By Vicki Morris
Donald Trump’s election as US President sounds the alarm for women’s and trans people’s rights in the US and around the world. In his first few weeks in office, already Trump has: • Blocked aid to projects involved in giving abortion advice and care abroad.
• Withdrawn federal protection for transgender pupils in state schools that allowed them to use toilets and facilities correspondent with their gender identity. • Nominated conservative Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy in the eight-person Supreme Court.
• Nominated an overwhelmingly white, male and right-wing executive.
The election period was in itself an alarming show. There was the leak of Trump’s 2005 video in which he boasted to TV host Billy Bush of using his power and wealth to sexually harass women. Trump dismissed the video, saying it was just “locker room” talk, and threatened to sue any woman who accused him of sexual misconduct. In spite of this a number of women have gone on the record against him and some say they will pursue legal cases.
One such, Jessica Drake, said about the video: “His words and his action are a huge testament to his character, that of uncontrollable entitlement, misogyny and a sexual assault apologist.” Trump’s brash verbal denunciation of his opponent Hillary Clinton shaded into sinister physical stalking during their TV debates. The performance Donald Trump and his wife Melania gave as a traditional couple, with Donald Trump in the powerful, active role and Melania Trump as a passive decoration, seemed to turn the sexual politics clock back several decades.
Trump has moved quickly to make good on his election promise to bar large numbers of Muslims from entering the US, with a temporary ban on people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. The ban is being contested in the courts and is lifted for now, but restrictions on people from Muslim backgrounds entering the US, and not only from those seven countries, are continuing.
Trump also seeks to scapegoat migrants from central and south America, with his threat to deport illegal migrants, and build a wall between Mexico and the US. Migrant women, lesbians and bisexual women, trans women, women of colour, working-class women — all have reason to resist Trump’s policies. And women have begun to resist!
On 21 January 2017 500,000 women and supportive men are estimated to have marched in Washington DC, and there were 400 marches elsewhere in the US, and nearly 70 solidarity marches worldwide, including in the UK. Trump’s Muslim ban has met with angry protests. “America first!” Trump declared in his inaugural address, heralding a more inward-looking US.
Some might say that is a good thing: US interference around the world has favoured the interests of the US ruling class and trampled on the rights of others.
But the US turning in on itself does not of itself make the world a better place: Trump gives the green light to, among others, Russia’s Putin for his reactionary policies; to Israel’s Netanyahu to allow more settlement building. A more protectionist US threatens to start a race to raise borders and slow down globalisation that is in the spirit of the 1930s rather than the more just world we would like to see.
And Trump has just announced a 10% hike in military spending for 2018 — a more peaceful world is not on the cards. And when Trump says “America first!” he means that his administration will overwhelmingly serve the interests of rich, white men.
American workers, women, people of colour must build a coalition against Trump that can beat him back, and assert their interests against those of the ruling class of the US. They will have allies around the world, as protests against Trump in the US are matched by solidarity protests in other countries, including the UK.
While Trump’s politics overwhelmingly serve the rich, it is true that he did appeal to a layer of working-class voters, including women voters. Trump’s nationalistic rhetoric and promise to return jobs to the US played well in some areas of industrial decline. Disgust with Trump’s sexism, and excitement at the prospect of the first woman president, were tempered by the character and reputation of who that woman president would be: Hillary Clinton is seen as close to the rich and powerful, too establishment, a personally ambitious career politician, someone who stood by her husband Bill Clinton when he was accused of sexually harassing women, someone who disparaged his accusers.
Hillary Clinton won more votes across the country than Donald Trump, but that she could not do enough to clearly overcome a man as vile as Trump says a lot about the limitations of her brand of politics, her feminism, and about the undemocratic nature of the US political system. Instead of pinning our hopes on electing a woman president or other woman figurehead — in the UK, after all, we have Theresa May as our Prime Minister, who will do no more to make life easier for the majority of women than did Margaret Thatcher — we need to build massive grassroots movements.
These movements will elect their own representatives to serve them — and only for a time before being replenished from below. They will challenge nationalism and xenophobia. They will be internationalist. They will build a political system that is not dominated by money. We can overcome Trump and all that he represents — for that we need a strong labour movement and a strong working-class women’s movement, working in coalition with all of those fighting sexism, racism and homophobia worldwide!
Together we can beat back Trump!