If Donald Trump’s election as president was an earthquake that leveled progressive expectations, then his transition has slammed into the political landscape with equal force. Trump is staffing his administration with far-right billionaires, conspiracy theorist generals, and extremeideologues, while upsetting relations with important powers like the United Kingdom, India, and China.
It’s created a sense of doom. The unthinkable seems almost close at hand: mass deportations, privatizing Medicare, forcing Muslim Americans to register with the government, overturning basic civil and reproductive rights, assaults on public education and unions, even privatizing Native American lands for oil exploration.
But this obsessing blinds us to real political openings on the left—particularly ones that would not have been available had Hillary Clinton been elected. In fact, there are those who see the weakening of the neoliberalism of the Democratic Party and believe the left stands a historic chance at making new gains.
But to win broad support for their agenda, progressives will need to go beyond purely logical appeals and make a Trump-like appeal to emotions.
Leo Panitch is distinguished research professor at York University in Toronto and co-author of The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire. He says one positive outcome of Hillary Clinton’s defeat is that it’s “the nail in the coffin of the Third Way,” referring to the idea, championed by Bill Clinton, that establishment left parties like the Democrats could blaze a path between capitalism and socialism. Panitch explains that Democrats supported trade deals that freed capital to maximize profits around the world while claiming they could reconcile this with their “historical commitments to social welfare and protecting the Western working class from the worst effects of capitalism.”