President-Elect Donald Trump. Never thought I’d have to write those four words in once sentence, but that was the verdict in the United States last night. A decisive victory for a man who has no experience in elected or appointed political office, and no military or diplomatic experience to speak of besides military school and running the Miss Universe pageant. The historic double-election of Barack Obama may be exceeded by the complete 180 degree turnaround the country committed to last night, but before we consider the future, let us first reconsider the past. What lessons can we take away from the 2016 election?
Bernie Might Not Have Been the Answer. There’s been a lot of superiority amongst the so-called Bernie Bros online as they smugly declared that if the system hadn’t undermined the Independent Senator from Vermont, he would have beaten Trump citing the same statistical sources proved so horribly wrong last night. It’s not like Hillary Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders by a razor thin margin either, she collected nearly 4 million more votes than he did, and let’s be honest, Sanders was only a Democrat to run for president. Sanders’ campaign was predicated on the idea that there was a groundswell of untapped support waiting for the socialist revolution, but if they didn’t come out for the primary, what makes you think they would have come out in the general?
Donald Trump is NO Rob Ford. Some people on Twitter last night were looking forward (not in a good way) to seeing a Trump presidency that darkly mirrors the mayoralty of the late Rob Ford, which is an insult to Rob Ford. Say what you want about Ford, but he at least heard the calling of public service and he sat in city council for almost a decade before running for mayor. Even if it was just by osmosis, he knew on a basic level how government worked, and what the limitations and capabilities of his office were. Trump repeatedly in the campaign proved that he had no idea what the Presidency, or really an elected office, could do, and put the blame on Clinton for not revising the tax code or stopping him from importing Chinese steel as the First Lady of Arkansas, the First Lady of the United States, or as the junior senator from New York. In the background of this election was the spectre that Trump didn’t understand the job he was working so hard to get. I guess, we’ll find out.
Yes, This is a Victory for White Supremacists. Before you say it, yes, Trump refused to accept the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan, but that would have been a more blatant message if he hadn’t hemmed and hawed on David Duke on CNN, or been retweeting White Nationalists, or – I don’t know – been appealing to the KKK with his policy and rhetoric to begin with! If you can’t remember the last time the Klan endorsed a major party candidate for president, I can’t blame you. Neither can I. The KKK apparently flirted with an endorsement of Ronald Reagan in 1980, but Reagan stamped down his foot and ferociously disavowed the KKK, saying in 1984, “The politics of racial hatred and religious bigotry practiced by the Klan and others have no place in this country, and are destructive of the values for which America has always stood.” If the KKK felt comfortable enshrining their support for Trump on the front page of The Crusader it’s because his discouragement was weak, and if you think that the new acceptance that the KKK and their ilk are feeling today is going to go away in four years, think again.
The Hypocrisy of the Religious Right is Complete. Evangelicals. The Moral Majority. Values Voters. Anyway you dice them, they just came out for a man that’s been married three times, is a proud and habitual adulter, has been accused by dozens of women of assault, been caught on tap bragging about how he can assault any woman, has no apparent church that he goes to, has said on the stump that he wants to reach out to LGBT people, has bragged repeatedly about his wealth and avarice, has cheated on his taxes and ripped off his workers, used his charity for his own business and personal purposes, was pro-choice as recently as two years ago, and not only could he not quote a Bible verse, but when cornered he made one up. He also literally lives in a golden idol in his own name. You know, just like Jesus.
Progressives Must Own this Failure. Not to re-air the Bernie debate, but Clinton was considered the “safe choice” that could appeal across party lines. Playing it safe has done more to hurt America’s liberal and progressive movement than being aggressive on the issues that matter to them, and Trump’s victory is evident of that. While left-wing voters have been reliable for turnout in recent presidential election year, they’ve been largely absent in off-year elections, and those that did show up spent a lot of energy not supporting Obama, if not outright turning their back on him. Why was the Obama record celebrated when only the White House was at stake? On top of that, Democrats have been ignoring state and local races to their detriment. Compare the 17 people that vied for the Republican nomination versus the two that ran for the Democratic. Why? Democrats have shirked their talent development, which comes from city halls and state houses, and rise through governors’ mansions and the House and Senate to national prominence. In making sure Clinton got her shot, the Democratic Party have done itself long-term harm.
The Press Must Own Their Failure, AKA: Print the Legend. Not only was James Comey’s letter to Congress about newly discovered Clinton emails ill-timed, it fit a specifically constructed media narrative, and more than that, it gave the press more reason to emphasize the horse race than focus on the issues. Despite the litany of proof that Trump is a terrible businessman, including the announcement just days ago that Trump Tower in Toronto has gone bust, he rode his reputation as a shrewd deal maker all the way to the White House. Meanwhile, Clinton couldn’t shake the reputation that she was a cold, calculating political opportunist that broke the rules whenever it suited her. Of course, Trump is the one that broke the rules, look at his tax returns, or rather don’t because he never released them, and while many quality reporters did good work trying to get those numbers, the people that needed to see them were too ensconced in their own news bubble on Facebook. Because of that, TV news outlets like CNN bent over backwards to prove they were not biased by hiring people with very little actual insight into politics, the political process, or even the candidate they were on TV to defend, all because they audaciously came out early as Trump supporters. Meanwhile, Trump attacked the media, took away its access, and threatened to undo the First Amendment, and all the press seemed to do was say, “Thank you sir, can I have another?”
This is Not a Working Class Victory. There was a lot of discussion of Trump as the “blue collar billionaire,” and Corey Lewandowski took time out from being a sore winner last night on CNN to remind everyone that Trump eats McDonalds and hangs out with construction workers on his building sites. He’s a regular guy! Then riddle me this: Why did the majority of voters that make over $49,000 vote for Trump, while the majority of those that make less voted for Clinton? Worse than that, the median income of Trump supporters during his meteoric rise in the primaries as $72,000. Adding insult to injury is Trump’s reputation as someone that doesn’t pay his contractors if he can possibly help, presumably many of the same people he so proudly hangs out with on the job site. Despite Trump’s supposed appeal to those affected by economic conditions, the people hurt the most didn’t actually elect him.
It Can Happen Here Too. Canadians posting to social media this morning that they’re “Proud to be Canadian” might not be so complacent in mocking our neighbours south of the border. Some are looking at the Trump victory and see inspiration.
“Oh sure,” you’re saying, “Kellie Leitch is going to ride Trump’s coattails to 24 Sussex Dr!” But when it comes to political trends, what happens in the U.S. is always a sign as to what might happen in Canada in four or five years hence. Robocalls, anyone? While people have been looking to Kevin O’Leary as the boisterous know-nothing tough-guy business man analog to Trump, Leitch is the one following the Trump playbook by making her candidacy about putting the harsh spotlight of scrutiny on immigrants as a threat to “Canadian values.” Meanwhile in Alberta, Sandra Jansen, one of only two women in the Progressive Conservative leadership race there, stepped down because her social media feeds have been “filled with filth” and she was harassed in person by the operatives of another campaign, which means that a perfectly qualified woman has been deterred from leadership because of the politics of sex discrimination. Sound familiar? If you think Trump is a uniquely American phenomenon, think again, there are warning signs here too.