Correctly Interpreting and Implementing the Lessons of 2016
In 2016 we watched the unthinkable happen: The United Kingdom voted to remove itself from the European Union and we, in America, elected an unqualified liar as President of the United States.
We have seen much discussion surrounding why these losses happened but I think we’re taking away the wrong “lessons” from the 2016 American election, Brexit and the ongoing potential rise of the so called Alt-Right across Europe.
While there are many issues surrounding the western “losses”, what we are looking at isn’t as much a hatred of Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, etc., as it is a general malaise surrounding what governments are doing, or more precisely, not doing for its citizenry. Muslims, immigrants, et al, are the easy scapegoat. The actual problems reside in Washington, at 10 Downing Street or elsewhere across the capitols across Europe.
To wit, we have Bernie Sanders.
Bernie spent his campaign promising to deliver government to the people; not the corporations, not the rich, not the people who already have almost everything. This is a highly popular message worldwide. About the only people who do not find this appealing are those who scream communism, Marxism, socialism usually without understanding of what any of those terms mean. Someone said they were bad so bad they are.
The problem with Bernie’s message was two-fold:
1) He never walked the walk. He has been part of government for more than 20 years and never did anything to accomplish his supposed goals. Not even as much as a bill that had no chance of passing. He never proposed anything that came close to actual governance or policies that would help the average American. There was simply No There There. Which leads to
2) Realistic people knew that what he was promising was never going to happen. If Bernie couldn’t manage to get anything done in 20 years, how was he going to accomplish these greater-good goals with an intransigent Republican House and Republicans in the Senate? In short, his goals were impossible and realistic people knew that. This is why Bernie didn’t win the primary.
But he had a following and the bones of good ideas; ideas that appeal to real people living with real problems. And not just in America but worldwide.
Across Europe they are continue to reel from austerity programs that went on for years. These austerity programs affected average Europeans. Let’s leave Greece aside because their problems were mostly self-inflicted, perpetuated by demands for austerity. But that is a whole different discussion. Let’s focus on Brexit and the 2016 American election because in both cases, it all comes down to lies, promises and things unsaid - the last of which is critical to understand because this is where the correct lessons come from.
First, Brexit. The UK has been living under conservative rule for some years. With conservative rule, no matter which country you are in, comes budget cuts, austerity, all the things that damage the average Brit. Cuts to healthcare, cuts to services…cuts, cuts, cuts.
Brexiters promised an outrageous $350 million pounds A MONTH to pump up their healthcare system. People desperate to believe did so willingly, gladly, giddily! Brexit was going to fix all their problems. While Article 50, to officially separate the UK from the EU, has not yet been triggered (March 29, 2017 is the latest date it is supposed to be triggered) look what happened to the stock market on its announcement. Down almost 300 points the same day the announcement was made.
Once Article 50 is triggered, I see a very difficult 20 years for England. Worse for them is the more-than-likely Scottish and Irish exit from the Britain. The Kingdom will be United no more.
But, since I am American, let’s spend some time looking at the 2016 Presidential Election.
The problems here are many of the same mentioned above. We have the rich getting richer, stagnant wages, slightly improving healthcare (that is still far too expensive) and less and less opportunities, especially in rural areas - which make up a large part of the US in both land and population.
There are a large number of Americans who are suffering. Much of this suffering is real while some is perceived, but no matter, perception or reality, the perception is real to those voters.
Not surprisingly, what is important to one group of voters isn’t important to another. Some see their local economy as the most important, others healthcare, perhaps terrorism topped some lists while to still more felt insecure in the services offered to veterans. The list goes on and on.
This list of unhappiness is critical to why Trump succeeded.
Sure, there was Russian involvement in the election, and FBI interference in insinuating that there was some story there about Clinton’s emails, but what the entire election comes down to is that list of unhappiness mixed with an electorate that wanted to believe.
But what was it that they wanted to believe. This, dear reader, is the right question, because this alone answers why Trump won.
Trump promised American jobs! No more icky Mexicans taking our jobs!
Trump promised to handle ISIS in 30 days. No more ickly Muslims coming here to blow us up (nevermind that you have a far better chance of being killed by some nut with a gun than an actual terrorist.) He knew better than the generals. ISIS will be gone! Buh-lieve him!
Trump promised healthcare to all!
Trump promised to Drain The Swamp!
The list of things Trump promised to fix - with no supporting policy or plans, was longer than his arm. Trump promised to Fix It. The Fix was never defined and certainly was not spelled out, but Fix It he would! People desperate to believe believed.
Is Trump a racist, a misogynist, a xenophobe? Absolutely. Many of his followers, however, are not. They are desperate people who desperately want to believe.
Which leads to the takeaways; those lessons we all need to learn.First and foremost, governments will continue to flail and fail when they do nothing for their average voters. Republicans continue to sell Trickle Down as the way to go because, to them, as soon as the wealthy have everything the will, out of the goodness of their hearts, allow some crumbs to fall to those beneath them. Unfortunately for those who do not drink that brand of Kool-Aid, Republican’s sell their lies well. They have numerous outlets which will gladly sell Republican propaganda and why voting against ones self interest is really the best option.
And many people believe. Belief is all they have so they believe.
Second, the thing that we, as Democrats, have to do - and this is tough - is to welcome Trump voters who woke up. I see far too many I Told You So tweets and articles across the web. As much as I want to wring some necks, if someone has figured out that they were bamboozled, good. Nurture them. They will become ambassadors to their right-wing friends and family. These are people who voted for Trump who now regret it. Who better to convert the like minded?
Third, we need to stop calling all Trump voters racist (or anti-semetic, misogynistic, etc.) because while many are, there are equally as many who are not. They are desperate Americans who wanted to believe - who needed to believe because without that belief far too many American’s have lost hope. Because the reality that we live in a global community and the likelihood that the Company Town will come back to small town West Virginia or Pennsylvania or elsewhere is virtually impossible. The drugs that have taken over where opportunities once existed is not something easily fixed. So when someone makes a promise and says Buh-lieve Me, the do so. Gladly. Because the alternative is unthinkable to them.
And lastly, we need to, forever, tie Republican politics and policies to Trump. At no time in history has a new President been so unpopular. But it’s not just Trump, as people paying attention know, it is the entire Republican party, their willingness to allow Trump any and everything, who gladly ignore the ties to a foreign adversary so they can get their regressive policies implemented need to forever be called to the carpet.