I recently attended an anti-Trump rally at Wright Park this past weekend. Several hundred concerned citizens gathered at the playground to peacefully protest the election of Donald Trump, as well as cabinet appointees who are staunchly conservative. The crowd contained the usual protest-attending folks: younger progressives of high school and college age, older democrats, many members of immigrant and LGBT+ backgrounds, topped off with colorful, “pussy-grabbing” related picket signs and sprinkles of literature from socialist/communist/reform groups. There was no physical violence or infighting, and the protest began as it ended: peacefully and with support aimed at those potentially at risk to Trump’s immigration and social policies. With larger protests taking place in bigger cities all across the country, one has to wonder: Will these protests spark any sort of change in the American political psyche as a whole, and will there be a new rebirth of left-leaning parties to counter modern challenges?
In order for protests to be successful, they must directly challenge the root of the problem. With the 2016 election, the “opponent” of protesters seems to be the Electoral College and demographics that mostly overlap with Republican constituents: white, working class, and (mostly) uneducated beyond secondary education or trade school. Major media outlets and politicians call out this particular section of America for its supposed racism/sexism/xenophobia — as “uneducated” whites make up the majority of Trump voters — it seems the tactic of broadly labeling your opponent and suppressing their ability to voice their counter arguments or opinions has backfired. Clinton labeling more than half the country as a “basket of deplorables” (and former Bernie sanders supporters “basement dwellers”), both left and right-leaning media outlets demonizing Trump as the “next Hitler,” and his supporters being harassed or silenced de facto for their political opinions made up the majority of commentary regarding Trump and his supporters. Perhaps this name-calling and lack of constructive discussion triggered the backlash of Republican and independent constituents that nominated and elected Trump. To them, he represented a political middle finger to those representing their disenfranchisement and provided working class America some form of political empowerment. Had there been an accurate representation of Trump supporters’ arguments — or if media commentators gave more detail to Trump’s policies — perhaps we could have constructive discussion and criticism of Trump — and perhaps the results of the election could have favored Clinton.
During the election, the Democratic Party had a potential opportunity for change, especially when Bernie Sanders ran during the presidential primaries. His sympathy toward the Black Lives Matter movement and advancements for other social causes made him stand out from other Democratic candidates. He also desired to make sharp economic reforms, including tax revisions and funding for free college. Bernie Sanders’s failure to be nominated by the Democratic National Convention was a disappointment to many who supported him — including a significant number of younger liberals — and those who wanted to see a change from the party status quo. The reluctance of this critical pool of voters and the lack of enthusiasm towards Clinton as a presidential candidate ultimately led to a considerable amount of Sanders supporters to vote for either Trump or Independent party candidates, weakening the overall support for Clinton. Trump, however, represented a change from the Republican status quo, pushing for policies on trade, immigration, Constitutional protections and LGBT involvement in a conservative party. If Democrats wish to prevent a second term for Donald Trump, they must find a candidate who represents not only change for America, but change for the party — one who can attract a wide spectrum of left-leaning constituents and regain faith in party politics. Otherwise, 2020 will be another crushing defeat by Trump.