Pundits say Donald Trump is “undermining democracy”. But their concern is often just about elite institutions: the media, the judiciary, the electoral system. What is ignored is the effect that the Trump administration will have on the social movements, which serve as pillars of the resistance. If these fall, our democracy will be irreparably harmed.
Democracy extends far beyond the ballot box – it includes the active participation of labor and racial justice movements in civil society. People tend to think that voting and electioneering are the sum total of democracy. It makes sense in a way; media influences public opinion, and the eyes of the media are trained on the horse-race aspects of American politics. But thinking this way misses the bigger picture.
When we see Black Lives Matter rallying for racial equality, or when the Water Protectors at Standing Rock camp out for weeks to protect their water supply, that’s democracy. When workers decide that they want a union in their workplace, that’s democracy. And when those same workers decide to withhold their labor and demand the compensation and respect that they are owed, that’s democracy as well.
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