It seems like a good time for an update.
So, Donald Trump won the election. This was not the outcome I wanted. Indeed, it is not the outcome a majority of voters wanted. But it is the one we’ve got. Now, the next move is how to keep Trump from implementing his agenda.
Massive protests swept the country. There were smaller ones for each of Obama’s victories, but nothing on the scale we’ve seen so far. I attended one such protest yesterday–the march from Union Square to Trump Tower in New York City. The question is often asked, “What’s the purpose of protesting?” Since it doesn’t change the outcome of the election, what’s the point?
By themselves, protests accomplish two things: gaining public visibility, and allowing networking opportunities for activists. Both of these are essential for building political movements. The Democratic National Committee has already taken note and maybe shaking up its leadership in the near future. With a lot of work and no small amount of luck, Democrats will be organized enough to make Trump a one-term President. That’s the long-term goal.
The short-term goal is minimizing Trump’s destructive agenda. One of the few good things about Trump is that he has no mind for policy. There is no coherent political worldview in his head–no raft of policies that binds together into a workable, sensible platform. He doesn’t like everything Republicans have to offer, but he won’t do everything Democrats want, either. In other words, this is a man who doesn’t care what team he’s on, as long as it’s the winning one. He may be more willing to get things done than worry about whether it ticks the appropriate “true conservative” checkboxes.
But of course, that’s the optimistic hope, that his lack of experience and poor political instincts can be used to help him implement a relatively liberal agenda. And this is sure to be offset by the extremely right-wing composition of his Cabinet and the rest of his administration. A big part of the problem is that we simply don’t know what he’s going to do. If he attempts to carry out every terrible idea he emitted during the campaign, we’re in serious trouble. Hell, we’re in serious trouble anyway, by not having a real adult in the White House.
But Trump can be resisted. Come January, he will be President, but this does not make him absolute ruler. He must still work with Congress, which is not only divided by party, but may well be divided in terms of which Republicans will go along with his agenda. Getting things done may be a lot harder than he imagined, and this is likely to affect his behavior, too.
One thing that has already arisen as a form of resistance is the safety pin campaign. The idea is simple: you wear a safety pin to signal to Muslims, immigrants, and others who are at risk from Trump’s agenda that you are a safe person to be around. However, this needs to be more than hypothetical. One must be willing to step in and deal with situations where someone is being harassed or abused for who they are. Here is a good post with a lot of advice on wearing a safety pin and what it really means.
If you are a person of privilege, you have the opportunity right now to put it to good use. Don’t stand by and let others be abused. Take to the streets. Write your elected officials. Donate to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the SPLC. Run for office yourself! A lot of people are vulnerable in Trump’s America, and they need to be protected and assisted. Hate crimes are already on the rise thanks to Trump’s win. It may only get worse. We cannot simply shrug and do nothing.
It already looks like Trump may prove to be his own worst enemy, as well. His 100-day plan is a smorgasbord of well-worn conservative policies that have failed in the past, mixed with Trump’s weird brand of protectionism and American exceptionalism. Should his economic ideas be implemented, they are almost certain to wreck the economy. He would leave the government with huge deficits, inflict new tax burdens on many middle- and working-class people, and cause massive disruption of the business sector. Where other politicians would make incremental adjustments to existing policies, Trump wants radical adjustments and he wants them now. These are likely to be disastrous.
At this point, we will also have to rely on state and local governments to defend vulnerable people. If the federal government changes its tune on combating racism, homophobia, transphobia, and other bigotries, more local governments need to step up. I realize there are plenty of places where this simply won’t happen–the bastions of bigotry that catapulted Trump into office are perfect examples. I don’t know what can be done about such locales, to be honest. The election of Donald Trump will probably spark another wave of geographic sorting. Minorities have typically gravitated toward cities, and that seems likely to accelerate now, as rural areas went hard for Trump. Such places may well become even more dangerous for minorities, now that racists have been emboldened.
In the months leading up to the election, I said “don’t despair.” I didn’t believe Trump would win. I was far from the only person wrong about that! But some have mistaken what his win means. The reasons he won are not what mainstream narratives tend to indicate.
First is that Democratic turnout was way down compared to 2012. Republican turnout declined, too, but it was relatively slight. Some Republicans went for Gary Johnson instead, and there is reason to believe Trump’s count was bolstered by a number of voters who normally sit out elections–think protest, anti-establishment votes.
Likewise, the belief that Hillary Clinton had it in the bag may have depressed Democratic turnout. I worried that that would happen, but I was convinced that Republican turnout would be hit just as hard by people who refused to support Trump. That is not what happened. But there is some good news in that.
A lot of people probably voted for Trump, not out of thoroughly racist impulses, but for his status as an outsider, an anti-establishment candidate. The “middle finger” vote, if you will. It is obviously laughable that a rich man like Trump is any kind of outsider or rebel, but we’re not dealing with a logical viewpoint here. The same goes for those who would excuse or overlook his bigoted statements and simply vote for him because he’s not Hillary Clinton. These views are not defensible and I won’t even try.
But what it does mean is that Trump doesn’t have a reliable bloc that Republicans can exploit in cycle after cycle in the future. All the Democrats who stayed home this year can be activated in 2018 and 2020. And this is exactly what the DNC needs to start organizing and planning for right now. 2018 is unlikely to be a great year for Democrats, due to which Senate seats are up for grabs. But making any progress at all would be a positive development.
The situation is far less rosy for the Supreme Court. Trump will almost surely appoint a hardline conservative to replace Scalia, but that amounts to no real change in the Court’s composition. What would be more worrisome is if another liberal retires, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Should that happen, the Court would be swung in a firmly conservative direction and there would be a terrible threat to major liberal/progressive achievements. Abortion, gay rights, and healthcare would all be threatened and likely attacked. Unfortunately, this is not an eventuality that can be planned for or dealt with until it actually happens, short of states shoring up those rights on their own in the meantime.
The next few years are likely to be very difficult. I hope that much of Trump’s agenda can be thwarted through both activist measures and political process. But it’s hard to say just how bad it will get. One thing I think is worthwhile is for as many people as possible to stand up and say, “I do not support this man or what he stands for. He may be the President, but he doesn’t speak for me. And I will fight to keep his goals from becoming reality.”
It’s time for the American left to make a comeback. The country needs us.
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