Mike Maguire / CC-BY-2.0

Dear Liberal Friends,

Is Donald Trump’s success in the Republican primary really so shocking? The party has been constituting itself according to our species’ worst impulses for decades, and by the light of our culture, Trump is a logical successor to what came before. Yes, we have to “stop” him. But it is far from certain that this means we must support Clinton, who through her policies may have ruined, degraded and destroyed far more lives than he has, as journalists and scholars have reported for more than a decade.

I’m struck that many of you have succumbed to the idea of Clinton’s inevitability. Why are you not instead doing all you can to nominate and elect Bernie Sanders? You may have come to believe the presidency lacks the power to do anything but drive our nation deeper into the hands of corporations and the rich, and after eight years of Obama, I don’t blame you. But the idea that our 44th president represents the limits of leftism in America today is wrong. Please acquaint yourself with the facts and arguments recorded in Roger Hodges’ “The Mendacity on Hope,” Robert Scheer’s “The Great American Stickup,” my friend Thomas Frank’s new book, “Listen, Liberal” and the columns Paul Krugman wrote in the early years of Obama’s first term, before Krugman’s popularity, social significance and political influence began to decline.

The progressive champion Ralph Nader is often disparaged for having suggested, around the start of George W. Bush’s stolen presidency, that conditions in our society must worsen before they can get better. I’m not sure he’s right either. But I also know that experience prepares us for understanding, and there are large numbers of once-comfortable Americans who might not be listening to Bernie Sanders if their assets hadn’t vanished in 2008.

I honestly don’t know what lies behind the door of a Trump presidency. Do you? Might our soporific, wobbly headed Democrats be aroused at last to a state of genuine opposition? Stiffened by the confidence that theirs is the support of millions of blacks, Latinos, women, Democrats, independents, young new voters and other people of basic goodness and reason, including significant numbers of Republicans?

On the other hand, we have two-and-a-half decades worth of reasons to fear what a new Clinton presidency may bring: yet more breaks for the powerful and the rich, whose stupid, persistent habit is to consolidate misery and frustration for their fellow citizens; another decade of lost earnings and debt for my generation and the one that comes next; and the likely chronic grimness of millions of older Americans who will have every reason to suspect they won’t escape this madhouse in what’s left of their lives. Add to that the absence of opposition from Democrats, who in their membership-sanctioned complicity in war and despoliation, would further disgrace the name of their party rather than restore it in a courageous and celebrated bid to usher in a new age for America and perhaps the world.

I know you’re scared. So am I. All of this is uncomfortable, even for those of us who remain, for the foreseeable future, better off materially and in other ways than those who had the misfortune to be born in this time with the wrong combination of skin color, place, genitalia and ancestry. But for now, this discomfort cannot be banished. All we can do is apply our bodies and minds to the task of our salvation, recognizing that our best chances of success lie with each other and in a refusal to allow fear of the worst of possible futures rob us of our desire to make our wishes, including the many we share, come true.


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