Trump as the American President
(Nov. 9, 2016) It’s too early to panic – we really don’t know just how bad this is going to be. The best thing for us to do is begin the process of “making America great again.”
Since it is too early to say what kind of President Donald will be, we should take a moment to reflect upon what our election of the actor “Trump” says about us and our nation. Yes, the man that was elected was not Donald J. Trump – it was Donald acting as the man he believed could get elected President. That’s not to say that many aspects of this act didn’t reflect the man beneath (as they obviously did), but clearly the Donald who acts as President will be – must be – different. A presidential candidate doesn’t have to speak honestly or to face the reality of his words. The President must. I think our greatest fear is that President Trump will behave and act like candidate Trump and this simply can’t happen.
At this point we can’t say what the Trump Presidency will look like. Rather than speculate (and dread) what hasn’t yet happened, we should take this time to look deeply at what his victory should tell us and what its impact must be.
Here are ten reasons “the Donald” is to be our next President:
1. The media failed us. Journalism has been replaced with infotainment “news” that is focused more upon ratings than reporting. This failure has the direct destructive effect of allowing false claims, ridiculous ideas, and outright lies to be presented as “news” to less and less discerning public. It has had the indirect destructive effect of turning the public away from the news and allowing the attacks against the “media” to take root as a political issue and excuse. The public has less and less respect for the news and pays less and less attention to it. Meanwhile new channels for “news” have emerged on the web and these have increased in popularity and influence. But they also lack journalistic qualities and serve more to increase misinformation and misbelief than inform.
2. Racism is real. “White” Americans have revolted against “progressivism” and some minority voters joined them. The racism within white America is not an on-off switch where we can say some are racist and others are not – it is a continuum which ranges from hardly racist to dangerously racist and a variable quality that includes other factors such as familiarity, overriding beliefs, context, and other elements. The Trump candidate appealed to racism at every level and in powerful contexts – the biggest context being fear of the obvious reality that Caucasians are losing electorate power.
3. Sexism is real. Male Americans feel their loss of power and control. For many men, the very idea that a woman might be better qualified and more capable to lead our country is a threat to their perceived superior status. For some men and women, it lies in conflict with deep-rooted cultural bias which culminates in misconceptions about women and their superior status. Just as some minorities hold culturally based racist views about their own race, some women hold culturally based sexist beliefs against their own sex. It would be more likely for us to elect a women President who seemed more masculine than a women who seems “grandmotherly”.
4. Ignorance is real. More than anything, democracy demands an educated public. It requires that voters know about their country – its history, its principles, its functioning, and its function. Democracy demands reasoned fact-based consideration of issues, solutions, and contexts. Without such, our elections become popularity contests and voters are too easily swayed by charisma, celebrity, and “created character”. Ignorance is not only real in America – it is at “pandemic” levels. Thus, we are subject to easily manipulation through misinformation, appeals to our base fears, and the power of personality.
5. Hope has been declining while both concerns and apathy have increased simultaneously. This election presents the paradox of more caring combined with more apathy. As politicians know well, this paradox has arisen from a lack of hope. Americans are increasingly concerned about their country and its future. They are concerned about their future and their children’s future. And yet, the 2016 election was decided by just over ½ of eligible voters (about 55%). Our next President was elected by less than 33% of the eligible voters. Americans feel helpless because our politics have degenerated and our politicians have failed us. The process is flawed, corporations vote with money, and elected officials hear money more than public voices.
6. Politicians who listen to the voters are more likely to be elected. Telling people what they want to hear has always been the fundamental art of politics. That begins by accurately determining what most people want to hear. Americans want their country to be great again – whatever that means to them. While they may agree that we are stronger together, it’s not what they wanted to hear – or they heard that in a way different than expected. While one side decided to “go high”, the other understood that they could win the election by listening to their supporters and telling them whatever they wanted to hear – no matter how absurd. Those supporters heard those things far louder than all the other crazy, ridiculous, immoral, and erroneous things being said.
7. We were forced to choose between the two least popular candidates in modern history. There are many flaws in our political system: the person getting the most votes doesn’t necessarily become elected, money matters more than morals, we have too many elections, etc. But the most damning statement we can make about the system is not that it’s “rigged”, but that it fails to produce good candidates. Fixing that is a bigger problem than can be addressed here, but we must recognize the problem and work to solve it.
8. Issues and solutions matter little. Because our politicians have been so unstatesmanlike and so self-centered, the American people have learned to ignore political hogwash. One can raise an issue that Americans care deeply about in a political forum and the result is generally not a discussion of factual background and possible approaches to solutions, but a doctrine based diatribe designed to appease some special interest group. We seem to have stopped expecting such discussions to focus on facts, evidence, or reason and therefore we find that dealing with issues and solutions is unproductive and often painful. If there has ever been an American presidential political campaign based less upon issues and solutions than this one, I’m unaware of it.
9. “It’s all about the economy, stupid”. James Carville expressed a basic tenant about American voters – in the end, the majority vote according to their perception of their economic well-being and in favor of the candidate they think most likely to improve their economic status. While it may seem like there was less focus on economic issues than in recent elections, the Democrats did not convince enough Americans that they have done and will do enough to improve the perceived economic status of America. The loss of jobs to other nations – without an understanding of the reasons – led millions of voters to hope that a “successful businessman” might somehow bring back lost prosperity.
10. “Dirty Pool” wins when the rules aren’t enforced. Our political system and its elections have sunken into a morass of mud-slinging, character assassination, and underhanded methodologies; so much so that voters require more of it in order for it to work. And, when voters hear their candidate being honestly criticized, they are easily persuaded that it’s just mud-slinging and “media bias” while simultaneously taking their candidate’s character assassination as valid despite clear evidence to the contrary. American voters who are guided my racism, sexism, or some other “ism” or who prioritize their own economic status over that of their countrymen’s or who rely upon the media to enforce the rules of civility and truthfulness are all unlikely to rise above the “dirty pool” of politics. They have to be guided by other public officials and trusted politicians to tell them where to draw the line. When public officials don’t speak out against “dirty pool” (or add to it) and there are so few trustworthy politicians, the process is crippled.
Making America great again will not happen because we elect any particular President, Governor, Senator, or Representative. It will only happen when we face the reality of our systemic social and political failings and decide to work hard to fix them. We must start by holding our elected officials accountable and correcting campaign financing. That requires that we overcome our own biases, ignorance, and apathy. That begins with loving America and honoring what it demands of us.
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