By Michael Albert
Many people believe that Trump voters are overtly and aggressively racist and sexist seeking to return to the 1950s, or, at the very least, not caring about Trump’s harmful race and gender policies compared to favoring Trump for other reasons. If so, why aren’t they celebrating?
Perhaps avowedly neo nazi groups had ugly parties in their clubs and homes. The Klan may celebrate soon. Individual mini thugs are threatening folks. But what about other Trump voters? Not dozens, not hundreds or thousands, but millions.
Imagine Sanders ran against Trump and won. We would be dancing in the streets and the country would be elated and upbeat. Even mainstream media blaring that Sanders is the antichrist wouldn’t dampen nationwide massive celebrations.
If Trump is riding a movement mainly seeking racist and sexist rollback, his voters should be elated. I haven’t seen that. Also, the anti Trump demonstrations occurring all over the country would have attracted comparably large groups of elated Trump supporters ready to rumble. I haven’t seen that either. Brownshirts are not out dancing or marching.
What if beyond diehards who habitually vote Republican, most Trump voters weren’t voting for vile racism and sexism but against business as usual?
What if Trump won because he got traditional Republican votes, drew in a few more long time racists and sexists than usually vote, and gained his margin of victory in the Rust Belt from white working class voters who four years ago supported Obama but are now so angry at their steady slide into desperation that they preferred to vote for the outsider who at least acknowledged their pain rather than condescendingly dismissing them?
If I could vote for Clinton in a contested state to ward off a greater evil without it meaning that I support and favor what Clinton supports and favors, why couldn’t lots of Trump voters have done something quite similar to ward off what they accurately experience as soul crushing, life denying, community ravaging, business as usual?
Trump’s support was higher the more economically depressed a region was and especially the more susceptible it was to further decline. Trump got a third of Latino voters.
Presumably the Latinos weren’t voting for racism. He got 53% of white female voters. Presumably the women weren’t voting for sexism.
I understand peoples’ intense fear and anger and I feel immensely angry and fearful myself, but I think our anger’s focus needs clarification.
Trump will wreck havoc limited only by the opposition we muster to ward it off. His psychic impact on young people hearing from him as their president will seriously bludgeon many young minds. His immigration policies, court appointments, and climate denialism will inflict staggering social and environmental wounds.
Facing Trump and fighting against massive reaction will be vastly less productive than facing Clinton and fighting to win positive gains well beyond what her platform would have been.
Trump being bully in chief is a catastrophe., yes, but this catastrophe didn’t reveal some horrible major new popular slip slide toward fascist values. Such values were in a small minority all along and over the past few decades they have diminished, not enlarged.
Violence against Blacks, women, and gays was not long ago so much an assumed norm of daily life it went publicly unnoticed and unchallenged. Police violence is also not new. Rejecting police violence publicly is what’s new. Likewise for violence against women. But, whether or not you agree that fascistic values have a limited current appeal and have even had a downward recent trajectory, nonetheless horribly dangerous fascistic values could certainly now mushroom, though reasoned activism could also prevent that.
If Pennsylvania had gone for Clinton, with everything else unchanged, and if as a result Clinton had won the election, the angst, fear, and anger in the air today would be absent. More, if we now had President Sanders, elation would dominate. Yet, in both cases we would have the same population with the same views, though a hugely different outcome. The warranted cause of concern is the utterly vile outcome – Trump in power – not incorrect fears that our population has become horribly cruel.
Suppose Joe and Sue voted for Trump. It would be fair to note they weren’t stopped dead in their tracks on the way to doing so by Trump’s racism, sexism, or labor practices. Suppose Jane and Sam voted for Clinton. It would be fair to note that they weren’t stopped dead in their tracks on the way to doing so by Clinton being a war criminal mass murderer.
However we could not sensibly deduce that Jane and Sam wanted to pursue war or batter war victims. To jump to that depressing conclusion would be mean spirited, wrong, and self defeating. Jane and Sam may have merely been voting for Clinton as the lesser evil.
Joe and Sue, out of work or facing unemployment, living in a community that looks and feels like a bombed out remnant of war, lacking health care, and with kids who have little future, and heroin knocking at their door, vote Trump. Why can’t that be Joe and Sue thinking that anything is better than more of the same?
Trump being elected was a horrible result, but we should not exaggerate a defeat into a death knell. We should not assume our neighbors are our enemies. This society is, even now, with a right wing thug about to be president, and with parents having to tell their daughters and sons that a racist, sexist, bully is president, and with Trump poised to export humans like unwanted commodities and to roll back climate policies like stacking deck chairs on the Titanic, more left leaning and more eager for substantive change than any time in many decades. I am confident that is what we would all think, only more so, if Sanders had just won, or even Clinton, perhaps, yet either could have happened with only minor change in the mindset of a tiny percentage of voters. Nonetheless, sadly, Trump has the reins of society and is likely hoping to trample everything worthy.
So what happens next?
We could convince ourselves that all is lost. We could deny that Trump’s voters and especially the more than sufficient numbers of them who had earlier voted for Obama, were overwhelmingly mainly rebelling against being impoverished and denigrated. We could then look inward, fearful, and choose self protection and perpetual verbal rejection of half of society. Considerably less insularly, but no less suicidally, we could simply feel too depressed, deflated, and frustrated to transcend malaise and become sustainably active.
Either way, however understandable these paths are, however righteous and fine the people traveling them may be, passively accepting Trump’s machinations would pave a path to hell.
Alternatively, we could mourn but also rally and fight against the twist of fate that predictable Democratic Party commitment to system preservation, plus media profit seeking, plus pundit confusion, plus misguided popular voting, plus some tampering too have unleashed. We could oppose Trump’s every, anti woman, anti black, anti Latino, anti Muslim, anti gay, and anti worker gesture and policy. Some will even claim this would lead us right toward fundamental change. No more Democrats, those optimists will say to confuse and coopt us. Hooray, now we can reject reaction and wind up with revolution.
In fact, however, if opposition to Trumpism takes its most likely, natural, and obvious form, its best result will be four years of Trump with many losses but not near as many losses as Trump unchallenged would impose. Then we would get Warren or some other Democrat beating Trump. Society would get back to where it should be now, highly conflicted but with the two opposed sides being side 1, Warren seeking modest important gains while preserving status quo structures, and side 2, movements seeking much deeper gains on the road to fundamental transformation. The price of having Clinton run against Trump rather than Sanders run against Trump would in that case have been our taking up a project that should have occurred now four years from now, with many interim losses and much interim suffering.
Is there a third road? I think there is. We can resist Trumpian reaction which means that much of our rhetoric, slogans, and battles will necessarily pinpoint immediate policies. It will scream no to going forward into the past. But, to travel a third path requires that we not only oppose Trump’s viciousness, vulgarity, and reactionary policies, but also offer positive program even well beyond what Sanders proposed. We will have to take a spontaneous project to prevent negatives and make it also seek positives.
If instead of option three, the tone and tenor of our resistance is only to to protect existing social programs which, had a few percent of voters acted differently, we would now be vigorously trying to transcend, then, after the battles unfold, our efforts will at most have gotten us back to where we were a year ago, only four years from now.
In contrast, if we infuse our resistance to Trump with clear positive values and compelling institutional aims for the future, then perhaps we can turn nightmare into potential. But it will not happen spontaneously just from outrage at Trump. Even now, just days along, look at the writing, the speaking, and the demonstrating, and you will see, I fear, that the natural tendency is to courageously fight reaction while setting aside seeking positive new gains. Without a very conscious effort to do more than ward off the worst, we will soon courageously clamor only to preserve social programs we had hoped to be transcending.
One last observation. To successfully block reaction, much less to unleash positive potentials, our efforts have got to not only combat racism and sexism but also speak with respect and sincerity to Trump’s voters, not as enemies, but as potential allies, not only about the ills of racism and sexism, but also about their plight and pain, and about why Trump has nothing to do with reducing much less eliminating it, as well as about what could turn it around.
The less effective alternative, which I hope no one will explicitly advocate, but which we need to also avoid backing into, is that we ourselves resist while assuming that half the country is lost forever and calling them all manner of names that impede their joining us. That way lies true disaster.
Democracy, by Leonard Cohen
It’s coming through a hole in the air
From those nights in Tiananmen Square
It’s coming from the feel
That this ain’t exactly real
Or it’s real, but it ain’t exactly there
From the wars against disorder
From the sirens night and day
From the fires of the homeless
From the ashes of the gay
Democracy is coming to the USA
It’s coming through a crack in the wall
On a visionary flood of alcohol
From the staggering account
Of the Sermon on the Mount
Which I don’t pretend to understand at all
It’s coming from the silence
On the dock of the bay,
From the brave, the bold, the battered
Heart of Chevrolet
Democracy is coming to the USA
It’s coming from the sorrow in the street
The holy places where the races meet
From the homicidal bitchin’
That goes down in every kitchen
To determine who will serve and who will eat
From the wells of disappointment
Where the women kneel to pray
For the grace of God in the desert here
And the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the USA
Sail on, sail on
Oh mighty ship of State
To the shores of need
Past the reefs of greed
Through the Squalls of hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on
It’s coming to America first
The cradle of the best and of the worst
It’s here they got the range
And the machinery for change
And it’s here they got the spiritual thirst
It’s here the family’s broken
And it’s here the lonely say
That the heart has got to open
In a fundamental way
Democracy is coming to the USA
It’s coming from the women and the men
Oh baby, we’ll be making love again
We’ll be going down so deep
The river’s going to weep,
And the mountain’s going to shout Amen
It’s coming like the tidal flood
Beneath the lunar sway
Imperial, mysterious
In amorous array
Democracy is coming to the USA
Sail on, sail on
O mighty ship of State
To the shores of need
Past the reefs of greed
Through the squalls of hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on
I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can’t stand the scene
And I’m neither left or right
I’m just staying home tonight
Getting lost in that hopeless little screen
But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags
As time cannot decay
I’m junk but I’m still holding up this little wild bouquet
Democracy is coming to the USA

To the USA

Michael Albert
Z Communications

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