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A year since Trump’s election

Kevin Taghabon

November 7, 2017

It has been a scant year since a 71-year-old imbecile bumbled his way into the most powerful office on the planet. In 2015, which now seems like another era, Donald Trump’s nativist presidential campaign was launched. His unhinged tirades of anti-immigrant racism and buffoonish ignorance were boosted by morally bankrupt media figures like CBS CEO Les Moonves (“[Trump] may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS.”)

The Democrats offered Hillary Clinton, the most unpopular Democratic candidate in history. The Democratic establishment’s naivete alongside their malicious campaign against an insurgent Bernie Sanders left them utterly unable to oppose Trump. The 2016 election will be remembered as a series of historic mistakes by the Democratic Party. A real estate fraudster with the intellect and mannerisms of a large toddler now wanders the White House, occasionally wiping grease on his robe to sign an ill-advised executive order.

Erratic and unmanageable

White house staffers reportedly have to contain Trump's wild moods. Trump's idiocy is not a charade. His intelligence briefings have to be as short as possible (think grade-school book report), littered with his name and imagery to keep his attention. James “Mad Dog” Mattis and General John Kelly are now relied upon to act as the proverbial adults in the room. Given Mattis and Kelly’s neoconservative legacies, this is terrifying. Equally so is Trump parroting “I love the generals” over and over.

The vapid world of reality television is the only realm in which Trump can be considered an “expert”. His administration has repeatedly used distraction techniques to confuse and deflate opposition. Days after the historic Women’s March, his administration rolled out their Muslim ban. Trump understands horrific events like wars and natural disasters in the reality TV language of “ratings” and “records”. He has threatened genocide against 25 million North Koreans through tweets. Trump spent five days tweeting obtuse nonsense about the NFL protests before mentioning Puerto Rico, which the mainstream media ate up.

Media failures

This relationship works in tandem. Trump’s obsession with television and his short attention span for politics results in outbursts that make the press dance. These tantrums cannibalize airtime. Mainstream media – asleep at the wheel for decades – has sometimes been willing to stand up to Trump in a way they never did under Obama.

This has been coupled with regular cowardly back-tracking. CNN’s Van Jones, seen by many as a spokesperson for #TheResistance, praised Trump for simply reading a prepared speech in March. With the slightest veneer of politesse, Trump is able to defang his media critics. Absent this tactic, Trump can always count on bipartisan jingoism through war. Trump has been lauded by MSNBC’s Brian Williams for raining “beautiful” missiles down on Syria, and for dropping the “Mother of All Bombs” in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, centrist elites and their armchair-wed allies entertain authoritarian fantasies of being “saved” by a deep state pseudo-coup, or late-in-life heroism from career reactionaries like former FBI Director James Comey. The Democratic establishment invested most of their media capital in theories about Russian election interference, which has not paid off electorally. It is obvious why they would want this to be true. “Democrats are great as-is, Clinton was not a terrible candidate, America is not broken – Russia did it!” This retreat into child-like thinking is amazing in its lack of self-awareness. For the rest of the globe, Americans complaining about foreign interference is ridiculous.

White supremacy and extreme austerity

The White House has never been filled with the virtuous. Nevertheless, Trump’s hideous administration indeed represents the ascension of the most retrograde elements of American conservatism into the halls of power. Trump has confirmed Neil Gorsuch, a Supreme Court Justice whose record on women's and LGBTQ rights is horrid. Jeff Sessions, who during Ronald Reagan’s watershed right-wing administration was deemed too racist for a federal judgeship, is now Attorney General. Rex Tillerson, the man chiefly responsible for ExxonMobil’s unbridled climate denial and destruction, is now Secretary of State. New CIA Director Mike Pompeo used his first speech to repeatedly threaten to shut down a news organization – an alarming display of open hostility to the press.

This is before mentioning hardened reactionaries Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, the latter of whom served as National Security Advisor while wearing Hungarian Nazi medals. While these men have left the White House, their extremist ideas are part of the formative months of Trump's tenure. The list of similar examples is virtually endless.

These monsters have each unleashed their own agenda at their respective departments, represented by the triplet snakes of austerity, imperialism, and bigotry. Bannon’s bastardized reading of Lenin’s Wikipedia page as “the deconstruction of the administrative state” is underway at the hands of people oblivious or antithetical to the departments they are heading. Meanwhile, resurgent white supremacists have marched en masse time and again, often armed to the teeth with assault weapons, once going so far as murdering IWW and DSA activist Heather Heyer.

Hope and rebellion

Opposition to Trump began the minute he was elected, with a spontaneous outpouring of protest on in the US and around the world, along with increased resistance at Standing Rock. Then on November 29 a national day of action organized by the Fight for $15 saw protests in 340 municipalities against the racism and precarious work epitomized by Trump’s hotel chains; this opposition went on to stop Trump’s attempt to make fast food CEO Andy Puzder labor secretary.

Trump’s inauguration could have come and gone as business-as-usual (which it did from most Democrats and Republicans). Instead, it was met by one of the largest mobilizations in US history, with women’s marches across the US and solidarity actions around the world on January 21. A week later mass protests at John F. Kennedy airport happened organically as well, with taxi drivers and immigration activists uniting to shut down a port and welcome Muslim travellers. This is a powerful statement. Americans came out and demonstrated at the gates to the world: “Trump is not America. You are welcome here.” International capital, reliant on ports for trade and travel, does not take this lightly.

Disability activists have been leading the fight against Trump’s attack on healthcare.

Bernie Sanders' medicare-for-all bill has become a litmus test for progressive politicians. Medicare-for-all is now more popular than ever in the United States. Even drug industry lackeys like Democrat Cory Booker have been forced to come out for the bill.

Resistance to Trump's agenda has been consistent. Disrupt J20 (inauguration day protests) through International Women's Day, Black Lives Matter, the Fight for 15, the NFL protests and many other struggles have done nothing but grow and punch upwards with renewed gusto. Unions have been part of the fight as well. National Nurses United has been heavily involved in the medicare-for-all campaign. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union took a leading role in shutting down fascists in the Bay Area. Local 10 shut their workplace down to openly push back against organized bigots in the streets.

Perhaps most promising for socialists, the Democratic Socialists of America has grown five-fold to 30,000 members since this time last year, becoming the largest socialist organization in the US. The DSA is broadly involved in immigration, labour, and anti-racist work, in addition to local election campaigns. Black Lives Matter and socialist activist Khalid Kamau was elected to city council in South Fulton, Georgia. In Jackson, Mississippi, activist Chokwe Antar Lumumba was elected mayor, promising to help create the “most radical city on the planet.

In Canada

Canadian politics are undergoing a dramatic lowering of the bar for what is acceptable. Trump's vulgarity has allowed Prime Minister Trudeau to get away with many conservative policies. Trudeau has refused to repeal the Safe Third Country Agreement, which means refugees face uncertainty coming to Canada, despite Trudeau's cheery tweets. Trudeau's record on Indigenous issues is appalling, not to mention the broken UNDRIP implementation promise. The Trudeau government is prosecuting multiple journalists for simply doing their jobs, and has stuck to polishing Bill C-51 (now C-59) instead of repealing it. Echoing Trump, Trudeau has dramatically increased Canada's war budget and made Canada the world's second largest arms exporter to the Middle East. To their eternal shame, the Canadian government has barred whisleblower Chelsea Manning from entering the country in order to respect the Espionage Act, a 100-year-old wartime American law.

Trump's rhetoric has emboldened bigots in Canada. Newly minted anti-choice, anti-same-sex marriage Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has appointed former fringe right Rebel Media director Hamish Marshall to lead his campaign. This eerily echoes Trump's hiring of Steve Bannon for his election campaign. The year opened with a brutal terrorist attack by a white supremacist, who killed six Muslims at a Mosque in Quebec. Neo-Nazis and their supporters have rallied publicly several times across Canada. Counter-demonstrations have had mixed results, on some occasions completely humiliating the bigots with overwhelming popular support.

This is the avenue for resistance and the creation of a better world. It is not enough to be constantly fighting rear-guard actions against austerity and racism. It is not enough to tag every story about Trudeau's shortcomings with “at least he's not Trump.” To truly build the world we need it is necessary to build movements on the ground, offline, which engage people in groundwork, intertwined with building socialist organization. This is represented in the Fight for 15, organized labour, local political campaigns, and active Indigenous, anti-racist, and climate struggles. The appeal of emancipatory left-wing politics through the broad, sympathetic layers of society provides a bulwark against the far right, and aspirations for us all.

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