Ever since Donald Trump started leading the race for the Republican nomination for president, I’ve been following the election obsessively. Granted, I’ve always been hobby-level interested in US politics. I was reading biographies of FDR when I was 13, and proudly own a 1972 Shirley Chisholm For President pin. I could tell you all about Millard Filmore’s role in the dissolution of the Whig Party, which I promise is not a boast because why would anyone be proud of that. (Filmore’s Law is immutable, in my experience: the more you know about Millard Filmore, the fewer parties you have ever been to.)
This year, though, my esoteric interest has been taken over by a swarm of racist hornets wearing a toupee. Donald Trump has his antecedents, sure – the anti-immigrant Know-Nothing party of the 1840s, the segregationist campaigns of George Wallace, even the hoaxes of P.T. Barnum – but this is also something new. People often want to say “oh, both parties are the same”, but even at the best of times, they’re really not (and Trump is ‘the worst of times’, in the full Tale of Two Cities heads-on-pikes sense). Donald Trump is breathtakingly racist, monumentally incompetent, and viciously abusive. He’s a shameless liar, a petty misogynist, and a wanna-be despot. He’s a manipulative conman, a hollow narcissist, and a rapist.
Donald Trump is a political kaiju, is what I’m saying. That’s why I’ll be writing this column for Scum until the election ends: because if I don’t get this stuff out I may have a breakdown, and because we all need to work together to banish him back to the depths of the sea.
With all that in mind, want to hear something scary?
If the US election were to be decided solely by white men, Donald Trump would win easily.
The details buried in the latest ABC / Washington Post poll are broadly reflective of the general demographic story: women prefer Clinton over Trump (52% to 37%), but men prefer Trump (45% to 39%). Black folks have basically no patience for Trump’s bullshit (preferring Clinton a whopping 93% to 3%), while Latinos and Latinas are also decidedly Not Fans (64% to 20%). But still this remains true: if the race was only about what white men thought, it wouldn’t even be close. Trump would win in a landslide.
So, um, I guess we know why the world used to be even more fucked up than it is now?
This is an underappreciated point, I think. Even though the polls have been tight lately, most sober analyses of the race still see Clinton as likely to win: she has an advantage in the electoral college, a state-of-the-art ground game, and all the other vital technical junk that political tragics like me read about until 4 in the morning. In other words: guys it’s probably gonna be fine. Trump is a despotic nightmare, but a lot of smart, dedicated people are devoted to stopping him. And most of those people are women and people of colour.
I met a few of them last week. I was in Los Angeles for a day and half en route to my brother’s wedding in Mexico, and I realised there was nothing I’d rather do with my one afternoon in America than spend it volunteering for Hillary Clinton. I figured I might feel less awful about 2016 if I could feel as though I’d contributed something – however microscopic – to preventing the Misogynist Pile of Wet Cheetos Known As Donald Trump from leading the world’s most powerful country.
And I was right! It was actually surprisingly fun. I made calls to democratic volunteers for a few hours, did some data entry, and chatted to a bunch of lovely people. (Some of the folks I called were slightly nonplussed that an Australian was volunteering for the campaign, but all was forgiven once they realised just how fun it is to hear an Australian call Trump a fuckwit.) When I looked around the room, though, I suddenly realised something interesting:
With the exception of one genial old hippie, every single volunteer there that day was either black or a Latina. Every volunteer was friendly, methodical, and plainly driven by an inner fire.
“This is how Trump gets defeated,” I remember thinking. “All these people, quietly putting in the work to assert their place in their country.”
The most hopeful way to think about the Trump campaign is this: as a relic from an America that no longer predominates. White men only make up roughly 33% of the votes cast in presidential elections these days. That’s enough to make this scary, but not enough for it to work. The Trump campaign is essentially the extinction event of an America where only white men matter. It’s loud, it’s chaotic, and it can’t come fast enough.
Looking around that room of volunteers really drove home to me how messed‑up it is that there are so many ‘progressive’ young white dudes who refuse to vote for Hillary. It’s not them who’ll suffer most under a Trump presidency. It’s not them who’ll be deported, or imprisoned, or stripped of their rights. Their protest votes and “clear consciences” are only made possible because enough other people – again, mostly women and mostly people of colour – are taking this seriously. Because they have to take this seriously.
(Under every Robert Reich facebook post there seems to be an army of these guys, and I wish I could splash a glass of water in each of their faces individually. You’re not a matyr for your principles if it’s someone else you’re putting on the cross. If you’d be horrified by Donald Trump becoming president but are unwilling to do anything to help prevent it, you’re effectively relying on the labour of women and people of colour to cover your ass. Like, come on, dude. Suck it up and help defeat the fascist.)
Most things about this election leave me feeling exhausted and scared, but I left the phonebank feeling hopeful. Not just about Hillary’s chances in the election, but about all of our chances going forward. White men have been at the centre of everything for a long time, but that’s changing. A lot of them are extremely pissed about that (hence Trump), but it’s a very, very good thing for humanity.
So I guess what I’m saying is: when Trump is defeated in November, thank people of colour. Thank women. (And especially thank women of colour.) Thank god that white men aren’t at the centre of everything anymore, and thank your lucky stars that we get to see the new world that’s coming.
I was only there for an afternoon, but I made sure to thank everyone before I left.
This is the first in a three-part series on the upcoming U.S election. Andy Wadeson Connor is a writer, dungeon master, and US politics obsessive who grew up in Wangaratta. Andy is currently writing a masters thesis in philosophy, and gives advice in the character of a cartoon moose named ‘Mulbert’ over at http://advicecomics.tumblr.com/