If my Facebook feed is to be believed, we are only now entering the bargaining phase of the five stages of grief after the shocking news that Donald J Trump, Builder of Walls, will be the next President of the United States of America.
Perhaps it has been his reconciliatory tone since 11-nine that has seen a reluctant social media go from “what the %$#@ happened” to “maybe it won’t be so bad”.
But seriously, what the %$#@ happened?
The simple but trending answer on Facebook seems to be “America has gone crazy”. I reject this D- answer because it contains all the intellectual rigour of Trump’s foreign policy. America, Creator of Non-Exploding Smartphones, did not go “crazy”, they simply exercised their democracy.
I also reject the suggestion that Trump’s election makes half the US population “racist, sexist xenophobes”. If you think that all Trump voters are Grabbers of Kittens, you should read this insightful piece by The Guardian.
The truth is this: The people who voted for Trump are no more crazy than those who went crazy for Barack Obama in 2008.
Think about it. Trump beat Clinton for same reason that Obama did: Anger. Trump won by riding on the same wave of anti-establishment fury which carried Nigel Farage, Rodrigo Duterte, Bernie Sanders and Obama to prominence. Everywhere in the world, people mistrust the political elites who claim to represent them but end up representing themselves.
As my editor put it more succinctly post Brexit: People are angry. They’re angry because they’re trapped in a dismal status quo with little hope. They’re angry because they feel helpless in a political process that cold shoulders them in favour of sucking up to the 1% (whether real or perceived). They’re angry and tired of giving their votes and money to a political class that does not do its job of representing the people.
Trump is Obama’s evil twin, but a twin nonetheless. They were elected on the same basis of bringing change to a corrupt and ineffectual political process.They’re both Washington novices offering desperate measures to desperate people. Both appealed to people disillusioned with politics-as-usual.
“Drain the swamp” is really just a blue collar rendition for “Hope and Change”.
Two sides of the same coin, the coin being a large, disenfranchised base that felt no one was listening.
But even the darkest cloud has a silver lining. Even Trump can teach us about kindness despite his apparent lack of it.
Nobody saw Trump coming because nobody wanted to see and to listen. The media refused to listen to the people because their own infallible logic deemed those opinions unsavoury and unenlightened.
Instead of listening to their frustrations, Hillary Clinton, Keeper of Emails, labelled half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables”. Her Democratic National Committee leadership did not listen either. They ignored the Democratic base’s viral support for Sanders, choosing instead to trust in Ivy-league-educated consultants and the power of their well-funded political machinery.
The politicians, fixed in their belief that “business as usual” will succeed, did the opposite of what they were supposed to do, represent the people and listen to their calls for genuine change. The rage built up over time and they threw in with the only person who seemed to understand this rage.
If you spent the election trashing Trump supporters as crazy, you’re part of the problem, not the solution. If you had a good belly laugh at Stephen Colbert’s nightly mockery of Trump, or used the word Bigly in cool ironical fashion, you pretty much contributed to the perception of Trump being bullied by the “establishment”. Politics is built on consensus and nobody ever won over an opponent by making fun of their grammar.
You see, Clinton actually did have a winning advice, which was given to her by none other than Michelle Obama, Bringer of Hope.
When they go low, we go high.
Going high would mean not engaging in negative politicking, focusing on what issues Americans are facing, listening to the rust belt and addressing their concerns and not wasting millions of dollars of attack ads on Trump.
Sometimes, kindness is learning when to listen. By that standard, Trump was kinder to his supporters than the Democratic party ever was.
You could make the case that USA 2016 was somewhat similar to Singapore 2015. During the campaign season for our General Elections last year, if you had read the anger on social media, you would have put your money on some of the opposition parties gaining ground with their “Singapore for Singaporeans” strategy, building on a narrative that had brought relative success in 2011.
Yes, some of it was alarmingly similar to the tune Farage and Trump were singing, and yet, Singaporeans soundly rejected it. Social media election rhetoric and the usual politicking aside, the silent majority actually saw the Government taking steps to address their concerns post 2011, particularly on the issue of immigration.
Yes, back then, a signal was sent to the Government, they heard it and they listened, even though their 2011 Elections performance was still, by any international yardstick, a solid victory. Good politics require a healthy dose of asking citizens to take their medicine regardless of how bitter it tastes, and a fair share of just asking citizens if they’re doing the better for it. It’s common sense really. Listen to your people, do (and say) the right thing, and in turn, we show you our support.
If there’s any consolation to Clinton supporters, the Democratic party elites are probably doing the same soul-searching the PAP underwent after 2011. Hopefully, they will reach similar conclusions.
If they don’t, don’t be surprised if four years later, Americans once again tell them: “You’re fired.”