It’s Time for Action, Not Unity
The Election of Donald Trump is an emergency call for progressives and the American left to act in defense of marginalized communities through independent political organization.
Well, it happened. The favorite candidate of the KKK and Men’s Rights Activists has been elected president and will be at the helm of a government completely under the control of a radicalized Republican party in all federal branches of government. The sinking feeling that settled into my stomach late last Tuesday evening has not yet left.
It is, unfortunately, important to acknowledge that in some ways Trump was right, the Obama administration has in fact done precious little for those tens of millions of living, breathing people on the lower rungs of our society, especially in the immediate response to the crisis of 2008. As historians of fascism have pointed out, part of what Donald Trump is able to do is successfully synthesize leftist criticism of power with racist, ethno-nationalist rhetoric. Hillary Clinton proved woefully unable to combat this argument with her strident defense of centrist incrementalism as evidenced by her lack of support among the white working class.
I have been a vocal critic of the Obama administration, the Democratic Party, and of Hillary Clinton among my friends and family for years. I’m sickened by the use of drones and their horrific civilian death toll, by the state bailout of banks while working people and students are crushed under debt, and recently the collusion between the DNC and the Clinton campaign in undermining legitimate challenges to her nomination. While I cannot abide a white nationalist and arguable fascist taking the presidency, neither can I quietly endure the frequent hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy of the Democratic party.
The argument the Democrats had successfully sold up until now was basically this: Social change is a slow process so don’t ask for too much. Just sit tight, have faith, vote for us even if you have to hold your nose to do it.
We all see where that moral rationalizing got us. It feels like the door is about to be slammed closed on the rights that have so recently been won by and for women, people of color, disabled, queer and gender nonconforming citizens of our society. Suddenly the rapid action that must be taken on climate change is out of the picture completely and our historically high level of economic inequality is destined to worsen. That is the sinking feeling I have inside of me, woe for the world we don’t live in anymore.
Well, you know what? Fuck That. Never in our history has meaningful change been handed down to the working people of this country from on-high. It has always required the courage, dedication, and sacrifice of millions to demand better.
There is time to mourn, but there is no time for despair or dignified defeat. We have roughly two months until Mr. Trump and his band of fundamentalist lunatics (see: Steve Bannon) take office. Now is the time to fortify our communities in defense of those people we’ve been fighting beside all along through donations of money, material, and time.
However. In the interest of protecting those communities long term, and of ensuring their right to participate in our Democracy, we must also strike at the organization that sold us out in the past and will sell us out again if we don’t stop them. The Democratic Party.
Pure and simple, if the Democrats don’t face a real alternative coming from the left they will resort to the same lesser-evilism they’ve been pulling for decades. If we run crying to them for protection from Trump’s jack-booted klansmen they are going to open their arms, smile, tell us it’s going to be all right and then “Compromise to get Government Working Again” without their mentioning it will only be working for their lobbyists and donors (see: largest recipient of donations from Securities and Investment industry). I say again, Fuck That.
We can and must build a coherent response to the very real threat of Americanized fascism that our nation faces. We need a leftist party the likes of which we haven’t seen since I.W.W. leader and Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs got a million votes whilst sitting in a jail cell. The Green Party, Socialist Alternative, a resurgent Occupy, Black Lives Matter, any and all of these organizations need to be reinforced with our time, our energy, and our boots in the streets.
The Democrats will insist that if we deem to challenge their hegemony over the elected arm of the American left we will simply split the party and lose out to the Republicans again. If we run a Green Party candidate in a contentious district we’ll hand a seat over to the Alt-Right. In some cases they’ll probably be accurate in saying that, but it is no excuse to back down from challenging the DNC and their billionaire donors. What must be put forward is a flexible and well researched electoral strategy that recognizes the reality on the ground and responds with a mixture of primary and general election challenges. We cannot merely force Democrats to the left, we have to give ourselves a chance at putting 3rd, 4th and 5th party officials in power.
In cities like my home of Chicago Democratic candidates run essentially, often literally, unopposed in state, local, and congressional races. These uncontested elections provide a perfect opportunity to put forward views that were shut out of this year’s presidential debates by running candidates firmly rooted in movements for social, environmental, and economic justice. Contentious races between Republicans and Democrats are opportunities for substantive primary challengers following the example of Bernie Sanders. His campaign was able to successfully reach out to disenfranchised working class and poor whites with a strong left of Democrat message. These will have to be candidates devoid of corporate ties. People who will champion progressive causes, as well as partner with those 3rd party challengers who manage to score a victory, must be found and supported regardless of their party affiliation.
Make no mistake, the Democratic party and their allies will oppose any such electoral push to the left either through direct opposition (see: Kshama Sawant) or by attempting to co-opt the language of these challengers and any movement that supports them (remember: Occupy). We need not be naive, the goal of the Democratic party is to achieve and maintain political dominance, any threat to the people they view as their rightful voting base will be viewed as existential threat.
Well you know what? It should be.
We have just two short years to respond forcefully to the insanity of the right. We cannot give up on what we have won, we cannot rely on the Democrats, but we can trust our own power and the strength of a people under threat. We are a nation that accepts people regardless of their color and their creed. No walls can be allowed to hold in our compassion and no hurdle will stop us in striving for a just world.