How Trump’s Presidency Gave Hope To Minority Causes
A brighter future is again in sight. All it takes is the next election.
2016 seemed the beginning of a new dark age. Populist victories such as Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and in the election of Donald Trump, in particular, led to comparisons with the rise of Fascism in the 1930s. Terrorist attacks across the world added the feeling of pessimism among liberals. As 2017 dawned, Trump’s inauguration and right-wing parties (notably Marine Le Pen’s Front National) licked their lips at looming national elections. In Britain, I held my head in my hands as my government steered us backward, towards a hard Brexit, and Trump signed an executive order banning Muslims from seven countries from entering the US.
I feared for my country, feared for the planet when Trump announced he would be withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement. I feared for tolerance and for minorities, especially after reading about a planned anti-Jewish march in a town in Montana. I speculated optimistically that, surely, there would be a response of hope.
And what a response there has been.
It started with the Women’s March in January, and boy has it kicked off since then, both on the world stage and in community life. Anti-immigration and nationalist Party for ‘Freedom’ (led by the platinum-blond Geert Wilders) underwhelmed dramatically in the Dutch national elections — the other surprise was an increased turnout for the environmentally-minded GreenLeft party. Then the world was taken by storm by Emmanuel Macron, ex-Socialist Economy Minister in France, who quit the Socialist Party last year to form his own movement, En Marche! or ‘On the Move!, and filled a gaping hole in the centre of French politics. Not only did he win over 60% of the vote in the second round of the Presidential elections, his optimistic openness saw him win one of the largest Parliamentary majorities in French history, along the way demonstrating to other Western democracies how to defeat pessimistic nativism. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s proposed ‘Muslim ban’ (in inverted commas because it conveniently excludes citizens of oil-rich Gulf states) was defeated in the Supreme Court.
Even more inspiringly, his decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement showed how out of touch he is with most of his country. In a famous quote I’ll never forget, he said: “I was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris.” The mayor of Pittsburgh subsequently promised to stick to the obligations anyway. 61 cities and 3 states have since followed suit. In the UK, Theresa May’s Conservatives expected — as did everyone else — to win a huge majority, in an election she called for that purpose. She was left stunned as the biggest turnout in 30 years saw a revitalized Labour Party the slim majority she had. Jeremy Corbyn, despite many doubting his leadership, inspired a massive youth turnout that voted undeniably against the hard-Brexit, inward-looking austerity Theresa May advocated.
Already, it is clear how strong the backlash against populism has been. But what’s more incredible is the things that are happening locally, under the radar and off the front page of the news. Groups of ordinary citizens, coming together in order to work to achieve a better world for everyone to live in. Upset by the Muslim travel ban, a number of Mormon women in Utah came together to form Mormon Women for Ethical Government, an activist group that stands in solidarity with undocumented migrants. Military families have joined up with veterans to form the Common Defense group, advocating civil rights. Latino and Muslim groups in Southern California united to form the Latino-Muslim Alliance, and throughout the holy month of Ramadan served tacos to break the fast. And in an inspirational act of solidarity, an online fundraiser was set up to repair damage by vandalism to a Jewish cemetery and it raised over $100,000. Gosh, I hate to quote Hugh Grant as British PM but, it seems, “If you look for it, I’ve got a funny feeling that love actually is all around us.”
Teen Vogue is now a feminist beacon across the United States, empowering young women, who are starting to recognize that they are worth every bit as much as their male counterparts. LGBT groups have proliferated, Rebecca Solnit of The Guardian reports. Always late to the party, even Forbes has turned against Trump, exposing profits made from a charity event for Children with Cancer. Trump’s approval ratings are at an all-time low, with 60% disapproving and only 3% approving. He may be impeached following the ongoing investigations into corruption, but given the seismic effect he’s had so far in awakening, and rallying, the good citizen in us, it almost doesn’t matter anymore. Even his followers have diminished, right-wing publishers Breitbart lost 90% of their advertisers in just a single month. Meanwhile, Greenpeace USA Annie Leonard says they “can’t answer phones quick enough” due to the amount of fresh support they’ve been getting. She told The Guardian that everything groups like hers have been doing for decades “was all practice for this moment”.
If 2016 was the year the great countries of the world looked inward, 2017 could be the year of fresh hope for a brighter future. The liberals, the philosophers, and rational thinkers who’d been last years losers seem to have realized that nothing can be taken for granted. I wasn’t alone in a few years ago laughing at the idea of Brexit and of a President Trump. How bitter a pill that was to swallow. Yet how sweet this new optimism now tastes. Who’d have thought that it would take a spray-tanned, narcissistic Reality-TV star to remind the citizens of the free world of all the progress made in the last 70 years.
If you’d lost faith in politics in the last year, I’d understand. But here’s the thing: people didn’t lose faith. They stood up taller, protested louder, and the voice of hope became a choir of optimism. And now, now a brighter future is again in sight. All it takes is the next election. Let us hope that we remember this, and place our faith in rationality, optimism, and tolerance.
I’ll leave you with a little something. Terribly cheesy, I know. But aside from it being a guilty pleasure, there is undeniable truth there, too.