My observations from the U.S. election and a search for wider meanings
There are multiple observations from the US election and many good reasons for progressive people to be despondent. Assuming the fetal position may be tempting but there are some things to observe first.
It is worth noting that it was unionized workers in the end that allowed Trump the win. Without specific data, we presume that a majority backed Clinton but just enough supported Trump that his victory was possible across the states where unionized voters could and should have made the difference. Forget advocacy to the wider population, working people could not, as a block, find a way to reject the messages Trump was delivering. It is a little late in an election for labour to discover that there is nobody worth voting for such that people may want to vote for the worst because the best just is not good enough. The US demonstrated that its need for voting reform outstrips Canada’s. In politics it should be obvious that you have to counter the idea of voting for awful change just because it is change. Labour has to learn how to speak to itself before it can be successful advocating for unionized workers to a wider population. One person here observed that working people are giving up access to healthcare in order to have permission to be bigoted (I paraphrase).
Empires are not democratic and the US is an empire. We saw people in the US territories angry that they are governed by the United States yet have no vote. The fact is the US has enough power globally that it can destroy the possibility of any global action. The entire world will now pay dearly for the US decision to elect a person who denies climate science and to do so with no checks and balances (Republicans now control the Presidency, the House and the Senate. Tragic as it is, they have rolled the clock on their domestic equality and freedoms back, they are set to impose their environmental lack of vision on the world. The trouble is the planet cannot wait for a Trump Presidency to end. This time the US going retrograde is not reversible. It is not this generation of Americans that will pay the price but all future generations of every country. I know we can say that the Democrats were not doing enough but at least they admitted the problem and within their party was at least a few wanting calling for change. There was a starting point in that party. Now that, for the next few years at least, is gone.
We can say that Trump did not win because of sexism and racism. That it is more complicated than that. In a way it is. However, if it were not for the foothold of racism and sexism, he would have been rejected. In other words, a sexist and racist USA was a requirement for Trump to win, even if it is not the sole cause or driving factor. Attacking political correctness may be a cheap excuse to be racist, sexist and bigoted but it is more than that. Political correctness did not erase bigotry, sexism and racism – it created a code whereby they would persist while the symbols rather than the realities are attended to. If political correctness actually did the job sufficiently, made us really equal, it would be fair to assume it would have been defended at the ballot box by more than it was in the US election. The targets of Trump had collectively the power to stop him but did not. Political correctness alone does not provide the motivation and hope to rally stronger support than it did. Only true equality can even hope to do that. Symbols matter, we know, but this election has proven that they are not alone in themselves. Barriers need to be broken down and real equality established and this is more important than the symbols alone even if those symbols are essential.
The world is more disunited than ever. In an era of globalization, where countries are presumably in close contact, society and culture has fractured. A generation ago many of us watched the same news and had very different views about it. However there was little disagreement with the public most basic facts. What the volume of the internet has done is personalize the ability to choose facts. The Trump group railed against the main stream media but they were barking at traffic that had already long gone by. Today there is no stream – rather there is a marketplace of realities (and I choose marketplace to acknowledge that reality is bought and sold) creating individual realities that barely touch. Each person picks the sets of facts they wish to ignore and the facts they wish to adopt. They build their own reality. Clinton supporters did not just disagree with the Trump supporters, they had no idea the election was close enough that they could win. In this internet age, nobody has near universal credibility. Each choir sings to itself unheard by anyone else. Each side accuses the other of lying totally believing their own side. There are no universal facts or single universe. Collective action is even more impossible when you no longer have a collective reality acknowledged. Climate change is an example of a debate not about what to do about a problem but a debate to get everyone to admit that it is real – long after science has been very, very, clear. So as the world got smaller due to technology, the march to technology fractured social realities into alternative universes that have little to no contact with each other. You choose your reality like a sitcom to watch.
I have said this to howls here but when you get to the point where the planet is full and can no longer sustain growth, the rising tide concept is obsolete. No longer can you improve the lives of the desperate by creating more when growth is not possible from this position. The inconvenient truth that even that book and movie of the same name could not articulate is that for those who have less to have more, those who have more have to have less. I used the word sacrifice and I will not let it go because the word sacrifice is the term for giving up one thing to have another. We have to learn to sacrifice our excesses for there to even be a future. The world is unequal enough that North Americans, even those below median incomes and wealth levels here are very much the have’s of the world. The consumption, in particular here is the highest in the world even when compared to others with greater wealth and income than ours. United States in saying they will not participate, which surely is the message of Trump’s victory, makes a balancing of consumption, waste, pollution and carbon use impossible. Without that balancing it is hard to image global progress.
I know Clinton is a war hawk. I have not spoken much about this because I don’t realistically see a Republican being any less of a hawk – That party is very much connected to that complex no matter what Trump may say now.
But being glum is not the only take-away because it cannot be. A Clinton presidency would have been a challenge. With a Republican House and Senate it is debatable what could be accomplished, even assuming she would be interested. Opposition to her would have been a challenge (as some choose to protect her fearing the alternative) whereas public opposition to Trump will be easier to bring together.
The challenge will be to identify the most urgent things, identify the advocacy strategies that can make a difference and try to achieve reachable specific objectives in the US and outside. In this I have the same feelings as here. The left has to learn to pick its battles. It has to go after things with evidence. This is one reason why I am resistant to go along with partisan noise that is not solidly based. It is also why I hold our side to the highest standards, even to the point that I would rather participate less in places like this when shouted down, as I was a month ago, merely for asking that we have standards for our own accusations and that we seek to examine them critically.
Note: I stepped away from this place a month ago as I have several times in the past, not out of spite or to send a message but because I do not want to waste time arguing with people on the left that they, to succeed, have to focus on what we have evidence for and what is really important rather than trying to make mountains out of every petty scandal good enough to get a minute of headlines. As usual when I approach a statement from an NDP source critically, I am called a traitor working for the other side. This silencing tactic diminishes whatever we could have in common. I do not place the partisan above the inquiry and if that makes me a traitor then so be it. I never claimed to support any party above principle, truth and real social progress so I am not a traitor for refusing to do so. My unbroken three decades of support for the NDP is from a series of individual choices rather than partisan loyalty. I am not a traitor for simply disagreeing as I will not surrender my thought to religion political or otherwise. If this is what is required then hang me in effigy and call me the names you reserve for those who refuse blind adherence to party loyalty over everything else. Partisan politics, for me, should never come ahead of individual, personal standards for evidence, or priorities for progress and principles. The Trump victory, only makes this message more important to me. This place has potential for people to engage in thought and ideas but insofar as it is a partisan echo chamber it has no value. I can only hope that there are at least some people here for whom the former is more important than the latter. I write to communicate with them. I do not want to make my presence or absence here a message in itself and I rather like coming to a place like this to bounce ideas and engage. But I surely will want to do something more productive with my time when a discussion about something has to presume that any failure to agree to a party line is betrayal and a debate must ensue over whether I had a right to a particular opinion or line of inquiry.
My post is long, I know, so I have put it in a thread that those who dislike such posts can ignore. Cheers.