Almost everyone over the age of 40 must know of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the greatest players in basketball history. I began following him when he was setting high school records in New York (he was named Lew Alcindor then), and then at UCLA, and then in the NBA. Since retiring he’s made a career of acting, activism, and writing, showing that being a great athlete is not incommensurate with being a penetrating thinker.
Abdul-Jabbar’s activism and thoughtfulness are on tap in his new article in the Washington Post, “How boycotts could help sway Trump.” The article isn’t just about boycotts, though: it’s a broad platform for the anti-Trump activism that many of us foresee in our future. The day Trump was elected, when I was in Hong Kong, I thought, “What are we going to do?” My first notion was that, since the Congress was Republican as well, we’d have to engage in mass political protest, perhaps along the lines of the civil disobedience we practiced in the Sixties. I’m older now, but I hope the fire is still there, and I could see hitting the streets if Trump (as I fear) will do something as outrageous as supporting the Vietnam War or ignoring the segregation we protested in my youth.
After laying out a persuasive case that we shouldn’t expect much good from the Trump administration—look at whom Trump chose for his Cabinet!—Abdul-Jabbar suggests five lines of action against the upcoming malfeasance, which I summarize along with my take.
- Civil disobedience, such as blocking Trump advisor Stephen Bannon from entering the White House. (Confusingly, Abdul-Jabbar adds lobbying against the Muslim ban or for NASA to continue climate research, items that aren’t really civil disobedience.) This is what I envisioned, but stuff like blocking Bannon is too narrow, and doesn’t have the moral suasion to appeal to many people. I can see, for instance, action to prevent the deportation of immigrants, action that would rise to the level of civil disobedience. Would America be moved by this like it was against the fire hoses and dogs turned on civil-rights protestors? I doubt it, for the morality of integration is more clear-cut than that of fighting to allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. Still, you can’t persuade everyone, no matter what your cause.
- Donate money to organizations like the ACLU and NAACP to fight Trump’s violation of civil liberties and civil rights. This sounds good to me.
- Lobby the legislators who support policies of Trump that are unconstitutional. This also sounds good, but most of those legislators will be Republicans, unlikely to be scared by threats of being voted out of office.
- Boycott Trump’s businesses. This seems to me an eminently workable tactic. If all opponents of Trump stopped patronizing his casinos and hotels, it would have a big effect, and Trump would notice. There’s nothing like a reduction in cash flow to scare a Republican.
- Boycott right-wing sites like Breitbart by not patronizing its advertisers. Unless this is well organized, and those advertisers publicized, this won’t work. Besides, there are lots of right-wing websites like Breitbart, and that one, though on the odious extreme right-wing, deals with issues other than Trump; and should we really be trying to shut down a site we oppose? There are free speech issues.
It’s premature to ponder what we’ll have to do, as we don’t know what will happen, but it’s not premature to think about the possibilities. Of the above, I see civil disobedience, donations, letters to legislators and newspapers, and boycotting Trump’s businesses as the most effective tactics. But what can we do when Trump nominates, as he undoubtedly will, a horrible conservative for Scalia’s vacant Supreme Court post?
If you have other ideas, weigh in below.
h/t: Diane G.