I woke up on the morning of the 9th to find the WhatsApp group for my team at work exploding with news that Donald Trump looked like he was about to win the US election. The night before I had been talking it over with my wife, I knew he had a chance but I didn’t really believe it would happen. My wife however was more certain Trump was going to win. I was just glad I wasn’t in the US to make the choice. Yet as the day went on it only became more certain and the reaction from many of my peers at work was similar to that at the time of Brexit; despondency, shock, disbelief and disparaging comments. I made a point of staying away from social media, I’d learnt that from Brexit too.
The question asked repeatedly throughout the day was ‘how could anyone vote for Donald Trump?’ and I think this question itself simplifies the issue to a binary that I imagine for many Americans didn’t really exist. For many it wasn’t just a vote for Donald Trump but an expression of dissatisfaction with the state of government. Those who voted for Trump were more likely to feel disenfranchised by government, not feeling the effects of the ‘Hope’ that Obama originally campaigned on. In fact the biggest surprise was that consistently many places that originally voted for Obama had swung towards Trump. Its been said repeatedly that both parties gave the population the worst it had to offer in Trump and Clinton its just that the former was a chance to roll the dice and hope for something different from those who were dissatisfied.
The dissatisfied in question it seems came from large swathes of White America. Hilary notably failed to win over white women. White men are less of a surprise having increasingly been portrayed as emblematic of all thats wrong in the west. Despite the fact that White rural poor communities throughout America world are the only demographic group seeing a drop in life expectancy in recent years. With consideration to identity politics these efforts to demonise White men potentially backfired by pushing them, pressurising them, and others, into a voting bloc that just carried the election. Many quarters of the progressive establishment simply couldn’t believe that their ‘punching bag‘ of choice really had a say anymore and that the election was a done deal. The culture wars had been won by the progressives and the idea that the ‘White man’, let alone anyone else still wouldn’t vote for Clinton was something that wasn’t seen before and is being turned on with what seems equal parts rage, fear and disbelief.
The really disquieting thing, in an immediate sense, is the increased frequency I’m seeing by those on the wrong side of the Brexit and Trump votes to argue against the democratic process. If such outcomes really are unacceptable to a nation then what validity is the democratic process if it only serves to support the conclusions we already came to? So many people are outraged by the idea of Elites dictating the direction of society. Yet cannot bring themselves to digest the results of votes that go against their own vision of society. Are these people really any different from the elites they bemoan? Is the only difference for these people their influence? Even now as I write this, in earshot I hear of people discussing the means and ways for Trump to be impeached or removed from office. How progressives should increasingly just start using propaganda to get people to fall-in. We’re outraged when the US did such things in places like Honduras but when we stand to gain its not a problem. People in the West are increasingly getting used to talking about democracy as if it was a bad idea.
Trump is an objectionable character and one that should be held accountable for his deeds. I still struggle to understand how so many Evangelical leaders threw in their support for him. If you are cynical, fine, be honest about it but the trumpeting of Trump as some Christian saviour is a cause for concern. The love felt for him in this area I fear is not reciprocated by the man himself.
In writing all this I’ve also been consciously aware of the role the internet has played in all this. The internet is increasingly becoming an echo chamber for our own opinions, social media in particular. The reason this was a surprise was because we share, like, retweet and ultimately regurgitate the content attractive to us. Its made me wonder personally, the value in writing online (the irony in writing this is not lost on me). The internet feels increasingly a vehicle of ideological segregation. Our world is getting smaller, partly because we are increasingly screening people out of daily life who aren’t like us. So when they do break into our world in a dramatic way, like in the US election the reaction is one of outrage, anger and disbelief.
The extent of this isolation, particularly by the progressives of the US to the actual populace is also something worth reflecting on. Nearly every talking head predicted a Clinton Presidency. This vote has exposed the divide between progressive institutions and the American population as a whole. Historically the more you spent on a campaign, the better your chances and Hilary outspent Trump considerably. Increasingly this isn’t the case anymore, Obama had great success online in his bid for presidency and so did Trump. The media that sways votes for these elections is increasingly in the air. In many ways the internet has contributed to a more bottom up style of campaigning that even the many endorsements of celebrities for Clinton could not budge.
To conclude, no one knows whether the Trump presidency was a vote for Trump or just a vote against Hilary. Time will tell. The whole thing is emblematic of the loss of moral authority by the powerful in American society in the eyes of the populace. I believe that division will only grow over time partly because neither Trump nor Hilary are equipped as individuals to address this divide. Many progressives marked the election as a step backwards for America but such thinking can only occur when you believe theres only one way forward. Trump I find is a disturbing character for a time equally deserving of that descriptor. I don’t know if a man I consider bad can bring about good but the next four years will be crucial for America and the world as we understand it.
As someone outside the US I feel like I can moderate my reaction to the election more so than someone who lives in the US. I know Americans both distraught and elated by the vote. Many in the UK, and I imagine the world, wanted a Clinton Presidency and truth be told I don’t know who I’d vote for given the choice. I am totally sympathetic to the large numbers of the population that stayed at home on the day of the election. I have no love for Clinton and think it mocks the idea of a democratic republic to elect a lifelong bureaucrat who was married to a prior President. I also think the idea of a Trump presidency is troubling for its own reasons. I appreciate the role America plays in the world but I also know I can’t do much about the election so regardless of outcome I can only control my reaction to it. This is a time that necessitates grace, understanding and humility on all involved.What does concern me is the growing notion that this whole election process has highlighted a fragmentary west that shows no sign of slowing its cultural break down. As a Christian it doesn’t matter who is President, Christ is my Lord and that doesn’t change. I do what he commands, not culture, nor a president on the other side of the world.
edit: I think this video, although expletive laden, is pretty on it.