As the dust settles on the broken remains of Clinton’s election hopes, and on the insane campaign of the last year, we are all wondering what just happened. How did this guy with no political experience, a reality TV, silver spoon fed billionaire who somehow had so much to say and yet said absolutely nothing of substance for his entire campaign, manage to be the President Elect? A guy who displays a wearying array of racism, misogyny, bullying, ignorance, sociopathic tendencies, megalomania; why would anyone vote for this? Cries of collective American stupidity, racism and just desserts are ringing out across the news and social media, but that is not going to get us where we need to be.
Forget pinning this on the crazy racists who have and will always exist. They saw a bandwagon to jump on sure, but they’re not the only reason for the orange season. And the entrenched sexism that blankets modern day 1950s America undoubtedly played a part. Half the nation choked on the thought of Obama as president, stomaching a girl boss was going to be tough for a lot of American men too, rich or poor. So Trump’s sexism and fear of women masquerading as ‘locker room talk’ was not going to bother the supporters with less progressive social inclinations.
Trump supporters have legitimate gripes. American movies and celebrity culture show us a small fraction of what it is to be American- rich, city based, modern and progressive, young, employed; an abundance of opportunity.. Americans are often accused of being insular, ignorant of how other countries work, let alone where they are on a map. But how many non-Americans have spent time in the deep-south? The rust belt? The mid-west? The towns and cities that the American establishment forgot. The system has worked for a few, but not for many. As the map changed from grey to blue to red, the divisions in America fell into place; cities and rural areas, rich and poor suburbs, black and white.. Education and opportunity are not created equal. The poor and uneducated of the U.S. of all races, have been left behind. There are countless towns with no jobs or industry, zero hope for the future. Healthcare is not affordable, Obama tried, but couldn’t perfect it. Desperate people with no prospects can’t look further than their own back yards, and desperate people are looking for answers that weren’t coming from the establishment.
The divisive, obstructionist approach to government adopted by the Republican party during Obama’s presidency is shameful, and should take a huge part of the blame for what has happened. They couldn’t stand a black man in the White House and turned their backs, arms folded, ready to teach him and the Democrats a lesson on who’s boss. They split the country down the middle, polarised a nation and created a rift so large that we will be experiencing the backlash for decades. A nation so diverse and with such a vast eclectic background to be split in to just two groups is ridiculous! And while they looked away, and busied themselves with shutting down the government and avoiding Supreme Court nominations, they took their eyes off their base and those that were not being heard and they focused on a couple of key social issues such as abortion, and gay-marriage to actively stir people up, pray on ignorance and divide; and more significantly they made way for Trump.
The Democrats meanwhile ignored their base too. Obama I believe will go down in history as one of the best. A man with so much grace, intelligence and genuine hope for a nation comes along once in a generation and he was ours. But he was obstructed at every turn, and did not and could not ‘fix’ the country. The Democrats remain the socially progressive choice but post-GFC, when the economy suffered and jobs disappeared, rich, white, liberal democrats remained as detached from the poor they claimed to care about so much as the Republicans, and Clinton’s path to victory was doomed from the outset. Clinton is the establishment and pro globalisation in a time where people are increasingly looking inwards, worrying about their own towns, their own tribes. With jobs going overseas and mass global movement of refugees, the enemy becomes the ‘other’, the blame has somewhere to land. Rich pickings for someone like Trump.
If either of the major parties were doing their jobs, they would have been breeding grounds for passionate politicians, change makers who tapped into their respective bases, listened to the electorate, shook the system up for the greater good. But they didn’t do their jobs. They gave us Trump and Clinton. The Democrats didn’t choose Bernie Sanders because his ‘socialist’ agenda was deemed to be unpalatable, but I wonder if they regret that now; they had a chance to run with something new, but it is the Republicans that ended up playing the risky hand, ironically against their will. The cries for change may not have been loud enough, but Trump responded to them even if he did so unwittingly.
I am deeply saddened with the outcome, but more so I am saddened that this is not a random, isolated event, but more indicative of a broken system. The frustration of how insurmountable the task of changing this system is is immense. Those that voted for Trump as the answer to their problems I fear will be as disappointed in four years as Clinton’s supporters are today.
In the meantime we should heed President Obama’s wise words, and give Trump a chance to govern. Maybe in four years there will be a choice of candidates who offer real solutions to the nation’s problems. And maybe a man who looks like he just got handed a poisoned chalice will cease what I hope was just campaign bluster and attempt to heal and lead the country.
Go well America.