To the potential Democratic candidates of 2020 and their army of political strategists and consultants, I offer a humble, four-letter suggestion of which tactic to employ: rage.
There’s a lot for a liberal to be angry about in the Trump era. There’s a blizzard of offenses, both the brazen and the subtle, all going on at once, a kind of acid snow of bewildering, anger-inducing initiatives that bombards anyone who seeks to stay informed. There’s the quiet rollback of environmental regulations at dizzying scale, which is slowly sickening entire populations. There are the party rental tents at Mar-a-Lago for which taxpayers are footing the $54,000 bill. There are children dying in the custody of Border Patrol and a sprawling camp for teenage migrants hastily assembled in the Texas desert. And far more. And it’s constant.
Trump induces visceral reactions in many, but the causes for rage extend beyond him, and even beyond the damage his administration is actively doing. There are preconditions that allowed him to rise, that allowed the Republican Party to lie supine before him and to embrace him so fully. There is a sickness in this country that allowed this carbuncular president to swell to the surface, and it calls for more than the Democrats’ signature bloodless, incremental technocracy to fix.
The plain fact of the matter is that for a lot of Americans, life simply sucks and isn’t getting better.
There are other kinds of rage, though, and other uses for it. “Anger is loaded with information and energy,” wrote Audre Lorde in a 1981 address titled “The Uses of Anger.” “I have suckled the wolf’s lip of anger and I have used it for illumination, laughter, protection, fire in places where there was no light, no food, no sisters, no quarter.”
Lorde’s speech eloquently addresses how anger can be used to fight back against racism, how anger is a means of survival. While her speech is drawn from a profoundly personal experience of marginalization, the notion of anger as a survival tactic ― as a source of power that can be harnessed for good purpose and to great ends ― is a useful guiding principle for those who desperately seek progress in their lives and in the world around them.
The uses of rage have been eloquently addressed in three separate books by female authors this year: Rebecca Traister, Soraya Chemaly and Brittney Cooper, in their works lauding the fearsome power of rage among women, tapped the seething seam of anger that is echoing through the electorate on all sides of the aisle.
This. So much this. Trump won because of his rage, not in spite of it. I know liberals love the power of reasoned conversation, compromise, and reasonable governance. None of this matters. What matters is channeling the rage of the millions of struggling Americans into a political movement that promises them a better life without demonizing people of color, foreigners, women, or others except those in power. Demonize Wall Street all you want. Demonize Republicans by describing the things they actually do. Demonize Fox News. But turn this hate and rage into a program for improving the lives of the masses, not that of the elite.
Donald Trump could very easily win in 2020. One way to ensure he does not is to demand a furious Democratic Party that taps into that rage.