Kate Doyle Griffiths, Lisa Cerami, Jacob Denz, Natasha Fernandez-Silber, Anonymous, Michael Kinnucan

Facebook Trump

ISSUE 70 | SAFE | DEC 2016

What follows is a series of Facebook essays posted by Lisa Cerami, Jacob Denz, Michael Kinnucan, Kate Doyle Griffiths, Natasha Fernandez-Silber and an anonymous contributor in the weeks following the 2016 presidential election. Political analysis and strategy is always sketched in conversations among activists and ordinary people, approximated, argued over and tested long before it begins to make news; social media offers us the opportunity to document this process as it happens. We feel that these posts were exceptionally useful in understanding the election and beginning to formulate strategies for opposing the Trump administration.


All this "we will cooperate with him on [good stuff] and oppose him on the rest" business is totally bonkers; there's no separating the two. Right-populist mobilization (and the fascism it tends towards) necessarily involves both a positive vision of social-economic reform + (national/racial) solidarity AND escalating repression of the ever-expanding ranks of elitists, traitors, outsiders, and undesirables who are preventing that positive vision from being actualized.

Proof? You don't have to look to the Nazis, a self-identified "Workers Party" that also promised -- and delivered -- massive infrastructure projects to make Germany great again. Just look to US history, where virtually every utopian, liberatory, and self-assertive project that was not undertaken by (or with) Black people was predicated on anti-Black ideology and practice. 19th century Yankee workers to their bosses: you can't treat us like that, we're free white citizens, not (Black) slaves! Urban Democrats:: the value of my house, purchased with a gov't subsidized whites-only loan, depends on keeping Black people out of the neighborhood! Irish (and Italian and Arab and...) immigrants: no no, you've got it all wrong, we're white too! White women suffragists: give us the franchise, and we'll help you "snow under the Negro vote" and maintain white supremacy forever! (Actual quote! cf. Laura Clay, "The Race Question Again," Kentucky Gazette, April 1890)

I don't point out the racist repression at the heart of everything you might choose to like about the US (just) to kill everyone's democracy boner and conjure white guilt. Rather:

  1. To suggest that we can only understand what's coming by considering the mechanisms of surveillance, coercion, repression, and seduction already in use against the most vulnerable enemies of "American Greatness." (Aren't you glad the expansion of unaccountable executive power has gone basically unchecked for the last 16 years? That police can gun down people, particularly but not exclusively Black, Native and Latinx people, with almost total impunity? That gajillionaires can use civil lawsuits to hound critical press into silence?)
  2. to underline the grave necessity of total, unrelenting, proactive, and principled resistance to this blond beast and all his enablers;
  3. to emphasize that we can only succeed by developing a real and independent power base capable of more than obsessing over the midterms and relying on cheap procedural tricks. Like, seriously: what if Obama made a recess appointment to the Supreme Court and the new administration + Congress just refused to accept it, even in the face of a blistering letter from Chuck Schumer? Even if John Oliver DESTROYKILLED them with mean jokes? What next?

Kate Doyle Griffiths:

I've seen a lot of lists about what you can do to oppose Trump. In my opinion there is only one thing you can do: join an organization, or several. By organization I mean: a socialist anarchist or communist organization, a union in your workplace, a tenants organization in your living place, a feminist meet up, a league for mutual support and action around health issues, an immigrant rights group, student union, action group for BLM, there are dozens of more options I'm probably not thinking of—but join them, and in them, push for total 100% opposition to trump's agenda and commitment to solidarity and support for others in your group and outside of it who will be hurt by this agenda.

You'll know your organization is on the right path if it can stick up for people in it to stop them from being fired, evicted, hurt, harassed, deported and untreated. We'll really know these groups are on the right path if they can work together to directly halt Trump’s agenda.

If you can only spare 5 hours a week, or 3—spend the one hour in a meeting with people you want to get to know and the remainder doing work on a plan of action before the next weeks meeting. That’s all there is, there is no trick, or shortcut. We gotta quit the get-rich-quick mentality to gut the get-rich-quick-scam president.

Michael Kinnucan:

One of the most irritating misconceptions behind many of these post-election takes is the idea that we live in a country with a racist party and an anti-racist party. The Obama administration has deported 2.5 million people, more than any other administration in history. The Democrats have no serious plan to address mass incarceration, they have no serious plan to address residential or school segregation, they have no serious plan to address racial inequality in income and wealth. There are absolutely differences between the Republican and Democratic politics of race-relations, important differences! But heaping scorn on white/working-class/rural/uneducated voters for being willing to countenance Trump's racism when our own party is willing to countenance deporting 2.5 million people and keep almost as many in prison really speaks to the way anti-racism has become a matter of etiquette and moralizing more than a live political project.

One of the most frightening things about the present, all over the West, is that anti-racism has become a branding device for neoliberal elites largely interested in distinguishing themselves ethically, as the good-and-the-just, from the vulgar masses and articulating (to one another) their right to rule. This is dangerous both because the neoliberal elites are constitutionally incapable of doing anything serious about racial inequality and because rebellion against those elites necessarily takes racist forms. The first thing a genuinely left-wing anti-racist project needs to do is see off these pretenders, not form a united front with them. Their justice is not ours.

To put it positively: a Democratic Party sufficiently committed to the restructuring of the national economy in the interest of the working class would be equally capable of addressing racial inequality and mass incarceration and of rebuilding the Rust Belt districts burned over by globalization and de-unionization. In very many cases the very same policies would be required, and in every case the same commitments to the same form of justice. We are very, very far from having that party. Until we build it let's not be too ready to let the Democratic Party dress itself in the mantle of racial equality or to write off white voters in the Midwest for their complicity in white supremacy, a complicity which is undoubtedly deplorable but which should also, for many Democrats, be all too familiar.

Lisa Cerami:

Dear “Women,”

In so far as I believe that critique starts at home, at the closest proximity to self moving ever outward from self to systems they themselves support, here is my own mistake. In falsely assuming Clinton would win––an assumption based on arguments and the best reasoning I could do, as someone with a rich set of intellectual tools––I decided to relinquish critique against what already months and months ago seemed to be a pernicious embrace of purportedly feminist modes of politics of feeling and identification. If Clinton was sure to come out as the obviously lesser evil, why not desist potentially "hurting" all those who find solace and empowerment in the election of the "first female president" as something inherently "good for women." The fact that "hurt" or "insult" was at all in play in the first place was a damnable fiction circulated by powerful women themselves, Clinton's campaign, and then the sea of media "feminists" who could marshal ranks of women with their personal stories, their personal trials of disempowerment, calling other women to join them as feminists, to feel with them their own forms of disempowerment: and as "women" demand this as THE critical tool to understanding the value of continuing to support our oligarchic neoliberal order.

But the fact of Clinton's complete and utter failure as a candidate is on her and the DNC and innumerable others, but my mistake, of not revolting utterly against such non-intersectional drivel peddled by the likes of powerful, largely white bourgeois "feminist" pundits, is on me. And I will be damned if even after this terrible reality check, we, as people who call ourselves feminist, will continue to support the politics of affect that proved to utterly fail already. So Fuck you Lindy West and all those damn feels. You were wrong before, and you are more than wrong now. I do not rejoice that you feel bad that the candidate that you loved lost. That's not a politics, it is not a politics of action, it continues to be oblivious to the fact that those feels are given weight almost exclusively by white bourgeois women for white bourgeois women, and even in that demographic wasn't fucking good enough to get us out of a Trump presidency.

End the structures of analysis that pivot on identity, single-vectors of identity. There are no "women." There is no "good for women" and there is no pride in "women." There are only people who are women and also other things, poor or rich, citizen or non-citizen, white or black or brown, colonized or colonizer, worker or owner, and those other things are ALWAYS structurally important. Pride should be attached to that which is good and just, and "women" are not in and of themselves good, or just. If feminist politics are toward the end of justice, they must be just, they cannot just be female.

You punch up, and you empathize down. Always. Figure out where you are in terms of relative power and privilege, figure out where your role models and advice-dispensers and thinkers you refer to and leaders you defer to are in terms of power and the intersecting vectors that empower or disempower, and act accordingly. Now more than ever.

A "Woman"

Michael Kinnucan:

  1. The concern here isn't that the Trump presidency will be an extraordinary invasion of civil liberties or whatever--because it won't be and because if it were that would make it go away quickly. The concern here is that a slightly crueler version of the present will be normalized. The present is unacceptable and unsustainable.
  2. We need to protect each other where we can. By which I don't mean, support each other's practices of self-care, but rather, push for a commitment from the state to maintain income support programs like Section 8 and food stamps when the sadistic budgets start passing. A lot of tax money is about to be freed up.
  3. There's really no place for an ICE office in New York. They ain't from here, we don't want 'em, kick 'em out. Ideally we would push states or at least our cities into confrontations with the federal government over this. This would be good.
  4. Recrimination is a wholly appropriate and adaptive response to what just happened. I for one am cleaning house on every commentator and every assumption I trusted as authoritative about the state of American politics. Something I should have learned from the Iraq War: my uninformed hippy friends' gut feelings are systematically more correct as a guide to what's happening than the New York Times. And let's not even get into the Democratic Party; I was right, the people to my left were much more right, I should have listened.
  5. "Racism" is not an independent variable; "racism" explains nothing. Politics explains racism, not vice versa. People are organized into being racist until they're organized into being something else. Use whatever words you want but if the work "racism" is doing for you is to say "progressive change is hopeless because American voters are fundamentally morally bad," that's lazy, defeatist moralizing and you're wrong.
  6. New York needs its own climate policy now.
  7. This was always going to happen. There was never a chance that the Democratic Party was going to swing that 51% of the vote every four years indefinitely, not the way it was being run and is being run. That's clear now and it should have been clear last week too. Nothing has changed.
  8. The elephant in the room of American politics is that half of eligible voters don't vote, now or ever. Those people (disproportionately young, poor, black) are our constituency. We need candidates and policies and *rhetoric* that speaks directly to their pressing concerns, and we need it yesterday. Anything at all that stands in the way of that is something we can't afford.
  9. I'm joining the Democratic Socialists of America because some of the most hard-working tough-minded optimistic intelligent leftists I know think I should, and because the last Democratic party I joined hasn't been meeting expectations. You should too. We need a party.
  10. What was it the tradition of the oppressed was teaching us? Something about this election being unprecedented in modern history, and how literal fascism, especially today, wow? Was that it? No? Right.
  11. The future will be very different from the present. Things will be nothing like they are right now, for better or for worse, and the seed of that difference is already here among us and in us. That is the political thought. Some people have always had an interest in thinking and encouraging others to think that the present would continue indefinitely and that for that reason politics was, in a certain sense, over; those people were wrong yesterday and are still wrong today. Organize, agitate, change.

Jacob Denz:

I think one thing I'm realizing is that people who want to attribute this result to one cause or another may be talking past each other because we have one or the other of at least two different goals: 1. Judging and morally condemning and/or exonerating certain voters or; 2. Analyzing this result with an eye to understanding how similar results can be avoided in the future.

I guess I am not that interested in judging and either morally condemning or exonerating voters themselves, not because I think voting is a neutral activity, but rather because I think it's just so obvious that voting for Trump was blameworthy and I probably know almost no one who feels differently.

When I argue that it is not reasonable to treat racism as the decisive factor in this election, my intention is not at all to excuse Trump voters for their actions. I have no particular interest at this moment in feeling Trump voters' pain or showing them compassion as ends in themselves.

I do understand that in a democracy the distribution of some amount of power depends on how voters behave. If we regret the behavior of a certain number of voters, it behooves us to reflect on what if done differently might have led to a different outcome.

From this perspective, attributing the result to racism and leaving it at that seems to me to give us very little to work with. Let's say that a hundred percent of white people are racist. How are "we" going to forcibly disabuse them of that racism in order to prevent future electoral outcomes like this? Trump voters know people like us think they're racist, and they just don't care at all. They were called racist over and over and over again-it was just about the main thing a lot of people did for the past eighteen months-and, accurate or not, calling Trump and his supporters racist just didn't work as an electoral strategy.

Fortunately, there is overwhelming evidence that white people can vote for Democrats in necessary numbers if given what they perceive to be good reasons for doing so, even if those white voters may also be racist. I don't believe the white voters of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania are significantly more racist than they were in 2012, when a Black candidate was on the ballot. Yet they behaved very, very differently in the two cases, and I think it's more than plausible to call that difference the reason Clinton lost the election.

I also assume that in evaluating an outcome it makes the most logical sense to focus on what happens at the margins, on what pushes someone over the line rather than on the bulk of what it took to get there. Yes, Trump's victory (like that of many, many Republican candidates) depends on the existence of an awful lot of racist white voters who vote their racism. But most of those voters were always in the bag for Trump the second he was the Republican nominee for President. So saying Trump won because of racist white voters is a lot like saying he won because he won Texas. Well, yes he did win Texas, and he wouldn't have won without Texas, but Texas was not, on any reasonable understanding of U.S. politics, the state at the margin that pushed him over the finish line. Similarly, any Republican nominee would have won the overwhelming majority of white people for whom expressing their racist preferences is the overriding factor in their votes. But not every Republican nominee would have won Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and Trump did, and so I think it's reasonable to treat the causes of his win there as the more pertinent explanation for his victory.

Natasha Fernandez-Silber:

Some thoughts...

1 – If you thought Hillary Clinton was the right person to take on Trump in this election, you had poor judgment. If you thought #pantsuitnation was a good way to get working families to the polls, if you thought it was cute to brag about “Hillary is so badass she doesn’t even have to campaign lol,” I repeat: you had poor judgment. If this has not sunk in for you yet, I understand, because there have been a lot of tears since Tuesday and anyone with any sense desperately wanted HRC, however flawed, to defeat Trump. But the collective waking up process should probably start soon. Rather than sign thank-you cards for Hillary, rather than complain about how evil and stupid people in the Midwest are, rather than bitch and moan about low voter turnout or Gary Johnson or whatever, you should be reflecting very, very seriously about what caused you to (1) ignore the mountain of evidence showing Clinton was an extremely vulnerable candidate with historically low favorability ratings and the absolute wrong message for this political moment, and (2) take the gamble of nominating her anyway when a potential Donald Trump presidency was looming.

2 – Now that we find ourselves in this absolute fucking nightmare – and make no mistake, this will be a nightmare – some of us will pay a higher price than others. POC and queer/trans people need to focus on our personal health, sanity, and safety above all else. All I can say is that I am very grateful for the group of trusted friends that has been getting me through the horror of the last few days, and I am here for our community in any way that I can be – including connecting people to legal services.

3 – I have seen a lot of strategies being proposed for how survive the #whitelash. I would add to the list that we start getting serious about where and how we spend our money, and how to most effectively employ economic boycotts. I have definitely been guilty of mindless consumerism in the past, but in the times ahead, we simply cannot afford to give away our hard earned cash to people and institutions that don’t care for us, and that have given rise to the monstrosity that is Donald Trump. Going forward, I’ll be committing myself to supporting woke, minority-owned businesses and media organizations as much as I possibly can. If that means I just don’t buy certain things, even better...

4 – Any effort to reconstitute the steaming pile of shit that is the American Left – either through the Democratic Party or some new political organization(s) – needs to be built around a platform of economic justice, not neoliberal incrementalism. As I type that sentence, it seems so pathetically obvious, but liberals never seem to get the fucking message. I really, really didn’t want 2017 to be the year we walked into the political wilderness, because I’d rather focus on my plants and building furniture and shit. But since we now have no choice but to fight, we might as well use this opportunity to take advantage of new possibilities and coalitions, and to suffuse our activism with meaningful class politics.

Jacob Denz:

Of course I am fixating on how Bernie would have won the general. How could I not? The problem with that is that Bernie really did lose the Democratic primary by way more than Hillary lost the general. It was not rigged or stolen. Of course the Establishment did everything necessary and then some to help Hillary win. But that kind of goes with the territory of being an anti-establishment candidate doesn't it?

Bernie Sanders got destroyed among Black voters especially in the South but also in the North in a manner that truly did make it more or less impossible to win either the pledged delegate count or the popular vote in the primary. Of course I wish superdelegates had realized he was the one to win the general election against Donald Trump. But without one of those two indexes of democratic legitimacy there was just no leverage against them to do this, and they likely would also have faced a not at all unjustifiable backlash not just from the Establishment (of which they were of course a part, which makes this whole hypothetical kind of illogical) but also from many Clinton supporters. They would have had to be both much smarter and much saintlier than I am afraid it was ever reasonable to expect of Democratic party superdelegates.

In the United States, to become President you have to win both a major-party primary and a general election. So I can say Bernie would have won the general until I am blue in the face. Maybe Mickey Mouse or the Pope would have won too. And with Bernie's numbers among Black primary voters, they were all about equally likely to win the Democratic primary.

I haven't seen nearly as many social democrats blaming Black primary voters for this outcome as I have Clinton supporters blaming white men, but of course doing so in either case means refusing to learn the lessons one most needs to take from this election.

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