When an anarchist shows up at your protest and hijacks it for their own cause, which is, obviously, anarchy, then you tell them to cut those shenanigans out. This isn't their rally. This is a rally for...
And here's where we ought to supply an answer. Because protests have to be for something.
Otherwise, we end up with the scene last week in Portland, Ore., where a gang of anarchists smashed windows as the petty right wing pointed and said, See, this is who they really are.
No, who we really are is the GoFundMe page raising money to fix everything the anarchists broke. In much the same way, when Donald Trump is gone in four or eight years, it will be us left to reassemble a country shattered by chaos.
We can stop Trump from breaking so much of what we hold dear if we first seriously contemplate what we want, in the context of all the terrible that is about to happen. With Republicans poised to take control of all three arms of legislating -- the House, Senate, and presidency -- we must access the full power and pessimism of our imaginations to foresee what's about to unravel. Let's transport ourselves to some day in 2017 when we are complaining that those pesky Republicans didn't give anyone time to debate privatization of Medicare. They just did it. We will all wake up one morning and discover it's the day Medicare died.
That's how it happened in North Carolina. Gov. Pat McCrory called a special session of the legislature, and in the span of a single day, the state passed a repeal of antidiscrimination ordinances that had protected LGBT people. There was no warning. It's a reminder that the time to protest is now, before our rights are undone.
Don't listen to those asking that we give Trump a chance; it's only a chance to destroy. It doesn't matter that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, not to them. What matters is how fast the wonks can race through the aisles of some GOP backroom and grab as many old policies from the shelves and then sprint them toward the new president's desk.
In the minds of Republicans, it doesn't matter that they lack a mandate; they expect to hold on to power forever if only they can pass all their harebrained ideas and finally prove how awesome they are. They realize these policies are unpopular. But they can feel it in their bones, that if you just get a taste of health care savings accounts, you're going to like them so much better than actual health care.
Did Donald Trump campaign on privatizing Medicare? No, but Paul Ryan did. He always does. Ryan prefers the term "entitlement reform," because everyone is against a sense of entitlement until they realize he means Social Security and Medicare.
"Medicare has got some serious issues because of Obamacare," Ryan told Fox News last week, without citing any evidence. "So those things are part of our plan to replace Obamacare."
In fact, Obamacare has nothing to do with Medicare, except extending its solvency with the efficiency it created. But if we know anything for sure about President Trump, it's that he paid someone to write The Art of the Deal. He doesn't care about any law so deeply that he'd save it from the deal-making table.
Speaker Ryan claims to detest Trump's Muslim ban, for example. So if Trump getting to "temporarily" -- also known as "indefinitely" -- bar people from entering the country based on their religion can be accomplished only by selling out our seniors, then he'll do it.
So maybe when an anarchist picks up a brick, you grab his arm and say, no, that isn't going to help us win support for Medicare.
I'm just using Medicare as a placeholder. But feel free to go even grander, with something more conceptual, like peace.
All that worry about Trump having control of the nuclear arsenal ought to still exist even after he's won. Actually, shouldn't we be more worried?
But I doubt we'll go straight from a manageable state of constant war (which we are in now) directly to nuclear bombs dropping. There would need to be a ramp-up. Use your imagination to see how Trump will get caught in escalating aggression toward Iran or at first Yemen, under the guise of fighting ISIS and terrorists. It's not too soon to rev up those peace protests, instead of waiting until Trump sends your friends and family overseas. By then, Trump will start calling protests un-American and unsupportive of the troops. And it will be too late.
All they've heard is that America is going to be great, truly great, and then they've interpreted that into their own lives however best it fits. Maybe they've got a new car. Maybe they've made a down payment on a house. The possibilities are endless. But they didn't fully contemplate their son or daughter being sent to fight a new enemy or their grandma losing her Medicare.
We already know they weren't too bothered by the prospect of minorities losing their civil rights. That didn't factor in. It didn't matter how loudly minorities warned that Trump is a racist xenophobe who uses sexism to wield his power. Really, we couldn't have made it any more clear.
So, don't go around protesting "Not My President" all the time, because the Trump voters already know that. They picked their president, and they're quite proud of themselves.
Protest for all the things you want to keep. Call on Republicans to drop the bricks they're ready to rip through our safety net and our civil rights. Be in favor, be involved, and do it before we find ourselves watching the vandals run wild.
Conservatives think we're all wasting our time with these protests. The knee-jerk reaction from those who are so galled by the live video of dissent in the streets is to claim it's all meaningless, that Trump will be president no matter how many people show up in however many cities.
They don't get it. They wonder, why would anyone protest unless it's to remove someone from office? Maybe that's how they protest. But it's not how civil rights were won or voting rights or funding for AIDS research.
A mantra is finally emerging the longer the protests go on. With every night of resistance, the message is honed. "Show me what community looks like!" chanted the leader at a massive rally this weekend in Los Angeles. Hundreds answered, "This is what community looks like!"
And then, "The people -- united -- will never be defeated!"