by Rick O’Neil on November 30, 2016, in Knowledge • No Comments
The election of Donald Trump as the 45th U.S. President has shocked the world. None of the major media outlets predicted it, and neither did the bookies; drawing clear parallels with the Brexit vote in June. Post-mortems are taking place in their abundance trying to determine why, and how pretty much every ‘expert’ got it so wrong.
Much is being made about how the election of Trump and the Brexit vote are a rejection of the establishment and the status quo they have tried to impose on the masses. Hilary Clinton embodied the status quo, which everyone is so disillusioned with; she didn’t offer any real hope of change in the way that Obama did 8 years ago. Seemingly the electorate haven’t seen enough of it to be content with the Obama administration or they’re disillusioned with the change that has occurred. Whatever your opinion of him, undoubtedly Trump has tapped into this anger impeccably, he has promised the reverse of America’s fortunes and jobs which have previously been lost to the new economic powerhouses of China and the like will be reclaimed.
Whether or not this rhetoric is misguided is another matter, but the electorate were prepared to ignore all the obvious flaws of his character to vote him in on the back of this. The Democrats had their own champion of the establishment rebellion in Bernie Sanders, but for reasons they’ll now certainly regret, he wasn’t given a fair chance in the Democratic presidential nomination race with Clinton – there has even been allegations that Clinton was fed questions before debates between the pair whilst Sanders was not. The fact that he still won 43% of the Democratic vote against the hugely divisive Clinton, along with the fact that Clinton actually won the popular vote, suggests he would have had an excellent chance of becoming President. But of course, as Sanders has in the past week said himself, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
As Nigel Farage did with Brexit, Trump very effectively channelled public anger and turned it into a vote against the existing state of affairs. All the talk about how a vote to leave would damage the economy was, alas, not enough to sway the vote. Just as with Brexit, the US election has turned nasty not just during the campaign but also in the aftermath. The people themselves have turned on each other, not just the politicians.
My Facebook feed on the 24th June included comments such as “we’re a nation of racists” – I have to take issue with this. Whilst of course there are a small minority of deplorable people who voted to leave the EU on the basis that they are racist and xenophobic, I’m confident in asserting that this isn’t true for the vast majority. Most people are decent folk who simply want good futures for them and their family. Being mocked and called names for the way they voted in a democratic referendum isn’t going to get society anywhere. Most people had valid reasons to vote leave because they’re worried about the state of the country.
This has been repeated in the USA in the past week or so. A comment on Twitter, liked disappointingly by a former journalist lecturer of mine no less, said “I don’t care what you say, the Ku Klux Klan are holding a celebratory rally in celebration of Trump, you voted for this if you voted for him.” Whilst the issue of racism and bigotry is unfortunately a massive blight on the nation, the issue I have with this comment is that most people were not thinking about something like this happening when they went to the ballot box, they were simply thinking about a better future for themselves and their family.
It’s all well and good for a Manhattan blue collar worker who lives in a penthouse to disapprove, but somebody in the middle of small town Michigan, who is worrying about paying their rent next month, will quite probably have different priorities. The same principle goes for someone who has a penthouse by the Thames and someone who lives on a council estate in Sheffield. They’re likely to have different priorities too. Neither viewpoint is more important than the other, every vote counts for the same.
Bernie Sanders summarised the situation perfectly when he told of his shame that the Democratic Party has failed to connect with the common worker. It’s fair to say that the same has happened over here, with the Labour Party, and that’s what is needed across the board. If the voters have been misled into who or what they voted for is another issue all together, that’s not the point. My father has always nailed into me not to discuss politics with a stranger because you’ll never agree, but things have now reached a critical point. For society to progress in the coming years, here and across the Atlantic, people and politicians alike need to stop the finger pointing, listen to each other’s concerns, and at least try to understand where people are coming from with their views, even if they don’t agree.