Why and how to prepare for a President Trump

The now all-but-guaranteed Republican presidential nominee is Donald Trump.

This is a man running a race like no other, routinely resorting to crude caricatures of his political opponents and calls for violence against protesters. This is a man the liberal media — insofar as an echo chamber run by five multibillion dollar corporations can be “liberal” — has dismissed, disparaged and outright mocked since before his candidacy began. This is a man seemingly unfazed by this treatment, who in fact uses it as fuel to stoke the fire of his campaign.

This is a man who is one recession away from being the next President of the United States.

Some of the more self-assured voices on the left and center-right, content to dismiss Trump voters as a particularly vocal but ultimately insignificant faction of bigots and trolls within the Republican Party, might disagree with this claim. Hillary Clinton’s fluctuating margin of victory over Trump in national polls is cited as often as Bernie Sanders’ thirteen point hypothetical lead goes ignored. If the election were held today, pundits claim, Clinton would soundly defeat Trump.

Of course, they qualify, unless she doesn’t.

The road to November is long and, as Trump’s chaotic campaign has demonstrated, utterly unpredictable. To speak about the future political inclinations of millions of people with any degree of certainty is an exercise in futility made the norm by the rhetorical grandstanding and personal interests inherent to a corporate media environment. Outlined here is not a prediction so much as a possibility — one educated Americans would do well to consider rather than resting on their laurels in wry condemnation of Trump as they have been all too eager to thus far.

A Clinton-Trump matchup in the general election is historic for multiple reasons, foremost among them the unprecedented unlikability of both candidates. But while Trump remains the more unlikable of the two, the numbers are steadily increasing in his favor as the Republican establishment myopically rallies behind his campaign. Clinton’s unfavorable ratings, on the other hand, have remained largely consistent since the beginning of April. Her popularity is largely concentrated among self-identified Democrats while the Trump campaign has relied mostly on support from right-leaning independents (independents of all sorts comprise nearly forty percent of the electorate). So too has the Sanders campaign drawn from this pool of supposedly unaffiliated citizens — who in reality harbor partisan stances but abhor the associated labels — as evidenced by the tremendous success of the senator from Vermont in open primaries. Though the Democratic elite are admonishing Sanders supporters to line up behind Clinton, the brief foray of these independent voters into the political process may very well begin and end with the Sanders campaign, writes Joshua Holland in The Nation, as independent voters are “more likely to just stay home in November” — evidenced by the much-maligned “Bernie or Bust” movement which threatens to rob Clinton of the presidency she has long considered inevitable.

Though the anti-establishment parallels of the two campaigns are striking, Sanders voters and Trump voters differ dramatically in the tenor of their aspirations. The Sanders campaign — and progressive ideology in general — has its allure in the hope of its promised future. Reactionaries throughout history, among whom Trump and his supporters are the most vivid example in recent years, operate on a different emotion: fear. The longing for a nonexistent past embodied in slogans emblazoned on hats and T-shirts — “Make America Great Again” — leaves unspoken the foundational premise of Trump’s appeal, a perceived loss of privilege seen not as the erosion of an oppressive status quo but rather as an abandonment of the way things were in a falsely idealized golden age. In fighting to regain this privilege, a sizable segment of white America has abandoned all pretense of civility and has chosen a crass demagogue as their savior.

Having ignored Sun Tzu’s exhortation to never back one’s enemy into a corner, the left may very well have won its battles for justice only to lose the social war. The same government credited by liberals for recent concessions to racial and LGBT equality is now poised to become a tool for oppression more powerful than ever before and with immense grassroots support for this effort, black and brown and gay and trans Americans stand to wake up the morning after Election Day in a country hostile to their very existence. Having grown content that the government which granted them their rights would never again take them away, these various identity groups now stand to be deprived of their liberty by a demagogue dependent on a white Christian base for his power, a base which sees minority gains as their losses. Utter disregard for the rule of law is regarded not an electoral liability or a step towards fascism but rather as evidence of Trump’s unique capacity to reverse the degradation of their once-great nation.

None can deny the overtly racist components of Trump’s platform, as the candidate has explicitly called for a ban on all Muslim immigration and the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants. As many from across the political spectrum have acknowledged, the logistical demands of this latter policy would require a full-fledged police state to efficiently arrest, detain, and deport over eleven million undesirable citizens. Working hand-in-hand with the armed agents of the state enforcing this racial purge would be the more vehement of Trump’s supporters — anyone who doubts this need only examine the spontaneous aggression Trump has encouraged at his rallies. Just as Israeli violence towards Palestinians routinely goes unpunished by a right-wing Zionist administration, so too would crimes against Muslims and Mexicans be ignored by a Trump government. To presume such a program of state and civilian violence against racial and religious minorities could not happen in America is to maintain a naive view of the power of fear and hatred when coupled with the massive security apparatus of the United States government.

Protest, via Wikimedia Commons

Protest, via Wikimedia Commons

Let it not be written that we watched with folded arms as our fellow human beings were stripped of their liberty. Let it not be said that Americans stood slack-jawed as their nation descended into totalitarianism. The duty of every citizen motivated by liberty and justice when confronted by a fascist threat is twofold. First, we must openly protest the actions of the regime. Given the would-be despot’s thin-skinned nature and tendency towards machismo, protesters who today take to the streets for largely neutered rallies would tomorrow find themselves at a scene more resembling the frontline of a battlefield. Protesters must be ready to face harassment, detention, arrest and police violence in response to their agitation. Those unmotivated by mass protest or afraid of the violence that is likely to ensue can make their voices heard by disrupting — in Black Lives Matter fashion — the day-to-day activities of a society content to allow such tyranny. By blocking highways, by shutting down malls, by interrupting campaign speeches and legislative assemblies, protesters can throw a wrench in the business-as-usual mentality of the masses and use their inevitable incarceration as a wake-up call for their families and communities: Knowing full well what happens when you raise your voice in Trump’s America, still we must resist.

The second, more sacred duty of those who resist is to defend the oppressed. This will have to be done in clandestine fashion, adapting tactics not seen in America since the days of the Underground Railroad. Surveilling immigration agents and other law enforcement officials to preempt the arrest of undocumented citizens and fellow dissidents, hatching schemes to free those imprisoned in mass detention facilities, providing shelter and passage to safety from looming danger — these tasks would blatantly violate the laws that govern humanity in service of the higher law which defines humanity. In bringing themselves into conflict with both the state and its populist Redhat paramilitary, the perpetrators of these crimes will require the means to protect themselves and others. This demands the utmost discretion — encryption of online communication, thorough vetting of all associates, non-hierarchical organizations and the careful division of tasks — as well as the right to bear arms enshrined by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. When physical security can be arbitrarily granted and denied by the state, it falls on the people to defend collective liberty by any means necessary.

This is obviously a nightmare scenario. In all likelihood, Trump may never set foot in the Oval Office. But the story of the Trump candidacy has been a series of improbabilities made manifest despite universal derision and disbelief. Simply put, few alive have seen anything like this before, and the writers and talking heads and politicians are among the least qualified to consider possibilities outside the bounds of the liberal democratic system they represent. It is abundantly clear that, in its role as arbiter of informed democracy, our media has failed us. In its self-assigned responsibility for a just and equitable peace, our government has failed us. And we have failed ourselves in our readiness to cede this responsibility, in the complacency with which we have put the burden of our freedom into the hands of uncaring bureaucracies and corporations interested only in preserving their own power.

We must prepare today if we are to avoid a tomorrow we cannot abide. Let it not be written that we walked self-assured and smiling into the jaws of defeat. Let it not be said that we were caught unaware as an impossible nightmare became an inescapable reality.

Raghav Sharma is a writer, filmmaker, and political activist studying at the University of Pittsburgh. He writes on electoral and campaign finance issues, foreign policy, and economic affairs.

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