Five Takeaways from Trump’s Win for Canadian Progressives

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  • 5 lessons for Canadian progressives from Trump's win.

What lessons should Canadian progressives draw from Donald Trump’s victory and Democrats’ defeat in the U.S. electoral college? How should Trump’s disastrous climate policy affect plans for tar sands expansion and the clean energy transition here? To what extent is the racism that helped propel Trump to victory already embedded in Canada? And how can progressive movements emerge stronger and more interconnected from this fight? Here are five takeaways for Canadian progressives from Trump’s win:

1. White voters got us into this mess

More than 90 per cent of Americans who voted for Trump were white.  

Most white U.S. voters, male and female, voted for him.

At least 90 per cent of non-white Americans did not vote for Trump.

Graphic by The Globe and Mail.

Graphic by The Globe and Mail.

“As white people, it was our turn to experience the cold shock of discovering that a significant part of our community has been radicalized, sometimes over the Internet, into a form of intolerant extremism that rejects conventional Western values and threatens the integrity of entire countries.” —Doug Saunders

2. … but are not on the frontlines of the worst impacts of the election

“A student in an English IV course told his teacher, who is Mexican-American, that he needs to take his family and get out of our country. The student mentioned he wasn’t welcome any longer. He supported this argument by citing comments from our President-elect.” —Southern Poverty Law Center

Last week alone, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) documented over 200 reported incidents of post-election harassment in the U.S.

Since Trump’s victory, in Canada we’ve seen:

A racist attack on a Toronto streetcar.  

A swastika on an Ottawa rabbi’s door.  

Suburban posters inviting “white people” to join the white supremacist “alt-right” movement.  

And no doubt many attacks that have not been picked up by mainstream media.

Indigenous peoples, people of colour, LGBTQ2, and disabled people in Canada already knew this country was not immune to the hate and discrimination that helped propel Donald Trump to victory in the U.S.  

But the surge of attacks in the U.S. and Canada are a necessary education for those among us who are not vulnerable to them in our day-to-day lives. And they’re a wakeup call that:

3. We need to confront racism head-on to strengthen our movements

“We will not build the kind of power we need to win unless we embed racial justice, but also gender, sexual and economic justice—at the centre of low carbon policies. […] If we want to defend against the likes of Donald Trump—and every country has their own Trump—we must urgently confront and battle racism and misogyny in our culture, in our movements, and in ourselves. This cannot be an afterthought, it cannot be an add-on. It is central to how someone like Trump can rise to power.” —Naomi Klein

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New Yorkers leave subway notes expressing their post-election fears, hopes, and messages of solidarity. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

Wondering what you can do right now to confront racism in your community? Get to know the SPLC’s Guide to Responding to Everyday Bigotry. Prepare for how you will react next time you witness bigotry among your family or friends, at work, in public, or even from yourself.

Check out this easy-to-follow illustrated guide on intervening in harassment in public placesyou might be surprised at the most effective method.

And consider starting or joining a Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) chapter in your community.  SURJ “moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability through community organizing, mobilizing and education.” There’s a post-election organizing call on Wednesday night.

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Protesters gather at Trump Tower in Chicago after the election. (AFP)

4. Trump’s election is a disaster for the climate—and we’re going to need to up our game in Canada (and around the world).

It’s hard to overestimate how enormous a disaster Trump’s climate and environment policies will be, from a resurgence of coal production, to appointing a climate denier to run the Environmental Protection Agency transition, to ripping up international agreements and dialing back progress on renewables.  

We are looking at a huge leap backwards in the largest economy on the planet, with the potential to spread a virus of backsliding around the world. We can’t let that happen.

For Indigenous peoples who have been on the frontlines of resistance to fossil fuel and other destructive energy projects across the U.S. and Canada, the Trump victory “is a blow to environmental causes and could lead to an increase of militarized police responses to demonstrations,” wrote Tim Fontaine of CBC News.  

So get ready to escalate, isolate, and not cooperate. Trump’s disastrous climate policies mean that Canada’s un-ambitious emissions goals are going to have to get a lot better, fast—and that must include widespread retraining and support for fossil fuel workers, and no new pipelines to fuel tar sands expansion. None. Ready for some civil disobedience?

We may need an international campaign for economic sanctions if the U.S. breaks its commitments under the Paris Accord. As our American friends come together to map the future of their overlapping justice movements, those of us outside the U.S. must do everything we can to protect the possibility of a safe planet as the climate clock ticks away.

5. Progressives are a vast majority—and we need to start acting like it.

Progressives are a vast majority across Canada and the United States. Once all the votes are counted, the Democrats will likely win the U.S. election popular vote count by over 1 million votes, and possibly much more. In Canada, votes for more progressive parties regularly outpace conservative ones by a factor of up to 2:1.  

We are the majority, and now it’s time to start acting like it.

One way or another, our future is radical. Whether it will be defined by climate change, racism and xenophobia, or movements and people working for a society based on care for the planet and each other, is up to us.

“Let’s get out of shock as fast as we can and build the kind of radical movement that has a genuine answer to the hate and fear represented by the Trumps of this world. Let’s set aside whatever is keeping us apart and start right now.” —Naomi Klein, 11/09/16

On our side, we’re getting ready to launch The Leap (theleap.org) as a global organization dedicated to upending our collective response to the crises of climate, inequality, and racism. Inspired by but independent from The Leap Manifesto, The Leap will support, strengthen and connect movements and people on the frontlines of change.  

To sign up or get involved with The Leap, join our mailing list here.  

And let’s get to work.

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Top image, by Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press, depicts a November 10 rally outside the Trump Hotel under construction in Vancouver.