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American Politics

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American Politics
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Personal account of James Miller, Managing Editor of The Interpreter, a publication on Russia, Ukraine, and Syria. A contributor at Reuters, The Daily Beast, RFE/RL, elsewhere.
Some Initial Thoughts On Trump's Win -- Five Lessons For Moving Forward
5 years
The Facts: Clinton is Surprisingly Truthful, Trump Is Alarmingly Dishonest

The world is spinning in the wrong direction for many Americans today. Donald Trump is President-Elect On The United States Of America.

I could (am) write a book about all this, but here are some very quick thoughts (excuse typos, thoughts are my own):

1.  We have never been more divided since the Civil War

On one hand, Donald Trump won last night because a huge group of people feel disenfranchised, angry, alienated and scared. Their concerns have not been addressed in generations. I come from Trump land, rural America where people supported Trump, and the Tea Party before that. Their concerns need to be addressed.

On the other, Trump and his movement has disenfranchised, angered, alienated and scared minorities, women, immigrants (both legal and illegal), and plenty of white people. The fear is real, and THIS needs to be addressed. To his credit, Trump's acceptance speech was gracious and may have started this process, but it hardly erases all the things that said and happened during the campaign. Clinton and Obama, for their parts, have also already helped move the country toward reconciliation. But these divides could get worse before they get better.

2. Some people are afraid -- they have that right.

Perhaps no person has better summarized the fears of those who opposed Trump than Van Jones. He was gracious, and yet his message was alarming and heart warming. His message directly addressed item 1. 

3. The left's message is falling flat and alienating many

In 2000, we had just enjoyed a decade of relative peace and prosperity. George W. Bush "won." No president has a better job creation record than Obama, and despite his obviously-flawed foreign policy, his presidency has been nearly scandal free. Trump won. 

In the last few years we've seen a lot of discussion of some painful topics: sexism, racism, LGBT discrimination, rape culture -- and I think those conversations have been constructive. People are less afraid to be open about their sexual orientation, for instance, and technology has enabled the Black Lives Matter movement to address a decades-old-problem.

But there has also been an incredible amount of insensitivity on the left, which has helped spark the "war on PC." There is an elitist tendency to throw out EVERYTHING about our culture because of its flaws. Our comedians are criticized, popular music is ridiculed, TV shows are disparaged.  In this process I have learned that some of my own behavior, and much of the culture that I considered to be "normal," was indeed deeply flawed. And it should be changed, and it should be addressed.

On the flip side, many people who are leading this process claim to know how it feels to be constantly under attack, and yet they are constantly attacking those who disagree with them.

A good example is racism. I'm not talking about the KKK here, I'm talking about inherent bias that is often subliminal. Through education, one can teach a person about their biases, and that individual can begin to address those problems, but if they are attacked in the process they will shut down or, worse, reject that message. The war on PC is this process being played out on a national stage.

4. Trump's stated policies are a disaster, so let's hope he's a lot like other presidents

Every presidential candidate has political operatives who help shape his or her positions, and every president has policy experts who actually help decide the direction the country. When one becomes president they are the head of an organization of life-long experts on defense, economics, law enforcement... and those people have significant influence over the Commander In Chief.

Traditionally, this means that presidents tend to not drive the train off the rails and that change has happened within the margin of stability. This safeguard has been weakened of late (Obama, for instance, largely rejected the foreign policy recommendations of the State Department, Department of Defense, and CIA). And Trump's stated policies are often FAR outside of this tradition. A little rebellion is fine, it's what sparks progress. A lot could lead to a train wreck. 

Trump said a lot of things on the campaign trail that were deeply troubling. But politicians say many things to get elected. What happens next is anybody's guess, but it seems reasonable to expect that Trump will be somewhat more moderate and measured in his implementation of policy. And there's still Congress, the Supreme Court, and other safeguards in place to help avoid the worst case scenarios.

5. Two or four years from now, the Republicans will be responsible for EVERYTHING

The GOP has the White House, the House, the Senate, and the majority of state houses under their control. They have their mandate.

Right now, unemployment is low, job growth strong, wages are rising, the dollar is strong (or it was yesterday, not so much today), and more people have health care than they did eight years ago. THAT DOES NOT MEAN THERE ARE NOT PROBLEMS, but it means that things are, relatively speaking, OK. 

So when we have a discussion about the direction of the country during the 2018 midterm elections or the 2020 presidential race, let's remember that there's nobody left to stop the GOP from getting its way. If things are worse, the American people should know exactly who to blame.