“I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.” —President Barack Obama, farewell address 1/10/2017
9 tactics for local boards
Leaders of progressive businesses, community organizations and especially nonprofit environmental organizations whose future is at stake are scrambling to reorganize their government relations strategy since the surprise results of the November election. Many recognize that their organizational values and mission statement are at odds with the expressed interests of the president elect. Directors and officers need to reassess their strategies and tactics for dealing with the federal government in 2017 and beyond. I was inspired by an article written by Peter Dreier and jotted these ideas that might be considered by some organizations and incorporated into my own activities.
1. No mandate – Start by reminding stakeholders that Trump’s level of 27% support at the time of the November election is not a mandate. Trump comes into office with record low public approval of 37%. This will likely be higher approval than he sees later as president. Point out that Trump is mistaken in the often repeated statement about a mandate. In fact he does not have a mandate in any sense, and certainly not among organizational leaders. Continue to talk about the fact that no president has entered the office after losing a larger margin of the popular vote. Time Magazine recently named Donald Trump Person of the Year but gave him the title “President of the Divided States of America.” Millions of Americans, perhaps most Americans, will not recognize Trump as as their legitimate leader. Right now some Trump supporters still want to complain about Obama or Hillary and use that to deflect the conversation away from the shortcomings of Trump. We expect that illogical response to diminish over time as we gradually recognize that our real immediate need is to work together and focus on Trump’s failures and damage to the nation. Focus instead on unprecedented levels of disapproval of the new president.
2. Employ buyer’s remorse – Take advantage of the growing ‘buyers remorse’ attitude that emerges as more people become disenfranchised and bored with Trump’s the drama queen approach of grabbing media attention. The Carrier case was a good example. Reinforce the mainstream media’s intention of pointing out the lack of integrity within Trump’s daily behavior. Remind constituents of the reality bias to reinforce their doubts about the Trump agenda. Psychologists explain that supporters will cling on to their beliefs long after there is any logical reason to do so but the pain of higher taxes, fewer benefits and the observation of watching the rich get richer will eventually take a toll on even the most hardened Trump supporters.
3. Take advantage of unqualified leadership – Continue to point out examples that illustrate how Trump’s cabinet nominees are incompetent, unqualified and focused on advancing their own unpopular agenda. Point out their track records of plundering public interest through government funding programs, their lack of public leadership experience and the many conflicts of financial interest with their own businesses. The errors will become increasingly obvious as the kakistocracy takes the reins and should be exposed as part of an ongoing theme. Mounting worldwide pressure against environmentally irresponsible government leaders will help make our case. Focus on news stories of how real people are hurt by the Trump agenda.
4. Be clear and strong in opposition – Don’t allow lies to become normalized and point out that there lies should not become more acceptable as they become more numerous. Support those who are active and resolved to block the Trump agenda. Make it clear that Trump represents the exact opposite of every core value that I, my company and my community have worked to build over our entire lifetime. Communicate purchase boycotts of products of opposing organizations clearly and effectively. Remind consumers that boycotts of companies like Trump and Yuengling have resulted in meaningful declines in sales and brand value.
5. Expose fraud against real people – Focus on stories of real people financially ruined by Trump. Remind small business owners of others in their community just like them who were wiped out by Trump’s past business fraud.
6. Protest and engage in civil disobedience – Make it clear that we are resolved in our commitment and willingness to break the law, face arrest and prosecution and a loss of property and freedom to support core values of economic equality, freedom of speech and the Golden Rule. It may take years before some Americans realize that “putting America first” theme is a grave mistake but we must continue to point out the moral and political flaw in this rhetoric.
7. Expose corporate money grab – Oppose Trump’s infrastructure plans as federal ‘get richer quicker’ scheme for a few powerful corporations of the top 1% elite. This will initially be promoted by Trump as a job creation initiative but remind people to “follow the money” to see the real effect.
8. Obstruct Trump’s presidency through local government – States like New York, California and New Jersey have said that they will not be intimidated by federal threats and the crazy ideas that Trump exposes. Cities like mine are resolved in their disdain for Trump and the evil he represents.
9. Exploit Republican party infighting – Internal party conflict will accelerate as Trump loses popular support. Many Republicans despise Trump but are not yet empowered to express their disgust. Support emerging Republican leaders who can restore sanity and civility to the party by 2020.
I am willing to discuss the board level strategy of like-minded organizations as we move forward into this new uncharted political territory.
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