Well…this is strange. I never thought I would say the words “President Trump,” and yet it looks like we, as a nation, just made that happen. Never mind that more votes were actually cast for Clinton, which is a reminder that the Electoral College really needs to go away.
I had a fair bit invested in this election, and it feels like my team just lost. Not that I really love Hillary that much. The divides are striking, men vs. women, urban vs. rural, college educated vs. not.
My childhood county of Renville, usually a fairly even partisan split, elected Trump with a 2/3 majority. These are good people. People who cared for my dad during his last days. People who sang and played instruments and studied and competed alongside me in high school and who now have little ones of their own. People who employ illegal immigrants and work alongside them in the fields, who teach English to little Mexican kids.
These good people, and millions like them across the nation, just elected a man who promises to build a wall on the border, to deport all illegal immigrants. A man who is on film talking about grabbing a woman “by the pussy” and who promises to imprison his opponent. A man who says little about love and compassion and caring for one another and much about anger and fear and divisiveness.
There are parts of Trump’s philosophy that I can agree with. If he is to be believed, he will lead us away from our budding brinkmanship with Russia and perhaps free the Syrian conflict from a US-Russian proxy war which is threatening to extend it indefinitely. He will push back against free trade agreements and perhaps lead us away from our current situation where nearly everything we buy is made in China, toward a revitalization of US manufacturing. He might – just might – do something about the ever-rising income inequality that is fomenting economic insecurity and frustration among a majority of Americans. He might begin to tip the balance of power away from multinational corporations and back toward workers and communities.
Unfortunately, I don’t really believe any of these things will happen. Trump is, after all, an extremely wealthy CEO of a multinational corporation. He benefits directly from globalization and the very policies that have gradually immiserated his constituency. He is clever, extroverted, with a knack for saying the right words honed over years of business dealings and reality television. Exactly why underemployed, struggling working class families believe that a wealthy, manipulative CEO is “their man” confuses me to no end, though it is a testament to his power of persuasion.
We need change in this country. We need to bring down the cost of healthcare and education – there is no justifiable reason short of greed and profits why these expenses are rising at double or triple the rate of wage growth. We need to continue building a renewable energy grid that will survive the depletion of oil, natural gas, and eventually coal. We need to recognize that climate change is real (almost every summer is among the hottest on record at this point) and take real steps to address it. We need to overcome our fear of each other and our polarization and recognize that we all want the same things – fair pay for a day’s work, love of friends and family, acceptance within our community and society, enough cash on hand to cover emergencies and retire some day. We need to work together – by whatever means we choose – to ensure that these simple things are within reach of everyone and not denied to those of a particular race, economic class, religion, immigration status, or even to those who have experienced personal hardship or mental health challenges beyond their control.
So…here we are, with a President Trump. He is an outsider, new to politics, riding on a wave of frustration with the gridlocked status quo. He is, I believe, quite malleable. He has a history of changing political parties, changing positions on issues, and saying whatever brings him popularity. As much as I dislike him personally, I think that he will act upon the will of the people if it brings him success and a place in history books. I ask of you, good people of Renville County and everywhere in rural America: now that you have elected this man, let us set aside our anger and divisiveness and remember our love for family, for community, for society. Let us work together to force President Trump to deliver on his better promises and to set aside his anger, his racism, his willingness to use stereotypes to divide us. Let us begin…