A Note On Donald Trump And The Power Of Dissent

For 10 years, we at Right Wing Watch have sought to expose the workings of the far-right, pointing out when a fringe idea offered by a small-time activist makes its way to lips of a national politician, and when national politicians cater to fringe extremists.

Over the past year, we’ve watched in horror as people whom we had previously almost written off as too extreme to make an impact outside of a small circle—conspiracy theorists, open white nationalists, preachers of “dominion” theology—found a home in the Republican Party, welcomed by the open arms of Trump. Those activists are now part of a governing coalition.

Trump’s victory in yesterday’s election was uniquely horrifying, but it didn’t come out of nowhere.

Our parent organization, People For the American Way, was founded to counteract the anti-freedom impulses of the Religious Right as it gained political power in the Reagan era. Although the Religious Right has in recent years attempted to paint itself as a victim of persecution in America—a talking point that should be put to rest once and for all now that it has helped Trump become president—it has existed for decades as a force that favored censoring books and the arts, keeping LGBT people from living their lives fully, and putting women’s bodies under government control. And it has long relied on the politics of racial resentment, uniting with anti-immigrant groups and those who seek to suppress voting rights, among others.

We watched with unease and disgust as these patterns emerged clearly in Trump’s campaign—particularly his apparent antipathy to free expression. Throughout his campaign, Trump attacked the American values of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, declaring that he would use the power of the presidency to go after his critics. At the same time, he stood by as his far-right supporters viciously attacked those who stood up to him, even refusing to condemn the anti-Semitic attacks frequently hurled at the journalists who cover him.

Trump’s distaste for dissent makes dissent even more important as he ascends to the presidency. We hope that once in power, he will abandon his threats to go after those who criticize him and instead adhere to the Constitution of the country he leads.

But, whatever happens, we, along with our many allies across the country, will continue to call out the hate, bigotry and intolerance that has enveloped the Right, and work even harder to shed light on the forces that are now headed toward the White House.