by Ben Cohen
For those with a solid grounding in 20th century history, the rise of Donald Trump has been extremely worrying. From the very beginning of his dramatic journey to the White House, it was clear that Trump was no normal Republican. He was an egotistical showman with a flair for tapping in to the public’s distrust of political elites, and his use of divisive rhetoric to whip up white resentment went far beyond anything his Republican primary opponents were prepared to do.
The fear he has created was deliberate and highly strategic, and while it has motivate his base, it is creating huge discord amongst liberals. No one understands how to fight this new, and highly volatile enemy, and the fear has the potential to create even greater chaos. If decent Americans want to have any chance of defeating Trump in 2020, they cannot succumb to the powerful emotions he evokes.
Muslims, Mexicans, and China were all fair game for Trump during the presidential campaign, and the anger he managed to channel from his supporters translated into enough votes to take the White House. While there were certainly voters who believed in his promises to “Drain The Swamp”, Trump largely won on racism and fear of other — two of our most basic instincts that can be manipulated in ethnically diverse populations to great effect.
This tactic has worked throughout history, and the masters of it have created catastrophe all around them. The fear generated by the likes of Hitler and Stalin was responsible for the deaths of hundred millions of human beings, murdered by their neighbors due to superficial differences, amplified through the use of derogatory language and scapegoating through the media. Those familiar with the history know exactly where this can lead, and their fear of Donald Trump is well founded. It is premature to compare Trump to a despot, but the warning signs are there and given his behavior during the election, we genuinely do not know how far he is willing to go. From what we have seen, Trump will destroy everything around him in order to get his way, and in times of crisis there is no reason to believe he will change his behavior pattern. This behavior is condoned by his supporters who will always believe that there is an ‘other’ responsible for for the chaos.
The Left must find intelligent ways to counter the havoc that do not include the same inflammatory rhetoric or calls for divisiveness. They must also find a way to oppose him successfully, and without falling into the same patterns of acquiescence we have seen in recent years. Republican bad behavior has never been punished appropriately by the Left, and without the stubborn resolve to resist, the Left stands to lose more ground in the coming years as Republicans take over every branch of government and solidify their advantage. We saw an astonishing, illegal grab for power by North Carolina Republicans this past week after they lost the governorship to Democrats, providing a glimpse of what is to come as the party gets to grips with its newfound power. This is set to get much, much worse under Trump and without finding the right balance, the Left will be rendered completely useless as they set about dismantling the welfare state, environmental education and health care.
If there is a single word that can define the best way to respond to Trump and the emboldened GOP it is this: intelligence. The Left must soberly come to terms with what it is up against without giving in to fear or hate, and develop a coherent, pragmatic and highly adaptable series of policies to deal with the dangerous situation the country now finds itself in. This means putting aside petty internal squabbling, the toxic identity politics the left has become known for, and moving towards a practical, hard nosed approach to making life incredibly difficult for Donald Trump, while paving a way for a resounding victory in the midterms in 2018, and the general election in 2020.
It is clear that this is the approach President Obama will be taking once he leaves office early next year. Instead of ranting about how unfair it all is (and to be fair, it is), Obama will be rolling up his sleeves and doing what he thinks will give the Democrats the greatest chance of success in the future.
“What I am interested in is just developing a whole new generation of talent,” Obama told NPR’s Steve Inskeep in an interview on Morning Edition this week. “There are such incredible young people who not only worked on my campaign, but I’ve seen in advocacy groups. I’ve seen passionate about issues like climate change, or conservation, criminal justice reform. You know, campaigns to — for a livable wage, or health insurance. And making sure that whatever resources, credibility, spotlight that I can bring to help them rise up. That’s something that I think I can do well, I think Michelle can do well.”
You’ll notice the clear thinking, coherent strategy, and above all, the complete lack of fear in the President’s words. Giving into Donald Trump’s madness isn’t a remote possibility for the President, and he will be getting to work undermining everything Trump will be attempting to do in office. Obama will be giving back to those who helped him get elected, creating opportunities for those who can lead, and putting his considerable talents to use by helping others to recognizing theirs.
Obama’s specific strategy isn’t necessarily the most important one in getting rid of Trump, but the tone and thinking behind it most definitely is. This isn’t to say that Trump should not be on the receiving end of Democratic anger, but any strong emotion should be delivered with purpose and for strategic gain only. The Left has always been good at complaining, but never very good at organizing. That must change in 2017, and all that fear and anger must be harnessed intelligently into a powerful, unified and organized force. Trump and the Republicans can be defeated in 2020, but only if the Democrats pay attention to strategies that have a history of working. Despite all the incredible odds against him, President Obama was elected twice by a country still torn by racial divide and a fear of other. It would be smart to listen not only to his ideas, but how he goes about implementing them.
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