Faculty News: Contending with Trumpism

In advance of our Contending with Trumpism event, you might want to check out some of our participating faculty members’ reactions to the election of Donald Trump and the perspective of life under Trumpism.

On the Hannah Arendt Center blog, Samantha Hill looks to Arendt and The Human Condition to contend with the question many have been asking: How did we not see this coming?

“Except it seems as though in our will to triumph (our being those who had faith in the institutions of government and liberty) we were blinded and deafened to the signs of crises before us. In Odyssean fashion we shoved wax in our ears and sailed passed the sirens of fate. We took respite in numbers and polling data. We lifted up rationalism and relied upon cool calculations. We thought our methodologies of enlightened thinking were fool proof. We were wrong; and this is surprising because many of us, at some level, know that we cannot trust numbers and reason.”

Anthony Alessandrini wrote Internationalism after Trumpism for Jadaliyya, a piece in which he argues for, and finds solace in, growing international cooperation among leftist movements across the world.  

“An emergent left, fueled by youth movements that have been stripped of their illusions about the promises of neoliberal capitalism and globalization, urgently needs to add a renewed and radicalized internationalist vision to its agenda. Here again, the youth may be beginning to show the way. A Vision for Black Lives, the platform produced by The Movement for Black Lives, is exemplary in its insistence upon linking the domestic depredations of police violence, the prison industrial complex, and systematic racism to US imperialism abroad. Most famously, this has taken the form of an unstinting support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, a stance that has occasioned much hand-wringing and head-shaking among liberal supporters, as well as the withdrawal of support from some previously sympathetic liberal groups. Against the common coalition-building strategy that begins from the least common denominator, The Movement for Black Lives shows the way by beginning from the necessary. It is a stance best articulated in a statement from the Dream Defenders, one of the more than fifty organizations that have joined together to launch the platform:

“As Black people fighting for our freedom, we are not thugs and our Palestinian brothers and sisters are not terrorists. For the children who are met with tear gas and rubber bullets as they walk home from school, for the families of those we have lost to police violence, for the communities devastated by economic violence and apartheid walls, we fight. To all those who believe in a world in which all people are free, join us. For those who no longer stand with Black people because of this belief, goodbye. We do not need nor want you in our movement.”

If an emergent left, led by these and other youth movements, were to truly begin from such internationalist principles, then perhaps the days ahead may not turn out to be as dire as this horrible election would lead us to believe.”

In Quartz, Ajay Singh Chaudhary argued that a proper response to Trumpism necessitates we recognize the failure of elite liberalism and start building a true ideological left. 

“One of the most incisive definitions of Fascism was offered by Walter Benjamin in 1939: Fascism is a political organization that, in response to crises inherent in capitalism, preserves property relations while giving the masses expression instead of rights. “Fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their right, but instead a chance to express themselves. The masses have a right to change property relations; Fascism seeks to give them an expression while preserving property.”

How can liberals, who have dished out a steady diet of the politics of personality, all the while denying the vast majority of people not only their economic rights but even the freedom, faux as it may be, to express their rage, possibly hope to withstand Trump? Liberalism is dead; its last stand was a politics of personality bereft of personality or politics. Trump is real; the Trump era will not be one of the rights of the masses. But it is already starting as one in which expression of bottled discontent, of racial invective, of rage is the order of the day.”

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