Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States and will take office in just over 60 days. What now?
Many are fearful, and some fears are reasonable based on words that came from the candidate’s mouth: a threat to end the benefits of the DREAM program, sending people back to a country where they have never lived and dividing families; an attitude toward all immigrants – particularly Mexicans and Muslims – that promises to exclude and deport millions indiscriminately as soon as the necessary force can be organized.
So I am afraid for my friends in difficult immigration circumstances despite being married to US citizens.
And I am afraid for those who depend on the Affordable Care Act for health insurance, and who will be without it in a matter of months if the new president succeeds in his campaign promise to repeal it. He says he will replace the ACA with something, but when, and with what? His “seven-point-plan” offers no relief for those unable to pay health insurance premiums.
I am afraid that someone who considers climate change a hoax will ignore science and expert information generally in his decision making. And I fear the catastrophic results of further delay in addressing climate change.
President-elect Trump promised his conservative Christian supporters he would overturn the Marriage Equality ruling by the SCOTUS. Presumably this would take some time, as it would require the confirmation of two or more Justices willing to ignore the judicial principle of stare decisis when a case opposed to Obergefell reaches the Court. However, LGBT folk are justifiably concerned about what they can expect from him more generally as they look at his potential cabinet appointments. I’ve already expressed my views on Gays for Trump, one of the most perplexing developments in this campaign.
David Michael Connor has written in the Huffington Post powerfully about the fear rekindled or engendered among LGBT people by the reality of a Vice President Pence.
And what is to be said about the demonstrated misogyny of the President-elect, his willingness to publicly evaluate most any woman (including his own daughter) based on their sexual attractiveness? His past behavior and his vulgarity on along these lines should not be ignored.
Some offer assurances that the most odious of Trump’s plans can never be realized; many on both sides of the electoral divide are encouraging the fearful to “suck it up,” to “calm down,” to “lighten up.” It remains to be seen whether this is the case – given a Republican majority in Congress and the likely addition of a couple of Scalia-like Justices to the Supreme Court. I get why the most frequent response to this advice is an upraised middle finger and/or the protest that Trump is “not my president.” At the same time, I cannot avoid wondering how many of the protesters didn’t see fit to vote.
The “What now?” question, however, demands a deeper analysis by Democrats generally and progressives in particular. The pundits who now need something to talk about ask why the pollsters got it so wrong. But more important is why we Democrats made so many critical mistakes in the lead-up to the election.
Most of us live in an urban bubble, and our educational background helped to make the majority beneficiaries of the economic “recovery” that took place in the Obama years. These factors created a profound disconnect with many who have never recovered from economic reversals suffered during the great recession.
They may have lost their home despite having spent meager savings and retirement funds trying to save it. If they have found work at all, it has likely been at a pay level dramatically below what they previously earned. Their resentment at being left behind despite many positive indicators at a national level is understandable and might have been palpable had we progressives not been so out of touch.
This divide led to key errors in selecting and campaigning for our candidate.
For example, we generalized to all Trump supporters from those rightist wingnuts, bigots and flat-earthers who felt validated by some of his worst rhetoric and therefore rushed to embrace him. We chuckled at the images of people who said they disliked Obama because he “did nothing when the 9-11 attacks happened” or otherwise revealed an appalling lack of knowledge about the real world. This generalization was epitomized in Ms. Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment.
I know a few Trump supporters, and I consider them friends. They may suffer from the same unrecognized racism that most white liberals do. Like the majority of progressive men, they may lack a profound feminist consciousness. They may think they don’t know any LGBT people and may be susceptible to the same stereotypes that drive internalized homophobia among us.
But they are not bigots. They are as likely to be horrified by the “N” word as the next person; they treat women and girls with respect and are disinclined to give a pass to the handsome young rapist to whom the mass media insisted on referring only as a “Stanford swimmer.” They are as appalled as anyone by illegitimate law enforcement tactics.
Along with the leadership of the party and perhaps most Clinton supporters, the candidate was oblivious to what might have been obvious if we had not missed the fact that tens of millions of decent people were willing to blink at Trump’s many flaws because they thought he understood their pain and would fulfill his claims of being “the only one” who can fix their problems. Christian conservatives were willing to overlook his infidelities and vulgarity because he convinced them he would turn around Obergefell and Roe v. Wade.
Despite the fact that Donald Trump would refer to many these folks behind their backs as “losers“, they thought they had found a champion!
And what did we Democrats offer? With all due respect to Ms. Clinton, we offered a policy wonk with a great resumé, a history of working on behalf of the vulnerable, and plenty of excess baggage. She tried repeatedly, without success, to shed the worst of the baggage (think e-mails, private servers, misrepresentations about the Clinton Foundation, unreasonable blame for the Benghazi deaths).
Yes, there was a double standard among Trump supporters, excoriating her for “crimes” for which nobody was willing to bring charges (including an FBI director trying to have it both ways), while ignoring his failure to make public his tax returns (with his son candidly admitting the fear that making them available would “raise questions”), his oft-repeated tactic of refusing to pay some of his bills while daring creditors to sue him, the upcoming trial for civil fraud in selling the Trump “University,” allegations of child rape dropped in the last few days before the election following threats on the life of the accuser.
Why this double standard? Certainly misogyny played a role, as a Huffington Post commentator makes crystal clear.
Except for a few diehard Bernie-or-nobody voters, most progressives gave Hillary a break for the same reason that tens of millions were willing to ignore the true nature of Mr. Trump’s flaws when they voted – they felt a connection and they felt vindicated in their view of her as just another member of an “elite” public-private cabal that had given little more than lip service to their needs for decades.
It seems likely that view was also held by many African-Americans, Hispanics and young people who were part of the “Obama coalition.” They too have reason to feel left behind and were unimpressed by arguments that it was the fault of a do-nothing Republican-dominated Congress. So by the hundreds of thousands, they stayed home or even voted for Mr. Trump.
What now? It seems to me Democrats and other progressives will have a political opportunity soon, as the results of the new President’s bias for the wealth become clear over time, he is unable to deliver on his promise of new prosperity for everyone and chaos ensues should he try to abrogate key elements of the Constitution as he has signaled he might do.
Required will be an unusual clarity and commonality of direction among those with a different vision of our country than Mr. Trump espoused as a candidate. We will need to describe that vision more compellingly and augment it with detailed implementation plans. We must reconstruct the Democratic party, not cynically just to win elections, but because we truly want to make America great for everyone.
And we will have to work like hell to connect across the lines that presently divide white Trump voter from white Clinton voter as well as the resurgent racial divide.
It’s time to get started. For the sake of the children.