The night before the election, I ran into a friend on the street. I was upset because I had tried to organize a phone bank to which only three guests had showed up. People were either tired, or busy, or didn’t respond. My friend had just returned from canvassing with her brother in Pennsylvania, where she had been going throughout the fall. The head of the local Hillary headquarters had told them that they were the only young people who had been showing up regularly to knock on doors. Why weren’t more people scared of a Trump presidency? she wondered. Maybe because FiveThirtyEight told them it was unlikely. Yesterday, Trump won the state by 68,000 votes.
I’m seeing calls this morning to mobilize. “Don’t mourn, organize.” “When do we join the resistance?” David Remnick wrote a piece, already widely shared by the sleepless, warning against the normalization of Trump’s ideas and his hatred. But that normalization has already happened. To take only one example from a long and nauseating list: at the beginning of the year, attacks on protestors at his rallies seemed widely reported, then they stopped becoming shocking or even newsworthy. The last thing I read before I voted on Tuesday was a Facebook post about a twelve-year-old with cerebral palsy. He had wanted to protest against Trump’s treatment of the disabled. When he held up a Clinton sign at a Trump rally, Trump supporters lunged at his wheelchair and attacked his mother. “Grab her pussy,” they said. Pundits have already been referring to Trump as the “change candidate.”
We’ve seen tremendous and powerful activism in the past few years: Occupy, Black Lives Matter, the DREAMers, and the movements for marriage equality. But when I think of all the setbacks to which most have offered little resistance—the harassment of Muslim communities, the growth of the NSA, the retrenchment of abortion rights and the criminalization of miscarriages, the attacks on trans people, the assaults on unions across the country, American bombing in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Yemen, the weakening of protections on the freedom of the press, 2.5 million people deported under Obama (nearly 25 percent more than under his predecessor), mass incarceration and the killing of black people by the police, the steady and undeniable destruction of the planet—it’s hard for me to hope that the Trump presidency and its horrors will mobilize Americans enough. But it must.
Madeleine Schwartz is an editor at large at Dissent.
This is part of a series of responses to the election results we will be posting throughout the day.