Given that this last presidential election was such a big controversy, and given that I have been traveling and meeting such a wide variety of people, I think it fitting for me to comment on Trump, the election, and what’s next. I apologize in advance – I had a grand vision of a strong, sweeping critique with an inspiring finale but I am left with a mental dump and a lot of soul-searching, both personally and politically. 2016-11-17.
First, he was a joke. No one took Trump seriously. In hindsight, this was our mistake. He was just out there, stirring things up, being ridiculous in a new, more public way. We had a laugh, often at late night tv’s urging. At some point the liberals among us may have even enjoyed Trump’s minor successes, hoping his firebrand style and ridiculous statements would divide the Republican party. But liberals never took him seriously – not the media, not the late night, not the average person. And the Republican elite did the same, costing them the nomination.
From the liberal perspective, Trump’s nomination was great – Hillary was assured a victory. Perfect, right? Throughout the whole primary and much of the general election we continued to laugh at Trump and refused to take him seriously, liberals and the traditional Republicans alike. But who is laughing now? Who was laughing when Trump won, when bigotry and hate exploded like a gun, and when we began to realize there was a tide of unrest among our fellow Americans that went deep. Deeper than we could imagine. And it’s our fault.
Jokes and laughing, ignoring and downplaying, living in our own fantasy world. These are what won Trump this election, and it’s your fault. It’s my fault. It everyone’s fault. We failed to see the writing on the wall or acknowledge the elephant in the room. Like a horse with blinders on we continued ahead, blind to all the signs around us.
What led us to this point, other than our own ignorance? False promises and failed leadership surely played a role but more than anything it was our willingness, even desire, to believe the world works the way we want it to. Liberals listen to Colbert and Co. and believe Democratic values and policies are superior to the backward Republicans. Conservatives, on the other hand, listen to Limbaugh and Co. and soak up an image of America where everything is falling apart and where behind every liberal is a conspiracy. We languish in our one-sided, biased news sources yet accuse the other side of ignorance. We are all ignorant. And now we pay for it.
The underlying point of this election was not about immigration policy, taxes, the economy, or anything else the media and candidates would have you believe. It was simply about fear and hate. Do you fear for your job, your home, your security? Do you hate immigrants for stealing your jobs, the elites for continually lying and failing to deliver on their promises? If you voted for Trump you voted for fear and hate. I am NOT saying you are a racist, a bigot, or any of the other terms floating around out there. But I AM saying by supporting an inflammatory candidate you are advancing the role of fear and hate in our country.
If you are a liberal, you probably agree with a passion while if you are a conservative, especially a Trump supporter, you are probably writing me off as a typical liberal elitist. But you don’t know. You see what you want to see, just like liberals saw a Clinton win even when all the signs pointed to a fantastic number of people supporting Trump. This is the fundamental problem in America right now: we see what we want to see.
I am guilty just as much as the next person. In the days leading up to Election night I did not take it seriously, not believing the outcomes of the polls showing Trump catching up. On election night I drank with friends as we watched the results. I put blind faith in the so-called “Blue Wall” to hold back Trump and watched it fall with disbelief. I felt pain when my home state, Pennsylvania, went Trump. Eventually we all realized that even with the Democratic bastion that is the west coast (I voted in WA) Hillary would not win. Utter astonishment and speechlessness. How could this man be the next leader of our country? This man who, in addition to being a crook and a liar, suffered a hailstorm of outcry after his racist and misogynist remarks were uncovered. This man who I could never accept as my president.
In the days following the election I found myself with little motivation. More anger, more sadness, more disappointment in my fellow Americans. And it was truly for my fellow Americans, myself included, that I felt sadness and disappointment. Trump is a monster, but monsters usually live in caves deep away from society, occasionally rearing their ugly heads. But we found Trump, elevated him to the national stage, and made a monster the leader of our country. Trump did a decent job in his post election speech, thanking Hillary for her service and promising unity – the exact opposite of his fiery and hateful rhetoric during the campaign. This is a standard politician 180 but with Trump it was more obvious.
My real disappointment was with the behavior of the American people. The increase in racist, bigoted, and hateful abuse of other Americans skyrocketed. People wrote “nigger” all over a black man’s ca, waved guns and threatened women at gas stations, and high school students linked arms to bar Latino students from entering school HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS. What has this country become? When was it okay to treat our fellow Americans with violent abuse?
Throughout all this, hopelessness. A feeling of despair. A feeling that I no longer know what my country stands for. But these feelings did not last. I woke up, put my feet to the pedals, and continued on despite my sadness. I listened to hours upon hours of news coverage, learned about the demographic and geographic distribution of votes, revisited analysis and commentary form before the election, and thought about the future of America. And you know what? I have faith.
I have faith because Trump, a vicious firebrand spouting slews of lies, is a retaliation to a black president and a liberal administration. He is the embodiment of a white America that feels left behind, forgotten, and abused by the new focus on diversity in America. And it’s true – we certainly left middle-aged white males with a high school diploma or GED behind in the last few decades. But it’s not by choice – the world is evolving. Just like shamans and healers were replaced by science, uneducated, unskilled labor was replaced by technology. I certainly feel empathy for people left behind – they certainly could not see the future when they chose their professions – but I do not feel remorse for the losers in this progress. Because there are always winners and losers when progress improves the overall welfare of a country. Economists know this, and Republicans would too – if they were really conservative.
The fact of the matter is that the Democratic party is not liberal and the Republican party is not conservative (using the American definition of these terms). Democrats cringe at socialized healthcare (Obamacare is VERY FAR from socialized health care) and still debate basic tenants of a “liberal” agenda like minimum wage, social safety net, and affordable education. Meanwhile, the “conservative” Republicans have seem to forgot the basics rules of their touted free-markets: structural unemployment and comparative advantage. Some people lose when jobs go overseas, but our import are cheaper and as a whole both countries are better off. With training and diligence people relocate their work to new industries and the economy comes out larger and stronger while the trade deals with developing country pull millions of people out of poverty. Republicans want to have their cake, eat it, and also shove it in the face of liberals. On the other hand, liberals are too obsessed with organic, free-range, and fair trade foods to even desire cake. Unless it costs $25 a slice.
Obviously, this is generalization. I myself identify as an independent, hating the labels of liberal and conservative. But I am socially liberal and fiscally somewhere between a libertarian and a democrat. I have met enough people and asked enough questions on this trip to have more firsthand knowledge of rural and conservative life than most liberals. A bunch of my family probably voted for Trump and I see their social media posts supporting the police and out-crying against Obama, etc. I get it. But TRUMP IS NOT THE ANSWER. Trump has already proposed policies that would destroy our constitution, something conservative values typically cannot support. Search-and-frisk? Unconstitutional. Lack of due process for families of known or suspected terrorists? Unconstitutional. Expanding libel laws and restricting free speech by the media? Unconstitutional Building a wall between us and Mexico? Ridiculously expensive, not particularly effective, and with no way to seriously make Mexico pay for it – opposite of fiscal conservancy.
I have lost my purpose in writing this in the rambling of my thoughts and the shear volume of problems I have with Trump as the next POTUS. The bottom line though is this: Trump IS the next president. No stupid online signature petition will change that, and we need to wake up. Trump supporters need to hold Trump accountable for what he promised. Liberals need to stop protesting his victory, accept it, and support him on actions that are actually good for this country. We all need to stand up to bigotry and hate, and we need to join together to protest the hell out of anything that will compromise the social gains of the last several decades or risk the integrity of our constitution. We need to write our representatives, join civic groups, and make our voices heard.
Most of all, we need to burst our bubbles. We need to have honest discourse with people who feel differently. We need to sit down, look at the facts, and understand why we have different views so we can figure out how to reconcile them or, at the very least, respect each other and stop thinking there is only one answer to every problem.
Remember, this election was about fear, hate, and our own willingness to believe what we wanted to believe. Now we need to act, to stand up for what makes America great, to keep fighting for our country. We need to demand more of our politicians and, in doing so, demand more of ourselves.
I definitely failed to pull together all my thoughts feelings, and grand-slam points. But check out some of what I have been listening to for a lot more information about the things I have expressed here. I am also interested in listening to the Riccochet podcast, after hearing some excerpts and references to it.
Trump’s Constitution: Amicus. A podcast talking about Trump and the constitutional implications of his platform with conservative and libertarian commentators.
Will I Know Anyone At This Party?: This American Life. Republicans reflecting on Trump as their leader
Seriously?: This American Life. Watching lies become the truth during the election. Discussing both candidates and the media.
Are Elites to Blame for the Trump Phenomenon?: Intelligence Squared, US. A very interesting debate about who is to blame for Trump’s receiving the Republican nomination, well before the general election. I agree with both sides, but what is telling is how everyone overlooks Trump.
In Praise of Incrementalism: Freakonomics. We always want the silver bullet but history shows incremental improvements are successful. Explore this topic through the Gay Rights and Civil Rights movement, and apply it to current social movements.
The Trump Indicators: Planet Money. General information on Trump, the economy, and how a Trump presidency might affect the economy.
Our Fake Candidate Meets the People & The No-Brainer Economic Platform: Planet Money. Economists agree (SHOCK!) on a handful of important and bipartisan improvements to economic policy, but they are political suicide. These two podcasts provide more proof we hear what we want to hear.
President Trump: Planet Money. A rundown of what Trump can and cannot do as president.
Master of Her Domain: This American Life. Naturally, no list can be complete without a look at Hillary. I honestly believe Bernie would have demolished Trump, yet here we are.