Dorothee Benz: ‘We Need to Do Everything We Can on All Fronts’

That means protesting in the streets, that means burning up the Capitol Hill phone lines. That means efforts like the letter that you mentioned from law professors. Everything needs to happen.   

Janine Jackson interviewed organizer Dorothee Benz about impeachment protests for the December 20, 2019, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.   

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Janine Jackson: Many people didn’t wait for the House to act. More than 750 historians signed an open letter declaring that, “If Trump’s misconduct does not rise to the level of impeachment, then virtually nothing does.” And hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, backed by dozens of organizations, here in New York City and around the country, calling for Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. Our next guest was one of them. Dorothee Benz is a writer and organizer; she joins us now by phone from Brooklyn. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Dorothee Benz.

Dorothee Benz: Great to be here.

JJ: I know it’s a big question, but why were you out in the street last night?

DB: There’s several levels of answer to that. First and most importantly, because it’s important. We need to do everything we can on all fronts. That means protesting in the streets, that means burning up the Capitol Hill phone lines. That means efforts like the letter that you mentioned from law professors. Everything needs to happen.

Trump is a menace to this country; to, particularly, people who are not white, male Christians; and a menace to the planet. And as you said, if this stuff isn’t impeachable, then nothing is.

Dorothee Benz: “If this flies, not only do we no longer have a rule of law in this country, but we are well on our way to a slide into authoritarianism.”

Trump is a menace to this country; to, particularly, people who are not white, male Christians; and a menace to the planet. And as you said, if this stuff isn’t impeachable, then nothing is. He’s racked up so many violations of law and the Constitution, that if this flies, not only do we no longer have a rule of law in this country, but we are well on our way to a slide into authoritarianism. So it’s very, very important that he be impeached and removed. And I know that’s not a likely scenario, but that makes it even more important for us to be in the streets.

And I want to just pause and say that Trump is certainly not the only problem that we have. And in some ways, he’s the embodiment of many problems that we’ve had for centuries. But without getting rid of him, all the other problems are that much harder to solve. So that’s the first reason.

The second reason is because Congress, both houses of Congress…. How to say this nicely? They’re clearly not up to the job. They have made it clear for three years that they’re not going to do what needs to be done without being massively pressured by the people. The Republicans, obviously, are a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump, Inc. at this point, but the Democratic Party…. You know, your mother says if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything…but damn! Three years in, they still haven’t understood that it’s not business as usual. Right? They’ve had to be pushed every step of the way to show any real resistance to the extent that they have.

And I think about things like the battle against Trumpcare, the battle to save the Affordable Care Act and what that took: the millions and millions of people that called, the hundreds of thousands that came to DC and protested, the thousands that got arrested. And that was a defensive victory, but a hell of a victory.

And that is the kind of model, I think, that those of us who were out in the freezing cold rain in New York and in 600 cities across the country last night, have in mind; it’s going to take that kind of effort, but we have to make it.

JJ: Let me just ask you, finally: You’ve always been an organizer. But for many people, going out in the street feels dangerous, it feels transgressive. But we really have to absorb our right to these sorts of actions, don’t we?

DB: Yeah, no, that’s absolutely true. I mean, rights that are just on a piece of paper are just a piece of paper; you have to actually enforce them, you have to defend them. And especially when your elected representatives are a little…meek, let’s say, it really is up to all of us to defend our rights. That’s what makes a democracy. It’s not the once-every-four-years to a voting booth–if you’re not gerrymandered into it not mattering in your district, and if you’re not voter-suppressed out of the roll–that’s not what makes democracy; that is an important part of it, but what makes a democracy is that we’re in the streets defending our rights, that we’re on the phones defending our rights, that we’re doing everything; we’re participating in our society and in our government at every level.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with writer and organizer Dorothee Benz. You can read her work on Medium.com. Dorothee Benz, thanks so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

DB: It’s great to be here.

Janine Jackson is FAIR’s program director and producer/host of FAIR’s syndicated weekly radio show CounterSpin.

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