“Thank you, my friends. We have lost. We have lost, and this is the last day of my political career, so I will say what must be said. We are standing at the edge of the abyss. Our political system, our society, our country itself are all in greater danger than at any time in the last century and a half. The President-elect has made his intentions clear, and it would be immoral to pretend otherwise. We must band together right now to defend the laws, the institutions, and the ideals on which our country is based.” These words – written instead by Masha Gessen – are what Hillary Clinton should have said during her concession speech.
Instead she said, in reference to Trump, that “we owe him an open mind and a chance to lead”. President Obama followed with: “We are all rooting for [Trump’s] success.” But Trump is an incendiary race-baiter and a misogynist. Telling women, minorities and immigrants, from whom he has pledged to strip civil rights, that we “owe him an open mind” is unjust and immoral.
Trump has also shown his disdain for the US Constitution. Asking any American to wish such a man success is callous and un-American.
Formerly critical Republicans like Lindsey Graham and John McCain have been muted. Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney have even rallied behind him. Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and the self-proclaimed “revolutionary” Bernie Sanders have expressed a desire to “reach across the aisle” to work with Trump. Responses like these serve to normalise Trump as a regular political entity. He is not, and it is dangerous to treat him as such.
Anyone who threatens to imprison (or seems to allude to the assassination of) their political opponents should be treated like the anomaly he is.
In situations like this, not only is it our prerogative to not rally behind Trump, but it is our duty as Americans to exercise our right to assemble against his presidency.
This cannot be a grassroots movement. It requires leadership to guide and focus the disparate forces that seek to resist the incoming regime. And there is not much time to organise. Thankfully, some of our leaders have reacted to the forthcoming threat with greater lucidity. Key among them is Bill de Blasio, Eric Garcetti, Rahm Emannuel and Ed Lee, the mayors of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco respectively.
These are the mayors of the cities with the densest populations of citizens who voted for Hillary Clinton but ended up having their voices silenced by the Electoral College system, which put Trump in the White House even as Clinton won 2.5m more votes and counting. These mayors also lead global centres that have inhaled global populations, representing a trend of steady growth that is only projected to accelerate in the years to come.
The Electoral College was still arcane but slightly less unrepresentative in 1950 when roughly 30 per cent of the globe’s population lived in cities. It is an absurd statement of disenfranchisement today – by 2050, a projected 80 per cent of the world will be urban-based.
The mayors of these major cities are now in command of the centres that drive the global economy, too. They must protect the interests of their populations. This should include maintaining their statuses as Sanctuary Cities, which shelter illegal immigrants. New York’s economy is tourism-heavy and that economy is reliant on undocumented workers who should be given a way out of the shadows. But in the meantime, they cannot be deported willy-nilly without wrecking our economy as well as our moral conscience.
Silicon Valley, with San Francisco as its gateway, relies on immigrant skill sets to augment its industry. If the Trump administration threatens to cease all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities, then their mayors should consider stopping their cities’ payment of Federal Income Tax.
These industries aren’t just vital to us but to the world as a whole, and this is why the case for the study of sensible de-integration must be made. When economies become incompatible (think Greece and Germany in Grexit), that case becomes essential. The people of West Virginia may want to take their economy back to the production of steel and coal, but that does not change the fact that the world wants iPhones, Paramount Pictures, stocks and so on.
If the Trump administration’s protectionism removes us from trade agreements that are vital to our growth, then we should not shy away from making the immediate case for the establishment of special administrative zones that separate our cities, possibly using the “one country, two systems” model of Hong Kong’s autonomy from mainland China.
In addition to looking out for our industries, we must also pragmatically look out for our own safety. Global terrorists aren’t as likely to attack West Virginia as they are to target the major global centres. In order to counteract these threats, we rely on sophisticated intelligence-gathering and sharing. If Angela Merkel, King Salman or Xi JinPing decide that their intelligence is not safe in the hands of US agencies that are being run by a reality TV star who tweets constantly with little regard for the consequences, then the consequences for us will be dire.
We need our mayors to now articulate clear policy. Your cities have become the centre of the world. Your jobs have evolved. No longer parochial, you are the leaders of the future. We need you to step up. We know that London cannot exit the world stage because of Brexit, nor can New York exit because of American protectionism. But the global economy will move on: from Dubai to Shanghai and Tokyo to Tel Aviv and Seoul, the world will suffer a temporary shockwave and then leave us behind. For us in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and our other major cities, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
The fact that I have seen myself in fundamental agreement with people like George W Bush and Glen Beck in recent weeks – people with whom I disagree on a number of important issues – should be proof enough that this is not about political dissent. Democrats like Warren have said that a Trump administration “stands ready to tear apart an America that was built on values like decency, community, and concern for our neighbours”, while Republicans like Lindsey Graham have simply called it a fatal “bullet in the head”.
They’re both right.
Obama now stands ready to hand this administration the most sophisticated surveillance state network in the history of the human race as well as a hyper-advanced drone programme. In his speech at the Democratic National Convention, he grandly stated that “anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end”. That represents a heartening belief in America, its apparent exceptionalism and belief in the strength of its institutions.
But it’s also an awfully big risk to believe this. What if America, rather than being the miracle nation of our legends, is just another country made up of human beings just like everyone else and prone to make the same recursive mistakes that all other societies have made throughout history? This is a gradual and consistent deterioration. And what happens if, one day, we wake up to find that our institutions of court and state were more fragile all along than we ever wanted to believe?
Mohammed Fairouz is a New York-based American composer
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