First, some basic points to keep in mind.
- However much the Trumpists might pretend otherwise, this election was really close. Just one or two percentage points here and there would have turned his into a victory for Clinton.
- Turnout was low compared to 2012 and 2008, especially in states that Clinton won.
- Clinton won the popular vote, and only the archaic electoral college put Trump in the White House.
We can conclude from these points that American democracy has not failed, and that a little more democracy would have been all we needed to win. In other words, we should have faith that the basic vision of a decent and pluralistic society, where people of all genders, races, and ethnicities feel safe and are equally able to participate in the economic, cultural, and political life of the country, is a vision that most of Americans share. The next four years probably do not presage the eclipse of this vision, and a long struggle to keep what we've achieved since the 1960s in its service. Rather, this election is a bump in the road of continued progress, assuming of course that we can get our acts together for 2018 and 2020. (And nothing really terrible--like a new war--happens in our foreign relations, to which I can only say: I have my fingers crossed.)
I think we will get our acts together, and in some ways the Trump victory helps us mobilize support and clarifies the issues involved. But there are at least a couple viable ways forward from here, it seems to me, and I'm not sure yet which is best.
Option 1: Build the Anti-Trump Coalition
Option 1 for the Trump opposition is to abandon the Trump-besotted white working class and instead build a multi-racial urban coalition that can consistently defeat them. This would include Republicans disaffected by Trumpism, even as the party in general seems all to eager to get behind him now that he's won. A big tent like this would tend to mute other economic and social issues. It's more of a first-things-first strategy: Let's kick these troglodytes back to the sidelines, and after that we can argue more about economic and social policy.
Option 2: Rebuild a Progressive Democratic Party
This is more an intra-party strategy--to get rid of the dead wood in the Democratic party and revivify it as a true advocate for the working classes and poor. This would use the multi-racial urban coalition as a base, but try to broaden it--and to win back some working-class whites--by emphasizing progressive economic policies and fundamental political reforms. This would likely keep away disaffected Republicans, and would be portrayed in the media as leftist extremism to balance Trumpism. But it could also attract more young voters and further heighten the distinctions between the two parties.
As I said, I'm not sure which of these options is best at the moment. I do think that Option 1 is more likely, because it's goal is concrete and short-term, it is less threatening to corporate America, and it hews to the media's (and perhaps voters') predilection for casting events as tales of moral drama, while de-emphasizing economics.