I was a bit guarded at first about just how concerned people should be about a Trump Presidency. While I was saddened as much by the success of such dishonest and divisive campaign strategies, I am a bit sceptical of some of the doomsday predictions that accompanied the election results.
But a fortnight after the election, the early noises are not great; nor are the blatantly unqualified appointments to important positions; nor is the upsurge in hate crimes which mirrors the phenomenon in England after the Brexit vote. So I have to wonder how are the majority of Americans feeling about it now? Much like the disadvantaged voters who elected Pauline Hanson only to see her help the government pass a raft of cuts that targeted them, those who voted Trump may soon realise the truth of the old adage, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’
Meanwhile, a lot of handwringing and finger pointing has gone on amongst progressives about what the left side of politics has been doing wrong to enable a man who is demonstrably a liar, a fraud and a bullying creep to win office. Victoria Rollison makes a compelling argument in her essay for the Australian Independent Media Network that the failure of progressives has been their internal divisions that prevent them uniting against nativist ultra-right parties that should be anathema to what all progressives stand for. I have to admit that I find it hard to fathom the smugness of those progressives who seem almost happy for Clinton’s loss. How far to the left have you got to go before you don’t see a difference between Trump and Clinton? Are they not seeing the same things I am seeing?
A more aggressive form of self-analysis by progressive thinkers is the expletive-laden video by comedian Jonathon Pie which has got a lot of circulation (I haven’t put the link up as it is actually more swearing than analysis, but it is easy to find and quite entertaining), in which he says the failure of the democrats and the left in general is that they were too dismissive and aggressive towards those with other views. Aside from the hypocrisy of spending a whole video ranting and swearing about people being too dismissive and not engaging in respectful conversations, I have to say I do agree with part of what he says. In fact I wrote an article last year making the point that you don’t change people’s minds by insulting them and calling them stupid.
But even though I agree that the critiques of Rollinson and Pie (and many others) contain considerable amounts of truth, I have a bit of problem with the assumption of guilt those on the left are taking or attributing to their colleagues. With the way that election was run, a lot of people were going to vote for Trump whatever his opponents said. Let’s be honest. He had been called out for his lies and his repugnant behaviour repeatedly and millions still voted for him. His supporters didn’t care about it for any number of reasons and personal agendas. That is how democracies work, but they don’t get to claim, “It’s the left’s fault that I voted for Trump because they hurt my feelings,” if his presidency is disastrous.
Could the democratic campaign have done a better job of getting uncommitted voters and non-voters involved? Have they lost support from some of their traditional demographics as a result of corporatist policies? Did they pick the best candidate to run against Trump? The answers to the first two questions is hell yes, while the last one- with the benefit of hindsight- seems like a no. But all of this aside, democrats and progressive public voices are not the reason Trump was elected. They don’t have to take the blame for their new President’s actions.
Those who campaigned and fought against Trump’s divisive brand of politics can at least hold their head high that they did what they could. How is the rest of America feeling? More than 75% of Americans did not vote for Clinton and whatever you thought about her personally, she was the only realistic opponent to Trump. I hope none of them have been out protesting after the election. If you’re an angry American who didn’t vote, you chose this. Inaction is both a decision and a choice.
For all the celebrations of the KKK, Hanson and Bernardi (and just a note to those two senators that celebrating with the Klan is not a great look), the election places America in a precarious position on a number of fronts. If the country suffers at the hands of the new president and his cabal of friends and family that he appoints as his cabinet and advisors- that will be the fault of those who voted for him or didn’t vote at all.