Even now, in the last days of this horrendous campaign, we’re amazed by fervent assertions coming from some progressives about Donald Trump. Here are three key myths:
Myth #1: “Trump can’t win.”
The popularity of this illusion has waned, but still remains remarkably stubborn. This week the polling has moved in Trump’s direction. Several battleground states that were close now seem to be trending toward Trump, including Ohio. A couple weeks ago, the respected forecasters at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website gave Trump a 12 or 13 percent chance of becoming president. Now it’s a 1 in 3 chance.
Myth #2: “If Trump becomes president, he’ll be blocked from implementing the policies he’s been advocating.”
Some progressives have apparently convinced themselves of this comforting thought. One longtime Green Party activist claimed in an email a few days ago: “Trump would not be allowed by the ruling class or by us to actually implement his retrograde domestic social policies.” Such claims from self-described radicals involve a notable faith in the ruling class that we don’t share. And let’s not have an inflated view of our own power to block the policies of a President Trump.
Myth #3: “Trump couldn’t do much damage as president.” (Variation on Myth #3: “Trump is no more dangerous in the White House than Hillary Clinton.”)
If progressives watched Fox News a bit more, they’d understand that Trump plans to appoint to the most powerful policy positions of the U.S. government individuals who are as whacked out as he is: Rudy Giuliani, Dr. Ben Carson, war fanatic John Bolton, to name just a few. And hundreds like them to other top posts. (Clinton surrounds herself with corporatists and hawks, but overall they’re a less virulent strain.)
A Trump presidency — made possible by his demagogic appeals to racism, misogyny, immigrant-bashing and Islamophobia — would empower the worst elements of U.S. society. That’s why an official Ku Klux Klan newspaper, the Crusader, devoted its latest front page entirely to supporting Trump. These forces are already in motion, as Politico reported on Wednesday with this headline: “White nationalists plot Election Day show of force; KKK, neo-Nazis and militias plan to monitor urban polling places and suppress the black vote.”
We have no illusions about Hillary Clinton. Neither one of us live in a swing state (we’re residents of New York and California where Clinton leads in each state by 20 percent); in our “safe states,” we’re voting for Jill Stein of the Green Party. But if we lived in a swing state, we would vote for Clinton as the only way to prevent a Trump presidency. Because it’s the state-by-state electoral votes, not the popular votes, that determine who will inhabit the White House.
As Noam Chomsky said in May, “If Clinton is nominated and it comes to a choice between Clinton and Trump, in a swing state, a state where it’s going to matter which way you vote, I would vote against Trump, and by elementary arithmetic, that means you hold your nose and you vote Democrat. I don’t think there’s any other rational choice. Abstaining from voting or, say, voting for, say, a candidate you prefer, a minority candidate, just amounts to a vote for Donald Trump, which I think is a devastating prospect.”
Which are the crucial swing states? The latest assessment from FiveThirtyEight points toward these dozen states as potentially decisive: Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Other pollsters include Arizona, Georgia and Iowa as battleground states.
We need clarity and not mythology about the threat of a Trump presidency.
Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon are the co-founders of RootsAction.org.