I have decided to edit this piece. If you want to see the original, send me an email.
My candidate of choice did not make it to the finals, and, from a position of conscience, I could not vote for either major candidate. However, if you are a Trump supporter, then congratulations are in order as your candidate and your support accomplished a minor miracle. If you were a Hillary supporter, please accept my condolences but don’t blame those of us who, for reasons of conscience, could not support your candidate. (In the spirit of nonpartisanship, I will not elaborate on my reasons.) Generally speaking, I do not discuss politics on this blog, but the situation in America has become extreme enough that some objectivity from abroad may be helpful.
If you want to watch some very funny, foul-mouthed John-Stewart-like commentary on the election, I recommend the following: British comedian Jonathan Pie. His analysis is quite good even if his language is not. Here are my thoughts, considerably less funny than his:
1. I experienced the Brexit vote while in Europe. It was obvious to me that the intellectual elites were underappreciating the level of dissatisfaction of the economically disenfranchised. If you were NOT surprised at Brexit, then Trump’s election probably came as no surprise. As of Nov. 18, I have seen numerous commentaries about the linkage of these events; they share globalization, economic dislocation, and fear of immigrant impact.
2. Lots of people in the world really like and hate the Donald. The break is usually along the lines of Western/Eastern Europe from my travels, with Eastern Europe supporting him. Those in Eastern Europe experience many of the same issues as the economically disenfranchised in the United States. The market economy has raised prices and globalization has lowered their salaries. Pensioners live in extreme poverty. These countries are being asked to shoulder the burden of refugees, and they refuse to do it. These concerns about trade, the global economy, and xenophobia appear to my eyes to be the same issues as in the United States. It comes as no surprise to me that the East Europeans like the Donald. On the other hand, the Western Europeans with great education and jobs and a social safety net find Trump to be unimaginably boorish if not frightening. This strikes me as the same tension with the rust/rural belts and urban(e) coasts in America.
3. The elites with lots of education and marketable skills seem to have arrived at one of two places with respect to the economically disenfranchised: either “let them eat cake”, meaning that globalization does this sort of thing, or “vote for us because we have the kinder policies,” which is to say that life will be crappy, but less crappy than if you vote for my opponent. Neither of these are satisfactory for the heartland of America which encompasses 85% of the land mass in America. (Yes, you heard that right, 85% of the landmass supported Trump.) They built America, and now are being discarded or at least that’s the way it feels, and neither the social darwin view (“let them eat cake”) or the patronizing view (“my policies are less worse”) do ANYTHING to lessen the anger and resentment. Clinton desribed the Trump supporters as deplorables. Her supporters in the media characterized Trump supporters as a “burn the house down” kind of angry statement. From where I sit in Europe, these people no longer have a house. The elites do not appear to be responding to their needs with the kind of urgency that they feel is warranted. Donald is a vote for urgent change. Many of these people are the SAME PEOPLE that voted for Barack Obama’s themes of hope and change. But hope seemed to be in short supply and change was….shall we say…..going rather slowly. People have kids that need education, healthcare; that can’t wait for 10 years. It needs to happen NOW. I am not saying that the Donald can or will deliver the change; I am only saying that there is a perception that Hillary could not and that Donald might.
4. I predict that a lot of Democrats will blame Hillary’s loss on: a) people who voted their conscience for a third-party candidate (i.e., Ralph Nader caused the Democratic loss in Florida and the Country) or did not vote; b) the FBI statements; and c) the Wikileaks materials. All candidates have flaws, and Hillary has hers. In many ways, her flaws are negligible, but, unfortunately for the Democrats, they bumped up against the issues identified in 1, 2, and 3 above. Hillary appears to be a sophisticated know-it-all with a great education who is leveraging her position for the benefit of her family’s trust fund (i.e., Clinton Foundation). She is politically correct, and has a message for the bankers and a message for the working class and so is viewed as disingenous. She’s for global trade, and the economic dislocation of the Clintons’ welfare reform seriously injured a lot of the lower class. Finally, the manipulation of events by the DNC and Hillary with respect to the primaries gave rise to a view that she was unworthy of trust. These issues, and how they interplay with the issues of 1, 2, and 3 are why so many people got out and voted for the Donald. Yes, she SAID that she was for the working class, but she had a record that said that she was willing to sacrifice them (e.g., welfare reform, long-term incarceration, etc.). This is the answer to Hillary’s question, “Why aren’t I ahead by 50 points?” Donald was criticized for his lack of a get out the vote plan, and pundits predicted that he would lose as a result. But his candidacy ALIGNED with 1, 2, and 3 in a way that energized voters, and the message motivated voters. If the Democrats had presented an alternative candidate who had other weaknesses but directly spoke to the economic dislocation due to globalization, they would have won because Donald had serious flaws of his own.
If Donald is serious about being a great president, and he helps the poor and working class, then he will have done more for America than either party in the past thirty years. That’s the potential up side. There’s no point in rehashing the election any more than there was in 2000 or 2008, and this has been an instructive event for both mainstream parties. I only hope that Donald has a focus on the future as well as the past, and this is one thing that Ross Perot (that spoiler!) understood. America is falling behind in the skills of the future and is squandering its technological lead. Regardless of the deficit, we should spend a trillion dollars on improving the skills of our countrywomen and men; the net effect will be higher standards of living, a more competitive workforce, and less stress in the heartland. Yes, the heartland must also accept the need to do knowledge work if they are to improve their position in a globalized world where excess people push down the wages of the uneducated. In a global market-driven world, you are only paid for as much value as you can produce as assessed in the global marketplace. Even lawyers have discovered this fact as legal research has been moved offshore. We cannot forget the people in the heartland, but that doesn’t mean turning the clock back, it means bringing them forward with new skills. That is the sort of leadership that I hope the new administration is able to provide – making America great in the context of a 21st century world with many different challenges, competitors, and friends.
Feel free to send me your thoughts, but please be as polite as I have been.