Socialist Worker

‘The protests have made us feel less fearful’—anti-Trump protesters take their anger to the streets

The election of right wing Republican Donald Trump as US president has led to shock—and sparked protests. Activists across the US spoke to Alistair Farrow about the result, the aftermath and how they are fighting back

Issue No. 2530

Protesters gathered outside Trump tower in New York on Wednesday

Protesters gathered outside Trump tower in New York on Wednesday (Pic: Rhododendrites/Wikipedia Creative Commons)

Protests have swept the US following the election of Donald Trump. Thousands have blocked motorways and city centres in disgust at the racism and sexism at the heart of his campaign.

Demonstrators spoke to Socialist Worker about their reaction to the election, how they are organising and what lies behind Trump’s victory.

Keith Rose, an activist in St Louis, joined protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson has seen big Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests since 2014 in response to several police killings of unarmed black men.

Keith told Socialist Worker, “One of our protests started when a group of people left a party after watching the election result. They marched down an entertainment district, gathering additional marchers as people in bars came out to join them.”

Police estimated that 7,000 people came out in Oakland, California, the night after the election result. Thousands protested in Chicago, and another 300 in Portland. School students walked out to join the demonstrations in at least 15 states.

Kayla is a BLM activist from New York. “A lot of people I know are scared and angry,” she said. “It feels like nowhere in America is safe.”

John, a media worker from New York, agreed. “I’ve been physically ill since the returns began to come in,” he said. “This is a time of terrible coldness for the US.”

I think that this will be the start of a civil war in the Republican Party

Daniel from Boston

Keith added, “The activists involved in the Ferguson protests are deeply saddened by not only Trump’s victory, but the Republican victories throughout Missouri.”

Trump ostracised much of the establishment of the Republican Party to the extent that leading figures such as Paul Ryan publicly distanced themselves from him.

The party machine ploughed resources into winning control of Congress and the House of Representatives, which they did.

There’s a danger that Trump could get a clear run for policies he wants to push through. But the divisions in his party give protesters some hope.

As Daniel from Boston put it, “I think that this will be the start of a civil war in the Republican Party. I don’t know how they’ll be able to hold it together under Trump’s leadership.”

He added, “I think this will be a moment which pulls new people into political activity.”

Riley Metcalfe from San Antone supported left winger Bernie Sanders, who stood and failed to be the Democratic presidential candidate. “It seems the election has made the left coalesce and jump into action,” he told Socialist Worker.

“I’m worried that the movement might be drowned out by liberals, but right now it seems leftist activism is booming.”

A lot of people are scared and angry—BLM activist Kayla

"A lot of people are scared and angry"—BLM activist Kayla

Kayla stressed that protests have “helped a lot of people to feel less alone in their anger and fear of a Trump presidency”.

Workers taking collective action can also provide a focus. Those in the Fight for $15 campaign, demanding a minimum wage of $15 an hour, are set to strike next month.

Jorel Ware is a fast food worker from New York. He told Socialist Worker the day he heard of Trump’s election was “one of the saddest days of my life”.

But he added, “The Fight For $15 campaign is very important, now more than ever.”

Lecturer Tiffany Kraft has been active supporting the Fight For $15 campaign. “It concerns me deeply that Trump’s campaign was built on racism, bigotry and misogyny,” she said. “It feels like a lead curtain has closed on our nation.

“We need to fight even harder for love and equality.”

Many of those opposing Trump said the Democrats’ failure to stand up for ordinary people lies behind the result.

Annette, a student in Chester, Virginia, said, “I woke up to the news that Trump had won and it was a shock. But then look at what’s been going on in our government.

“Look at what’s been going on in the US over the last few decades, look at the people who took us to war.”

I’m hearing people saying that leftists didn’t try hard enough to elect Clinton. Truth is that Clinton didn’t try hard enough to make herself electable.

St Lous activist Keith

Clinton represented the bankruptcy of the US political elite and its links with big business while Bernie Sanders called himself a socialist.

Polls of voting intentions at the primary stages showed that Sanders was 15 points ahead of Trump while Clinton was only a couple ahead.

Had Sanders been the Democratic candidate, Trump could have been beaten. Yet the Democratic Party machine has rushed to blame others for its own failings.

Some claim that Green presidential candidate Jill Stein split the “progressive” vote.

“Neoliberals will always blame the left for their problems,” said Keith. “Before they had finished counting the votes we were already hearing that Stein stole this election from Clinton.”

He dismissed the idea that the left caused Clinton’s failure. “I’m hearing people saying that leftists didn’t try hard enough to elect Clinton,” he said. “Truth is that Clinton didn’t try hard enough to make herself electable.

“She ran from the left, embraced the middle, and ended up losing the centrist votes anyway.”

It’s little wonder that a candidate who so disgracefully offered themselves up to the banks that sparked the economic crisis failed to galvanise support.

Clinton’s leaked emails showed that she charged up to £200,000 for speeches to financial firms. She told financial bosses that you need a “public and a private persona” in order to con ordinary people.

“Maybe we underestimate how much people of this nation are looking for change in the system,” said Sanders supporter Refugio from California. “The only thing I can possibly think of for Trump’s victory is that the nation is fed up with the lies and corruption.”

Everyone who spoke to Socialist Worker was clear on one thing—Donald Trump and the politics he represents must be resisted.

Who voted for Trump?

Donald Trump ran a vile racist campaign. But was his victory simply down to racism?

Donald Trump ran a vile racist campaign. But was his victory simply down to racism? (Pic: Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)

Who voted for Donald Trump? Exit polls suggest that he won backing from most groups of white voters, especially those without a college education.

Some conclude that white, working class voters are racist and were won over by Trump’s whipping up of hatred against Mexicans and Muslims.

Of course Trump did run a disgustingly racist campaign. But he got significant numbers of votes from Latinos and others too. And voting patterns show it’s too simplistic to see this as just a racist vote.

In several states where voters elected Barack Obama, the first black president of the US, in 2008 and 2012 Trump won this time around.

As the New York Times (NYT) newspaper put it, “Industrial towns once full of union voters who for decades offered their votes to Democratic presidential candidates shifted to Trump.”

There is deep anger about stagnant or falling wages, lack of secure jobs and soaring inequality. Because of Clinton’s pro-business policies, some of it was seized by Trump, even though he has no answers for working class people.

In Trumbull, Ohio, Trump won by six points. Voters there backed Obama by 22 points in 2012. In Iowa Obama won easily in 2012. This time Trump won easily.

In the electorally important industrial states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Clinton’s vote was down

13 percentage points, 10 points and 9 points, respectively compared to Obama in 2012.

Clinton was also much weaker than Obama with union?household voters. He won them by 58-40, Clinton by just 51-43.

The NYT wrote, “Obama was strong among white working class Northerners.” This doesn’t suggest that these voters can simply be dismissed as racist. It indicates that Clinton’s campaign failed to win their support.

In Detroit a city whose population is 83 percent black, Clinton received 48,000 fewer votes than Obama in 2012.

Fewer than a quarter of white men without a college degree backed Clinton, whereas Obama had won a third of their votes.

Nearly 100 percent of black voters aged between 35 and 54 had backed Obama. Just 80 percent voted for Clinton.

In Detroit a city whose population is 83 percent black, Clinton received 48,000 fewer votes than Obama in 2012.

And Obama won 70 percent of the Latino vote, compared to Clinton’s 66 percent.

In contrast, polls suggested that Trump won roughly the same share of Latino voters as Republican candidate Mitt Romney did in 2012.

It showed that a third of Latino men voted for Trump, and 26 percent of Latino women.

White men were most likely to back Trump—63 percent to Clinton’s 31 percent. White women were also more likely to vote for Trump, with 52 percent saying they backed him.

Edison Research’s national election poll, sampling 24,537 voters, found that the only white group to back Clinton was college-educated women.


Trump’s campaign wasn’t simply about racism. He hypocritically positioned himself as an “outsider” standing up for ordinary people.

Billionaire Trump claimed such people would no longer be “forgotten”. He pledged to create jobs, provide affordable health care and improve housing.

Meanwhile, Clinton was a clear establishment candidate.

The Edison poll found that the poorest people were still more likely to vote Democrat, while Republican votes rose with income.

Some 52 percent of people earning under £40,000 voted Democrat and 41 percent voted Republican. Those earning more than £40,000 backed Trump by 49 percent and Clinton by 47 percent.

When asked if the next generation of Americans would have a better life than those today, some 59 percent of Democrat voters said yes.

Yet 63 percent of Republican voters said no.

Ordinary people have suffered eight years of cuts and attacks under an Obama Democrat government.

They have watched promises that their lives would get better being broken.

Obama’s supporters made great claims for his healthcare reform.

But a fortnight before the election it was revealed that Obamacare health premiums were set to rise by an average of 25 percent in 2017. This factor may have shifted a crucial number of voters.

Trump has managed to pull some of the anger in US society behind his right wing campaign. It is a serious worry that someone who has been overtly racist and sexist can win such a high vote.

The result doesn’t show a huge shift to the Republicans. Republican candidate Mitt Romney won 47.2 percent of the popular vote in 2012.

Trump had taken 47.5 percent by Wednesday evening—and Clinton looks likely to have won a small majority.

We should always remember that nearly half of eligible voters did not vote at all.

The NYT argued that Trump’s victory was “a powerful rejection of the establishment”. It’s clear that many people are sick of a system that fails them.

Sadie Robinson

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.