We Live In Interesting TimesPosted: November 11, 2016
“Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” — Hillary Clinton in her concession speech on 9 November 2016
In her concession speech, Secretary Clinton exhibited the best of our electoral traditions and history. She lost and he won and it is time to keep an open mind about the future. Like it or not, he’s the guy.
But, man oh man, I didn’t think it would be this hard.
There is one thing that sticks in my mind as I try to get my head around the idea of a President Donald J. Trump, and that is that he is the same person on 9 November that he was on 7 November. That may not be a good thing.
So many things come to mind about the election and about the future of our country under a President Trump. I could write multiple pages, and indeed I am sure people already have and any number of books will be written about this campaign in the coming months and years. However, I won’t go into all of that now. At the same time there are a few things that I do want to mention as I, and millions of others, try to make sense of this election.
I have been around the block a few times, and have believed strongly in other candidates that lost elections. I was disappointed but did not think badly of the candidates that won. I merely disagreed with their policies compared to my candidate, but as the Rolling Stones proclaim (and apparently Mr. Trump agrees as he used it as his theme song),
“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need.”
I am not so sure this time around.
To me, this time it is not about whether a Republican or a Democrat won or even that Secretary Clinton lost. It is that Mr. Trump won. Or at least he won the Electoral College, which in our system is all that counts. But lest we forget, for the second time in 16 years a candidate lost the election even though they won the popular vote. I will save for another time a discussion about the Electoral College. It could be anachronistic, but it is probably a good thing over all in that candidates must think about the nation as a whole, rather than individual centers of population.
So, no, it isn’t that my candidate lost. You have read in this space before about how I am confounded by Mr. Trump and his apparent lack of understanding of the important issues of our time, of the language he used while campaigning and his demonizing and/or demeaning every segment of our society save white men. That is well documented and I won’t rehash all that here. But it does have consequences.
Even though more people voted for Secretary Clinton than for Mr. Trump, I am worried that I thought the United States was something that apparently it is not. Many good people, Democrat and Republican, did not feel that Mr. Trump reflected or represented American values. What if we are wrong? What if his words and actions represent the America that we have become? That is truly chilling and worrying to me. His approach was validated. He gave validation to a worrisome fringe element in our society that now thinks it is mainstream. Before you blow a gasket, I am not inferring that all of Mr. Trump’s supporters were on the fringe. People voted for him for a vast number of reasons. But it remains a fact that his persona is not what we think of, or maybe I should say it is not what I think of, when I think of America. He took the politics of fear and anger and turned it to his personal advantage in the worst possible way. I will try to keep an open mind as his administration forms, but I will struggle to get beyond that fact.
I am particularly upset by the reaction of people close to me, and others that I have observed. Primarily women that worked in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s in an era where sexual harassment was a part of going to work. Those women experienced some form of harassment and discrimination almost daily, worked through it, and worked very hard to change the system. To them, Mr. Trump symbolizes every male that harassed them in the work place or on the streets. The women coming of age today face a totally different work place environment than their mothers and grandmothers faced. Thankfully. Unfortunately, the election of Mr. Trump in spite of his known actions, his recorded remarks and his crude on-the-record comments seem to many of these older, experienced women, to give the green light to go back to a time where women were judged on their appearance and not on their ability. It is a very sad and difficult time for them to see Mr. Trump in the White House.
One potential positive outcome of the election is that Mr. Trump, who in reality is neither a Republican nor a Democrat but more of third-party candidate that managed to get the Republican nomination, will have his opportunity to govern with the support of a Republican controlled Congress. To all of those disaffected voters who put him in the White House, stand by. In my mind this is a domestic version of President Nixon going to China. There will be no excuses if the lot of those supporters does not improve. Mr. Trump and the Republicans are in charge. They can only blame themselves if things don’t go their way. After years of “just say no”, anger and obstructionism, they have the chance to do all of the things that they promised.
But I am extremely skeptical that they can deliver. Most jobs in the Rust Belt and elsewhere were not lost to “deals” and trade pacts. They were lost to automation and technology. They aren’t coming back. The coal industry is not coming back. Steel mills are not coming back. One industry towns are not coming back. All of the things that white working class Americans think they will now see restored are extremely unlikely to return. We cannot turn back the clock to a nostalgia tinged 1950’s era. Perhaps in the coming years when the realization sets in that none of that will ever come back again, we can move forward into the 21st Century. We don’t need to bring back the old jobs, we need to educate and train our citizens for the jobs of the future. We cannot hold out for a white dominated society, we are headed for a multi-cultural society, like it or not, and no amount of anger will change that. So, perhaps when their guy is unable to deliver the goods, people will remember those days fondly, but finally move on and face reality. Perhaps that is the positive side of Mr. Trump as our president.
I suppose a true test of how willing Mr. Trump will be to bring the nation back together again will be two-fold. First, does he reach out to all of those he has offended during his campaign, and more importantly does he send a message to those that think it is now okay to demean and demonize portions of our society and tell them that he will not accept that?
Secondly, I think we will learn a lot about the direction he intends to take the country by his cabinet nominations. He hasn’t made any yet. Will he pick serious, qualified individuals willing to do what is right for our country even if it means disagreeing with the President, or will he pick a series of sycophants and has-beens? Only time will tell, but it isn’t a good sign that many of the names floated as trial balloons so far fall into the latter category.
In the end, I hope he surprises all of us and ably and well leads our nation. If he does well, our country does well. I am willing to keep an open mind and give him a chance, but it will be a short window of opportunity for him to convince me that he can keep America great.