Not My President.
This has never been a democracy. Obama won in a seventy million vote landslide that got him substantial majorities in both houses, and still was barely permitted to govern, in part thanks to a profoundly dysfunctional and unrepresentative Congress. Trump lost his election by two point eight million votes –basically, the population of Chicago. Having spent several years demanding to see the first Black President’s ID, he will enter the White House thanks to 46% of the voting electorate–really, three hundred and four jokers you’ve never heard of in the Electoral College. Also an assist from the secret police.
Polling shows he will take up his part-time residence in the White House as the least popular entrant in modern history, chosen by 19% of the population, but hated by broad swaths of the public that he demonized and scapegoated during the long and bizarre con that brought us here.
I will never call him President. This is not out of respect for the office, not because Putin was running interference for him, not because he is treating the job as a side gig along with his careers in reality television, real estate, and confidence tricks. It is because I do not accept the legitimacy of a political system so unresponsive to the public. Trump is a symptom. This country has never functioned as a democracy.
We live under a Constitution explicitly designed to resist majority rule and permanently enshrine slavery. Its foundational compromises have made it all but invulnerable to reform; they have left us with perverse and anti-democratic results. A person in Wyoming has four times the voting rights of a New Yorker. Senators representing a tiny fraction of the country can grind the legislature to a halt. House members can largely pick their own constituencies. They do so with even less judicial oversight now that five Supreme Court judges have helped kill the Voting Rights Act.
Apologists for the republic present a narrative of a country born with noble ideals and contradictions that were gradually resolved through the Civil War and democratic struggles. Leaving aside that we are shackled to an eighteenth century Constitution that the citizenry never ratified in the first place, this pat grade school history ignores the fact that our courts and Republican legislators have been steadily working to repeal many of the democratic gains won by all our peoples’ blood, sweat, and tears during a short and often brutal twentieth century. The union movement, the flawed, vibrant, and shared anchor of a more racially integrated, secure, and politically powerful working class, is in tatters. Six in ten of us like unions; only six in a hundred private sector workers actually has one. Our public university system, which built the middle class, is atrophying. Five justices of the Supreme Court removed the heart of the Voting Rights Act, reversing a central legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. The election that followed, the first in decades in which the worst historic bastions of white supremacy no longer needed to ask for court permission before screwing minority voters, led to brazen Republican attempts to shut them out. A five-hour wait in line before voting — that isn’t democracy. But it is America.
Our government still maintains an institutional underclass without any voting rights. Six million people–in some places, a huge fraction of the electorate–can’t vote thanks to a prison system run amok, which jails more people than the People’s Republic of China. Eleven million immigrants live in permanent limbo, without any pathway to legal status, any real say in government, even though most of the country wants to let them stay on fair terms.
Where all this has left us: one party run by the rich outright. Like literally the next Secretary of State might be the Captain Planet villain who ran Exxon, the next Secretary of State a billionaire heiress allergic to public schools. Another party chronically unable to govern, half financed by capitalists, run by a professional political class disconnected from its voters, with policy priorities more defined by donors and centrist think tanks than their actual constituents. A government literally run by the rich: like most of our Congress is millionaires, chronically in debt to a hyper rich and white donor class, with many legislators retiring into cush jobs peddling influence to megacorporations. And now, an Executive Branch run by a real estate heir telecommuting from a golden tower on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. This isn’t a democracy.
What this gets us: A tax system radically out of step with public preferences or basic sanity, in which middle class people pay more cents of each earned dollar than someone living off a zillion dollar inheritance. An economy in which a few dozen families hoard so much wealth it equals the net worth of the bottom *half* of the country — a hundred fifty million people. A financial system we can’t regulate. CEOs and owners of failing companies accepting piles of bailout money, but keeping their equity and staying rich AF. A middle class that hasn’t gotten a pay raise in ages, with dwindling retirement and health security. A huge segment of the population consigned to no-benefits, no-prospects contingent Uber McShitjobs.
None of this is inevitable. None of this is natural. This is the result of rich white people out-organizing everyone else to protect their economic interests, and using their voice in government to promote looting, misrule, structural white supremacy, xenophobia, ecological disaster, and ceaseless war. It’s the result of a generation of end-of-history anti-politics that left most of the country politically silenced and without control over its own economic destiny.
None of this is inevitable–not in a country that created some of history’s greatest experiments in popular democracy and mass mobilization. Our ancestors fought longer odds under brutal circumstances. They didn’t have the luxury of fatalism. We don’t, either. Organize and get ready to fight.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Nate Schuster is currently a full time parent, and usually an activist tenant attorney in New York. Nate thinks you should google the Democratic Socialists of America.