In the immediate aftermath of the US Presidential election, I heard that the Clinton campaign wondered what “went wrong.” Perhaps they’re still wondering. I think back to the race in 2000, in which Al Gore won the popular, but lost the electoral, vote as Secretary Clinton did. I recall a confident (some would say cocky) candidate riding on the heels of a successful 2-term Democratic President. I recall a second candidate presenting himself as a man of the people (despite being born into wealth), rough around the edges, and a straight shooter. Does this sound familiar? (Hitler did the same, but I digress.)
Donald Trump has won the election (provided rogue electors don’t renege on their pledges next month) because he managed to successfully portray himself as a regular guy to a huge segment of the population. You know, a regular guy who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth; a regular guy who is extremely wealthy; a regular guy who never had to scrape and save for anything, unless you count scratching and clawing to build an empire with a measly $1 million loan from father.
Candidate Trump served as an antidote to political correctness run amok (somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten that respect and decency are far more important than if someone has said the “right thing” the “right way.”); a lifeline to people who feel like their power and/or privilege is slipping away and erroneously blame groups of people who have never had the same level of power or privilege. You see, a whole bunch of people see successful women and People of Color–largely Black–in the entertainment field (professional sports and the music industry, in particular, for Black Americans) or as news anchors and get a distorted reality. They think the balance of power has somehow shifted and that women and racial/ethnic minorities have gotten more than their supposed “share” of the pie or American Dream, or whatever you want to call it.
I say distorted reality because overrepresentation in some realms/fields/industries/sectors does not reflect the reality for most women or People of Color in America. Sure, in many ways, a great deal of improvement has occurred, but according to the National Poverty Center, 1 in 3 American women (approximately 42 million) and nearly 30 million children, live in or at the edge of poverty. In the US, over 1/4 of Blacks and American Indians (Native Americans) live in poverty; 24% of Latinos/Hispanics do; 12% of Asians do; and 10% of non-Hispanic Whites do. The average Black American household in the U.S. has 6% of the wealth of the average White American household–6 percent. This is according to The Racial Wealth Gap: Why Policy Matters. The average Latino household in the U.S. has 8% of the wealth that the average U.S. White household does. In real numbers we’re talking about over $111,000 in wealth for the average White family in the U.S., compared to $7,100 for the average Black family and $8,000 for the average Latino family (some calculations reveal a larger gap $112,000 versus $6,000, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/antonio-moore/the-decadent-veil-black-income-inequality_b_5646472.html).
I hear complaints about so-called reverse discrimination and allegations that if you’re a woman or non-White, you have a better chance to succeed in the U.S. than if you’re White. It’s sad that some people actually believe that. It’s worse than disturbing that some people who know that’s not true, nonetheless claim it in order to stir the pot of hostilities bringing it from a slow simmer to a rolling boil. What about all those rich athletes and rappers, you ask? First of all, economically successful athletes and rappers that are People of Color represent a small percentage of their respective populations overall. (In plainer terms, if you see the world in Black and White, the numbers of American Black athletes and rappers represent a small percentage of the overall Black population in the U.S. Those that are economically successful enough to be called millionaires are an even smaller percent.) Additionally, they represent a small percentage of millionaires overall. For more on the distorted view of Black wealth due to media coverage that overwhelmingly focuses on sports and entertainment, I suggest reading Antonio Moore’s blog post, “The Decadent Veil: Black America’s Wealth Illusion.”
So Donald Trump capitalized on distorted views portraying some groups getting ahead at the expense of White Americans, especially White men. Donald Trump didn’t say this, he just capitalized on the sentiment that has been building for years. He appealed to their desire to have someone speak for them. Never mind that Donald Trump cannot possibly relate to people from low-income backgrounds, struggling to make ends meet. That’s not a criticism, just a reality.
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton made the ill-fated remark about the majority of Trump supporters being deplorables. She meant, of course, the fringe element spouting racism, misogyny, anti-immigrant statements, homophobia, and anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic (among other things) sentiments. Those people got much more of the media focus than other Trump supporters. Some pundits referred to his followers as uneducated. Many after the election have chosen to focus on the voice of the “non-college-educated White male” as if Trump’s persona and comments haven’t appealed to the upper-class frat boy mentality, and his friendships with the likes of Mike Tyson and Bill Belichick haven’t appealed to countless other self-proclaimed “tough guys.” (Not to mention, that others simply felt their opinions on particular policy issues fell more in line with Trump than Clinton.) No one wants to be referred to as stupid, ignorant, or deplorable–unless they rally around it, showcasing cheesy t-shirts, bumper stickers, caps, and buttons like badges of honor (much like redneck was considered a bad thing, until it became a cash cow for enterprising merchandisers…You know if you’re a Deplorable if…).
So Ivy-League educated Donald Trump came off as regular Joe, while Hillary Clinton came off as elitist. Much like Ivy-League educated George W. Bush came off as mascot for the less-educated and Al Gore came off as uppity. Sort of like how Ivy-League educated Barack Obama came off as a regular guy and Mitt Romney came off as an out-of-touch snob–except “ignorant” was not generally a term thrown at President Obama like it was thrown at former-President G.W. Bush; and “crude” hasn’t been attached to Obama like it has been attached to the President-Elect. Furthermore, the King of Boasts, Tall Tales, and so-called Locker Room Talk managed to portray himself to many as more truthful than Hillary Clinton. Let’s call him Teflon Don. Of course the big issue I’ve managed to avoid thus far is that Donald Trump presented himself as a regular Joe, while Hillary Clinton could never do so as a woman. Did a huge number of people choose Trump just to avoid a female President? (Cokie Roberts thinks it’s possible.)
Now we find ourselves in the middle of protests and talks to finally rid ourselves of the very un-democratic Electoral College. I can only imagine what we would be facing had the outcome of the election been different. I can imagine the outcries of a rigged election that would have come from both the Trump campaign and outspoken Republican pundits who attached themselves to the Trump Train, had he not won the required number of electoral votes. It would have been ironic, considering the hacking that occurred throughout the campaign was tied to those seeking to discredit the Clinton camp (the highly-partisan WikiLeaks and the Russian government–allegedly). I don’t hear talk from leading Democrats about rigged election machines or hacked election results, so that’s something.
President-Elect Trump must work on creating a solid foundation to bring Americans closer together–first by fostering greater unity. Of course, this can’t happen if he keeps silent about the atmosphere of hatred that’s out there. He also faces an uphill battle considering his alleged, disgusting treatment of women and his subsequent denials-by-insult. His presidency needs to frequently reference the real economic gaps between groups–rather than the fiction of Whites losing out to People of Color, as well as between rich and poor. Poor people, and blue collar people, in general regardless of color or racial/ethnic background, rarely get seen at all–except in a negative light or as caricatures. It’s long past time to remedy this. Let’s hear their stories and put in place policy to foster economic independence rather than dependence.
There is always talk by politicians of the middle class. Let’s help the middle-class. Sure, sounds great. Many millionaires consider themselves to be middle-class. Over half of the members of Congress were identified as millionaires. My middle class and your middle class, wealthier politician, are probably not the same group of people. We need to provide people from low-income and working-class backgrounds real opportunities to provide a good life for their families. (I’m sorry, in most parts of this country, that doesn’t include people making 6 figures. It doesn’t, although I know many are probably working paycheck to paycheck too.) Vocational education programs in the U.S. should be strengthened in all schools and combined with STEM. A high number of new manufacturing plants should be created in the most economically depressed areas and they should provide comprehensive, on-the-job training opportunities for adults living in those areas, along with internships for high school and college students.
There is plenty of work to be done in the U.S.–to repair both our infrastructure and our trust in one another. Forget making America great “again”. For some populations it has never gotten there. I’m talking about anyone member of a group that’s been oppressed. Yes, that includes poor White people. If you think this country has been great for you as your family has experienced generations of poverty, well delusions can be a great thing.
Let’s make the United States of America truly great for all of its population. It will take time, real resources, a move towards equity, RESPECT, human decency, a successful fight against hatred, an end to misogyny, frank dialogue (2-way conversation involves listening, respect, openness, sharing…), okay it will take a lot, but it’s worth fighting for and working towards. It’s now your show and your move Mr. President-Elect. Can you actually get Congress to function to promote human rights and better economic opportunity for all Americans? Will you be willing to show people from similar economic backgrounds that they are more alike than not? Can you remove this artificial barrier that’s been put up since before the colonists started a revolution–the barrier that pits races against each other? Do you even know it’s there and why it was created? (Hint: To keep the wealthy, wealthy.) Are you willing to nominate Supreme Court justices that have no desire to roll back Roe v. Wade or marriage equality? Will you go back to wanting to amend the Affordable Care Act rather than revoke it (which you were for (amending) before you weren’t)?
Mr. President-Elect, you can start by weeding out from your circle the hateful hangers-on that have followed along behind you. For one, Rudy Giuliani, who seems to have lost his mind (or possibly taken off a carefully constructed mask) over the last 15 years, should be sent back to the Big Apple. Newt Gingrich can exit, as well. Get some people behind you that are willing to work with others regardless of political party. The jury’s still out on the arse-kisser from the Garden State, who probably needs to take a back seat on the Train, as well, although when no one’s looking he sometimes makes sound decisions. We’ll all be watching to see what you do. You won’t have to wait for history to be your judge.