How to resist despair in the age of trump


Floating to the surface of our abilities to predict President Trump is the strange fact that some of the most complex analyses of what he was going to do missed the mark but some of the most immediate, simple, and banal have proven devastatingly true.

Is he an evil genius? A bumbling oaf? A Russian spy? A tool of the alt-right? All of that remains to be proven.

But is he impulsive, and will he put people in danger with that impulsiveness? Yes. Without a doubt, yes.

Whether he’s a schemer or a blunderer doesn’t change our reaction: strategy must come before impulse. In power, he has the privilege to listen to his whims–we don’t.

It’s tempting to seek a home in the habits of vindication and satisfaction–on the one hand, to trumpet his mistakes and the other to feel better about yourself for knowing them to be mistakes. But neither leads anywhere but catharsis.

Reclaiming humanism

The era of neoliberal management over the late 80s and 90s taught us that politics is not about vision but about management. This era taught us that politicians were best decided not by the somehow dirty practice of offering their constituents material goods but by their ability to micromanage the details of the government and the economy.

The world was basically already good–it just needed to be perfect.

We’ve inherited this ideology and we can see from the continual lambasting of Bernie Sanders by the Democratic elite that management is still prized over vision. While Sanders offers wholesale change and the ability to see and compare beyond national borders, his plans for universal healthcare are derided as politically impossible–despite the fact that this derision is its main obstacle. Not only have other countries eclipsed us on fronts like these, but this very country at different times has offered even more radical approaches.

Richard Nixon, of all people, once advocated for a universal basic income. 

One of the most famous economists of all time, John Maynard Keynes, thought manufacturing power would correlate with a declining amount of work to do in a week, possibly down to fifteen hours. 

An explicitly socialist candidate once won almost a million votes running for president.

But if the past was almost real, so can the future. The most important fact to take from the failure of Trumpcare, the AHCA, is that people like their entitlements once they have them.

No one did better PR for Obamacare than the Republicans did when they challenged people to think about losing what they had. All of a sudden, not-good-enough care became way-better-than-before care and constituents rose in a tidal wave against their congress people.

This is why Republicans fight so hard, on policy and culture fronts, against entitlements. They know that once they are won, they are nearly impossible to take back. When it comes down to it, people overall tend to like the expansion of collectivism, the building of a more co-dependent society.

To be humanist at core is to demand more rights for more people. Rights are not and have never been inalienable bits of nature to be recognized but have always been historical material struggles for which we can struggle. What we take as normal now has not always been–and we can transform what seems extreme now, and make it normal in the future.

Finding hope in strategy

Hope is nurtured in pragmatism–not that of the Democratic elites claiming healthcare for all is impossible–the pragmatism of strategy and goals as well as institution and movement building.

There is no clear path to utopia but there are utopian steps available. Every step will be decried as utopian so we might as well imagine big. That’s not to say we should be fanciful. Pragmatism will keep us rooted in making positive, practical steps. Humanism will keep us faithful because each step is essential and the goals they grow toward just.

Trump is a crisis factory and the best way to maintain hope through the malaise is to build to something better, something that doesn’t allow for this to happen again.


Inventing the Future by Nick Snircek and Alex Williams
Learn about the possibilities for full automation and universal basic income.

“Nickel and Dime Socialism” by Matt Bruenig
Learn a shockingly believable way socialism could be constructed–bit by bit.

“Episode 97 – Hollywood Upstairs Medical College feat. Tim Faust (4/6/17)” from Chapo Trap House
Learn the practical steps to making medicare for all a reality.


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