Surveying the morning-after woes on social networking this morning, it’s clear a lot of people are down in the mouth right now. Between people wringing their hands about what’s to come with President Trump, or even concerned about a coming civil war, it’s enough to make even Yours Truly think this is straying into overkill territory.
Yes, it’s that bad.
First of all, this is the left? It sounds more like people who kick at the first drop of rain and hide in the closet when thunder rumbles. If you are going to run away to Canada, just go. Please leave, and let the people who aren’t afraid stay behind and fight on. Maybe then progressives, socialists, and left-wingers can get actual work done for a change.
Why do I say that? Because it's an open secret that "the left" has been almost comatose in this country for the last eight years. Perhaps lefties were just so awed by the groundbreaking presidency of Obama that they didn’t want to mention his wars, his drone assassination program, the way he forgave the bankers and socked it to homeowners, or the way he has deported more immigrants than any president in history.
With a Democrat in the Oval Office, lefties tend to be politely hush-hush about the sorts of things they’d raise holy hell about if a Republican were doing them. Had Clinton won, we’d probably be looking at four more years of that.
But with a Trump victory, now would be the perfect time to reawaken and organize a renewed anti-war movement, a movement to fight economic inequality, to fight for all those rights for women, immigrants, and reproductive choice. With Republicans in power, the Democratic Party will no longer have the narcotizing effect it has had on U.S. progressives.
Yes, it was a long, ugly election. It was, in fact, the longest, ugliest horse race in U.S. history, with a lot of willful misunderstanding, overstated fears, and heightened insecurities for supporters of both major candidates. But before we start to believe our own hype, that every Trump supporter is a hood-and-robe-wearing Klansman just itching to reinstitute slavery, let’s get a few things straight.
I can't speak for other voters, but I think at least some of Trump's appeal comes from the same economic insecurities that also helped drive Bernie Sanders' popularity as a candidate. Even among traditional Democrats, there's a feeling that Obama hadn't addressed the country's growing economic inequality, and I think Sanders's popularity demonstrated that. American voters seem frustrated, as if they want somebody to believe in, somebody to turn Washington upside down and give it a good shake.
Last night, somebody asked me if Obama might have won a third term had he been able to run. He might have. But not by the ecstatic margins of 2008, when he appeared to be that candidate who was going to do the public’s bidding. And since the people couldn’t get that from Sanders, many of those same voters probably voted Trump instead.
Don’t believe it? Then why did Obama win his second term in a lot of the state's Hillary Clinton just lost?
Love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton ran a lackluster campaign that deadened the energy Sanders had attracted. It just goes to show that people are pissed, and they’re feeling the pain in their pocketbooks. And they’re on both sides of the aisle. It’s just that one candidate tapped into that anger, that insecurity, and one party chose to pull out all the stops to run an establishment candidate too few voters apparently considered sincere.
It’s all about economic insecurity. It’s all about the fact that standards of living are slipping, that an entire generation is bogged down with student debt, that all the good-paying jobs have been shipped to other countries, that family incomes are shriveling, that a good portion of the population feel threatened by immigration, that health care costs have skyrocketed, that retirement plans have been postponed, and that the great bulk of the nation’s wealth has been transferred to the 1 percent plutocrats and Wall Street landsharks who dictate policy through their Congressional lackeys and their allies at the Federal Reserve. That’s what the election is really all about.
Four or eight years ago, a lot of those people who voted for Trump today would have grudgingly voted for a Democrat, if they thought the candidate would do the job of leveling the American playing field. Whose fault is it that they don’t believe the promises of mainstream Democrats anymore? The Greens? The Libertarians? Don’t kid yourself, now.
The upshot is that this year's Mr. Shake-Things-Up is bound for the White House — and this time around it’s the righties that will have to deal with the broken promises. We’ll see how the other half likes getting hosed by their own candidate. Trump comes into power representing a party that largely despises him. Where Clinton would have had the American war machine lined up right behind her, some observers think, rightly or wrongly, that a President Trump would be kept on a somewhat shorter leash. Time will tell.
But if you're feeling really gloomy, I can assure you that it’s not time to gather up your marbles and walk away from politics in a huff. Now is the time to get involved, to become engaged.
It seems I remember an evil president named Ronald Reagan, a guy who was a totally smug asshole, a B-grade actor who hated poor people, gays, minorities, and wanted to bomb Russia. A lot of feisty folks (including me) cut their teeth lampooning him. I remember a lot of great music being made, punk and rap coming into their own, and social movements that eventually helped change things as far away as South Africa.
Though endless documentaries have been made to help you forget it, his administration ended bogged down in hearings that made Reagan and his cronies look like what they were: Shady bagmen running around making deals with caudillos and Khomenis. And, in the end, Reagan became a bewildered, increasingly incompetent joke to a generation of Americans.
The thing is, no mass movement gets anywhere by weeping and moaning. Feel the need to lick your wounds a bit this morning? Fine, go ahead. But as the Trump presidency grinds on, the country will need your good energy, not to cheer on establishment saviors, but to find common cause with those who are bound to be disillusioned in a few months, and to keep the fires of satire burning red-hot.
In the immortal words of Joe Hill: Don’t mourn, America. Organize.