Like many of you, I watched in horror two days ago as the night unfolded, and the unthinkable slowly came to pass. After a Netflix binge to try to numb the fear, I dived into a clickhole of social media posts and news articles to try to make sense of what had happened. I hope that writing a synthesis of that will let me get on with my life in this brave new world.
I am deeply, depressingly pessimistic about the future of the planet under Trump. Let’s take the very best, most ludicrously optimistic scenario: that Trump swings to the center1 and doesn’t make good on his many horrid promises. Even then, his election, and the Republicans’ victory in the House and Senate, represent game over in the fight to avoid climate change2.
Like many of us, I’d buried my head in the sand about this, even after I read Michael Moore’s again-famous essay predicting Trump’s victory3, which is well worth a read. After that, here are some choice quotes from essays I recommend about how this nightmare came to be. From Glenn Greenwald’s The Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit4:
When a political party is demolished, the principle responsibility belongs to one entity: the party that got crushed. It’s the job of the party and the candidate, and nobody else, to persuade the citizenry to support them and find ways to do that. Last night, the Democrats failed, resoundingly, to do that, and any autopsy or liberal think piece or pro-Clinton pundit commentary that does not start and finish with their own behavior is one that is inherently worthless.
Democrats got complacent and forgot a huge bloc of voters, instead catering to us upper-middle-class city dwellers. Linked from that article, Vincent Bevins’s post-Brexit Facebook post5 expresses the core of their failure well:
Both Brexit and Trumpism are the very, very, wrong answers to legitimate questions that urban elites have refused to ask for thirty years.
Questions such as – Who are the losers of globalization, and how can we spread the benefits to them and ease the transition? Is it fair that the rich can capture almost all the gains of open borders and trade, or should the process be more equitable?
I also liked this paragraph from David Wong’s Don’t Panic6:
The truth is, most of Trump’s voters voted for him despite the fact that he said/believes awful things, not because of it. That in no way excuses it, but I have to admit I’ve spent eight years quietly tuning out news stories about drone strikes blowing up weddings in Afghanistan. […] [Trump supporters] look out their front door and see painkiller addicts and closed factories. They believe that nobody in Washington gives a shit about them, mainly because that’s 100-percent correct.
Now for the really depressing part: First, I don’t think Trump will fix these people’s problems. Despite the anti-establishment rhetoric, what he’ll deliver is more tax cuts for the rich. And second, I don’t see a plausible way out for the US. Its electoral system is completely ridiculous, and it’s going to get worse, much worse, before it gets better. As in 2000, the popular vote went to Hillary Clinton, but the Electoral College vote went easily to Trump. The lack of preferential voting also meant that Hillary could have won in various battleground states where her loss margin was much smaller than the number of votes for third-party candidates. (Again, as in 2000.) Finally, gerrymandering has handed the House of Representatives to Republicans for the foreseeable future, despite more people voting Democrat than Republican in most elections.
But, what incentive do the people in power have to change the electoral rules?
Paul Krugman’s dark closing for that night, Our Unknown Country7, summed it up best:
Is America a failed state and society? It looks truly possible.
Finally, many of you reading this will be in other countries thinking, it could not happen here. But it will, without action. Without massive change from the left-leaning parties of the world. Michael Moore’s warning applies almost everywhere. Here in Australia, the Labor party has egregiously followed the right-wing Coalition in their repugnant asylum-seeker policy (our very own “build that wall” is “stop the boats”), and in their mass surveillance policies. Much like the Democrats, they have only themselves to blame for their loss in the last election, earlier this year.
The other day, the news reported on all the people who are losing their jobs here in my home town of Geelong as the Ford assembly line closes. These are the people we cannot forget.
I don’t yet know what I can do about all this. But it’s clear that writing snarky Facebook posts either being outraged or mocking the government will solve nothing. We have to do better, and we have to really be out there, not in here.
Scientists say that the next decade will require dramatic emissions reductions, worldwide, if we are to keep warming to a reasonable level. The United States accounts for an enormous proportion of these emissions, and will now spend 4-8 years, at an absolute minimum, doing absolutely nothing — indeed, probably helping the oil industry. One day after his election, Trump has already selected a climate sceptic to head the EPA: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/trump-picks-top-climate-skeptic-to-lead-epa-transition/