My Brief Post-2016 Election Letter to the Rest of the World
An Apology and a Warning
Dear rest of world,
I feel compelled to express as an average, humble American that I am genuinely sorry about the outcome of our recent presidential election. I will also understand if this election has confirmed to all of you that we Americans, in spite of our wealth, ingenuity, and military power, are on average about as stupid as you have always feared. Because of the choice we have made, the rest of you will now be subjected to Donald Trump’s mouth for the next four years, along with his odd skin tone, hair, twitter feed and (heaven help us) political policies.
But I also feel compelled to explain what has happened and to defend myself and (at least some) of my fellow Americans. First of all, please keep in mind that more of us Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump, a phenomenon that in the United States we call a Trump victory. Yes, I also find it strange that the future leader of the free world will not be the one that most Americans actually chose. We are unfortunately still subjected to a thing called the Electoral College that our Founders handed down to us from on high about 230 years ago. Explaining how the whole thing works takes a while. Suffice to say that votes for president are cast by states rather than by individual voters, which brings up another important point. As a resident of California, I am proud to say that Clinton won my state easily, with my state being a major reason for her 2.2 million (and counting) margin of victory in the popular vote count. So the state that brought the world Facebook, Hollywood, Disneyland, Bay Watch, and myself cannot also be held responsible for Donald Trump.
Clearly, the Constitution is and has always been a flawed system of government, a system created by people who were (at least in part) looking out for their own interests. But what would you expect from a bunch of 18th century white, male elitists (about a quarter of whom were slave owners)? Even after filtering out the women, most of the non-white people, and many non-property owners, these pillars of society could not possibly allow the remaining commoner voters to elect by popular vote a person as important as the president. Americans would never trust the writing of the Constitution, after all, to a bunch of crazy, radical democrats (with a small “d”).
But before all of you nations of the Western world get all self-righteous with us Americans, I would like to issue a little warning and a bit of advice. As I am sure many of those paying attention know, the Donald Trump phenomenon is not uniquely American. The same forces of nationalism, nativism, and protectionism that helped him succeed are on the rise around the world. Globalization, while creating opportunities for many, has also created large numbers of people whose lives have been disrupted by inevitable changes caused by the breaking down of international barriers. And when angry, scared people look around at a country they no longer recognize, the human tendency is to turn inward, romanticize the past, and build walls to protect the interests of the “tribe.”
To defeat the future Trumps of the world, however, you must do more than simply point out the horrors and dangers of nationalism, racism, misogyny, and any other labels that you want to pin on his kind. As Hillary Clinton just demonstrated, you must do more than simply run against Trump. You have to run for something, to deliver a message that connects to those struggling in this rapidly changing world. And this message better go beyond government handouts and appeals to noble principles. It better include practical ways to lay out paths whereby people can achieve success. Because if all you offer is the same old liberal rhetoric, reactionary forces will be ready with rhetoric of their own that blows your fancy language out of the water.
So please, take what has happened here as a lesson. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it could never happen in your country. Don’t take the Trumps of the world too lightly. I’m sorry that we failed to stop him (for now), and good luck on your future elections.