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What Should We Do Now?

Yesterday millions of Americans opened their windows and shouted “ I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Today we woke up with the translation of that sentiment into politics and we have a new president: Donald Trump. It’s not clear whether Trump’s victory represents a rejection of the particular person he ran against or a rejection of the political establishment in general, which Hillary Clinton represented. Clinton may have actually won the popular vote (the total is not clear at this point, but she is ahead in the tally). The divide in the country is almost even—and it is deep. To the same extent Hillary Clinton was personally objectionable to many, many Americans, Donald Trump has been objectionable to many, many Americans. More than objectionable, he has become frightening to many, and even more so, now that he is the president-elect.

One of the ugliest things about the election that just ended was the negative hyperbole from both sides, not just from the candidates and their campaigns, but also from the public. Trump was called a “racist,” a “neo-Nazi, a “liar,” and a “sexual predator.” Clinton was called a “criminal,” a “warmonger,” a “traitor,” and a “shill of Wall Street.” People on both sides and on neither side predicted disaster and catastrophe, even World War III, if one or the other got elected. Supporters of both candidates were accused of being idiots, bigots, and naïve or themselves traitors or warmongers or racists.

Now we have a new president-elect and what should we do? Even if it weren’t an election year, there are certain things that need to be changed or promoted or defended in our country: global warming still looms as the greatest threat to our world and a threat that can only be met by massive, worldwide change in how we use energy and regulate industry. Income inequality continues to expand, both worldwide but even more so within the United States, leading to stagnation in the economic prospects of poor and working class people. Worldwide terrorism has amplified religious and ethnic bigotry to the point that the freedom of some people to follow their religion or immigrate under the same rules that apply to others is being threatened. African-Americans within the United States are failing to make progress in our economic system and are treated differently and unfairly in our criminal justice system.

Regardless of who is president, these things need to be addressed and if they are not, then the government that does not address them needs to be actively opposed. Such opposition can take place both within and outside of our political system. There are other issues that are less clear-cut.

How to deal with Middle Eastern problems and the threat of international terrorism is something about which honest, well-meaning people can differ. How to address our health care problems is another issue that can be approached from different directions by people with different philosophies.  Global trade and the agreements that support it is a complex issue with different opinions about how to approach it and deserving full, national discussion. Our tax structure and the size of our government and its domestic programs is a topic about which people with liberal and conservative viewpoints differ dramatically. Our immigration system has serious problems that need to be fixed, but the question of how to fix them yields widely different solutions from different political and nonpolitical leaders. How best to reduce gun deaths in our country also yields very different approaches.

How will President Donald Trump address any of these issues? We have his campaign statements, including his promise to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, a temporary cessation of refugee immigration and perhaps stopping Muslims from entering the country, deportation of all illegal immigrants, repeal of the Paris Climate Change Agreements and Obamacare. Were these statements just campaign rhetoric or will Trump carry them out to the extent his new office allows him to? We don’t know. Donald Trump has appeared to be as much a flim-flam man as an honest candidate. His views don’t follow any particular political ideology. He seemed determined to take advantage of anti-establishment anger, of anger toward illegal (and perhaps legal) immigrants, of anti-Muslim sentiment and fear, of racist feelings to promote his candidacy. The extent to which his campaign statements represent his real positions is unknown. He appeared to be naïve about both economics and world affairs, but some of his positions, such as preserving gay rights or wanting a better relationship with Russia and reducing American military interventionism, had positive sides to them.

What does it mean to wait and see? What does it mean to give the new president the benefit of the doubt? We have to remember that not only did the demonization of Barack Obama paralyze his presidency and lead to Tea Party victories in congress, it paralyzed government functioning. It split the country in two. Demonization of Donald Trump will do the same thing. Nothing will get done in Washington. No problems will be solved. Some people think this is OK. In their minds, government is tainted by corporate money anyway and has lost its legitimacy. The only way to change anything is by massive populist movements. These people should look at what just happened in the United States. The populist movement materialized and it was not a progressive one; it was an angry, bigoted, conservative one, dominated by White men. Populist progressivism, which got a shot in the arm by Bernie Sanders’ candidacy, dissolved into a name-calling anti-everything Jill Stein candidacy that received less than 1% of the votes in the election.

Wait and see means just that. Stay vigilant, even wary, but stop the catastrophic predictions, stop denigrating the new president before he takes any actions at all, stop the name-calling and refusal to have meaningful discussions with those you disagree with. Wait and see if the country can begin to come together and do so without uniting around racism, bigotry and xenophobia. Look for ways within the political system to support and promote the programs and policies you believe in.

Try to listen to the opinions of your fellow Americans, even the ones who voted differently than you did.


Reader Comments (6)

Casey, thank you for your wise comments. I am crushed, but will pick myself up and take up my responsibilities as an American citizen.

November 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSara Murrieta

This election showed us a new low in American politics: greed at the heart of “progress,” privilege masquerading as divine will, hypocrisy and hatred, violence, religions and philosophies that divide rather than unite. We should all be heading to the evolution elevator: first floor, compassion; next stop equilibrium; third floor, lingerie; top floor enlightenment. Not a belief system, but freedom from pain, sorrow, fear—living and loving at a higher level. This nation is deeply divided and our level of public discourse is shameful. We are all guilty, and it is up to each of us seek civility in our own lives.

November 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLucy Wilson

Hmmm.... Wait a minute, Casey. You didn't hear ME shouting out the window: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more?" I'm mad as hell that we have a President now, whether he believes it or not, who calls global climate change "weather"; mad as hell that a person running for office of Presidency would ask, "If we have nuclear bombs, why don't we use them?" I'm mad as hell that the slogan "Black Lives Matter" can be twisted and turned against the movement itself. And I'm furious that such a large number of people could not see through the manipulation of this individual..

So "No", I'm not waiting to see ANYTHING! Trump will eventually learn how a bill becomes a law, the difference between the Sunni and Shiite, and maybe even why he shouldn't have called Marlee Matlin "retarded", but I'm not waiting. And "No", I'm NOT going to be all friendly with my neighbors who smile and say, "Let's just not go there" when talking politics. (Perhaps "not going there" was what the everyday person at a coffee shop in Vienna said in 1930.)
I have simply reached the saturation point of tolerance. It is the nature of Democrats, Progressives, and others, to try to be understanding, empathetic - capitulate to the other side. That has always been my own modus operendi ever since I first voted in 1968. No more! Instead, I'm going to become more active in whatever group emerges as being able to make the greatest difference in shifting the conversation - maybe Economist Richard Wolff's "Democracy at Work" group, or Green Peace or the Sierra Club's lobbying, or the League of Women's Voters, or Black Lives Matter. We need to join and do WHATEVER we can to continue to fight for social justice. We need to take the time to write to our Senators and Representatives - often!
Capitulation for me is no longer an option. I don't have grandchildren, but I have enough concern about this delicate planet and about the labor rights of workers and the rights of minorities, along with the strong mandate to "keep on keeping on" to want to work with others who strive to overcome whatever it was that drove the nation to vote counter their own best interest.

November 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBillie Kelpin

I understand you're frustration, Billie, but waiting to see what Trump does is not capitulating. Neither is opposing anything that threatens the planet, removes rights or encourages racism, or promotes war, all of which I said need to be opposed, even if it means going outside the political system and into the streets. But half of my fellow Americans had a different viewpoint than mine and perhaps they are just dimwits who are manipulated by Fox News, but perhaps they have real reasons for seeing things differently than I do. If I don't try to understand their point of view and at least leave open that my own has limitations, then I am allowing my arrogance to supersede my reason.

November 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCasey Dorman

Casey, thank you for the thoughtful commentary. I took a political science class back in the late-sixties. One of the assigned books (can't remember the title or the author) made the point that people always vote their wallets. That's what happened on Tuesday in the Rust Belt. Folks who have watched great American companies leave and take their jobs out of the country rose up and said, "Enough." I knew Trump's message would resonate in the Rust Belt, but I never thought he could run the table: PA, OH, MI, and WI. It is an amazing piece of history that will be studied for generations. It can also be read as a repudiation of Washington "politics as usual," the gridlock we've witnessed through the Obama years.

I hope Trump will make an effort at healing. As Lincoln said, "...binding up the nations wounds." He can begin by refusing to prosecute Hillary Clinton, and beating down the congressmen who are itching to launch investigations.

We can also come together over the need to invest in infrastructure. Not only is this needed, we can create jobs in the process -- especially in those Rust Belt States.

Hillary Clinton was right today: Donald Trump deserves an open mind and a chance to govern. I hope he will begin by bringing us together around common, achievable goals.

November 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChuck Spooner

On the assumption that people do not change, I would assume that whoever is impulsive will remain impulsive, who ever feels he can say and do whatever comes into his mind will continue doing so.
Whoever feels he can talk about issues he knows nothing about and has no boundaries is not going to change at the age of 70, especially after such a behavior brought him to the most powerful position in the world.
The fact is that half the voters chose a person who insulted and mocked women, minorities, war heroes and veterans, used bad language and said he will honor the elections results only if he wins. All this with the slogan-we will make America great again- !!!!
It is very wrong that in a rich country like the US there are poor people who do not have enough food, a roof over their head and money for medications. It was a huge mistake not to address very seriously this problem for so many years.

November 9, 2016 | Unregistered Commenteryoffy

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