So What NOW? America’s Struggle to Remain the Leader of the Free World
You don’t have to be an American citizen to feel battered and bruised following the November 8th presidential election. We Canadians, all 36 million, were sucked along for the roller coaster ride over the past two years, from the nutty Republican Primaries to the astonishing Donald Trump victory out of some 20 candidates. The vitriol that spewed forth during the primaries, and then Donald Trump’s profanity-laden presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton, exceeded the bounds of the seediest reality show one could imagine.
And then in typical Trumpian reality show fashion, he astonished the world by cleaning Hillary Clinton’s clock in electoral college votes (290 to 228, at the time of this post), though he was a few hundred thousand behind in the popular vote. The pollsters, self-described political strategists, media hosts, reporters, analysts, and so forth all got it wrong, except for the LA Times which consistently held Trump in the lead during the campaign.
Putting aside the blame-it-on-angry-white-voters peddled by the media (a butt-covering attempt for blowing their prediction), the core of the problem is the elitist stance that upper middle class people have maintained against the Republicans, and in particular Donald Trump from the moment he declared his candidacy in the Primaries—the Coastal Elites as some call them. Forget that he’s a douche bag, chauvinist pig, racist, nasty businessman, etc. The intelligentsia, from the media to academics to economists to political analysts, all of whom waded into the Trump swamp, live their lives in privilege, ensconced in their lovely suburbs, oblivious to the realities that tens of millions of Americans face each and every day.
Donald Trump was merely the vessel through which millions of Americans, many of whom were not regular voters or members of the Republican Party, expressed their outrage with the country’s political power system. Trump, the strategist, successfully channelled that outrage towards his personal political ends. He accomplished what he excels at.
Whether it’s trying to keep up with rising health care premiums, feeding their families and keeping a roof over their heads, or working two or three jobs, to many Americans the dream of a better life has been steadily fading away. In short, the American Dream is dying. Yet the intelligentsia is still not getting it after the election. Blaming it on angry white people seems to be the media’s post-election analysis. Donald Trump and his team knew where to focus their efforts and in which states. Hillary Clinton, the hard worker she is, made the mistake of over-campaigning in states where she was strong. Check out this Bloomberg BusinessWeek article on how Trump’s campaign strategists got the data right.
Hillary Clinton had the resume to back up her run for office, but not the political strategic thinking. Donald Trump is a brilliant strategist who knows how to deploy resources, but his political resume was non-existent. And guess who won?
Consider these numbers based on exit polls:
— Hillary Clinton won 88% of African Americans, in comparison to Barack Obama’s 93%,
— Clinton attracted 65% of Latinos; Obama drew 71%,
— She received 54% of those 18 to 29 years of age; Obama got 60%,
— She got only 54% of women’s votes; Obama drew 55%.
This piece from The Guardian explains how 53% of white women propelled Trump to victory.
What went wrong with the Clinton campaign? Plenty. But adding to Clinton’s political baggage and how Americans in the Heartland feel disenfranchised, her strategy was obviously wrong. On that point, listen to financial historian and Harvard professor Niall Ferguson’s succinct remark following the election: “A Donald Trump presidency is not the liberals’ biggest nightmare … It’s a successful Trump presidency.” Reflect on that for a moment.
The U.S. presidential election was tantamount to a Brexit 2.0 American style. Citizens of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union on June 23rd for reasons similar to why Americans rejected Hillary Clinton (excluding the perceived corruption issues surrounding her and the concern with labour mobility in the EU). With the exception of metropolitan London, citizens voted Yes to leave the EU.
The 2016 presidential campaign has been labelled the nastiest since 1860 when President James Buchanan, ranked as one of the worst U.S. presidents, was defeated by Abraham Lincoln. That election is also seen as one of the most important ones in U.S. history, because for one thing it created a more defined edge between party loyalties. It was after the 1860 election that the Democrats and Republicans became the two defacto political parties in a primarily two-party system.
The lanky Abraham Lincoln was not seen as a potential president when he entered politics at age 23, where he failed to win a seat in the Illinois state legislature in his first attempt. Yet he’s seen as one of America’s greatest presidents for the stand he took against slavery and the secession of the southern states from the union. Lincoln’s leadership, however, took place during the bloodiest period in U.S. history. James Buchanan, who had no interest in pursuing a second term as President, exhibited indecisiveness—and indeed impotence—when it came to the secessionist states that feared the national government’s intervention.
People lose perspective when it comes to current political events and a nation’s challenges. Witness the idiotic refrain from the U.S. media during the 2016 campaign that this was the most important election in a lifetime. Rising standards of living breeds a pampered intelligentsia that either deliberately distorts issues for the working and lower middle classes or detaches the elite from the rest of society. What’s most offensive is when top business people and the country’s elite spoon feed a steady diet of adolescent patriotism to the masses in a reminiscent 19th Century attempt to keep citizens obedient. It’s bullshit.
When it comes to Donald J. Trump, it’s just so tempting to lay into him, calling him all sorts of names. Comedian Jon Stewart and numerous other celebrities (including Shark Tank star Mark Cuban, who was initially a Trump supporter) went into potty mouth overdrive during the campaign. What does that accomplish? And now that the election is over, protests have broken out as Democrat supporters express their outrage. Why would you burn the cherished and iconic American flag?
Donald Trump helped to create the vitriol that spewed forth during the Republican Primaries and the presidential campaign. He lambasted Hillary Clinton as a liar, threatening to lock her up if he were elected president. Well, now he’s President Elect, with inauguration day on January 20th.
In her masterful concession speech on November 9th, Hillary Clinton called for Democrats to have an open mind to Donald Trump and to give him the chance to lead. Secretary Clinton reminded her supporters of America’s long standing democracy and its hallmark of a smooth transition of power following elections. As Clinton stated:
“Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. We don’t just respect that. We cherish it. It also enshrines the rule of law; the principle we are all equal in rights and dignity; freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too, and we must defend them.”
The ball is now in Donald Trump’s court, and fortunately he has just over two months to start preparing to become the leader of the free world. It’s time for The Donald to put on his big boy pants. And with any luck, his election may provide the much needed reset to the country’s paralyzed and highly partisan political system.
So to readers, some of whom have no doubt expressed serious angst with the November 8th results, it’s time to pause and reflect on the words from Angeles Arrien, a brilliant leadership practitioner and author who passed away a few years ago:
Be open to outcome, not attached to it.
We’ve collectively been far too attached to outcome for the past two years. It’s time for personal leadership and to learn how to control what is within our grasp.
Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.
— John F. Kennedy
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