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On one side, the political juggernaut, with decades of experience maneuvering complex situations on an international level, overseeing the development of military motions and social structure in the Middle East. On the other, the clown.
So it seemed before the most bitter, divisive bout of democracy yet, and yet here we are: Donald J. Trump, businessman, TV show host and decidedly not a politician has beaten Hillary Clinton, a career politician whose family ties are deeply rooted in the sphere of influence. He is the new president and she is not.
I won't bother with the blue-against-red rhetoric or any of that stuff you've seen repeated gruelingly over the past few months. Instead, here's my take on the four lessons we can learn as a collective about each other, this fascinating time, and what to expect in the future.
1) There Is No Election-Rigging Illumnati Circle
The one reprieve is that the conspiracy theorists were proven wrong. Because if there was such a circle, there was no way they'd ever let Trump win. Do you know that smug pseudo-intellectual that keeps on telling you to "wake up"? Yeah, you can rub this in their faces.
Of course, this also means that Trump was definitely talking out of his ass to defend himself. What that says about both him and his followers who repeated this sentiment with unwavering certainty is another thing.
2) Nobody Likes Being Called Dumb, Even If They Are
There are two broadsides to policies and politics: economic and social.
On the social side, we've seen remarkable change—the legalization of marijuana, and the weakening of the war on drugs in general; gay marriage; tolerance, acceptance, multiculturalism. Not too long ago we were hellbent on ironing out Communism in Vietnam and now China is the second-largest global power! This is a period of rapid change, and with it, some have fallen through the slipstream.
While we like to consider the 21st century as a time of unprecedented awareness and dialogue, it hasn't felt like that for some people. If you were conservative you were called ignorant and racist for opposing this change. You were called uneducated for not seeing the bigger picture, and it stung the worst if, deep down, one realized it was true.
But look at their perspective, coming from an environment and circumstance that could have never led to "enlightenment". Say Person A grew up in a small mining town, went into a family trade, toiled away slowly but happily in the business.
Then the mines start drying up. Multinationals start kicking out locals and shipping in foreigners, the likes of which A would never have seen or even interacted with—not for any fault of their own, mind. A hears about how work can be contracted to entirely different countries beyond the ocean.
Then refugees come in, and they're given food and shelter and welfare, while A is struggling. "Why can't the money be used to help us?" A thinks, and as much as he'd like to share compassion, it's hard to give when there's not much left to.
And so A makes himself heard somehow, and a city liberal is quick to call him out for being an uneducated, ignorant racist.
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That's not really dialogue.
There's no grace in being educated. Intellectual superiority has been brandished for the sake of egos holding esoteric degrees all over the nation, without any of the capacity for understanding that should have come with it. Not everyone can be a teacher, but outright refusing to even try is unhelpful.
Now pull over to the economic side, and you can see how people are ignoring the advice of experts. No quotation marks here—these are people who seriously know their stuff, better than anyone ever could. People are making decisions against their own interests because they don't want to be informed. The most notable one is Brexit where people thought the economists and political scientists were just making up boogeymen. They weren't. The thing's a right mess, innit? But then they no longer wanted to trust experts or the educated, even if this was no longer a fluid thing like how social issues are.
Even if they were ignorant and uneducated, nobody likes being told that, and so they got fed up. And they voted accordingly for the non-establishment, the non-expert, against the advice of all the experts, self-proclaimed or otherwise.
And the final blow was the alienation of the middle. Not everyone who voted for Trump was a flaming bigot—some were simply conservative about the economy, or wanted a business focus. Most of Obama's eight years were characterized by more social progress than economic. It's not too hard to see how one might swallow the bitter pill, since while social progress is important for living, money is important for life.
3) It's About How It Makes You Feel, Not About What They Do
Is there ever going to be a better example than this? Trump has zero political experience whereas Clinton has as much as you could want of it, but that didn't matter to his supporters.
Leading on from the previous point about the refusal to discuss perspectives, a common complaint levied against millennials is that "it's not about what you do anymore, the only thing that matters is how you feel". As it turns out, this not only applies to millennials but a majority of the voting public.
This election has been incredibly draining precisely because of the amount of emotional investment tied up in it. Emotions were the base upon which arguments were built and evidence was compiled—perhaps in a quieter time, evidence would have been the base upon which arguments were derived, and emotions determined.
While this applies to the extremes of both left and right, it's how the middle felt that clinched this, and this is where this piece well and truly becomes an opinion column...
With Clinton, it was going to be more of the same. Most people likely would agree that Clinton was the status quo. The fact that she would have become the first woman president was hardly played up, probably since that card had been played when she first went up against Obama. And Trump, for better or worse, felt like the "change" option. Where that change goes, exactly, we can only wait and see, but the public chose to take the gamble.
Is the future going to see more of these, where decisions are made by forces of charisma and personality more so than policy? To be fair, Clinton was not a very good candidate, but the sheer weight of emotional influence felt points towards this becoming regular.
4) There Are No Third Party Miracles
According to Google's trackers, the Greens, Libertarians and "other candidates" together took just under 5%. In the previous election in 2012, they took 1.3%. Trump won by a margin of less than 1%.
This is a personal lesson for me as I would have voted for a third party, given the chance, on grounds of conscience. If I had, I would have become part of the bloc that could have, but did not, tip the balance.
If there was ever a year for a third party to show up, this—where both candidates were reprehensible—would be it. It was a significant jump from the last election, but it's not going to get another chance to build up momentum, culminating in a real shakeup. It does seem, therefore, that a third-party vote will only make a change if it happens repeatedly over a long period of time, long enough for it to start making headlines. That's not going to be fast enough for most people.
The Part With the Opinion
Despite all this—despite the dialogue failure, the brewing resentment, the need for change—I personally feel that Clinton would have been better, because the election of Trump implies a mandate and empowerment for intolerance, even if the man himself turns out to be just playing the rage like a fiddle.
The extreme Trump supporters—the ones who really gave his campaign momentum—felt like they couldn't take any more. They felt ridiculed, downtrodden, disdained by equally extreme Liberals. A consistent point of disgruntlement is their "holier than thou" attitude, being high and mighty, and they're now glad that they're taken down a peg.
Welcome to how minorities have felt forever. At least the Liberals were giving them some sort of voice.
While voting for Trump seems like a good idea when you hone into the economy, zooming out reveals a grim sight for wider social issues in America. Let's talk about how poor people are going to lose their health insurance thanks to an overwhelming Republican Senate & House; how if you're a person of colour, or a woman, you might feel that half the nation voted to put you down; how, if you're poor or working-class, this election put the reins of the government back into the hands of the conventional wealth-owners that promote trickle-down economics.
The Trump supporters felt like they couldn't take it anymore. . .
Today, America voted for itself rather than its implications for others. The public would rather support blatant racism in the hopes of curing their monetary situations. That's fine. That's what a choice is, and what remains to be seen is how to move forward.