I share the horror of millions of people over Donald Trump’s ascendance to the White House. While Trump lost the popular vote and the majority of the American people do not agree with his right-wing positions, bigots are nonetheless feeling emboldened. A surge in bullying and hate crimes has taken place, and the KKK felt confident enough to hold a victory rally in North Carolina.
But at the same time, hundreds of thousands of people have already poured into the streets to protest powerfully against Trump. On the night of the election result, my organization, Socialist Alternative, began to organize marches and rallies around the country for the next day. More than 50,000 answered that call: in Seattle, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Oakland and other cities. Many more protests have followed since, as well as dozens of student-organized walkouts, including 5,000 students in one day in Seattle.
Last week, The Stranger's Charles Mudude argued that Socialist Alternative and I should not play a leading role in protests against Trump because we did not support Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. It is hard to know what to make of this article, in which Mudede also takes pains to identify himself as a fellow socialist. Is he saying Socialist Alternative should not have organized our protests that sent an immediate message to Trump and the Breitbart crowd that there's no space for their bigoted agenda? Does he mean that all those who argue for the left to build independent of corporate politics should not lead protests? Half the country didn't vote because they were turned off by both candidates, including many of the young people whom Mudede correctly cites as vital to the Trump resistance. Should they also sit this one out?
I do have honest differences with Charles and others about what is, in my view, a self-defeating strategy of supporting corporate Democrats. This well-worn “pragmatic” and “realistic” approach is part of what cost Bernie Sanders the primary, as many people bought into the establishment's argument that he was somehow less electable. It also acts as a complete road block to building what is really needed: a mass party by, of, and for the 99 percent, completely independent of corporate cash and corporate influence. And this approach was particularly dangerous this year, because with Sanders out of the picture, we were left with a contest between the two most unpopular candidates in American history, and ultimately with a disastrous right-wing “anti-establishment” victory.
But while we can and must continue to debate strategy, there is an urgent necessity to stop what is perhaps one of the most dangerously reactionary administrations in US history. And we will need unity among the 99 percent and on the left to do so. While the initial protests are an important beginning, we will need to build a wall of mass and determined resistance to stop Trump.
Leadership will be vital, because in the absence of it, movements will be misdirected and undermined as so many times in the past. The Democratic Party establishment is unfortunately already misleading the anti-Trump movement. Rather than supporting protesters, they have instead acted to normalize the administration and point away from resistance by saying we should “give Trump a chance” and that Trump’s success “is our success.” This is deeply irresponsible. Trump has made it clear his administration will try and dismantle the hard-fought gains of the 99 percent, including abortion rights and LGBTQ rights. His administration is also vowing to attack immigrants, the labor movement, and Muslims. We must take him at his word, and such horrifying plans need to be powerfully resisted, instead of minimizing the dangers posed.
Defeating the right wing will require everyone who agrees on opposing Trump's agenda to stand together against him, regardless of whom they voted for, or if they didn't vote (and ultimately including some of those who were conned into voting Trump), while continuing to advocate for our distinct political approach within the movement. We won't agree on everything, but we can come together to protest en masse, with our own banners, leaflets and strategies and fight against this administration.
Mudede, whom I respect, also offers the most brazenly dishonest claim in his article, writing that I had “made the case that Clinton was exactly the same as Trump.” In my article in The Nation a few weeks ago, I said “Donald Trump is an abomination” and “deserves to be trounced.” [Editor's note: the article Sawant is referring to here is an editorial she published on October 10, headlined: "Don’t Waste Your Vote on the Corporate Agenda—Vote for Jill Stein and the Greens." In her editorial, Sawant stated: "Progressives should not support Hillary Clinton."] Just to ensure there was no misunderstanding I wrote, “Make no mistake: I want Trump to lose this election.” Socialist Alternative and I have repeatedly pointed to the serious threat posed by Trump, and that the Democratic establishment was playing a very dangerous game in, as The New York Times later posed it, attempting a “Clinton restoration at a moment when the nation was impatient to escape the status quo.”
And I am hardly alone in my view that the fault for Trump’s rise lies squarely at the feet of the Democratic Party leadership and Clinton who arrogantly assumed they didn't need Sanders supporters or others angry at decades of bipartisan, pro-corporate policies. In the end, Clinton failed to defeat the most unpopular candidate in modern American history, receiving several millions fewer votes than Obama in 2012, including fewer votes from women. Prominent Clinton surrogate Robert Reich called for a “new Democratic Party” in the wake of the Trump’s victory, saying the election had served as a “repudiation of the American power structure, including the old Democratic Party.”
We have two months remaining before Trump's inauguration. If we organize effectively, hundreds of thousands of people will protest in the streets of DC for the Women's March on Washington, and to “Occupy Inauguration” on January 20th-21st. Mass protests and student walkouts will be organized around the country, and Socialist Alternative and other activists are already busy building them. We must send the strongest possible message that we will not cede one inch to this administration's bigoted agenda.
We will all be needed in this historic struggle. I hope you will join us.
Kshama Sawant is a Seattle City Council member.Mudede responds to this editorial here.