Rebuilding the American Dream

What Donald Trump means means for forging a better, more inclusive America.

Sasha Abramsky is a Davis-based writer.

With Donald Trump’s electoral college victory, for the second time in 16 years we’ve seen the country handed over to a far-right government, not because of the will of the people but because of quirks in the system that privilege smaller, more rural, more white states over larger, more diverse, more urban states.

We know the consequences that followed George W. Bush’s rise to the presidency in 2000. And now, in 2016, with another incoming administration voted for by fewer people than those who voted for the defeated Democratic candidate, we have a fairly good idea of what’s coming our way again: a vastly authoritarian, racially and religiously bigoted project, a grab-bag of corporate tax giveaways, a dismantling of environmental regulations, a gross, crude, gloating disrespect for the rule of law and for the very concepts of universal human rights.

Yes, we in the majority who voted against this insane project have every right to be angry; for all of our futures, our dignity, our sense of right and wrong, our safety and the safety of our children growing up in a world—much of which has been declared to be the enemy by Donald Trump.

America is a great dream—rarely lived up to, but for centuries aspired to. It is the dream of the Enlightenment. And now it’s a dream that is, before our eyes, fragmenting, with the election of a reality TV star who glories in the language and the actions of violence, who revels in the image of the neofascist strong man, who turns crowds into mobs, and who lies and mocks and ridicules his way to power.

How do we remain any sort of a cultural or political or moral standard for the world when the KKK celebrates following a result in which its members now feel that, after eight years in which the presidency was held by an African-American, the country has been reclaimed for whites?

School students in Detroit chanted, “Build that wall” at crying Latino students. Vile racist graffiti referring to Trump’s victory has been reported in Philadelphia, Durham and many other cities. Trump will take power and within hours will have set about vandalizing President Barack Obama’s legacy: consciously trashing all of his signature accomplishments—from healthcare reform through to climate change accords and domestic environmental regulations; from progressive tax changes through to criminal justice reforms. The intent of this will be less about specific policy changes and more about erasing all durable achievements carved into the American policy landscape by the country’s first African-American leader. Trump and his supporters will make every effort possible to render Obama’s long-term legacy so insignificant that, for all intents and purposes, they will have scrubbed him from the national story.

The response of the majority of Americans who did not vote for Trump, who do not support this racial narrative and who do not believe in a race-based vision of 21st century America has to be “No.” Not in our name. Never in our name. We won’t live in that reimagined America.

I, for one, know where I live. I live in California. And it is part of a bigger place, a gorgeous polyglot country that stretches from the Mexican border in the south, to the Canadian border in the north. It contains cities, such as Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, as ethnically, culturally and spiritually diverse as any on earth.

It boasts many of the best universities in the world. It hosts the world’s pre-eminent technology hubs. It is an innovative place that is continually reinventing itself. And it is a place that welcomes immigrants into its heart.

It is also a region that proudly embraces peoples, cuisines, languages, religions from across the globe. Its politicians and electorates have enacted some of the most progressive environmental policies on earth; they have made a good-faith effort to put universal healthcare into place; they have raised the minimum wage, moved to end the insane drug wars, invested in early education programs, in public transit systems, in nutritional programs for the poor.

The American Dream may have been spat on by the Trumpian brigades but in the long run the people—not just white and not just conservative, but all people, from all backgrounds—will bend that arc of history back towards progress and justice, fairness and human dignity. We will win because our vision is bigger and better than the narrow one about to be inflicted on the world.