So, liberals, this is the country we’re stuck in. Unless you’re moving out — and you’re probably not — you now have a couple of alternatives:
• Fight for your values.
Let’s choose the latter. How do we do that? A couple of lessons learned and strategies going forward:
• Let’s vote our hearts. Except for the opportunity to nominate (potentially) the first woman president, Bernie Sanders (despite not being an actual Democrat) probably stood closer to the heart of the Democratic base than Hillary Clinton, who had supported the Iraq War and who was enmeshed in Wall Street.
I supported Clinton during the primaries, despite my concerns about her on policy, as well as the Clintons’ predilection for making it easy on GOP scandalmongers trying to ruin their reputation. (The same scandalmongers never really laid a glove on President Obama, but it requires the target of that scandalmongering to be disciplined, a trait the Clintons have never managed consistently.) I was thinking tactically — expecting she would be more likely to beat a Republican opponent and thus defend what gains have been made the last eight years. I was wrong.
In fact, if you want to jump out of the piece right now because I didn’t see what was coming and why, I don’t blame you.
If you look back at the 21st century elections, Democrats have won when they love their candidate — Obama in ‘08 and ‘12 — and lost when they’re thinking tactically: Kerry ‘04 and now Clinton ‘16. So. Vote what you love. And if you’re worried Americans won’t accept the lefty you love, consider this: Nobody would’ve given Donald Trump more than a punchers’ chance of winning when he started. Anything can happen, and having the nominee you like can move the “Overton Window” in a direction you desire. Timidity does not move that window.
(Would Sanders have beaten Trump? Who knows? One thing’s for sure: He would’ve robbed Donald of some potency on economic issues and in challenging the elites. In any case, you either win or you lose — and Dems lost with Clinton. Might as well lose in the pursuit of ideals.)
• Obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. Republicans in Congress spent the last eight years saying “no” to President Obama at every opportunity, even when they agreed with him. It worked for them, politically. There’s no reason, none, that Democrats should offer Republicans their cooperation. To do otherwise is to bring a knife to a gun fight. If we’re going to blow up governing norms, let’s blow ‘em up all the way. Maybe we have to pick things up and start things over in a more rational way going forward.
• Maybe spend more time getting back to big-D Democratic values and really, truly fight for the working class. That got abandoned during the Bill Clinton centrist triangulation of the late 1990s. A Great Recession and a generation of stagnating incomes later, it doesn’t work anymore.
Let’s face it: A lot of people are hurting after a generation of stagnation. Republicans nominated a candidate who, for all his disastrous flaws, spoke to that worry. Democrats selected a candidate who embodied, for many people, what had gone wrong.
• But don’t compromise our values on race. It’s been heartbreaking to watch the people of color in my Twitter feed tonight as they contemplate what Trump’s victory means for their communities — and what American support for Trump means about the American community.
You don’t have to be racist to vote Republican. But Donald Trump ran a racist campaign, one that further emboldened racist groups with no formal connection to the campaign. We must fight those trends, even at the risk of losing elections.
• Start work in your communities. Even if you, like me, live in a small blue spot in a big red state, work like crazy — work even though defeat might be long-lasting. Run campaigns for city council and state senate, and campaign hard, and do everything you can to make liberal values attractive to the voters of your community. Part of the reason Republicans won? They’ve been slowly but surely winning race after race at the local and state levels over the last 10 years. It may take a generation for a counterattack to bear fruit, but it must start now.
And as we gain power in our communities and states, remember: Republicans say they favor federalism and local control. Fine. Let’s put it to the test, and pass the kinds of reforms we want to see. Let’s make cities and states real damn laboratories of democracy.
• Don’t despair. Be angry, but don’t give into it. Donald Trump will now have access to nuclear weapons. That’s terrifying. He has lesser powers that can hurt and strike fear into millions of Americans. But until it’s the end of the world, it’s not the end of the world. We must persist, work and hope for a better day.
• Help each other. Don’t go it alone. Find your community. Support each other. Help each other.
Just help each other.