A post on Facebook likened the experience of last night’s election to “New Year’s Eve, crossed with potentially life-threatening surgery.”
That’s as close as anyone’s come to the nauseating, careening roller-coaster-without-brakes quality of the evening.
And we ended up with Trump – how the hell did that happen? Everyone was so sure that this was Hillary’s final narrow escape, evidence of her weakness as a candidate but still just the last hiccup before the inevitable coronation. This was history, right?
What the professional observers missed – all of them – was a huge group of voters who decided this night was about their history, not Hillary’s, and made it so with their ballots.
It’s fitting in a way. When NAFTA and subsequent trade agreements were originally assembled, anyone with a brain could foresee that the jobs would go wherever they were cheap. Unless, of course, we consumers made a stink about products being locally-made, not just cheap. Our parents had taken that stance. We didn’t. We didn’t worry about the long term consequences, even when they were pretty obvious.
In similar fashion, the businesses who benefited from the trade deals and the governments who signed off on them made no effort to retrain displaced workers or help them find jobs that would really replace the ones they lost. They made promises at every election, quickly forgotten after. When politicians referred to these people at all, they did so condescendingly. Like all workers since Reagan, whatever kept them from being rich entrepreneurs was obviously their own fault.
There’s a nasty class issue at work here, frankly. If Bernie Sanders had succeeded in his movement, I think the pundits would have recognized the power and sweep of it. That would be college kids and young tech heads, the kind of people reporters can relate to. Trump’s people are poorer, more rural, laced with pockets of racism and misogyny – but not enough to account for the scope of last night’s victory. I’ve known Americans from all different parts of the country and most of them are decent, tolerant and open-hearted to change and growth – as long as they’re included in that change and growth.
The problem here was the way hardworking people who played by what they thought were the rules found themselves shoved in a corner and left to rot. Maybe someday we’ll get back to you, but don’t count on it.
Trump realized how many of them there were and how angry they were. Bernie appealed to that same frustration in a more positive way. I think he could have really been the anti-Trump if given the chance. The Democratic party establishment wasn’t going to interrupt Hillary’s victory lap. Their own positions in the hierarchy were at stake and that was more important than the country.
So now we have Trump. I hope he’ll be a good President. I would truly be surprised and delighted. Shocked, really.
But, for better or worse, his election is a triumph of democracy. Citizens expressing their need and want regardless of the conventional wisdom or maybe even common sense (does anyone really believe in Trump the friend of the working man?)
Hopefully, our political and media elite start paying attention to the injustices they’ve created. Hopefully, those of us with bigger hearts and better agendas use this opportunity to grab power out of their hands and take it in a better direction.
Because there’s an awful lot of damage that can be done in four years in the White House.