A Post-Election Train of Thought

As I write this, I am working on few hours of sleep.  My partner and I stayed pretty late at a field organizer’s house last night, watching the election slip away from Hillary Clinton as the GOP also maintained control of the House and  Senate. Yep, come January, the U.S. is looking at a far-right Republican Party controlling three branches of government and most likely the Supreme Court. As I write this, I am an hour and a half away from teaching Virigina Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” and “Professions for Women” in my Women’s Lit class. I will, of course, let them have an open, respectful discussion about the election, if they chose to. Teaching Woolf in this moment feels daunting. If you haven’t read either essay, here is as summary: Woolf declares that there have been so few female writers prior to her time in the early 20th Century because there was  not the economic or emotional space for women to write. They had to be mothers and/or  housewives, or if they did write, they had to face the crippling claims that women were not smart enough to write and publish.  Woolf goes so far in “A Room of One’s Own” to imagine if Shakespeare had as sister, born with the same talent and genius as he. If she went to the theater with a play she wrote, or if she wanted to act,  she would have been laughed right out the door. Woolf concludes that Shakespeare’s sister would have killed herself, due to the inability to fulfill her dreams and pursue her natural talent.

I don’t mean to be dire, but I knocked on a lot of doors, made a lot of phone calls, and did the usual campaign grunt work. I guess I can afford to feel a little down, after the campaign was so optimistic over the last few weeks, even after the Comey letter. I’m still unsure how to process this. I am bewildered and frightened by the FBI’s involvement in the election process, be it Comey’s press conference in July or the letter about 10 days prior to the election. I am alarmed at the massive hacks Wikileaks and possibly Russia committed against the DNC and Hillary campaign. I do wonder what other influences they will have on our election process going forward and how to prevent that. I am befuddled that the Democratic Party, with a president/figurehead who has a higher approval rating than when Reagan left office, STILL managed to lose the White House, and not only the White House, but the House and Senate, where they only needed FOUR pick-ups and had to defend far, far less seats than the GOP.

I am not ready yet to even ponder the future of the Democratic Party. I’ve been a part of it since I was 18 and worked on a number of campaigns. This loss, however, stings the worst, due to all that Trumps stands for. I have no idea what type of world we’ll be living in. I’m not optimistic the Dems can take back even one branch of government in 2018. The Senate map is nasty for them, frankly because they have to defend a ton of seats they won in 2012. The House is also an uphill slog, and Dems vote in even lower numbers during mid-terms. Still, I will get back to organizing,  fighting, and  reshaping the party. I hope others do, too, including the Bernie folks.

The Democratic Party is now post-Clinton and post-Obama. It has no figurehead, no well-known, younger leaders to direct it and craft a platform in preparation for 2018. It will have to get it together quick because the Dems are the only real check on Trump that remains, other than the lower courts. My main concern going forward is the lack of depth within the party, how thin the bench is, due to the fact Democrats have lost several mid-terms over the last several election cycles. Who will step up?

Regardless, I will keep putting in the work. I hope that others do, too. Find others in your community. Get together. Donate to causes that do good work for women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights, religious tolerance,  lower-income folks, etc, etc. They will be the groups most impacted by a Trump presidency and GOP-controlled Congress.

Right now, I’m going to get ready to teach Virginia Woolf, to have an honest, respectful discussion with my students about the election, if they want to have it, and then I’m going home to rest so I can get back to work.

 

 

So what next?

I am writing this post a few hours before the third and final presidential debate. I watched the other debates at watch parties, surrounded by friends and other volunteers. Being around them made it easier to watch. It is likely that this debate will be the nastiest yet. Clinton is ahead in most of the swing states, and over the last two weeks or so, Trump has unveiled a new strategy: claim the election is going to be rigged. To their credit, a lot of mainstream Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have pushed back against such claims. Trump’s claims are dangerous because they dig at the fabric of our democracy and the voting process in general. Voting should be seen as sacred, but knowing he is probably going to lose, and possibly lose big, Trump is now trying to undercut the legitimacy of our election. We have never seen anything like this in past elections.

It is now possible that the Democrats can win back the Senate and the House. The Clinton campaign is pushing into red states and now spending money in AZ, which is a virtual tie, according to latest polls, and Georgia, Texas, and Utah. It’s not likely that Clinton will win all of these states. She may not even  win any of them, but the spending could have a serious down ballot effect that benefits Democrats. Even if this turns out to be a wave election, what will the aftermath be? If Trumpism is repudiated big time at the ballot box on Nov. 8, will he go away? Will he stop having meltdowns on Twitter? Will he stop claiming the election is rigged and there is some vast conspiracy going on between the Clinton campaign and the mainstream media? Will the nastiness and xenophobic rhetoric go away, or will his supporters, who feel totally alienated by the political process, become even bolder?

I hope that the Democrats, even if they win big, take a long, hard look at what caused Trumpism in the first place. Why is it that the media mogul, or even Bernie Sanders, resonated so deeply with a chunk of the electorate? What will the Democratic Party do to address the concerns of the white working-class? This isn’t solely a U.S. issue, either. The New Yorker published a story a few weeks ago about the rise of far-right, nationalist parties in Germany, France, and Austria, caused by the Syrian refugee crisis. Here, our electorate is much broader and more diverse, so it doesn’t seem likely that Trump will win the White House. That said, his nationalist rhetoric and the concerns of his supporters need to be addressed. Clinton is going to have a massive burden to try to soothe and heal this country post-election.

My fear, however, is that the GOP may try to obstruct Democrats at every turn, like they did with Obama over the last 8 years. Already, John McCain has stated that anyone Clinton puts up for the Supreme Court will be stymied by the GOP.

Tonight, I will be watching the debate with friends and other volunteers, for the third and final time. I am ready for this election season to conclude, and I hope that Trump/Trumpism is retired to the dustbin of our history, just like McCarthy and George Wallace. The question is, what happens after election day?

Trumpism Post-Election

Since the RNC and DNC concluded a few weeks ago, Hillary Clinton has continued to maintain a lead in the polls. She  has led from anywhere to 10 to six points. Her lead has shrunk somewhat in recent polls, but it is still healthy, especially in PA, VA, and other crucial swing states. Trump has since reorganized his campaign staff, flip-flopped on immigration, and tried to reach out to black voters. So far, however, his minority outreach has moved the needled little. An article published yesterday by The Morning Consultant points out that Trump has cut into Clinton’s lead nationally, but about 79 percent of black voters plan to vote for her. Meanwhile, Trump also signifigantly trails Clinton when it comes to female voters. He lags by nine.

Since the 1960s, when LBJ, pushed by the Civil Rights movement, passed sweeping civil rights legislation, including the Voting Rights Act, black Americans have predominantly stuck with  the Democratic Party. On the one hand, Trump should get some credit for trying to broaden the GOP’s base, but as the Wall Street Journal pointed out recently in this article, Trump has mostly been making this appeal to white audiences, not in black churches or before the NAACP. When speaking about black voters, Trump does so in the context of high crime and high unemployment, as though that’s all that exists in black communities, thus feeding upon racial stereotypes held by some of his supporters.

With about 10 weeks to go until the election, it is likely the race will tighten somewhat. However, Trump’s massive deficit with black, female, and Hispanic voters will make it very difficult for him to win the general election. The question now becomes, what happens to Trumpism post-election? Trump is now trying to paint Hillary Clinton as so crocked that she’ll steal the election. Will that taint the early stages of her presidency? Will it make it more difficult for her to govern? It is likely Dems will win back the Senate and make gains in the House, but not win back the House. How will Trump’s recent depictions of her affect her ability to work with a GOP-controlled House? Will his supporters even let their GOP congressman/woman work with her, or will the unprecedented obstruction seen during the Obama presidency continue?

Furthermore, what happens to some his base? The white working-class anger over bad trade deals and a loss of manufacturing jobs is justifiable. They feel abandoned by the GOP and by the Democratic Party, who passed NAFTA and the WTO under President Bill Clinton, and meanwhile, President Obama is still pushing the TPP, which Clinton opposes. In addition, what long-term impact will Trump’s blatant race-baiting have, especially all of the comments he made about Muslims, promising to not allow them into the U.S., and Hispanic immigrants, calling them “rapists” and “drug dealers.” What does it mean that people like David Duke, former grand wizard of the KKK, said he’s been inspired by Trump to run for the Senate? Trump’s candidacy has put forth some of the ugly aspects of American history and politics, so how do we heal when this is over?

Right now, the Clinton camp has an election to win, but once it’s over, she, as well as the larger Democratic Party and the GOP, need to figure out how to heal the divisions that have worsened because of Trump’s candidacy.

Where the Revolution Goes from Here and How Bernie Lands the Plane

Following a string of victories last night in New Mexico, New Jersey, and California, Hillary Clinton made history by clinching the Democratic nomination for president. Less than a 100 years after women earned the right to vote, she became the first female presidential candidate of a major political party. Despite one’s feelings about Hillary, this moment deserves its spotlight. Following the wins, Clinton said, “It may be hard to see tonight, but we are all standing under a glass ceiling right now. But don’t worry, we’re not smashing this one…It’s the first time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party’s nominee.”

She also noted that her mother was born on the day that Congress passed the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. She then remarked that the first convention dedicated to women’s rights happened in the state where she stood that evening: New York, at Seneca Falls in 1848.

Browsing my social media accounts, I noticed that some Sanders supporters griped that Hillary was anointed the nominee and did no win it fairly. Putting the super delegate issue aside, Clinton had a few more million votes than Sanders, and for that matter, she earned more votes than any of the presidential nominees thus far, including Trump. The question now becomes where does the Sanders campaign go from here? Last night, he vowed to keep fighting until the convention in Philly at the end of July, and I’ve said all along that he should do so. At this point, Sanders has no chance to be the nominee, other than the very remote possibility that Hillary will be indicted over the e-mail saga. That said, Sanders’ campaign has been about remaking the Democratic Party, so that it resembles the party of FDR or LBJ rather than a party led by the DNC or Clintons. So far, Sanders has had some major successes. He got the chance to appoint five members to the DNC platform committee. Clinton appointed six, and the DNC appointed four. His picks have included African American scholar Cornel West and environmental activist Bill McKibben. On the campaign trail, he has forced Hillary to make income inequality a major part of her platform, which will most likely last through the fall, since Trump has been successful, in part, by tapping into white working-class anger. Now that the general election match-up is clear, Clinton can’t ignore the issues that Sanders made relevant.

If Sanders manages to unite the party, while continuing to push for the issues that matter to him, it is likely that he will return to the Senate as one of its most powerful members, and most likely the chair of the banking committee, if the Democrats retake the Senate, which seems likely, considering the map and Trump’s recent self-implosion over the judge remarks and Trump University scandal.

Following the age of Occupy and increasing anger directed at Wall Street, it is unlikely that the Democratic Party will continue to resemble  a party of triangulation. The financial crisis of 2008 and the bank bailouts that followed have made it impossible for the Democratic Party to not address economic inequality and the working-class anger that Trump has managed to tap into when he talks about the devastating effect of some Clinton-era policies, specifically NAFTA, and the gross effect of big money on politics.

As the convention draws closer, Bernie and his supporters need to make a $15 minimum wage, a major jobs plan, universal healthcare part, and campaign finance reform part of the platform. They should also push to rework the primary rules, even the order of states that votes and open primaries v. closed primaries.

Yes, another Clinton will is now the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, but this Clinton has made economic inequality a major part of her platform, and in doing so, she has had to address her husband’s legacy, including the loss of manufacturing that came as a result of her husband’s free trade policies. The Democratic Party is undergoing a major change, and if Bernie and his supporters seriously organize and continue what they started, it is possible policies he advocated will come to fruition. If his supporters remain engaged and come into the fold more, then perhaps next time around, a candidate like Bernie Sanders will win the nomination.