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Making Sense of the Donald Trump Moment: A Tyee Reader

Why? How? And now what? We collected 50 insights and ask you to share your own favourites. (Updated.)

By David Beers and Tyee Staff and Contributors 15 Nov 2016 | TheTyee.ca

David Beers is founding editor of The Tyee.

What does the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency mean? A week after the stunning results, The Tyee invites you to join our search for insights. We present here 50 articles, videos, tweets and podcasts that members of our team found particularly on point. We ask that you pick up the conversation in the comments section, providing your own thoughts and links to pieces you think are must-reads.

CALLS TO ACTION

No, We Should Not Wait and See What a Trump Administration Does. We Should Organize Our Resistance Right Now (article)

“Now, I am hearing people say that we should wait and see what a Donald Trump administration actually does before we mobilize our opposition to him. Frankly, that is the dumbest, most aloof, disconnected, privileged thing I've heard the past two years,” writes Shaun King in the New York Daily News. “If you believe we need to wait and see what Donald Trump and his team stand for, it is probably because you feel pretty strongly that you and your loved ones will not be targets of his administration or their policies. With few exceptions, the only people I see encouraging Americans to give Donald Trump a chance before they are outraged are white heterosexuals. Everybody else is panicking.”

An Open Letter to Our Nation from 100 Women of Colour Leaders (statement)

“As women of color, as leaders, we will build and lead us on a path forward. We must work together to hold civic, administrative and corporate decision makers accountable. To reach our full potential as people, and as a nation, this democracy must be owned by all of us, for all of us. We pledge our unity and determination to be ready, determined and united behind a vision and plan of action to become a nation where we can all live with dignity, care for our loved ones and the land, and thrive in freedom from all forms of inequality. We can only get there, together. We invite you to journey with us.”

If Donald Trump Implements His Proposed Policies, We’ll See Him in Court (statement)

The American Civil Liberties Union lays down the gauntlet: “These proposals are not simply un-American and wrong-headed, they are unlawful and unconstitutional. They violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and 14th Amendments. If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step.”

Autocracy: Rules for Survival (article)

Pay no heed to those, including Hillary Clinton, who have soothingly proposed a wait-and-see approach to Trump’s presidency. The autocrat has revealed his intentions. Resistance, not appeasement, is the order of the day. “Be outraged” and “Don’t make compromises” are among Masha Gessen’s urgings in the New York Review of Books.

‘The Left Did This’ (video)

Profanely angry rant by British commentator Jonathan Pie instructs progressives to stop writing off their opponents as racists or sexists and instead seek them out, engage, and make powerful left-wing arguments that prove you care about tackling corruption and fixing an economy that doesn’t work for all. Backing Clinton sent the opposite message and Trump capitalized.

What This Means, How This Happened, What to Do Now (article)

Nathan J. Robinson in Current Affairs: “Progressives are going to have to fight for their values. They are going to have to fight hard. But they are also going to have to fight differently. The left will be doomed if it does not seriously rethink its practices. We’ve just lost every branch of government, and watched the presidency be given to a misogynistic sociopathic fraudster. Clearly we have gone wrong somewhere.

“The most fundamental part of a new plan is this: do not do the same damn thing all over again and expect different results. We need a new kind of left politics. We need something that has what Obama had: inspiration, hope. It was joked that Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan was “No you can’t.” That’s no good. Trump inspires people. He may inspire people by appealing to their nastiest, most inhuman and unneighbourly instincts. But he inspires them. We have to have an agenda that gets people excited.”

Million Women March Being Planned for January 21, 2017 in DC (article)

Slating their protest for the day after admitted sexual predator Trump is inaugurated, organizers invite “ALL women, femme, trans, gender non-conforming and feminist others” to march through the U.S. capital.

What Would Bernie Sanders Do? (video)

Sanders told CNN he will “work with President Trump” by demanding he keep his promises to stop tax evasion, build infrastructure, and champion U.S. workers, but “vigorously oppose” his racist, sexist appeals. “People are angry, they have right to be. We have got to channel that anger against the people who caused the decline of the middle class and so many living in poverty, not take it out on our neighbours.”

The Democrats Are Leaderless. That Doesn’t Have to Be a Bad Thing (article)

Jim Newell in Slate: “The silver lining of this Democratic crap-storm [is] that, as a leaderless party, it’s free now to debate what it wants to be in the post–financial crisis era just as Republicans did after 2008... Should the Democratic Party seek to be the ‘sane’ party that offers modifications to liberal capitalism, or should there be – say – a ‘political revolution’? Should Democrats try to inch the ball forward on policy goals in the existing paradigm or eschew immediate gains to blow up that paradigm altogether? The fight is going to resume now, and how. The arguments of the primary are going to look like an Up With People halftime show compared with what’s about to go down. It’s going to be messy. People are going to get so pissed. It’s going to be embarrassing. It’s going to be great.”

Our Job Now Is to Protect Canada (article)

“Canada must remain a beacon of hope as one of the strongest democracies in the world. Through the Canadian Human Rights Act, we have the power to keep Canada moderate, inclusive and sane. We must embrace and vigorously defend a Constitution that promotes peace, tolerance and good governance,” urges National Observer editor Linda Solomon Wood.

UNDERSTANDING VOTER ANGER

Five Reasons Trump Will Win (article)

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore warned of a “Rust Belt Brexit” back in July, prognosticating Trump’s victory for these reasons: The “broken, depressed, struggling” Midwest economy; “The last stand of the angry white man;” Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity; the “depressed” Sanders supporter who votes Hillary but won’t bring “five friends” to the do the same; and the peeved voter who uses Trump as “a good practical joke on a sick political system.”

Think Trump’s Impossible? I Have Two Words for You: Rob Ford (article)

At the end of August, The Tyee’s Mitchell Anderson drew dark parallels with the mood and nature of Rob Ford’s supporters. “The success of Trump and Ford are similar in that they rely on an ongoing media circus, incomparable name recognition and an alienated electorate.” 

Will Trump, the First Anti-Hero Presidential Candidate, Win or ‘Die Hard’? (article)

On election eve, Tyee columnist Bill Tieleman refused to rule out a Trump win, citing the populist appeal of the Clint Eastwood/Bruce Willis “anti-hero” who blows away the bad guy while giving the finger to authority.

How Half of America Lost Its F**king Mind (article)

Hollywood was grist, too, for Cracked writer David Wong, a farm country kid who says he would have voted Trump had he still lived there. Mixing movie clips with a national voter map that is overwhelmingly Trump red except for fringes of urban blue, he argues rural Americans are fed up with smug city-dwellers who live where all the jobs are being created and produce trends that appall, even ridicule, heartlanders.

A Divided US: Sociologist Arlie Hochschild on the 2016 Presidential Election (interview)

Hochschild spent five years in Louisiana speaking with people she calls in her book title Strangers in Their Own Land. They “felt marginalized. They were religious in a secularizing state. They were white in an increasingly Brown state. They were traditional in an increasingly liberal state. Most of all, they felt that the economic arrow that hit Black [people (and continues to do so)] is going to hit them -- especially blue-collar whites -- now, too.” As one Tea Party member told her: “Trump seems mean and he’s always criticizing and shaming people and makes fun of a disabled reporter. Our Lord Jesus tells us not to do that. I don’t like that about Trump. But nobody else is speaking to my issues.”

The Democrats’ Deadly Error (article)

From the New York Times, centre of the U.S. much-decried east coast liberal bubble, came this election night acknowledgement by op-ed contributor Sarah Jaffe: “The political and pundit class” missed what an exit poll showed: Big majorities saying “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful” and “traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me.”

I’m a Coastal Elite from the Midwest: The Real Bubble is Rural America (article)

Roll Call writer Patrick Thornton pricks a different bubble. “We, as a culture, have to stop infantilizing and deifying rural and white working-class Americans. Their experience is not more of a real American experience than anyone else’s, but when we say that it is, we give people a pass from seeing and understanding more of their country.

“More Americans need to see more of the United States. They need to shake hands with a Muslim, or talk soccer with a middle aged lesbian, or attend a lecture by a female business executive.”

Taking Trump Voters’ Concerns Seriously Means Listening to What They are Actually Saying (article)

At Vox in mid-October, Dylan Matthews dismissed the idea that Trump supporters were economically crushed, citing studies showing they were more likely to be firmly middle-class and employed, and to not be hard hit by manufacturing declines. What they had in common was a tendency to think unfavourably of blacks and other minorities.

The Secret Trump Voter (podcast)

This Reveal podcast gets the “secret Trump voter” in their own words, including white conservatives who sat out the 2012 election. Hear them explain why they resonated to Trump not as racist, misogynist or con man, but a political outsider who they quietly cheered on.

‘Save Your Compassion for the People Trump Is Going to Hurt’ (tweet)

Trump supporters “don’t need your common ground” liberals are advised by skullsinthestars on Twitter. “They already got what they want.”

The Election: Of Hate, Grief, and a New Story (article)

Writer and speaker Charles Eisenstein posits that hate is “a bodyguard for grief” and summons, instead, empathy for a populace caught “between stories” as the old order collapses. “The blame-the-racists (the fools, the yokels.) narrative generates a clear demarcation between good (us) and evil (them), but it does violence to the truth. It also obscures an important root of racism - anger displaced away from an oppressive system and its elites and onto other victims of that system. Finally, it employs the same dehumanization of the other that is the essence of racism and the precondition for war. Such is the cost of preserving a dying story. That is one reason why paroxysms of violence so often accompany a culture-defining story's demise.”

‘Civic ignorance’: Supreme Court Justice Souter’s prescient diagnosis (video)

Four years ago, retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter eerily fretted too many Americans were so ill-informed they did not understand why government was failing them and who to blame or elect to fix it. “What I worry about is that when problems are not addressed, people will not know who is responsible. And when the problems get bad enough, as they might do, for example, with another serious terrorist attack, as they might do with another financial meltdown, some one person will come forward and say, ‘Give me total power and I will solve this problem.’”

BREAKING DOWN THE ELECTION RESULTS

The 13 Most Amazing Things in the 2016 Election Exit Poll (article)

Among those listed by the Washington Post: Trump didn’t win among new voters, but pulled the white vote by a record margin. Neither women nor Latino voters surged for the Democrats. Trump thrived on voters with lower education and attracted more evangelicals than his Mormon predecessor Romney.

Election 2016: Exit Polls (interactive data)

The raw data, via the New York Times.

What a Difference Two Percentage Points Make (article)

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight noted on election night that had just one out of 100 voters gone for Clinton instead of Trump, she would have won Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida, racking up a 307 to 231 victory in the electoral college and basking in congratulations instead of anguished cries of how could this happen?

WHO GETS THE BLAME?

The Media Created Donald Trump and Now He Can’t Be Stopped (article)

“Trump being a jerk is a feature of his candidacy, not a bug -- and we just can’t get enough,” confessed Paul Waldman in The Week back in July of 2015.

Under Trump’s Spell, Conservative Thinkers Have Stumbled into Crude Power-worship (article)

Writing in his former National Post pages, Walrus editor Jonathan Kay calls out two of the paper’s editors and other “mentors” for giving a lie to lofty intellectual principles when Trump offered a sniff of power at any price.

Who Broke Politics? (article)

Blame Republicans leaders (not to be confused with conservative thinkers), writes Paul Krugman in the New York Times, echoing many others such as here and here. Those GOP leaders “have spent the past couple of decades... trashing democratic norms in pursuit of economic benefits for their donor class.”

White Won (article)

Blame racism endemic to U.S. culture, writes Slate’s Jamelle Bouie. “Fifty years after the black freedom movement forced the United States to honor its ideals, at least on paper, it’s clear this was premature. Like clockwork, white Americans embraced a man who promised a kind of supremacy. We haven’t left our long cycle of progress and backlash.”

Never Underestimate How Much America Hates Women (article)

Blame sexism. “It all boils down to: Misogynists are fine by Americans. Women in power are not,” writes Nona Willis Aronowitz in Fusion.

Panel: What Does the US Election Result Say about Misogyny? (article)

“We can run for president but we’ll be indulged in the endeavour, not actively supported. We can rack up decades of experience and have it trivialized in seconds. We can speak up about sexual assault and then see our alleged assailant elected into the highest office in the country,” says Arwa Mahdawi, among feminist voices collected in the Guardian. She adds: “Ah, but we also need to be careful not to frame Trump’s victory as a case of men versus women. Exit polls show that the majority of white women voted for Trump. It seems that upholding white privilege is a bigger priority for many women in America than protecting legislation that gives them control over their own bodies.”

Samantha Bee Slams White Women after Donald Trump’s Win (video)

“A majority of white women, faced with the choice between the first female president and a vial of weaponized testosterone, said, ‘I’ll take Option B. I just don’t like her.’ Hope you got your sticker, ladies. Way to lean out.”

Why Trump Won and Why Clinton Lost (article)

Blame self-serving, out of touch elites, writes Robert Parry for Common Dreams, echoing many others.

Hillary Clinton’s Expectations, and Her Ultimate Campaign Missteps (article)

File this and many, many blistering others under the heading of blame Hillary Clinton and her misguided campaign strategists.

Clinton Blames FBI’s Comey for Her Defeat in Call with Donors (article)

Clinton herself, while admitting weaknesses in her campaign, said she’d have won if not for FBI Director James Comey’s last minute resurrection, then burial, of his agency’s investigation into her handling of classified emails.

LIFE UNDER TRUMP

Day One in Trump’s America (article)

In Medium, Sean O’Kane begins the grim job of documenting results of the “hatred that Trump’s campaign has fomented.”

For many marginalized people, this spike in distress you feel this morning is what we feel EVERY morning (Twitter essay)

That’s part of a tweeted series by 5’7 Black Male @absurdist words on the opportunity Trump provides to expose racism and build empathy. It starts here:

Here is Donald Trump’s Plan for His First 100 Days (speech)

Wiping out the Environmental Protection Agency and Obamacare are just the start. Trump’s own words, via Vox.

What Will President Trump Do First? (article)

The BBC reality checks Trump’s ability to pull off all he has pledged to do, citing legal, procedural and political roadblocks he will face. A follow-up BBC piece is here.

China Just Won the US Election (article)

Trump, writes James Palmer in Foreign Policy, is “exactly the kind of businessman who is most easily taken in by China — credulous, focused on the externalities of wealth, and massively susceptible to flattery. A single trip, with Chinese laying on the charm, could leave him as fond of China’s strongmen as he is of Russia’s Putin.”

Thoughts on President Trump (article)


In a similar vein, Canadian philosopher Joseph Heath senses Trump’s victory “was one of those moments, like the fall of the Berlin Wall, that alters the trajectory of civilization. That’s because the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency is deeply discrediting to Western-style democracy. In fact, I think the big winner, globally, from Tuesday’s election, is Chinese-style authoritarianism. And so, in the same way that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the final nail in the coffin of communism, Trump’s election represents a turning point, in what will become a general move away from liberal democracy...

The fact that people all around the world view Trump as “an incompetent clown,” Heath says, “makes it impossible to pressure China to democratize.”

Take climate change: “Europe is a fractious, self-absorbed mess, and in any case is not in a position to do much more on the climate file. The United States is suffering from catastrophic governance failure, and its leadership is in complete denial about the problem. So where do people look to for leadership? All of it naturally passes to China. More generally, it starts to look like the future of humanity lies with China. And, depressingly, it starts to look as though China’s political system – subject to certain limited governance reforms – is the one better able to guarantee stability and prosperity.”

The Longer Arc: How We Win on Climate and Energy (article)

A hopeful scenario noting that Trump can’t overturn the laws of physics, stop the surge in green tech or, by leading one country, unravel the hard-won global consensus building around what must be done to stop climate catastrophe. “2016 is not 1980,” Mitchell Beer writes in Energy Mix.

Why Trump-Sanders Phenomenon Signals an Oligarchy on the Brink of a Civilization Ending Collapse (article)

A much, much less hopeful scenario from Sally Goerner, who reviews, in Evonomics, the rises and falls of societies over the centuries and reads epic doom in the 2016 election results.

Why There Is Trump (article)

“It’s over! The entire model our societies have been based on for at least as long as we ourselves have lived, is over! That’s why there’s Trump,” posts economist Raul Ilargi Meijer in The Automatic Earth. “There is no growth. There hasn’t been any real growth for years. All there is left are empty hollow sunshiny S&P stock market numbers propped up with ultra cheap debt and buybacks, and employment figures that hide untold millions hiding from the labor force. And most of all there’s debt, public as well as private, that has served to keep an illusion of growth alive and now increasingly no longer can.”

The End of Growth and the Rise of Trump (article)

The Tyee’s Andrew Nikiforuk read Trump as a symptom of a farther reaching story – the end of easy energy and the failure of globalization to deliver. “Trump promised to return America greatness but hasn’t a hope of doing so, because the era of growth has died.”

How Trump Conned America (article)

Beware the disaffected Trump voter four years on, writes Seth Stevenson who covered Trump’s campaign and election night for Slate.

“As Trump took the stage to bask in his victory, I felt something else, too. Pity for the small-town Trumpists who thought they voted for one of their own but elected a man who mingles solely with rich assholes. Pity for the plutocrat-haters who’ve now ensured sweeping deregulation of financial institutions. Pity for the salt-of-the-earthers who are sick of Washington corruption yet elected a man who will surely preside over the most corrupt administration imaginable. Pity for all those excited rallygoers duped by a con man — an elite in sheep’s clothing.”

Glenn Beck Tries out Decency (article)

Crisis can be transformative. Exhibit A: Glenn Beck talking to The New Yorker. “What’s most tragic about this is us. We have, as a culture, embraced the bad guys. I love Tony Soprano. But, when a Tony Soprano shows up in your life, you don’t love him so much.” And: “We’ve made everything into a game show, and now we’re reaping the consequences of it.” 

An American Tragedy (article)

The New Yorker’s editor David Remnick, unflinching in his horror at Trump’s election, finished by saying “despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals — that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do.”

Farewell, America (article)

“America died on Nov. 8, 2016, not with a bang or a whimper, but at its own hand via electoral suicide” concludes Neal Gabler at BillMoyers.com. “We the people chose a man who has shredded our values, our morals, our compassion, our tolerance, our decency, our sense of common purpose, our very identity — all the things that, however tenuously, made a nation out of a country. Whatever place we now live in is not the same place it was on Nov. 7. No matter how the rest of the world looked at us on Nov. 7, they will now look at us differently. We are likely to be a pariah country. And we are lost for it.” 

While the Washington Post coyly offered this:

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