Illustration by Jem Sullivan

Buckle up, friends, it’s going to be a hairy ride.

Start with Day One for President Trump (gotta get used to saying that). He will need to be up-and-at-’em no later than 12:01 a.m., for during his campaign he promised to get oodles of big stuff done on his very first day in office, including: repeal Obamacare; begin working on his “impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, Southern border wall”; meet with Homeland Security officials to begin securing the border; fix the Department of Veterans Affairs; repeal “every single Obama executive order”; suspend Syrian refugee resettlement; “get rid of gun-free zones [in] schools”; end the “war on coal”; defend the unborn; start taking care of our military; and convene top generals and inform them they have thirty days to come up with a plan to stop ISIS.

Good grief! Americans have actually put a xenophobic misogynist racist nativist narcissistic blowhard in the Oval Office. Has our country gone rightwing? Or just completely nuts?

No. Trump was not elected on issues, but on anger—a deep seething fury that the economic and political elites themselves have created by knocking down the working-class majority, then callously stepping over them as if they didn’t exist. Exit polls revealed that most Trump voters don’t think he’s any more honest than Hillary Clinton (only 38 percent of all voters had a favorable opinion of him, with only a third saying he was qualified to be President). Also, his own voters disagree with much of his agenda (especially his grandiose wall across the Mexican border).

But Trump’s core message—“The system is rigged” by and for the elites—came through loud and clear, so they grabbed him like a big Bois D’Arc stick to whop the whole establishment upside its collective head.

The major message from voters was, “We want change.” The Donald was the one most likely to shake things up (or blow things up), while Clinton clearly was the candidate of the status quo. As a West Texas farmer told me several years ago, “status quo” is Latin for “The mess we’re in.” So change voters, including those who would normally side with Democrats, cast their ballot for the Republican.

Indeed, on specific issues, voters around the country supported progressive changes offered in a variety of ballot initiatives:

All four states that had minimum-wage increases on the ballot passed them: Arizona (59 percent in favor), Colorado (55 percent), Maine (55 percent), and Washington (60 percent). Plus, 71 percent of South Dakota voters rejected a proposal to lower its minimum wage.

Two states passed initiatives calling for a constitutional amendment to repeal the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that has flooded our elections with corporate money: California (52 percent for it) and Washington (64 percent “yes”). 

A Minnesota initiative that removes the power of state lawmakers to set their own salaries, replacing it with a bipartisan citizens council to consider any increases, won approval by a whopping 77 percent.

In addition, many solidly progressive “firsts” happened on Election Day: the first Indian American woman in Congress (Pramila Jayapal of Washington), the first Latina U.S. Senator (Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada), the first Indian American elected to the U.S. Senate (Kamala Harris of California), the first openly LGBT governor to win an election (Kate Brown of Oregon), the first Vietnamese American woman elected to Congress (Stephanie Murphy of Florida), the first Somali American Muslim woman elected to a state legislature (Ilhan Omar of Minnesota), and the first openly gay state legislator in Georgia (Sam Park).

Trump is in the White House, but the takeaway from voters in this election is a mandate for progressive economic populism and more diversity among public officials. 

Jim Hightower produces The Hightower Lowdown newsletter and is the author, with Susan DeMarco, of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow.


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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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