While I am strongly tempted to castigate the reactionaries who seem to think the world is about to end and therefore need to set it on fire, as well as those who feel that the world owes them something for their terrible candidate losing an election, there is little need to add to that already tremendous pile of rancor (at this very moment, at least.) Instead, I feel a few important points need to be made to clarify to protesters exactly why it is their current actions and reactions are an act of shooting themselves in the feet. This is multi-faceted so I will attempt to lay it out as succinctly as I can.
Firstly, there is matter that these protests and riots are themselves, to put it generously, premature. Trump, for whatever rhetoric he has offered whether real or imagined, has yet to enact a single policy. Aside from those carried out under President Obama, there have been no deportations, no construction on any walls has begun, there have been no changes to abortion law, immigration, healthcare or anything to draw concrete judgement upon. While concern over what could happen is from a political perspective perfectly respectable, flooding the streets with hyperbole about white supremacy, concentration camps and especially in light of his recent embrace of the LGBTQ community, expectations that people from said community will lose all of their rights, are all hard for those not already on your side to see as anything but nonsense.
In this, as Trump has not yet done anything and is in many respects beginning to show a more moderate version of himself than was seen on the campaign trail, the most intelligent thing for even the harshest critic of the President-Elect to do is wait and see. This is not merely due to the fact that a great deal of the utter hysteria and mass panic could be entirely pointless ultimately, but also because there exists an actual shelf life for public attention and outrage. Modern history is rife with prime examples of such.
Recognizing that a great majority of those who are presently out in the streets with signs and placards decrying the election results are themselves younger people, those of us who remember the years of the George W. Bush Presidency can likely easily recall the public outrage within the left over his policies regarding privacy, tax handouts to the corporate elite and of course, the war in Iraq. While the anti-war left is largely now a mere memory and leaving aside the fact that Hillary Clinton both voted in support of the war as well as banging upon her own war drums throughout the campaign and her tenure at the State Department, the protests and demonstrations as well as public outrage did, as we can observe in retrospect, eventually fizzle out first into background static and then, largely into silence. The lesson here is nothing short of the reality that for a protest, movement or demonstration to be effective, it takes more than vim and vigor. One must strike while the iron is hot and not, in this case, before the furnace or forge have even been lit.
For the protesters, the progressives, the liberals and the left as a whole, the danger posed here is that as the public grows tired of the tantrums presently on display, future activism and actual issue advocacy will be so easily tied to the eye rolling and disgust many are feeling presently. Should in the course of Donald Trump’s presidency he, along with the aid of his congressional Republican majority prove to pose legitimate and specific threats to things such as the environment, free speech, civil rights, foreign policy, social programs or anything else the various shades of the political left care about, the general public –who are not themselves typically hyper-partisan or ideological- will be harder to sway as they will likely find the screeching that preceded whatever genuine action may come to be enough to shrug off the causes posed before even giving them consideration. The problem here becomes burnout, which is also a problem in its own right for activist ranks as well.
Prior to my writing career, I spent many years in the world of professional activism. Working with PACs and unions on various campaigns, much of my work was focused on organizing and mobilizing grassroots activists who were often recruited from either workplaces or various communities. The difficulty and technique required for organizing and mobilization itself aside, the maintaining of forward momentum, especially in times of static progress or political losses can outright stop a campaign in its tracks. For all of the outpouring of genuine emotion and the continuing motivation within the ongoing protests, such cannot really last and following the onset of fatigue will come a form of burnout which will result in marches growing smaller and smaller, as they are generally ignored more and more.
This news may come gladly to those on the right in the midst of their victory laps. However for those who are either left of center or in the center themselves, or even those who are to the right but desire a balance in the public debate so as to avoid further fringe evolution as has occurred in the progressive left and the alt-right, these sorts of volatile and seemingly uncontrolled outpourings of fear and frankly misplaced rage are ultimately serving to both divide the country further and ensure those divisions will only deepen as time goes on. There is a time, there is a place and there is even a correct methodology for opposition party protests and actions, but to jump the gun so soon and in such a hysterical manner does absolutely nothing to make the change you may want to see.