If Barack Obama was the avatar and herald of a multi-racial, egalitarian society to the right wing, Trump, by contrast, is, in its world view, the exemplar and last line of defense of white skin and male privilege — of the way things were.
Some people on the left (and I’m defining the left broadly) conflate gaining hegemony in the Democratic Party with domination. But the two aren’t the same and unless this difference is appreciated, the left could piss away a unique opportunity to move from the margins to the mainstream of U.S. politics. Actually, I could be convinced that both concepts should be retired as part of a strategic rethink of the left’s role in today’s circumstances. Sorry for the generalities.
In the 20th century, two movements were transformative in their impact. One uprooted an unregulated, crisis-ridden capitalism in the 1930s, while the other overturned a deeply racist system, sanctioned by law, custom, and violence in the 1960s.
Neither one of these movements, however, boycotted or stood apart from the electoral and legislative process. They engaged in a very practical way in “bourgeois politics” as well as embraced expansive concepts of struggle. Their aim wasn’t to take over, but to draw together diverse social and political constituencies around a common objective. But that didn’t weaken their cause. In fact, it was an essential part of the explanation for their success. A mature left will learn from these experiences.
The struggle against Trump and the right is a form of the class struggle. In fact, it’s the main form of the class (and democratic) struggle at this moment. Only someone with a dogmatic cast of mind would think otherwise. Politics, including class politics, never come in pure form.
When millions recognize that the existential challenge of this moment is to defend democracy, the debate over whether Trump represents a right wing, white nationalist authoritarian danger or a fascist danger can easily turn counterproductive and sterile. The accent, it seems to me, should be on doing everything we can — big and small — to defeat Trump and his motley coalition in next year’s elections.