Humanists come in all political shapes and sizes. From conservatives to liberals, and socialists to libertarians, we’re a diverse bunch. For this reason, most humanist organisations remain strictly non-partisan, engaging with particular political issues relevant to humanism, rather than backing specific parties or candidates. Despite this, Donald Trump’s victory poses significant challenges to humanists worldwide.
Humanism seeks to understand the world through reason and the application of the scientific method: our knowledge should be grounded in, and tested against, evidence. Trump’s impatience with such values has been laid bare in his assertion that ‘the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.’ Statements like these, along with claims that vaccines cause autism and that using hairspray indoors rather than outdoors eliminates its harmful impact on the ozone layer, led to Trump being labelled the ‘anti-science candidate’.
The next President will enact legislation that defies the scientific consensus. He has already made clear his intention to scrap the Paris Agreement, row back on regulations such as the Clean Power Plan, and get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency. This will damage the environment and, coupled with his plans to downsize the Department of Education, it could harm scientific literacy. Trump needs scientific policy led by science, not ideology or dogma.
Trump’s social and domestic policies also clash with humanist values. Building walls and banning people on the basis of their religion runs contrary to humanist principles of tolerance, equality, and promoting human flourishing. His tough stance on terrorism and border control risks isolating America from the rest of the world. Humanism relies on building coalitions, international co-operation, and uncompromising secularism. The President-elect must commit himself to defending civil liberties and human rights both abroad and at home.
Within the United States itself, his election risks legitimising his misogynistic attitude towards women. Despite his opponents’ best efforts, even accusations of sexual assault did not derail Trump’s campaign. If Trump’s attitudes become normalised as a result of his success, gender equality in the US could be severely affected. Similarly, the LGBT community risks facing rising intolerance; Mike Pence (Trump’s Vice-President) wants the Republicans to undo protections for LGBT people put in place by Barack Obama. Equality is a traditional battleground for humanists, and senior politicians expressing prejudices of this kind sets a dangerous precedent.
Ultimately, humanists will have to fight hard to ensure that science is not diminished, that minorities are not discriminated against, and that reason and compassion are at the forefront of political discourse. We will not be alone; the majority of voters opted for Hillary Clinton or for third party candidates, and Trump voters were more united by Trump’s anti-globalisation and anti-politics rhetoric than they were by a desire to frustrate humanist causes or divide society.
Campaigning does not end when the president has been elected, but rather, it now begins. Humanists are used to fighting against the odds — we’ve done it before, and we can do it again!