Monday, November 14, 2016

Mass Movements: The Silver Lining of The Trump Victory

I went to a large meeting last night centered on how we should respond to the election and how we can build movements and connections to resist what are most likely some terrible policies and laws coming our way in the next few years. The meeting itself was fairly useless, having obviously been thrown together last minute and with extremely little planning, but it was nonetheless nice that a hundred or so people showed up on such short notice. Better than nothing, etc.

But one speaker at the event enunciated a lot of what I've felt post-election, especially the way so many on the left have responded with their collective rendering of their garments and gnashing of their teeth. Not coincidentally, he was also the only person of color speaking at the event (again, pretty poorly organized, but that's not the point of this post).

He led off by talking about how he had joked before the election that he kinda wanted Trump to win, if only because it would make white people as nervous as Black people are every day in America. And as he pointed out, it sure does seem like a lot of white people just now realized America is a racist nation. It's not like Trump invented all of this; he capitalized off it, meaning it obviously predated him by quite a bit (I'd say by roughly 400 years, but that's a different conversation).

Perhaps the strongest point this speaker made, though, was in directly asking the assembled crowd how many of them would be attending an emergency anti-racist organizing meeting if Clinton had won the election. While a few in attendance sheepishly raised their hands, it was obvious his point hit home for many (as it damn well should). He went on to explain in much greater eloquence than I can recreate here that the upshot of Trump winning is that it forces white America to confront what Black American already knew -- that there is an incredibly strong current of racism in this nation which is barely concealed, but concealed enough so that comfortable people who don't want to notice it don't have to. But Trump's election removed what little cover this racism (and sexism, and homophobia, and nativism, etc.), forcing these same people to finally reckon with it.

While deserving of it's own post on another day, much of this is due to the blindness encouraged by the two-party system, in which anything done by their side is bad and anything done by my side is good, irrespective of what that action is. As Glenn Greenwald has exhaustively covered, the exact same policies and actions liberals condemned as borderline-fascist under Bush became ideas they cheered and defended under Obama. Hell, often times these liberals defended things Obama did that were objectively worse than those of Bush; while many were quick to denounce Bush granting himself the right to wiretap phones without warrant or any form of oversight, these same folks were conspicuously quiet (or even worse, in favor of it) when Obama granted himself the right to murder anyone he wanted without warrant or any form of oversight. Regardless of your politics, if you find warrantless wiretap a bigger cause for concern than warrantless murder, have a very inscrutable set of beliefs.

So a silver lining is that at least the terrible policies of the next four years won't have the cover of a putatively progressive president behind them, thus allowing people who would otherwise oppose them to actually oppose them. Take, for instance, immigration -- there is currently quite a bit of concern among liberal America that Trump's policies will lead to the deportation of upwards of 3 million people. And these folks are right to be concerned! That would be tragic and indefensible. But what these same folks seem to conveniently ignore is that is roughly the number of people the Obama administration has deported. In fact, the Obama administration has deported more people than any presidential administration in the history of our nation. And yet somehow that wasn't really concerning to these people who are now super concerned about the people Trump might deport (and if he's able to do so, it's only because Obama built such a massive deportation apparatus for him).

But the point of this isn't to make the argument that all presidents are the same so none of this matters or to chide liberals for conveniently forgetting their ideals whenever someone they like violates them (though they should be held accountable for that), but instead to again offer a sliver of hope in these dark times -- many of the people who would have stayed home during a Clinton presidency will be out in the streets during a Trump presidency. And as someone who firmly believes what happens in the streets is far more important and impactful than what happens in the Oval Office, that's actually some comfort.

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