The civic response to the dreadful presidential election was an amazing outpouring of cultural solidarity and a roaring assertion of feminine power in nationwide Women’s Marches that surpassed in size and geographic scope any prior public protests in U.S. history. We may not have elected a woman president, but the women have woken up en masse. Progressive men have evolved to the point of willingly sharing power with women. The Resistance is popping up like mushrooms in a wet meadow.
My faith in my fellow citizens was revived by these massive uprisings all across the country. When an event exceeds all conventional expectations, that’s a sign that it represents a cultural movement that is larger than a political rally. The Women’s Marches signify a resistance to the culture of cruelty and domination and an affirmation of a culture of caring and cooperation.
I estimated, based on experience, that the Sonoma event would be several hundred of the usual suspects, so my wife and I went to the Santa Rosa march. I was amazed to read about the local turnout of about 3,000 people. Sonoma Valley rocks! The Santa Rosa Women’s March was lively and large, with about 5,000 in attendance. There were lots of young people and women of all ages, many with strollers and kids, accompanied by their husbands and boyfriends. The atmosphere was peaceful and affirmative. We were prefiguring the kind of world we want to live in, open and inclusive.
My depression and angst was relieved after the body blow of the election. The warm embrace of gentle yet firm feminine energy was the medicine for the vertigo and alienation of the catastrophic electoral outcome. The answer was not in the form of a policy or a plan. It was in the experience of being in a community of caring.
This memory will sustain us as we enter a turbulent era in which the familiar signposts are in flux. Charles Eisenstein wrote, in Tikkun Magazine: “We are exiting an old story that explained to us the way of the world and our place in it. We as a society are entering a space between stories, in which everything that had seemed so real, true, right, and permanent comes into doubt.” The Women’s March was a touchstone that signifies the way forward in this time of dire beauty and deep challenge.
The famous linguist and cognitive neuroscientist, George Lakoff, at the Vintage House on January 29, in a lecture sponsored by the Praxis Peace Institute, provided more clues. Lakoff instructed us on the science behind the formation of political values and how to use linguistic framing to make our political discourse resonate with our cultural values. He offered a thorough critique of the conventional Democratic Party messaging strategies.
Lakoff asserted that the fatal political error of the Clinton campaign was to make the election a referendum on Trump’s peculiarly degenerate personality, rather than tying him to the Republican political machine. House Leader Paul Ryan and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell should have been featured in every ad against Trump.
This error stemmed from the failed DNC strategy of triangulation, which distances the liberal party base and works out technocratic compromises with the Republican leadership. That strategy is an artifact of a bygone era of bi-partisan consensus, which has been rendered inoperative by the radicalization of the Republican Party through an inflamed and ‘alternative facts’ based right-wing media and the introduction of slash-and-burn political brinksmanship tactics under former House Leader Newt Gingrich in the 90s.
Lakoff has produced a taxonomy of Trump’s Tweets, which analyzes the primary functions of his Twitter communications. The DNC leadership and corporate media have proven incapable of responding to the challenge of a unique figure like Trump. Lakoff states: “Trump’s tweets have at least three functions. The first function is what I call preemptive framing. Getting framing out there before reporters can frame it differently. The second use of tweets is diversion. When something important is coming up, like the question of whether he is going to use a blind trust, the conflicts of interest. So what does he do instead? He attacks Meryl Streep. And then they talk about Meryl Streep for a couple of days. That’s a diversion. The third one is that he sends out trial balloons. If there’s no big outcry at first, then he can proceed. When the media fails to grasp what he is doing, it gives him an advantage. Every time someone in the media claims his discourse is ‘word salad’, it helps Trump by hiding what he is really doing.”
The Women’s March and the Praxis lecture have fortified me for the long and difficult path ahead. There are no guarantees in history or politics, and great civilizations have declined before, so it is really up to us to pay attention and stand up for our values. My hope is that the shock of this electoral disaster will awaken a critical mass to claim their authority and set us on the path to healing the culture and reclaiming our role as informed and engaged citizens.