One of the main themes that has come up in the two days after the election is change. Many people believe that much of what occurred is a result of people wanting change after having eight (or more) years of the government not listening to them. The Democratic party did not listen to this, putting up a candidate that was perceived as having no potential for anything different from what President Obama has done, while the Republicans were taken by someone who spoke of nothing but radical change, all the change against the current system that anyone could possibly want. Protecting the borders, opening up trade, reducing government expenditure and regulations, as well as social issues. As a result there was a significant part of the populace who gravitated towards Trump, wanting change and believing he was the only candidate who could make it happen.
As I thought about this, I did not want to focus too much on particular policies so I apologize if I become too critical of certain proposals. There is no proof that any policy, conservative or liberal, actually works as well as anyone wants. There are so many factors and much coincidence involved in when a certain policy is enacted during a period of time that, to me, much of what has gone on (in particular, economically) in our nation has become a wash. In my math jargon, it is an undecidable problem. Due to this, I want to focus on the dynamics of change in general and how reasonable it is to expect change, as well as how the change being called for by Trump supporters compares to the change that was hoped for by many Americans who opposed him.
The world is always changing, and each section of the world as you subdivide it is changing. Cultures change, beliefs change, morals change, people change. This is fundamental. Democracy allows us the chance to try and influence change in many aspects of our lives; it gives us a sense of control and a way to react to issues. This election came at a particular point where many people began to lose hope in how democracy operates. A large majority of Americans were not feeling represented, that the money involved in politics did not allow them to influence the way this country was heading. I believe this is key to what happened in this election.
Each side had their candidate who represented a change from the norm: Bernie Sanders micro-funding his campaign, a lawmaker who had a consistent record and was about as clean as any presidential candidate could be. Donald Trump, a business man who self-funded his campaign, believed in the American dream, wanted to protect America and deny the current culture of politics. As the primaries moved forward, there was conflict among Democrats as some were enthusiastic about change while others were enthusiastic about having a woman president and staying within the establishment. On the Republican side, it was easier to follow Trump as there had been eight years of resentment among conservatives regarding many policies of President Obama. Trump embodied the antiestablishment, bringing more change and excitement than any of his opponents. Thus when the dust cleared, we had Clinton and Trump at the forefront.
In hindsight it is rather straightforward to see how the election was a result of massive resentment among Americans, a lack of trust in the political system and this yearning for change. I do not deny the need for change either way, and like many others I was unhappy with the status quo when I filled out my ballot. Thus it became a measured decision about who could offer the most change that seemed positive to my view. Of course everyone will see this differently, and I do not wish to come off as unwilling to look at another side of the argument. In my first post, which was my most passionate, I came off a bit more strongly at times. I do not apologize for this, as I was describing how I have been processing this election in a measured way, yet was upset for many reasons. However this is somewhat tangential to my original point.
When I think about the change each candidate offered America, I agree with many people that Clinton had little. I agree that she was a product of the establishment, and as highly qualified as she was I would not say I was enthusiastic in my support for her. Where I tend to disagree is that a “third term Obama” would be the worst thing for this country. Everyone has their view on this, but in mine the drastic changes that would be effected by Trump, no matter how positive some seemed, did not cancel with the changes that would be destructive for many people. No level of policy will please everyone and fix everybody’s lives. There are some people who rely on the Affordable Care Act, and there are people who it hurt drastically. There are some people who will benefit from reduced regulations and some who will be hurt by it. There are some who will be negatively affected by some of the proposed closed border and deportation policies, while others view it as a safer and reasonable stance to take. On many of these I am rather ambivalent, as they can potentially be done in a way that will make everyone equally unhappy as always, minimizing overall impact without targeting any specific freedoms. Thus the change I was invested in was social change.
In a time where we are greatly affected by our biases, and they have been shown to us more than ever in our current situation, many are in denial of their inherent privilege and many seek to hurt minorities more than they have been in the past. We have worked hard as a nation to provide freedoms to everyone, and this has required an expansive federal government. States have shown they are incapable of protecting all citizens, and thus we have the rule of law that we currently do. However, Trump’s influence in picking Supreme Court justices instilled fear in many, fear that many of their freedoms could be taken away.
I focused on this freedom. The freedom that our Founding Fathers did not quite understand at the time, but what we have come to realize it should be. The freedom to go to a school that provides you with all the tools necessary to excel in our world, no matter your race or socioeconomic status. The freedom to apply for a job and not be worried you will be passed over due to your identities, but only based on your merit and ability to handle the work required. The freedom to love who you want, and just the freedom to eat where you want. The freedom for women to walk around and just be people, not objects or targets.
These freedoms, which should be reasonable given the quality of life we pursue in the United States, were regularly endangered by Trump’s proposed policies and views. Many will say his policies did not officially touch many of these items, and thus there is no real reason to be worried. Yes, I will not argue with facts. However, the culture he perpetuated has been shown to be dangerous in the first two days after the election. His remarks have made it acceptable in the eyes of many to mentally and physically attack oppressed identities, causing more harm than I personally imagined could be done as a result of any policy. The images I have seen reflecting the rhetoric of Trump’s campaign have been appalling. The hypocrisy that has followed his victory has been disturbing. In my view, the economics, the foreign policy, healthcare can all be given to the roll of dice or a computer. I am concerned about the culture our youth will be growing up in for the next four years, the only thing that people are truly responsible for.
“But,” someone begins to say, “you are the one that will be teaching your kids respect, you are the one who can make that difference. Trump cannot legislate culture.”
I have read this argument multiple times now, in many different forms, and to some extent I agree. Whenever I become a father I do hope to instill respect for everyone into my children, teach them to measure arguments by their content, not their delivery and to seek information from credible sources. However, it is no state secret that parents do very little overall to influence their children on the whole. School forms our children more than parents do. I know I have been shaped far more by interactions with my friends than my parents. I learn social cues from those around me, from the television I watch and what I read on the internet. I do not wish to fall into the fallacy of asserting my experiences as scientific fact, but from peer-influence compared to parental influence, and time spent in school versus home environments, this seems clear to me. Children are far more connected outside of their family now than ever before. Parents can try to hold onto influence, but ultimately it is a fruitless and alienating experience for children and parents alike.
So as I contemplate the culture we have become entrenched in, I truly hope that Trump can work to fix some of the major damage he has done. I hope that the hateful speech grinds to a halt and that he can focus on legitimate policies which can hopefully be beneficial to many Americans. While it will be a struggle for so many who are hurt by the shift in mood we are faced with, I hope we can make strides in mending our interactions, discourse and culture. While I find it hypocritical for Republicans to call Democrats out on being unsupportive and unaccepting, despite the Republican outcry between 2008 and now, I do sincerely hope that Congress will finally achieve something useful for America. I hope we can begin to reform our political system into something that is manageable and navigable, that we can use information gathered by true experts and seek to remove our biases, then gain a better understanding. Political debate has become deathly, so we must engage in dialogue. We need change, I just hope we did not get more than we bargained for.