1) The outcome: people are pissed
This is a global phenomenon. There is an entire subset of humanity (half the population) in the democratic world who rightly or wrongly feel they’ve been left behind. They’ve got no skin in the game of a modern globalized, multicultural, interconnected world that the politicians, businessmen, and the media have built. Said politicians, etc, have tended to dismiss the concerns of these people as resistant to change on the kind end, and things like racist on the unkind end. Abject dismissal was always going to be a poor way to address the concerns of a substantial portion of society’s citizens. People who genuinely believe their children will have it worse off than they’ve had it don’t appreciate being called backward. The establishment (the other half of the population) have taken it for granted that the newfangled world they’ve built was always the right answer. And so it’s been a only natural that everybody should get aboard and reap the benefits. The problem is that the benefits haven’t trickled down to everybody. Not enough effort was expended to aid workers who lost their future to globalization. Too many elites spend more time worrying about corporate tax policy or transgender bathrooms than a opioid addiction that’s literally bleeding whole areas daily. These things matter. In any democracy, when half the electorate feels that both political parties are essentially ignoring their core interests, don’t be surprised when they get pissed and back fringe lunatics. This happened with Brexit, it happened with Trump, it might happen soon with Marine Le Pen. It will continue to happen until those that govern make it a point to work for all citizens, not just the narrowly defined slice of the country that happens to be inside the system.
2) Hillary was Donald’s Hillary
The prevailing wisdom of this campaign was that Trump was the perfect candidate for Clinton. She’d sail to victory because he was such a lunatic. I tend to think it was rather the other way around. Clinton was the perfect candidate for Trump to battle against. Where Trump was the anti-establishment guy, you could not have conjured a more inside the system player than Clinton. Where Donald could connect with voters in his own crazy way, Clinton probably couldn’t even properly connect with her own campaign staff. Everybody got aboard the fact that Clinton was going to make history as the first woman president. She even planned her coronation beneath a glass ceiling building. The problem with this line of thinking is that nobody bought it outside the bubble of politics. To the average voter, Clinton was always going to be there just because she was the other Clinton’s wife. The real glass ceiling of this election was that a lot of folks wanted somebody to break the glass on establishment dynasties, be it Bush or Clinton. In an election where well over half the country thinks things are going in the wrong direction, what people were definitely not looking for is more dynasty. They were not looking for a person who’s been in politics for forty years. Imagine if you will, how different this would have all played out had Sanders, Warren, or even poor Jim Webb been on the ticket. Any one of these people would have likely beat Trump. Anybody could have beat Trump. But not Clinton, she was the keen match he needed.
3) The division
After all of this, after all this mess, the answer is 60 million Americans pulled one lever, 60 million Americans pulled another lever, and 6 million Americans (like yours truly) threw their vote away. Statistically speaking, you could not imagine a more divided electorate. This is a rather troubling existence for the nation. The American system is built to produce divided government. But I wonder if it’s built to handle a consistently divided nation. Each side is talking past the other. Nobody wants to listen anymore. If 60 million folks think the other 60 million folks are not just wrong, but nefarious, we’re in for a death spiral. History tells us that tribal alliances can progressively break down and destroy a culture. And what we have here are truly tribal feelings. As an example, for the very, very limited amount of time I watched live election coverage I was troubled to observe:
a) An analyst on PBS who stated that the election was only playing out the way it was because of the “South” and it’s continuing capture of the broader political forces of America. In other words, if you lived in Ohio and voted for Trump, you didn’t do so because you’re protesting that the elites forgot about you. Instead, you were doing so because you were inherently racist. This is the idea that Trump won because a full 60 million Americans were too stupid to vote for anybody else or are just racist, or sexist, or whatever. Everybody surely remembers Hillary’s “deplorables” comment, right?
b) An analyst on Fox who stated that the election was only playing out the way it was because of “Conservatism” and it’s return to recapture America from the dark forces of liberalism. In other words, if you lived in New York and voted for Clinton, you didn’t do so because you were appalled by Trump or believed in the progressive ideas Clinton stated. Instead, you were do so because you wanted to destroy the old America to remake a new one. This is the idea that a full 60 million Americans wanted Clinton to win so they could detonate the country and remake it at the expense of the other 60 million. Or that 60 million Americans only want to milk the nation of the other 60 million. Everybody surely remembers Mitt’s “47 percent” comment, right?
I don’t know how you resolve the feelings of (a) and (b) without a lot of turmoil. I do worry, friends.
4) The reality
As stated, the American system is built to produce divided government. Whoever you voted for, either Clinton or Trump was going to run against the brick wall of this reality. The American President might be the least powerful Executive in the modern democratic world. It was designed to be this way from the beginning. People who think Trump’s going to rule as some unhinged dictator should not forget that the system is constructed specifically to prevent such a thing from happening. However badly you thought about Clinton or Trump, I assure you, American has previously survived far, far worse than these two idiots. I suspect, either way, that we’ll be sitting here four years from now with much the same situation on our hands. I could be wrong, but if you remember back in 2008, the Democrats were equally in control of all the arms of government power. What came of all that? You could say Obamacare, a few key Supreme Court decisions, etc. But largely, I don’t think most folks would say in the last eight years America has undergone earth shaking radical change. I loosely predict it’ll be the same result by 2020 or 2024.
Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, I just don’t see much changing for the average man or woman on the street. Trump voters are going to be rather disappointed to realize that their local mayor has far more power over their lives than Trump. They’ll be disappointed to see they can’t have problems that have taken decades to create wished away by a maniac who shouts loudly. Clinton voters are going to be rather relieved to see that even this guy can’t do the level of damage they feared. The needle will move, but for the most part people’s lives aren’t going to change. The system, the broader waves of our culture, are bigger than this election or Trump or Clinton. Where is our reality headed? As I’ve stated above, I’m worried, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you this, in the broader path of where we are bound, this election is little more than a rounding error. I wish, I wish we’d take a step back and think about the bigger picture. Instead, I fear, we’ll soon be wrapped up talking about small fry nonsense like the intricate details of Executive Order Whatever or Senate Filibuster Verbiage. This is disappointing, but also, rather comforting. One way or the other. Life goes on.