It’s over. Now is left the scratching of heads, pacing our living rooms, purging our anxiety on social media.
So many are asking how this happened. It doesn’t seem logical. A failed real estate mogul and realty TV personality who, by all accounts, has dodged paying taxes for two decades; repeatedly insults women and minorities; bears a history of discrimination and sexual assault; possesses no government experience; threatens to round up and deport Hispanics, close mosques, assassinate families of suspected terrorists; has his fingers glued to Twitter to malign anyone who bruises his fragile ego; and dismisses climate change as a Chinese hoax, was elected President of the United States two days ago. It’s Kafkaesque in a way. It’s surreal.
So, how did it happen? Plenty of ways, too many to discuss here today. There are three that really require addressing, though, if we progressives ever plan on holding the White House and Congress again anytime soon. First, we need to amp up our calls for the cable corporate media to start sticking to candidates’ issues instead of manufactured “scandal porn” designed to garner ratings. Second, we need to re-shape the Democratic party that practically ignored Bernie Sanders and marginalized his base. Third, we need to make sure we never go negative again as the Clinton campaign did while Donald Trump flew around the country touting Bernie Sanders’s trade platform as his own.
Despite a few deviations, Hillary Clinton actually did a decent job of sticking to the issues during primary season. We have Bernie Sanders to thank for this. He stayed on-point like a compass, and forced Clinton to do the same. She didn’t succumb to the trap of going negative on Bernie as many times as she could have. Consequently, the democrats emerged from primary season appearing more civilized than republicans with their male genitalia innuendo and school-yard snipes.
So when Clinton clinched the nomination in July, I, for one, was fully prepared for her to hit the general campaign trail guns blazing with issues ammunition. After all, she had the most progressive Democratic platform in modern American history on which to stand. She was going to lay out her position on trade, minimum wage, infrastructure rebuilding, college affordability, single-payer healthcare, campaign finance, and Wall Street reform–the very issues Bernie forced her to confront head-on. I fully expected her campaign ads to spell out these positions to an America glutted on corporate media’s Clinton click bait about phony email scandals, supposed “pay-for-play” Clinton Foundation donations, and Benghazi, in an all-out assault on the ways in which she has been mischaracterized the past twenty-five years. I expected her to have done more than just appropriate a few of Bernie’s progressive stances. This didn’t exactly turn out the way it should have.
It’s unfair to lay this entirely at Clinton’s feet, though. After all, John Podesta was her campaign adviser, and it probably isn’t fair to lay the blame solely at his feet either. The corporate media does not find issues particularly sexy, and since ratings equals money, it airs what is going to most likely garner the highest ratings. Clinton did discuss real issues affecting Americans while on the trail. Neither she nor John Podesta could help what the media execs chose to broadcast. Podesta and Robbie Mook could help the substance of their campaign advertising, though, and that advertising was entirely negative, aimed at telling us Donald Trump is a charlatan conning millions of people with hyperbolic “Make America great again” fallacies. We already knew he is a terrible businessman. We already knew what he said about Muslims, immigrants, and women. We were with her. Who was not with her, though, were all Independents, millenials who felt the DNC cheated them of a voice by shoving out Bernie, and Middle America conservatives who believe Fox so-called News’s bloviating about “corrupt Clintons.” Did they really know Hillary Clinton planned on providing them affordable healthcare? Did they know her plan to combat climate change? Did they know how she planned on confronting jihadist extremism? Did they know her stance on the minimum wage? Did they know she never stated she planned on repealing the Second Amendment? Did they understand her charitable past, even before she entered politics? Did they comprehend her impressive record as New York Senator? Did they know anything about the democratic platform that Bernie and his surrogates influenced? Did they know Clinton’s views on trade, LGBT equality, criminal justice reform? No. They were bombarded every day with ad-hominem campaign ads which helped make Clinton look weak on policy and more odious than she already was to them, thanks to Trump and right-wing hate media.
Donald Trump did not win because the Republican party did a brilliant job of propping him up as this “last bastion of democracy”, to quote Ronald Reagan. Hillary Clinton lost this election partly because her campaign failed to dispel the lies plaguing Clinton’s reputation over the past two decades. It should have required Clinton stick to the issues like she did when debating Bernie. I think Bernie would agree.
Donald Trump and Mike Pence are our president and vice president for the next four years. Hopefully that’s all they’ll last. It’s bound to be a bumpy ride, so get ready. How do we do that? For starters, inundate the media and its political pundits with tweets, calls, and message board posts, urging it to concentrate on real issues affecting Americans. Bernie Sanders said it best after the first debate with Hillary Clinton: “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!” That’s right. We are. We care about Social Security, college affordability, the minimum wage, and the conditions of our air, water, roads, bridges, and tunnels. We care about what’s going to happen to us or a loved one if someone falls ills. Granted, Donald Trump wasn’t exactly addressing all these issues, but he did know how to play to people’s anger over an establishment–Republican and Democrat–people feel has forgotten them for special interests of which Hillary Clinton is a symbol, rightly or wrongly.
We also need to get out there and start organizing, realigning the Democratic party. If you’re a Green Party member, it’s about high time you start organizing in earnest too so we might actually create a viable third-party option instead of trotting out spoilers every four years. There are no Greens in Congress. It’s time to change that. Brand New Congress and Bernie’s Our Revolution are nascent organizations determined to revise the “same old, same old establishment politics” by recruiting regular Americans, not lobbyists or insiders, for political office. If you aren’t interested in running for office, work on recruiting someone who might be. At the very least, find an organization that conforms to your values and political views, such as MoveOn.com, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, People’s Action, and many others. Call, email, write, and/or tweet your local lawmakers about issues important to you, and admonish them when they don’t address their constituents’ needs. If more local politics is your interest, consider joining your local democratic party, and/or phone banking for candidates for down-ballot offices. Simply, get involved. It’s the only way to institute real progressive change and push back against a Trump presidency and Republican majority.
Breathe. It’s going to be okay. The next four years are going to be rocky, but don’t forget about the mid-term elections in 2018 when we’ll be able to re-take Congress. There is a lot of fear out there that Trump many be our last president because America will crumble under his authoritarianism. That’s not going to happen. We won’t allow it. He might even surprise us. But even if he doesn’t–and I don’t think he will–this election cycle has opened millions of eyes and ears. We will not be silenced. We will not be cowed. We will not cower in fear when the scary orange man wags his finger at us. We are unified, with him or without him.
Carry on, my friends.