From the Archives: “Dark Days Ahead” (2016)

I wrote this on the morning after the 2016 election, November 9. I had just finished a 10+ city speaking tour of Germany, got on a plane to London on election day, landed and took a train to Brighton, and then fell asleep as results were coming in—figuring that finding out in the late evening or the next morning was all the same. It was not a good morning. The German paper Jungle World asked me for my reflections, and I quickly dashed this off over coffee.

At some point it disappeared from the interwebs, but i was always curious if it held up, and I finally found the original in my Sent folder. In retrospect, it’s just creepy.

Dark Days Ahead

The election of racist demagogue Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency—in the face of  all of pre-election polls—has sent a shock wave through the left-leaning parts of the country. Coupled with what looks like A Republican domination of the Congress, which will allow Trump to appoint the empty Supreme Court seat , dark days are indeed ahead for the U.S. Left.

Trump was able to channel the social anxieties of his largely white base by deploying techniques of demonization and scapegoating against a number of minority groups (especially Muslims and undocumented immigrants), coupled with his support for protectionist trade policies and vague promises to revive industrial production and national glory. The fact that he may lose the total national popular vote—possible because of the U.S. electoral system’s state-by-state, winner-take-all structure—is a poor consolation. Trump has shown that, in these uncertain times, a rich man with a gift for improvisation, a certain kind of charisma, and a complete lack of ethics can indeed talk his way into leading a global superpower. Lacking a coherent political outlook and with a poor grasp of international politics, Trump will undoubtedly appoint conservative advisors, some of whom may be tied to the white nationalist movement, to craft his administration.

The U.S. Left, from militant anti-fascists to Democrats, has made no plans for this outcome. Whether Trump attempts  to implement his more outlandish promises—to register Muslims and build a wall on the Mexican border—will probably be seen in his first 100 days. With a Republican federal government, it also remains to be seen if the judiciary will be able to uphold the rule of law in the face of a president who has called to jail his opponent and has expressed only contempt for civil rights, democracy, and common decency. If that fails, we see shortly if Trump will merely be a figurehead for an especially racist conservative government, or if he truly will make moves towards establishing authoritarian state power, as many on the Left have claimed is his intention.

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