The 2016 Election

Terrifying result, Traumatic time
Heather Tobis Booth
November 19, 2016

Here is how I am thinking about this moment.

"There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.
      — Leonard Cohen

First we acknowledge this is a terrible time — terrible. Families will be divided, people will end in jail who have not committed crimes, women will have their health care threatened, LGBTQ people will have reason to fear the future and there will be attempts to even more greatly abuse power — from Wall Street to who controls the Department of Justice, FBI, CIA, Military. Climate deniers controlling energy policy, those promoting wars controlling national security and more.

And with control not only of the Presidency, but the Senate, House, Supreme Court and most state legislatures and governors — this is likely to be a terrible time.

It is likely that our progressive infrastructure will be targeted — unions, Planned Parenthood, sanctuary cities.

It is disorienting and dismaying that we need to fight these battles again. There is fear and pain and anger and confusion.

A few thoughts in how to deal with this time — and the true belief (based on experience) that if we organize we can still build a better and more just future.

  1. We need to support each other, find comfort, caring. It is like when someone dies — there is a gathering a wake, shiva, other support gatherings. We need to find ways to support each other.

  2. We need to support those communities that will be most vulnerable. Muslim, immigrant, LGBTQ, women seeking health care, unions, and more. We have to be not only allies but co-conspirators, partners in this struggle and stand side by side. We need the Spartacus spiritthe Roman slave who led a revolt. When the Roman soldiers came for him and demanded to know, "Who is Spartacus?" every slave, one at a time, raised their hand and said, "I am Spartacus!" We stand together.

  3. We need to hold Trump Accountable. Trump has laid out his plans. First he is coming for immigration reform, and ACA/health care and financial reform. And more. We have to hold him accountable and show how his plans will impact real people who may lose their health coverage, real families who may be torn apart who have lived so carefully within the law since they have been in this country, or how the banks are harming customer and threatening another financial melt-down. And more.

Many of his plans may not see the light of day. The Gingrich Contract with America barely saw the light of day. Mitch McConnell already said that some of the Trump plans will not be considered by the Senate. And some will fall victim to the divisions in the Republican Party. But the key thing is what WE DO. We need to show people what the impact will be on people's lives and tell those stories. And organize.

In 2004, Bush was elected.
The first legislative initiative he took was an attempt to privatize Social Security.
Because we organized, that was stopped.
In 2006, the House went Democratic.
In 2008, the Presidency, House and Senate was Democratic.

It depends on what we do. There is likely to be backlash when the American public sees what the real impact is of the Trump agenda.

Remember, it is much harder to govern than to criticize those governing. It is much easier to stop something than to pass something.

Look at the array of forces: 52 Republicans in the Senate. We need to hold 3 of them and not lose any Democrats to win on a majority vote. This will impact vote on the budget (Reconciliation).

We need to organize — both by the communities where we are connected and we need to organize for majorities. This is beyond a 50 state strategy. We need to build infrastructure in the states that lasts beyond elections and moves on issues that people care about. We will continue to organize on our issues by community and issue. And organize for the interests of all the people in the states projecting a majoritarian strategy.

Remember we have survived difficult times before.

Even in McCarthyism, its own excesses and opposition led to its demise and it was followed by the flowering of protest in the 1960s.

In the civil rights movement, in Mississippi, Black lives did not matter with lynching and disenfranchisement. But because people organized by 1965 there was a voting rights act. When Reagan came in, it did reframe the landscape, but there was a fight back and we are stronger and more strategic and our movement is broader and bolder now.

We need to remember that a majority of the population supports specific policies (immigration, right to choice, LGBT equaltiy, etc.) A majority voted to support Hillary Clinton. A majority of those who do not vote support these policies. But we are not in all the places we need to be. And we need to speak to the concerns of all people who make up those majorities.

For that we need to organize. And we need to organize to build the true electoral majorities through day to day work on the issues that matter to most people We do need to identify the villains at the top who abuse their power and the heroes, real people who can build our power. We need to address those economic issues as well as social issues that advance people. We need to be bold. This is a progressive populism to counter the right wing populism that brought Trump to power.

Leonard Cohen died the day before the election. He indicated that even when things are broken, there is hope for the future. "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Or in the Indian saying: "They plowed us under. But we are the seeds."

Copyright © Heather Booth


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