I’ve been hearing informally about racist incidents since Donald Trump’s apparent election win for a while now and it would seem the Southern Poverty Law Center is tracking these, at least among schoolchildren. These events are doubly disturbing, first, for the fact they occur in the first place, and second, for what they say about children growing up even now. Any notion that we are in a post-racial society must now be firmly put to rest. At the same time, the left’s absolute refusal to address poverty and the problems of the working class is making it difficult for me to give a damn. It requires me to care about people who manifestly hate me for my race and gender and I’m just not that much of a saint.
All this said, it’s time to go on record with what is mostly a refusal to answer how all this will play out. I think it is clear that Donald Trump’s victory represents a tipping point for the Republican Party. Authoritarian populism, whose distinction from paleoconservatism seems fuzzier even than the other distinctions among conservative tendencies, seems likely now to be the clearly dominant ideology within that party. Yes, as we’re seeing with the schoolchildren, this will be ugly. At the same time, as I noted in my dissertation, whenever politicians attain power, they effectively become functionalist conservatives, with an interest not only in preserving the status quo that they are now a part of, but in preserving their own positions. This mix is both frightening and unpredictable.
Beyond that, I have no answer for whether this result is also a tipping point for the Democratic Party, the two-party system, the U.S. system of governance, or even the U.S. itself. If there is a silver lining to this outcome, it may be that the status quo may now be challenged more deeply than anyone who voted for “the lesser of two evils” was willing to contemplate. But with that silver lining also comes a warning: We really do not know what lies on the other side of a tipping point. It does not follow from the destruction of one evil order that something good will arise to take its place.
Tasneem Nashrulla, “Trump’s Win Is Having A ‘Profoundly Negative Impact’ On Students, According To Hate Watch Group,” Buzzfeed, November 29, 2016, https://www.buzzfeed.com/tasneemnashrulla/splc-report-trump-effect
Democracy Now! “Cornel West: Unlike Bernie Sanders, I’m Not Convinced the Democratic Party Can Be Reformed,” December 1, 2016, https://www.democracynow.org/2016/12/1/cornel_west_bernie_sanders_is_wrong
- Tasneem Nashrulla, “Trump’s Win Is Having A ‘Profoundly Negative Impact’ On Students, According To Hate Watch Group,” Buzzfeed, November 29, 2016, https://www.buzzfeed.com/tasneemnashrulla/splc-report-trump-effect↩
- Democracy Now! “Cornel West: Unlike Bernie Sanders, I’m Not Convinced the Democratic Party Can Be Reformed,” December 1, 2016, https://www.democracynow.org/2016/12/1/cornel_west_bernie_sanders_is_wrong↩
- David Benfell, “Farewell to the left,” Not Housebroken, November 28, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=9133↩
- David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).↩