2016 Election – Final Thoughts

Published: November 14, 2016

By Jim Lichtman
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“Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.” – old idiom


Like more than 60,981,000, I voted for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not because she would have been the first woman President of the United States, but given two likely choices, she was, far and away, the most qualified grown-up in the room.

While many have put forth their own reasoning as to why Clinton lost and Trump won, my focus is to examine issues through an ethical lens. Over the last 16 months, Donald Trump demonstrated time and again that he is a noisy, autocratic demagogue willing to say – incredibly – anything to appeal to the thousands who attended his rallies.

The country has seen this before in the 50’s when Senator Joseph R. McCarthy recklessly, and without much more than hearsay, attacked decent American citizens for being Communists working within our own government. We saw it again in the 60’s with Alabama Governor George Wallace, a racist.

On November 4, I cited ample evidence of Trump’s demagogic statements. This know-nothing must now be guided, directed as to whom to choose as his immediate counselors and some of the choices are frightening. And make no mistake, he will be guided on those choices and many, many more.

Watching Fareed Zakaria yesterday, I learned where some of the disconnect in this country comes from and why.

“Trump remade the political map,” Zakaria said in his opening (also a Washington Post commentary entitled, The Two Sins that Defined this Election), “with a huge surge of support from working-class whites, particularly in rural communities. …

“An essay on the satirical website Cracked, by David Wong (who grew up in a small town in Illinois), gives voice to the rage of rural Americans. ‘The whole goddamned world revolves around [America’s cities],’ he wrote. The vast majority of the country’s pop culture is all about city dwellers. Most new movies, shows, songs and games are about New York or Los Angeles or Chicago or some fantasy version of them. Nearly every trend comes from a metropolis. …’ he wrote.

“Cities,” Zakaria points out, “get disproportionate attention from media and other elites, who also all live in and around a handful of cities. Wong writes that Hurricane Katrina, in the popular imagination, is all about New Orleans. ‘To watch the news (or the multiple movies and TV shows about it), you’d barely hear about how the storm utterly steamrolled rural Mississippi. . . . What’s newsworthy about a bunch of . . . hillbillies crying over a flattened trailer? New Orleans is culturally important. It matters.’

“ ‘To those ignored, suffering people,’ [Wong writes], ‘Donald Trump is a brick chucked through the window of the elites.’

“Over the past three or four decades,” Zakaria continues, “the United States has sorted itself into a highly efficient meritocracy, where people from all economic walks of life can move up the ladder of achievement and income (usually ending up in cities). … As in any system, some people won’t ascend to the top…

“A meritocracy can be blind to the fact that some people don’t make it because they have been unlucky in some way. More profoundly, it can be morally blind. Even those who score poorly on tests or have bad work habits are human beings deserving of attention and respect. The Republicans’ great success in rural communities has been that even though they often champion economic policies that would not help these people — indeed, policies that often hurt them — they demonstrate respect, by identifying with them culturally, religiously and emotionally.

“So, the great sin of the modern left is elitism. But another sin was also highlighted in this election: racism.

“Trump won among whites without a college degree by a staggering 39 points,” Zakaria continues, “but he won those with a college education by four points as well. He won working-class whites but also middle-class whites.

“Perhaps the phenomenon might be better described as a cultural reaction to change, but it often expresses itself simply as hostility to people who are different and usually brown and black. Consider, for example, that 72 percent of registered Republican voters still doubt that Barack Obama was born in the United States, according to an August NBC News poll.

“Donald Trump’s political skill was to speak defiantly about both of these sensitive issues — elitism and race — in simple, direct and politically incorrect ways that connected with white voters, particularly white men. But in doing so, he also terrified tens of millions of other Americans. It is important that we have a serious conversation about elitism and rural communities. But it is also important that we not shy away from a conversation about race. There are other ignored and suffering people in the United States as well. We all need to be listening to each other now.”

I think Zakaria makes some good points and in a simplistic sense, Crackeds David Wong is right, as well, “It’s Not About Red And Blue States — It’s About The Country Vs. The City,” (a smart essay I would encourage all to read.)

But take a look at the photo above. This is Trump meeting, for the first time, President Obama in the oval office two days after the election.

This is the man Trump not only called “incompetent,” but added, “I know more about nuclear war than he will ever know.”

During their Oval Office meeting, Trump called Obama a “very good man… [and] a great honor being with you, and I look forward to being with you many, many more times.”

On the Clinton campaign trail, Obama called Trump “unfit,” a stance that remains unchanged.

Watching the entire video, both men are clearly uncomfortable, but Trump looked more uncomfortable, over-his-head uncomfortable. He can’t demagogue. He can’t complain that the election was rigged. He now has to govern. He has to perform; he has to live up to all those promises he made to his faithful followers. He’s on the hook now and he looks it.

It’s going to take more than an orange brick thrown through the window to change Washington’s entrenched Us v. Them mentality; a place that’s more focused on winning than governing. However, thanks to Trump, there won’t be the kind of gridlock we’ve seen in the last 6 or 7 years because on January 20, Republicans will control the White House and both houses of Congress.

Nonetheless, Zakaria’s sentiment is an important one. “We all need to be listening to each other now.”

But will we and will Washington?


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