“It’s fucking done, it’s over” are usually words reserved for nasty breakups. In a sense, it was. A friend who had recently become a naturalized citizen said this as he and I frantically chain-smoked, realizing Michigan would go to Trump. We were both dismayed, but he was betrayed. How could the liberal democracy he believed in deliver the nation into the hands of a man that openly antagonizes minorities and a Republican party sewn up into the rhetoric of white nationalism? How could he now feel welcome in this country?
Watching Michigan fade to red, we each emptied a bottle of wine. Fascism had come to power in America and ‘Make Donald Drumpf Again’ hats surprisingly did nothing to stop it.
Many will undoubtedly wring their hands (Don’t be so glib! Give him a chance! Well, he’s not literally killing people yet!) at the assertion that the executive is about to be controlled by fascists. However, when a campaign wins in large part by pushing a narrative of community decline to appeal to a populist nativism that antagonizes minorities in pursuit of a promise for national rebirth, it hits all of the checkboxes. The Trump campaign spent a year and a half crafting the face of its date rape Volksgemeinschaft, while liberals were too busy playing Weekend at Bernie’s with a Democratic campaign void of competence or charisma, and Trump won out.
More telling is the inner circle of the president-elect: Steve Bannon (anti-semitic ethnonationalist and propagandist), Mike Pence (a man who is fine with abusive ‘conversion therapies’ that push queer people to either conform or be removed from society) and Peter Thiel (who “no longer believe[s] that freedom and democracy are compatible”). This is only to name a few.
Even if Donald himself turns out to be nothing more than a limp dick blowhard who isn’t serious about being the president, these are the characters that will be working through and around him to push their anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-labor agenda. Pair this with three potential Justice appointments as well as a Republican controlled Legislature and you can see how easy it could be for them to accomplish.
If we as a people want to claim that we are committed to equality and justice, then the consequences of this incoming government must and can only be stopped by a robust and material resistance, not simply through inconsequential rhetorical sparring. If you are not satisfied, then protest in the streets, mobilize yourself with others to volunteer in your community, and put your money where your mouth is. Continuous mass action is a requirement to preserve what progress has been made. No unity is owed to a president-elect that means to treat much of the nation as second-class.
How exactly, though, did victory get handed to Trump? It does not take an over-involved post election autopsy to understand that Democrats lost on the votes of the white working class as the direct result of a wildly overconfident and out of touch campaign.
The arrogance the Clinton camp and their assumption that ‘The Blue Wall’ would hold even after losing Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan to a working class oriented populist in the primary led to a negligence of the states in the general. The natural result was always going to be that Hillary would get beaten in these states by the other populist unless the traditional Democratic voting base there was mobilized.
Instead of doing the obvious work required to win, the Clinton campaign’s treatment of the MN-WI-MI region smacks political arrogance: Hillary didn’t even step foot in Wisconsin to campaign in the general and her campaign offices in Wisconsin and Michigan apparently scrambled at the last minute on GOTV operations after restraining themselves to play a pointless ‘psychological game’ (read: neglected trying to actually get votes) with Trump.
It’s clear that they weren’t worried about winning because they lazily believed that the Obama coalition would hold without giving it a reason to, that a Clinton victory was a divine imperative. If they weren’t worried about winning, then they weren’t really worried about serving the working and middle class.
Past and Future
The reasons for Clinton’s defeat, however, go deeper than the campaign and the candidate herself. The Democratic Party, once a mode for organized labor to make its voice heard, has for too long taken for granted the support of unions. Democrat endorsed neoliberal policy has long shredded the working class; whether it be by sending jobs to other countries via trade deals like NAFTA or neutering the welfare depended upon by families whose household incomes have stagnated. At the same time, Democratic leadership whistles on about how they stand for the marginalized while actively tossing them aside. It was only a matter of time until their base abandoned them.
At the same time, the Democratic propensity to focus on identity politics that largely treats the symptoms of an unjust system has created a disunified and unfocused liberal coalition. A Democratic Party in shambles as it looks for its soul will not be well equipped to pursue an agenda that benefits all Americans, let alone resist right-wing skullduggery for the next handful of years. Broader class-oriented politics that attack the machinations of inequality at their root are now required to unify these factions as well as the working class at large. It will be the job of a labor commanded Left, not limousine liberal leadership, that carries the progressive baton.