Barring a federal indictment, it appears almost certain that Hillary Clinton will be coronated as the Democratic Party’s candidate in Philadelphia this July. In November she’ll be facing up against Donald Trump, perhaps the most terrifying political figure to make a viable run for national office in the United States in a generation. Early on in the primary process the clown car that was the Republican field was a global laughingstock and it was all-but-certain that the Democrats would have a smooth path to the White House. Now the Republican establishment is coalescing around Trump, the Democratic party descending into a civil war, and Trump is catching up to — and even overtaking — Clinton in many national polls.
As the phrase ‘President Trump’ transitions from being a joke to a terrifying possibility, many on the left are searching for ways to stop a Trump presidency. The obvious and most straightforward way to prevent Trump’s ascendance to the White House is for people who oppose Trump’s vitriolic and destructive candidacy to coalesce around Clinton as the lesser of two evils. But the lesser of two evils is still evil and many of us can’t stomach the idea of actively campaigning for a candidate who sat on the board of Walmart, was living in the White House while NAFTA was passed, and supports and promotes an imperialist foreign policy.
So what can we meaningfully do to organize against a Trump presidency without throwing our collective weight behind Hillary? We can take bold action to shut down Trump’s ground game.
The ground game — canvas and phone bank operations, neighbor to neighbor voter engagement, direct outreach — has historically been Trump’s Achilles heel. As a political outsider he moved through the primary process by banking on his brilliant showmanship and uncanny ability to attract earned media as a tool to build excitement around his candidacy and drive voters to the polls. But if he is going to be a real contender in a general election, Trump is going to need to lean on the party establishment’s infrastructure to directly engage voters and drive them to the polls. If he can’t mobilize a well-organized army of volunteers to hit the doors and the phones in key swing states in the months and weeks leading up to the election, he won’t stand a chance at winning the general election.
Shutting down Trump’s ground game is our opportunity to derail the Trump campaign.
While mobilizations and disruptions at Trump’s high-profile rallies have proved incredibly effective in cultivating controversy around his candidacy we’re going to need to move beyond these tactics to mount a meaningful challenge to his road to the White House. In order to win in key swing states Trump is going to need to mobilize volunteers to knock on doors, make phone calls, and organize in their churches and faith communities in support of his special brand of crazy. All of these activities need to be publicly announced, all of these activities rely on on mass participation, and as such, all of these activities are ripe for disruption.
For decades, partisans have been ‘volunteering’ for their adversaries’ campaigns with plans to just not show up and throw off turnout projections. A slightly more invasive approach could involve anti-Trump activists actually showing up to volunteer to phone bank or canvas and, in a false-flag approach, project messages that are so absurd and offensive that they drive potential voters away from the Trump campaign (although it seems like the the Trump campaign is actually without shame and not all that susceptible to this type of tactic). But a much simpler approach could involve small (or large!) groups actually showing up at these events and shutting them down by chanting or mic-checking through the volunteer briefings, occupying the campaign offices or even just absconding with all of the clipboards and turf packs. If Trump’s people can’t hit the doors and the phones they can’t turn out enough voters to win the election.
To be sure, taking direct action to shut down Trump’s ground game moves well beyond a civil discourse. But the current presidential campaign has moved far beyond a civil discourse. Trump is openly talking about a ban on Muslims and lambasted the Black Lives Matter movement, he’s attacked the concept of a free press, promoted nuclear proliferation, and he’s advocated for lower wages and expanding Right to Work legislation across the country. There is nothing civil or reasonable about allowing someone as dangerous and destructive as Donald Trump within a mile of the nuclear launch codes, let alone giving him unfettered access to the trigger.
If we can’t stomach the idea of working for Hillary, let’s stop Trump by shutting down his ground game.