Now that the shock of President-elect Donald Trump’s victory has worn off and we have heard all the hot takes, it is time to look at things without all of the emotion that comes with winning and losing elections.
What does it mean?
Over the last eight years, we’d been told that the country was tilting left. Experts argued that with its shifting demographics, the future of America was a European-style socialist democracy fraught with high taxes and government providing womb-to-tomb entitlements for its citizens.
Even some Republicans began to believe it. They thought the only way the Republican Party could ever win the Oval Office was to win over Hispanics in order to take votes away from Democrats.
Trump’s ascendancy to the GOP nomination all but ensured a victory for Democrats in the minds of experts. Those rabid GOP base voters have done it again — they nominated a candidate who is so easy to portray as anti-immigrant, Islamophobic and an all-around Neanderthal and, therefore, easy to defeat.
They were wrong.
It’s not to say his opponent, Hillary Clinton, wasn’t a flawed candidate. The Democratic Party probably could have done much better.
To just attribute Trump’s victory last week to the shortcomings of Clinton misses the message sent by the voters and, if interpreted that way by Democrats, would set them up for failure in future election cycles.
There was never quite the mandate for some of the changes that have happened under President Barack Obama. It could be argued much Obama’s success was due to George W. Bush and his foreign policy in the Middle East. The war in Iraq was used as a wedge issue successfully by the Democratic Party and Obama was able to use it to his advantage in 2008.
That alleged mandate through the years, however, was misinterpreted to be a license for government to do a lot of things, both big and small. The biggest, of course, was health care, but there were other, smaller things like transgendered bathrooms in public schools, executive orders changing how immigration laws were enforced, advocacy for same-sex marriage, initiatives to influence how people eat, etc.
All of those causes have some merit, but seemed to have been given priority over what the average American was dealing with. When you’ve lost your job because your company has discovered a way to exploit our immigration system by hiring a less-expensive replacement on an H-1B visa, or when your hours have been cut to part-time so that your company won’t have to offer health insurance, the finger gets pointed at the federal government.
In the aggregate, that may not seem like a whole lot of people. But consider the margin for error in elections in the Electoral College. A few disenfranchised Rust Belt cities in the Midwest can wind up giving an entire state to one candidate or the other.
And so, here we are with President-elect Donald Trump.
It certainly wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t as if he lost the popular vote by a wide margin and won the Electoral College by a couple of votes. He won convincingly, according to the rules set forth in the Constitution, and both his opponent and the current president have acknowledged that.
What message have the voters sent? Is it a repudiation of Obama? Is it pushback against the political correctness in our society? Or perhaps it is a license for Trump to enact everything he laid out in his campaign — a border wall, a temporary halt of Muslims coming into the country, tariffs, rethinking alliances and trade deals like NATO and NAFTA.
Many have interpreted this election as a mandate for Trump, given that the Republicans also carried both chambers of Congress in last week’s election. But that remains to be seen. Trump took some bold positions during the campaign and, despite pushback from opponents and the media labeling his proposals as outrageous, the people still elected him.
One mandate is pretty clear, and that is there’s at least a perception that the “swamp” needs to be drained in Washington, D.C.
Six of the 10 richest counties in the U.S. surround Washington, D.C., a place where little is manufactured but a lot of money is spent. When the most prosperous part of your country is the center of government, where is this wealth being created? The answer is that, for the most part, it isn’t. It’s based on an effort to win power or some sort of favor from the federal government.
That’s not to say the system is “rigged,” but it is designed in a way — from the peak of government power all the way down to the nonprofit storefronts on the outskirts of the D.C. metro area — to benefit a select few.
At one time, the best and the brightest in our country went into tech, manufacturing, banking — you name it. Now, many simply go to Washington, D.C., because working in or around government offers the best opportunity.
Trump likely does not necessarily need to kick down the doors around D.C. to drain the “swamp.” However, if he is able to change this trend and reinvigorate the economy and shift society’s mindset away from being so reliant upon government, then maybe the “swamp” problem could be self-correcting.
There are a lot of hurt feelings right now on both sides of the ideological spectrum over last week’s results. Trump has not even been sworn in yet.
My suggestion: Wait and see how the first 100 days go. If it is nothing but a combination of Twitter tirades and buckling to Congress, then have at it, Never Trumpers. If it’s the modern-day version of Andrew Jackson’s “Trail of Tears,” with a forced mass exodus to Mexico, then take to the streets, progressives.
But for now — before he has done a single thing — he deserves the opportunity the American people have given him through our electoral process.
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