What does resistance in Trump’s America look like?

Sanders warned the crowd of threats to American Democracy. He spoke of the rising influence of money in politics and threats to healthcare availability.

Chris Anderson

With massive Republican gains in local, state and national government, and the upset win of a polarizing president, the aftermath of the 2016 election has left many Iowans across the political spectrum, especially the left, feeling disenfranchised.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement are looking to turn Iowan’s anger at the status quo into meaningful action.

This weekend the organization held its annual action fund event in downtown Des Moines. The event acted as a way to bring together progressive activists and community members, and to raise money to fund the Iowa CCI’s community activism. The keynote speaker, former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, was present to speak on what he felt were the biggest issues facing the country.

Sonia Ash has been a member of Iowa CCI since 2007, and feels that they work to organize people at grassroots level and inspire change in communities.

“One of the things I love about the organization is it gets people to come out for issues they normally wouldn’t come out for,” Ash said.

Although most of the issues Iowa CCI works towards are firmly on the left side of American politics, Ash says the group’s main purpose is to bring people together and improve the lives of all Iowans. Iowa CCI has claimed to have stopped more than 100 factory farms from building or expanding, forced Iowa to comply with the Clean Water Act, recovered more than $170,000 in stolen wages and helped enforce ordinances to curb the growth of payday lenders in major Iowa cities.

Looking at the results of the 2016 election, in which Iowa Republicans gained control of both houses of the state legislature, it is easy to claim Iowan’s may not be very receptive to progressive policy. Many at the event seemed to feel it wasn’t that simple. Many of the speakers felt that the political system is controlled or influenced by corporate interests and voter suppression.

Hugh Espey, Iowa CCI Executive Director, echoed many of these sentiments in his speech.

“Big social change begins and starts with us,” Espey said, “Every time we step into the arena we go toe to toe with corporate powers.”

Espey also worked to bring light to the moral backbone of Iowa CCI. He told the crowd that everything they do is “firmly rooted in love.” He then encouraged the crowd to channel their anger into forward thinking action.

“We have to do politics differently, and we need to do economics differently,” Espey said.

Elaborating, Espey shared that changing the economy would be no easy task and they should work to make American democracy more accessible to the common person by first changing the political system. Espey feels that the current system does not serve the public interest, and pointed to moving to a post-capitalist society.

Post-capitalism proved to be a popular idea in Des Moines, as the crowd erupted cheering for the self-described democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders.

Sanders spent his time outlining the issues he saw in our democracy and society, and the course of action the progressive resistance should take.

Sanders accused right-wing politicians of not running on ideas, but on an attempt to use big money to suppress the will of the people. He feels Republicans are not solely winning because of their conservative ideas, but because of corporate influence and voter suppression.

“If you can’t run based on your ideas, then get out of politics and get another job,” Sanders said.

The Vermont Senator then spoke of what he felt were false flag attempts to undermine democracy, like President Trump’s claim that millions voted illegally in the 2016 presidential elections. He feels this is an attempt to coerce action on a problem that doesn’t exist.

“Our goal is to bring more people into the political process, not fewer,” Sanders said.

Low turnout of young people and the poor is a major issue to Sanders, he said instead of tightening regulations on who can vote we should open who can participate in our democracy by instituting automatic voter registration.

He also called for public funding of elections, and an end to Super PAC donations. Sanders said that this would increase the amount of people who could run for office and open up our democracy further.

Sanders spoke of the darker side of American history, when women, poor, and non-whites were excluded from the political process.

“Over the years the essential struggle in this country has been that all people should have the right to participate,” Sanders said.

In the mind of Bernie Sanders, the biggest issue facing democracy is apathy and disenfranchisement. He asked how is the struggling college student or single mother going to care about politics when action seems to make little difference and day to day issues seem so much more real and pressing.

Sanders shifted to telling the crowd of ways economic policy needs to change, should Americans enjoy the freedom he feels they deserve. He also criticized Trump for acting to be a champion of the working class, while he feels he is acting more as an antagonist to working Americans.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, what I know an increasing number of Americans understand. That is that Donald Trump lied,” Sanders said. “He says he was going to take on the establishment but he has brought more billionaires into his administration than any president in history.”

If protecting democracy is the most important issue to Sanders, healthcare would be the second. He called the recently proposed republican healthcare plan the most “anti-working class legislation in history.”

He worried about the number of Americans that would become uninsured should the bill pass, and asked Iowa Senators Grassley and Ernst to join him in opposing the bill.

Among other issues he voiced his support on were making public higher education tuition free, raising the minimum wage and asking richer Americans to pay more to ensure what he feels should be basic rights to any American.

Iowa CCI no doubt bolstered spirits and raised plenty of money with their annual fund event, but seeing if their work translates into a reversal of growing conservatism in America is yet to be seen.