It’s not just that Donald Trump won the presidency on Tuesday — it’s that Republicans reaffirmed their majorities in both houses of Congress, giving the GOP the political clout to usher in all kinds of regressive legislation and appoint at least one conservative-leaning Supreme Court justice.
With all three branches of government soon to lean conservative, Trump’s most outlandish political promises within reach. Repealing Obamacare, overturning Roe v. Wade, the mass deportation of illegal immigrants, building that fucking wall: They all seem terrifyingly plausible now.
But progressives can either wallow in defeat or forge a path forward. Below, a few thoughts from MEL about what’s next.
Hold Facebook accountable
Social media was once seen is a catalyst for progressive change, helping usher in the Arab Spring and the Obama presidency. But conservatives co-opted social media — Facebook, specifically — this election, flooding it with bogus “news” stories such as Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton purchasing $137 million in illegal munitions, the Clintons buying a $200 million estate in Maldives, Obama rigging the 2008 election, Megyn Kelly being a “closet liberal” and Obama ordering guillotines so Hillary can enact a reign of terror against Christians.
The problem is exacerbated by Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm, which allows certain users to exist in (mis)information bubbles, protected from opposing views and even opposing facts. The algorithm is designed to deliver content that users are predisposed to enjoy and share. In terms of politics, that means news stories that affirm their existing points of view. The system is so self-reinforcing that it’s created an echo chamber of like-minded conservatives who share inaccurate or fake anti-left, pro-Trump news stories with each other, never having to be bothered by actual facts.
Progressive voters, meanwhile, have their own information bubble—one with less fake news, but it did help contribute to the false impression Hillary was certain to win.
Facebook would have you believe that it stands idly by, allowing its hivemind of users to determine what’s bogus and what’s newsworthy—but that’s precisely the problem. Facebook used to have human editors curating its “Trending” news section, where many stories go viral. But when conservatives complained the editors were biased, Facebook caved, firing its editorial team and turning Trending stories over to its almighty algorithm.
Facebook isn’t solely to blame for our misinformation epidemic —plenty of other sites help propagate fake news — but it can influence the public discourse at an unprecedented scale and speed. The company relies on the good faith of its users, though, and if enough of them complain about the scourge of misinformation, it will likely adjust. You can provide feedback here.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially dismissed the idea that Facebook had influenced the election as “crazy,” but a collection of senior-level executives have since gathered to address the issue.
Champion a labor cause that will attract white working-class voters
Trump’s win was thanks in part to working-class white voters, the very voting bloc that once made up the Democratic Party’s base. That Trump was able to co-opt these voters with little more than coded (and often overt) racism and promises to put America first speaks to how little Hillary appealed to them.
This is the perfect time, then, for the Democratic Party to reassert itself as the champion of working Americans. It can start by urging workers to join unions. Nearly a third of the U.S. workforce belonged to a union 50 years ago. That number has dwindled to just 11.1 percent as of last year, and their demise has corresponded with working-class white voters (including union members) flocking to the right.
But investment and recruitment by the left could potentially swing them back left. Hillary’s vague promise of investing in infrastructure and clean-energy jobs didn’t resonate as well as “Trump digs coal,” but a union built around those industries might be able to make those causes stick.
Nominate a candidate who will actually inspire people to vote
Compounding Trump’s appeal to white voters was that African-American, Latino and Asian voters did not turn out for Clinton to the extent that they did for Obama in the previous two elections. While the reasons for Clinton’s lesser appeal are complex, one solution would be for the left to find an “alt-left” celebrity equivalent of Trump. #Kanye2020 doesn’t seem so far-fetched after Trump’s victory. At the very least, it’s the perfect title for a Kanye album in which he undergoes a midlife crisis and ponders the decisions he’s made as an artist, man and father. I’m already excited for its hypothetical release.
Don’t be so goddamn smug next time
Trump garnered support among working-class whites by portraying the left as a bunch of smug elitists who dismiss them as dumb and inconsequential. And the left played into his hand, adopting that exact attitude and assuming they’d beat Trump handily, thus emboldening Trump’s base. That “deplorables” comment didn’t help either.
“Everyone must stop saying they are ‘stunned’ and ‘shocked,’” progressive filmmaker Michael Moore wrote on Facebook this week. “What you mean to say is that you were in a bubble and weren’t paying attention to your fellow Americans and their despair.”
Turns out people don’t respond well to being told they’re ignorant, their concerns are illegitimate and that their souls are beyond redemption (even if those things happen to be true). Engaging people with regressive views can be maddening and even futile, but theirs are the very hearts and minds that need changing. To disregard them is to leave them susceptible to the racist, xenophobic and misogynistic rhetoric of a man like Trump. And we all know how that worked out.
Abolish the Electoral College
Speaking of electoral votes, we could ratify an amendment that does away with that system altogether. As with Bush in 2000, Trump won the presidency despite not winning the popular vote, all because of the electoral college, an arcane system created by Southern states to preserve slavery.
Too bad it’s probably never going to happen. As long as the Electoral College continues to give a disproportionate advantage to conservative candidates, there will never be enough congressional support to abolish it.
Move to California, secede
Trump’s victory has sparked genuine interest in Yes California, a grassroots movement of California secessionists. Yes California has been quietly pushing secession for the past two and a half years, but Trump presents a unique opportunity to further its cause. “We haven’t changed our message because of Trump,” says spokesman Marcus Ruiz Evans. “But Trump happened, and people are responding like they’ve never responded before.”
Yes California has attracted more than 20,000 new followers across its email newsletter and Facebook and Twitter accounts since the election, Evans says. Silicon Valley tech investors have taken up the cause, too, vowing to fund a genuine secession effort.
Too bad it will (almost certainly) never happen. California may be a surefire blue state, but it’s still home to a fair number of conservatives. A third of all Californians voted for Trump, and the state’s northern rural counties are overwhelmingly red. Also, we’d still have to live with San Francisco resident Peter Thiel, and his version of freedom is living on a manmade island in the Pacific ocean where the only law is no freedom of the press. Fuck that guy.
Even if Californians voted to secede, they’d need the blessing of two-thirds of the House and Senate, and the federal government will be loath to lose California’s tax revenues. (California has an economy larger than France’s.)
Worse, California, with its 55 electoral votes, the most of any state, would be royally screwing their former countrymen by seceding. Without California, Republicans would likely rule the White House in perpetuity. And what good is a technocratic, libertarian utopia if you’re surrounded by a country run by a racist, misogynistic orange dictator with a combover?