These are dangerous times. A colleague in Philadelphia reports that a female student of hers was grabbed by the crotch in Center City. A leering young man snarls at her, “we can do this to you now.” In Minneapolis an Asian woman on a university campus is similarly groped. When she fights back against her attacker, with a blow to the throat just as police arrive, the cops hold her to the ground and arrest her. In the Dallas airport, a friend who wears hijab narrates on social media that all around her whites are staring, “some with undisguised hatred, others with nervous smiles.” At a high school in the Midwest tenth graders shout over and over, “Build the Wall! Build the Wall!,” while their Latino classmates cry. Welcome to Donald Trump’s Amerika.
One does not need to look far for these sorts of stories. And worse. Already, 72 hours out, the Southern Poverty Law Centre is compiling a database of these incidents. The ACLU similarly is preparing itself for a flood of cases as illiberalism ascends and bigots believe that Trump’s electoral victory means that it is open season.
What is to be done? In shock over the result of balloting some liberals urge us to listen carefully to Trump’s followers, to try to understand their deep-seated sense of grievance. Others, including the President, insist that it is not that bad, that if we find ways to work with the incoming administration, we will get through this. In essence, these voices suggest that once saddled with the burden of governing and wielding real power Trump and his team will have little choice but to moderate rhetoric and curtail proposals that were simply part of the fray of the campaign.
Bullshit. One of the features that made Trump different was that on the campaign trail he treated all of us to an unvarnished, unpolished, spontaneous and genuine candidate. There was no spin, no edit, no attempt to render palatable a set of racist, misogynist, xenophobic politics. Many of his supporters adored him for this. “He says what we are thinking but won’t say out loud” many of them explained when asked. To think that once in the Oval Office he suddenly will morph into Dwight Eisenhower is worse than wishful thinking. It is delusional. And if we follow this advice we surely are doomed.
So, what, really, is to be done? For a start we need to develop strategies to protect the most vulnerable: the undocumented, Muslims, queers, refugees. Second, we need to begin to repudiate the liberal politics that failed us, both within the Democratic Party and outside of it (and my hat’s off today to the young DNC staffer who shouted down Donna Brazille yesterday), for only then can we build political vehicles that can offer genuine alternatives. Third, we have to prepare ourselves for a politics of resistance outside of the electoral arena – Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and the Pipeline protestors have shown the way. We need to build and extend these organizations and currents. Most importantly, we need to craft a vision of an egalitarian future and build hope around it. Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of the Clinton campaign – and quite possibly its fatal flaw -- was that it projected no dream, only a sense of lacklustre competency. Paine, Franklin, and Jefferson grasped the necessity of a compelling vision when, in 1776, they embarked on revolution. They imagined a Republic. We need a vision of a future society as inspiring now as theirs was then.