Stunned by Clinton Loss, the Left Braces for President Trump
After months of envisioning a political struggle to pull a moderate Clinton administration to the left, American liberals are now faced with the jarring reality of a Donald Trump presidency emboldened by a Republican Congress.
Instead of pushing for Hillary Clinton to further extend immigrant protections, activists are bracing for the possibility of mass deportations and a border wall. Instead of lobbying the new administration for a health care public option--a government-funded competitor to private insurance--progressives are steeling themselves for Trump's vow to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
On nearly every major issue facing the country--from regulating Wall Street to fighting climate change to reforming the criminal justice system--the left wing of the Democratic party now faces a roadblock.
“There’s going to be a huge debate inside the party,” said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. “The progressive wing of the party can point to this loss and say ‘We told you so, we should have gotten more liberal.’”
Elected Democrats have made a point of offering their support to the president-elect, despite their disappointment. “President-Elect Trump promised to rebuild our economy for working people, and I offer to put aside our differences and work with him on that task,” Senator Elizabeth Warren said Wednesday in a statement.
Senator Jeff Merkley said the election results show that Americans are “disgusted” by a political system that only benefits the wealthy. “This election was a revolt against an economy and a political system that have left too many people feeling left out and worried for the future,” Merkley said in a statement.
After the election was called for Trump, progressive groups argued that the results showed the country had rejected Clinton because she was part of the political establishment.
“Progressives warned repeatedly that Republicans could outflank Democrats on trade, jobs, Wall Street, and corporate greed--and they did,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “This race should not have been so close, and Democrats will lose in the future--over and over--if they don't go through a serious ideological shift and follow Elizabeth Warren’s lead--fighting against the rigged economy in a truly authentic and real way.
Democracy for America, a progressive group that backed Sanders in the primary and Clinton in the general election, called the results a nightmare for the country.
“We are more convinced than ever that our country needs a massive, multi-racial, multi-generational progressive political revolution led by women and people of color that is not beholden to the broken political establishment that brought us to this moment,” the group said in a statement.
Our Revolution, the organization inspired by Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, said in a statement that “those of us who want a more equitable and inclusive America need to chart a new course that represents the needs of middle income and working families.”
For issue-based reform groups, the question now is how to achieve their goals without the help of the federal government.
For climate change activists, that means working around the federal government as Trump has vowed to roll back emission regulations put in place by President Obama.
“We need the rest of the world to charge ahead and look beyond the White House to partner with civil society, businesses, and local governments who are still committed to climate action,” May Boeve, the executive director of climate change group 350.org, said in a statement.
The election's results place a particular hurdle on immigration reform advocates. Trump has called for building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, a dramatic rise in deportations, and ending birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants. He has also said he will rescind at least some of President Obama's executive orders, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which grants work permits to people, known as DREAMers, brought into the country illegally as children.
“Over the coming weeks, our families and community members will need to tap into the incredible strength that brought us to this country and which we use to survive,” said Cristina Jimenez, the executive director and co-founder of United We Dream, and immigrant-youth group.
Despite what few in the progressive movement would portray as anything but a dramatic setback, many on the left say they are ready to keep fighting.
“We planned a strategy if Hillary Clinton won and we planned a strategy if Donald Trump won,” said Kica Matos, the director of immigrant rights and racial justice at the Center for Community Change. “We are ready to really put together advanced, fierce forms of resistance to defend our immigrant families and to make sure his anti-immigrant agenda does not materialized in the way that he's threatened.”