This is a dark night of the soul for American politics. Donald Trump is now our President-elect and has begun his political career (finally) by appointing a white supremacist as his chief strategist. Worse than even the banal evil of the coming Trump administration is that no one has any idea what to do about it.
For those feeling lost and hopeless, we need to remember that there is a solution, and it lies not centrist hand-wringing or blame-assigning, but on the left.
In the days since Trump’s victory in the presidential election, we’ve been having a national debate about what kind of political action is acceptable in America. On one side, Americans across the nation have risen up in protest to demand an end to bigotry, fascist rhetoric and policies and an antiquated electoral system designed to protect the rich. On the other side of the issue are a collection of impotent center-right and center-left media elites offering a flaccid rejoinder: “I don’t like Trump either, but he’s the president!”
There’s nothing convincing about this half-hearted call for civility. There is no inherent moral authority to the American presidency, much as we would like to imbue that office with a false sense of mysticism. The president is rarely the most deserving candidate, and as this election demonstrates, not always the choice of the people.
Trump has had more than a year to show the nation who he is. His chances are up.
In electing him, many segments of American political life have also shown us who they are. Trump’s segment of the Republican Party has explicitly aligned itself with white nationalism and misogyny. The rest of the Republican Party has graciously stepped aside and let it happen.
Meanwhile, the mainstream of the Democratic Party has completely failed to effectively counteract Trump in the week following the election. Instead of vociferously opposing his extremist agenda, they have decided to give him a chance — as if we do not already know that his presidency will be harmful to America and its most marginalized people.
Democrats cannot accept that they have lost an election that should have been easily winnable because of their own avarice. It’s clear now that Hillary Clinton was much more vulnerable to Trump than her primary opponent Bernie Sanders, but the party establishment believed their own hype. They campaigned ineffectively and have already committed to spending the next four years doing the same things over again.
The only segment of American politics left to mount a real defense against the creeping rise of Trump’s radical right is the radical left. Throughout this electoral cycle, socialists and other left-leaning Americans are the only people who have offered a real vision that counters Trump. Americans already favor their policies. They simply need to have a real chance to vote for them, rather than a party that offers little to the working and middle classes and a party that offers nothing.
Many Americans are struggling right now, and to them I would say: there is an alternative. The protests against Trump can be the beginning of a movement around the social democratic policies and welfare programs that the majority of the country favors. We can demonstrate that economic populism is possible without prejudice; we can explicitly reject both bigotry and elitist politics as usual.
We must offer no compromise with a Trump administration. We must stay true to our principles and no longer attempt to win moderate Republicans who have shown no interest in abandoning the party. Instead, we must mobilize the plurality of citizens who didn’t vote in 2016.
There is still hope for American democracy. We just have to make politics work for the people again.