Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
The joke was supposed to be over by now. Oh, look, we said. It’s another plutocrat running on the Republican platform, promising that all those tax cuts for the rich will kick in any day now, and promising to overturn every scrap of progress made in the name of liberalism. But he’s a fool. He’s been bragging about foreign business entanglements for 30 years. He’s been sued thousands of times. He doesn’t stand a chance.
Well, we know how that turned out. What felt in the beginning like a practical joke or social experiment is now a full-blown disaster not merely for America, but for democracy in general. It’s absurd, and it’s confusing — as much for us as it must be for our friends watching from across the pond.
America has a history of relapse. We don’t learn from our mistakes as quickly as we used to. Our pattern is taking one leap forward and two steps back, but reality is beginning to sink in with even the staunchest Trump supporters. There now appear to be three kinds of Trumpists left.
The first kind is the folks who never knew anything about politics to begin with and who vote with their guts instead of their heads. They stopped listening to Trump after he promised to ‘drain the swamp’ and put ‘the people’ back in control of their own destinies. And because they stopped listening, they also didn’t notice when, mere moments after the inauguration, this administration began attempting to dismantle the Federal government.
Remember: Trump didn’t promise to end democracy in the West — he vowed to make it more accountable. These people voted for him because they heard him say things no other ‘professional’ politician had ever said and because he gave lip service to problems that have gone unsolved for generations. If they still consider themselves fans of Trump, it’s because they may not have the luxury of scrutinising his every move.
For the record, this is the type of voter the American Democratic Party has unforgivably been neglecting for a long while. If the politically clueless voted for Trump, it’s because the Democrats have a communication problem — not merely because Trump has learned to speak Populist.
The second type of Trump supporter you’ll find in the wild is, well, let’s be honest — they’re Hillary Clinton’s ‘deplorables’. Was it cruel of her to lump the first kind of Trump supporter (the merely mistaken) in with the second kind (the actively awful)? Yes — but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t partially right.
Any number of polls have confirmed that Trump’s supporters believe some truly heinous things. He didn’t accidentally call these people out of the woodwork — he specifically targeted them and their grievances deliberately, and either didn’t care about not having a plan or assumed he could make it up as he went. Either way, what he delivered was false hope.
But now, there’s a third type of Trump fan emerging. It’s one which our brothers and sisters in the UK know only too well right now: the heartbroken, the embarrassed and the regretful. Before Trump clinched the election, the global cause of democracy had already been dealt a savage blow by Britain’s EU referendum. The less said here about that quagmire the better, but it didn’t take long for Brexit regret to kick in after folks got wise to the fact that virtually the entire case for Brexit was built on a mountain of shameless lies.
Trump made similar grand and sweeping promises as a candidate — promises we never should have taken seriously, given the man’s long history of looking out exclusively for himself and the power brokers he surrounds himself with. If only a slightly larger bloc of American voters was inquisitive and interested in the truth, Candidate Trump would merely be an unsavory lingering aftertaste from the 2016 election.
But too many of us aren’t any of those things. And so here we are.
Now, as we’ve watched Trump fill up the swamp he helped drain, choose appointee after appointee to helm government offices they hate and want to destroy, turn a blind eye toward the looming catastrophe of climate change and stump for a disgusting ‘health’ ‘care’ ‘plan’ that would leave a trail of dead and bankrupt Americans after promising coverage ‘for everybody’, even some of the most hard-headed Trump supporters are having second thoughts.
I wish it had happened sooner. I wish the media had done their due diligence and called Trump out for what he truly was instead of airing his poisonous speeches, treating him like a harmless cartoon character and giving him billions of dollars in free advertising.
Like it or not, we all made this monster — and to our friends across the pond, I’m truly sorry for that. I’m hurting, I’m embarrassed and I’m angry that reasonableness has flown the coop for a while. Americans have been failing at politics for a very long time, and Trump is merely the latest symptom.
In fact Trump himself now appears to be just as lost as the folks who got him elected, and seems just as susceptible to misinformation and propaganda. He is a walking, talking indictment of nearly everything that’s wrong with America.
Even us liberals who shouted the sky was falling are guilty to a certain degree — guilty of not taking the threat seriously and, in some cases, guilty of placing protest votes for impossible third-party candidates instead of taking our medicine and voting for a woman who, even if she could never have been a perfect president, would almost certainly not have delivered us to this threshold of calamity.
Friends, we’re sorry we’ve unleashed this brute on the world. With any luck, this is as dark as things will need to get for a while — because the silver lining of this is that people are waking up in a big way. Folks my age want to see a Social Security check sometime in our lifetimes, and we want a government that will help restore dignity to the people in the world who need our help the most.
We’ll get there. But first, we need to weather the storm and learn some important lessons from our own recent history, including what real resistance actually looks like in a nation that’s never had to deal with a true authoritarian before. One way or another, we’ll make it up to you.
The police spend little of their time making arrests, and most crimes are not solved, writes Alex Vitale – their real purpose is social control
Many important things happened on conference floor, reports Alex Nunns – but you wouldn’t know it from reading the newspapers
Radhika Desai says Capital by Karl Marx is still an essential read on the 150th anniversary of its publication
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes
Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference
Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going