The Tony Award-winning musical “Hamilton” (which history will record as the quintessential defining American play) seems to have a song that fits every circumstance. The November 8 presidential election is no exception. When the colonists defeat the British at the Battle of Yorktown, winning America's independence, the cast sings "And the World Turned Upside Down." No truer words could be applied to the shock registered everywhere when Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States.
The question the world asked in 1781 got asked again on November 8: "What happened?" This time the answer is not that complicated. Hillary Clinton lost because not enough white people, especially white women, voted for her. Now the white men who largely make up the political consulting and pundit class will try to shift the case to black and brown voter performance, but let's not get it twisted.
Black turnout or Trump getting a larger percentage of the Latino vote than pollsters predicted had much less to do with the final result. The performance of millennial voters, regardless of ethnicity, didn't drive the final results either. Clinton's fate and the country's future was in the hands of non-millennial white voters. On November 8, white Americans got the chance to choose what kind of future it wanted for America, and they – even a significant majority of white women – chose Donald Trump.
It would be wrong to say that all Trump supporters are racist, xenophobic and sexist. Many people consider abortion to be murdering babies and will vote for an anti-choice candidate and swallow anything else that comes with him. And millions of white Americans are victims of rapacious global capitalism. They now know the fear, anxiety and hopelessness caused by cultural and economic dislocation. They have experienced the anger and rage that comes from being politically used and discarded. Many had voted for Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders.
Tragically, anti-choice voters and displaced low-income and working-class whites were swayed to support a bigoted, narcissistic, intellectually vapid reality TV con man, whose campaign was fueled by everything repugnant and vile in the American character.
So, given this reality, how should we respond?
First, reject and ignore the simple-minded, morally corrupt advice recently offered by the St Louis Post-Dispatch's editorial page that recommended that we all come together get behind President-elect Trump. It's this kind of unprincipled appeasement that's infected the black community for too long, enabling and prolonging our political dysfunction.
Next, we need to be dispassionate, strategic and patient. As mean and vicious as a presidential campaign can be, it's a church picnic compared to the death matches that happen between the factions of a winning presidential campaign. Given the competing agendas and internal contradictions of the Republican Party, the Trump honeymoon will be short-lived – the dual senior appointments of Steve Bannon and Reince Preibus appointments are early evidence – and the alienated white working class will be the first causality. Politically, we need to allow this internal Republican meltdown and not provide a common enemy that unites them.
That’s not to say don’t protest this humiliating and disastrous electoral outcome. Given Trump's insecurities and need for approval, protestors should continue to organize and speak out, giving him every opportunity for emotionally unhinged tweets in the middle of the night.
Operationally, we would be politically well-served to heed the advice of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who stated, "To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him. To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him.”
Even the darkest of clouds can contain a silver lining. Just as children have to give up the fantasy of Santa Claus, black upper-class professionals can no longer maintain the illusion that their status is different than that of African Americans of a lower economic strata or a different zip code. We share a common destiny and always have. There's no place to hide, and there's no place to run. To paraphrase James Baldwin, if they take me in the morning, they will be coming for you that night. Welcome back to the struggle.
For us, this is a moment of moral clarity. What is required was described 50 years ago in the seminal work “Black Skin, White Masks.” Franz Fanon – psychiatrist, revolutionary theorist and leader in the Algerian liberation struggle – wrote, "I as a man of color do not have the right to hope that in the white man there will be a crystallization of guilt toward the past of my race ... I find myself suddenly in the world and I recognize I have one right alone, one duty alone; that of not renouncing my freedom through my choices."
Mike Jones, who has held senior policy positions in St. Louis city and county government, serves on the St. Louis American editorial board and the State Board of Education.