Some people should not read this post.
I assume that approximately 0% of my regular readers (Sid and Doris Bonkers) are happy about Trump winning the US election, but it’s just about possible that I have a few USian readers who voted for Trump. If you’re one of them, and take offence at people disagreeing with you, I’d advise you not to read further in this post. I think it’s obvious to anyone who’s read anything I’ve written that Trump is as far from my political views as it’s possible to get, but just in case.
Second, don’t read this if you don’t want dispassionate-seeming analysis and advice. Note that this is *not* the same as actually dispassionate analysis — while I’m British, and so one might think I am insulated from the effects of Trump, I’m married to an American, and have spent literally the whole of the last twenty-four hours trying to comfort her. But the way *I* cope with stuff is to try desperately to find ways to fix things. This isn’t me being a cishet white dispassionate male saying “Oh, it would be fascinating if we tried…”, but rather me being an autistic hypersensitive person whose brain desperately tries to find ways out of what it perceives as traps.
(On the same token, this may read as Britsplaining, so just to be clear, this is a set of *suggestions* meant to help in case something hadn’t occurred. It is *not* me saying I understand your problems or the solutions better than you. I don’t. But if that kind of thing is likely to upset you, don’t read any further.)
OK, so with that out of the way… we have to accept that there will be some very bad things happening over the next few years in the US (and in the rest of the world because of the US). The question is what can be done to minimise the damage, and maximise the chances of recovery afterward.
So this is a set of suggestions from someone who’s been fairly involved in campaigning. Note that these are *suggestions*. A lot of the people who will be most affected by this election are in no position to do anything. DO NOT let me add any guilt or pressure to you.
First, if you have money, try to help people who are affected. Give to LGBT charities, to disability-rights charities, to charities helping PoC. The one charity I know will be useful (I don’t know too much about US-based organisations) is the ACLU. Also give to friends who need it, who are harmed by the incoming administration.
Second, if you have emotional energy, be there for your LGBT, PoC, disabled, or poor friends. I have little money to spare at the moment (though I hope my friends know that if that changes, I’ll do what I can if they need it), but if *anyone* needs someone to talk to about their fears or problems, I’ll be there.
Third, get involved in your local Democratic party, but do it intelligently. Clinton lost, in large part, because she’s an “establishment” figure — push for local candidates, at every level, who are to the left of the current Democratic establishment. What we’re seeing throughout the world at the moment is a completely reasonable hatred of the current political system, being channelled into right-wing populism. Vote and campaign for left populists. The ideal candidate would be someone like Michelle Obama, but with Elizabeth Warren’s politics. Find those people and push for them. Remember, it only took eight years for the far-right fringe to take complete control of the Republicans, based on *their* anger. Do the same for the Democrats.
(If you’re a centrist, who likes Clinton-style establishment Democrats — I’m sorry, but those candidates are not going to win any more. A push of the Democrats leftward will still only get them as far left as most mainstream social democratic parties in other parts of the world. Push left anyway, to win and get some of what you want.)
And finally, something important to remember — *if America had a functioning democracy, Trump would not have won*. I’m not saying Clinton would necessarily have won — part of having a functioning democracy would probably have involved it not coming down to a choice between the two most unpopular candidates in history — but someone other than Trump would.
Something to remember — the last time a non-incumbent Republican won the popular vote was in 1988. At *every* election since then, the Democrat won the popular vote, apart from 2004 — and in 2004 Bush’s vote had the smallest ever margin for a re-elected incumbent. The American *people* don’t vote Republican — the American *system* votes Republican. That’s a VERY important fact.
As an immediate patch for the system, push for your state, if it hasn’t already, to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. This is a good chunk of the way to ensuring that the popular vote winner will be the electoral college winner, and it’s something that can be done without constitutional changes. As a longer-term goal, though, you want to get rid of the electoral college altogether, and ideally replace first past the post with a ranked voting system (what in the US is called IRV and in the UK AV).
More importantly, join the NAACP’s campaign to reinstate the Voting Rights Act. Several swing states have recently introduced horrific restrictions on voting. Those states have, as intended, had a lower turnout of voters of colour, and went for Trump as a result.
Also, support efforts to give felons back their voting rights after they have served their sentence — and also, every chance you get, vote to legalise or decriminalise drugs. Millions upon millions of people, a large majority of them black, are disenfranchised because of non-violent offences such as smoking cannabis. Many of these, again, are in swing states.
That’s just a short list. There are many more things you can do, including joining a union if possible for your job, writing to legislators, and so on. But everything should be devoted to trying to fix a system which pushes the nation’s legislature and executive far to the right of popular feeling.
Finally — Trump *will* fuck up, criminally. That’s what he does. Get out and vote in the mid-terms, turn the Senate Democratic, and then put pressure on them to impeach the fucker. It *may* be possible to get him out in as little as two years. I have no idea how much damage he will do in that time, but we need to minimise it.
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(NB this blog post was originally titled “don’t mourn, organise”, after the apocryphal last words of Joe Hill, but it’s been pointed out to me — entirely correctly — that a cishet white man should not be telling other people not to mourn right now. The wording wasn’t intended to be read that way, but it was not the right wording for the intention, and so I’ve changed it. This note is here because I don’t want to erase my errors, but to be accountable).
Thanks, Andrew. I needed a bit of rationality to help me prepare for the next (at least) couple of years. These dreadful people controlling the Congress scares me a bit more than the President-elect does.
This is what I really needed to read today (as another Brit, as another ‘I need things to DO!’ person). Thanks. x
On a personal note, I am not in favour of scrapping the electoral college, except as part of a wider reform that includes a single, US-wide, voting and counting system and set of eligibility rules and ballot designs.
There are too many ways to manipulate your statewide numbers, Some of them are good, like anti-suppression measures (e.g. more polling stations, longer opening hours, more early voting, compulsory registration, compulsory voting, wider eligibility, public holiday on election day, etc) but others are not good, like deeming votes not cast to go to the statewide winner (or even deeming all votes cast to go to the statewide winner). Given how thoroughly democratic norms have been trampled in the last couple of decades (since the Clinton impeachment at least), I would certainly expect all sorts of games. Better to confine the effects to individual states.
For as long as state legislatures have the power to set the rules within their state, I don’t want them to get into an escalating bidding war of “we cast infinity votes for candidate X”, “well we cast infinity plus one for Y”.
My preferred solution would be an actual electoral college, consisting of real people, which has a four-year term and can change its mind and elect someone else at any time. Elected by PR within the states and with a fairer between-state allocation method that gives tiny states one vote not three. Sure, if you’re elected by a majority, then you get to govern more or less as you please. But if you’re elected by a minority and then there’s a coalition, the smaller parties in the coalition can switch at any time to support a different president, making you accountable for sticking to the deal you did.
I’d also move the power to investigate presidents to the college from Congress, and abolish impeachment (the college could kick out the president any time for any reason by a simple majority; why do we need two mechanisms for sacking them?).
Oh, and this is how I process pain and shock – by trying to design out the failures. It’s not all that constructive.
Also the interstate pact works well; there are plenty of safeguards against this sort of stunt built in. If you’re in a red state with initiative and referendum, propose this there.
Yep, I agree with almost all of this — and that’s why I think the interstate pact needs to come first.
And yes, the “trying to design out the failures” thing is precisely why I did this as well — I know exactly what you mean.
Good stuff, Andrew – I’m definitely going to have to nick Britsplaining from you!
Your strategy would purge the Democratic party of its business-friendly, moderate factions and turn it into a populist, hard-left political party (similar to the Lib Dems, presumably). While that might make sense in the UK, where several smaller parties comprise very specific factions with very little outreach to others, it wouldn’t work in the US where our 2 political parties need to have a big tent in order to succeed. While Hillary Clinton is most probably finished politically (although you never know…..America loves a good comeback story), business-friendly politicians in the Democratic party aren’t. New York governor Andrew Cuomo is one, and my senator here in New Jersey (Cory Booker) is another, and they’re definitely leading contenders for 2020 if they want to run for President. The Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders types are heroes to the populist left-wing, but viewed with distrust by almost everyone else. I’m not saying it’s impossible that either of those 2 (Warren, Sanders) could emerge in 2020, but I think it unlikely. The Democratic party has a bad post-WWII history when it nominates someone from the far left in the party (George McGovern in 1972, Walter Mondale in 1984, and Michael Dukakis in 1988 all lost in landslides). It was a different America in those days (whiter especially), but America isn’t *that* much different today, I would argue. The center of the country is still in the center, if that makes sense.
The problem with that argument is that “to the left of Hillary” doesn’t mean “hard left”. Hillary Clinton’s politics are somewhere to the right of Nixon, and what is now the “far left” of the Democratic party is where the right wing of the party was prior to Bill Clinton and the start of triangulation. The “centre” of 1972 is, economically, where the “far left” is now (and, to be fair, in social terms the “centre” of 2016 would be the lunatic left-wing fringe of 1972).
What we’ve seen recently, both in the UK and the US, is that people will vote for something — anything — that’s different. Andrew Cuomo, the political-establishment son of a political-establishment father, wouldn’t get any more voter enthusiasm than Clinton did.
I like Cuomo a lot, myself. I don’t know how he would play out in a full Democratic primary campaign, but I’m curious to see. I feel the same way about Cory Booker. I suppose a lot depends on how Trump performs over the next 4 years, though.