I had a post ready to go about how America lost the election last night, the polls were garbage, blah blah blah. I got it wrong. I was cautiously optimistic going into the election, but it turned out even that was way off the mark. But enough other people already are working through their five stages of grief, however, that I don’t think we gain anything if I keep repeating what everyone already knows. I’m going to try and look to the future here and try to wrest a few positive outcomes from this debacle.
Most important, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. That denies any talk of a “mandate” for Trump. He’s inherited a divided country, divided worse than before, I’m afraid, and he’s going to have to be really non-Trump-like if he has any intention of building national unity. (To be frank, I doubt he gave it any thought before his handlers put his acceptance speech in front of his nose, but if there’s one true thing about Trump, it’s that being without any moral center means he’s quite adept at playing new roles; consistency is not something that holds him back.) Yes, a Republican-controlled Congress and, likely, Supreme Court mean he’ll be able to ram a lot of unpleasantness through and into law. This will not win him new supporters, and I predict will serve to energize opposition to him. The 2018 midterm campaign starts now.
The Democratic Party now needs to conduct its own autopsy, and unlike the post-Romney Republicans, follow its advice. The party has for too long taken far too many interest groups for granted, and the surge of white working class people (men, mostly, but women too) to the polls points to a truism that the party has long denied: the transformation of our economy has brutalized those communities, and we’ve been far too willing to offer panaceas of free trade and job retraining for those hollowed-out small towns whose only employers are now Wal-Mart and the local meth and heroin dealers. The Democratic Party needs to return to its working class roots, abandon the empty rhetoric of the new world order, and look at what can be done to turn those communities around. Trump has shown you can’t ignore them, and while I seriously doubt anything will change in those communities — he doesn’t care about anything that doesn’t directly benefit his wallet or his dick — the fact that they fell for his long con is a testament to their desperation. They need solutions, and the Democrats haven’t been offering any lately.
The Democratic Party also needs to wholeheartedly embrace its progressive wing — Clinton was, if anything, a centrist policy wonk, and that doesn’t play on TV, and it was easy to paint her in broad strokes when all she wanted to talk about were the nuances of child health care. Progressivism is what got us out of the Great Depression by building this nation’s infrastructure, and our infrastructure really needs improving right now. Progressivism was also what was slowly turning the tide for millions of people in the last eight years, not least through the Affordable Care Act. Now those gains will be reversed, in all likelihood. But the nation was its strongest thanks to Roosevelt’s progressivism. We should not be afraid of that legacy.a
We have to look locally for change. Across the U.S., far too many people vote only once every four years when the TV cameras are on. The midterms are only two years off, and the off-year local elections are right around the corner. But one of the most significant stories of early 21st Century politics is how the Republicans used statehouse victories across the country to control the redistricting process, giving them an almost permanent majority of safe seats in the House of Representatives. We need to undo that process, and that challenge starts now. It should have started a long time ago, especially in those states like North Carolina, Ohio and Michigan. But now the Democrats have to build on whatever momentum they can. Even so, it’s virtually impossible for Democrats to re-take the House at any time before 2022. It’s a long, hard road ahead, folks.
Speaking of local measures: I am a straight white man living in a blue state. I’ll probably be OK. Most of those of us in blue states now have our governors and legislatures as a bulwark against an imperial federal government. Yes, the economy will likely suffer — state governments get a lot of funding from the federal government, and a party completely contemptuous of governing now controls the purse strings across the board. The rural and Rust Belt states that voted for Trump are going to suffer more. He ain’t going to bring the factory jobs back. Abandoning free trade agreements will hurt farmers everywhere. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work, and the likely doubling down on corporate tax cuts and eliminating regulations as a substitute for governing means we are going to wind up in another recession. It’s one thing for us blue-state liberals to work hard and fight to maintain our own relatively privileged position. It’s quite another to do so for the red states. And while today appears dark and the temptation will be to tell everyone to fuck off, the United States of America is still one country, and our fortunes are very much tied together still. It is more important now for us to continue to work hard to make this country better, not by caving in to bad policies or standing by while our leaders embark on yet another foreign war borne out of a personal vendetta.
We cannot stand by.
There’s going to be a lot of suffering. Trump has energized the darkest elements of our society. Women, people of color, queer people, minorities of all stripes are going to be on the receiving end of this reassertion of white male privilege, and those of us who have allied ourselves to their causes need to stand firm. Abroad, this move is only going to embolden the dictators like Putin in Russia and Xi in China (and we can almost guarantee that Russia will invade the Baltic states within a year, probably permanently breaking the NATO alliance). The Islamic State just won their biggest recruiting gambit ever. We need to push past that and keep fighting for this country. If Trump withdraws us from the world as he’s threatened to, then it’s all the more important that we work to try and hold the line. The world still needs us.