President Trump

How we got here and what to do now


Let me guess: you’re scared, you’re angry, you have no idea how we got to this place or what to do now that we are here. You’re not alone. I’m right there with you, so let’s try to think this thing through together.

I want to try to calmly analyze the process that has given us a President Donald Trump without letting my anger at the Democratic establishment overwhelm my thoughts. I’ll try to move through this section quickly and get on to something more constructive.

It’s fair to say that most of us understood that this was a “change” election fueled by an extreme distrust of establishment politics and a disdain for business as usual in Washington D.C. It was clear throughout the primary season that Clinton’s business-as-usual approach was a risky proposition for a general election in 2016.  The polls never wavered in their prediction during the primaries that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders would do better against Trump in a general election than Hillary Clinton. But then again, the polls obviously turned out to mean nothing this year.

I should say that it was clear that “business as usual” was a bad idea to everyone except the establishment Democrats. They used their corrupt influence over the Democratic National Convention (DNC), by way of Clinton insiders Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her staff (and later Donna Brazile), to stack the deck against Sanders, who had managed to tap into the anger of the disenfranchised white working class as well as millennial voters. The short version is that the Clinton campaign conspired with the DNC to take out Sanders. We know this because of WikiLeaks’ hacked emails from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s account. We can save the discussion of whether what WikiLeaks did was right or wrong for another day. For my purposes here, I’ll just say the emails showed that Clinton cheated Sanders during the primaries and that turned off a lot of Bernie supporters whom she needed in order to win the general election.

Most of you already know this as Sanders won Boulder County and the state despite the best efforts of the establishment Democrats and their wealthy funders. Remember those shockingly long lines in Colorado’s Sanders-heavy precincts, which kept Sanders supporters from being able to cast their vote? How about the Colorado Dem’s delegate selection process that accidently forgot to send Sanders’ supporters notifications of the time and place? And then there was arguably the establishment Democrat’s biggest blunder: having virtually all of the more than 500 Democratic Party superdelegates — made up of establishment politicians like Governor John Hickenlooper, Rep. Jared Polis, Sen. Michael Bennett and the like — count their votes for Hillary Clinton at the very beginning of the primary process regardless of how their own constituents might vote.

If it felt like the Party’s establishment was ignoring the will of the voters in order to crown Clinton the nominee, it was simply because the Party WAS ignoring the will of the voters in order to crown Clinton the nominee.

The Party’s wealthy funders wanted Clinton because they knew she could be counted on to enact their agenda.

If you haven’t perused the 50,000 Podesta emails released by WikiLeaks, you owe it to our democracy to do so. It shows just how detached establishment politicians have become and just how willing they are to say anything the pollsters tell them will get them elected, while simultaneously assuring those funding the party that they will get everything they want no matter what is said publically. It’s not just Clinton, it’s the entire political establishment including those superdelegates from Colorado.

If nothing else comes from 2016, I hope politicians like Clinton and her superdelegate peers have been exposed as the deceptive, bought-and-paid-for, manipulative frauds they are, once and for all. I hope establishment politics are dead, having been replaced by something resembling authenticity such as that exhibited by Bernie Sanders. We’ll know in a couple of years.

It’s hard not to be angry, but that is an emotion that does us no good now. The angry and frustrated voters who supported Sanders and watched him get cheated by Clinton and the DNC did not all switch their support to Clinton in the general election, even though she was facing off against a fascist populist in Donald Trump. Some Bernie supporters stayed home, some voted for third parties and a shocking number appear to have continued their quest to blow up the Washington establishment by actually voting for Trump, whose often-crazed platform included a nod to universal healthcare and opposition to international trade agreements such as NAFTA and the TPP — agreements that most of those voting for Trump on Nov. 8, blame for the hard economic times in middle America and the Rust Belt.

I honestly believe that Tuesday’s vote was a referendum on the Clintons and establishment politics more than it was a vote of support for the positions of Donald Trump. But it doesn’t really matter, because we are now facing four years of President Donald Trump.

The first thing we need to do is to try and understand the millions of people who voted for Trump. Yes, he won white folks in rural America with no college education. But he also won Florida by carrying college-educated whites. So let’s just start by trying to understand why white people voted in historic numbers for Donald Trump.

Rural whites have been devastated by global trade agreements and mostly abandoned by the Democratic Party. No wonder they went for Trump.
Rural whites have been devastated by global trade agreements and mostly abandoned by the Democratic Party. No wonder they went for Trump. Joel Dyer

Let me acknowledge that this part of the conversation gets tricky and uncomfortable. Donald Trump ran on a racist platform that elevated whites above other races in very overt fashion. “Make America Great Again,” Trump’s slogan, is a call to return to the days when white people did a lot better economically than other races. He supported the cops rather than the blacks who were angry over police shootings. He called for an immigration ban on persons who practice the Muslim faith, even women and children fleeing the horrors of war. He lined up white families at a microphone to describe, on national TV, how undocumented Mexican immigrants had murdered their children, as if a different microphone could not have been set up for such migrant families who have crossed our southern border only to see their children murdered by whites. He called Latino immigrants rapists and drug dealers. He refused to turn away support from white supremacists, including known members of the KKK and other hate groups. He even retweeted their support of him to millions of people. And it goes on and on.

Donald Trump is a racist.

But are the 60 million people who voted for him really racists? We need to understand Trump’s massive white vote.

I think there was certainly some racism involved, but I think that economics played a much larger role. White rural America has been abandoned by the politicians of both parties for nearly four decades. If you don’t know what I’m talking about it’s because you don’t go there.   

In the middle of Kansas, kids working the register at a fast-food burger joint are at the top of their earning potential. They likely can’t afford to go to college, maybe they finished high school, but either way this is it — this is their life for the next 60 years. Towns have nothing but boarded up windows. Healthcare is only a memory from days gone by.

That picture can now be applied to millions of people in the Rust Belt who have seen their neighborhoods crumble as all the decent jobs — thanks to trade agreements designed to enrich global corporations — were shipped overseas where labor is cheap.

Middle-age white men are now committing suicide at a faster pace than any other demographic group. This has not always been the case. In fact, it is a new phenomenon that psychologists are attributing to the economic decline confronting these folks and their realization that the American dream is dead for them.

“Make America Great Again,” begins to sound more like a prayer than a campaign slogan for those in such pain.

These millions of white voters were once middle class with manufacturing or farm related jobs and many were once Democrats.

And here is the tricky part, racially speaking, as the Democratic Party began to analyze the changing demographics of the electorate, the numbers suggested that black and Latino voters had become the secret sauce for electoral victory. More and more in recent years, we have seen the Democratic Party put an emphasis on turning out the black vote, the Latino vote, the suburban-mom vote. Think Hillary Clinton’s pandering to the black vote leading into the southern state primaries of Super Tuesday, her campaign even going so far as to criticize the whiteness of Sanders’ massive crowds at his rallies. I believe that one of the consequences of Clinton rallying the black and Latino vote against Sanders was to push anti-trade, economically challenged whites — many of whom were Reagan Democrats to start with — away from the Democratic Party and into the arms of Donald Trump.

To a significant extent, the Democratic Party has abandoned lower class and lower-middle-class whites, people who were once one of their major constituencies.

The numbers on election night were easy to read. All those white rural counties that had gone 60 percent for Romney in 2012 went 80 percent for Trump in 2016, and that difference in all those red counties across America was too much for Clinton to overcome.

What Democrats missed is that the new battleground isn’t left and right but rather top and bottom. Under-earning white men, blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and women, of all religions and sexual orientations, must be included under the Democratic Party tent. In 2016, they weren’t, at least not by the overly confident Clinton campaign.

So what now? Who really knows.

Tuesday’s election was more a referendum on Clinton and establishment politics than a vote for trump.
Tuesday’s election was more a referendum on Clinton and establishment politics than a vote for trump. Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore

In recent years, Trump has been a Republican, Democrat, Independent and Republican again. His positions are all over the board and most of his promises to white voters are impossible to implement.

At the end of the day we know this, he is a racist, narcissist, sexist who will likely say and do anything to enhance his own stature among white men, and that makes him incredibly dangerous.

Should we be afraid? Of course we should. We are traveling a road none of us has ever been down.

But the most important thing to remember is we are traveling down this road together. And therein lies our strength. And that is why we will survive Trump and, in the end, prevail as a nation of freedom and equality for all. But it will take work to get there.

Americans must come together as never before. Each of us must become a living sanctuary. Every one of us who understands the current threat must make a commitment to protect those most vulnerable among us. We can’t close our eyes to the millions of people whom Donald Trump has threatened, either directly or by giving a wink and a nod to those who would do violence against some of our most vulnerable populations.

No matter the perceived risk, we must speak up and speak out in support of our immigrant populations. We must take a firm position against racism, whether it be aimed at Muslims or blacks, whether by the KKK or law enforcement. We must continue to demand equality and safety for our friends in the LGBTQ community. We must continue to demand equal pay for equal work for people of all genders and we must adamantly oppose those who would sexually assault or even objectify women.

And — and — we must come to understand and support those members of the white community whose sense of isolation, political abandonment and economic challenges have pushed them to the brink of revolution and violence.

Now is the time to open a dialogue with all of America. If we pull back out of fear of Trump and those who put him into power, then, and only then, have we truly lost.

I believe that we will survive Donald Trump. And I believe that we will become a stronger, more compassionate and more empathetic nation in the process. And while there will no doubt be plenty of bumps and bruises along the way, I honestly believe that four years from now, authenticity and inspiration will have replaced establishment maneuvering as the path to political victory.  We have the power to make it so.