Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Fat Lady Has Sung

Donald Trump was not my preference to be the next President of the United States. Nor did I vote for him. I cannot make these two statements strongly enough. I am still trying to get my head around how someone that angry, thin-skinned, disrespectful, and ill-prepared could be elected President after such a divisive and untruthful campaign.

That said, Donald Trump will be my President come January 20th. That decision has been made, because that is how our American democracy works. Candidates present themselves; an election is held; a winner is determined. Sometimes our preference wins; sometimes our preference loses. My track record for results over my adult life is mixed, as should be expected. This time, by rules well-known in advance, my choice between the two major-party candidates lost.

Hillary Clinton was an imperfect campaigner at best, regardless of what kind of president she would have made. Given much of the public’s negative opinion of her – for whatever nonsensical or justifiable reasons – she needed to be the best. Hilary did not lose because of FBI Director James Comey’s atrocious handling of her email investigation concurrently with the campaign. Nor did she lose because of Russian hacking into the DNC and Clinton campaign’s computers, and their interference on behalf of Trump – which clearly happened and is a significant intrusion into our sovereignty demanding a response. Nor did she lose because the Electoral College is an antiquated device that supposedly thwarts the will of the people. (See the 11/30/2016 posting to this blog site – “Defending the Electoral College.”) She lost because the American electorate demanded a substantial change in the status quo. It was a revolt by a powerless middle-class America against being left out and behind a changing global economy and social landscape that has favored a few insiders. A manifestation of years of less-than-20% approval ratings of ineffective Congresses and their self-interested leaders more focused on gaining power for themselves rather than serving the people’s needs. A two-party political system that provides no home and no candidates for the majority political demographic of Independent voters. Hillary was not seen as the needed response to that dissatisfaction.

Early in 2016, in response to questions then being asked about the Trump phenomenon, I said that the real story was not about Trump himself, but about the Trump voter – and why they were so willing to overlook his outrageous (and untruthful) statements and actions. It was a story Clinton never read, lulled into the faith that traditional voters would show up, even though Bernie Sanders showed that story to her within the Democratic Party itself. Clinton, the ultimate and best-prepared policy wonk, had all the papers prepared for a message not enough voters were looking to hear. Papers that she was never able to reduce to simple, comprehensible themes about what she would do to respond to these voters. She was the wrong person at the wrong time, in spite of all her years of commendable public service.

It was a hard loss, yes. And a missed opportunity to show that even the presidency is finally now gender-neutral. But when you are worried about holding onto your job (with few alternatives in view), providing for your family’s well-being and security, and maintaining a way of life you have firmly believed in, then you are able to make some choices that may look questionable on their face (e.g. Evangelical support for a faux-religious Trump). Instead of reaching out to that discouraged and disaffected audience, Clinton wrote them off as racist and deplorables. Some Trump voters no doubt are, just as some Clinton supporters have behaved inexcusably to their fellow Americans. Writing off those Trump supporters was the biggest blunder of her campaign. The “Trump voter” was not only Republican, but also Democrat and Independent. The Democratic base progressively shrunk; Republicans won votes but no new party loyalists.

So Clinton won the votes but lost the country. Trump lost the vote but won the country. He won fairly, even if perhaps not so square, and in spite of his claims that the election was “rigged” – which it most certainly was not. When you lose, you lose. Among America’s many problems, we have been suffering nationally from an inability to accept defeat graciously, whether it is Obama’s wins in 2008 and 2012, or the passing of Obamacare, or judicial decisions on gay marriage, or continuing wars overseas. We demand our way or not at all; we accept no defeat, but keep fighting rear-guard battles unendingly. As a consequence, we have had few new ideas put forth on our political agenda, and made little progress on many unresolved problems. We are too busy refighting old issues over and over again – a political equivalent of “Groundhog Day.”

It is time to quit litigating and replaying this election, however unhappy one may be. Al Gore had a legitimate basis for challenging the Florida election results in 2000. Jill Stein’s Green Party has wasted millions of good dollars asking for multiple recounts with no reasonable basis for doing so. The Clinton campaign team’s support in those efforts was not helpful, if not unseemly. Ditto the efforts to change the Electoral College vote, which was destined to fail, just as was Ted Cruise’s efforts to undo Trump’s nomination victory after-the fact at the Republican Convention.

It is past time to close the book on this 2016 election, as painful and legitimately frightening as it may feel. Starting on January 21st, changes of direction and issues of real substance will begin arising very quickly. In some instances, people may be surprised to find some unexpected agreement with these new directions. In other instances, not. I certainly have concerns about where Donald Trump’s character, personality, and thinking may try to take this country. When it is what we may consider a “wrong” direction, he and his Team should be resisted. Not by name-calling, or speculation, or knee-jerk negative responses such as we saw misdirected at Obama for eight years. But rather by arguments of reason that seek accommodation and mutual benefit. Regardless of the side of the aisle on which our beliefs sit, there will be many battles to be fought over our country’s future. Battles with surprising alternating winners and losers on each side. Right now everyone needs to take a holiday break, conserve their energies, prepare to pick high-value battles worthy of fighting, and substantiate their arguments in the ensuing debates.

We can choose once again to divide up and yell at each hunkered down in our separate end zones, or we can try to march upfield and meet one another at the 50-yarrd line and find some mutual accommodation. The choice is up to us. But the election is over. “The fat lady has sung.” It is not about what was or could have been. It is all about what comes next.

©   2016   Randy Bell               www.ThoughtsFromTheMountain.blogspot.com