This post originally appeared on OTYCD in September 2018.
Read Andrés Miguel Rondón’s How to Culture Jam a Populist in Four Easy Steps, a summary of what he and his Venezuelan compatriots learned about pushing back against Hugo Chavez.
We at OTYCD devoted an earlier blog post to how Italians finally defeated Silvio Berlusconi. Rondón and his country went through a similar struggle against Chavez. We apologize for being so late to draw your attention to Rondón’s piece, which appeared on Inauguration Day.
Rondón’s four steps boil down to:
Don’t forget who the enemy is. Under Trump, that means you, yes, you, the fine, smart, upstanding, honest person reading this blog. MAGA-heads draw their strength from demonizing us. “Your focus has to be on erase the cartoon you’ve been drawn into. Scrambling it. Undermining it.” For concrete examples of how to scramble and undermine the image that MAGA-heads have pressed upon us, you’ll need to see point four, but bear with Rondón and keep reading.
Show no contempt. If they succeed in demonizing us, that keeps the country polarized. If the country wasn’t so damn polarized, Trump couldn’t have the sway that he does. Don’t take this to mean that you shouldn’t express anger at how corrupt, vulgar, and stupid Trump is–just vent it in a private sphere, like a closed Facebook page populated by friends, and don’t waste your time trying to use these facts to get people on your side. Hillary Clinton tried that, with an audience of 84 million watching live. Fat lot of good it did her.
Don’t try to force him out. Granted, this is mitigated by an ever-growing mound of evidence that Trump committed any number of impeachment-worthy crimes, but stay clear of the investigators and let them do their work without any overt cheerleading or brickbats from you. “The people on the other side, and crucially Independents, will rebel against you if you look like you’re losing your mind,” Rondón writes. “Worst of all, you will have proved yourself to be the very thing you’re claiming to be fighting against: an enemy of democracy.”
Find a counter-argument. (No, not the one you think.) As we said above, pressing the case for how patently awful Trump is will cut no ice because it didn’t cut enough ice at the ballot box. “The problem is tribal. Your challenge is to prove that you belong in the same tribe as them: that you are American in exactly the same way they are,” Rondón writes. “It took our leaders ten years to figure out they needed to actually go to the slums and to the countryside. And not for a speech, or a rally, but for game of dominoes or to dance salsa – to show they were Venezuelans too, that they had tumbao and could hit a baseball, could tell a joke that landed. That they could break the tribal divide, come down off the billboards and show they were real. And no, this is not populism by other means. It is the only way of establishing your standing. It’s deciding not to live in an echo chamber. To press pause on the siren song of polarization.
You will not find that pause button in the cities or the university’s campuses. You will find it precisely where you’re not expected.
Only then will your message land.”
In other words, leave your house and engage with unlike minds in person. Yeah, yeah, we know, but c’mon, do you want four more years of this crap?
Read How to Culture Jam a Populist in Four Easy Steps:
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