Opinion: Marc Lamont Hill, I Can’t ‘Afford’ a Donald Trump Presidency
Trailblazing Black gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin once said, “Let us be enraged about injustice, but let us not be destroyed by it.” In the midst of this presidential campaign, the Black community couldn’t be more enraged. Many rightfully feel as though neither major political candidate — Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump — will best serve the interests of the people. Some have taken it a step further by considering voting for a third-party candidate.
One of those individuals is Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a powerhouse commentator and scholar on race and politics. But such a position is more dangerous for our community than he and others might imagine.
During his recent interview on The Breakfast Club, Hill made the case that some of the modern Democratic Party’s positions are similar to those of the GOP of decades past. As a result, he said, he is voting for Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate (who he admitted won’t win). Shockingly, Hill also suggested that he wouldn’t want to see Trump elected, but that “we can afford to lose an election; we can’t afford to lose our values.”
I’m sorry, Marc, but my young, Black, queer life can’t afford a second or a minute of a Trump presidency, let alone four whole years of it. Neither can the women I love and appreciate, my undocumented friends, people of color, the LGBTQ community, the working class, and other underrepresented groups.
As a highly educated, affluent straight Black man, perhaps your well-earned access to social capital and other such privileges would shield you from some of the legislative setbacks that a Trump presidency would bring for other members of the Black community. Many of us must worry about health care affordability, being deported, having reproductive rights reversed, losing the right to marriage, and other sexual orientation-based discrimination that many (including myself) will face. And let’s not forget what this would do to the Supreme Court, which would impact the future of this country long after Trump’s four years in office.
Voters must ensure that Trump’s harmful ideas, such as banning Muslims from the United States and arguing that a judge can’t do his job because of his Mexican ancestry, don’t forever undermine the integrity of our nation. Any vote that doesn’t ensure that Trump loses this race is a vote that tolerates racism, xenophobia, sexism and institutionalized fascism.
Hill said he is voting for Stein because of “imperfect Democrats who don’t take us anywhere.” That’s not a provocative statement; it’s one that is reckless with the facts. President Barack Obama took our justice system somewhere much better when he appointed a Black man and woman to the position of Attorney General, and put race at the forefront of national politics. No progressive candidate is perfect, but voting for Green Party candidates who are just as imperfect is hypocrisy at its finest. (Stein, let’s not forget, routinely panders to anti-vaxxers.)
Political purity is a fantasy that influential scholars can “afford” to indulge in, but it’s detrimental to everyday people who are trying to survive and thrive.
It’s also hard for me not to find it subconsciously sexist that Hillary Clinton’s extensive experience is being used against her more aggressively than it was against the men who ran before her. What does it mean that some of us would tolerate a wannabe fascist with no political experience whatsoever over a former senator and secretary of state who is also a woman? No one is saying that Hillary hasn’t made mistakes, but no strong presidential candidate has ever been without them. She’s better than Trump — and not just based on the unfair trope that she’s a “lesser evil,” but simply because she’s the most qualified candidate in this race, period.
Furthermore, politics by default are messy, frustrating, and come with their own set of contradictions. Hill’s logic that he “would rather have Trump be president for four years and build a real left-wing movement” is devastating. If America can’t create “a real left-wing movement” under a more progressive Democratic presidency, how will we under Trump? And why must America endure four years of reversed progressive laws that have helped diverse communities in order to feel motivated to create a revolution?
This brings me back to Rustin’s words: “Let us be enraged about injustice, but let us not be destroyed by it.” As a Black man, I feel the rage over the injustice in this country just as Hill does. I understand that we as a people deserve a paradigm shift in how we politically mobilize, operate and engage. However, I don’t believe we can take a gamble on a Trump presidency due to that rage. Instead, I propose that we actually get serious about working within the progressive political party that we have and hold elected officials within it more accountable, while also encouraging emerging leaders to be even better in the future.
Why support a last-minute, political-party switch during a crucial national election, when instead you could attempt to build a movement within it post-election? Personally, I plan to support Hillary in defeating Trump this November — but afterward, I strongly encourage every American to be politically engaged in ensuring that she follows through on her progressive platform. I also recommend that communities hold our local elected officials just as accountable. All of these positions are vital if we truly want to reshape our government.
We cannot try to reinvent the political wheel in the midst of a risky election that could set us all back. Instead, we must push for realistic, sensitive and strategic efforts that we can all afford.
Follow @MrErnestOwens on Twitter.