Saturday, November 12, 2016
I had a heart attack on Election Day.
This is not hyperbole.
I literally went to the polls, went to my doctor and then went to the hospital.
I didn’t know Donald Trump would win. Like most of us, I thought the nation would heave a big sigh, eat its vegetables and vote for Hillary Clinton.
But the election had been weighing on my mind (and apparently my body) for a long time.
How can we have narrowed it down to these two candidates nobody wants? How can these really be the only choices we get here in America? If either one of them wins, we all lose just in different ways.
So as I write this from my hospital bed, I’m left pondering lifestyle changes. I’ve got to start eating healthy. I need to exercise. I need to start taking care of myself.
But this kind of introspection is also what we need as a nation. After a disastrous election like the one we just had, the country is at least as sick as my ailing heart. We need to sit down with each other and decide how we’re going to move forward, how we’re going to prevent a national disaster like this from ever happening again.
Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
1) Admit Who’s to Blame
Donald Trump was just elected President of the United States. That is unbelievable! This clown, this buffoon is now the “leader of the free world.” How did this happen?
There are many factors leading up to this, but politically the blame must be placed with the Democratic Party.
They put up a candidate – Hillary Clinton – who could not beat someone as odious as Trump. The people made it clear during the primary that they wanted a populous candidate, someone who wasn’t part of the establishment, yet the DNC ignored them. In fact, party elites did everything they could to tip the scales in Clinton’s favor.
We must always remember this lesson: when you rig the primary, you lose the general.
Bernie Sanders packed stadiums while Clinton could barely pull together rallies. He polled double digits ahead of Trump while Clinton was much less competitive. He would have beaten Trump in a landslide.
So if you want someone to blame, blame the DNC. Every party leader should immediately be fired. We must regain control of the party. If the Democrats refuse to be a real progressive institution, they will continue to lose and we will have to look elsewhere for political affiliation.
So admit the truth, it wasn’t third party voters with 3-4% of the vote, it wasn’t 45% of registered voters who didn’t show up at the polls because we gave them no one to vote for. It was the DNC. Period.
2) Understand the Relationship between Race and Class
There are lots of folks out there blaming the election results on the racism of Trump voters. There are lots of folks blaming it on working class people choosing Trump over Hillary.
They’re both right.
Racism has always been a tool of the rich in this country. It’s a way of throwing a bone to poor whites so they will support the 1%.
Don’t go after us as we cheat you out of a living wage, they say. We’ll give you whole swaths of people you can lord it over.
White privilege is the grease that keeps our economy running. Without it, poor whites might look to the rich and see how much they’re being swindled.
Heck yeah Trump ran as a racist. Heck yeah he ran as a populist. But the only thing poor whites will get from him is a license to be racist. No jobs. No better wages. No better education. Just go ahead and subjugate brown people.
We must understand this relationship. As anti-racists we must also fight for the middle class. As activists for the middle class we must also fight racism. These are two sides of the same coin, and we must address both if we are ever to achieve real positive change.
3) Acknowledge Sexism
That a nation of grown adults would pick a boorish misogynist against an educated, intelligent woman speaks wonders. Hillary Clinton was far from my first choice, but compared to Trump she was obviously less odious.
There is no doubt that sexism played a part in this. Even white women chose Trump over Clinton. So many of Trump’s policies were anti-woman. He was an admitted serial groper. He’s on trial for child rape!
And if that’s not enough, I can’t even recall how many times I heard women tell me that a person of their gender doesn’t belong in the Oval Office.
This is something we have to overcome, and frankly I think we are. Millennials are not nearly as sexist as the rest of us. As the population ages and today’s kids become tomorrow’s adults, I think sexism will be left behind. Trump’s election is the last gasp of this antiquated prejudice. But we must recognize it for what it is.
4) Unions Need to Represent the Rank and File
I’m a big supporter of labor unions, but in many cases they let us down in this election. Trump was no champion of the working stiff, but he got an awful lot of union votes. Why?
Many of our unions prematurely endorsed Clinton even though she has a spotty relationship with them and didn’t support many natural union initiatives like the fight for 15.
On the other hand, Sanders was the union candidate. He was the natural fit, yet union leadership like the American Federation of Teacher’s Randi Weingarten offered to attack other unions that didn’t fall in line behind Clinton. Both big teachers unions, the AFT and the National Education Association endorsed Clinton early in the primary without truly democratically polling membership. It doesn’t matter if they broke by-laws or not. If unions really represent the rank and file, these leaders should be held responsible.
In short, we should fire leaders like Weingarten and the NEA’s Lily Eskelsen Garcia immediately. Our union leaders must show a healthier respect for the rank and file or else they jeopardize the entire enterprise of workers' rights.
These are just some of the ways we can move forward in the days and weeks ahead. It will be a rough road but I’m sure we can come out of it together.
Just like my aging body, our nation is ill. For me, the result was a heart attack. For us, the result is President Trump.
Will we turn it around?
I’m sure going to try.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I didn’t vote for either Clinton or Trump. I happily voted for Jill Stein.