I’ve been following the election for well over a year, so naturally I was there watching the polls on Nov. 9th. For 5 hours I followed each county and state as they turned red or blue, but before Pennsylvania was confirmed to be in favor of Donald Trump, I was already anticipating a Trump presidency. The result was not what I wanted, nor was it what I expected. It took me three minutes to believe what was happening, and an extra 30 minutes of listening to Trump’s victory speech before the idea sank in. I spent the rest of the night trying to make sense of what happened and attempting (unsuccessfully) to keep my friend from having an emotional breakdown.
I was greeted with bitter hostility the following day, ironically, by some liberals. Apparently I am considered “condescending” for caring about this election as much as I did. I could see where this idea originated, and to be fair, they are not entirely wrong in believing so. I am merely a visitor in this country; therefore Donald Trump is quite literally “not my president.” In addition, I know that in a time of distress, everyone wishes to believe that they are more hurt than others. However, in my defense (and that of many other international students), America is the only existing superpower on this planet. I think it makes perfect sense for every individual to have some concerns about the outcomes of this election, as it determines issues including what the face of the most powerful country would look like, who has access to the red button, and what the entire world’s power structure would become, just to name a few. Even though I have no influence over the presidency, there are ample reasons for me to be aware. With that being said, hopefully my people and I would be justified in having their opinions on this political matter.
Whether we like it or not, Donald Trump will most likely be sitting in the White House in the near future. At this point the majority of us has accepted that as a fact and moved on to our responses, whether it’s acceptance or protest. The logical thing to do is to try to understand the results, and make plans for the future. It may not be an easy thing to do, because of how difficult it is for us to acknowledge the number of Trump supporters in the nation and how decided the country has become. Now is the time to keep in mind that everyone gets emotional, but smart people never let their emotions distract them from their goals. They prioritize making the best out of a lousy situation, and they work harder than ever preparing for an opportunity to turn the tables. Anger and love might win battles, but intelligence and wit is what wins us wars. From my observation, the war is not yet over, it has merely begun, and blaming everything on the ignorance of the people isn’t helpful. The present circumstances are a valuable chance for us to ask ourselves what we did wrong.
Was Hillary a competent candidate?
A better question would be, “Was she competent enough?” The answer is “no,” as the result demonstrates. This is not to say that Hillary Clinton is unqualified to be president, as she has repeatedly shown that she knows better about being a president than her opponent does. Inside and outside of debates, Hillary’s rhetoric is evidence of her understanding of domestic and international affairs. The problem with Hillary’s campaign is that there are things she and her team could have done better, and these shortcomings turned out to be fatal.
To begin with, her e-mail scandal is probably one of the bigger issues against her. While I personally don’t find it too big of a problem, others might believe otherwise. I am willing to accept that all politicians have shady activities that they don’t want people to know, but Hillary was unfortunate to have hers exposed. With no further knowledge on the specifics of these emails, I have to say that Hillary was at least sloppy when it comes to protecting her secrets. Evidently, the general public is easily manipulated, and even more easily biased, as soon as the word of a scandal breaks out, nobody cares about what FBI has to say. Even though I couldn’t have handled the backlash of the incident as well as Hillary did, the best thing to do was to prevent this possibly dangerous information from being exposed in the first place. No amount of blame placed on the Russians is going to help when a huge population is blindly convinced of her corruption. Perhaps Hillary should have been more careful not to give her opponent enough resources to demonize her, if she could help it.
On a side note, using celebrities as support is a very questionable move, especially when the celebs of her choice appeal to the younger generation more than others. It does not reach out to the crowd that she should be working on, and most people do not appreciate being told how to think by pop stars.
As for whether or not the Democratic Party should have picked Bernie Sanders as their candidate, there are simply too many variables to consider. A statement like “Bernie would have wiped the floor with Trump” is difficult to justify. Perhaps the democratic party failed to realize that most of the population are unfamiliar with politics, and are hoping for a change of any sorts to solve their problems, thus in times like this, advocators of reform like Trump and Sanders would have a better chance. Even so, we cannot know if other candidates would guarantee a different result. Bernie Sanders would have his own problems to face, many of which we will have no way of knowing, because the world simply doesn’t run on “what-ifs.”
Where does the silent majority come from?
As I was watching, county after county showed their favor for Donald Trump. It is evident that there is a huge silent majority unknown to us, a large number of people hiding their intent from surveys and media. Was this because they are fundamentally “bigots?” It might be easier to believe that, but the fact that they hide their intent says nothing other than being weary and afraid of expressing their beliefs. This raises the question, “Are liberals and our PC culture tolerant?” I think the answer is still “no,” and it is not supposed to be. The whole point of political correctness is to establish bottom lines that should not be crossed, to show that tolerance has limits. With that idea in mind, I believe that no matter how scared an ignorant person is, it is always their fault for being oblivious to important issues. Others have no obligation to be nice or patient while educating them. This is the moral high ground that liberals enjoy by winning the cultural war.
But is the aggressive approach the answer to the problem?
On the one hand, one is perfectly justified to lash out to opinions that threaten them, but during a time of a presidential election, when great changes could be imminent over night, is such an approach strategically smart? What we have seen this year between the far right and the left is a considerable number of undecided voters. Most of them are only undecided because they are unfamiliar to certain issues (what we tend to call “ignorant”). By immediately attacking them for unintentionally using a micro-aggression, we are pushing them towards the opposite side. No one was ever convinced by a fierce argument. It might be tiring to explain to ignorant people, again and again, what we are doing and why we are doing it, but if we look at the bigger picture, securing a small step towards a future we all want should be high on our priority list. It was never guaranteed that the path would be easy or enjoyable; it is most likely dull and frustrating, and it is what progressive individuals of the past signed up for.
I cannot say something reassuring like “everything will be fine;” it is not true. It won’t be fine, not eventually and not for everyone. A few suicides have already been committed, and Donald Trump has yet to assign a Supreme Court judge to fill the vacancy, a person who would be in that position for the rest of their life. A generation will grow up with childhood memories of being harassed in school, more generations to come will learn about this election from history textbooks, writing essays explaining the mentality behind our choices. There is no way of knowing what the world’s power structure will look like in a few years. Wounds do heal, but scars last permanently. Some damages caused by this election and Donald Trump’s presidency can never be undone.
Even so, we should be asking ourselves, “what’s next?” There are best of times and worst of times, yet again, the intelligent and responsible person tries to make the most out of the situation. I have tried to listen to Trump’s speeches following the election, and was able to comprehend some of his plans. I believe all of us should be doing the same thing in order to know what to expect and prepare ourselves for what’s to come. Even if the mere sight of his face might upset a few stomachs, we all need to develop our own interpretations for the Trump presidency, and make plans for the future accordingly.
Unfortunately I cannot pretend that I am an expert in international relations, nor can I assume that my case is identical to everyone else’s, which is why it makes no sense for me to explain in detail my understanding of the next four years. I can only say that in the mean time, it is important to stay rational. Like mentioned before, emotions might be the fuel that drives us through hard times, but rationalism is what gives us the directions. Now we must hold on to it, more than ever, so that when the next choice presents itself, we are prepared to make the right decisions.
Would protesting help? Should we lay low or stay loud? These are questions that can only be answered by ourselves, and different people will come up with different answers. As long as everyone have shared belief in what’s ultimately right and just, all of our efforts should contribute to the final result. As the old saying goes, “all roads lead to Rome.”