Things have somehow taken a turn for the worse after Wednesday morning’s collective depression and shock. Many are alarmed and point out that this assumption of power by an energized right is unprecedented, except for that one (albeit non-nuclear) example from the 1930s when fascism swept across industrializing Europe and nearly the world. We have seen how Trump’s rise, likely fueled in part by the Brexit vote, is emboldening the worst elements on the right. We can only guess how this may embolden those same elements on the European continent, and beyond. Many of us on the left have been saying for a while now, that this is the failure of technocratic neoliberal pragmatism but want no prize for our boldest predictions coming true. However, the idea that the Democrats, led by Bill Clinton, are just going to walk away is troubling. It is clear that they will have to be shown the door and replaced by humanitarian progressives with great ideas and detailed plans.
None of what follows is especially groundbreaking but, in an exercise in catharsis that may somehow prove useful to others, here are nine thoughts from my conversations, observations, and notes:
1/ Team Clinton, Van Jones, Eric Holder, Howard Dean, Bill Maher, the Obamas, etc. have not learned their lesson. Your moral high ground exists only in your mind and in your circles. Cease and desist and let an opposition party form in the wake of your deep and very obvious political and economic corruption. If you do not, you risk any chance of capitalizing on the chaos and ineptitude of what remains of the Republicans. Just like major multinational corporations who commit crimes against humanity and nature, the Democratic Party and its cheerleaders refuse to accept responsibility for their failure (i.e. running a tight race and/or losing to a “laughable” neophyte) and appear to have no capacity to believably apologize to the victims of their hubris, much less atone.
2/ Democracy has very little to do with voting every four years actually. Democracy means consistently paying attention to what is going on in your community, your state, your country and world often. Don’t tell me or any others that if we didn’t vote at all or for the candidate you supported (especially when that candidate is terrible) that we don’t have a say. If you take a teeny bopper approach to politics and treat your party affiliation the way you would treat your city’s baseball or football team, or feel like celebrities bolster your case without their being qualified, then you are not a genuine believer in nor or a practitioner of democracy.
3/ Protests should not be primarily coordinated by major organizations like MoveOn, NOR should protesters’ anger, fear, confusion and desire to be in the streets, organize, and commiserate simply be dismissed as being manipulated by a major organization. Surely, some unsavory groups with huge sacks of cash are behind elements of the mobilizations we are seeing now and they may even be flirting with the notion of some kind of coup but this could never work and they know it. The fact that they never did the same in support of Black Lives Matter or Standing Rock or the seven countries the US has attacked in recent years is telling. However, there is hope in Ralph Nader’s suggestion urging Bernie Sanders and his voters and others demanding progressive policy shifts to come together “in visible rallies starting with a giant gathering on the mall in Washington, D.C. before going regional.” Nader should be invited of course, and it should all be “before the end of the year, while President Obama is still in office”.
4/ Yes, Hillary won the popular vote. Yes, many (likely millions) people were denied the chance to vote due to voter suppression. Professor Mark Crispin Miller, Bob Fitrakis and Greg Palast have been detailing what this suppression has looked like and how it is morphing, yet somehow they are virtually ignored by everyone in the Democratic Party and many on the left scratching their heads or looking for scapegoats. Republicans are responsible for putting up all kinds of obstacles to voting because of how demographics are changing US politics, but they may not have much to fear if the hapless Democrats don’t learn from their mistakes. Most people won’t vote or do so begrudgingly and have dismissed the whole debacle in 2016 as rigged and staged, which it was. Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC behaved just like Republicans in the primaries and, in doing so, elected a nominee that was easily and obviously one of the worst in the history of the party.
5/ Calls for Trump to be stopped before taking office are not going to work so we should instead focus on building a genuine alternative coalition of dedicated humanitarians, either within or apart from the Democratic Party. It is not going to be easy and there are enormous obstacles that may entirely rule it out but how can we not try? While most of the country, aside from the happy Hillaryites (and their guru Paul Krugman), realizes that things are not working out well or at all for nearly all of us, we on the left are clearly the most honest about the problems and challenges we face as a country and a species. Our biggest failure thus far has been designing a path forward due to the circular firing squad and a lack of imagination, so now is the time to try our hands like never before.
6/ There are grave threats posed by a successful Trump administration so no one should be wishing him luck or hoping that he is successful. On three major issues, there are clear and present dangers: criminal justice, immigration, and the environment. Trump’s law and order approach and cluelessness about how to deal with China or Latin America, along with Preibus, Bannon, Giuliani, Gingrich, Palin, and others, possibly including Joe Arpaio, having a say in the matter should frighten any keen observer. It CANNOT turn out OK. The swamp will not only NOT be drained but it will be run by the most fringe and energized right-wing faction the country has ever experienced. Again, the urgency cannot be denied.
7/ There is a strong connection between people’s attitudes toward Latinos or other new(er) arrivals, the economy, and an inadequate social safety net. This should be fairly obvious and can help to explain why 1 out of every 5 identified black voters in 2016 did not vote for Clinton and why 1 in 3 identified Latinos voted for Trump. As citizens, they feel that the government they pay taxes to is not supporting them or making their lives any easier (they are correct and justified in feeling that way, as are white working class voters) and are prone to believe that newcomers are being lovingly greeted with a red carpet and doctor waiting to give them free medicine. If people had more security in their lives, they wouldn’t believe or care as much about sensationalist tales spun by Republican demagogues and their highly-paid staffers. The causes of demagoguery are visible across Europe as well but many are not properly understanding it.
8/ White women voting for Trump, with or without a college degree, demonstrate that there is obviously some level of what researchers have termed Stockholm syndrome and this support may offer more evidence of its connection to state authority. There is no way anyone can simply ignore Trump’s abusive nature toward women. One surefire way Trump-as-leader can be justified to victims of pervasive misogyny is if you feel that it could possibly help to stabilize one’s life (this applies to any one, not just women). This may be controversial and I only bring it up because, as an expat, I notice a serious problem in US culture today. In 21st century late-capitalist USA, TV programming, advertisers, corporations, celebrities, doctors, politicians, religious institutions, or the men in your family or community continue to egregiously speak down to us even though we know their authority is illegitimate and their moral high ground is imaginary. Justifying a bully’s behavior then is not surprising. This is especially true if you feel there is no other choice, if you feel comfortable with that bully because you feel you’ve known them for so long, and/or if you are tired of expectations because you are simply part of a demographic and not a lone thinking individual.
9/ The percentage of the Jewish population (@500,000) in pre-war Germany of the 1930 was 0.74 or < 1%. The percentage of Roma or “gypsies” (@30,000) in pre-war Germany of the 1930s was 0.04 or < 1%. The percentage of Communist Party members (@360,000) in pre-war Germany of the 1930s was 0.53 or < 1%. The percentage of Socialist Party members (@3,500,000) in pre-war Germany of the 1930s was 5.2 or slightly > 5%.
Numbers for homosexuals and disabled are harder to find. The point is, not only did 164 million eligible US voters not opt for the buffoonish reality TV show authoritarian, but the people who he and his cronies will target make up large numbers of the citizen body and have many more allies in the US and around the world. And it doesn’t seem like we are about to back down.
Yes, we should be depressed that there will be traitors around every corner and in what may seem like every family, classroom, and office space, but with efforts at leadership that make a strong case against neoliberal Dems and right-wing demagoguery at the same time, while maintaining that no one deserves to be attacked for the color of their skin, their ethnic origins or how far they live from metropolitan areas, we have a fighting chance.