The road to freedom, peace, equality, and preserving life on Earth is a long one; full of twists and unexpected turns – and reverses. The 2016 election is one of them.
There’s no sugarcoating it. The election of Donald Trump as president along with a Republican Senate and House was a tremendous defeat with far-reaching consequences that will ripple for years to come.
Defeats are part of life and struggle. But they should not lead to paralysis. It is not the end of the road.
Let us recall those who suffered setbacks during the darkest days of the struggle against slavery, the Civil Rights, Suffrage, and labor movements, and never gave up. We can do no less. We too must pick ourselves up, assess mistakes, and return unbowed to the long walk to freedom.
After all, political fortunes can reverse quickly. Upon winning a narrow re-election in 2004, George W. Bush, in his hubris, attempted a privatization of Social Security. A huge mass movement rose to block it, and the unraveling of his administration began.
This is especially important to keep in mind today because Trump’s election did not represent a mandate for his policies. The majority of voters rejected them. That’s reflected in the youth, who are undaunted and already self-organizing in the #notmypresident protests.
What is urgently needed now is unity. Every conceivable movement and ally prepared to defend social advances and democratic norms must be mobilized, starting with the labor-led people’s movement, Black Lives Matter, climate justice groups, the Dreamers, the LGTBQ community, and women, in alliance with the Democratic Party and all parts of what was the Hillary Clinton electoral coalition, and those inspired by the Bernie Sanders campaign.
This is the basis of gathering popular majorities to oppose Trump on multiple fronts. No one should be left standing on the sidelines.
This moment calls for the broadest solidarity and action to block the coming reactionary legislative assault and attacks on democratic rights and civil liberties. It calls for protecting the lives, homes, and communities of those being targeted and defending policies addressing the existential threat posed by climate change. We must begin preparations now for the 2018 election cycle.
It begins with extending solidarity to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and fellow students.
It can involve resistance to federal policies by entire municipalities and states.
It’s imperative this movement encompass “red states” and “red districts” and engage Trump voters. They too will feel the lash, including those who will lose life-sustaining benefits if Obamacare and Medicare are repealed.
There is no getting around directly engaging these voters. During the election, Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, did just that. It effectively canvassed in largely white communities, refusing to allow white workers to be surrendered to the embrace of the right wing.
The Moral Monday movement in North Carolina led by the Rev. William J. Barber has assembled a labor-civil rights-religious coalition that is reaching deeply into the rural areas of the state. It is modeled on the idea that a united multi-racial working class and people are necessary for all social advances.
Wolf at the door
Tens of millions awoke November 9 terrified with the realization the wolf is not only at the door, but has entered the house. Right-wing extremists will dominate all three branches of government and move swiftly to impose their agenda.
The forces of hate and bigotry are emboldened. The danger of scapegoating, discrimination, and violence against Muslims, immigrants, people of color, the LGBTQ community, women, unions, and other democratic organizations will increase.
Contrary to his claims, Trump is no rogue outsider. He is backed by right-wing billionaires, the Heritage Foundation, and their ilk – all the groups providing policy blueprints and lists of names to stack departments and the judiciary at all levels. These forces now control 31 governorships and two-thirds of state legislative chambers. This is where they have long been ruthlessly unfolding their wrecking agenda.
We can probably expect deep cuts to social programs, a national right-to-work law, greater restrictions on abortions, a national stop-and-frisk law, curbs on LGBTQ rights, voter suppression, repeal of regulations on business, dismantling of the EPA, tax cuts for the wealthy, and massive privatization.
One of the first things a right-wing government often does after capturing power is to go after the labor movement. Because of their organization and ability to initialize collective struggle, unions are one of the first targets. While several media outlets reported that half of union households voted for Trump, the actual number of union members casting ballots for him was only 37 percent. We should expect a major assault on labor rights.
Reactionary policy will unfold in foreign affairs as well, including withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Foreign intervention and the nuclear danger are likely to increase.
The new balance of forces will usher in instability and unpredictability, while greatly aggravating class, racial, and social tensions.
All rise in defense of democracy
Without a broad and vigorous resistance from every conceivable sector, a further descent into authoritarianism or worse is possible.
Fascism doesn’t come all at once, but in steps and stages. To stop it, the beast must be resisted at every turn.
The White House doors are now open to the most extreme political forces, including the alt-right, the KKK, white supremacists, and others. Trump carried them all from the fringe into the political mainstream.
These forces now have increased access to the security apparatus of the state, which they employed effectively during the campaign while colluding with the FBI. They also were aided by unprecedented foreign intervention from the likes of Julian Assange, as well as Russian mobsters and intelligence services.
The broad electoral coalition that backed Clinton should not despair. Clinton received the majority of votes. We fought the good fight and are not alone. Trump not only received fewer votes than Clinton; he also got less votes than both John McCain and Mitt Romney.
However, Clinton received 6.5 million less votes than President Obama did in 2012 and 10 million less than in 2008. While she assembled much of the coalition that carried Obama to victory twice, they voted in fewer numbers.
When inspired and organized to turn out, the entire Obama coalition is the majority. That majority is still here, but it must be mobilized, activated, and expanded.
Millions of working families – black, brown, and white – are experiencing economic pain, declining living standards, debt, joblessness, poverty, discrimination, and bigotry. They are fearful and desperately want change and someone to listen to their plight.
And while many sought that change through the history-making vehicle of the Clinton campaign, other voters were convinced what was needed was a “Washington outsider” who would “shake things up.” Trump, the billionaire insider, demagogically and fraudulently exploited their pain, fear, and insecurity through the use of racism, sexism, and anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hate.
While millions of whites stood with their black and brown sisters and brothers, some 58 percent voted for Trump, many voting against their own class interests. Working class brothers and sisters were pitted against each other, and many succumbed to fear.
The question is: why?
The politics of hate and bigotry have been central to the right’s rise to power. The right-wing mass media influences wide swaths of the country. Millions get their news and opinion, much of it based on lies and conspiracy theories, from Fox News, hate-talk radio, and white supremacist and hate groups. This is especially true of those living in racially-segregated communities and rural areas.
Right-wing religious institutions and networks, especially right-wing evangelicals, are purveyors of reactionary ideology.
The GOP inspired racist vilification and obstruction of the Obama administration for years. It promoted anti-immigrant hysteria. Islamophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and misogyny have all had an impact on how people think.
Capitalist globalization, unfair trade pacts, outsourcing, and automation produced deindustrialization, devastated communities, and left millions of victims in their wake. In some places, the only growth industries are meth labs. Economic stagnation, declining real wages, and a soaring wealth gap have left millions feeling left out, angry, and hopeless.
At the same time, changing demographics, the emerging role of women, the political assertiveness of the LGBTQ community, and other factors are shaping a new multi-racial, multi-national, multi-gender, multi-cultural, multi-lingual people and nation.
Many whites, particularly men, are among the victims of plant closings, wage cuts, home foreclosures, and economic dislocation. They see their dignity and self worth disappear and the world and their place in it rapidly changing. They and their communities are up against powerful global economic forces they cannot fathom and feel helpless to fight. They yearn for more stable and prosperous times.
Instead of adjusting to the new demographic and social realities – and blaming corporate America for ruining their livelihoods and communities – those particularly living in segregated areas aim their resentments against people they don’t know or understand.
Trump “tells it like it is.” To many, he speaks to their anger and resentment and is their champion against the “establishment.” He conned many into misdirecting their fears, insecurity, and resentments toward Muslims, Mexican immigrants, African Americans, Jewish Americans, and women.
As a public figure, Hillary Clinton has been a leader of the movement to advance women’s rights and embodies the new changing status of women in society. Consequently, she has been the object of every form of misogyny and hate along the line of advance.
Millions of women and men were inspired by her history-making campaign. Not surprisingly, Clinton won by the highest gender margin in history, even though 55 percent of white women voted for Trump, the same as for John McCain.
Sexism and misogyny were at the center of this entire election and prevented millions of men and women from voting for the first woman president. There is no other plausible explanation for the deep hatred and venom directed at Clinton – manifested in sensational claims that she “can’t be trusted,” is a “serial liar,” and “coldly ambitious.”
Clinton’s candidacy remains historic, and despite her defeat many other women were elected to Congress. This is the first time the nation has had such a wide-ranging public discussion about misogyny and the pervasiveness of sexual assault. It has helped change how millions think, including the revulsion to Trump expressed by so many.
Reviled by the right
Hillary Clinton has been a lightening rod of the right since Bill Clinton’s administration. She forged her own role, stood up to right-wing efforts to destroy his presidency, and became a political force in her own right. As a leading public figure, she has been vilified for the past 30 years by these same forces.
Republicans took Clinton’s use of a private email server and transformed it into a criminal act in the minds of their supporters. Chants of “Lock her up” dogged Clinton every step of the way.
But Clinton is also the face of the establishment, part of the political and economic power structure. Even though she finally opposed the TPP, because of President Obama’s backing of the pact, the Democratic Party as a whole was seen as a supporter of unfair trade deals. In the thinking of many, she is part of the problem, confirmed by her paid speeches at Goldman Sachs.
The campaign did not effectively address the suffering of workers and their communities, especially the rural areas. It did not effectively build on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ call to change the “rigged economic system” and radically address vast wealth inequality. This call tapped into mass thinking, energized millions of voters, and was instrumental in shaping the Democratic platform.
Despite running one of the most progressive platforms of any major party in history, Clinton did not effectively connect to the plight of working families.
All these factors were at work in not only undergirding Trump’s support, but also undermining turnout among the Obama coalition.
The nation is deeply polarized. Trump assumes office as the most reviled and unpopular president in history. Over half the electorate voted against him.
Public opinion on all the key issues is against him. Deep internal divisions and contradictions beset the GOP. The world faces an existential crisis that must be addressed and which will only be aggravated by Trump policies.
What’s required is the broadest unity in the defense of democratic norms, institutions, and rights. We have to keep fighting for that cherished vision of the inclusive, just, and peaceful America and world we hold so dear.
Don’t despair! Fight! Keep our eyes on the prize!