Congratulations to the United States of America! After a heated campaign season of historic (and sometimes preposterous) proportions, you have now selected your new Commander-in-chief for the next four years. The person you have selected has been endowed with the power to improve, or destroy your lives, to make peace or prolong war, to secure your future, or destroy it. The world was watching. Despite a few incidents of violence at the polls, you did it. This election has taught us a couple of interesting lessons about the state of modern politics and the climate that right social conditions mixed with a strong enough voice can create. It also taught us that in the interest of protecting the rights and freedoms of all, especially the marginalized, there has to be a change in the way we approach the politics of power. There is a lot at stake, and politically concerned citizens need to be willing to deal with discomfort in the interest of what is right.
Today we have actually borne witness to the seductiveness of fascist ideology in our time. Fascist is not a term to throw around lightly, but all of the hallmarks are there. Trump’s everyman façade and simplistic yet convoluted nativist language has managed to endear himself to a population that is frustrated with the economic disparities between the working and capitalist classes, while simultaneously redirecting those same frustrations towards a series of disempowered identifiable others. Hitler and Mussolini did the same thing in during the Great Depression. Now before shouting “Godwin’s Law” and dismissing this assertion, I recommend you read Dr Lawrence Britt’s Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism. Hyper-nationalism, disdain for human rights, sexism, obsession with national security and crime, etc. have underpinned the culture of Donald Trump’s campaign. Strong stances in these areas are attractive to people that are validated by them. This draws passionate supporters that are attracted to a seemingly strong leader and can be easily exploited. When power is at stake, fear, anger, and hate are a far stronger motivators than love, despite what our kindergarten teachers would have liked us to think. The proof is in the electoral pudding, a pudding mixed by the bevy of swinging fists at Trump rallies.
There is a lesson in this that I am afraid we will not properly learn until long after the dust from this election has settled. Even then, the ugliness that characterized this election will still linger. The vitriol, viciousness, and vindictiveness that have marked the 2016 US Presidential Election have shown us glimpses of the horror that awaits the American citizenry if left unchecked. People have been attacked at rallies, run over at protests, and most recently, a former leader of the KKK was emboldened enough to run for a seat in the senate. Political leaders have convinced their constituents that the elections are rigged, and one of the presidential candidates has even refused to publicly accept the election results if they were not in his favour. Any student of human history will tell you that this is a recipe for disaster. The election is over, but the same people that threw punches at rallies, shot at protestors, and think that the elections are rigged if they don’t win won’t just disappear and go back to their normal lives. The same agents in the FBI that sought to influence the campaign by leaking communications reserved for high level government officials will still be at their jobs in the morning. This year of anti-immigrant rhetoric, shaming of the white working class, disrespectful pandering to Black voters, and endorsement of politically motivated violence has created a hostile environment. That neighbour you taunted with racial epithets is not moving. That store owner you shouted at for betraying the Latin community by hanging a Trump sign in his place of business is going to open his doors tomorrow. The white nationalists that have been given a social licence to wave their Confederate Flags, march in their white hoods, and threaten the targets of their prejudice will remain in the same places that they always have. American citizens are now forced to live with the discomfort of having seen their neighbours at their worst, and now the worst has near absolute power over the most economically and militarily powerful nation on earth.
The effects of today’s election will ripple throughout the United States and the rest of the world. History will judge the wisdom of this choice for president, and if it has taught us anything, we should be very afraid. Fascism has won today, and not only does it control the government, but it will be enforced by its own army of volunteers, who receive their payment in the form of validation and social licence. However, all is not lost. If you want to save your democracy, you will have to fight for it. You will need to organize special interest groups; you will need to create an insulated infrastructure of social justice that will not kowtow to fascist pressure or oligarchical co-optation. You must also understand that the rules to the game of politics and power have changed. You must devise a strategy for dealing with an opponent that doesn’t play by polite rules, that doesn’t honour agreements, and that has no qualms about taking from you, and hurting you economically, socially, or if opportune, physically. The viciousness of the Trump campaign has torn the shirt off of polite political discourse. What will make the difference between weathering the change and changing the weather is whether you are as willing to step as far out of your comfort zone as your political opponent. Otherwise, you will be trampled. Finally, never lose sight of why you are fighting. If your cause is righteous, it should be all the fuel you need to fight the good fight for a better world for everyone. With that said, be good to yourselves and each other.
Adam H.C. Myrie