Sunday Jun 25


The Blinding Rapture of Mobilization

For the millions who marched on the day after the Trump inauguration, doing so would surely have built their morale and clarified their political thinking, as evidenced by the fact that many of them have continued to resist and challenge the Trump administration’s worst initiatives. But did it do more than that?

Ideally, the effect of such mobilizations would be to chasten Trump, to prompt him to restrain his worst inclinations. Or, if not that, then perhaps in a more roundabout fashion they could influence the Republican majority in Congress who, feeling pressure, would disassociate themselves from Trump, causing him to restrain his more outrageous behavior.1 But this does not appear to have happened. Why is that?

Given our careers as professional community organizers, we have serious doubts about the staying power and the ultimate outcomes of mobilizations not built on long-term organizational development and seasoned leadership, which are the basis for waging extended campaigns. In their absence, even mass mobilizations can be forgotten in a matter of days. It’s no accident that few of us remember the massive anti-war demonstrations that preceded the U.S. invasion of Iraq. They did not prevent the war. 2

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with marching. Every experienced community organizer has witnessed and appreciated the euphoria that accompanies such mobilizations, even those with turnouts in the hundreds (let alone in the millions). When citizens who have previously experienced themselves as powerless find themselves surrounded by others who share their resentment and their hopes and dreams, it’s no surprise they feel joyful.3 This reaction fits the definition of rapture: “a feeling of intense pleasure or joy,” 4 which have positive benefits for organizing. They are hugely rewarding, and they may even increase the probability for future action.

The Downside of Rapture

But rapture has a downside too. It tends to blind mobilization participants, distracting them from careful observation, analytical thinking, and self-evaluation. It is not remarkable, then, that many of the post- Women’s March analyses focused on the strengths of the mobilization, and not on the reactions of those the marchers wanted to influence, the decision makers within and allied to the Trump administration.

Rapture drives many participants in mass mobilizations—in particular, newly minted activists—to believe that the extraordinary turnout and the high spirit of the participants will make their demonstration of power irresistible to the opposition. It often comes as a shock to them to discover that the actions of the decision-makers whom they were looking to influence are entirely unaffected by the mobilization, at least from outward appearances. 5

Mobilization Shortcomings

When the dust of the marching settles, many are left to wonder: If millions in the streets didn’t work, what will? The assumption had been: once the opposition see how angry we are, they’ll change their tune. But they didn’t. Perhaps at this point they catch a glimpse of the magnitude of power on the other side. If so, euphoria may be short-lived, replaced by fear. Many will shrink back into their former selves. They lose hope.

Even activists, not knowing the alternatives, may fear doing more. Some may believe that going beyond a march has the potential for violence,6 because it will attract extremists. And there is a possibility of violence, either from the left or the right, given that so many people are so angry. There is always a radical or reactionary group among the peaceful protestors, those on the left who want to smash windows and set cars on fire, and those on the right who want to let loose police violence. The net effect is to intimidate many from participating in protests and demonstrations.7

Further, if mass mobilizations are viewed, as we think they are, as one-time, minimum-commitment, fun events, then it’s easy to join in. But it’s also easy to “un-join” when the organizers start talking about commitment to the other steps necessary to achieve significant social change. From some people’s point of view, you’re asking them to join the Marines—and they’re not up for it.

And in fact, in the course of a mobilization, while participants may learn important lessons about civic action, their learning does not necessarily lead to participation in future campaigns and actions. That’s because the learning is often essentially cognitive, lacking significant reinforcement for future participation. This is especially the case when participants conclude that what they did failed to work. 8

But even when there is some effect from the initial mobilization and next steps are proposed, there may be no unified command9 and no unified objectives. Often every participating group and individual has their particular issue, about which they feel deeply (and do not desire to compromise on). And they rarely have a basis in long-lived community or previous working relationships to warrant submerging their unique identity under a single banner or demand.10

A March is Not a Movement

Perhaps we tell ourselves: We’re much bigger than a march. We’re a movement. But is that true? We should not confuse a mobilization, even a mass mobilization, with a movement. It pays to remember the Arab Spring, which was a mobilization, powered up by social networking. But as we know, its potential to persist and bring about a transition to democratic governance was nil.11

In contrast to one-shot mass mobilizations, victorious movements achieve institutional change through long struggle. Diverse examples include the civil rights movement, the labor movement, and the Gandhian Indian national liberation movement; and they were not decentralized in their leadership and main objectives.

Movements that have staying power and bring about institutional change are grounded in long-lived community, such as that provided by the churches, barber shops and beauty parlors for the civil rights movement, by the workplaces for the labor movement, and by the villages for the Indian national liberation movement. Gandhi withdrew from national politics from 1933 to 1940, during which time he worked with villages throughout India: “Gandhiji firmly believed that self-reliant villages form a sound basis for a just, equitable, and non-violent order. . . .”12

Movements build competent organization and leadership before attempting mobilizations of any consequence.13 Those that don’t, like the quickly forgotten Occupy Wall Street “movement,” have no lasting impact.14 Beyond community-building, successful movements achieve organization-building, mobilization-building, and institution-building. When those steps are missing, movements rarely achieve institutional change.

Of course, there is always the possibility, however dim, that a mobilization will evolve into a mass movement. Let us suppose that, following an initial mobilization, the targeted decision-maker—the Trump administration—reacts, doing something even more outrageous than previously, so that even more people, let’s say tens of millions, spontaneously go into the streets, possibly in response to a call for a general strike. Now we have an authentic social movement, but if it has sprung up too quickly to be adequately organized, it may accomplish little.

If the movement does not develop experienced and unified leaders and objectives, it will be vulnerable to misrepresentation and divide-and-conquer tactics by its opponents. It may also be deflated by symbolic victories.16 Such movements may have enough momentum and ad hoc leaders to leverage policy concessions from decision-makers, but rarely if ever do they have the organization and staying power to collect on commitments for institutional change.

Indirect Decision-Makers

Movements also recognize different kinds of decision-makers targeted for their influence. Those who are directly targeted are the actual decision-makers. But there are also intermediate decision-makers who “transmit the message” to the real or direct decision-makers. And then there are indirect decision-makers, individuals and organizations, behind the scenes, who influence or control direct decision-makers.

A simple example of indirect decision-makers might be well-known financial contributors to an elected representative’s campaign. The contributors, because of their sensitivity to negative public exposure, can be pressured to direct the representative to support or oppose an issue.

A grassroots organization, for example, might go after contributors to a state assemblywoman’s campaign after she refuses, as chairperson of an important committee, to allow the committee to consider a bill proposing tax relief for seniors. The grassroots group researches the public campaign contribution records to learn the names of financial contributors to the assemblywoman’s campaign, especially those whose public reputations are important to them, such as professionals, business owners, and community “influentials.” They then launch a media campaign identifying the contributors as supporters of a politician who refuses to consider tax relief for seniors. It doesn’t take long before the assemblywoman’s contributors are calling her, telling her to work out her differences with this grassroots organization—and not long afterwards the bill is submitted to the committee for consideration.

The point is, when we’re focused exclusively on ideology, policies, and practices, which mobilizations often are, there’s a much greater likelihood we will narrow our view to direct decision-makers, when it might be much more effective to focus on indirect decision-makers. Concentrating on direct decision-makers blinds us to a vital question: What is the source of power for the opposition with whom we’re contending? Do we really know who we’re dealing with? And what happens when we don’t?

Power Behind Power

What exactly happens when the rapture of a progressive mass mobilization comes up against a covertly empowered, hard-boiled reactionary organization and its constituency, one with extensive hidden resources? We have a near-perfect example with the Million Mom March (MMM), which took place in Washington, DC on May 14, 2000. The march drew an estimated 750,000 participants, plus another several hundred thousand in more than 50 allied marches in cities across the country.17

The Contenders

The MMM was comprised mostly of low-income, working-class and urban people of color, who were primarily concerned about fatalities caused by handguns and military-grade automatic weapons. Gun control for them was a matter of lessening immediate threats of injury and death for their families and themselves.

The barely discernible public opposition to the MMM came from the Second Amendment Sisters, who were mostly white, middle and upper-middle class, suburban and rural homemakers. They were primarily interested in rifles and shotguns for sport and handguns for self-protection. Gun-rights for them were a matter of preserving their means of recreation and self-defense.

The “strategy” of the MMM was to mobilize a large number of moms in a march on Washington. The goal was to arouse and heighten public awareness and put pressure on Congress to strengthen gun laws.

And yet, despite the numbers, the march had no effect on Congressional law-making.18 In fact, it’s fair to say that since then the country has lost ground in the long-running gun-control campaign aimed at Congress. What went wrong?

Why wasn’t the Million Mom March successful? It’s hardly a revelation to say that one-shot mobilizations, in the absence of long-lived community and organization, do not create compelling and sustained pressure on decision-makers. A march is a tactic, not a strategy. And when organizers use a tactic in place of a strategy, it’s probably because the elements needed for a successful strategy are weak or missing altogether. Those elements include: (1) face-to-face community with a shared history and values; (2) organization with a capacity to generate revenue, recruit members, and develop leaders; (3) the wherewithal to mobilize ongoing campaigns and actions based on large-scale turnouts; and (4) strategic visioning to build or rebuild societal institutions. These elements also form the underpinnings of successful movements. In their absence, those protesting find it difficult to impossible to secure commitments from the opposition or to collect on them.

In the mass mobilization for more gun control, the only opposition that counted was the National Rifle Association (NRA), an extraordinarily formidable opponent. The Second Amendment Sisters was merely the public (and female) face of the NRA in this fight. The NRA is a long-lived organization with a stable membership of about four million. NRA membership recruiting is strengthened by an extensive program of political education, and by activities such as gun-safety educational services, especially geared to children, and family shooting events, designed particularly to appeal to women. NRA members pay annual dues of $30 to $40 and can be mobilized on-call for lobbying initiatives, possibly because they have something tangible to protect, which is the right to own, carry, and use their guns.

The Heavyweight

In the legislative debate on gun control versus gun rights, however, there’s a huge “elephant in the room”—the lobbyists for the gun and ammunition industries. These lobbyists, who were mostly not visible to the MMM marchers and who were not the focus of the MMM campaign, were behind the scenes busily wielding their influence on the Congress and the state legislatures.19

The gun manufacturers, working hand in hand with the NRA-led gun-rights lobby, managed to get Congress to pass the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005, granting them and their distributors and dealers unprecedented immunity from lawsuits by victims of gun violence. More recently, the NRA and its allies have been pushing legislation in Congress that would require all states to honor the concealed gun permits issued in any other state, legislation which failed to pass in 2011, 2013, and 2014. The current bill (at the time of this writing) has 35 co-sponsors in the Senate, and its companion bill in the House has 121 co-sponsors. With a Republican president, Congress may actually pass the bill.20 If so, the weakest state gun-permit laws, which grant permits to individuals convicted of violent felonies, will effectively become the standard for permits in every other state—a huge boon to gun manufacturers.

After the march in Washington, MMM (the organization), joined with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. At that point, it devolved into local groups in which a “web of activists” contributed to a number of state and local campaigns.21 The rapture of mobilization had faded and so had the mobilized population.

The initial promise of federal gun-control legislation vanished.

How has the NRA built its outsized influence with members of Congress? The organization is extraordinarily well-funded, spreading its influence by spreading money. In 2016, gun-rights contributions to members of Congress were $5,462,412: Republicans received $5,341,610, Democrats received $113,437, and others received $7,365. In 2016, NRA lobbying expenditures alone totaled $3,188,000. 23

By contrast, the Brady Campaign spent $97,992 on lobbying in 2016, 24 and in 2013 the Coalition to Stop Gun Violenc —encompassing nine major gun-control organizations—had a budget of $375,503. 25

How does the NRA come to have such extraordinary financial resources? NRA revenue for FY 2015 was more than $336 million,26 with approximately $43 million coming from corporations.27 It’s helpful that the makeup of the 75-member NRA board of directors includes significant representation of manufacturing interests and former legislators, which strongly suggests that the organization has evolved into a lobby for gun and ammunition manufacturers rather than gun owners.28 The NRA works in effect as the PR arm of the gun industry,29 spreading fear to drum up business for the industry. The NRA lobby promotes the interests of the industry generally. And since the NRA takes its cues on particular issues from the industry, they invariably speak with one voice on proposed legislation.

The industry is guided by the owners (i.e., major stockholders) and managers of the corporations that manufacture guns and ammunition.30 Like all major industries—food, pharmaceuticals, energy, etc.—the firearms manufacturers have their trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).31 In addition to bringing together all of the principal corporations within an industry, the trade associations coordinate their political activities across industries on common interests, such as tax policies and environmental regulations.

The Knockout

So, in one corner of the “ring,” we have “Kid-MMM,” who presumably the majority of the public were cheering on, since they favor virtually all of the relatively mild proposals of the gun-control lobby. And in the other corner, we have the NRA, fueled by a profitable industry that will do almost anything to protect and increase its profits.

This contrast illustrates the imbalance of power that is threatening U.S. society and poisoning our democracy. The Million Mom mass mobilization, an expression of popular hopes to influence policy-making, fizzled because it was up against the gigantic but largely unseen power of concentrated wealth, and all the resources it commands, including the NRA. Unfortunately, this kind of power behind power, the power of concentrated wealth, is not confined to the gun industry.

Deeply Rooted Opposition

Whatever the issue, if we drill down to the deepest root of opposition to grassroots empowerment, we uncover the so-called “deep state.” As one comprehensive report notes, “. . . [T]he bottom-upward processes of democracy have been increasingly supplanted by the top-downward processes of the deep state.” The methods have included “secret surveillance and covert intervention” to undermine progressive organizing.33

Although there are numerous conflicting descriptions of the deep state, there is a broad consensus on the presence of a state within a state, comprised of key forces in the nation’s intelligence organizations (FBI, CIA, NSA, etc.), the military, the State Department, major industries, and Wall Street.34 The American Conservative offers a succinct characterization of the deep state:

[The] U.S.-style deep state includes all the obvious parties, both public and private, who benefit from the status quo: including key players in the police and intelligence agencies, the military, the treasury and justice departments, and the judiciary. It is structured to materially reward those who play along with the charade, and the glue to accomplish that ultimately comes from Wall Street. “Financial services” might well be considered the epicenter of the entire process. Even though government is needed to implement desired policies, the banksters comprise the truly essential element, capable of providing genuine rewards for compliance. As corporate interests increasingly own the media, little dissent comes from the Fourth Estate. . . 35

The Wall Street leaders of the deep-state forces are mostly not visible to the public, although they are the wealthiest stock traders and stockholders of multinational corporations.36 They are billionaires whose interests are reflected in the political machinations of Wall Street. They surreptitiously control governmental public powers. They exert unseen guidance on deep policy, using their influence to “manage” the country’s most important democratic institutions, including the Presidency, Congress, Supreme Court, and state legislatures and governorships.37 They are the source of the imbalance of power.

Election 2016

We might well imagine that as the election of 2016 approached, leading deep-state forces would have been identifying their most important strategic objectives. They might well have asked themselves: To what ends shall we employ the worldwide resources of our multinational corporations, government and military assets, to achieve our desired outcomes?

It’s not implausible that two complementary objectives would be among their highest priorities. First, they would want to ensure that Justice Scalia would be replaced by an equally or more conservative justice, guaranteeing the Wall Street-led deep-state force’s continued influence on the Court. No single law or policy can provide the benefits accruing to corporations and the wealthy more than Supreme Court decisions, which continue in their broad effects for generations. And second, they would want to know that limits on campaign and other political contributions would not be tightened,38 ensuring their continued ability to corrupt and control the legislative and executive branches of government.39

Unlimited Influence

If we doubt the reach and strength of the top-tier of the Wall Street-led deep-state forces, we need only consider the magnitude of their wealth.40 The wealth gap between the highest income groups and everyone else has reached historic levels.41 In 2013, the median wealth of the nation’s upper-income families . . . was nearly seven times the median wealth of middle-income families . . . , the widest wealth gap seen in 30 years when the Federal Reserve began collecting these data.”42 In 2015, eligibility for inclusion on the “Forbes 400” list required nominees to have a net worth of $1.7 billion. But the average among them had a net worth of $5.8 billion! The overall net worth of the Forbes 400 is $2.34 trillion, while the net worth of 16 million black American households is $1.56 trillion,43 and the net worth of 15 million Latino American households is $1.82 trillion. The inequality becomes more shocking when the numbers of the wealthy are reduced—to wit: The 20 richest people in the U.S. now own more wealth than 152 million Americans in 57 million households,44 giving those individuals unlimited influence over both policy and public discourse, especially when their power is exercised for similar ends.45

The Koch brothers, who have exposed much of their influential funding to the public, are the exception rather than the rule.46 Overall, it’s much more like the Wizard of Oz. Toto, the little dog, pulls back the curtain, and the wizard says, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” But the “man” behind the curtain is the deep state, financially energized and guided by the top-tier of the wealthy, who are pulling the levers, although it’s all veiled.47

The End of Democracy?

Most of us seem focused on, even captivated by, the ideologies, policies, and practices of the Trump administration. We’re busy watching the show out front, while monstrous evil emanates from behind the scenes. Even with all their sound and fury about what’s happening in America, Trump and Comey and McConnell are merely distractions. And that, in fact, may be their function—to distract us. But what is it that they distract us from?

The last six decades provide a coherent and continuous picture of historical direction being provided by this deep-state power of the purse, trumping and sometimes reversing the conventional state. . . . Our society by its very economic successes and consequent expansion, has been breeding impersonal forces both outside and within itself that are changing it from a bottom-up elective democracy into a top-down empire.” 48

Where is Hope?

It’s easy enough to conclude that a mass mobilization, like the Women’s March, is not going to influence the imbalance of power that is undermining our democracy. But the price of criticism is a constructive alternative. The real question is, what are the alternatives? Who or what can countervail the deep state? Who can best protect democracy?

Some have proposed that community and faith-based organizing, or the unions, given their histories and current roles, could become a countervailing institutional force. But we have no illusions that the efforts of community and faith-based organizing, as essential as they are to holding government and corporate decision-makers accountable, have the potential, even if they were driven by a national progressive coalition (which they are not), to countervail the power of the Wall Street-led deep-state forces. There is evidence, as we noted above, that deep-state secret surveillance and covert intervention have been used to undermine progressive organizing.

And as for the unions, the last 50 years of union history offer no encouragement that the unions can become such a force either. They too have been affected by the deep state. The coordinated and concentrated efforts of the owners and managers of major corporations have brought the labor movement down to 10.7 percent of U.S. workers from 35 percent in the 1950s.49 Corporations have successfully attacked labor unions and labor legislation;50 they have put big money behind attacks on union organizing, and they have mostly succeeded.51 Recently, three-quarters of 2800 workers at Boeing’s South Carolina plant voted against the union, which “. . . capped a stretch of high-profile losses for unions across the South.” Not surprisingly, a group linked to the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance “. . . ran a series of hard-edge ads opposing the union organizing effort. . . .” The New York Times news summary noted, “Employees faced enormous pressure from management ahead of the vote. . . .” 52

Others have suggested that churches or community corporations could take on this role, either of which seems extremely unlikely. Out-migration from institutional religious life in the U.S. is growing. Moreover, the American commitment to church-state separation precludes popular support for this alternative, and the idea that religious authorities would dilute their powers with any form of grassroots governance is not believable. Finally, community corporations53 possess only the powers of ordinary nonprofit corporations. Their limitations result from their dependence on foundation and government grants, which (as we learned during the War on Poverty) are withdrawn when they challenge corporations and local, state, and national governments. So, who or what can help?

What Will Work

As we have pointed out, the deep-state’s mechanisms for exercising power are the public powers of government institutions, the unique powers of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal, state, and local governments. Command of the public powers is how the imbalance of power is sustained. The only means of permanently securing a balance of power that serves the commonwealth and sustains the democracy is to ensure that the grassroots citizenry acquires countervailing institutional powers. How might that be accomplished?

We know what has worked in the past. And we know what continues to enable grassroots empowerment, as demonstrated by New England’s “open,” directly democratic town governments. The government institutional form, with its public powers, when adapted to metropolitan governance, has the greatest potential for grassroots empowerment to countervail the Wall Street-led deep-state forces. Specifically, we have proposed transforming metropolitan government by adding a lower tier of directly democratic neighborhood governments with limited grants of public powers. We have described this strategic vision in detail in several previous Social Policy articles.54

“Open” town government passes the test of being irrefutably American, even Jeffersonian. As a model for directly democratic neighborhood governance, it’s entirely home-grown. It has an unquestionable history of successful direct democracy. In most states, it can be created through municipal charter reform; and in half the states, local government can be restructured through the initiative process. It has the potential to acquire public powers; and once engaged in the public’s business, its public powers become vested permanently in the grassroots citizenry.

This is the beginning of rectifying the imbalance of power, which is poisoning our democracy—the beginning of balancing power nationally. Do we doubt its promise? If so, we may recall Gandhi’s seven years of work during which he built the base for a nation by promoting the self-reliance of villages throughout India. Our goal is self-governing neighborhoods. As Gandhi prepared the villages, so must we prepare the neighborhoods, to be the basis from which to rebuild a just and equitable nation, a nation of democratic promise.

Authors’ note: We have been learning, teaching, and doing community and congregational organizing for more than 70 years combined. Nowadays we regard ourselves as “emeritus” organizers. We are retired from active work on the street, so strictly speaking we no longer have skin in the game. But we’re neither indifferent nor disengaged. We felt compelled to write this essay.

Moshe ben Asher and Khulda bat Sarah are the founders and Co-Directors of Gather the People (, which provides resources for congregational and community organizing and development, Moshe has organized for ACORN, Citizens Action League of California, and one of the PICO projects (OCCCO); he was Assistant Director for Organize Training Center; and he teaches sociology and social work at California State University, Northridge. Khulda has organized for the North County Community Project and the Marin Congregational Organizing Project.

End Notes

1. The détente between the Republican majority in Congress and the President suggests that a disruptive confrontation between them in the immediate future is unlikely. See Jonathan Martin and Matt Flegenheimer, “G.O.P. Lawmakers Like What They See in Trump. They Just Have to Squint,” New York Times (February 12, 2017). Open conflict between the Republican-dominated executive and legislative branches, all other variables holding constant (which, of course, they may not),
seems improbable without any change in the right-wing AM radio, Fox news, and other pro-Trump media disinformation, which serve to keep his base intact and isolated from mainstream news. (See Yochai Benkler, et al., “Study: Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda,” Columbia Journalism Review (March 3, 2017) [accessed at].) This, in turn, ensures the political future of the Republicans in Congress, especially those in safe districts, while Trump supports their legislative proposals. One major disincentive to Republican challenges to Trump may be the desire to get Gorsuch seated on the SCOTUS without any delays, such as would occur with impeachment or 25th Amendment removal proceedings. It is also possible, of course, that pending third-party legal actions or Fourth Estate revelations about the “Russia connection” may determine the ultimate disposition of Trump and his administration.
2. As to the potential usefulness of the demonstrations, Peter Dale Scott notes the deep-state role in their ineffectiveness: “. . . [U]nder the guise of Continuity of Government planning, the American war machine has been
preparing for forty years to neutralize street antiwar protests . . . .” See The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil, and the Attack on U.S. Democracy (Boulder-New York-London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) [Kindle version, loc. 4013].
3. “The mood at these protests [i.e., the anti- Trump actions following the Women’s March] has generally been joyful and determined; the vast majority have been far less heated than the average college football game.” See Jia Tolentino, “The Perils and Possibilities of the Never-Ending Protest,” The New Yorker (February 23, 2017) [accessed at http://www.].
4. From the New Oxford American Dictionary (NewYork: Oxford University Press, 2010).
5. For example, the Trump administration initiative on the Dakota Access Pipeline, notwithstanding the grassroots encampment and extended protest, “provides a discouraging precedent” to the participants of the mobilization. See Tolentino.
6. See Farah Stockman, “Anarchists Respond to Trump’s Inauguration by Any Means Necessary,” New York Times (February 2, 2017). We also recognize the possibility that Trump’s impeachment or 25th Amendment removal from office might unleash random right-wing violence aimed at LBGTQ, Muslims, Jews, women, people of color, etc.
7. See Matthew Feinberg, et al., “Extreme Protest Tactics Reduce Popular Support for Social Movements,” SSRN (February 4, 2017) [accessed at papers2.cfm?abstract_id=2911177].
8. The recent history of national immigration reform efforts confirms that the grassroots organizing campaigns were unsuccessful, not a factor in the decision-making that doomed significant reform. See: Kathleen Hennessey, “Immigration stands as Obama’s most glaring failure,” PBS Newshour (July 4, 2016) [accessed at]; Christopher Parker, “The Real Reason Why the House Won’t Pass Immigration Reform,” Brookings Institution (August 4, 2014) [accessed at]; and Rachel Weiner, “How immigration reform failed, over and over,” The Washington Post (January 30, 2013).
9. See Tolentino, who notes in describing the anti-Trump actions following the Women’s March, “There is an amorphous, generally leaderless group of people who are incorporating protest in the fabric of their everyday lives. . . .”
10. The notion that the Women’s March represented unified leadership or objectives is contradicted by the “fractious” character of the contemporary women’s movement. Marchers carried signs that identified their concerns about numerous issues, including: “REFUGEES WELCOME, KEEP YOUR LAWS OUT OF MY VAGINA, BLACK LIVES MATTER, SCIENCE IS REAL, FLINT NEEDS CLEAN WATER, NOBODY LIKES YOU.” See Amanda Hess, “How a Fractious Women’s Movement Came to Lead the Left,” New York Times (February 7, 2017).
11. See Daniel Schwartz, “What happened after the Arab Spring?” CBC News (August 4, 2014) [accessed at]; Aaron David Miller, “The Arab Spring in 2015: RIP?” The Wall Street Journal (January 2, 2015) [accessed at
the-arab-spring-in-2015-rip/]; and Steven A. Cook, “The Arab Spring’s Aftermath, in 7 Minutes,” The Atlantic (January 26, 2016 [accessed at].
12. “For him, rebuilding of the nation could only be achieved by reconstructing villages.” See Divya Joshi (ed.), Gandhiji on Villages (Gamdevi, Mumbai: Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya Mumbai, 2002) [accessed at], p.2. For a description of Gandhi’s seven years of village work, see Mahatma Gandhi, “Mahatma Gandhi’s writings, philosophy, audio, video & photographs” (n.d.) [accessed at].
13. See John Judis, “Can the Democrats Get Organized? An Interview With Marshall Ganz,” TPM (February 24, 2017) [accessed at].
14. Scott states: “The Occupy Movement, which attracted many fine people with energy and enthusiasm, was in my opinion destined never to be a prevailable [sic] force in this country. Its amorphousness and lack of leadership guaranteed that it would remain a marginal movement. . . .” See The American Deep State (loc. 4013).
15. In the absence of unified objectives and leadership, the rallying cry has a plethora of meanings to the individuals and groups that take it up, undermining the emergence of unified movement. See “‘Resist’ Becomes a New Battle Cry,” New York Times (February 15, 2017).
16. To the extent that an incipient movement begins to emerge by virtue of being unified in “resistance” to Trump, his departure from office—by impeachment, resignation, 25th Amendment removal, or death—should, ironically, be regarded as a symbolic victory. All of his worst initiatives and more would nonetheless continue to be promoted by Vice President Mike Pence or, if he were removed from office, by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and by the Republican majority in Congress, possibly given a free pass by a general public’s sensibility that “the problem” had been fixed. See Yamiche Alcindor, “Liberal Activists Join Forces Against a Common Foe: Trump,” New York Times (February 14, 2017). There is also a possibility that Trump’s exit from office might entail a net loss to progressives. The Republican majority in Congress has been mostly stymied from effective legislative action by the lack of consistent policy leadership from the Trump White House. Pence or Ryan as President might provide more consistent leadership, thereby enabling more effective Republican
legislative action.
17. From the film “Guns and Mothers,” (Brooklyn, NY: First Run/Icarus Films, 2003).
18. The “strategic” objective of the first Million Mom March was “. . . to convince lawmakers to take action on gun-control legislation that had languished in Congress for nearly a year. . . . [however, the march] organizers .. . [had] no official plans to lobby Congress.. . .” See Amy Paulson, “’Million Mom March’ organizers hope to spur congressional
action on gun legislation,” (May 8, 2000) [accessed at]. Not surprisingly, the MMM did not spur any legislative activity in Congress. “. . . [T]he growing public display of anti-gun sentiments triggered the wrath of the
NRA, which mounted a full-court press to help defeat Gore in the 2000 presidential race. . . . Perhaps realizing the power of the NRA over electoral politics, gun control was not a major issue in 2004, and only 3,000 people showed up
for a May 2004 Million Mom March to demand extension of the assault-weapons ban.” See Bob Adams, “Gun Control Debate,” CQ Researcher (November 12, 2004) [accessed at]. The only gun-related Congressional “action” in the next few years after the MMM of 2000 was in 2004 to allow the assault-weapons ban to expire at the end of its 10-year mandated life.
19. An example of over-the-top NRA influence on state legislation is the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act passed in 2011 by the Republican-dominated Florida legislature. The effect of the law was to prevent doctors from asking patients about gun ownership and safety practices. The law was struck down by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on February 16, 2017 as a violation of free speech. See Alex Yablon, “Florida Doctors Are Free to Talk to Their Patients About Guns Again,” The Trace (February 17, 2017) [accessed at].
20. See Everytown for Gun Safety, “Federally Mandated Concealed Carry Reciprocity” (January 12, 2015) [accessed at].
21. See “A Decade Later, Million Mom March Endures As a Force to Save Lives,” Common Dreams (May 6, 2010) [accessed at].
22., “Gun Rights Money to Congress,” Center for Responsive Politics [accessed at].
23., “Annual Lobbying by National Rifle Association,” Center for Responsive Politics [accessed at].
24., “Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence,” Center for Responsive Politics [accessed at].
25., “Coalition to Stop Gun Violence” (April 21, 2015) (accessed at]
26. As reported to GuideStar by the NRA [accessed at].
27. Quora, “Where does funding for the National Rifle Association come from?” (December 6, 2015) [accessed at].
28. Adolphus Busch IV, Anheuser-Busch family heir, stated in his resignation letter ending his lifelong NRA membership, “Your current strategic focus places priority on the needs of gun and ammunition manufacturers while disregarding the opinions of your 4 million individual members.” Busch also noted that the NRA board of directors is “. . . dominated
by manufacturing interests. . . .” See Aaron Blake, “Anheuser-Busch heir leaves NRA over gun bill,” The Washington Post (April 18, 2013) [].
29. For examples, see: Bernd Debusmann, “Guns in America: the business of fear,” Reuters (July 30, 2012) [accessed at]; Robin Abcarian, “Gun
background check compromise: More NRA fear mongering,” Los Angeles Times (April 10, 2013); Violence Policy Center, “The Consequences of the NRA’s Violent Rhetoric” (June 2014) [accessed at]; Timothy Johnson, “NRA Ad Uses Home Invasion Footage to Lie and Fearmonger About Clinton and Guns,” MediaMatters for America
(September 20, 2016) []; and Andrew Shepperson, “NRA amps up the fear in video advertising LaPierre’s CPAC speech,” (February 21, 2017) [ accessed at].
30. Stephen Feinberg is the poster boy for billionaire backers of the NRA. Like many billionaires, Feinberg shuns the press. Although relatively unknown outside of the industry, as CEO of Cerberus Capital, which manages more than $30 billion, he consolidated the industry and created Big Gun, which is now the core of the NRA. See Stephen Witt, “Big Gun’s Big Fail,” New York (November 15, 2016) [accessed at
creating-a-guns-empire.html]; and Mark Sumner, “Trump appoints gun billionaire to ‘review’ the intelligence community,” Daily KOS (February 16, 2017) [accessed at
31. In 2016, the NSSF political action committee spent $503,364. See, “National Shooting Sports Foundation” [accessed at].
32. See Scott, The American Deep State (loc. 120).
33. See Richard Eskow, “11 Principles for Understanding and Dealing With the Deep State,” Alternet (February 24, 2017) []; Todd Gitlin, “What the Occupy Wall Street Crackdown Can Teach Us About NSA Spying,” Mother Jones (June 27, 2013) [accessed at]; and Clay Risen, “Spies Among Us,”
The American Scholar (Winter 2009) [accessed at].
34. See Moyers & Company interview of Mike Lofgren, “The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight” [accessed at:]; and “Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State”
[accessed at: at]. As Lofgren notes, “It is not too much to say that Wall Street may be the ultimate owner of the Deep State and itsstrategies. . . .”
35. See Philip Giraldi, “Deep State America,” The American Conservative (July 30, 2015) [accessed at].
36. See Scott, The American Deep State, who observes that both he and Mike Lofgren recognize “. . . symbiosis between two aspects of the American deep state: (1) the Beltway agencies of the shadow government, like the CIA and NSA . . . , and (2) the much older power of Wall Street, referring to the powerful banks and law firms located there” (loc. 334).
37. Sheldon Wolin offers a penetrating conceptualization of partisan-dominated representative government in the service of major corporations and the wealthiest individuals. He describes the emergence of corporate totalitarianism from a seemingly strong democracy, a scenario in which democracy is completely “managed,” without appearing to be suppressed. See Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (Princeton University Press, 2008), p. 44; and “Inverted Totalitarianism,” The Nation (May 19, 2003).
38. “The thing the Republican leadership feared most was that an Obama nominee would rule against the huge influx of ‘dark’ money into political campaigns, which is corrupting our system of government. They feared this outcome more than any other because it is that dark money, a vast amount of which came from the Koch brothers and their organization, that has played a huge role in putting the Republicans in the Senate majority.” See Jeff Merkley, “Make the Republicans Go Nuclear,” New York Times (February 3, 2017) [accessed at https://].
39. This objective would not be surprising, given that the Forbes 400, with an average net worth of $5.8 billion, have “. . . benefitted enormously from a system of tax, trade, and regulatory rules tipped in favor of wealth holders at the
expense of wage earners”—the result largely of their own influence on all three branches of government. See Chuck Collins and Josh Hoxie, “Billionaire Bonanza, Report: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us,” Institute for Policy Studies (December 2015) [accessed].
40. The growth of wealth-inequality is due primarily to the increased share of wealth of the top 0.1 percent of wealth-holders, from 7 percent in 1979 to 22 percent in 2012. The wealth-share of the bottom 90 percent has steadily declined since the 1980s. See Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, “Wealth Inequality in the United States Since 1913: Evidence from Capitalized Income Tax Data,” National Bureau of Economic Research (October 2014) [accessed at].
41. For detailed breakdowns of wealth holdings by household, see Michael O’Sullivan, “Global Wealth Databook 2016,” Credit Suisse, Research Institute (November 2016) [accessed at http://
42. See Richard Fry, “America’s wealth gap between middle-income and upper-income families is widest on record,” Pew Research Center (December 17, 2014) [accessed at].
43. See “Wealth Inequality,” Institute for Policy Studies (n.d.) [accessed at].
44. See Chuck Collins and Josh Hoxie, “Billionaire Bonanza, Report: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us,” Institute for Policy Studies (December 2015) [accessed at].
45. In his review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Paul Krugman writes: “Why didn’t the universally enfranchised citizens of France vote in politicians who would take on the rentier class [whose income was from property or investments]? Well, then as now great wealth purchased great influence— not just over policies, but over public discourse.” See “Why We’re in a New Gilded Age,” The New York Review of Books (May 8, 2014).
46. The billionaire Koch brothers are unlike most of their peers insofar as they often operate in public view. See, for example, “Kochs put political muscle into Gorsuch fight,” USA Today (February 1, 2017) [accessed at http://].
47. For an example of the Wall Street-led deep state role in the formation and continuing life of the Tea Party, which is frequently described by the media and its own members as “populist” and “grassroots,” see: Amanda Fallin, Rachel Grana, and Stanton A. Glanz, “To quarterback behind the scenes, third-party efforts: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party,” Tobacco Control, 23:322-331 (2014) [accessed at]; and Jess Nesbit, “The Secret Origins of the Tea Party, How Big Oil and Big Tobacco Partnered with the Koch Brothers to Take Over the GOP,” Time (April 5, 2016) [accessed at].
48. See Scott: The American Deep State (locs. 87 and 2813); and see also: “Is the State of Emergency Superseding the US Constitution? Continuity of Government Planning, War and American Society,” The Asia-Pacific Journal (November
2010); “America’s Unchecked Security State: Part I: The Toxic Legacy of J. Edgar Hoover’s Illegal Powers,” The Asia-Pacific Journal (April 28, 2013); and “America’s Unchecked Security State: Part II: The Continuity of COG Detention Planning, 1948-2001,” The Asia- Pacific Journal (April 28, 2013).
49. See Shaun Richman, “Unions Are at Their Lowest Level in Decades—To Gain Power We Must Stop Following the Rules,” In These Times (February 1, 2017) [accessed at].
50. See Matthew Rozsa, “Divided, the unions are falling, as right-to-work laws are gaining ground,” (February 17, 2017) [accessed at].
51. Stanley Aronowitz notes: “The real story of the past seventy-five years of labor’s journey is the successful subordination of unions” to the ideological imperatives of capital; and we would say, often to be reduced to little more than
outposts of private enterprise. Described in The Death and Life of American Labor: Toward a New Workers’ Movement (London & New York: Verso, 2014), p. 32.
52. See Noam Scheiber, “Boeing Workers Reject a Union in South Carolina,” New York Times (February 15, 2017).
53. For a thoughtful proposal to use the corporate form for grassroots empowerment, see Milton Kotler, Neighborhood Government: The Local Foundations of Political Life (Indianapolis: Bobbs- Merrill Co., 1969).
54. See “Public Powers for the Commonweal: A Challenge to Faith-Based Organizing,” Social Policy (Winter 2015); “Directly Democratic Metropolitan Government: Envisioning Beyond Oppression, Rebellion, and Reform,” Social Policy (Spring 2016); “Refocusing Our Strategic Organizing Vision,” Social Policy (Winter 2016); and “Winning the War for Grassroots Empowerment: Building a Directly Democratic Metropolitan Public Powers Movement,” Social Policy (forthcoming).
55. See Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Governor John Tyler, May 26, 1810, in (Albert Ellery Bergh, ed.) The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Washington, D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1907), p. 393; Letter to John Adams, October 28, 1813, in (Paul Leicester Ford, ed.) The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 11 (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905), pp. 343-46; Letter to John Taylor, May 28, 1816, in The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 11, p. 529; Letter to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1816, in The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 12, p. 9; Letter to Samuel Kercheval, September 5, 1816, in The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 12, p. 16; Letter to Major John Cartwright, June 5, 1824, in Thomas Jefferson Randolph, ed.) Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1830), p. 396.
56. See “Initiative and Referendum States,” National Conference of State Legislatures(December 2015) [accessed at].
57. Quoted in Sheryl Crown, “Hell No, We Won’t Glow: Seabrook, April 1977, Nonviolent Occupation of a Nuclear Power Site,” undated pamphlet, author’s collection, p. 41.
58. On the internal fight to address racism as part of the 1979 Wall Street mobilization, see Tony Vellela, New Voices: Student Political Activism in the ‘‘80s and ‘‘90s (Boston, MA: South Press, 1988), p. 36; Up Against the Wall Street Journal
Training Handbook (1979),author’s collection, p.26.
59. Richmond CA Community Livability Report, 2015, National Citizen Survey (Boulder, CO: National Research Center, 2105),

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