We are still processing what has happened. To many, the previously inconceivable has become a reality. Donald Trump is the next POTUS. I've been an ardent supporter of Bernie Sanders since he first announced his candidacy in May2015, all the way from Australia. Like millions in the U.S. and beyond, he filled me with a great deal of hope. Not only because he is clearly a man of passion and integrity, but because he is a proponent of the bold the systems change that his country and indeed, the world, needs.
This is a sad day for many reasons. I personally feel that the Democratic Party and Hilary Clinton have a lot to answer for. Their rigging of the primaries (startng from 2014) and their general misreading of the pulse of the people has often beggared belief. It could be strongly argued that we would not be in this predicament if the Democratic Party had truly understood that this was an anti-establishment election. If both Clinton and the Democratic Party could see past their obsession with an #iamwithher apparatus and sense the mood on the streets and in people's homes. I don't say this rub salt in wounds or fan flames of hatred. I only stress the above because I feel that there's an inclination to squarely blame mysoginy for the result. I think, as often is the case, that there is a lot more complexity to the situation than that. In the final assesment, I believe that Democrats were too blinkered and arrogant to recognise that they sent forward a deeply flawed candidate that largely represented what people are weary of. Business as usual.
Alas there's little utility in the blame game now. I am less interested in political punditry and more concerned with what we do from here. Why would a Sri Lankan living in Australia care so much about a U.S. Election? There are clear global consequences. Be it action on climate change, war or trade. There is so much on the line.
So what do we do from here? I think its important for us not to descend down the path of labelling those who voted for Trump as a 'basket of deplorables' as Clinton did on the campaign trail. There are many parallels with the Brexit vote in the UK as well as the rise of One Nation in Australia. Hear me out. I am not suggesting that mysoginy, racism , bigotry, pro-violence and anti-science views should be welcomed with open arms. Quite the contrary. However I think that there's much we can learn from the rise of (predominantly) white far right-wing movements. I'd argue that beneath the toxic veneer of ignorance and prejudice are people who feel deeply disenfranchised. Particularly in a context where 'whiteness' does not lord over minorities as it once did. People who are victims of social and economic policies that have left them behind and are thus vulnerable to empty rhetoric of systems change , suspectible to vile scapegoating. I am not suggesting that there is no personal responsibility here. I am not suggesting that there isn't a strong undercurrent of white supremacy that seems to underpin phenomena such as Trump, Brexit or One Nation. But there is a wider social and economic context within which these views are being fermented.
Once the dust settles, I believe that these developments can offer us insight into what an appropriate response could be. To borrow the sentiment expressed by Naomi Klein last night , the void left by neoliberal policies needs to be filled with a progressive imperative. If not, it will be filled by facism. This response will need to be bold and far-reaching. It will require systems change and thus re-imagining our political, social and economic policies. The good news is that there millions who are yearning for such a vision as they recognise the need for systems change, they recognise the deep failings of trickle-down economics, of consumerism, of war and the madness of not situating ourselves in an ecological reality. One does not need to look further than the movement Bernie Sanders led (and arguably still leads) to see that young people can rally behind an authentic and bold progressive vision. As a voting bloc, milennials have the most at stake across this planet. We are already inheriting a planet where we will have to contend with climate change and profound levels of income and wealth inequality. We are inheriting political systems mired with special interests that are laser focused on the short term and almost always diamterically opposed to the interests of the public. This is precisely why enthusiasm for Clinton was so low and many who did vote for her, voted out of fear.No manner of fear mongering and celebrity endorsements could hide the the centrist, incremental heart of her campaign.
So yes, things just got a whole lot harder! We must grieve but it is vital that we do not let it extinguish all hope. We must summon the strength to take resposibility and help forge a positive global response. Starting with our own backyards. Both present and future generations depend on this.
Whether its the setbacks to action on climate change, the rising tide of prejudice or the policies that widen inequality, we must educate ourselves and raise our intensity. We cannot wait for politicians to play catch up and pin our hopes to the incremental change that they prefer. We cannot rely on activism at the fringes from a privileged distance. We will all need to speak up, walk the talk, exercise initiative, protest and put our bodies on the line. Yet, as the inspiring Murrawah Johnson (An Indigeous Climate Activist) said at a Sydney Peace Prize event last night, we must also be willing 'to be led'. Led by those with vision and deep ancestral knowledge, by those who have recognised and fought these struggles for so long. Led by those who have been marginalised. Led by those who lend voice to other ways of being in the world...as clearly, this is not working.
A friend and fellow activist Adebayo C Akomolafe shared words that carried deep resonance.
"Shadows are not all we think they are - dark places have stunning opportunities for unprecedented justice.'
So as devastating as this result is. I choose to raise my level of responsibility and uncover opportunities for justice. If this has been your struggle, I yearn for you to continue! If it hasn't, it is my deep hope that you join in. We need you.