Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Donald Trump will someday no longer be president, and it’s about time activists, politicians and citizens start planning for what comes next.
There’s a danger in straying one’s eyes from the challenges of the present, but progressives’ vision for post-Trump reality, whenever it finally comes, will inform their activism today, their behavior in the 2018 midterms and their preferred candidates in 2020.
The most important question about America’s post-Trump political culture is this: Do liberals and progressives want American politics to go back to normal? Or do they want an even more radical and tumultuous future, albeit in a different ideological direction?
Normalcy is certainly appealing, especially to liberals of a specific socio-economic class. Trump’s evils have drawn the previously apathetic into the political arena.
Reading and following news in the Trump era is unpleasant, so, for many liberals, it would be nice to behave like they did during the Obama era — lightly engaged in politics but mostly distant from its daily tumult.
If the broad anti-Trump resistance goes in this direction, it might nominate congressional candidates like Connor Lamb and Jon Ossoff, folks who won’t go along with the radical GOP agenda but also won’t agitate for disruptive change. It might select a candidate like Joe Biden for president.
Many people, especially comfortably upper-middle class liberals, could finally stop checking Twitter. They could pretend the Trump presidency never happened.
But this future would be a tragedy. It would forfeit the very real opportunity for a radical political movement toward equality, racial justice and social democracy.
The only — and I mean only — good thing about the Trump presidency is that it’s erased constraints of normalcy. Activists and politicians have become liberated from the establishment wisdom that used to dictate what was possible in American politics.
Teachers in West Virginia won a massive strike at a time when we’re told the labor movement is in irreversible decline. Many prospective candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination have endorsed a single-payer health care system only a couple years after the Democratic nominee explained that single-payer will “never, ever come to pass.”
Rev. William Barber II has launched a Poor People’s Campaign for racial and economic justice, suggesting that an authentic and powerful religious left may be more than a fantasy. And a group of high school students have decided they won’t let mass shootings become a permanent feature of the American educational experience.
[Read more: Beware the reasonable conservative]
If anti-Trump folks decide they hate news alerts more than they hate injustice, these burgeoning movements may be relegated to the political fringe. If Democrats choose normalcy over social democracy, post-Trump America may look a lot like pre-Trump America.
But police frequently shot black people with impunity in pre-Trump America. Pre-Trump America featured some of the worst child poverty rates in the developed world. In pre-Trump America, liberal darling Barack Obama deported immigrants at a faster rate than the current president.
Normal is not an option. Citizens are becoming dissatisfied with the roots of their political and economic systems, and America’s intellectual and moral energy is on the left for the first time in decades. It’s a glorious opportunity for radical imagination and moral revival. The years after Trump aren’t meant for rest — they’re meant for revolution.
Max Foley-Keene, opinion editor, is a sophomore government and politics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.