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garyleestories

Trump Will Fall. That's Not Victory.

Gary Miller

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Sooner or later, Donald Trump will fall — or be pushed. He is old. He is mentally unstable. He is the most unpopular president in decades. He lives for adoration, and instead of that, he is being railed against everywhere, from his beloved Twitter feed to Saturday Night Live, from the streets of Europe to the streets outside his door. He projects an image that is almost impossible to uphold given the reality behind it. Those closest to him are getting scared, and are leaking like the Johnstown Dam. Word is, he hates his job. And if his own instinct for self-preservation hasn’t kicked in yet, it likely will.

It may take a month. It may take a year. But if activists continue their work, it’s hard to imagine Donald Trump fulfilling his term. Of course, many believed he would never attain his office in the first place, and the future is impossible to predict. But we need to prepare beforehand for the possibility of Trump’s departure. And critical to that preparation is understanding that, for progressives and others who care about American democracy, toppling Donald Trump does not mean victory.

On the day of the Women’s March, I stood in Montpelier with 15,000 of my fellow citizens on the lawn of the Vermont State House. The population of Montpelier is only about 8,000. That felt wonderful, as did the bold statements of numerous speakers, including progressive shadow president Bernie Sanders, in opposition to Donald Trump. But it’s important to consider that the people there, and people across America and the world, are asking for more. And we must all fight until we get it.

In his book Blueprint for Revolution, Srdja Popovic, a leader in the effort that successfully deposed Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, and who consults to revolutionary actions across the world through his group CANVAS, explains the importance of focusing on the “goose egg,” or the ultimate goal, to any revolutionary action. And he points out what can happen if activists choose the wrong egg.

As a prime example, Popovic cites the revolt in Egypt against Hosni Mubarak. When Mubarak fell, many of the activists went home. Those who remained in the streets had not made a plan for how they would unify Egypt and create a functional government after Mubarak fell. The Muslim Brotherhood pushed in to fill the vacuum, and the dream of freedom evaporated.

According to Popovic, CANVAS likes to remind citizen activists to finish what they started. “…President Kennedy didn’t just promise to send astronauts to the moon; he also promised to bring them back to Earth. Getting those guys home … was the goose egg. For the Egyptians, the goose egg needed to be democracy, not just the end of Mubarak.”

In the United States, citizens everywhere are fired up over Trump — and rightfully so. But we need to ensure that we choose the right goose egg. If Trump resigned today, millions of Americans would weep in joy. And then Mike Pence, a man who is arguably more dangerous, if only because he is sane, would take office. If and when that happens, we need to be prepared to fight even harder, to be more relentless in attaining the real goose egg: an America that works for all of us, not just for the privileged few.

At the Montpelier rally, one of the most encouraging signs I saw read “Grab a Clipboard and Run for A Local Office.” And that’s the kind of work that will need to be done if we want the goose egg that will change America for the better. We need to fight for everything, from clean water and green energy to human rights, health care, a living wage, universal suffrage, an end to gerrymandering, and the reversal of Citizens United.

Doing this, of course, will mean a long-term commitment to democracy, to the power of community and united voices to overcome the brute force of plutocracy and improve all of our lives. And we can do it together if we try. But in the short term, we need to go forward with a clear understanding that deposing America’s first tin-pot dictator is not enough. We need to keep our eyes on the goose egg, and that goose egg is bigger than Donald Trump can ever be.  

About the Author

Gary Lee Miller is a writer and editor living in Vermont. His book Museum of the Americas was a finalist for the 2015 Vermont Book Award. Gary's work has appeared in The Boston Globe, VT Digger, The Missouri Review, and The Chicago Quarterly Review, among others. He is a contributing writer at Seven Days, Vermont’s arts and culture weekly. Find out more at garyleemiller.com