Presidential-election years aren’t usually characterized by explosive social movements. Too often, a presidential election sucks all the oxygen out of the political space, shifting the discussion away from the needs of ordinary people and toward the false choice between a corporate Democrat and a yet more horrifying Republican.
But this year has proven different, with tens of thousands of people becoming politically active for the first time. Just in the last month, we’ve seen Native Americans rallying at Standing Rock against the Dakota pipeline with the largest gathering of tribes in a century. This bold stand has drawn attention to this nation’s historic and ongoing disregard for both treaty rights and the rapidly advancing crisis of climate change. And in the latest telling character note of this election, among the courageous protesters at Standing Rock for whom arrest warrants have been issued is Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen massive support for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his refusal to stand for the national anthem. What’s particularly striking has been the weakness of the right in trying to stop him; in fact, support for his protest is spreading across the country. We’re seeing a tremendous shift nationwide—not to the right, but to the left. An August GenForward poll showed that 51 percent of white youth support Black Lives Matter, while another recent poll found that 58 percent of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Support for socialism also continues to rise, part of a deeper discrediting of corporate politics and the failed capitalist system.
In the presidential election, however, ordinary people feel disenchanted and disempowered. Donald Trump is an abomination, and consistently over 60 percent of people polled disapprove of him and his bigotry. Trump is the single-most-unpopular major-party candidate ever, and he deserves to be trounced. But, incredibly, the Democrats have managed to nominate the second-most-unpopular candidate in history: Hillary Clinton, whose disapproval rating stands at 56 percent. Make no mistake: I want Trump to lose this election. But progressives should not support Clinton. Her close ties to corporate America and its brutal neoliberal agenda will serve to increase the appeal of right-wing populism even if she wins.