Twenty-five years ago I ran for elected office as a Democrat in a primarily Republican county. My yard signs proclaimed my candidacy in the proud colors of fuchsia and white. I couldn’t use the colors of the American flag, you see, because red, white and blue had long been claimed by the Republicans.
Today the flag itself has been preempted by the Republican Party and the alt right. They display our country’s flag front and center over all their gatherings, fly it from the topmost extensions of cranes and ladders, and let it flutter from their pickup trucks as they speed down the highway. Silently proclaiming: We are patriots, and you are not!
It’s an insidious psychological trick, but when less conservative folks see the flag waving, we often assume that the flag owner is a person of the alt-right persuasion. But wait! My husband and I fly the American flag from a flagpole attached to the front of our home. OMG! What if people assume we voted for Trump because we fly the flag of our country?
Something is definitely wrong with this picture, and it has been wrong for more than a quarter of a century. Why have Democrats, progressives, liberals and even moderates accepted the far-right Republican, Tea Party and alt-right claim of exclusivity over the patriotic symbols of our country?
My awareness for this deplorable situation was finally kicked into gear when I read an insightful article written by David Frum, “What Effective Protest Could Look Like, Perspective from the right on Trump’s political challenge for the left,” published by The Atlantic on February 6, 2017. David Frum is a senior editor for The Atlantic and was a speech writer for President George W. Bush—thus, his conservative credentials.
Frum points out that left-liberal demonstrations “seldom are aimed at any achievable goal; they rarely leave behind any enduring program of action or any organization to execute that program. Again and again, their most lasting effect has been to polarize opinion against them—and to empower the targets of their outrage. And this time, that target is a president hungering for any excuse to repress his opponents.” In order to scare Trump and to be effective, Frum suggests protestors must be “orderly, polite and visibly patriotic.”
Frum so eloquently reminds us: “Trump wants to identify all opposition to him with the black-masked crowbar thugs who smashed windows and burned a limo on his inauguration day. Remember Trump’s tweet about stripping citizenship from flag burners? It’s beyond audacious that a candidate who publicly requested help from Russian espionage services against his opponent would claim the flag as his own. But Trump is trying. Don’t let him get away with it. Carry the flag. Open with the Pledge of Allegiance. Close by singing the Star Spangled Banner—like these protesters at LAX, in video posted by The Atlantic’s own Conor Friedersdorf. Trump’s presidency is itself one long flag-burning, an attack on the principles and institutions of the American republic. That republic’s symbols are your symbols. You should cherish them and brandish them.”
Those of us who wish to resist the presidency of Donald Trump and the dangerous advances of the alt-right must seriously consider and implement Frum’s critical revelations on how to manage effective protest:
- Be conservative in order to effectively deliver a radical argument.
- Be strategic, create goals and have a long-term action plan. Don’t protest just to release anger and emotions.
- Focus the protest around a single, clear and concrete demand that can be put into political action: e.g., “Release Tax Returns!” “Investigate Russian connections!”
- Assure follow up action beyond the protest. Do the hard work of organizing, meeting, and continuing to call/write/email/Tweet elected representatives.
- Create a movement that enables you to converse with and to recruit people who would not normally agree with you.
Finally, Democrats and progressives, left-wingers and liberals: fly our American flag, use the colors of red, white and blue, and know that you are patriots—“building a movement to protect American democracy from the authoritarianism of the Trump administration.” Thank you David Frum.
Yes, we will continue to fly our American flag in front of our home.