What Comes After Trump?

Now that we’re about nine weeks away from the general election, it’s time to start considering what comes next. More likely than not, Hillary Clinton will be elected president, along with many Democrats. The election will likely confirm the status quo, with little immediate shift in power between both parties. But I wonder how the media and the rest of us pivot post-Trump. I fear we’ve become too used to politics as a kind of grotesque theater of perpetual outrage, and not as an important outlet for debating and solving problems. Every Trump tweet or dumb comment takes attention away from serious issues. Clinton may have detailed policy plans, but if her opponent has no interest in debating her on the merits – only calling for her arrest and promoting conspiracy theories – then how can average Americans make informed choices based on anything other than disgust? She may be elected by 10 points and will still be viewed as illegitimate by tens of millions of people. Once elected, Clinton will struggle to address real issues, like poverty and wage stagnation, because whether her policy ideas are good or bad, the anger-industrial complex is too deeply invested in their failure.

Similarly, I’m worried we’ll be dealing with the consequences of reduced civility and sensitivity for a long time, particularly as it relates to women, people of color, people with disabilities, and toward middle and lower class whites that liberals scoff at and who Trump resonated with. He’s made liberals more likely to write off all Trump supporters as bigots, when as Arlie Russell Hochschild’s incredible reporting shows, their narrative of unfairness must be reckoned with. Further, Trump has empowered people who view all Muslims as terrorists, Mexicans as rapists, blacks as criminals, who despise women, especially the successful ones. A nation where former Imperial Wizard of the KKK, David Duke, feels comfortable running for senate again is a weaker, more dangerous one. While not in every instance but always for Trump and his ilk, condemning political correctness has been about preserving their power to dehumanize people who aren’t them. I envision a country that gradually removes the structural barriers for disadvantaged groups to participate economically and politically, only for them to be discouraged by barrages of personal attacks.

Beyond that, I worry that we will start to think and act in groups at a dangerous level. Trump has encouraged whites to view only themselves as “real Americans” and view prosperity as entirely zero-sum. We’re in trouble when Americans stop believing their success is mutually dependent.

What gives me hope is that my generation, for the most part, doesn’t buy this crap. While we have grown up profoundly segregated by race, class, and even politics, we are also incredibly diverse, educated, and liberal. We won’t put up with people like Trump and the alt-right; a recent Pew poll shows that 76% of millennials say “immigrants strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents. I won’t overstate our increased racial tolerance; the General Social Survey conducted by NORC found that white millennials are only slightly less racist than their parents. But millennials are only 55% white, those under 18 are 51.5% white, and those under five are minority white. I look forward to the day when there is no majority ethnicity or race in this country; perhaps, then, we’ll find something better that unites us.

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The #BernieorBust Mentality Is Destructive and Pointless

As a Democrat, I’ve been reluctant to support either Clinton or Sanders: I’ve admired both of them but find them deeply flawed. They represent divergent views of political change and reflect my own conflicting beliefs about the political process. That said, I’m prepared to support either as the nominee, because they’re both committed to improving the lives of Americans through building a more equitable, inclusive, and just country.

It’s unnerving to see diehard Sanders supporters saying they would never vote for Clinton. Doing so would not only threaten the nation (and the world) with a bigoted, misogynistic, and proudly ignorant conman, but it would completely destroy the revolution they claim to care so much about.

My fellow liberals, no matter how much you hate Clinton, she still has to listen to you. When she needs to build support for a bill on paid maternity leave or an executive action on immigration, she will look to you. Your support will be yours to give or withhold. Her agenda won’t fully satisfy you. Nor should it. But it will be shaped, in large part, by your conception of the world. Clinton will attempt to address poverty, health care costs and disparities, climate change, and women’s equality because she is a Democrat, and these are the things Democratic voters care about. Any Democrat elected to the White House would face intense pressure from their base to solve these problems. Even if you think Clinton is a deceptive cretin or a corporate puppet, no politician makes it this far by ignoring their party.

Voting for Clinton means you get to be heard. Interest groups advocating for reproductive rights, consumer protection, and the poor will have more influence in a Clinton administration. Even if Clinton doesn’t give full-throated support for a $15 minimum wage or universal health care on Day One, you can successfully pressure her, like any Democratic president. For example, last month, President Obama announced his support for expanding Social Security benefits, after years of supporting cuts as part of a “Grand Bargain.” It took years of progressives fighting for Obama’s support on the issue, and after seven years, they got it.

Further, Clinton will nominate Supreme Court justices who won’t relish the chance to gut campaign finance restrictions, government health care programs, affirmative action, voting rights protections, and clean air laws. The Supreme Court vacancy presents an unprecedented opportunity for liberalism after 45 years of a conservative majority. Throwing it away would be unconscionable.

Trump, on the other hand, will never listen to you. The jury’s out on whether Trump listens to anyone but himself, but you can rest assured he will ignore your pleas for a more equitable, inclusive, and just society. Under a Trump presidency, conspiracy theories and penis envy will have more influence over domestic and foreign policy than years of scientific research and expert opinion. You may take to social media and bemoan Trump’s latest misdeed; you may even feel validated when your friends agree. But it will change nothing.

Make no mistake, a Clinton presidency will likely face a Republican, or at best, split Congress, so you will have to fight tooth and nail for every progressive policy. Her presidency will operate under the same constraints as Obama’s, so you will be disappointed, frustrated, even enraged at times. But you will have real power and real achievements. We didn’t get the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, nationwide same sex marriage, two more female and liberal Supreme Court justices, increased investment in clean energy and infrastructure, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the Iran Deal, and the Paris Climate Agreement by voting third party. Until our voting system changes, doing so will always be an act of political masturbation: it may give you pleasure, but when it’s over, you’ll have nothing to show for it.

As a liberal, voting for someone other than Hillary Clinton in this election would be like burning down your house because your toilet is broken. Please don’t burn down the house.

Welcome to Reasonable Creature!

My name is Matt Camarda, and I’m a recent graduate from the College of William and Mary. I’ve started this blog to more effectively share my thoughts on politics, culture, and whatever else grabs me. My work has appeared in Huffington Post, The Flat Hat, Library of Congress Blog, and the William and Mary Blog. If you know me, you know I love to write and that I, admittedly, don’t do it enough. I’ve been saying for years that I’m going to do a blog, and I’ve finally gotten tired of hearing myself saying it and not doing it. Through this blog, I hope to build much needed discipline and focus, while strengthening my voice.

I also want to speak to as many different kinds of people as possible, whether they agree with me or not. Living in a democracy requires us to engage with those of all different backgrounds and beliefs, if not always to persuade, then at least to understand. We’ve lost that ability, and I believe that’s the source of much of our cultural and political dysfunction. Here, I aim to write with conviction, openness, and accessibility.

Reasonable Creature takes its name from a Ben Franklin quote: “So convenient a thing to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.” In context, Franklin was mocking himself for having rationalized eating fish after having decided to never eat them again. (As a pescetarian, I can relate.) But I’ve always read this as a subtle jab at the human tendency to rationalize any belief or action, no matter how absurd or evil. We’re all reasonable creatures, which means we all rationalize. I’ll try to call that out when I can, most importantly, in myself.