Thursday, December 08, 2016

Final Thoughts on Election 2016

It’s been one month since the election and I keep hoping I will wake up from, what I consider to be, a nightmare. That’s what it has been for me, and I know I’m hardly alone. This is, I hope, going to be my last woe-is-me-commentary on this subject and going forward I plan to take a more productive and constructive approach by focusing on important issues and current events and even have a little fun. I have been obsessing over the election, and since writing has always been an effective way for me to deal with my emotions, I feel that one last bit of grousing is warranted before I take that higher route, and here’s why:

We Americans had the opportunity to elect a supremely qualified woman to lead our country; a woman who has spent her entire adult life working to improve the lives of women, children, and families across the globe; a woman who was actively involved in government and community initiatives as the First Lady of Arkansas and then of the United States; a woman twice elected to the senate and who was praised by her Republican colleagues as someone who could work with them—who reached across the aisle—who studied the issues, put her head down and did the work, foregoing the spotlight; a woman who served as Secretary of State for four years; a woman, who as president, would have appointed to her cabinet 50% women, which would have provided us with a truly transformative, new experience: to see how our country would be run with more women in government leadership positions.

Alas, what have we opted for instead? It appears to be that which we have experienced since our founding: a government mostly dominated by old and middle-aged white men. Granted, there are a few women being appointed to Trump’s cabinet and that is a positive, but it won’t be comprised nearly of as many as a President Clinton’s would have been. Instead of moving forward into the 21st century, I feel like—and perhaps this is a bit hyperbolic—but it feels as if we have reverted back to the 1950s or before. That thought is utterly depressing.

I am quite concerned about the country’s future as well as Donald Trump’s ability to govern effectively, for so many reasons. I will enumerate some of them below and elaborate on each at some time in future, although I am hoping that won’t be necessary.

First is his character and inexperience. He is a temperamental man child and a narcissist. A minority of voters and the Electoral College elected a man who is the least qualified person ever to be placed in charge of running our country. He knows next to nothing about how government functions, nor is he even remotely knowledgeable about domestic or foreign policy issues, and he appears to have little interest in educating himself about them.  His Vice President, Mike Pence, is Indiana’s far right-wing governor who has, or at least tried, to enact laws in that state severely restricting civil and reproductive rights. My teacher friends there have indicated he is also no friend of public education; 

Second, are Trump’s conflicts of interest, from his domestic and global business enterprises to his kids running those businesses while serving as his advisers. Seriously? What do they know about trade with China or war in Syria? I imagine—nada. This is a huge conflict of interest: his kids running his businesses. Where is the outrage? If this were Chelsea Clinton and The Clinton Foundation, people on the right would be losing their minds. Oh, and again, Mike Pence is in the process of getting permission from the courts to hide his emails while he was Governor of Indiana from access to public records requests. My head is exploding…the hypocrisy is stunning.

Third, some of the people that Trump is nominating to fill key positions in his administration and as advisers are reprehensible. Some are rights-restricting, racist, sexist individuals who will be in charge of leading governmental agencies. Many aren’t even qualified for these positions. One example is Doctor Ben Carson being asked to head up the department of Housing and Urban Development, aka HUD. He’s qualified how? Because he spent time in public housing as a child? That’s like me saying that I ran track for six years in junior and senior high school so because I experienced it, I am qualified to coach the US Olympic track team. Yeah, right. Nor is Trump “draining the swamp” as he promised during his campaign, as he is filling cabinet positions with billionaire Wall Streeters and former Goldman Sachs employees;

Fourth, is Trump’s Twitter addiction. He will be our Twitter-in-Chief, tweeting out his grievances to anyone who criticizes or is mean to him. He is thin-skinned and a royal whiner, but he better get used to it, because criticism and mockery come with the territory as every previous president could attest; 

Fifth, are Trump’s threats against the First Amendment. People have the right to protest anything, so to Trump and his supporters I say: Stop telling people “to quit protesting and grow-up.” Americans can peacefully protest, assemble, and express themselves—that is guaranteed by our Constitution. Trump and his staff regularly threaten the press with possible lawsuits, even jail. Freedom of the press is another Constitutionally guaranteed right; silencing or cutting off the media, goes against that right. Also, threatening to jail a political opponent (the whole “lock her up” Hillary Clinton narrative he and his followers like to chant during rallies), that my friends, is a banana republic tactic; 

Sixth, Trump’s campaign was one of grievance and retribution and that doesn’t seem to be changing. In fact, hate crimes have risen in the month since the election. Why is that? Do more racists and sexists feel emboldened to lash out, intimidate, or hurt others due to Trump’s ugly rhetoric during the campaign? He rarely pushed back against violence or hateful language at his rallies, sometimes he even encouraged it;

I could list more, but I'll stop here.

Many of you may think I am being alarmist and that I should give Trump a chance. I am not being alarmist, and I will only reluctantly give him a chance. So far, he is not alleviating my fears. I am watching closely as everything unfolds through Inauguration Day and beyond. I will be calling and writing my senators and congressman repeatedly when something isn’t to my liking. I will participate in protests, and I will be more vocal than anyone ever imagined I could be to make sure our country is moving in the right direction, which is forward, not backward.

As Maya Angelou said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Trump showed us exactly who he is during the campaign: a vengeful, petty, nasty, insecure man. I take him at his words and actions. It’s up to him to prove me wrong. As New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote in his Dec 5 op-ed: “It is not the job of the defiant to conform to a future president who makes them completely uncomfortable. The burden of unity lies with Trump, not his detractors.” I agree. 

I fear that many civil, voting, and reproductive rights, many of which are already under assault around the country in GOP-led states, will be further restricted. Rules and regulations made over the past eight years to protect consumers, patients, and the environment may be in the process of being repealed or rolled back, instead of improved upon. I am not optimistic that these protections—protections I value—will remain. The Trump-era may be grand for men and the wealthy; it certainly doesn’t seem as though it will be for women, nor for people of color or those who practice a religion other than Christianity or none at all or for poor people. Unless Trump changes course on some of his appointees and policy positions, we are in for a long four years. God help us if it’s eight.

And yet, there is some indication that he can be reasoned with, which gives me a little hope. During the campaign, Mr. Trump was very pro-waterboarding. Apparently, Retired General James Mattis, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Defense, changed his mind about waterboarding by telling him that he had never found that method of extracting information to be effective. That is something positive, right?

Still, my inclination and desire is to retreat from the world and reside in a state of blissful ignorance over the next few years. That’s a nice thought, but that is not who I am, and it is far from the definition of being a good citizen. We must be vigilant because when we are not, much can go wrong.

Take economic inequality, which is pervasive around the globe and has been increasing for decades. It has, in large part, fostered a backlash against free trade and globalization because citizens see those at the top making out like bandits while those in the middle and lower income levels are getting scraps or no benefits from the gains in this new economy. I am pro free trade and globalization, and globalization has been a net positive for the world. However, many have lost out and those who have and whose struggles have been ignored by legislators—across the political spectrum—are angry, and rightly so. I get that, but the sad part is that they have put their hope and trust in one of the biggest con men out there.

During the campaign, Hillary Clinton was realistic and honest about what could be achieved, given where we are economically. She received scorn for her “incrementalism” but she was at least being truthful. Donald Trump, on the other hand, was just telling people what they wanted to hear. Take for example, the declining coal industry. He promised to bring back those jobs. Here are the facts: coal is not the future, it is the past. Those jobs are not coming back. Maybe these people don’t care because they hear what they want (and to be fair, we are all susceptible to that in varying degrees). Furthermore, perhaps it makes them feel good that a person of some prominence expresses their anger and resentment so perfectly. He “gets them.” That’s what they say: “He gets us.”

I hope I am wrong about the Trump administration, for all our sakes. Still, I grieve for what might have been: a new way of governing, one more closely representative of the 50+% of women in this country who have always been governed by men. That is a definite topic for a future post.

For now, I encourage Secretary Clinton to be a powerful force for good in this world as she has always been. We need her voice, her intelligence, her tenacity, her wisdom, and her leadership. But more than that we need to be leaders, activists, and volunteers as well as the critical yet encouraging voices for good in the heads of our legislators. Stay informed, stay active, stay in the U.S. and help create the world in which you want to live and thrive.