Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Despair Is Not a Long-Term Solution

When Clinton and Trump applied for the position of US President, I did my due diligence as hiring manager. In Clinton, I saw a career politician with strong policy credentials and an inability to prevent self-inflicted political wounds. The email controversy, while serious, was no worse than established practice of other politicians before her (although her flippant comment about wiping the server with a cloth incites Hulk-levels of rage in me to this day). In the "Miscellaneous" portion of her resume, I liked the symbolism of electing the first woman president.

In Trump, I saw an erratic, ineloquent businessman with no experience in politics. His actions and words showed clear racism and misogyny, and he used fear to gather and excite his voting base. Subjectively, he gave me the impression that I would be wiser to interview the advisors he surrounds himself with to prepare for the day (somewhere in Year Two) when he got bored of governing.

Both candidates were flawed, yet one clearly had the stronger resume for this specific job. The hiring recommendation I submitted was based on what I felt was best for our country in spite of my personal feelings. In the end, I was overruled and Trump was elected.

There are arguments to be made about all of the reasons that this was possible -- the Electoral College is an outdated institution, the spoiling effect of third party votes, or media oversaturation -- but these are just trifling details. Simply put, Trump won because people voted for him. REAL people, some of whom you might see on the street or at work every day. REAL people with legitimate concerns in search of a solution. I remain highly skeptical that Trump will be the solution that these voters had hoped for, but I can empathize with the feeling that their voices were finally heard.

So what will the US look like under a Trump presidency beyond a loss of international prestige and an uncertain, fluctuating market? As it has for every presidency, that remains up to us as citizens of this country and the world. We are still the best defense against institutionalized hate and we still have the power to accept or reject the qualities we want in the communities we establish.

If you're feeling despondent right now, go ahead and take a day to get that noise out of your system -- torture yourself by browsing all of the online "what-if" punditry, finish off that bottle of stale caramelized dessert wine, and rewatch Dave. When you wake up tomorrow, here are my suggestions for what you should do instead of giving up in despair (simplified into a Buzzfeed-friendly list of 3):

    1) Nurture your local community

    Exemplify the type of person you want to be around. Love your family, take care of your friends, and say hello to your neighbour before you dart into your suburban house to hide from real social connection. Practice the values of diversity, civil rights, and personal responsibility that you hold dear and let them virally infect your personal network and beyond. No amount of negative policy changes at the national level will ever be enough to overcome a strong, loving community.

    2) Strive to understand the anxieties of the "other side"

    Dismissing the concerns of the voters who put Trump in power dehumanizes almost half of our country. It's very easy to adopt an "us vs. them" or "enlightened vs. never-went-to-college" viewpoint but this will never heal the divide. In the face of manufactured factions, we need to remind ourselves that we're not as far apart as we have been led to believe. Make a conscious effort to empathize with other peoples' concerns even if surface appearances suggest an obvious bias. Be skeptical of your own stances sometimes and read news stories from sources you normally wouldn't deign to consider -- not to change your mind, but to see issues from a different perspective. It will never be as simple as saying that "everyone who votes for a racist is also a racist".

    3) Work within the system to change the system

    Our political system is imperfect and in need of change, but protest voting simply doesn't work. If you seriously want a third party candidate to ever win at the national level, start them organically from the local level in one of the big parties and give them a platform with broader appeal beyond people that want to smoke pot, get Wifi cancer, or abolish all government. If you dislike both big party candidates in future elections, consider choosing the one that would have a net positive impact on humanity in spite of your personal views. It's possible to work within the system without abandoning it wholesale -- as an outsider, Trump used every flaw in the process to get the nomination of a political party he doesn't truly represent and then went on to win.

We are still the same good people we were before the election, and in spite of its problems, our country is still a better place to live, raise a family, and thrive than it ever has been. If you believe that yesterday's election was a giant step backwards, it is your responsibility to keep the trail maintained until we can move forward again.

tagged as deep thoughts, politics | permalink | 5 comments


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