Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States of America, as of this moment – 10:00 on November 9th – Hilary Clinton leads the popular vote by a few points, but Donald Trump is the presumptive winner of the 2016 presidential election. In addition, the senate and house are now made up of Republican majorities; creating a clear path for the Republican party to undo much of the liberal progress of the last couple of decades.
Today I feel many are asking, what happened last night? How did an outspoken racist, suspected rapist, artless misogynist, along with a party of politicians who have been courting these same lines of hate for years, achieve an overwhelming majority in a first world nation? Hasn’t the triumph of liberal, progressive values been fought and won? What went wrong?
To answer these questions in one word, no. Liberal values have not won. There are a majority of people (throughout the western world, i.e. Brexit) who would prefer a world without gay marriage, legal abortion, or women’s rights. It is not the “radical right” who won yesterday’s election, it was a majority of American voters and – as of this moment – a majority of the American people. The system did exactly what it was designed for: the people said “the establishment has failed,” and elected a candidate who represented a change from a system that has been rapidly dismantling their way of life.
Furthermore, people were not insane to vote for Trump and he was never a fringe candidate. During the primaries Trump beat out the entire Republican establishment – 16 other candidates – to clinch his victory. From the beginning he was a force to be reckoned with in the 2016 election cycle and normal, everyday people wanted Trump to win; not only members of the KKK, NRA, and those who refuse to accept their forefather’s surrender during the civil war.
This leads us to a major problem faced by liberal and progressive politicians of today, rather than taking Trump seriously, Democrats decided to dismiss him as a “fringe” or “radical” candidate. Democrats decided that no one in their right mind would vote for Trump and ignored the outcome of the Republican primaries, which resoundingly indicated that many everyday Americans were taking Trump’s campaign seriously. And, by not acknowledging that Trump was speaking to issues many Americans are concerned about, the Clinton campaign handed him a victory. Clinton ignored the fact that many Americans – not only fringe or radical crackpots – agreed with Trump’s strategy of hate and xenophobia.
Trump’s campaign spoke for a dying middle-class wondering why those they elected to represent them have allowed the American dream to be shipped to China. Furthermore, the average American has no understanding of macroeconomics and isn’t interested in the “over-my-head” explanations the mainstream media and establishment politicians have been offering for too many years. Coupled with youth unemployment and a general sentiment of hopelessness for the future makes Trump a candidate many disenfranchised members of the middle class see as both anti-establishment and their last-ditch hope for a piece of the quickly fading American dream. In today’s world obtaining a degree is no longer a guaranteed middle-class life; it is a guaranteed $100,000 loan and not much else. Additionally, job security no longer exists and many of today’s youth are expected to work multiple part time, temporary jobs over the course of their working lives. There is no such thing as steady employment for the next generation of workers, our politicians and social elite have shipped all the good jobs overseas.
Trump spoke to the disenfranchised, silent majority, those who aren’t members of the Christian right, the NRA, or the KKK. Trump spoke to the majority of Americans who don’t agree with anything said by either Republicans or Democrats. Trump represented the common man, he wasn’t another candidate shouting “vote for me or <insert Democrat or Republican> will win.” People voted for Trump because they wanted to, not because they were afraid Clinton would win. In many elections the only reason people vote for Democrats is because they fear a Republican victory and vice versa. Trump made this election about what he would do, rather than spreading fear of what his opponent would do. And while conversely, Trump did use many similar fear-mongering tactics, he also spoke bluntly about how he would deal with sensitive, politically untouchable problems rather than just offering a sound-byte and changing the subject. His political uncouthness spoke directly to an audience who felt he was a bastion of truth in a world of lies.
The next four years will be interesting if nothing else, but I’m just happy the nightmare that was the election is finally over. Let’s all try to remember that political activism doesn’t end on election day and it is our duty as citizens to hold politicians accountable. Even though the election is over, we still need to make our voices heard: Bernie 2020.