OK, it’s been two days since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. It is still a little surreal to have to say that, and still very hard to think my way of the fog – I know many of us feel that way.
We are entering into an extraordinary time, one which has the potential to shape world history in enormous and catastrophic ways. In the whirling kaleidoscope of terror, two features stand out for me with particular force. First, climate: our chances of holding back devastating ecological change have been decreasing for many years, but that particular apocalypse now seems certain to me. Even the anemic responses that have thus far been agreed to will collapse without American support; our grandchildren will live in an 800ppm+ world(!), and I don’t know how we can possibly stop it. Second and just as terrifying, democracy: the experiments in popular rule that began in the late 18th century are in deep, deep trouble. The old Tory arguments about “mob rule” seem more compelling now than they ever have. The Internet, which I once believed was a great emancipatory force, has proven to be a terribly powerful machine for the destruction of reason. The spectacle of a celebrity President in America will embolden leaders elsewhere to abandon even the formal pretense of democracy. I really believe that the idea of democracy – which was always imperfect! – will retreat worldwide in the coming years, leaving even more space for kleptocracies, bureaucratic authoritarianisms, and theocracies.
So. Hard years are coming. How can we respond? Can we mitigate the damage that’s coming – the damage to our democracy, our environment, our educational system, our civil rights? I don’t think anyone really knows yet. We are all scrambling desperately to find a way forward. But we can already see some common threads emerging.
What a medium-term goal might look like
I’ve seen a bunch of journalists, and others, writing about how to move forward. I don’t think anyone’s hit on a magic formula yet, but here are some common threads:
- The Democratic Party must be reformed. White working class voters don’t trust it any more, and for good reason – it has abandoned a vision of economic justice that once held it together. Bringing back those voters without giving up on other values that we hold dear is going to be very difficult, but we need to find a way to do it. Bernie Sanders is backing Keith Ellison for DNC chairman; I don’t know enough yet to judge but I think we need to look to Sanders, Warren, and hopefully some new blood to lead the party forward after the collapse of the party’s Wall Street wing.
- We can’t treat this as a normal situation. Nicholas Kristof, of all people, writes that we need to give Trump a chance. He’s wrong. We do need to accept that he was elected President. We don’t need to give him any breathing space. Of course, if by some bizarre circumstance he proposes reasonable policies, then our representatives will need to find a way to work with him. But we should all be preparing to fight hard. I follow Elizabeth Warren on this.
- We need to find a way to reform the “disagreement over shape of the Earth” media. It’s unethical to present both sides of the story symmetrically, when one side is doing it’s damnedest to figure out the truth, and the other side is lying out of the side of its mouth. I don’t know what, exactly, we need to do, but something needs to change. I’ll be thinking and maybe writing about this more in the next month or so.
- We need to fight for the most vulnerable in American society. These are hard, hard times for so many.
I think any successful strategy for the next 4 years must address all of the above, at the very least. Read some other, more famous people for a better picture of the state of the conversation:
The Next 30 Days
It’s going to be a while before we really know who will lead the way and what path we need to follow. In the meantime, I have commited to take at least one concrete step to mitigate Trumpism in each of the first 30 days after the election. I’m looking for ways to volunteer or engage more consequentially, but I’m also donating money to organizations that I feel I can count on to fight against the worst of Trump’s impulses. Here’s a list, which I’ll try to update as I go:
That’s all I’ve got