Trump's here. We have four years to write a better story | Molly Crabapple

It’s time to stop playing nice with those who want to destroy us. To win, politicians must offer more radical dreams

Trump is now our president, and no savior will stand between America and its mess. Best case scenario, the most powerful man in the world is a New York Berlusconi. At worst? Picture an elderly, vindictive trust fund brat, surrounded by kleptocrats, racists and pucker-faced spawnlings, his toy box stuffed with spy tools and death machines, the likes of which prior despots could never have imagined.

It takes both skill and luck to bake a FailCake as bad as this, and you’ve got to do the prep work for years. Start with a racist celebrity liar. Soak him in media attention. Plunk him into the electoral college, a system engineered to empower slave states at the expense of densely populated cities, then subtract section four of the Voting Rights Act and add in a dash of discriminatory voter ID laws in crucial states.

Next, bake upon the ashes of neoliberalism. Shred in Hillary Clinton, victim of misogyny and her husband’s scandals, who also represents everything cowardly, venal and bland about the old order. Smother the whole mess in resentment – some economic woe, some racism, some hatred of women, some deserved loathing for our political class. Sprinkle with “oh fuck it”.

Remove on 8 November. Serve lukewarm.

In 2016’s hall of corpses, the most loudly mourned might be that of the Liberal Political Consensus. The system served some well, and many more horribly, but it’s murdered, dead, done. In the new world, Hillary Clinton, the realistic, electable candidate, is neither, and institutions meant to keep populists out of power collapse like old soufflés.

How to Trump-proof your life (in seven steps)

Like millions of others, reasonable media centrists were blindsided; no wonder they now sound like they’re hitting hallucinogenics. When they’re not playing dress-up as “the resistance”, or blaming Russian-hacked gossip for Clinton’s thin electoral losses, they’re staging grand, last-ditch supplications to electors, the intelligence community, Congress … anyone who might save American democracy from the consequences of its choice.

What they don’t realize is there is no going back. Donald Trump may have lost by nearly 3m votes, but this election is a verdict on the status quo. To win, politicians must offer more radical dreams. These can be Trumpian con-jobs, or the humane democratic socialism of Bernie Sanders.

In four years, if the Democrats become an actual party for the working class, one that campaigns in all 50 states, fights voter suppression, doesn’t court a mythical White Working Class by kicking the brown, black and queer people who still have its back, if it runs candidates who talk in real words, not Goldman Sachs platitudes, and if it fights Trump till the bloody dawn … maybe it has a shot.

To do this, Democrats must learn from their prior sins. The party will be fighting a president they themselves empowered. The Democratic Clinton built mass incarceration, and the Democratic Obama administration championed assassination by drone. The deportations, the torture, the surveillance, the crony capitalism are all part of a system created by Democrats as much as Republicans, all reinforced by adult, bipartisan voices in respectable, badly cut suits.

Trump’s promise? Things will get harrowingly, epically worse. Instead of merely rendering Muslims to secret prisons, he’ll do something “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” to them beneath a gold Trump marquee. You thought mass surveillance was bad? Wait until he dips into the NSA server farms, then tweets out his critics’ sex tapes. Or cheers on hate crimes before rallies of capped fanboys. Or classes protesters as terrorists. He’ll be yuge. But the man couldn’t do it without the infrastructure bequeathed to him by past administrations. Trump is not a builder. Not of skyscrapers, and not of gulags. He just makes money licensing his name.

If you want real resistance, look to the people who fought, and are still fighting, this infrastructure. Indigenous activists. Radical lawyers. Prison solidarity networks. Abortion funds. Churches converted into sanctuary spaces. Anarchists who hold noise demonstrations outside of jails in the freezing January night, so humans inside know they are not forgotten.

These groups are even more vital because Trump is not alone. His presidency is the showiest example of a global love affair with fascism; soft rich boy he may be, but he’s a bloated pea in the Duterte, Erdoğan, Putin, Modi pod.

In a chaotic world, many people want two things – identity and Daddy. They long for a leader who promises not just to keep them safe, fed and emotionally validated, but to accomplish these things by punishing an imagined Other – the impure, foreign, unreal source of all the homeland’s humiliations.

Depending on the country, this Other may be black, Kurdish, Mexican, gay; dancing at a nightclub, doing drugs or wearing a hijab. She may be an impoverished refugee or a decadent urbanite, but she is always looking down her nose at the decent, demagogue-supporting majority. She’s always laughing.

Of course, that silent majority doesn’t exist, and neither does that Other. They’re stock figures in an authoritarian’s playbook, substitutes for solutions in our complex, impure, interwoven world. Economic justice is just the first step to beating fascists, orange-colored or otherwise.

We need to fight for each other, every last one of us. Not to “tolerate”, like one tolerates painful shoes, but to proudly say that this world belongs to all of us, and that we’re not going anywhere. Ethno-nationalists are escaping from neoliberalism’s cracks, just as they crawled forth from the rot of 19th century empires, singing the same false and bloody tune. On the page, and in the streets, we must write a better story.

We have four years.


Molly Crabapple

The GuardianTramp

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