It is obvious from the exit polls and various analyses of the latest United States election that Donald Trump won basically because of the large voting block of the “white, male, non-college degree, Christian, rural” vote. It is true that the Republicans – unethically and opportunistically – utilised racism, greed, fear and misogyny to encourage and win this particular vote, versus Hillary Clinton and the Democrats’ appeal to the “values” of liberalism and equality. It is also true that a Republican President, and a Republican majority in both houses, is a serious problem, especially for Muslims, locally and internationally.
That is why a majority of American Muslims supported Hillary Clinton, despite some reservations they had, in the name of the “least of two evils”. On the other hand, up to one-third of the American Muslim voters supported Trump on various grounds, such as encouraging businesses and protesting Hillary’s problematic record on transparency or foreign affairs. A few Muslims, under the influence of some extreme opinions, did not vote for Hillary because she is a woman! What was clear is that there was no clear strategy for American Muslims in this election, other than the importance to participate and vote.
Therefore, I believe that it is high time for American Muslims to take a step back, think deeply and strategise for what is next. And I believe that what is next for America should be a political “Third Way”, which I believe American Muslims could substantially contribute to envisioning and shaping. A Third Way in which the extreme unethical positions of both existing ideologies could be avoided, while the healthy concepts and policies from both sides could be integrated and linked. This requires extensive research and high-level strategising, but I, humbly, thought that offering a few ideas and examples might be helpful.
Generally speaking, why did the “white, male, non-college degree, Christian, rural” came out to support Trump in particular, even more than other Republican nominees in the past? Part of the answer is Trump’s appeal to racism and fear, it is true. However, I believe that another significant part of the answer is that this voter in particular is fed up with both parties, and that Trump’s non-mainstream and controversial Republican nomination actually helped him to gain more conservative support. The American “white, male, non-college degree, Christian, rural” voter is fed up with the extreme positions that both ideologies, the liberal and the conservative, ended up taking. The liberal ideology of the Democratic Party is now based on an everything-goes ethic with a socialist flavour, while the (neo-)conservative ideology of the Republican Party is now quite elitist and tailored only for the economic interests of the top 1%. This is where the opportunity exists for a Third Way, ideology, movement and party.
On economy, for example, both Republicans and Democrats – especially after sidelining Bernie Sanders – are guilty of supporting economic injustices and maintaining a highly unfair economic status quo. Despite some of the recent Democrat’s useful policies on health care, jobs and education, both parties never question or critique the unfair basic premises and structures of the American economic system. A Third Party has to address how the top 1% got where they are, how wealth is only circulating amongst them despite how hard their employees work, and how the corporate culture is becoming a new form of slavery in all professions and organisations. Much needed are policies that could seriously push some of this circulating wealth and profits towards the bottom 90%, policies against the phenomenal level of poverty of adults and children in America, policies to correct the historical injustice and marginalisation of natives, blacks and other minorities, policies to preserve the “human right” for education and healthcare, and policies to address the question of the “big banks”, especially The Fed and its counterintuitive structure and role. These are examples of the spaces that are available for a Third Way to lead a new social justice movement, which I believe American Muslims should contribute to in significant ways.
On family, for another example, the liberals have actually recently “changed” the five thousand year old very definition of “family”! This was a reaction to pressure from LGBT interest groups, who worked very hard especially in Washington and Hollywood, and eventually won a narrow vote in the “Supreme Court”. The Supreme Court decision basically means that a group of lawyers/judges sat down and made a decision on this issue, without any process whatsoever of involving the public. The only exception was some shady polls that were published in the traditional media. This is of course alarming to any religious person, including the average Christian American. I believe, quite frankly, that many American Muslims compromised their own moral values when they welcomed this change to the very definition of family.
On the other hand, many American “conservatives” are starting to endorse LGBT “rights”, which also alarmed the average American voter. There is a similar trend in Canada, where I live, where conservatives voted recently to “strike marriage definition” from party policy itself. Similar developments are happening in the UK, Australia and other western countries. However, traditional family definition and values should be prominent in the new Third Way. On this issue and other family issues, American Muslims should collaborate with other likeminded religious communities, especially Christians and Jews. A Muslim voice could also bring some fresh perspectives on issues such as abortion or family law, which could be proposed as centrist positions between the current extreme views.
Similarly, on all other issues and policies, a course could be charted in order to develop a Third Way that avoids both existing extremes and seeks a centrist space. I believe that this Third Way will attract much of the “white” average American vote, as well as the young men and women who are disenchanted with the whole system and its two parties. Despite the Democrats’ “sun will rise tomorrow” reaction to the election, these young men and women are still loudly protesting in the streets because they feel that something is missing in the whole system.
A Third Way is a much needed space for the sake of better, fairer and more nuanced American politics, internally and for the rest of the world. American Muslims can and should play a role in this new movement for the higher principles of justice, rights and peace.