Why "Donald Trump Is Third-Party Voters' Fault" Isn't The Right Response
I live thousands of miles away from New York City, where last night Donald Trump learned that the American people — or, more specifically, the Electoral College — had elected him president. Living abroad does not make me feel safer, nor more insulated from what took place in the early hours of Wednesday. However, it does remind me what my priorities should be. In the aftermath of Trump's victory, we must care for and check in with the marginalized folks in our communities. Tell us that you will fight for justice with us, and that your political engagement does not end on Election Day. Right now, we need to continue building leftist coalitions so we can combat Trump's decision to render the anger and hatred of white supremacists acceptable on an international stage.
After Trump was elected, a lot of liberals searched for someone to hold accountable. Rather than recognize that systems of white supremacy produced someone like Trump, however, I noticed many Democrats assigning blame to people who had voted for third-party candidates. This was reminiscent of the Bush-Gore era, when the Green Party's Ralph Nader was rather inaccurately blamed for contributing to Al Gore's loss in 2000. But some important analysis is missing here. Firstly, the majority of third-party votes actually went to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who if anything likely took votes away from Trump — not from Hillary Clinton. And secondly, people of color and other marginalized folks should not have to defend their decision to vote for a third-party candidate and against the violence faced by their communities, particularly in non-swing states.
It seems to me that marginalized people on the left who voted for third-party candidates are more immediately accessible to liberals than the white supremacists who actually elected Trump, and so they are being shamed as though Trump's election is their fault. What should actually be happening is leftist coalition-building, in which Democrats and people further to the left come up with some concrete ways to stop Trump from effecting extremely harmful changes once he takes office in January.
If you are wondering how such coalition-building can even be possible because it feels like we're powerless, take a look at the movements that need all hands on deck. The Dakota Access Pipeline needs to be stopped immediately, before someone like Trump — who once said climate change was a hoax invented by China — can make matters even worse. We need to be making every effort to stop Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in our communities. Trump may be threatening to deport undocumented folks, but the Obama administration has been doing the same thing for a long time. And do black lives really matter to you? Make that mean something. Show up to occupy public space. Take to the streets and fight against police brutality and the disproportionate mass incarceration of people of color.
The truth is that marginalized people have long understood that change is not going to come from government. Trump is threatening to shatter a lot of the progress we have made in the last several decades, but shaming people on the left for voting third-party is not going to help us build solidarity. The anger and the fear that many of us feel for ourselves, our families, our friends, and our loved ones is valid and critical, and anyone who tries to tell us otherwise cannot be permitted to silence us. Right now, the marginalized folks in our communities need your love, your support and, most importantly, your commitment to help us face whatever comes next. Hopefully, we could have expected this same solidarity and commitment to fight for justice from you even if Clinton had won.
Meanwhile, some of the people we actually need to be holding accountable are Trump and those who have willingly supported him, knowing everything he represents. Trump did not come out of nowhere. He is the product of a system that thrives on genocide and enslavement, and he is everything the Republican Party has tried to deny about itself.
White people, you are extremely responsible for Trump and his success. Every time you made a racist joke, every time you dismissed "political correctness," every time you chose to stay silent rather than listen to and work with people of color, you perpetuated the systemic violence upon which Trump's candidacy has been based. If you recognize this, start listening to people who have been systemically oppressed when we ask you to occupy space, or to hold politicians accountable, or to contribute funds to bail activists out of jail.
We have roughly two months before Trump is inaugurated, if nothing changes between now and January. I am coming from a place of love and empathy as I write this. I put very little faith in the failed bipartisan system in the U.S., and the change we seek is certainly not going to come from the American government. But I do have a lot of faith in the amazing organizers I know, who have been working hard to combat injustice long before this election and who will continue to do so long afterward.
My heart hurts recognizing how many people will live in fear knowing that half our country doesn't think we are worthy of being American, but what gives me hope is knowing that these people are in my life at all. So today, we mourn, and we take care of ourselves. And tomorrow, we will continue down the long road toward systemic change.