For the last ten months, anti-Trump organizing has been done with a near-term goal in mind. In the spring, Republicans skipped from primary to primary, hoping to cobble together the delegates necessary to produce a contested convention. It didn’t work. When the RNC rolled around, there was a move to rob Trump of the nomination—and quite a lot of chaos on the floor resulted. It didn’t work. Over the next several months there were demands that Trump drop out over his flouting of democratic norms and the numerous scandals that engulfed his candidacy—some even called for his running mate, Mike Pence, to take over the ticket. It didn’t work. Evan McMullin tried to court disaffected conservatives, particularly in Utah. It didn’t work. And, for the last six weeks, there have been calls, petitions, and letters to electors who vote in the Electoral College to become “faithless electors” and install someone who is not Donald Trump (in most cases, Hillary Clinton, who is leading in the popular vote by nearly three million votes) into the presidency.
Denying Trump the presidency would create a national—and likely constitutional—crisis, and few of those calling for the Electoral College to make a last-minute switch have taken the chaos it would cause into account. (Similarly, few have taken into account the irony of the situation, given the widespread horror that met Trump’s refusal to accept election results.) But that’s in large part because it has followed the same pattern of anti-Trump organizing, wherein people identify the most immediate barrier and then organize around it.
There are arguments to be made that this is effective: It calls attention to Trump’s illegitimacy and his loss of the popular vote. But it also falls into a familiar trap. It sets a big, somewhat dishonest goal that has very little chance of success. Anyone who knows even the slightest bit about the Electoral College knows that the likelihood of it switching horses is extremely small. Just as importantly, once that target is missed, there’s nothing left. In the past, there has been a hangover after these anti-Trump actions and the next movement has to start from scratch. More troublingly, it may be taking important attention away from Trump’s horrifying cabinet, and his continued flouting of numerous democratic and presidential norms.
This is not a sustainable model for organizing against Trump. Until Trump’s loudest detractors realize this, he’ll continue steamrolling over every flimsy barrier they set before him.