Well may we grieve, but Trump’s victory could motivate progressives to build a global left coalition combining a radical systemic critique with a unifying vision for social and environmental justice. Liam McLoughlin explains.
“Tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, the movements for climate justice, for Black and Brown lives, for immigrant justice, for democracy and everyone who believes Donald Trump is the opposite of what makes America great — will step into our power together and show that the people who want justice represent a force too great to ignore.”
-May Boeve, 350.org
“Politics hates a vacuum. If it isn’t filled with hope, someone will fill it with fear.”
– Naomi Klein
THERE are plenty of good reasons to feel fear, shock, pain, anger and despair in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as US President.
Yet if Trumpism and its toxic international counterparts are to be defeated by an ascendant global left, we can’t afford to dwell in this grief. We can’t afford to turn away from politics in disgust, nor to simply pray that Donald Trump will be the author of his own Downfall.
The cost of such an apolitical reaction would, as always, be felt hardest by minority groups. Soon enough though, Trump’s superheated planet would come for our white privilege.
For the sake of the 99 per cent in America and across the world, we must turn towards hope; not empty, blind or naive hope; not the audacity of hope, which looks a lot like drone strikes on innocent civilians; not hope ignorant of the dangers we face; but well-founded, evidence-based hope which both understands the causes of our present peril and maps out remedies for the future.
So, without further ado, here are three good reasons for hope in the age of President Trump.
1.The People Know The System Is Broken And Want Change
Trump’s election, like Brexit, shows the public’s loathing of the establishment and the hunger for change.
In many quarters, this fact is patently obvious. It’s the reason why the editor of Current Affairs Nathan J. Robinson wrote a prescient piece back in February called Unless The Democrats Run Sanders, A Trump Nomination Means A Trump Presidency, and why Michael Moore gave 5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win back in July.
Some analysts like The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald have a clear understanding of the neoliberal economic policies and political context driving widespread voter dissatisfaction.
Greenwald and others understand the need to properly engage with this legitimate rejection of the status quo and to construct a politics that combines systemic critique with an anti-racist progressive agenda.
Meanwhile in elite liberal land, there is a wilfull blindness to the bankruptcy of their political project and an ideological incapacity to learn the lessons of their own failures.
This year in both Britain and the US, the public essentially faced a choice between the racist anti-establishment narrative or the less obviously racist status quo. There are two main responses to the people’s embrace of the former.
You can blame the masses for being racist idiots, and win the Smugness Championships 2016. Or you can examine the economic anxiety fuelling this anti-establishment mood, place responsibility for this anxiety squarely at the door of the ruling classes, critique those who use racism to displace blame for this anxiety, and help build movements with the power to make social democracy more than a fading memory.
2. Trump Will Be Awful. Like Abbott, He’ll Quickly Galvanise The Left And The Public Against Him
We know Trump will be an extreme President whose leadership will make Tony Abbott look like Martin Luther King Jnr. There’s no need to recite the reasons why, but a quick scan off his “100-day plan to Make America Great Again” will clarify this point for you.
We know that such leaders quickly mobilise activists against them and lose the confidence of the public shortly thereafter.
We saw this in Australia with the March in March rallies against Tony Abbott in 2014, as well as the Bust the Budget campaign, and Turnbull’s ascension in 2015.
There has been a similar story play out in Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker’s 2011 budget plan limited the collective bargaining of public employees.
Mass protests at the State Capitol resulted and Walker is now one of the least popular governors in the country.
Like in Australia, Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will crack down on activists, whistle-blowers and independent media. Hopefully unlike in this country, led by politicians like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Jill Stein, and movements like Black Lives Matter, there will be a prominent left populist movement rise in opposition which will be too powerful to ignore.
3. We Have A Winning Strategy: Left-Wing Populism
If you still believe neoliberalism is a tenable economic and political agenda, then you probably still believe in the tooth fairy.
If you still believe incrementalism, identity politics, single issue activism or a permanent state of defensive reaction are the best ways for the left to bring justice to the corridors of power, I can’t conceive of any possible world which would convince you otherwise.
If you were waiting for a signal from a non-specified deity that centrist opposition is no match for right-wing populism, Trump’s victory over Clinton is your sign.
The only viable strategy for the left to regain power and influence across Western democracies is to embrace left populism. The well-rehearsed successes of Podemos, Syriza, Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders in rapidly gaining support are evidence for that.
This is not the article to detail the origins, strategies and successes of left populism. You can read a bit about them here.
This is an article to argue that in times of grief, hope is hard work, but there is much to sustain us along the way. The Leap Manifesto, Black Lives Matter, the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, plans for a progressive international, and the global climate justice movement, are all reasons for optimism.
Now that the phrase President Trump is more than an insane Simpsons thought experiment, we may be consumed by our own fear, shock, anger and despair. In doing so we would reproduce a politics in the image of these stages of grief until we all sink beneath the waves.
Alternatively, we can join together to help build global anti-establishment social movements wedded to a unifying vision of social and environmental justice.
All stages of grief are understandable with a Wall Builder in the White House, but only a people-powered-politics-of-hope will force Donald Trump and his right-wing populist allies to file for political bankruptcy.