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Where did my country go?

By Kati Wilkins
on December 2, 2016

Triggered by Asmat Malik’s post Does supporting Brexit and US election results make you a far-right populist?


In his article Asmat Malik makes the argument that “It is the time to look beyond the worst aspects of Trump-style-rhetoric and instead capitalize upon the opportunities offered by the ‘Big Bang’”. I believe that we can find some common ground, but the election will have far ranging negative impacts both domestically and internationally that are still unknown.

Trump rose to power on a wave of false populist rhetoric in which he claimed to be the conservative champion of the people. In this election, the question presented to the voters was simple: to maintain the status quo which is working for the rich, or to dissolve the entire system and rework it from scratch, creating the ‘Big Bang’ that Asmat described. I absolutely agree that the US is deeply inequitable at a systems level. However, Trump’s proposed solutions and his appointments to cabinet are not the type of ‘big bang’ that leads to equitable rebuilding of our systems.

The progressives were the only ones offering a real, ‘big bang’ style solution which would have addressed systemic inequalities. Throughout much of the election cycle, however, the progressive agenda has been vilified or ignored against clear evidence that it is actually working to reduce inequalities. In Seattle, a deeply progressive city, not only are we seeing huge job growth, we’re actually one of the few cities in the country that’s seeing positive wage growth. Election night for us was like whiplash, as we passed a host of progressive measures such as mandatory sick-leave, increased taxes to build a new transportation system that will bring poor folks from the suburbs into the city where the jobs are, affordable housing measures, and the list goes on. All of these measures will help lower inequalities and can be used as a model for the rest of the country, yet we watched in despair as the rest of the country voted for a man who will make that impossible at the federal level.

Not only is the progressive agenda being vilified, we are also being told (by Asmat for example) to look “with an open mind” past the rhetoric. This is, to put it mildly, impossible, and not just because Trump hardly shows an ‘open mind’ himself. In both the UK and the US, within hours of the election results, Muslims, people of color, the LGBTQI community and women were being attacked, some violently, as a result of Trump and UKIP’s rhetoric. We have installed a man into office who espouses violent rhetoric against minority communities, and we’re seeing a virtual who’s-who of the worst forms of neo-nazi conspiracy theorists being elevated to cabinet level positions. These people, empowered by campaign promises made by Trump, are vowing to make good on deporting illegal immigrants and registering Muslims in some sort of registry. I can not over-state how much of a violation of norms this is. These promises are made manifestly more terrifying because we have a recent history of interning groups of people we deem enemies of the state. Many people in the US have family or friends who will be directly and personally impacted by these policies in ways we can’t know at the moment. For me, personally, I have a number of friends and family members in the LGBTQI community who are justifiably afraid of what a Trump presidency means to them. They’re not afraid that their right to marriage will be dissolved, they’re scared that they’ll become second class citizens unable to get jobs and openly (possibly violently) discriminated against.

In cities across the country where marginalized communities congregate for the sake of safety, mayors, council people and other members of public institutions have had to stand up and promise to use every measure possible to protect their citizens from the worst of Trump’s promises. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. “Sanctuary cities” has taken on a whole new meaning, as we prepare to stand our ground to protect our most vulnerable citizens. This is not America. This is not a country I recognize. We disagree on policy, and even on wars, but only once in our history have mayors and governors had to stand up and vow to protect their people. The last time was the Civil War, and we had a president in office who was on the right side of history. Now, we are deeply divided and scared for our friends, families and what this means for our country.

Given Trump’s rhetoric and his appointments to cabinet, it’s difficult to see how there are any ‘opportunities we can supposedly capitalize on, triggered by this Big Bang’. His cabinet suggests that he will make good on the worst of his rhetoric, deepening inequalities and divides rather than healing them. A ‘big bang’ should lead to rebuilding, not the possible destruction of our country.

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