Friday, 11 November 2016

An Email to My Mother in the Wake of Trump's Victory

Hi Mom, 

Sorry I've been a bit silent since Tuesday, but it's taken me this long to process what has happened in the U.S. I have decided, ultimately, that this might actually be a positive thing in the long-term, even if it's very difficult in the short term. Here are my reasons why. 

1) At heart, I am a New Brunswick populist. One of the reasons I left the academy is because I truly believe that highly educated progressives are far too dismissive of less-educated people, writing them off as racist idiots and demanding recognition of their own authority as highly educated intellectuals. I think the highly educated needed a huge trauma to make them understand that they need to do more to close the divide between themselves and the less-educated. We can look back to the 30s and 40s for inspiration, where many intellectual socialists spent almost all of their time among the working class, trying to organize and support them (i.e. Moses Coady, Jimmy Thompkins). I think intellectuals will finally get the message and get out of an ivory tower shell that has existed for too long and grown far too thick. 

2) The more difficult part here is that beyond the populist victory, this election demonstrates that many Americans fundamentally believe that the country belongs to straight, white people more than it does to anyone else. I think this is the aspect of the election that scares most people. But I think this is also going to be okay for several reasons. First, I don't believe that Donald Trump has turned anyone into a misogynistic, transphobic racist who wasn't already one. In fact, he has shone a light on how much this already exists in American society, and now America will have to deal with it. People will get hurt, but I think the long-term effect will be a progressive one because I think the election has made the American public more aware than ever before about how vigilant it needs to be in combating racism, sexism, and all of these other things that liberals were content to think could not carry an election. Violence has always been happening toward marginalized groups in the States, and now we're just going to pay more attention. This same debate is coming to Canada, and now we'll be ready for it.

3) I think that this election is going to spark a fundamental rethink of the Democratic party, which (let's face it), has been a pro-market right-of-centre party ever since Carter's crushing defeat by Reagan. A lot of people are now looking at Bernie Sanders and realizing that he may, in fact, have had a better chance of beating Trump. Even the notorious Charles Koch has come out in the wake of the election saying that Trump's victory demonstrates a frustration with the two-tiered society America has turned into. This might be a case where conservatives are actually embracing economic populism, as long as they feel like they're getting it on their terms instead of having it imposed on them by a leftist government. 

4) Like I said, the next two years (at least until the congressional elections) are going to be difficult. But they have also shown us that the flows of global capitalism are no longer an inescapable reality that both parties agree on. It has shattered a political inertia that I think has existed since Reagan, and in that sense, it really might be the punch in the face America needs. 

The sad part is that I have the privilege of writing this as someone who will likely be least affected by what's happening. The real struggle will come with the members of the LGBTQ community, Muslims, African Americans, and other vulnerable groups who will need to stand up and fight a newly emboldened bigotry every step of the way. I am going to try to find new ways to get out of my comfort zone and be an ally to these efforts in any way I can. 

In any case, I just waned to share this. I love you Mom, and tell Dad I love him too. I think things are going to be okay. 

-Phil

2 comments:

  1. Phil's poignant words represent much of what I'm feeling today. If we do not fully participate in our democracy, we sometimes get exactly what we don't want. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Donald Trump won the presidential election. The Republicans also won both houses. "Dark Money" has the legislative skids well-greased for policy changes and a radical change to the right will happen very quickly and the electorate will have no levers to deny that abrupt change. Too often, we fail to react in time to counter a Donald Trump Movement. It gains momentum and the juggernaut cannot be stopped. Approximately half the electorate just want change, no matter what that change is. Almost half of the registered voters were apathetic and just stayed home. Social Justice Movements will be rallying over the next two years and those movements will gain momentum, the Climate Change Movement being one of them. Citizens will become involved and the social unrest that results is impossible to predict. Thanks Phil for your very insightful thoughts.

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  2. Belatedly (or not, as these questions remain), thanks for this, Phil. #2 is particularly complex as the new reactionary environment--whatever we call it--does facilitate new expressions of violence (i.e. forms not reducible to whether individuals are or were 'turned into' bigots, misogynists, etc). Regardless, thanks.

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