It Just Might Work: Sticking together

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People I know and care about are frightened by the election of Donald Trump.

A Latina friend told me her father, a naturalized citizen who was born in Mexico, had someone tell him: “You better watch out, or you’re going to be deported.” A black business owner in High Point said she feels like maybe she should hide her assets. Gay friends are worried about a rollback of hard-earned civil rights, including marriage equality. Another friend feels sickened by the knowledge that roughly half of the electorate supports racism.

The most opportune time to stop Trump was clearly during the campaign, and it will be 10 times harder now that he has been duly elected as president of the United States. Many of us, sadly, underestimated his appeal and didn’t recognize the breadth of rage and resentment from our fellow citizens. Clearly, Trump’s supporters weren’t going to be persuaded by anything the press said about their candidate, but I wish I had made the case more forcefully to radical left readers that voting for Clinton was an essential tactical move that at least would have held open the space for fundamental change. I wish that I had loudly applauded Republicans like Mitt Romney who condemned Trump to counteract the Democratic partisans who were too consumed with glee over the apparent crackup of the GOP to recognize a potential ally.

In Hitler’s Germany, the most important task was to stand with Jews, communists, homosexuals and Romani — the most marginal and vulnerable of society who were targeted as part of a systematic effort to build an ethno-nationalist base of support underneath an authoritarian leader. In Trump’s America, the most important task is likewise to stand with Muslims, undocumented immigrants, refugees, black folks and queer people. We can’t do that if we turn on each other. If we’re going to present a strong united front to defend the most vulnerable among us, we cannot turn on each other. It’s easy but not productive for Democrats to blame the radical left for being too precious about their vote and holding out on Hillary, and too easy for the radical left to blame the Democrats for laying the groundwork for fascism by pursuing military adventures and embracing policies that favored the rich while leaving working people behind.

It’s easy to blame people in rural America for Trump’s rise, but there are many progressive people in places like Stokes County who feel isolated and deserve our support. The truth is that all of us need each other to save our democracy. Although it feels impossible, we must not fail.

In the face of crushing repression, it’s tempting for activists to narrowly focus on their own causes and dismiss others as unaffordable luxuries. Other social actors, even Muslims and immigrants and certainly some journalists and celebrities, will try to align themselves with the new administration in hopes of cutting the best deal they can for themselves. Still others will retreat and hope their silence protects them. It’s an illusion to think of any of those strategies will save us, because ultimately they will allow Trump to pick off his opponents one by one until his power is completely consolidated. Our only hope for saving our democracy and providing safety for everyone is to stick together, all for one and one for all.