Before commenting on the protests still going on around America, I want to establish two things first. Firstly, Donald Trump won the election: eventually that will simply have to be accepted.
Second, I really don’t have a clear sense of what’s going on at the moment behind the scenes or of what is going to unfold in the months ahead.
I also don’t know whether Trump is really the shock, ‘anti establishment’ phenomenon that we’re being told he is (I have reason to doubt it) and I suspect that, given his background, he isn’t.
I’m fairly certain this ‘anti-establishment’ motif is a fraud and that what we’re actually seeing play out may be an orchestrated push towards civil, societal breakdown and a potential ‘Civil War‘ type scenario – not fought with armies necessarily, but out on the streets.
That indeed was my view for months, in fact for as long as the choice in the election was narrowed down to Trump and Hillary.
How much Trump himself would even understand that is unclear too. But the MSM has spent months telling people Trump represents a threat to American democracy, values and society, while the Alt-Right has spent those same months telling their people that Trump is the anti-establishment saviour who will ‘drain the swamp’ in Washington, put Hillary Clinton in jail and ‘Make America Great Again’.
And now the two groups of people who’ve been conditioned by either side are possibly being pitted against each other in classic Problem, Reaction, Solution mode – and, in the worst case scenario, everyone else caught in the middle will be compelled to take a side.
I dislike Trump and Hillary both, and trust neither side of this ‘divide’ as far as the higher levels of it are concerned. I try to be objective where possible: and my biggest concern is not wanting to see ordinary people fired up and pitted against each other, neither in the US nor in Europe or elsewhere.
If you go over to some of the ‘Alt Right’ sites, you’ll see a lot of mockery or vilification of people who’ve been marching in protest over Donald Trump’s election victory.
But, while I agree that Trump’s victory shouldn’t be contested, I also say that those people marching – almost exclusively young people, worried about their future – have every right to do so. Not just every legal right, but every moral right. And not to protest what is (probably, though perhaps not) a legitimate election result – but to make sure their objection to the victors is heard and firmly registered.
That’s their right: not just the right to protest in general, but the right to express their moral or political position. Just like other people had the right, for years, to protest Obama’s presidency by insisting he wasn’t American, by calling him the ‘Anti-Christ’ or by demonising him in any other way possible.
So for Ann Coulter, Paul Joseph Watson, Breitbart or any of the other sites to say that these people are ‘traitors’ or unpatriotic for protesting the president-elect is sheer hypocrisy of the highest order (so business as usual then) from organisations that have done little but protest the sitting president for eight years. Trump himself – who just weeks ago hinted that he wouldn’t accept a Democrat victory because the system was rigged – can hardly complain either, nor can his supporters, some of whom were filmed saying they’d march into Washington fully armed if Hillary won.
His suggestion – drawn, like much of his campaign dialogue, from Alt-Right conspiracy media – that the protests and riots are being carried out by “professional protesters” urged on by the media may have some truth to it. And I think it was misguided and suspect for celebrities like Katy Perry, among others, to literally call on people to “rise up”: celebrities calling on people to rise up against a democratic result is just beyond stupid (and could even have a more sinister element to it, raising the question of whether those celebrities are taking orders from somewhere).
But this business of dismissing or demonising the protesters as somehow illegitimate or as Soros-controlled entities is also sinister.
Some of them might be; and it’s possible that some of the rioters – as oppposed to the protesters – were outside entities bused in to take things up a notch. In fact, I saw it said by a few people involved in the protests that it was additional people who had started arriving that were the ones smashing up cars and shop windows.
But most of those protesters, particularly the early ones, were probably just genuine liberals, progressives or Democrats who hate Trump and are worried about what this result represents to them.
This business of demonising protesters is actually dangerous: because you eventually end up in a situation where no one can protest anything without being branded as agents of a conspiracy or as agents of Soros. Not that there isn’t a genuine issue with whether some protests or protest movements might be suspicious; but people have a right to protest according to their conscience.
And actually if the mainstream media and political establishment had paid more attention to the Occupy protest movement back in 2011 instead of mocking or ignoring it, we probably wouldn’t have ended up with the Trump movement as the so-called ‘anti establishment’ vote. The Occupy movement at its core, for all its shortcomings, was a nation-spanning protest movement that sought to unite every part of the 99% against the activities of the 1%: it wasn’t divided along any racial, gender, class or sexuality lines, but was a genuine anti-establishment movement following a non-sectarian agenda (the image above, from 2011, seems to capture some of the spirit of it).
And the media ignored it, while establishment politics made light of it. Now they’re having to react to a nationalist, right-wing, racially divisive ‘anti-establishment’ blowback across the West.
In this deflation of the Occupy momentum, combined with, for example, the way the DNC establishment shut down the Bernie Sanders movement, the same mainstream media and political establishment that is now acting horrified by the rise of the Far Right (and what Marie Le Pen has just called “the new world”) have essentially fucked over the same young, liberal generation that is now having to go out and protest against Trump and his movement.
And those people protesting the election result have every legitimate cause for concern. And it isn’t just about Trump. I actually kind of like Donald Trump in some ways; and I respect him for what he has accomplished and for how he has handled himself in the last few weeks in particular.
But when a president-elect has said some of the things he’s said, people have no obligation to accept him as their ‘leader’ in moral or social terms – only, as it happens, in legal terms.
A White House (a very white house) governing based on the ideas or principles of Breitbart.com is not something those young people should be expected to roll over and accept.
With the kinds of powers that the Bush regime and the Obama era have put into place, a Trump administration populated by the wrong people (Bannon, Pence, Guliani, for example) could do a lot of harm, even if Trump himself has some interest in doing some good.
Those people – again, mostly young people – have every reason to be concerned, as their society, their 21st century principles and ideals are perceived to be in danger. That gives them the right to protest and to establish their sense of displeasure and anxiety – not to invalidate the election result, but simply to be heard and to make it clear that the America that voted for Trump (and in particular that voted for Pence and Bannon) is not their America and that they’re going to morally oppose it.
Because the regressive, anti-liberal mobs that Trump’s campaign has fired up and utilised (and I’m not talking about all of Trump’s support, most of which had fair reason to vote for Trump – just certain sections of it, including the KKK and the Breitbart gang) need to be counter-balanced by those idealists and progressives who represent the other, modern, inclusive American society.
In Pennsylvania, a number of white students at York Technical High School were filmed marching down the hall chanting “white power” while carrying Trump signs. At another school in Pennsylvania, students have reportedly been verbally abusing people with homophobic insults, shouting the N word on school grounds, calling black students “cotton pickers” and using Heil Hitler salutes. There were a whole bunch of such stories, including the one about a classroom of kids shouting ‘Build the Wall’ at Mexican children, circulating in the days following the election result, resembling very much the ‘Brexit Effect’ that was reported in England in June.
We should be cautious with this – some of those stories might be faked or might be MSM exaggerations, though some may be true.
When stuff like this appears to be going on from apparent Trump supporters, it is all the more important for the protests to be going on – because it’s not just protesting Trump but the perceived ‘movement’ that brought him to the presidency. And while I accept and agree that the majority of those who voted Trump/Pence are probably not racists or white nationalists and actually voted for purely economic reasons, people can’t afford to take their eye off the plain fact that some of Trump’s key allies and some of those who’ve been running his campaign are potentially very dangerous people.
While we’re on the subject of the reflexive Alt-Right claims that the protesters are all Soros-funded people – which, again, I accept may have some element of truth in part – we could also go the other way and point out that not only Goldman Sachs but also George Soros insiders are linked to the potential Trump administration. So, you know, maybe Breitbart should mention that at some point (but they won’t); partly because, again, Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon – a white nationalist – is being linked with a possible role in a Trump administration.
And while I would caution against trying to somehow reverse or nullify the actual election outcome, I entirely maintain that those people who live in and hold to a progressive view of society – especially those who had their own protest movement stolen from them by the DNC back in the summer – cannot be expected to sit aside or give way when they think that a government diametrically at odds with their values is about to run the country.
And you could argue that many of those who voted for Trump can say the same thing – that they feel like they’ve been ignored or marginalized in recent years by the quasi-liberal Democrat establishment and have had to put up with ‘liberal’ ideas being shoved down their throat.
This might be valid, but there is one major difference: the Democrats never had a domination of Congress, but the Republicans are about to dominate across the board. Obama, by comparison, spent most of his presidency unable to implement half the things he wanted to after senior Republicans decided they were going to block him on virtually everything.
And people who are fully aware of how many decades it took for women’s rights to reach their modern status, and how long it took for racial equality, gay marriage and LGBT rights, for example, to get to where they are today, are right to be worried about the danger of significant reversal or regression in years to come.
Such things may never happen. But you can’t blame people for being worried.
All of that being said, I would also urge caution and believe there should be a line drawn.
Where the line should be drawn is with actually calling for the election result to be nullified.
The ones who’ve called for Hillary to be installed as president – and there have been a few of them – are the ones crossing the line and going down the wrong road. For one thing, any attempt to actually go down that road would mean Civil War essentially; for another, it would be a violation of democracy that wouldn’t only apply to this election but would set a precedent for the future.
Democracy means not always getting your way and it means having to respect the legitimacy – legally, if not morally – of the winning side. They should of course also draw the line at actual physical assault on Trump supporters, which have been reported in several instances: again, some of these may be fake stories run by the Alt-Right, but some are probably true.
What would be wisest at this juncture is for the Democratic establishment to give way to the people and social movements that were trying to have a ‘revolution’ of their own this year but were prevented from doing so.
People like Bernie Sanders and others should now be intervening to guide and inspire those people – and also to calm them down or try to reign them in where necessary (calling for Trump’s assassination, as some appear to have done, is also crossing a line). Sanders has already said that he is willing to work with Trump to achieve positive things in America – and that’s a good start. He also said he is unwilling to cooperate with Trump on racist or discriminatory policies – and that’s a good start too, as is Sanders’ refusal to entertain Trump’s belief that climate change is a Chinese hoax.
Obama – on the surface of it, at least – has also shown moderation since after the election result was announced.
Those displeased by this state of affairs need to, more than anything, get their game together for four years time. The Left and the liberals/progressives, and not just in America, but in England and across Europe, have allowed themselves to be beaten into the gutter from complacency and from a lazy tolerance of questionable government policies and actions.
And they will need to fight back hard – and I’m not talking about Establishment liberals, but the real, proper grassroots.
But those who hate Trump and can’t stomach the thought of him as president – and I understand that feeling, of course – are perhaps now best-served to give him a chance. See where he goes. His victory speech on Wednesday morning was actually a very positive one, particularly the fact that he made it a point to call out to everyone, including Democrats and liberals, to “help” and “guide” him in his presidency; suggesting, to me anyway, that he isn’t completely switched off to the people he has alienated.
It’s also entirely possible Trump may turn out to be a much better president than anyone is expecting.
But the fact is that, if this new administration does go down a terrible road, it could be the perfect catalyst for this entire generation of liberals and progressives to rise up in a meaningful way (not through civil unrest or violence on the streets, but through political action), with a momentum greater than that of Occupy in 2011: if anything, it would be much easier to unite and have that momentum towards genuine change when you have a clear and obvious ‘enemy’ to focus you.
By that point, if the Clintons and the failing MSM and neo-liberal false Left has been weakened and pushed away by a hard-Right government, this might actually make it much easier and simpler for a genuine liberal movement in and outside of the Democract Party to come together and secure the next election.
But for now, he won the election and there is no democratically legitimate way to contest that victory without provoking a major upheaval.