We have been here before, but it feels different this time | What's Left

The Republicans have won the US Presidency, and clear majorities in the House and Senate. All at a time when critical appointments to different parts of the US bureaucracy and branches of government will have lasting implications.

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There are certain watershed moments in each generation where it seems as though the fundamental values upon which we base our society hang in the balance. In these moments, the choices we make feel more critical. Right now is one of those times. Important issues around the environment, women’s health, LGBT2QI rights, surveillance, immigration, trade, technology, demographics, and capitalism itself are all in a state of precariousness.

It is not the election of Donald Trump that we are most upset about. Not many were so enthralled with the alternative, so it should hardly be a surprise to anyone that voters felt the same way. What is upsetting is the apparent sudden realization – after the election – that we are in the point in history where it all mattered.

The left in the US has been winning the culture war, but losing the political battle for years. The political war has been lost largely because there is a disgust within the broad liberal left about being involved in the democratic institutions that advance the peoples’ agenda. Political parties, unions, organized social movements, the critique has been that these entities are either too ideological and militant or too soft and amorphous to be part of. Being directly involved has been beneath the precious and misunderstood consumer individualism that liberalism holds so dear. Being directly involved means actually doing hard, honest work, and not merely sitting back and figuring out how to game the system.

Among the many reasons to blame for the election of Trump is the liberal elitist ideology (in its various post-modern forms). US Liberals are elitist almost by definition, they have put expensive ad campaigns and constitutionally imposed laws ahead of democracy and mis-trust workers and the masses to make correct decisions about their lives. All the things Clinton embodies and the same things many of the working class in the US voted against in this election.

With respect to democracy, the US liberal ideology advances a version of reality irrespective of the truth that is presented. It does this because adherence to the ideology is based on a flawed view of history, not an analysis of it. Its ideology is optimistic in that it sees a natural evolution towards progressive solutions, so it ignores and even hinders those who engage in the struggle to move history forward.

Liberalism in the US now seems incapable of driving political progress because it is incapable of critical self-reflection. Some liberals now even blame democracy itself for their loss. Without a real attempt to understand why its platform and message isn’t resonating with the public or even its supposed base, US progressives will lose more often than they win. And so we now live in a world where Donald Trump is President of the United States.

There is no question that Trump will (and already has) abandon much of the ridiculous policy he advanced during the election. His administration will quickly adopt much of the mainstream Republican messaging of which he was so critical during the campaign. However, he will also be more vulnerable to the radical right-wing ideology than previous Republican Presidents.

This will be disastrous. All the leadership tendencies of the Republicans – right-wing libertarian pretenders, evangelical social conservative opportunists, hypocritical anti-intellectual Yale graduates, and the ironic anti-elite super-wealthy – and their victories have been built on policies of appealing to to base emotions, most often fear and hate. The Trump campaign has been so focused on winning the political battle, without any moral or rational foundation, that now they are in power there is little hope of avoiding a disastrous four (or eight) years.

As a case in point, their first move was to appoint a fossil-fuel industry funded climate change denier to oversee the US Environmental Protection Agency transition. This is an unsurprising move to most, but simply proves the point. Most Republicans have some of the best education that money can buy and clearly can read the science as well as anyone. But, they are so entrenched in their historical political deceit, that they will actually move to destroy the environment and risk lives and property than admit the obvious – all out of political opportunism.

Where Democratic Party liberals are blind to the actual history of progress, Republicans ignore reality entirely.

So, what is to be done? First and foremost, it is important to remember that one can only organize where one is, and one cannot organize where one is not. Since most of us do not live in the US, that means we will likely be impacted by the election in the US, but not be able to do much about it directly.

So, socialists (and recovering liberals and conservatives who can see clearly what a disaster this will be) must continue to organize where they are to stop the disaster spreading. We must work to bring real solutions for our economic, social, and environmental problems. And, if a good enough job is done where you are, successes will spread and build consciousness that progressive solutions can be found: through a democratic process that involve people instead of rejecting them. It will take a bit of work, a bit of struggle, and a good dose of heartache and loss, but it can be done. After all, history has advanced in this socially progressive direction only because we have struggled and dragged it from its “natural” course.

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