These kinds of protests may feel righteous and cathartic (and maybe some of them are more constructive than I’m giving them credit for), but it feels like the establishment left is playing right into the hands of the corporate media and oligarchs who want us tearing our society into pieces (while they loot it and put the last few nails into the coffin of our once-democratic republic). It is always right to stand up against racism and misogyny, but these post-election protests don’t appear to be highlighting present injustices against people of color or women. Rather they seem to be nakedly partisan expressions of rage and rejection of the election result — burning human effigies and chanting “NOT MY PRESIDENT!” How does such behavior not mirror conservatives’ worst conduct after Obama was elected? Such actions call into question the president-elect’s very legitimacy, which aside from being societally dangerous, comes across as petty and vindictive. This angry, fearful liberal reaction also consistently disdains and traduces — as “deplorables” and sexist “bros” — large swaths of Trump voters, progressives, and neoliberalism-weary independents.
Why not be civil to our anti-establishment counterparts on the grassroots right? They hate the corruption of our government by big money just as we do. Why not tell them that we respect their anti-establishment vote and hope their candidate governs well? At least the present circumstance does not resemble the aftermath — and stench of injustice — following the stolen 2000 presidential election (committed by Republicans, sanctioned by Democrats) or the rigged 2016 presidential primary (committed by Democrats). After decades of relentless, society-collapsing, bipartisan regress, why not seek reconciliation and progress, on a grassroots level, for the sake of the future? There is OPPORTUNITY in this moment (beyond just using Trump’s election as a reminder to ramp up our support for Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Public Citizen, FAIR, Democracy Now!, the SPLC, EFF, WikiLeaks, Black Lives Matter, the Green Party, and a few other worthies).
There is enough common ground in America — against the agenda of our far-right establishment — that the left should SEIZE THIS DAY! Let’s stop pretending that we’re immeasurably better human beings than our right-wing contemporaries and instead latch on to the healthiest aspects of this expression of the voters’ will. There’s anti-war sentiment in this result — and anti-authoritarianism, too. And a bid for economic justice, including decent jobs and infrastructure investment. It’s not all ugliness, and to suggest that it is is mean-spirited and counterproductive — just when we need to be demonstrating better values and offering to work with the grassroots right, in order to push Trump to keep his better promises: ending the slavery-permitting/corporation exalting “trade” pacts; scaling back the neocon wars; working with Russia, where possible, rather than flirting with WWIII; protecting Social Security and Medicare; offering a student debt repayment program 12.5% more progressive than the Obama/Clinton policy; investing in our infrastructure; keeping the “Patient’s Bill of Rights” and other positive parts of the ACA.
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Election post-mortems are showing that majorities of Trump voters (within demographics) actually voted for Obama in 2008/2012 — so they’re hardly card-carrying members of the KKK. In 2016 they were mostly voting against the corrupt, pro-war, Wall Street establishment and the devastating neoliberal assault on our society. DO many of Trump’s voters have subconscious racism — and others, conscious racism? Sure, but the left is hardly innocent of that extremely American sin: the Clintons dramatically expanded the New Jim Crow, and the American left just spent the last eight years acting as if Black Lives don’t Matter, as if Identity Politics is THE WHOLE BALL GAME. Most liberals did nothing as President Obama threw African-Americans to the Wall Street wolves. OWS created awareness and highlighted inequality, but the establishment, liberal and conservative, attacked us. Where were the left’s angry protests when Wall Street’s militarized thugs beat us, burned our libraries, and tore down our encampments in an illegal, federally-coordinated 18-city crackdown? Thanks to the President Obama’s deference to Wall Street crooks, systemically racist banks plundered the post-Civil Rights Era gains of black households and hollowed out the American middle class.
Meanwhile, Obama has expanded on militarized, “broken windows” policing. And on his watch America has increasingly become a country where peaceful assembly, journalism/exposing criminality, and protesting are criminalized (OWS through Standing Rock, Assange, Snowden, Drake, Kiriakou, Sterling, and beyond). It’s worth considering the notion that only President Barack Obama could have governed in such draconian fashion, with the left silent. And Obama has all but ignored the crises in American policing and systemic/environmental racism, as in Rahm Emmanuel’s Chicago and Flint, MI. Any other president would have had his feet truly held to the fire to address these nightmares. Do you recall mainstream America’s outrage at the police beating of Rodney King on camera? Well, we’ve seen outright murders of blacks — on camera — during the Obama era, with very little mainstream outrage and next to no activism from the left, outside of Black Lives Matter, which has been marginalized.
Considering the American mood in 2008-09, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Barack Obama delivering so devastatingly for Wall Street, the civil rights-opposing authoritarians, and the warmongering neocons (of his own volition, having literally nothing to do with Republican opposition, in most cases). The American people would have crucified a president with a less brilliant liberal patina — a “President McCain” — if he’d tried to accomplish half the insanity that President Obama has gotten away with on behalf of the Corporatocracy. Progressives who argue that the “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” has proven more dangerous than the obvious, loathsome “wolf” are exactly right. Throwing millions of lives and American society into chaos, Obama consummated Wall Street’s $16-trillion coup — in a way no Republican could have managed, with no prosecutions or meaningful reforms, leaving TBTF worse than ever. Even more stunningly, he resuscitated and expanded the neocon agenda: normalizing assassination and torture, expanding war to SEVEN Muslim nations, putting Washington back in bed with the Saudis and al Qaeda, hellbent on regime-change in the Middle East.
In championing militarist Barack Obama and neoconservative-darling Sec. Clinton, today’s American liberals have been acting oblivious to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians. But those Muslim lives matter, too, not just the ones that Trump threatens.
There’s a very good reason that prominent black leaders (Cornel West, Michelle Alexander, Ta Nehisi-Coates, Keith Ellison, Glen Ford, Killer Mike, etc.) urged African-Americans away from the Clinton ticket. Neoliberal presidents like Clinton and Obama have meant the obliteration of the left in America and the loss of freedom/citizenship for millions of Americans, mostly POC. Ranking with the worst Republican presidents, neoliberal Democrats have wrought death and destruction on countless millions of Muslims, Latinos, and indigenous peoples, the world over. The humanity-butchering, environment-destroying corporate agenda has only accelerated under Obama — dramatically. We must never forget that the cruelest mass-deporter of immigrants in American history has been President Obama, the deporter of 2.5 MILLION human beings (more than all 20th-century presidents combined). He is the president who unleashed ICE across America and escalated the for-profit incarceration of immigrants (and the immigration “reform” bill he championed would have only legalized working conditions comparable to slavery — though something akin to slavery is already the norm in American prisons, consistent with how most “American” goods are made. To which captive populations can our corporations pay the fewest pennies for their labor? That is the question… under Republicans and Democrats alike.).
In order to appease reactionaries on the right, President Obama also de-listed domestic terror groups, condemned Colin Kaepernick, and had a beer with the racist cop who treated Prof. Henry Luis Gates like a criminal in his own home. This is, after all, the same Barack Obama who threw his good reverend – and all of Black Liberation Theology — under the bus in 2008, and had the headscarf-wearing Muslim women removed from crowds standing directly behind him on camera. This is the same Barack Obama who, as president, okayed blanket police surveillance of Muslims in the U.S. and vacuum-collection of all citizens’ data. As he’s repeatedly told the foreign press, by most standards he would be considered a conservative. (He’s also recently described President-Elect Trump as merely the captain of a rival “intramural” squad — “we’re actually all on one team.” ——– Ain’t it the truth!)
If the folks who are presently so mad at Trump’s ascension cared so deeply about minorities and the oppressed, one would think they would’ve spent the last eight years fighting Barack Obama, tooth and nail, alongside CODE PINK, 350.org, OWS, BLM, and the rest of us constituting what’s left of the left. President Obama has been one of the all-time appeasers of the far-right (bailing them out needlessly, when they were completely at his mercy, insolvent and discredited… and demonstrably guilty of outrageous crimes against humanity). He’s also been one of the all-time worst oppressors of the world’s most vulnerable. He’s needlessly capitulated even on those occasions when he’s held all the cards and there was nothing the Republicans could do to oppose him. Now, that is APPEASEMENT. In his own way, President Obama has done more to embolden racism and the radical right than any number of “deplorable” presidents could, all while advancing the far-right’s policy agenda. And that’s a big part of how we arrived at this dark place.
So, it’s time to stop pretending we’re the last decent people left in America and Trump voters are a bunch of Skinhead scum. We helped build this rotten ship. It’s time to fix it — or the future will be as nightmarish as you can imagine, for people of all colors and stripes. The oceans are signaling collapse, folks, whether our establishment has noticed or not (it hasn’t). It’s long past time for a popular movement that wrests our government from the hands of corporate pirates. The time for name-calling is past.