This Summer 2017 edition of Tikkun has several articles focusing on the trauma that the Trump presidency has generated. While many liberals and progressives responded to this trauma and horror in the earlier months with mass demonstrations and a commitment to resistance, it soon became clear that, as important as they were for reviving the spirit of people on the left, the demonstrations did not make much of a dent in the consciousness of the tens of millions of people who voted for Trump.
Moreover, the liberal and progressive forces continue to demean, shame and blame all those who did not vote for Democrats in the 2016 election. This takes the form of suggesting that all of these tens of millions of people who voted “the wrong way” did so because they are racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, coarse, bullies or just ignorant. These characterizations do not fit everyone that voted Trump, though they may describe some of his supporters, and a large number of the people he has appointed to key positions in his Administration. The liberal viewing of Trump supporters as the Other has done little to win people to a progressive way of thinking. In fact, in many instances they only served to push some decent Trump voters further to the Right even when they had doubts about some of Trump’s policies
The Left’s reaction to the election repeated a pattern that we have been witnessing for years. The mainstream Left fails to put forward a truly visionary alternative to the “solutions” of the right, and slips into a posture of fighting off the bad instead of building the good. It casts the people who voted for Trump as the Other; making it more difficult for people on the Left to take seriously the needs and humanity of these right-leaning voters, and more difficult for folks on the Right to realize that the progressive Left holds a vision that will fill their needs better than Trump’s.
This pattern reached a new peak during the Clinton campaign with the repetition of the unofficial campaign slogan “At least she’s not him.” This reactionary strategy did not work; and despite its repeated failure, we are witnessing the Left fall into the pattern again by using the Russia’s interference with the elections to attack Trump’s. While this strategy may lead to a Trump impeachment (which would be a good thing) it will do little to transform the dynamics at play and support the emergence of a just, compassionate, environmentally sensitive and love-supporting society that is badly needed.
Times Are Urgent
Like many liberals and progressives, we find the Trump presidency a huge disaster. The Trump Administration is in the process of undoing all the good that was done in a slow and piecemeal way by several generations of liberal legislators: they are dismantling environmental protections; spreading the false claim that human activity has nothing to do with the global climate crisis or even denying that the crisis exists; accelerating the Obama-developed process of mass deportations; enabling even more brutality by taking procedural restraints away from ICE; backing the Congressional Republicans’ elimination of health care and entrenching the interest of for-profit providers; reducing support for public education; eliminating and weakening safety and health protections for working people; attempting to fill the judiciary with right wing ideologues; and declaring the US will withdraw from the Paris Accords. The list could go on. And it will only get longer as days pass.
The Response Has Been Tried Before
In the wake of the election, organizers focused on getting massive numbers of people to rallies under the banner of “resistance.” Many speakers at these rallies and demonstrations focused on what was wrong with Trump (something everyone attending already knew) rather than presenting a vision of the world we want and strategies for how to get there. The numbers were impressive, but there was a notable scarcity of serious in-depth discussions of the mistakes that led to this political defeat and what new strategies were available.
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Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 3:4-7