09 Nov

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


‘This is the beginning of a sad chapter for our nation, and for the world.’

‘This is the beginning of a sad chapter for our nation, and for the world.’ Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Hold tight to the ones you love, America.

Hold tight to the ones you love living in black and brown and yellow and native skin. Hold tight to us, because we will have to face white people who think we are rapists. We will have to face a nation that wants to stop-and-frisk us. Hold tight to us, because mass incarceration is actually going to get worse, and more of our brothers and sisters are going to be disappeared. We are going to be living as strangers in our land, among people who believe they have taken the country “back” from us. So hold tight to us, please, and to each other.

Women: hold tight to the ones you love who are also women. President-elect Trump – soon to be the chief law enforcement officer of the land – has bragged about his right to grab women “by the pussy” – and very likely, his subordinates will follow his example. The president-elect is against women having rights over their own bodies. He will probably get to appoint a judge to the supreme court to curtail them. So hold tight to the other women in your life, women – your friends and sisters and mothers and daughters – because we men are going to fail you. We have already failed you.

Hold tight to the ones you love who have come to live in this country from abroad. They are doing hard work in this nation, living lives of dignity – but they will be deemed suspect all the time by the likes of a Secretary of State Newt Gingrich, or a Department of Homeland Security run by Chris Christie. Immigrant communities, already knit with such love, will need to lean on its power more than ever.

Hold tight to the ones who are queer in your life – to the people living with HIV, who enjoy their sex lives being legal, who value the right to love or wed free from stigma and shame. We who are queer or LGBT are going to face a rolling back of our rights. We’re going to be stuck with abstinence-only education, which vice-president-elect Pence favors in Indiana. We are going to have no plan for HIV/Aids, and a complete governmental indifference to such matters as gender identity or LGBT teen homelessness. Hold tight to us, please, because our government is going to try to shove us back into a closet.

Hillary Clinton supporters embrace as they watch results roll in on election night.

Hillary Clinton supporters embrace as they watch results roll in on election night. Photograph: Gary He/EPA

Hold tight to the Muslim people in your life, for they have been marked for legal and extralegal vigilante vengeance. They and their loved ones could be banned from the nation. And they need love and protection from their co-workers, neighbors, teachers, and friends of all faiths and none at all – because the state is going to put them under constant surveillance. The American tradition of freedom of religious expression is going to fail them spectacularly, so hold them tight.

Hold tight to the ones you love who are sick and differently abled. The President-elect and the next congress will end Obamacare, and leave them to suffer and die. So hold them tight even (or especially) when government medical care fails them.

Hold tight. This is the beginning of a sad chapter for our nation, and for the world. The system, and our government and parties, have failed. This will become a frightening, vengeful, unjust land. And an angry white electorate, now using the levers of government, is not going to be kind to any of us not deemed integral to making America “great” again.

So hold tight to the ones you love, please – because all we’ve got is each other.

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Trump didn’t pull off this insurgency merely through the force of his personality – he did it by innovating a new kind of politics that proved enormously popular

What is Trumpism? Most pundits are so flustered by Trump that they have trouble answering this question.

What is Trumpism? Most pundits are so flustered by Trump that they have trouble answering this question. Photograph: UPI / Barcroft Images

Consider the scale of Donald Trump’s victory: someone who had never run for office led a successful revolt against the Republican establishment, and then roundly defeated a candidate who enjoyed a significant fundraising advantage, a superior ground game, and the nearly unanimous support of American business and media.

Trump didn’t pull off this extraordinary insurgency merely through the force of his personality. He did it by innovating a new kind of politics – Trumpism – that proved enormously popular. The triumph of Trump is the triumph of Trumpism.

What is Trumpism? Most pundits are so flustered by Trump that they have trouble answering this question. Liberals such as Jonathan Chait claim Trump is just another conservative. Conservatives such as George Will counter that Trump is the sworn enemy of conservatism. Still others argue that Trump has no stable politics whatsoever, but simply says whatever people want to hear.

None of these arguments are correct, although each contains a kernel of truth. Trump can be ideologically promiscuous, but he stays faithful to a core set of ideas. And these ideas, while recognizably rightwing, also represent a departure from Republican orthodoxy.

Trumpism has two main ingredients. The first is the notion that people of color and women are less than fully human. This idea isn’t new to the Republican party – far from it. But Republicans usually prefer to be a bit less explicit in their reliance on racial hatred and misogyny. As Stanford University professor Tomás Jiménez put it to the New York Times, Trump has turned the “dog whistle into an air horn”. Mainstream Republicans may feign outrage at Trump’s bigotry, but bigotry has been paying the party’s bills for a long time. Trump is merely saying as text what House speaker Paul Ryan says as subtext.

The second component of Trumpism is what pundits insist on calling “populism” – more precisely, an anti-elite ethos that pairs a critique of corporate oligarchy with support for a degree of social protection. Over the course of his campaign, Trump has promised to tax Wall Street, penalize companies for outsourcing jobs, kill the TPP, and renegotiate or rip up Nafta. He has also repeatedly promised to protect social security and Medicare. Of course, it’s likely he has no intention of fulfilling any of these promises. His extremely regressive tax plan includes deep cuts for corporations and the rich, which suggests that President Trump will be far less “populist” than candidate Trump.

Still, Trump’s rhetoric matters. Republicans typically vow to uphold free trade and gut the welfare state. Not Trump. A Trump ad released a few days before election day blasted elites for imposing policies “that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities”. It’s a brilliant piece of political messaging, complete with a montage of shuttered factories and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein talking at the Clinton Foundation. It’s also impossible to imagine Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush or any of Trump’s Republican rivals producing something similar.

This is the great strength of Trumpism: by breaking with Republican orthodoxy on the economy, it can more effectively exploit the anxiety and frustration felt by the vast majority Americans who still live in the long shadow of the Great Recession. It turns out that bashing Wall Street and promising to preserve wildly popular social programs is more politically lucrative at a time of economic distress than paeans to fiscal responsibility. It didn’t take a genius to make this discovery, only an entertainer with a better feel for his audience than the typical Republican politician.

Many of those typical Republican politicians are terrified of Trump. They wonder whether the traditional wing of the party can survive in the aftermath of a Trump victory. They shouldn’t worry. Yes, the fight between Trumpists and the traditionalists has been ugly. But it’s been a debate worth having, because even if much of the Republican establishment doesn’t realize it just yet, Trumpism will work to their advantage.

Trump has made an extremely valuable discovery. Trumpism is political plutonium. It has energized a vast chunk of the electorate around a rightwing politics perfectly engineered for our era of permanent economic crisis. It’s true that Trumpism has several points of tension with traditional Republican thinking, but there’s no reason those tensions couldn’t be overcome. Politics is about coalition-building, after all. If the Reagan coalition could unite anti-abortion evangelicals with godless anti-tax hedge fund managers, then surely today’s Republicans can find a way to build an alliance between the Trumpists and the traditionalists.

In fact, this strategy may already be under way. BuzzFeed recently reported that rightwing billionaire Edward Conard gave a speech to a private Republican gathering this summer in which he offered a proposal for integrating the party’s Trumpist and traditionalist wings. Conard’s deal was simple: give the Trumpists a more protectionist trade policy and stricter limits on low-skilled immigration in exchange for the traditionalists getting lower marginal tax rates.

This kind of bargaining may entail some painful compromises for the Republican party elite and their donors, but it’ll be well worth it. Assimilating Trumpism will not only unify the party, but give it an electrifying new source of momentum. Like any political organism, the Republican party requires regular infusions of popular energy to keep moving. And for all its strengths, the party’s reserves have started to run low.

The religious right is in retreat, and the political appeal of free-market fundamentalism is fading. Republican strategists will now turn to Trumpism to replenish the well, enlisting its many supporters and sympathizers as footsoldiers for a new era of rightwing ascendancy. Now that Trump has reached the White House, the era of Trumpism has just begun.

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