Why would progressives vote for Trump?

[A note in hindsight: this post was published in April 2016, a good amount of time before it became crystal clear that Trump is a goddamned Nazi-enabling rule-of-law-trashing fascist. And yet some people who claim to be of the left still think his election was a good idea. This is when the world went topsy-turvy.]

This is a tangent off yesterday’s post, specifically about the common justification for calling on Sanders to withdraw: that to continue campaigning against Clinton will damage her chances against the Trump.

(An interesting framing issue there: why do we take it for granted that Clinton and Sanders must run negative campaigns against each other? The simple answer is “that’s politics”, but if the Sanders campaign has shown anything through its grassroots fundraising and popularizing of “radical” “socialist” policies, it’s that the rules can be changed.)

There are concerns that Sanders supporters, feeling stymied or bitter or just generally sexist, would not only not support a Clinton ticket but actually vote for Trump. That this would mean “robbing” the United States of four more years of Democratic presidency.

As I said yesterday, the point of democracy is we don’t disenfranchise people whose opinions we don’t like. But there’s another problem. The reasons people vote one way or another are complex. And although it sounds utterly inconceivable to people who have already weighed the pros and cons and decided for Hillary, there are plenty of reasons progressives might think a Trump presidency is the “better” option – or at least the lesser of two evils.

A Trump victory could mean the end of the Republican party. Maybe you want to get fancy and accelerationist about it, or maybe you just like seeing people get a taste of their own medicine, and the Republican machine are freaking out as the inevitable outcome of their years of gerrymandering and panic-mongering are coming back to bite them in the ass. Maybe you think four years of Trump, assuming he even lasts that long, would be worth it to see the GOP establishment thoroughly ripped away from their Tea Party base. It could pave the way to twelve or sixteen or twenty-four years of Democratic leadership which has the space to make truly progressive policy.

It’s pie-in-the-sky but there are far sillier reasons to vote for someone. Besides, even if you think that’s too much of a long game, Trump is a walking disaster zone. Maybe you think he’s so erratic, unpredictable and completely unprepared/unable to negotiate the checks and balances of the US government system that he’ll never achieve anything. He could be impeached within a year. We could use that year to set up the machine for the glorious Warren Democratic ticket.

Trump’s misogyny is contemptible, but not significant. The real battle over reproductive rights, especially abortion access, isn’t being fought at a federal level. Who cares who’s in the White House when it’s your governor and state senate who are mandating waiting periods and shutting down clinics? Ditto North Carolina’s transphobic bathroom laws.

Trump’s racism is contemptible, but impractical. He’s not going to build a wall and Mexico isn’t going to pay for it. His plan to “shut down” all Muslims living in America are either big talk with no real commitment to action behind it, or laughably offensive – so offensive to basic decency that any attempt to implement it would lead to impeachment or revolution.

I don’t particularly agree with any of these arguments. I’m simply saying it’s not impossible for someone to be a progressive and reject the idea that supporting Clinton is the only feasible option.

You don’t have to agree. But in this, as in many other political situations, if you insist on throwing your hands up lamenting “NOBODY with any SENSE would vote for this, there’s no point asking why, the reasons can only be STUPID!” you learn nothing. And they’ll do it anyway, and probably feel even more righteous doing it because you’ve been a condescending prat to them. And if that makes the difference between winning and losing, you’ll keep losing.

2 Replies to “Why would progressives vote for Trump?”

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