American Left, we are your future, if you fail
21 years after the assassination of Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin that marked the downfall of the Israeli Left and the rise of Benjamin Netanyahu, I urge you, American Leftists, do not repeat our mistakes.
Trump is truly awful, his candidacy and soon his presidency seem to represents the darkest aspects of American culture and politics, racism, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, the list goes on… Yet, neither him nor his party rose to power following an assassination of his predecessor.
Every Israeli above the age of 30 knows exactly where they were on November 4th, 1995, the night when Yigal Amir, fired the three gunshots that killed PM Rabin and consequently also killed the Peace Process he championed and the Israeli Left he led. Benjamin Netanyahu led opposition rallies where protestors carried signs labeling Rabin as a traitor and caskets calling for his death. Yet this has not stopped him from being elected assuming power just a few months after the assassinations. Actually, I would argue being identified with this incitement has even helped him politically.
It’s not fair
We on the left could not conceive of a Netanyahu win. Not after the incitement he led encouraged and embodied. The same incitement that resulted in this horrible murder. For Shimon Peres the 1996 elections were supposed to be an easy win. Yet, Peres lost, and Netanyahu wining 3 more election cycles since have become the longest ruling Prime Minister in Israeli history, with no clear end in sight.
We were blinded by our anger, fear and disgust, but Netanyahu managed to frame our rejection of him as a rejection of the citizens he claimed to represent; the citizens who were terrorized by suicide bombings shattering lives in cities and labeled as “sacrifices for peace”; the citizens who had legitimate reasons to doubt the promises made by the Rabin administration and the business-as-usual agenda offered by the Peres candidacy. These citizens were not really flocking towards Peres when we on the left basically demanded they repress their doubts and fears in the name of democracy, a democracy we demanded could only be restored by voting in one way.
I hope you can spot the resemblance.
Towards the 2016 US election and even more so since the Trump victory, I am seeing my friends in the American Left repeating the same mistakes we made two decades ago, the mistakes we keep making today. Articles bitching about how uneducated Trump supporters are, or how the enlightened tech industry all voted for Clinton, or how backwards are women for not voting like you demand they should… The pre-elections Leftist smug has turned to a post-elections Leftist bitterness. Hey, I understand, to vote for him? After what he said? After what he did? How could they? Right?
President Trump is an internet troll, and he’s hungry. Don’t feed him!
As hard and tempting as it will be, I think the opposition should refrain from attacking Trump directly as it would only make him stronger, and like in Netanyahu’s case, help him galvanize his wide base and frame the opposition, the media, even reality itself, as the old patronizing elite attacking the people’s democratically elected president. Yes, you should definitely fix this ridiculous electoral collage system you have there but that’s something you should’ve done before the election, not after their results did not fit your preference. And no, at this point recounting of votes is futile and mostly counter-productive.
Face it, America chose Trump, the sooner you acknowledge that the better, Hilary was a very flawed candidate, even for women voters. Trump was a protest candidate, a protest many Americans felt was silenced by everything that Hilary represents. They felt he’s “telling it like it is” while she keeps hiding. He promised to drain the Washington swamp, to bring back jobs, to hold Wall Street accountable, since unlike Hilary, he doesn’t owe them anything. While it’s obvious from his administration picks he’s not going to do any of these things these campaign promises are the key to his power and his biggest Achilles Heel.
Become a disappointed Trump supporter
Attacking Trump directly will be perceived by his supporters as an attack on them for voting him in despite all his “pussy-grabbing” assholiness. We’ve already established this doesn’t work. Rather, the American Left should facilitate what it means to be a disappointed Trump supporter. The Trump administration wasn’t democratically elected. Therefore, going against this “Washington swamp” could not be equally perceived as going against their democratically elected boss. Calling him fascist, racist, misogynist, Islamophobic only made him stronger, calling him “weak” by insinuating he is a puppet of the swamp he vowed to drain would be much more potent.
Protecting yourself and others who may now become targets of a Trump administration is important, but it may also help further engrain the politics of division that Trump feeds on. Could you imagine how some of the communities in danger might be core Trump supporters? If you can’t, you’re feeding the troll.
Can you imagine yourself rallying behind some of Trump’s populist campaign promises? Like rebuilding the country’s aging infrastructure for one-third of the price the United States is currently paying for such projects. I’m pretty sure many house republicans will try to stop him from doing that and that many businesses may be less than happy to do work for a fraction of the payment they’re used to. Don’t you think Trump should indeed deliver on his promise to replace “free trade” with “fair trade?" Or would you mind if Trump become “the greatest jobs president that God ever created?” And as far as growing the economy, Trump says “if we do 6% or 7% under my plan, everybody benefits”. Wouldn’t you agree? I could go on to mention Trump’s promise to get rid of most corporate tax loopholes, but I’m assuming at this point you’re shrugging this off as more empty promises.
Granted I had to wade through tons of awful promises he made that most Americans including those who voted for him would never want to see materialize through his administration. But If you don’t hold Trump accountable for all the outlandish positive promises he made, you’re letting him off the hook too easily. Every single promise that is actually something you would want to see in this world should become a bipartisan movement with Trump supporters in leadership positions.
The opposition to these campaign promises would not come from Trump, he’s too disconnected and irresponsible. It would come from his (again, unelected) administration, which he may be too weak to control. And if these campaigns succeed, all the merrier! But when they don’t, this will facilitate the disappointment from Trump just like Occupy and #BlackLivesMatter facilitated the disappointment from Obama, energized the Bernie Sanders campaign and consequentially also contributed to Hilary Clinton’s loss.
This could be your future too
Losing sucks, and every now and then you might want to flatter your ego for being more moral, enlightened or critical. But look where it got us. In the 2015 elections in Israel you didn’t even need the lead candidate to make the unfortunate “basket of deplorables” speech. Yair Garbuz, a painter, spoke in a rally a week before the elections and bashed the religious “amulet kissers and pagan worshipers.” That was enough for the Right to frame the whole Left as nasty patronizing elites, full of hatred towards anyone unlike them and undeserving of popular support. We were feeding the troll.
In hindsight there’s a lot we would’ve done differently. We got too defensive, and were too blinded by our own perceived moral superiority. We haven’t invested in leadership and have sunk into our convenient filter bubbles. The right took advantage of that to the degree that today “a Leftie” is considered a derogative. The Arab minorities are blamed for everything from Israel’s public relations problems to natural disasters. Human rights organizations have been delegitimized and are considered by many Israelis as traitors. Natural resources are basically handed over to private monopolies. The press is also on the defense with Netanyahu’s patron, Sheldon Adelson, funding “Israel Today” a free daily newspaper founded to offset the media sphere deliver ubiquitous government propaganda. Netanyahu goes on personal vendetta against journalists and news organizations who dare investigate his conflict of interests or simply question his policies. And the public, trained to see the Left as an ever conspiring, patronizing elite that constantly plots against a democratically elected government, simply plays along.
For you it is not too late. I believe the democratic powers in the US are stronger than here in Israel. Netanyahu never promised anything but a dark future only slightly lightened by his claim to be strong against terrorism. Luckily, you have Trump, and he promised to “Make America Great Again” which means he could actually disappoint. This is undoubtedly a dark moment for progressives worldwide and especially in America, but it could also be a great opportunity for a true progressive realignment, one that another Clinton presidency could have buried for decades.
Two decades ago we couldn’t imagine that 3 bullets would be enough to reverse the wheels of history, destroy the peace process, secure the future of the illegal occupation, corrupt Israeli society and demolish the progressive Left for decades further. A few weeks ago you couldn’t imagine losing either.
We’re not naturally entitled to the future we hope to see, we have to make it happen. It starts with resisting divide-and-conquer, organizing together with Trump supporters and demanding he delivers on each of the positive promises that won him his presidency. The same promises that could lead to his fall.
Actually the Israeli Left can also offer some good political inspiration. Let me know if you would like to read about Lobbying for the 99%, cooperatively owned bank initiatives and infiltrating the Right to save it from itself.