On November 8, the Left must defeat Trump and Trumpism. The victory must be so overwhelming and absolute that proto-fascists in the Republican Party see no viable future for his brand of politics in a national election. This has to be the immediate, overriding goal of the U.S. progressive movement.
Unfortunately, too many on the Left continue to cling to the notion that because Clinton does not hold ideal positions on many issues—from foreign policy to trade to taxation—it would be morally inexcusable for any self-respecting progressive to vote for her. This is a dangerous and irresponsible mindset.
You cannot be #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary at the same time. As unfortunate as the reality may be, this election is a binary choice between two individuals. And while Clinton is far from perfect, she does not represent the kind of existential threat to our country that Trump and his coterie of sycophants do.
Today, millions of Americans are locked in a daily battle for basic survival—low-income parents struggling to their feed their children, immigrants fighting to keep their families together, women desperate to find accessible health services, communities of color organizing to protect themselves against routine police violence and racism. It is absurd to suggest that people in such positions of vulnerability will fare equally badly under a Trump or Clinton administration.
The truth is, the most vulnerable and abused people in our society have the most to lose in this election. It is easy for those of us who earn more than minimum wage, or who have citizenship, or who aren’t Muslim to hold a sense of smug self-righteousness by refusing to settle for the “lesser of two evils.” But doing so will make our country’s problems far worse if Trumpism is allowed to metastasize.
If Trump is elected, he would likely be able to appoint three Supreme Court justices, weaponizing the judiciary on behalf of extreme corporate and religious-fanatical interests for decades to come. Abortion rights, affirmative action, voting rights, and environmental protections will be gutted and Citizens United will be a permanent feature of our political life. Anti-union so-called “right to work” legislation could become national policy. Trump would wield broad executive privilege, free from Congressional oversight, to assemble his deportation force and build his wall.
In recent years the US Left has made very real progress that could be all but lost if this election does not go the right way.
The Fight for $15 has made significant headway in states and cities across the nation and millions of workers are seeing substantial raises. This campaign will be seriously hampered if Trump, buoyed by local allies, can squash incipient efforts to boost wages and divert national attention away from this critical struggle.
Black Lives Matter has catapulted into the nation’s consciousness and sparked a sustained effort to end rampant police abuses and confront broader issues of structural racism and mass incarceration in America. Putting a gleefully racist “law and order” candidate into the White House will only embolden those who seek to destroy this movement and shield law enforcement from any and all accountability.
Obamacare, for all of its inadequacies and limitations, has resulted in 20 million more Americans with access to health care, through the insurance exchanges and states’ expanded Medicaid programs. A Trump presidency will likely mean that Republicans will have retained control of Congress and the Senate. Say goodbye to healthcare reform and the chance to fix Obamacare, and pray you don’t develop a preexisting condition.
It is not enough for Trump to lose. He must lose badly and take fellow Republicans with him. It is obvious that the faux-outrage of the Republican establishment exists only when Trump’s campaign appears to be in free-fall. When he is not in the throes of one crisis or another, it doesn’t matter what he says or does so long as his poll numbers aren’t in the gutter.
The 2020 census is just around the corner. Republicans currently wield control of both legislative chambers in thirty states, and are itching to further re-draw district maps to disenfranchise as many poor and minority voters as possible. On Election Day, 86 of the nation’s 99 state legislative chambers will be holding elections. Handily defeating Trump will ripple into down-ballot races and cause significant rejiggering of local political landscapes.
There are only two possible outcomes to this election. We can spend the next four years set back on our heels, playing defense and fighting against the vilest aspects of Trump’s agenda. Or we can be on the offensive, taking advantage of existing divisions among the US political elite to cleave a path forward on many vital issues.
If Clinton is elected, popular movements will need to mount significant pressure to hold her back from interventionist impulses. She must be compelled to loosen her ties to Wall Street and accept, to the greatest extent possible, a people’s agenda of workers’ rights, anti-racism, and peace abroad. This is no different from what progressives should be campaigning for at all times. Winning real, lasting change always comes from movement building—creating pressure from below that forces those at the top to respond to our political demands.
We can’t stay home thinking that this election is already decided. Today we simply do not have the luxury to lodge protest votes or withdraw from the process altogether and risk the possibility of a president who will be an unmitigated disaster for everything the Left stands for.