout was due to a political neglect of public infrastructure (the water pumps and levees), mainly in poor communities of color. Much of the damage was also due to a suspiciously slow and hostile government response in the storm’s wake.
Part IV: “How it could get better”: There are many examples, past and present, of successful resistance movements. There have been times when dissent was enough; but at least as often, more was needed.
Occupy Wall Street is a good example of when No was not enough. While the Occupy movement was a partial success in shifting the discourse, it ultimately failed to make fundamental change. One reason why it was not so effective was the lack of positive vision (“yes, this is what we want instead”), and there was not enough convergence of a larger public around this greater vision.
Bernie Sanders later articulated a “yes” in his 2016 primary campaign, which rallied many agitated Americans around a core set of ideas. These groups continue to build. More examples of mini-movements, which in recent times have based themselves around a vision forward, are Standing Rock, Movement for Black Lives, and the Leap Manifesto.
Then there is the “Peoples’ Platform,” a short list of essential demands to the US political establishment, backed by a broad coalition of grassroots organizations. Many of these organizations were established during or after the Sanders campaign, and others (like the Democratic Socialists of America) have grown and transformed in just one year’s time.
The recent convention for the DSA brought elected delegates from around the country to debate and then vote on how to structure the organization and grow the movement. The new leadership team features delegates from the Momentum and Praxis slates, who have called for mass resistance, fundamental change, and a deepening of democracy.
We need to build these kinds of movements and bring them together—so that we can resist the current administration’s shocks, and build the world we want, need, and deserve.
As Klein titles the conclusion of her book, there is a great and caring majority within reach. It should be a recurring dilemma for movement leaders and strategists on how we bring people together. The infrastructure is being built; indeed, it is largely already built.
It is time to bring more people into the fold. A political revolution requires more than a few hundred or a few thousand people. It requires millions of people coming together—not just to say “enough is enough”—to say that, yes—but also to dream, and to find a way to move toward that dream.
This is not a mere indulgence, Klein writes. It is necessary in this moment.
So I ultimately have two simple pieces of advice for anyone who suggests they are miffed by the current political climate, and don’t know what to do next. First, check out Naomi Klein’s new book. Second, join an organization.
For the remainder who are already active—and perhaps already know what to do—get this incredible book anyways. It’s a good read, and you’ll probably learn something important.
For all of us: there’s plenty of work to be done, and little time to waste.
…and many more!