Now that we know that a “man” who regularly expresses the most vile sentiments has been elected president of the most powerful country in the world, what will happen next?
A few days have passed and like so many others I have read countless opinion pieces and their comments, have opined and offered my own thoughts. But I have yet to call my dear friend in California who I believe voted for him. Just as I did not show up to have drinks with a group of sympathisers here in Ubud last Wednesday night.
So is that what will happen? A more divisive world where opinions are too far apart to reconcile? Are we entering a period where despite our vast collective knowledge informed opinion will take a back seat to the ugly debates that we regularly see in our own parliament, where nobody listens to anybody else? Will public discourse be reduced to bigoted tweets and angry retorts?
Is this the beginning of the end as some doomsayers will have it? Or is it just the catalyst for change that we so desperately need? Is this the 1930’s revisited? After all Hitler was democratically elected, too. Or as one of those I didn’t share a drink with on Wednesday night quite rightly said, at least we know how that went so history won’t repeat itself. I hope he is right.
Much has been said also about the failure of Hillary Clinton to capture the voters imagination. Many of her supporters claiming the election outcome on the altar of discrimination against her gender, that despite her vast experience and obvious competence she wasn’t elected because she was a woman.
I think they are wrong. And this hit home even more with a reminder this morning that for the first time in history America has elected a president with absolutely no experience in public office whatsoever.
And I think that is precisely the point, or to quote an oft repeated line from Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) – “we are not going to take it anymore” – we, the people, are fed up with career politicians (of any gender) who are utterly disconnected from real life, from real people, from what we think, feel and dream of. We want change. We want a different style of leadership and decision making in a democratic, modern, free world.
It is now also abundantly clear to me and many other commentators that a Bernie Sanders ticket actually could have had a much better chance at winning than Hillary Clinton ever did. Because that would have been one reasonable anti establishment candidate versus another, far less reasonable. The democratic party didn’t see this, and it failed in supporting the right candidate.
And if there are republican party officials who think this result means a resurrection of their party they are wrong, too. Despite winning a majority in both houses, that is not their “man” in the White House, he is something unknown, an “enfant terrible” and a loose cannon, and nobody really knows how he will act and what he will do and how he will do it. But he is telling people, or at least enough of the white, male majority, what they want to hear.
This is not a failure of democracy as many will have us believe. This is the failure of politics and politicians who no longer represent the people. Just as the Brexit was. The very system of representative democracy has failed, and politics as the custodian of democracy has failed in their task.
Party politics, the cosy relationship between government and business interests, the stranglehold of unions on labour parties everywhere, religious zealots wielding political power, it has all has failed. It has been failing for decades, politicians just haven’t been listening.
So when you ask, what will happen next, I don’t know. But I do hope that when the history of 2016 and the next decade is written many years from now, it won’t be about the failure of the people to elect the right leader, it will be about a presidential election that became a protest vote, about Brexit, the mysterious resurrection of Pauline Hanson, and about many such events yet to play out, where the world realised that democratic leadership needed to be returned to the people.
And in this we can only hope that the president of the USA for the next four years will only be a footnote, a symbol for when that change started, barely remembered for any other real impact, for better or for worse, albeit “for better” is difficult to contemplate right now.
The big question is how sudden, how dramatic, how violent these changes will be. Will there be riots? Will there be coup-d’etats? The people are revolting, how will politicians fight back? How will those with a vested interest in the status quo – business, unions, church leaders – react?
Again, I don’t know.
But instead of speculating on that, let’s start focusing on how to return people power to the people. After all that is what democracy is about. And as Thomas Jefferson said “History, in general, only informs us what bad government is”. In other words, to change it, we need to look to the future. To different solutions. A revolution is coming, may it lead to true democracy, equality, mutual understanding and acceptance. A less divisive world ruled by love and compassion.
To be continued…