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These Books Offer Blueprints for the Resistance

4 minute read

They came like locusts: great in number and all at once. A year after President Trump’s Inauguration, dozens of books about, by or for the resistance have arrived on shelves, offering everything from empathy for the politically afflicted to practical, tactical advice. These books can be moneymakers for publishers large and small: Macmillan, one of the five leading U.S. publishers, recently put out a lightly revised edition of Bernie Sanders’ best-selling campaign book Our Revolution, now aimed at a YA audience and titled Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution, which has sold 24,000 copies, according to NPD Bookscan. Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough proved to be a best seller for the self-described “radical, independent, nonprofit” publisher Haymarket Books.

And there are more on the way: upcoming titles include It’s Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics, by political scientist David Faris, and Resist and Rebel: The Peoples’ Uprising in America, by strategist and commentator Jonathan Tasini. Next year, a Simon & Schuster imprint will publish The ACLU Guide to Protest, with a foreword by executive director Anthony D. Romero.

Liberals have long been accused of self-sabotage through excessive infighting, inadequate strategizing and voter myopia. So it makes sense that a cottage industry would spring up to give this group, in this era, some advice. The trouble is, most political handbooks struggle to transcend the realm of platitudes to become actually handy. Consider Klein’s book, which builds on her Shock Doctrine–leaders using catastrophes to weaken democracy. “If Trump tries to use a crisis event to ram through draconian measures, this emerging resistance is poised to rise up and act as a human barrier to say: ‘No–not this time,'” Klein writes. The methods by which that will happen, however, are not detailed. In The Resistance Handbook: 45 Ways to Fight Trump, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas and ProgressNow founder Michael Huttner make the case for mocking Trump: “Ridicule is fun! And the more fun we have, the easier it will be to maintain morale and energy in the Resistance.” This kind of advice may alleviate the pangs of despair, but it’s hardly change-driving.

The most actionable and perhaps least profit-driven of these books is Rules for Resistance, edited by David Cole and Melanie Wachtell Stinnett, which is both an anthology of essays written after the election and a reprinting of the “Indivisible” guide that was assembled by former congressional staffers and published online at Indivisible.org in December 2016. With a hat-tip to the Tea Party, the tactic is defense rather than offense, to “stall the Trump agenda by forcing them to redirect energy away from their priorities.” For example: when your Senator or Representative holds a town hall, attend with a group to voice your concerns, but spread out and sit alone or with one companion to make the combative questioning seem more widespread.

In the year since the guide first came out, such methods have proved successful for opponents of things like GOP health care bills. In Alaska, for instance, volunteers organized nearly 100 events to convince Senator Lisa Murkowski to vote against a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, and she listened, casting one of three critical votes to kill the bill.

Klein quotes the novelist Milan Kundera as saying, “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” Her point is that we shouldn’t forget the political crises of the past when considering the current situation. But fatigue seems a more likely problem. With news constantly breaking, one story more unbelievable than the last, it’s possible that readers will exhaust their capacity for outrage.

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