We suffered a body blow Tuesday. That’s for sure. We may be down, but we are not out. Time to regain our composure, struggle to our feet, and begin anew our struggle for a better world. The political revolution must continue!
Fascist forces won this week. And while I agree that we need to give Trump the chance to rise to the occasion, we cannot allow fascism to grow. We must resist, but only in the right way because the means are the ends.
Many of us remain in a dark place, but hopefully we can all move toward the light. It’s important to note that the majority of the American people did not vote for Trump. Not only did he not win the popular vote, but voter turnout was low, and a lot of people aren’t even registered to vote. The people have not spoken, yet our system elected Trump.
In addition, most of the people who did vote for him, I would argue, did not do so primarily because of hate. They voted for him because of hope. They may be misguided – I believe they certainly are – but to them Trump is their savior, the charismatic leader who will respect them, protect them, and make America great again by restoring the widespread prosperity we had during the Cold War, when we had a vibrant middle class and a prosperous working class and no 1%. Indeed, many of them might very well have voted for Bernie to get the positive vision without the hate, but that was not to be. So instead, we ended up with a quasi-fascist in power.
So what do we do now?
1. We need to restore civility and practice public deliberation.
It’s hard to remain civil at a time like this, particularly when you view the other side as evil, and so much is at stake. The country appears divided – 48% v. 48% — and in many ways, it is. Differences of perspective based on race, class, and gender are huge. Indeed, it’s hard to even understand where some people are coming from.
Yet we are really not as divided as the media makes us seem. When you look at public opinion polls, you see a lot of agreement and even a progressive majority on many issues. However, our corporate owned media profits by keeping us divided, and social media often brings out the worst in people. Consequently, our civic culture has deteriorated to the point where people can’t even have rational and respectful conversations anymore.
Somehow we need to repair the civic fabric, and learn to practice public deliberation. We may never achieve the Habermasian ideal of politics as the force of the better argument – democracy is not a graduate seminar, after all – however, we can at least try not to demonize others. Disrespecting people on Facebook – whether it’s the people who supported Bernie in the primary, the people who supported Hillary, the people who voted for Trump, or the 1% who voted for Jill Stein – is counterproductive. Insulting someone is not a good way to get them to support your cause.
Indeed, many people supported Trump because they feel disrespected by the Democrats. Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” comment really hurt her, but how many of us engage in the same type of rhetoric?
2. We need a long-term plan.
We face a lot of challenges, but we aren’t going to get anywhere if we can’t think beyond the immediate situation and start working on changes that will take more than a couple of years to accomplish.
In 1964, when Barry Goldwater lost the election in landslide, the Right got together and came up with a plan. And guess what? In 1980, they elected Ronald Reagan, a bearer of that same agenda, and they’ve been dominant ever since.
Sometimes you have to be willing to take a short-term loss to advance a long-term goal. For example, in the past, the Christian Right let it be known that they would not vote for a candidate that does not support their agenda; they would just stay home, even if that meant the Democrats would win. Likewise, the Tea Party let it be known that they will primary any Republican candidate that is not sufficiently conservative; if the Republicans lose the seat, so be it.
We should learn from them, but it’s a tough call because we are always on the brink of disaster. So you end up picking the lesser of the two evils yet again. At some point, we need to break free of that trap.
3. We need to analyze and reform “the rules” that stymie progressive change.
It’s always disappointing to have people who ostensibly support democracy resist change or even defend anti-democratic practices because “that’s the rules.” “The rules” were not revealed by God. They were made by people and can be changed. I realize you can’t change the rules midstream, but now that the election is over, we need to take a hard look at the super-delegates, the power of parties, the ramifications of closed elections, the caucus system, the variability of election rules from state to state, and the electoral college, to name just a few.
4. We need progressive reform within the Democratic party.
Personally, I am not hopeful about the possibility of changing the Democratic party, based on what we learned about the party during the primary, as well as my experiences as a local party leader, a candidate, and a lobbyist. Those in power don’t willingly give up power, and so many people are timid. I fear that instead of learning from their mistakes and the outcome of the election, Democratic party operatives will simply circle the wagons and keep doing what they’re doing, instead of seeing Tuesday’s results as a wakeup call. Case in point, someone has already suggested Kaine for 2020!
That said, I still think trying to move the party to the Left is a good project for those who are so inclined. And certainly, as it now stands, candidates have to run as either D or R, so in order to run good people for office, we have to at least try to make use of the Democratic apparatus.
5. We need to build a Left party.
Not an easy task, but a good project for those who have the energy for it. Starting a new party requires long-term thinking, strategic organizing, and changing some rules. We might build on a small party already in existence or create something new.
6. We need to keep organizing.
We need to keep building on the many movements that have emerged during the last 8 years – e.g., Occupy, the Dreamers, Black Lives Matter, Fight for 15, and the Bernie Sanders campaign. It’s actually a really exciting time for the Left right now, and with the entire government in Republican hands, that might be exactly the jolt we need to take our organizing to the next level.
The street rallies last night all across the nation gave me hope. For liberals and progressives, yesterday was tough. People are stunned and outraged, heartbroken and terrified, that a quasi-fascist was elected, and last night they came together in solidarity in city streets all over the country. What did they want? To be together. And those of us who don’t live in big cities gathered at local taverns for solace.
But we have to be careful. Personally, I did not rejoice at some of what reportedly happened last night – flag burning, fires, and threatening rhetoric; those types of actions could lead us in the wrong direction. Blowing off steam on the night of disaster is understandable, but, as we move forward, let’s remember that the means are the ends.
7. We need to trust that Love Trumps Hate.
If you have a faith tradition or recognize yourself as a spiritual being, now is a good time to remember what’s really important. Share God’s love. Pray for your enemies. Forgive those who know not what they do. Love your neighbor as yourself. Seek the face of God in every human being. Practice tikkun olam. Be a conduit for the Divine. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, hold tight to them. It’s going to be a hard couple of years.