From the historic Women’s March to #NoBanNoWall protests at airports to the Senators who have committed to filibuster the richest cabinet in US history, Americans are learning how to resist Trumpism. But our problem goes beyond an unhinged President with historically unprecedented disapproval ratings and the emoluments that place him in violation of the Constitution. Contrary to his delusions, our resistance isn’t about Donald J. Trump. The extremism that threatens to undo American government is an assault on our deepest moral and Constitutional values. Millions know we have to resist; the question is how.
Long before President Trump was anything more than a TV personality, the extremism that now has power in Washington took over the Republican party in my home state of North Carolina. Its sponsors were many of the same people who backed Trump’s campaign. Their rhetoric was similar to the caustic campaign and “alternative facts” of Trumpism. But, as we learned, all of this was largely a distraction from their systematic work to dismantle the government and subvert democracy in service of a wealthy, white oligarchy.
After taking over the state house, winning the governor’s mansion, and stacking the state Supreme Court, North Carolina’s extremists saw 2013 as their opportunity to turn vision into policy. They re-wrote the tax code to benefit the state’s 23 wealthiest families while taking away the Earned Income Tax Credit that even Ronald Reagan had endorsed for poor working families.
Defunding state government necessarily led to cuts in education, but Republicans offered “alternative facts” about increases in teacher pay as they defunded teacher assistants and increased class sizes. They dismissed environmental protections and gun laws as “unnecessary regulations” and attacked experts who tried to explain why they mattered.
Demonizing the recipients of social services, they denied Medicaid expansion to half a million people and unemployment insurance benefits to another 170,000. After all of this had been accomplished in a single legislative session, they passed the most extreme voter suppression bill since Jim Crow and spent millions in public funds to defend it in federal court.
While this was happening, 16 other moral leaders and I, including young people and an elder in a wheel chair, were arrested for exercising our constitutionally protected right to instruct our legislators. This sparked 13 weeks of “Moral Mondays” throughout the remainder of the session and a sustained moral resistance that, four years later, has unseated extremists from the executive and judicial branches in North Carolina and won a federal court order for special elections to address the racially gerrymandered districts represented in our legislature. Here in North Carolina, we’ve learned how to resist extremism.