(The following appeared as the editorial in Insurgent Notes No. 14, shortly after the November 2016 election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.)
Donald Trump will be the next president. What was unthinkable has become all too real. We anticipated as much in the editorial in our last issue, which we encourage people to read still.
Hillary Clinton could win the popular vote by more than 2 million, once all the votes have come in. As we write this, the margin is just over 1 million. Thus, this was not exactly a mandate for Trump. The country is no more or less divided than it was before Election Day. Trump starts out by being viewed as illegitimate by a large mass of people, evidenced by the protests that have occurred across the country and the proliferation of plans for various kinds of popular defense of individuals who may become most vulnerable if some of his schemes are hatched.
Trump’s promises to the workers who voted for him will not materialize to any important extent; in our view, that’s where a real opening might occur. Seventeen percent of the people voting for Trump had supported Sanders before. One hundred million did not vote—the majority party of nonvoters. We don’t know nearly as much as we should about why they don’t show up. It’s our best guess that they are simply too busy dealing with the realities of everyday life—working too long, taking care of kids before and after work, falling in and out of love, going in and out of jail, taking care of sick and elderly family members and relatives, dealing with hard episodes of dependence on drugs of various kinds, combatting the demons that lead all too many to suicide. It’s hard to imagine that too many of them didn’t vote because they thought that things were just fine the way they were. In all likelihood, they almost certainly thought that the outcome of the election wouldn’t matter all that much.
We have heard from a friend who has followed the hard right for years that many people attracted to it could, alternatively, be attracted to a consistent vision of an alternative to capitalist society, which up till now has not existed. They will not, however, be attracted to a defense of the existing state of affairs—no matter how dressed up in liberal notions of understanding, tolerance and opportunity. As a West Virginia friend wrote: “Racism was the icing on the ‘fuck you’ cake.” We think that’s right, and a reason not to despair too much. It will be necessary to defend all those who are attacked. But such defenses will not get anywhere if they are done in a preachy, moralistic way; such a defense strategy has to be coupled with an outreach to working-class and poor people who (as with Brexit in the UK) voted as a left-behind group. No major contender for the presidency had ever addressed workers in the ruins of the Rust Belt the way Trump did, even if the reasons he gave (China, trade) are spurious. Much of the liberal/soft-left alliance is covertly or even overtly anti–working class and it shows. There are people in the Hillary camp who are our enemies, and there are people in the Trump camp who are our potential allies, if a proper strategic outreach is developed. From the beginning we must reject the phony “left-right” spectrum defined by mainstream politics, the media, etc., and orient to “recombining” the forces across the spectrum against our enemies in both camps.