Simply “Moving on” isn’t an Option.
Healing from the Trump era requires far more than carrying on as though it never happened.
On November 15th, the Democratic Party’s official Twitter account tweeted:
“Americans will have the leadership they deserve in 66 days and this chapter of darkness will finally end.”
Except, it won’t.
Among “resistance” liberals and loyal Democratic party voters, there seems to be this fetishization of the idea of moving on, and acting as though the moment Biden is sworn in everything about the Trump era can simply be put behind us. The thought that the country came this close to a takeover by an autocratic fascist is certainly uncomfortable, but going “back to brunch” and relishing in the idea that they will no longer feel obligated to pay attention is perhaps one of the most dangerous responses to the past four years that the nation could engage in. As difficult as it might be to accept, the fact that over 70 million people voted for this autocratic fascist to get another four years in power should be enough evidence to suggest that this “chapter of darkness” is far from over, and in all likelihood is just beginning.
Removing Donald Trump from office is merely the first step. The second, and I would argue even more critical one, is to take part in honest reflection, discussion, and do our best to acknowledge and correct the various factors that led to his rise. Without that second step, everything that prompted 70 million people to happily hand the nation over to a wannabe dictator will still remain, festering and growing as the next fascist prepares to exploit them in the same ways that Donald Trump did, and probably — one might guess — even more effectively.
So what does prompt people, particularly among America’s right wing, who claim to be patriots of the highest order, and theoretically love this country and its “democracy”, want to hand over control to someone who would throw it all away in an instant for the sake of their own ego and financial gain? What prompts people who claim to love the country because of its “freedoms”, feel compelled to give control of the nation to a man who views those freedoms as an inconvenience? How — as the President of the United States still clings to the minuscule chance that his soft coup attempts through the courts will be successful — are we coming this close to the autocratic breakthrough?
A lot of it, in my view, comes down to trauma.
Between the years of 1974 and 2018, a staggering $50 trillion dollars in wealth was stolen from the bottom 90% of the population by the top 1%. As if that steady degradation of stability for the masses wasn’t enough, the United States has spent the vast majority of recent history in a constant state of war. While our politicians tell us that the country simply cannot afford to provide healthcare for its people, at the same time they vote to invest trillions in senseless wars that have decimated an entire region of the world. At a time when millions of Americans have been forced to work two or three jobs just to make rent and pay off their student debt or medical bills, a raging pandemic that served as a catalyst for the worst economic crisis since the great depression only made things worse. While the richest among us have seen unprecedented increases in their wealth as a direct result of the same circumstances that saw mass death, job loss, and left millions wondering how they’re going to afford to survive, the American people were given a one time means-tested check of $1200 dollars to get them through a crisis that has been going on for nine months. In no uncertain terms, the people who have created the wealth that the rich enjoy have been treated as nothing more than disposable, collateral damage.
Can we really be surprised when someone comes along who is more than willing to exploit racism, bigotry, and every single bit of economic anxiety, frustration, and pain that people are feeling in order to gain power, then consolidate it when everything grows even more unstable and volatile in the aftermath?
For tens of millions of people, going back to brunch and pretending as though none of this even happened is not an option. For tens of millions of people, pretending as though Joe Biden is the answer to all of their woes as though he wasn’t an active architect in creating many of the root causes to their problems — whether it be his bankruptcy bill or the crime bill — is not an option. We may have prevented the autocratic breakthrough this time around, but simply acting as though any legitimate grievances are no longer worthy of our concern is exactly the mindset that will allow the breakthrough to be successful in — I would argue — the very near future.
Joe Biden’s calls for “unity over division, science over fiction” might not be sufficient to stop a more intelligent version of Donald Trump from coming along and seizing control, but a living wage that keeps up with productivity and inflation might. Going back to brunch won’t stop the next autocrat, but healthcare for every single American that’s free at the point of service would probably make their attempts to gain power more difficult. Simply “moving on” while millions face unprecedented uncertainty about the future for themselves and their families could create the perfect storm for a dictator to seize control, and it is up to us to make sure that doesn’t happen. If Joe Biden and current Democratic leadership won’t do what’s necessary to prevent the rise of another Donald Trump, and put in the work to create a society that is genuinely more just and equitable, then we’ll gladly find people to primary them and take their place.