The election is over and the worst nightmare of more than half the country has come true: Donald J. Trump is President-elect. There’s plenty of blame to go around, from coastal elites to racists, from media enablers to social media, from the Democratic establishment to the FBI. But here are some things that are true regardless of who you feel is to blame:
Hillary Clinton lost because more people voted for Donald Trump in must-win states like Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, among others. Those progressives who live in cities or blue enclaves didn’t see it coming because we live in media bubbles, and didn’t fully grasp the level of economic anxiety, bigotry and xenophobia that persists across vast swaths of the country. Compared to Obama in 2012, Hillary lost votes in nearly every demographic, most notably white voters without a college degree. This election was more about the story of working class Americans lashing out against what they perceived as corrupt elites than it was about red versus blue.
Like many reeling from the election, I’ve spent the last five days vacillating between sadness, anger, disbelief and denial. After a number of hand-wringing conversations with friends and family, I woke up this morning with some much-needed clarity on what needs to happen for progressives to win the America we want. Not the broken, fractured America of today, but one where prosperity is shared by all. A generous America where none are targeted because of the color of their skin, religion or gender, and where all have access to health, wellbeing and the protection of our Constitution.
So here are five strategies that, if pursued together, can move us in the right direction. The antidote to depression, after all, is action:
1. Resist. Those who have lived through authoritarian and kleptocratic regimes in the recent past have powerful lessons to share about how to deal with demagogues like Donald Trump: don’t give an inch, throw sand in the gears, confuse and outmaneuver him and his administration. This doesn’t just mean we use tactics and messages that “feel” good to us. It means being strategic, disciplined, coordinated and collaborative. It means deepening our commitment and using all the resources at our disposal, including our bodies if need be. It means maintaining laser-focus on how to defeat Trump and innovating our tactics rather than spending the next four years rehashing the same stale playbook or blaming each other for our stinging defeat in 2016. Resistance can mean taking to the streets, but there are literally hundreds of ways large and small to resist normalizing Trumpism every single day.
2. Wedge. Much as many progressives worked for and voted for Hillary while holding our noses, many Trump voters — perhaps as many as 30% — did the same thing. This group voted for him despite his most horrific personal attributes and policy positions, not because of them. They wanted an outsider to shake up the corrupt system, and they looked past his con job. In this deeply populist moment, key issues that speak to this desire and garner support from large chunks of the new GOP base can be used to peel off Trump supporters. They include opposition to international trade deals like TPP and NAFTA, support for clean energy (yes, you read that right), massive public infrastructure spending, Wall Street regulation, ethics reform, and cuts in military aid to other countries. Interestingly — though not surprisingly — none other than Bernie Sanders championed many of these positions.
3. Fix the Democratic Party. As recently as the 1970s, the Democratic Party was synonymous with the working class. In the decades following, during and after the devastating Reagan years, Democrats began to parrot the talking points of their center-right Wall Street donors and law-and-order Republicans. By giving up the mantle of economic justice in favor of Wall St. donors and other elites, Democrats abandoned working class voters. Though the Party has always had a populist wing, Democratic leadership has largely focused on fundraising and staying in power. As the Party enters an era of soul-searching, now is the perfect time for progressives to demand new DNC leadership, and to engage from local committees on up, to reform the way that the party fundraises, chooses candidates and its platform, and invests the vast resources it has. The Democratic Party may have lost its populist soul, but it’s recoverable.
4. Get local. If the campaign and first days of the transition are any indication, a Trump administration is likely to be incompetent and unable to deliver on many of the campaign promises he made. While we throw sand in the gears of the truly awful plans he does try to move forward, we must also fight back at the local level. One of the legacies of the failed Democratic leadership is the lack of investment in state parties that led to 25 states where Republicans control statehouses and Governorships. If we’re going to win back the America we want, we’ll need to recruit, run and get out the vote for progressive state and local candidates everywhere in the country, starting now.
5. Protect and Support. Whether or not a Trump administration follows through on his campaign promises to ban Muslims from entering the country, build a wall between Mexico and US, or deport undocumented immigrants, Trump has already empowered racists, xenophobes, sexual predators and other hateful individuals. Hate crimes are likely to increase and put many at risk, and there are indications that a Trump administration might use the government intelligence apparatus to crack down on free speech against him. We must follow the lead of those most vulnerable and step up to support and protect them if they are attacked, whether by vigilantes or the US government. Unless we protect, stand with and support each other, we won’t be successful in building a broad-based movement large enough to defeat Trumpism.
To the extent that we’re successful in operating all of these strategies at scale and at the same time — a wave of collective resistance unseen in the past decade — we will defeat Trump and everything his hateful campaign stood for.
One thing is for sure: we’ll need to be more strategic, disciplined, smarter and collaborative than we ever imagined possible. We’ll need to put ourselves in uncomfortable and even dangerous situations, be vigilant, talk with people we dislike, collaborate with people we haven’t even met yet, and never, ever, not even for a second, look away from the task at hand.
Our lives depend on it, and the America we want depends on us.