Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat recently made the argument that Kshama Sawant became part of a strategy by Trump's campaign to suppress votes. What the president-elect's team realized not long after the Dem convention was that there really wasn't a way to the White House without making the whole political process so disgusting that a good number of voters would either be completely turned off or go to third-party options. Sawant's opposition to Hillary Clinton was heard not only locally, but nationally. She made the case that Clinton was exactly the same as Trump, something that makes perfect sense to someone who sees only the molecules and ignores the emergent bodies. But as Nietzsche once said, what is the use of knowing the chemical composition of water when you are in a storm.
To say Clinton is the same as her opponent is to say she is as disgusting as he is. And this is what Trump's team wanted many Americans to think: a nasty woman, lock her up, crooked Hillary. By the end of the second debate, the media was singing this tune: "Trump, Clinton wage scorched-earth debate." They are the same kind of awfulness, just as Sawant said.
Last Tuesday, the unimaginable became a reality. Trump—who offered nothing but zombie issues and who re-excited a form of American racism that had been cooled by the fear of economic collapse in 2008, a moment when 2.6 million jobs were rushing out of indebted households (many in the suburbs) and all anyone on the right was doing was trying to save banks—was elected by a very small margin (basically 100,000 votes). At the moment, many on the left are feeling raw about what has just happened and are finding it almost impossible to wrap their minds around the fact that Trump's blatantly racist and sexist strategies successfully squeaked him into power. As I predicted in July, Sawant's position on the election would return to haunt and hound not only her, but all other socialist candidates. If Clinton were elected, she would be fine, but if Trump were elected, those on the progressive side of the Democratic Party would cut links with those on the radical left. Their assessment? The socialists are a small group and are deeply unrealistic about the American political process.
In the age of Trump, socialists—and I still consider myself one—will become as irrelevant as they were before the rise of Sawant in 2013. No one will want to elect people who failed to see, and realistically respond to, the real and present danger of Trump. At a moment like this, Sawant should not try to lead the organic response to this political catastrophe. She may have her principles, but she missed history. (Also, her trying to become the face of the current movement in the light of her clear position on the election is what the British call "poor form.") All of us on the left must do our best not to impose on the new protests a label or a party (Socialist Alternative or Democratic Party). Let them define themselves and let them be about the youth. At the moment, the most radical thing you can do if you are an established politician or activist or journalist is not to be at the front of the charge but to step aside and offer support to those who will face the material and psycho-social consequences of a world defined by a bigot of the billionaire class.Read Kshama Sawant's response to this post here.