Before I delve into the nuts and bolts of this article, I want to lay my own biases out on the table. Ideologically speaking, I am one of the more leftist people I know. My emotions last night ran from surprise, to intrigue, to shock, to fear, to disgust, and then, finally, to outright dejection and utter emotional collapse. Today, as I write this I am confused, scared, and legitimately shell-shocked. However, I did not vote for Hillary Clinton, nor was I a fan of her. The election of Clinton would have been the safest bet for America in terms of continuity. She is an established politician with strong ties to the powers that be, decades of experience in government, and a pedigree which, let’s face it, could always fall back on Bill’s experience in times of difficult decisions for sound advice. The election of Trump, on the other hand, is essentially America going “all-in” on a flush draw when we know very well that it may not work out. But in this scenario, the projection is even grimmer; we didn’t even go “all-in” on an ace high flush draw; it was more of a queen, five suited flyer. For those of you who do not follow this poker-speak, essentially, this is a massive risk handing the control of our nation to a single political party in all three branches of government, to be headed by a celebrity with zero political experience. I hope that I am pleasantly surprised with the results of this gamble.
To the point at hand, even as a hardcore leftist who viewed Trump as more of a caricature or abrasive personality than a serious political candidate, in the long run, this election may be exactly what America needs. Donald Trump is not a political insider, nor does he need to pander to the established parties, special interests, or constituents as the election last night quintessentially put all of America’s eggs in his basket. Even though he has not laid out a coherent plan, or vision, for his presidency (a fact which probably signifies his surprise as much as mine at his election) he is probably the closest America could come to actually electing a third-party candidate. Trump is a long-time waffler, ideologically speaking. Before he accepted the Republican nomination, he stated in a 2015 interview that he identified more with Democratic positions and preferred Bill Clinton to the Bushes. Was this playing to the middle? Perhaps, but this kind of ideological flip-flopping may represent actual introspection. It may also represent sociopathic manipulation. At this juncture, it is impossible to tell but a “wait and see” approach is really the only plausible option we have. This goes for people of both political persuasions.
My sincere hope is that the Trump I saw last night accepting victory will be the Trump that comes into office. Talk of forgiveness, mending fences, unifying a nation, and seeking help from opponents as well as followers were the dominant themes of his rhetoric. But was it just rhetoric? As a leftist, I am extremely skeptical of any “unifying the nation” language, especially coming from a person who called for building walls along borders, deporting large segments of the population out of xenophobia, and “bombing the crap” out of perceived enemies. However, upon reflection, could this language have been playing to a certain audience also? Could Trump perhaps not be the maniac he appeared to be in order to appeal to a certain demographic desperate to assert its collective voice saying, “Look, we’re still here. We still matter?” Again, we simply do not know. If Trump played to the middle to win the GOP nomination, it is equally possible that once he secured that nomination, he could unleash a different persona which tapped into the hatred, frustration, and desperation of a large part of white America which felt like it was losing its grasp on sociopolitical relevancy.
Many of my liberal friends and colleagues will likely be none too pleased with this statement, but let’s give the man a chance. Is he a manipulative, self-absorbed ego maniac whose moral compass is broken? Yes; but so was Thomas Jefferson, JFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr.; all womanizers, all somewhat deficient in their personal moral guidance, but all political outliers whose personal behaviors did not detract from the fact that they could be efficient, effective leaders. Do not misunderstand me; I am not saying Trump is on the level of these other leaders, but merely pointing out that simply because we view him as morally bankrupt does not mean he cannot be an effective leader even if he is a poor role model. Trump is also what many people on the left (and right) have been seeking for decades; a true outsider that will shake up the establishment. Do I wish it had been Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren instead? Obviously, I do. But the fact remains that we do not know who the real Donald Trump is, what he will stand for, or how he will choose to work with the powers that be in Washington. This could be a very good thing, or a very bad thing.
What Trump’s election actually says is that America is coming in line with populist movements and sentiments around the world. A pundit on MSNBC compared Trump’s election to that of Andrew Jackson. The comparison is apt. Jackson was elected on a platform that opposed the governmental and ideological institutions most contemporaries blamed for the economic collapse in the Panic of 1819. Trump is doing the same now. Like Jackson, he offered America a clear choice which allegedly will break with the same tired institutions that people on both sides of the ideological spectrum view as static, unresponsive, detached from reality, and unaccountable. Trump played to xenophobia surrounding modern fears of Muslims, immigrants, and anger over racial difficulties. Jackson did the same regarding his policies towards Native Americans, both of which, in my opinion, were/are deplorable, but politically effective. Whether Trump is actually serious about sending Muslims or “illegals” on their own “Trail of Tears” remains to be seen, but what cannot be disputed is that Trump tapped into a grassroots, organic sentiment deep in the collective sociopolitical psyche of the nation that yearned for drastic change in any conceivable embodiment. This is no different than Brexit; it is the people saying “enough of the same, it is time to try something different.” Democrats failed to recognize or even acknowledge the possibility that Clinton embodied everything most Americans, regardless of ideology, are dissatisfied with; career politicians who do little to change the status quo. Trump may not be the best solution to this gripe but again, we will have to wait and see. Could Bernie Sanders have tapped the same demographic with a less likely apocalyptic ending? We will never know because like most liberals, although I loved Bernie, I did not think he was electable. I thought Trump was even less electable. How wrong we could be!!!
The changes that will come from the 2016 Election may not work out. They may set us back fifty years in terms of human rights, foreign relations, and social empowerment. Obamacare is likely dead, which, quite frankly is fine by me being as it is the government forcing citizens to buy a private product; the very definition of fascism. But what will replace it? How will the healthcare industry respond to those who need care but no longer can afford it and do not have insurance to pay for it? Will this bankrupt the massive corporations who have invested so much in the intermarriage of government and private industry at the expense of the people’s collective and individual autonomy? Again, we do not know.
Governmental regulations in all kinds of areas will likely be curtailed. Rand Paul has already come out saying that the first few weeks of Trump’s presidency will likely be devoted to this issue. How will this play out in terms of economic improvement, climate change, and foreign relations? Or are people, like Rand Paul seemingly is, just superimposing their own agendas in wishful speculation regarding Trump’s potential plans? Again, we do not know.
Just how extreme the changes will be in terms of establishing neo-conservatism will largely depend solely on Trump. With a Republican Congress, a seemingly inevitable conservative Supreme Court, and an alleged Republican in the White House, essentially we have given these representatives a mandate to change our nation however they see fit. As scary as it is, Trump will be the last line of defense for protecting the nation against the unchecked wave of Bible thumping, tax slashing, xenophobic constituents foaming at the mouth to wash away the pillars of liberal democracy in favor of some form of pseudo-theocracy. But here’s the catch; Trump is not one of them. He is a New Yorker, an opportunist, a businessman, a shape shifter and generally speaking, always in pursuit of his own self-interest, which, realistically, could very well directly collide with many conservative agendas and align more with liberal ones, as he himself stated in 2015. Again, we do not know.
Watching the election results come in, I was surrounded by friends, many of whom I care deeply about and have the utmost respect for, despite their being of the conservative persuasion. Their shock and intrigued matched mine as they slowly realized what seemed like a pipe dream only a few hours ago turned into a possibility, then a reality. Their celebratory rhetoric was crude, unenlightened, unintelligent, self-centered, narcissistic, short-sighted, racist, sexist, xenophobic, brash, and regurgitative. However, their passion, their sincerity for their cause, their desperation in the moment which may very well have been their last true hope to grasp power in a constantly shifting demographic world was real and, I must confess, not at all different from the desperation I feel in wanting to change our political institutions. Our views on which road is the one of smoother travel may differ, drastically at times, but we essentially agree that massive change is needed. This is why Trump’s election may not be the worst thing for America or the end of the world, as many of my liberal-minded friends are feeling right now. Sure, we would like to have had the choice of putting a different person in charge of that change. I would venture a guess that even most people who voted for Trump share this sentiment. But America has seized an opportunity, albeit a massively risky one, to truly change. My hope is that a kinder, gentler, more enlightened, cooler-headed Trump, the Trump of last night, the Trump who spoke on the phone with President Obama assuring him of his commitment to building and unifying the nation, is the man who takes office and sheds this skin of divisive, racist rhetoric which he, sadly, hopefully only used as a means to get elected. I am also curious to see what kind of shake ups happen. Am I scared? Absolutely. Do I think this “all-in” could backfire horribly, leaving a much worse mess than we have currently? I do. Again, we do not know.
In my first blog post, “Mirror, Mirror,” I asked Americans to separate the emotional components from their political ideologies and truly take up the difficult issues, regardless of which side of the spectrum we fall. Now, merely twenty-four hours later, I am forced to take my own advice or face the fact that everything I just stated was hollow and empty academic theorizing with little practical, real-world application. My emotions have been a true rollercoaster for the last fifteen hours. I will admit, I have already googled “emigrate to Canada.” But there is something selfless and spiritually uplifting about detaching myself from the personal trauma I am feeling at the moment and looking for clarity and calm in this chaos. I do not like or agree with the Donald Trump I’ve seen thus far. I can imagine, empathically, that most conservatives feel the way I did in 2008 when Obama was elected; giddy, hopeful, and ready for change. By 2012, although I respect Obama’s ability as a leader and a truly magnificent speaker, I was left feeling empty, as if nothing had changed. Could Trump be the leader to deliver some of the changes I was seeking from Obama in 2008? Crazy question? Maybe. Again, we do not know.
Let’s give the man a chance, but remember whatever happens this time, it is truly on us, the American people. We are “all-in” with cards showing now. I desperately hope we hit that flush and it holds up as a winning hand as our international respect and credibility (or what is left of it) is on the line here. If it does not, we could all end up flat broke; morally, economically, and intellectually with little international standing to fall back upon and ground ourselves. “Felted” is the appropriate poker term.