Like most people today across the globe, I can't think of much else other than the fact that Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States. I went to sleep the night before whilst Hillary had a comfortable lead, safe in the knowledge that the Democrats would be elected, everything would make sense and no political hegemony would be smashed that night. Boy was I wrong.
The outcome of this election is incomprehensibly huge. Whilst watching Trump's first speech it began to set in a little bit, and I instantly started crying -- for once he sounded humble, even reasonable -- the contrast of which with the vitriolic and hateful things he has said about women, BME and Hispanic people, immigrants, the disabled and other vulnerable groups of people a country's leader should fight to protect, was too much to take. Trump is a malicious demagogue, and it's hardly news to say it.
The Brexit-like anger, disappointment, confusion and upset I have seen from friends whose very identities are threatened with erasure by Trump's presidency has been genuinely heartbreaking. For anyone who has tried to keep on fighting injustice despite constant setbacks and backlash, today's election results are a punch in the stomach: half of the American electorate are willing to be lead by a man who uttered the words "grab them by the pussy".
And even if we were able to laugh off Trump and his guaranteed incompetency as President, the fact remains that now every major area of the US's political makeup is Republican-run, meaning that we should expect concrete changes to the policy Obama and other liberal Americans have dedicated their lives to bringing about. Even if Trump himself proves to be all talk, decisions on abortion, LGBT rights, Iran, Syria, gun laws and healthcare -- to name but a few -- are now firmly under the control of people far more ideologically right than we in the UK can truly comprehend.
The next step, however, after a shock of this proportion, is to try to understand it -- and then try to find a way to move forward. Clearly, the way in which we (and for this purpose I refer to Western modes of thought) understand politics is out of date. For one thing, grouping people, parties and policy into the left and right wings is no longer always helpful: Brexit was not a left versus right issue because some of the major factors, such as its bureaucracy and its being an undemocratic body, didn't fit neatly into either ideology.
Nor do I believe that Donald Trump was elected because he is right-wing or even because he is Republican. Immigration was a major part of his campaign, as was the case with Brexit, but his simple message (make America great again, in case you hadn't heard), focus on the economy as a self-proclaimed billionaire and businessman and anti-establishment rhetoric were what I think clinched it for him. His bigotry was rather an inconvenient truth than a selling point of his campaign, and was successfully held against him in cases such as the aforementioned pussy-grabbing video; he also held off from pushing a 'God loves America' religious narrative, unlike some of his Republican competitors.
The terms left and right wing suggest a comfortable marriage between being economically and socially left or right, which we're just not seeing any more. Brexiters and Trump supporters (and Ukippers while we're at it) may have been portrayed by the MSM as a bunch of racist Little Englanders and idiot rednecks whose views are to be abhorred without being understood, but such condescending stereotypes are partly why we're in this mess. It is fully legitimate to want to revolt against the political establishment as you see your interests systematically ignored and your identity erased, which is something Hillary Clinton and others don't seem to have grasped.
For this, liberals are guilty. Wealth inequality means that class is more relevant than ever, as I argue here, but it's being ignored. Maps showing the black, youth or female vote, or those of another randomly homogenised group have abounded on social media, but (as a friend pointed out) no-one seems to be talking about the fact that America's cities voted Democrat and its rural areas voted Trump. Race was an enormous factor in this election -- Trump was voted in by white people -- but so was class. And Hillary hammered in the final nail in her coffin when she ignored this fact, instead pushing her vague 'I'm with her' slogan and second-wave I'm-a-woman-therefore-good narrative.
Nothing short of a political revolution, reminiscent of Farage's "earthquake" has been brought about, and we've seen it across Europe, the UK and America. Polls and two-party politics just won't cut it any more, personality -- or rather brand -- is more important than ever and the homogenising of groups of voters is surely out of date. This is a truly welcome change for me and a step in the right direction as to how a democracy should work: people can vote for figures to whom they relate and choices they want to see, even if they aren't to the taste of the political establishment.
However. The left and right wing aren't so out of date that we're not still seeing right-wing social policy alongside these astronomical changes: the campaigns of Trump, Farage and others do still peddle a divisive narrative in terms of race and immigration, and their victories do spell short-term disaster for social justice. Although those who voted for these changes ought not to be swept aside as bigots and should have their own repressed interests now addressed, it's still no excuse for hatefulness.
So what we (here being social justice activists, and those on the traditional left) must now do is harness the energy of real change and anti-establishmentism and pull it back, hard, towards us. We've realised too late the sway Bernie Sanders could have held -- don't let the same happen to Jeremy Corbyn. Now is the time for radical change and the interests of ordinary people to be championed in politics, and for the David Camerons and Hillary Clintons of the world to be rejected as out of touch.
Within the current left-wing, we're seeing a microcosm of these wider trends in politics, in which an exclusive, liberal elite has hegemonic power at the core, and those whose interests clash at all with their ways of thinking (fear over immigration amongst the working-class, for instance, because they're having difficulty finding a job and supporting their family) are sidelined. And thus those who were once Labour-supports are rebelling against that middle-class Guardianista core, turning away from Labour or liberal modes of thought and towards Ukip or similar. The Left must acknowledge, accept and work with these kinds of qualms even if they do sit uncomfortably with accepted ideas about immigration or nationality.
The price for not doing so is high and not just because of its sour implications for social justice. The likes of Farage and Trump are not truly anti-establishment: the one went to Dulwich College, of all places, and the other received a small loan of a million dollars. If the current tide of political change isn't turned back by a serious rethink of liberal strategies, the political establishment will become quite comfortable with letting Farage or Trump or whoever be their poster-boy whilst quietly upholding the same old economic models which keep the rich rich and screw over everyone else.
Today is a day of mourning for liberals across the globe, and understandably so. We've heard all our lives that feminism has gone too far, that all lives matter, that oppression has ended and now we're just whining -- only to have to utter a grim 'told you so' on the election of a fascistic orange. But, if Brexit wasn't enough of a wake-up call, then it is imperative that this is. How we think about politics is about to undergo drastic re-evaluation, and it's time to turn the spotlight on ourselves also.
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