RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Jones writes: "Donald Trump is now the most powerful man on Earth. You would expect the American left to be despondent; it's not. The left is stronger than it has been for decades."

A sea of pink hats on march participants in Washington on Saturday. (photo: Ruth Fremson/NYT)
A sea of pink hats on march participants in Washington on Saturday. (photo: Ruth Fremson/NYT)

The American Left Will Be Reborn Under President Trump

By Owen Jones, Guardian UK

22 January 17


Clintonian-centrism was defeated in November, but attempts to repeal Obamacare show the Republicans are weak and divided. Now is the time for the left to craft a populist alternative

onald Trump is now the most powerful man on Earth. You would expect the American left to be despondent; it’s not. The left is stronger than it has been for decades. They are up against a president who lost the popular vote, who assumes office with the lowest approval rating on record, and whose party is riven by divisions. In November, Clintonian-centrism – whose compelling selling point was the ability to win – was defeated, plunging the American republic into its gravest crisis since the war.

Waleed Shahid is 25 years old, from Arlington, Virginia. At the inauguration I met him in a Washington fast-food restaurant with his fellow activist, Max Berger, a 31-year-old Jewish American from “a town of 15,000 people and four Dunkin’ Donuts” in central Massachusetts. Both are involved in All Of Us, one of the many new progressive organisations committed to taking on the Trump ascendancy.

Shahid’s father moved to the US from Pakistan four decades ago. “He’s literally been working in the same parking garage since 1973.” There were four books in his home growing up: the Qur’an, a collection of Punjabi poetry and two biographies: one of ex-Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the other of Hillary Clinton.

Obama had politically inspired both his parents for the first time, but their lives have not got any better. “My father had his wages and hours cut since 2008,” Shahid tells me, “and my mother’s healthcare has gone up even though Obama campaigned on this stuff.”

Both were part of the Bernie Sanders surge – and both are preparing to mobilise and fight. “We have to oppose normalisation,” says Shahid. “That won’t happen by the Democratic party alone. They need a countervailing political force to hold the Democratic party accountable to their voters, who are largely working-class people, and immigrants and people of colour.” For Shahid and Berger that means taking on the Democratic establishment.

“It includes change through elections if the Democratic party leadership aren’t going to stand for us and bring new leadership in.” For Berger, Trump’s victory cannot only be explained by a racial backlash on the part of a significant chunk of white working-class Americans. “Look at Trump’s last ad and what he articulates: there’s a global power structure, a global elite that has trillions of dollars at stake in this election.”

Yes, the antisemitic undertones of a political advertisement that focused on the likes of George Soros were clear, but it tapped into a powerful anti-establishment mood. “If we’re going to articulate a real alternative, we have to be as angry as the American people are, and we have to name the class, the individuals, who have screwed us over.”

A battle for the soul of the Democratic party now beckons. There are siren voices who claim that the Democrats were too radical, too vociferous in their support of women and minorities. But a powerful new movement is determined to transform the Democrats into a party that unapologetically challenges vested interests. Ben Wikler – Washington director of MoveOn, a key progressive network – was among those who desperately wanted Senator Elizabeth Warren to run for president. “I think if Elizabeth Warren had run she would have won the nomination and won the presidency,” he says without even flinching. But despite Sanders’ failure to win the nomination, he showed it was possible to run for president “as a progressive populist not beholden to the donor class, who challenges a Wall Street-dominated economy that is unbalanced, broken and corrupt”.

Wikler is determined that the Democrats learn from their past mistakes, but also from the Republicans’ success. Under George W Bush, he notes, Democrats attempted to cooperate with him: when tax cuts for the rich were proposed, they would attempt to weave in a tax cut for middle-income Americans then vote for the package. When Obama became president, on the other hand, even with record popularity, the Republicans were uncompromising in their opposition.

“The Democrats don’t need that level of political bravery to oppose Trump, and they will hear that from their constituents when they do anything that seems vaguely like cooperation,” he says.

The Republicans believed they would repeal Obama’s healthcare legislation instantly – “like a band-aid” – and that the legislation would unify their own party and divide the Democrats. The opposite has happened. The Republicans cannot agree on what to repeal and what to keep, what to replace the existing coverage with – and thousands of Americans are protesting, not just to keep their healthcare provision, but because they could inflict Trump’s first defeat.

As trade union leader David Rolf tells me, the only hope for the Democrats is “progressive economic populism – they have to stand up for what’s good for the majority of Americans even if it’s not good for the donor class of the Democrats”.

There is no path to victory for the Democrats in reverting to pro-establishment centrism. That doesn’t mean abandoning attempts to build broad coalitions. Greisa Martinez – advocacy director at United We Dream, which fights for undocumented workers – tells me: “I need to connect my experience to that of the white working-class person in the rust belt.” But she is very clear: she will not allow the Democrats “to throw us under the bus”.

The US left has learned the lessons from a centrist project that disastrously failed and a Republican party that never accepted the legitimacy of a president who – in stark contrast to Trump – twice won the popular vote.

Trump represents the most dramatic victory yet for a populist right that appears to be sweeping the western world. But he is far weaker than he looks. Can the US left craft a populist alternative that convinces the millions of Americans who are angry and despondent about a society rigged against their interests? The future of the American republic is uncertain – and it may depend on the answer to that question. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+30 # mashiguo 2017-01-22 09:22
If Trump succeeds in waking the US up out of its soporific stupor, then he will become in an act of purest irony the most influential president since Reagan.

Let's hope that awakening is something more than personality diatribes and cuts to the roots of a number of problems in the constitutional voting process that have become obsolete in modern society:
closed primaries
electoral college
electronic voting machines
voter disenfranchisem ent for any reason

Merely swatting at oligarchic flies will note yield the structural changes necessary to rebuild the nation.
+14 # futhark 2017-01-22 11:57
Please include the passage of the We, The People amendment to eliminate the virtual purchase of political offices by large corporations masquerading as citizens.
+7 # lfeuille 2017-01-22 15:09
And I think we need a constitutional amendment to guarantee every citizen the right to vote.
+8 # HowardMH 2017-01-22 15:05
It is time for RSN to have One Article Each Day Titled “Trump Lies”.
List each lie Trump has said to the media or tweeted the previous day with a short explanation of what the Truth is on that subject.
Robert Reich | Five Ways Trump's "News Conference" Wasn't a News Conference by RSN was a good start. Now list all the Lies and why they were lies.

RSN are you paying attention? I have had over 150 positives on this post in the past two weeks.
ANS: ONE article per day about Trump’s Lies that day would be reasonable,
+7 # DongiC 2017-01-22 09:53
I don't know about Trump being the most influential president since Reagan. If he gets rid of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without adequate replacements, there will be an army of the aged ready to do battle with him. Counting their children and grandchildren, this will be a mighty force. Added to those out yesterday, it should be big enough to win a repeal of the spiteful legislation.
+6 # economagic 2017-01-22 13:44
Well, that would certainly count as influence! ;-)
+1 # John Cosmo 2017-01-23 16:26
Yes, it would certainly count as influence, although not in a positive or progressive way.
+9 # punditalia 2017-01-22 10:27

The Republicans may very well screw things up in the country to become extremely unpopular. However, they will not be assisted by the Democratic Party in swinging the pendulum the other way. None of the half dozen or so candidates to be head of the DNC are willing to admit any responsibility on the part of the DNC for the recent electoral debacle. They snatched defeat out of the jaws of certain victory and they may do it again. It may be time for a new third party but how long will that take? The Whigs faded after the Republican Party was founded but it didn't happen over night. Congressional elections come around again in about 21 months. Can the Democratic Party be reborn or euthanized in that short space of time?
+1 # John Cosmo 2017-01-23 16:29
You give American voters way too much credit. They will tire of Republican failure and replace the Republicans with complacent Democrats. Then they will tire of complacent Democrats and bring back the Republicans.

It's a vicious cycle. Meanwhile the U.S. continues its trajectory to decline and irrelevance.
+11 # Femihumanist 2017-01-22 11:24
In addition to mashiguo's listing, we all need to realize that we can't just work for what we see as our own personal interests. That's what the people surrounding Trump do, also. We have to see that bigotry is bigotry regardless of who it is directed against, whether women, Blacks, Native Americans, Muslims, people with disabilities, people who are poor, people who can't read, or any other group currently seen as "the other.". We all also have to realize that people in other countries are just as human as we are. They grieve if they see their children blown apart by bombs or if those who still live are in pain for the rest of their lives. We all have to wonder how they might respond if America's wars were directed at us.
+1 # maindrains 2017-01-22 14:21
My belief is that Trump will split the GOP, screw up a lot of stuff, make America an object of satire and there is a definite opportunity for a truly progressive movement... BUT will it happen? Instead of blaming the Russians, jerrymandering, operation Crosscheck, voter ID requirements, eliminating the votes of felons etc etc.. all of this eliminates vast numbers of people from voting... this has to be sorted out first.
+2 # HowardMH 2017-01-22 14:33
Phone Numbers of House of Rep all states:
Trump to cede 13 Million jobs to China over next 4 years, in clean energy Jobs.
Anonymous to expose 1,000 KKK members. YES, GO ANNOVMOUS GO! I hope they also exposé all of Trumps business deals with Russia – I bet they will in the coming weeks if not days.
Bush ethics attorney: “Trump will be in violation of Constitution when he takes oath on Friday if foreign money not removed from organization”. I wonder how many law professors and other lawyers are all ready volunteering to assist the Ethics Attorney and anyone else who has the backbone and resources the mount a class action lawsuit against Trump?
+1 # m... 2017-01-23 00:28
What the many many many many different and still separate Progressive Organizations and Progressives everywhere need, aside for standing proudly together once again under the 'Liberal' Label--- is an all inclusive OVERARCHING NARRATIVE that all can stand together under as a massive, unified and unstoppable Movement.
0 # chapdrum 2017-01-23 15:08
Let's hope so. I still find the average American to be center-right, no matter what state.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.