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Defeating Trump Won’t Erase The Forces That Made Him Possible

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Defeating Trump Won’t Erase The Forces That Made Him Possible

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pauses to look at a demonstrator behind him during a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina,

We should probably start thinking about what we’re going to do after Trump.

Of course, if the nation decides it really does want a vulgar, narcissistic bigot with the impulse control of a sleep-deprived toddler as its 45th president, the options left to thinking Americans will be few, but stark:

Either curl up in a fetal ball for four years or jam the pedal to the metal on the northbound interstate and don’t stop till you see moose. Try to get there before the Canadians build their border wall.

If, however, the more likely scenario prevails and the electorate rejects Donald Trump, we will face a different set of options. The first is to finally take a stand against the forces that brought us here.

Those forces — economic insecurity, ignorance, bigotry and fear — are hardly new. Many observers, this one included, have bemoaned them for years. Trump’s innovation has been to drag the last three into the light, to render dog whistles and codes obsolete with his full-throated, wide-open embrace of all that is ugly and shameful about us.

Assuming his rebuke in November, the natural tendency will be to mop the brow and sigh in relief at the bullet we just dodged. This would be a mistake. Defeating Trump would not erase the forces that made him possible. As the last few years have shown, those forces, like some virulent cancer, tend to redouble after setback and return stronger than before.

You thought George W. Bush was a piece of work? Meet Sarah Palin. You think Sarah Palin was scary? Meet Trump. It would not be a good idea to wait around and see who trumps Donald four years from now. So after Trump, there are things we must do:

1. Confront economic insecurity. We need to elect leaders who understand that corporations are not people; only people are people and they are struggling. Their wages are stagnant, their finances precarious and the wealth that is supposed to trickle down from the grotesquely overfed money pigs at the top always seems to evaporate en route. It is time for this to change.

2. Confront ignorance. It is no coincidence Trump is especially popular among the less well-educated. The less you know, the more fearsome and confounding the world can seem, and the more susceptible you are to the authoritarian figure who promises to make everything all right again. Education must be rescued from the anti-science, anti-history, anti-logic, anti-intellect agendas of conservative school boards around the country. Knowing things is important. Facts matter.

3. Confront bigotry. Stop pretending it doesn’t exist, stop making excuses for it, stop acting as if it will go away if you only ignore it. In our schools, civic groups, mosques, churches and synagogues, we must evolve some form of truth and reconciliation that allows us to walk through disparate pain up to common ground. Only in this way can we diminish the power of bigotry as a cudgel.

4. Confront fear. Fear is bigotry’s firstborn child. Both are heightened in an era wherein the majority feels itself, its position and prerogatives, under siege by the ascendance of various minorities — racial, religious and sexual. So it becomes ever more important to find strategies that help us to locate in one another our shared humanity.

And oh, yes…

5. Confront apathy. Vote.

This is how we can change the paradigm, cool the temperature, drain the swamp.

Or we can pretend this temper tantrum, this national nervous breakdown, means nothing once Trump is gone. But to embrace that option is to miss the point. Donald Trump is a reflection of the ugliness within us, but only that. The ugliness itself is ours and we are long overdue to face it.

The day after he is gone would be an excellent time to start.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)


Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pauses to look at a demonstrator behind him during a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. Dominick Vila March 13, 2016

    Excellent, and very relevant, article. I am inclined to embrace option two. No need to run. All we have to do is vote. We simply cannot afford to let a small, but well organized and vociferous crowd of ignorant zealots dictate what the majority of Americans must accept.
    Fear of change is not new. What is new is that a large segment of the population of the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world is convinced that foreigners entering the USA illegally because our immigration laws do not have the provisions necessary to allow them to enter the USA legally are destroying America. This same crowd is convinced that programs that guarantee equal opportunities for ethnic minorities and women are an evil concept that must be destroyed before it destroys us. They believe that the entire Islamic world is our enemy, and that it has the capabilities needed to destroy us, if we don’t destroy them first.
    In their minds, a good education and intellectual acumen are the reasons for the cultural and civic progress made during the last half century and, not surprisingly, they oppose anything that contributes to a better educated and more civil society, where the opinions and rights of everyone are respected.
    These, and other similar convictions, including ancient prejudices, are part of the reason millions of Americans reject political qualifications and experience, and favor a man whose values, intellect, and vision are limited to the scope of his narcissism.
    As amazing as it may seem, they are convinced that the dominant and most stable economy in the world is on the verge of collapse, as W predicted in 2007. They refuse to accept responsibility for their own decisions, which in addition to corporate and institutional greed, are the reason they don’t qualify for the best jobs our economy has to offer, which are currently going to foreign professionals. One of the most perplexing parts of their ideological leanings and preferences, is that they reject any form of regulation, ignoring that effective and enforceable regulation, and investment in infrastructure by the public sector, would make it possible for them benefit from our national wealth, avoid disasters such as the one in Flint, and preserve our privileged position in the world.
    What concerns me the most about the probable success of rationality and common sense in November, is the reaction of a group of Americans who believe they are defending our country in the face of great threats – foreign and domestic. That conviction, and the message of hate and fear conveyed by an irresponsible demagogue more interested in his self aggrandizement than the future of his country, may easily produce the same kind of social unrest that exists in countries beset by violence, chaos, and self destruction.

    1. charleo1 March 13, 2016

      Well said, and written as usual Dom. It is quite unsettling to see such numbers of our fellow countrymen, and women, seeming to fall for such an obvious Con as Trump. The direct result no doubt of years of spoon fed propaganda, that has caused the intended explosion, but has in a real sense, went off in the face of it’s makers. And it’s unclear at this point if they will survive the blast. The fact that provides myself the most comfort in the face of such lunacy, is to remember the demographically, and gender troubled Right is only a majority unto themselves. And now, even that is in question. That Trump wins only if the level headed middle stays home. Or if, as a people we decide to collectively abandon our bed rock values, both moral and democratic, that have been passed down from one generation of Americans to the next, since leaving our home countries for that distant, and special place, America. I believe the truth will prevail. And the truth is, for all Trump’s faux Nationalistic Jingoism, he proves he doesn’t understand the first thing about what has, and continues to make America far and away the greatest country in the world. And that greatness starts with our respect for every individual. And how demonstrably wrong has Trump been in that respect?

      1. FireBaron March 14, 2016

        Unfortunately, charleo1, many of these individuals have been adversely effected by the policies favored by the Conservatives, particularly in their desire to allow the market control the economy. We have allowed a negatively perpetuating cycle. People demand lower prices for consumer goods, so manufacturers end up having to make their products overseas for lower costs. The resultant job losses in the manufacturing industry replaced by lower paying service jobs mean the consumers now need even lower prices.
        Add to that the marked volatility brought on by changing oil prices and their effect on other commodities, and it gets even worse.

        1. TZToronto March 14, 2016

          In addition. American employers are in a position to pay lower wages, leveraging the threat to move jobs offshore. Note Trump’s claim that The minimum wage in the U.S. should be lowered, not raised. This only exacerbates the downward economic cycle that affects the people who are most attracted to Trump.

          1. charleo1 March 14, 2016

            Trump is a phony. It’s amazing we have so many willing to buy ocean front property in Arizona.

        2. @HawaiianTater March 14, 2016

          Don’t absolve Democrats of blame. They are equally complicit in free trade deals that have off-shored so many of our manufacturing jobs.

          1. charleo1 March 14, 2016

            That’s true enough in this pay to play system. I akin it to steroids in sports, it corrupts the entire process. But here’s what we don’t do. We don’t oppose this politicians with which we agree with 80 percent of the time, and disagree with 20% of the time. So as to allow that politician we disagree with 100% of the time to win the election. This quest for purity I see emerging will not work out any better for the Left, than it has on the Right. It’s just not the way things will ever work in a system such as we have. It’s not smart.

          2. @HawaiianTater March 14, 2016

            The two biggest issues facing our country today are an economy that is rigged for the rich and a foreign policy that is hawkish. While I agree with your point about purity, it does no good to elect politicians we agree with 80% of the time if their foreign policies and economic ideas fall into that 20% range.

          3. Dominick Vila March 14, 2016

            What is really hurting tens of thousands of blue collar workers is illegal dumping by countries like China. Yes, both parties share the blame. Democrats may not have initiative most of these “deals”, but they could have tried to stop them or at least expose them.

          4. @HawaiianTater March 14, 2016

            Yeah, most of our problems come from conservative policies but the Dems don’t exactly put up much of a fight to stop them.

        3. charleo1 March 14, 2016

          Totally agreed, much of America, especially rural, and former industry dependent States like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and small town economies everywhere have been devastated by big money anti-American corporate policies signed into law by a bought out, slavishly devoted, power hungry Right.

          A quick read of the hows, and the whys China was allowed to
          bankrupt the U.S. steel industry in the early 80s, tells a story of greed, and political complicity by an extreme Reagan Adm. to deal out what they hoped would eventually be a death blow to unions. And the tactic has been applied over and over since. It has been the economic equivalency of bringing down an entire airliner in order to eliminate a specific political target. And China and other third world cheap labor, currency manipulating entities, have been the beneficiaries of a Party first, win at all cost mentality by the GOP. As American labor, American’s lifestyles, and American National security itself, has paid the price.

          The next step after any betrayal one hopes to get away with, is to blame the dirty deed on others. And this is where the Right has ramped up it’s propaganda regimen to heretofore unprecedented levels. Well, the steel industry their story is, didn’t leave due to the government of China subsidizing prices, and common sense protections of American industry being enforced. Heck no! It was them rotten, and unreasonable unions that drove them away, and cost all those good paying jobs. Yes, that was they said, and taxes. Oh, just the unbearable taxes imposed by the Democrats. That, and their Welfare State, Socialism, that is bringing American companies to their knees. And so, unable to compete, they seek a better business environment elsewhere. What the Country needs is Right to Work Laws.

          Today, that old saw about chickens coming home to roost after nearly 40 years of this radical RW sellout has never been a more appropriate analogy. Their supply side economics, a huge lie from the start, has rendered it’s predictable results. And their propaganda is losing it’s gloss, and credibility. And they just don’t have any good lies to replace the old, in order to counter a race baiting demagogue well on his way to taking over their entire Party. And he’s doing it by turning their own lies against them, and screaming out about the glaring, and epic failures of their policies.

        4. plc97477 March 14, 2016

          And yet the waltons and the kochs are still managing to make more money than they could spend in a dozen lifetimes.

    2. plc97477 March 14, 2016

      Unfortunately in order to fix the education problem we need to make changes in the states. We need more states run by dems in order to make the needed changes to education.

  2. AgLander March 13, 2016

    Interesting considering the anarchy, violence and lawless behavior we are now witnessing across the country is only coming from the Democrat left which laughingly calls itself “progressive”. Once again, we see that they operate under the code that “the first amendment is for me, but not for thee”. Pathetic and low intellect thinking like this is causing the unraveling of society. Thank you liberalism……you broke it, now we will fix it!

    1. @HawaiianTater March 13, 2016

      Please, feel free to cite examples of the “anarchy, violence and lawless behavior” that is ONLY coming from the Democrat left.

    2. Siegfried Heydrich March 13, 2016

      What “anarchy, violence and lawless behavior we are now witnessing across the country” are you talking about? Out here in the real world, nope, not happening.

      1. plc97477 March 14, 2016

        s/he is probably complaining about those mean protesters that frightened poor drumpf.

    3. Grannysmovin March 14, 2016

      You can have your own opinion, but you can not have your own facts. Please provide the data to back up your comment. From one of your own: “I’m just not sure what the Republican Party really stands for any more other than telling Obama no and telling our own corporate interests yes. That’s not much of a platform.” — Erick Erickson

      1. FireBaron March 14, 2016

        Remember, Granny, they have their facts supplied to them by Fox, Rush, Glenn, Matt Drudge and Breitbart “News” Service.

        1. Grannysmovin March 14, 2016

          Had one of those senior moments and forgot where they get their information from.

          1. 1standlastword March 14, 2016

            You’re just fine granny…in fact judging from the position of that walker with the wheels out front–you don’t even need a walker!

            Just keep on truck’in LOL!!!

    4. FireBaron March 14, 2016

      So, it’s armed and lawless Democrats who tried to hold off the feds over illegal use of land for grazing rights?
      So, it’s armed and lawless Democrats who held hostage a federal bird sanctuary in Oregon over the sentencing of two individuals who committed arson to cover up their illegal poaching and grazing?
      So, it’s lawless Democrats who had a website with targets superimposed over various Democratic members of the Congress?
      So it’s lawless Democrats who are advocating the use of torture to extract information and recommending the carpet bombing of areas where ISIS members’ families live?
      So it’s lawless Democrats who are holding the Supreme Court hostage because the President is trying to exercise a requirement of the US Constitution?
      Just checkin’.

  3. @HawaiianTater March 13, 2016

    In summary: conservatism is a mental disease that will destroy the USA if not cured.

    1. FireBaron March 14, 2016

      New Avatar, Tater?

      1. @HawaiianTater March 14, 2016

        LOL yes. I’m special!

        1. Dominick Vila March 14, 2016


          1. @HawaiianTater March 14, 2016

            NM tweeted out a link to this old article and there really are the same people who have been here for years. You, Sand_Cat, plc, Elly, charleo, Grannysmovin, dtgraham, stcroix, Cranky… http://www.nationalmemo.com/5-reasons-republican-ted-cruz-would-be-a-democrats-dream-2016-gop-nominee/6/

    2. RED March 14, 2016

      I refer to it as the Con sickness

    3. RED March 14, 2016

      Oh hey HT, didn’t see that was you!

      1. @HawaiianTater March 14, 2016

        Hey back lol

    4. Joan March 14, 2016

      There are conservatives and then there are Radical conservatives ( I personally am neither) I have no problem with an Eisenhower conservative, I believe they have something to add to the discourse. I have problems with Radical anything.

      1. @HawaiianTater March 14, 2016

        It’s funny that you mention the Eisenhower conservatives because Ike was further to the left than current Democrats are now. I’d be plenty happy if we could bring those Republicans back and the Democrats would go back to the left where they belong.

  4. Siegfried Heydrich March 13, 2016

    Or we could laugh at them as they die from myocardial infarctions, cerebral hemorrhages, and apoplectic fits as they rage against the turning of Fox away from their paranoid fantasies after the election.

    1. JPHALL March 13, 2016

      Do not forget their over use of opiates, other painkillers and heroin.

      1. Siegfried Heydrich March 13, 2016

        Far be it from me to deny them their early exit from this vale of woes, this plane of reality is but improved by their early exit. Preferably before they breed and pass on their defective genes.

  5. 1standlastword March 13, 2016

    My prediction is rational and sane America will do mortal combat with the dark forces in the conservative party for four more years under a new democratic POTUS then 2020 will bring massive conservative losses and then we “might” be able to start the philosophical and moral reforms our author invites

    1. meridaest March 14, 2016

      I would like to believe your prediction except that the massive conservative losses must occur in 2018 in order for such reforms to start. To paraphrase an old slogan, “It’s the mid-terms, stupid.”

  6. Leftout March 14, 2016

    The forces that made Trump possible are the political parties caving into each other , the corruption of the PACS and of course the antithetical views of Obama to the views of a large part of America….,evidently

    The republicans placed 17 very good names up for consideration, all were excellent , but who needs more milk toast and boring statements to be heard . SOS.
    90% of the current voters have rejected all of the olde guard politicians. The Republicnas can not dare place another person up for consideration after all of the hard work of the initial candidates who stood up and gave it a try . Put up or STFU.

    Trump with his assemblage of advisors will be alright to refocus the US towards its original self reliant foundings tempered with a sense of compassion for the 5% that may actually need assistance .

    1. charleo1 March 14, 2016

      I would remind you, political leaders have been, “caving in,” to each other since the Constitutional Convention, and even before that. Once upon a time, not so long ago in this country, before it was seen as a kind of traitorous betrayal, it was known as, “compromise.” The grease in the wheels of any democracy worth it’s salt. Where no one ever gets everything they want. There is no enforced purges, unreasonable demands of purity, or mean spirited characterizations your fellow Americans who happen to disagree with you, as evil incarnate. Otherwise, those that follow that lead will punish those for even talking with those other Devils. Much less finding common ground with them, progressing toward solutions, and doing the people’s business on their behalf. The answer to never caving, and never compromising, has to either be imposing your will on the other by force, or saying no to everything. I think it’s obvious when the Right went rogue, they set in motion the elements that are tearing them apart now.

      1. Leftout March 14, 2016

        Did the Right go Rogue or was it a reaction to a Rogue Left. It seems every issue should be a clean bill and voted upon with no hidden agenda or pork .

        1. charleo1 March 14, 2016

          I understand the election of an African American President is considered by the Right as an example of the Left’s running the country straight down the drain. And a good excuse to behave any damn way they please. Even invite back in the John Birch Society. But again, when has that ever been the case, that a bill passed both houses of Congress as written? No horse trading, no deals. Just one side demanding, the other capitulating. A situation where we had the GOP in 2011 saying, agree with us Mr. President to backdown on raising taxes on the top incomes, or unemployment benefits runout on millions of hard hit families. Or, sign this budget that defunds your signature healthcare bill. Or we’ll refuse to fund the government’s obligations, the bond markets will go berserk, the economy will slide into deep recession, or we’ll close down the Federal Gov. and waste billions until you do. That’s the deal. And we ain’t compromising. And we really don’t care what happens, because the country will blame you anyway. My point is how has that kind of politics worked out for the GOP?

    2. Joan March 14, 2016

      Are these “hand picked, expert advisors” similar to the “hand picked, successful and knowledgable real estate experts” that “staffed” Trump University?
      What exactly are our “original self reliant foundings” given that a great number of our founding fathers owed a great deal of their wealth and sucess to slave ownership? That’s self reliance for you. It was even possible and done for them to pledge a salve to fight in their place during the Revolution and after.
      What do you imagine Trump supporters will do when that wall is Not built and Mexico won’t pony up a peso for construction? Trump stands on the sands of unrealistic expectations that he has fostered. His supporters are not big on compromise and will see any pivot to the center as traitorous. Trump must ride the whirlwind of his creation but we all will be buffeted by high and dangerous winds. Beware the Trump tornado.

      1. Leftout March 14, 2016

        Can not speak to TU since one case seems to be under litigation, As Hillary used to saying. Slavery was in a different and waning system and a different time. It’s like having women in a submissive stays in those ages, only the Moslems still engage in this practice and some woman seem to love it there…. No need to work , but just a lay occasionally between prayers .
        Mexico will Pony up with decreased trade across the border, one way or the other . Trumps proposals are undoable . He will be considered traitorous if does not begin to fix stuff. We got ourselves here, we can reverse these taxes that have ruined the middle class resulting in decease disposable income ~ 6k over the past 8 + years.

  7. FT66 March 14, 2016

    For sureTrump will disappear but the damage he has made to his party is beyond repair. Anyone who thinks his party will silence him down and expect to win the election, might give themselves another thought. Unless and until GOP go behind Trump, his 35% or so of his supporters is a huge number to ignore or be substracted from the republican party. We need to vote, yes, but the fate of GOP will be known not later than July when stories about Trump will change completely.

  8. bluetah March 14, 2016

    The national GOP and their surrounding media machine have been telling their constituents this stuff for about 50 years now. The Southern Strategy employed by Nixon Republicans started this unhealthy slide. At the same time- the Wall Street GOP used their political power to gobble up more and more and more financial power until recently we had no choice but to bail them out with our money.
    Our situation is precarious now and if we are to remedy it- we have to take a careful approach that won’t tear out the underpinnings of our entire economy. Their are some who just want to tear away, heedless of impending disaster- and other of us, who favor a slower surer approach. And since things are as bad as they are, we actually turn against one another. That only works the will of the right wing establishment.
    Go ahead and argue about theoretical and conceptual purity. Go ahead and take pride in your unsullied progressivism- keep clinging to what ever ultimately impractical candidate you might support- or reluctantly tolerate.
    But in the end, vote to begin to fix this mess. Don’t get caught up in some phony distractive deunifying idealism that dooms us all.

    1. charleo1 March 14, 2016

      Great post! Let’s absolutely fix this, but be careful, and smart about it. Excellent! We should be hearing exactly this message from the Democratic Party. Instead rhetoric is sky high on both sides, each in their own way. Revolution is in the air! To the ramparts fellow countrymen!

    2. RED March 14, 2016

      Although I applaud your comment, I find have a few suspicions. “Conceptual purity” & “unsullied progressivism?” Hmmm, what does that mean? I’ve got a pretty good guess what it means to you and I’ll tell you want it means to me and others like me with our “unsullied progressivism.” It means that we are democrats, and have been democrats, all while we have watched our party move ever rightward and be in lock step with the republicans on pay to play politics and neoliberalism. It means that the Democratic President before our current one created a system that has allowed us to continue to be the largest incarcerator of human beings on the planet, to deregulate the financial industry so much so that it crashed our economy, to hold hands with the Cons and denigrate the poor, and turn their backs on labor. And now our current President, for all the good things he has done and I do believe he has done good things, still kills human beings extra judicially and secretly. Weren’t we the party that opposed the death penalty? How did we become the party that now ok’s not just execution but execution completely outside the legal system. So forgive us in our unsullied progressivism and beliefs that we don’t agree with this continuing and our country and world only murdering or destroying the lives of a few less people under democrats than Cons, forgive us for believing that none of it is acceptable. And forgive us for not being unable to understand how the Cons are wholly owned by their donors but somehow Democrats who accept and receive money from these same donors are not.

      1. meridaest March 14, 2016

        As much as we might like to believe it, the monolithic Democratic party of the past never existed. We always had a left, center, and right. In fact, we no longer have right-wing Dems. They are now Republicans or Indys. A minority have always been good socialists, but most have been capitalists who believe that large corporations should be sufficiently regulated and unions should be strong in order to balance economic opportunity for everyone who works hard and plays by the rules. In the past 70 years we have also been the party of human and economic rights of children, the elderly, minorities, and people that live with disabilities or other particular hardships. Both of our candidates have always been in the forefront of fighting for Democratic values. I agree with the reforms the author presents and will be happy to support the Democratic nominee in the fall.

  9. plc97477 March 14, 2016

    Actually, yesterday would be a good time to start. The gotp has shown that they don’t care much for their autopsies. They didn’t remember any of the last one long enough to make any of the needed changes. Mr. Pitts I love reading your articles.

  10. Claudia Davison March 19, 2016

    You do recognize that all this noise is about political parties that are not in the law, don’t you? They are clubs that have wedged themselves between the People and their government. They have enacted laws that obstruct competition, isolate disfavored people, and empower themselves and their campaign funders. This current “election” is a public subsidy of the selection of political party delegates who will choose the party’s candidates–not candidates who will necessarily, or likely–represent the People. No wonder Trump and Sanders have such enthusiastic support from the accumulated anger of the disenfranchised and wounded electorate.

    To take our government back, I suggest The Fair Elections Fund–a Whole New Ball Game, at http://www.thefairelectionsfund.com. Is your government worth $7.00 a year to you?


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