The thousands of Chicago protesters who yesterday stood up to Donald Trump and the racist, sexist, immigrant-bashing, Muslim-hating violence that he incites demonstrated what we all ought to know: that the only way to deal with a bully is to confront the bully and fight back. By standing up in force, and fighting back, they have already sent shock waves across the nation.
For months, the major party presidential candidates stood by while Trump called Mexican immigrants “rapists”, called Muslims here and around the world “terrorists” (and said that waterboarding is too gentle a punishment), demeaned women, denounced protests of murders of black people by the out of control police (and blamed the victims). He egged on the worst, most thuggish racist elements at his mass rallies to maul and beat up the small number of protesters brave enough to confront him. Trump rallies have become venues where the worst of the worst — white supremacists, militant anti-abortionists, right-wing evangelicals, Muslim-bashers — could meet and mix. In other words, they’re the breeding grounds for a mass reactionary movement aiming at physically intimidating and suppressing the basic democratic rights of blacks, women, gays, Muslims, militant trade unionists — i.e., most of us.
Now that Trump has been confronted by force and pushed back, the other Republican candidates — who at their latest debate, only two nights ago, all pledged that they would support Trump if he gets the nomination — are backing off. According to NPR, Kasich and Cruz said earlier today that they may not support Trump, and later reports said that Rubio is having second thoughts too. But all of these Republicans have winked at racism and bashed immigrants for decades — recall Ronald Reagan stereotyping black women as “welfare queens”, and George H.W. Bush (Bush the First) running “Willie Horton” ads to promote fear of black men as violent criminals. Trump takes it further — he’s threatening to take it to the streets, and the Republican establishment would rather not go quite that far quite so openly yet. But had there been no mass pushback against Trump yesterday, those politicians would have continued to quietly go along with a Trump nomination. They still may.
What about the Democrats? Well, at least according to NPR (and the other reports we’ve seen thus far), neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders has called for using last night's protests to launch a mass militant movement against the violent right-wing racism, sexism, and immigrant-bashing. Of course, Hillary Clinton wouldn’t: instead, she predictably condemned violence. And Bernie Sanders? He called for "unity". Sanders, after all, is a politician trying to win the nomination of a capitalist party. His “political revolution” is explicitly about registering more people into the Democratic party and getting out the vote for him. But Trump and the forces that he’s appealing to and that are assembling under his banner won’t be stopped primarily by electoral means. They will only be stopped in the way that they were last night. Clearly, it was the willingness of thousands to stand up to Trump and his minions -- and to stand up physically -- that won the day and may have turned the tide. This needs to be carried forward and repeated in city after city, state after state, across the country: We need a united front, mass militant movement against Trump and the racist reactionary forces building under his banner.