Over the last few weeks, I had random conversations with people where the US presidential elections came up. On more than one occasion, someone brought up the typical “Well, Trump is a crazy person, but the American president doesn’t have that much power anyway, so what should go wrong. And by the way, Hillary is a Hawk and that might be really bad, too” line.
By the way, this is a European perspective, but I assume it is something Americans have heard in conversations as well.
Here’s a few reasons why I think this line of thinking is extremely lazy and dangerous:
The President, especially in foreign politics, does have enough power to make really bad, really dangerous decisions. This, coupled with Trumps Big League Temperament (One the the best Temperaments!) makes me really afraid.
Some of the things Trump laid out as his “first day” plans are actually very well within Republican party line (such as the rollback of climate protection policies), so there’s no reason why he should not be able to push things through.
It’s not just about Trump, though. The democrats also failed to secure the Senate majority which puts the Trump presidency into a unique position:
- The Congress is completely under Republican control
- Trump, in the extreme, might be able to elect up to four supreme court judges
- The Republicans have until the midterm elections to further their obviously very successful concept of vote suppression (by enacting voter Id laws, further reducing number of polling stations in minority dominated precincts and continued gerrymandering
But there’s also a completely different, almost non-political angle. America just elected a very terrible human being. Quite possibly a racist, but at least one that racists (aka the KKK) are cheering for. A (almost self identified) misogynist, who has no respect whatsoever for women, who had a rather large group of women coming forward accusing him of sexual harassment and rape. Who bragged about it in personal conversations (aka locker room talk). Who lifted the performance of the lying politician to a whole new level. Reality simply doesn’t seem to concern him.
What this election showed was that America, as a whole, seems to be okay with all of that. And that opens up a floodgate that was very difficult to hold shut anyway. We already see swastika graffitis on walls, Nazi flags flying. We see muslims and black people being harassed even more than before the elections. Because racists and misogynists all over now must be under the impression that, hey, if our president can make fun of disabled, why shouldn’t it be okay for us? If he calls women fat pigs, why shouldn’t we?
Even though, technically, the America of the 8th of November is the same as the America of the 9th of November, it has become a much more dangerous place for a lot of people.
And this will be bigger than just America. Like I wrote on twitter, my biggest fear is that, after the terrible Brexit vote (and with all the terrible things that now happen in the UK in the aftermath) and the Trump win, we’ll now have a racist, nationalist, white dudebro train with a Breitbart logo that will rush through a few more countries (If my twitter timeline is correct, France will be next) before we’ll even figure out how to stop it.
Speaking of figuring it out: The coming years will be difficult. We, as a society, we as the people who know that in nationalism, racism, sexism lies the path to darkness, the path to a future that will, in the long term not only hurt the people directly affected but also the people who enabled it (or failed to prevent it), need to figure out how to counteract. We need a sense of urgency that, for the last few years, only appeared to be present in the new right wing orgs. We need to figure out how to tell the disenfranchised that the solution is not white or national supremacy. That immigration is not the end of the world as we know it. That climate change is a real, dangerous problem and that working on that is not throwaway money but a needed investment in our future, and that of our kids.
And, quite frankly, we will need to figure out how to tame the monster that is neoliberal capitalism and turn it back into something more manageable. I don’t know yet what that could be (but think that oldschool german “social capitalism” is not a bad start), but I firmly believe without accomplishing that, the new right and their twisted, ill-informed and dangerous messages will continue to find recipients.
One thing we need to figure out as well is how we could re-build or transform a press industry (The once famous “fourth pillar of democracy”), that, in order to save itself, turned into something that is somehow easily exploitable by populists ala Trump, Le Pen, Petry. It is always dangerous to argue that the press is biased (and also something out of the playbook of the new right), but my point, I guess, is that in the current form and with the current economic incentives, the press doesn’t even have to be biased to be exploitable. Other people can explain this better than I, so I’ll just leave it at that.
I don’t know what would have happened if Hillary Clinton would have won this election. We will probably never know (I’m pretty sure the Democrats are not so stupid as to try to run the exact race again in four years).
What I do know is that now I am, indeed, really afraid for our future in a sense that is pretty much comparable to the feeling on 9/11. For me, personally, this means that I need to find a way to turn my fear into constructive action. Not just writing well shared tweets and blog posts but actual, real, political action. I have no idea what that could be right now, but it needs to happen, because I could never forgive myself if we’ll turn this world into a post apocalyptic, racist, nationalist hell hole and all I did was sitting on the sideline and writing semi-intelligent, half baked commentary.
Over and out.