It’s the morning after the election. I feel heavy. There seem to be an uncountable number of ways that Trump’s success and Hillary’s failure is a slight against my values and the future I wish to be a part of. I am disappointed that intransigent ego, the spewing of falsities, an absence of accountability and unabashed fear-mongering has been tacitly endorsed as the modus operandi of success. Further, I am alarmed by the worldwide acceleration towards diminished inclusivity, reduced tolerance, populist economic policies and geopolitical brinkmanship.
In the case of the US political arena specifically, I am hopeful that many of my fears will fail to materialize. I have faith in the American system of government with its many checks on the executive office. That said, I note that many of the structural buffers are now presently aligned with any whimsical Republican agenda. The same party which controls the Senate and the House now has a President who will have the opportunity to appoint at least one Supreme Court Justice during his four year term. I acknowledge that we don’t yet know if any “Republican” agenda will be ultimately be shared by Trump, however the situation does not inspire calm.
My Primary Concerns
I am most concerned with the potential reversal of social progress that has been achieved during during my lifetime. As a moral creature, the recent trajectories feel correct. The alternatives that Trump appears dedicated to enacting (on LBGTQ rights, abortion, gun control, etc.) are contrary to basic human flourishing in innumerable respects. Liberal thought has its challenges but, like democracy, is frequently admonished as the best alternative we got.
Separately, I am struggling with the fact that Trump may have duped the American people. This sentiment is two-pronged.
First, his speeches have been void of specificity. Beyond dubbing all policies not proposed by him ‘a disaster’, he has never offered alternative ideas or vision. When pressed for specifics he delivers high-level platitudes which rail against the status quo or announce that an outcome will occur solely due to his attaining office. For example, more and better jobs will be created or ISIS will be destroyed.
I question whether any previous presidential candidate has been permitted so much popularity by offering so few details. To be clear, I don’t think that this is entirely his fault. The electorate and media didn’t require it of him. Seduced by the promise of perennially elusive outcomes, too many people were too intrigued by hyperbole. With the allure of a cure-all on the table, they didn’t express interest in his planned methodology. As a population, too few US citizens completed the due diligence upon which a vigorous democracy is founded. I doubt Mr. Trump would ever accept so much ambiguity in any of his real estate transactions. Why were so many quarter-baked claims left unfleshed with the future of America on the line?
Second, the bold outcomes President-Elect Trump promises defy even realpolitik. Moral obligations be damned. I understand the need for change. Millions of Americans’ future economic prospects are more bleak now than at any point in the nation’s history. To this point, I acknowledge that if offered an alternative, especially one that purports to be the panacea sought, a person whose livelihood has been chipped away for decades is rational to accept that alternative. In this case however, the alternative happens to be ensnared in a compendium of ideas and proposals which exist contrary to most of the ideas America as a nation projects and protects. Namely, openness and inclusion and a fundamental commitment to freedom. Freedom of thought and from tyranny.
In reality, words are cheap and grass will always greener on the other side. Always. But just because a person repeatedly states that greener grass is available (and readily so if you simply join his team), doesn’t necessarily bring that green patch into being. Many of his ideas and convictions fly in the face of factually-founded truths. Climate change is anthropocentrically accelerated (http://www.un.org/climatechange/the-science/). This may be inconvenient, but denial doesn’t vaporize its veracity. On balance, immigrants to the United States fuel the domestic economy.
Politics and doomsday rhetoric aside, my deepest disappointment is that the Leader of the Free World is not in fact a leader.
Yes, he is a billionaire. So was Pablo Escobar.
While Michael Bloomberg is living proof that an immense fortune can co-exist with savoury leadership, the path taken by Trump to amass his symbol of success is pock-marked with ego-inspired scandal and damning testimony regarding his ethical compass.
More to the point, since WWII, the President of the United States has acted as a symbolic role model to people of all ages the world over. The person occupying this position wields immense soft power. As such, the subtleties of that person’s behaviour are of paramount importance. Nuance is critical and often more is derived from the tone, medium and behaviour surrounding any spoken or written (tweeted?) word than the content itself.
Throughout his campaign Trump continually proved himself unwilling, and possibly incapable, of taking a less comfortable stance founded in a moral claim. Indeed, the “right thing” doesn’t seem to exist in Trump’s mental calculations. Were Trump to witness a bully assaulting a kid on the playground, I can’t imagine him playing any role other than as the 3rd kid to begin cheering the bully on.
Petty tweets sent sporadically do not signal to fourteen-year-olds that thoughtful communication is worthwhile. Publicly discrediting expert advisors as a go-to communication strategy does not signal respect for the teamwork and ingenuity upon which a successful administration is built. Outward affinity expressed for demagoguery fails to promote the necessary language of inclusion and respect for diversity upon which the western world thrives.
As a result of Trump’s modus operandi, kids who come of age during his presidency may all too easily conclude that the mocking of military servicemen is acceptable, that women are rightly less valued than men and that the demonization of society’s sub-groups is the best way to the top.
To call the above a shame is a massive understatement.
The Trump presidency will be tumultuous. That is fine. I just hope this opportunist’s quest to Make America Great Again doesn’t augur the demise of the prominence it purports to reinvent.
Those who truly recognize the innate importance of upholding liberal values will be called upon do so. Likely as never in the modern era.