The following essay was written by Lonnie Scott, Executive Director of Progress Michigan and an elected official in Ypsilanti.
It should be an easy decision.
And for many Americans, myself included, it will be. Tuesday’s choice – between a lifelong public servant and a racist, misogynistic billionaire – is as clear as it gets.
But in districts across our state, it’s still too close to call. Many remain undecided. Others will stay home or vote third party in protest. And that says more about the state of our crumbling republic than it does about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
What we’re seeing is a crisis of democracy. Americans aren’t just turning against individual political players. The whole game is being called into question.
This fall, voters are lashing out against the system that has been rigged against them and in favor of wealthy corporations – products of which include jobs being shipped overseas, kids being saddled with crushing debt, and home foreclosures. It is a system, as Black Lives Matter reminds us, in which our elected leaders are still painfully slow to address social or racial injustice but lightning-quick to bail out banks and bomb foreign lands.
People are right to be outraged. For many voters, Clinton’s candidacy has come to symbolize this system – even though Republicans bear more responsibility for pushing disastrous policies and blocking even the most basic attempts at reform that have led to the crisis we find ourselves in today.
It is in this vacuum that Donald Trump has emerged, speaking the language of the dispossessed while promising to make this country unlivable for people of color, women, and – perhaps most of all – immigrants.
“What the hell do you have to lose?” he bellows at his rallies. More disturbing than the question is the applause that follows – the noise of millions of Americans not all that different from you and me, who find themselves replying, “Nothing.”
This is a dangerous sentiment, not so much for the hopelessness it betrays as for the nihilism it is willing to embrace. Trump has become an outlet for people who believe positive reform is impossible – that the only option left is rebuilding from the ashes.
The only way for progressives to challenge this authoritarian flirtation is to address its root causes: we must work together to build the America we want to see, to fight boldly for investments in education, housing, and healthcare, particularly women’s healthcare; to press for living-wage jobs and the right to form unions; to end state violence against communities of color at home and abroad; and to rein in corporate influence at all levels of U.S. domestic and foreign policy.
It is not enough to beat Trump at the polls next week. Unless we come together to redress the justified sense of loss and rage that has exploded into the open this election season, defeating Trump and the forces he represents will be a hollow, and all too brief, victory.