It is here. The day that progressives and democratic-minded people have been dreading for two-and-a-half months. The day which nearly 66 million Americans did not vote for. The day when Donald J. Trump becomes President of the United States.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He wasn’t supposed to win. The polls said he wouldn’t win. The bookies said he wouldn’t win. Yet, win he did. Not in the popular vote of course. As we’ve all heard many times by now, almost 3 million more Americans voted against him than for him. That’s old news perhaps, but it’s worth repeating.
No, today was supposed to have been very different. America would have been swearing in its first woman president, and one of its most experienced presidential candidates in history. Instead, perhaps the least qualified person to ever win the office is taking over.
Had a few thousand votes in a few specific states gone the other way and shifted the Electoral College, the United States would be looking at vastly different policy options in the months and years ahead.
We might have been talking about how to implement a 4 percent tax surcharge on incomes over $5 million, instead of installing the wealthiest cabinet in the country’s history.
Perhaps the civil rights division of the Justice Department would have been strengthened rather than turned over to someone who was once turned down for a judgeship due to charges of racism. Finishing the job of reversing prison privatization would have been on the table.
Instead of struggling to block a racist anti-immigrant wall on the Mexican border, we could have been organizing to build support for comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Betsy DeVos, one of public education’s biggest foes, may soon be taking charge of the Dept. of Education, but had the election gone the other way, students from working-class families might have been looking forward to the end of their college tuition bills.
Real infrastructure – like modernizing public transit and upgrading our airports – could have been on the agenda. But now we will have Trump’s so-called infrastructure “plan,” which will probably amount to tax cuts for investors in the utility and construction sectors and corporate welfare for contractors.
Instead of fearing the privatization of Social Security and Medicare and the repeal of Obamacare, Americans would have had a real chance of actually expanding all of these programs. It may have even been possible to get a handle on rising prescription drug costs as well. And those who are now attacking Planned Parenthood and other reproductive healthcare providers would certainly have had an opponent in the White House.
The Fight for $15 would have been dealing with a president who supported raising the minimum wage, instead of a fast-food CEO as secretary of labor who doesn’t even believe in the minimum wage.
We might have been anticipating how the details of the Paris climate agreement would be implemented, instead of watching a climate change skeptic seize control of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Progressives would have been working on strategies to overturn Citizens United, instead of dreading Trump’s next Supreme Court appointment.
And we might have gotten to work on closing the gap in women’s pay rather than welcoming one of the country’s most outspoken sexists into the Oval Office.
All those things and more are what we would have been looking ahead to today.
Instead, we’ll be resisting the stealing of health care from 18 million people. Fighting to save the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and to stop the privatization of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. We will be struggling to block the growth of racist right-wing elements emboldened by a president who never fails to give a wink in their direction.
Could a President Clinton have achieved all of the ambitious things mentioned above? No, probably not. She would have faced a Republican Congress that would stop at nothing to throw a wrench into her plans. And the “third way” centrist elements of the Democratic Party would have surely kept up pressure on her to lean their way on the major issues of the day.
So yes, winning major advances would have still been a struggle. But the terrain of struggle would have been very different and much more conducive to progressive wins. Instead, we are left with Trump and a Republican Party that holds more power than ever before.
There are many who have been eager to blame Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee for the situation we find ourselves in. Bernie would have beat Trump, it is sometimes said. The nomination was stolen. She didn’t reach out to working class people.
Undoubtedly, there might be pieces of truth there, at least when it comes to the need for the Democratic Party to do a much better job of speaking to the concerns of working people. But it’s not a one-way street. The Democratic Party is not (and the Hillary Clinton campaign was not) some monolithic entity.
The party, as well as presidential campaigns, are arenas of popular struggle. Working people’s issues will be on the front burner to the extent that they are organized and push them onto the agenda. To use an old term, it’s dialectical. So rather than looking for ways to put machine guns into a more efficient circle, it would probably do every progressive, democrat, and left-winger well to do some critical self-examination and get ready for what’s ahead.
Change comes through struggle, and Trump is going to provide plenty of opportunities for it. With the presidency, Congress, the Supreme Court, and dozens of governorships and state legislatures under their control, it appears that he and his party are at the zenith of political success.
For today, that is true. But as the protests in the streets of D.C. and cities across the country this weekend will show, the last word is not yet written. Resistance is growing and the Republican Party’s apparent strength is built on weak foundations.
Don’t ever think it doesn’t matter who wins. The next four years are about to prove otherwise.