The next four years will be harder than ever. But the time for lamenting is over — it’s time to organize like our lives depend on it to stop Trump’s agenda.
I have to be honest. I am really sad and upset. We are going to lose so much over the next 4 years and in the first 100 days of his administration. Trump’s cabinet will be filled with the worst of the far right–Sarah Palin, Jeff Sessions, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Jeff Sessions, Forrest Lucas, and others. Trump will be on television every single day normalizing a politics of hate while railing against the mainstream media and liberal elite who despise him.
Changing the political weather and pushing the needle on our issues will be so much more difficult over the next four years under Trump’s far right administration. We are going to be spending the next four years reacting to what his administration proposes just like under Bush instead of being on the offensive.
Most of our movements and organizations and civil society have learned to fight and contest under Democratic presidents, not under those from the far right. Our friends from the South may have lessons for us on how to organize and protect under such conditions.
When Trump proposes ending Obamacare, deregulating the banks, asserting an aggressive foreign policy, corporate tax cuts, increasing militarization police, gutting unions and environmental protections, or ramping up deportation on an even more massive scale, we are simply going to have to react and we are honestly going to lose on many things.
It is going to lead people into despair and anger.
That means we have to be strategic about our mobilizations in the streets. They will mostly be defensive. We have to be honest that these mobilizations will not produce much change or exert much leverage on a Trump administration in the next 2 years. He is not accountable to us.
But more so than ever our mobilizations will largely be forms of expression. in which case we have to be super strategic about the narrative our mobilizations will tell about the America we want to live in by embodying that spirit and community. We need to express a narrative that can defeat the sinister “Make America Great Again.”
That means speaking in a language that resonates with the people. That means speaking beyond the choir. It means truly understanding that phrases like “intersectionality” mean so very little to 98% of the population. That means the left must understand how much of our navel gazing language is simply elitist and fruitless. It means understanding in what ways our language and strategies and slogans have failed to reach our people—how parts of our culture can ruin us.
And that means producing a narrative damning the hatred and greed of the ruling class in this country who got us into this mess.
We also have to learn how to activate our people but also polarize Trump’s base of white working class and middle class voters alongside the 29% of Latinos and Asians that voted for him. We have to cause defections from his base into our side.
Trump will disappoint his base when their lives don’t get any better and at some point the far right racist groups will come out much more publicly and we will need to fight like hell to convince the majority of the country that these people do not care about them.
When those who voted for the enemy begin to agree with you, that is called power. That is what they are afraid of.
That means people of color must lead multiracial formations alongside white people. White people must also lead side by side. There is no more time for white people to “step back.” It’s the only way. We do not have the numbers otherwise to create a governing majority. We have to embody the change we want to see by by actually doing it.
But we also need to understand that mobilization into the streets is a limited strategy. We need to think critically of how much the usual suspects of the Democratic Party failed us. We must plan, plan, and plan to support hundreds or thousands of left-populist candidates who can tell a morally compelling story about how racism hurts everyone and leads to increasing inequality.
We need to understand that much of the mess that we are in is due to our political system too. Our communities are segregated and our politics are segregated. People live in single-member congressional districts that are so gerrymandered by elites in both parties that there is no real incentive to build a multiracial majority for change. It leads to increasing distrust and polarization. It leads to feudal lords choosing their voters. We have to change the entire goddamn system that got us here. More than ever we need proportional representation where the people can actually be represented all over the country and where we have multiple parties. This election has showed us that our system is intolerable and outdated.
We need to take back Congress in 2018 like our lives depended on it because they do. We have to govern because no one else will do it for us.
We have to tell the truth. The Democrats failed us. They could not expose the hatred and greed of the ruling class, because those same Wall Street bankers and corporate CEOs were providing their campaign funding. They could not explain the suffering of the people, because they are so far from us.
And now, Clinton says, “We need to give Trump a chance to lead.” But, why would we give Trump a chance to enact the threats he has made against our communities? This is unacceptable and we must take over the reigns.
This is basically what the Tea Party did to the Republican Party and to America from 2008 to 2016. They mobilized people in the streets to oppose Obamacare and articulate a new vision for America based on hatred, greed, and resentment. Then, they elected their champions to office, by supporting primary challengers against the Republican establishment, taking Congress, and now the presidency. And they gave their voters a new identity: “Tea Party Republicans.” This is what we must do. We must make the establishment of both parties pay for what they have done to our communities.
If we cannot find resonant vehicles at scale to give people hope over the next 4 years, the anger will consume us as we are pushed into the dark corners of despair. We cannot allow this to happen.
And we need to remind ourselves that even with all the pain of this defeat and even know how much we are going to lose over the next four years, people will still go on living their lives and taking care of their families and communities. We can be a resilient people because we are one. We need to build a new America where we finally become one people out of many.
We shouldn’t have to live in a democracy where people don’t trust us, where people don’t care about us, where we don’t have an affirmational choice, where the usual suspects are always out campaigning for our vote and then sells us out, where we always have to fight for the bare minimum.
We shouldn’t have to live in an America where we have to constantly fight to be recognized as fellow Americans and fellow human beings.
We should live in an America that is ours, and ours for the taking.
We have to splinter this country into a thousand pieces and place it back together in our own image.
We have to wake up America.
We have to create the America we have not yet become and free ourselves from the forces of hatred and greed.
If we want to change America, we have to change the meaning of the very word “America.”
Waleed Shahid is a co-founder of the #AllofUs project, a millennial-movement seeking to challenge the hatred and greed of the ruling class. His writing has appeared in The Nation. Follow him on Twitter @waleed2go.