I don’t think the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is quite as consequential as we are being led to believe. Most of the Sturm und Drang reflected in news reporting over the past week or so seems to me oriented toward maintaining interest. No judgement there, that’s just the way those companies do business, and it’s their business to do. That’s how they make money. Whether or not it makes life better for their customers is being debated in the wake of the campaign. I suspect governance from Washington, D.C., will muddle along in 2017-18 as it has for the past several years.
That being said, how people are responding to the election of Donald Trump says a lot about the condition of the society. It’s intriguing to me the number of responses that were in the vein of “I didn’t realize how horrible the country is.” Granted, that type of response is coming from people not only against Trump but for Hillary. My wrestling with the decay in the character of the country occurred in the summer when he clinched the GOP nomination and she clinched the DEM nomination, and I wondered how it was that the two major parties managed to nominate candidates with historically high unfavorable ratings. Regrettably, the Libertarians also nominated one of the worst possible representatives of their governing philosophy:
But I digress.
Donald Trump isn’t particularly conservative in his policy preferences, if his past statements are a guide, nor is he particularly Christian, again, if his past statements and lifestyle are anything to go by, yet he gained enthusiastic support from conservatives and many Christians, who rode along with the wave of people who want a drastic change from the political status quo. That’s among the problems Hillary faced, but she’s not particularly Progressive, if her past behavior and policies are a good guide, and that’s the only major group on the Left that was genuinely enthusiastic about voting. The Obama coalition did not transfer to her, and the rank and file democrats who couldn’t push themselves far enough left to embrace Bernie Sanders don’t seem to have found a compelling reason to get excited about electing her. The Christians on her side of the political divide seem to be deeply committed to the Progressive vision for governing the country, but I don’t know how energized they were, or if their energy bolstered others in the way the energy for Trump seems to have done.
So conservatives and Christians on the Right have found themselves aligned with someone like Donald Trump, and progressives and Christians on the Left found themselves aligned with someone like Hillary Clinton. That to me is the point at which there should have been some soul-searching about what it says about our society that in our quest for political control and power, the process we’ve created produced this contest.
But are we really surprised? Should we be surprised that a society steeped in the type of song lyrics, television shows, and movies that dominate pop culture would find a Donald Trump palatable? Should we be surprised that a society that regularly makes allowances for powerful people to avoid consequences for illegality would find a Hillary Clinton palatable? The Trump campaign may have attracted a following among the bigoted fringes of social media, but the Clinton campaign relied on identity politics that makes it inevitable for individuals to segregate and identify by racial and gender categories, which creates clear targets for bigots, and may generate more.
The Humpty Dumpty of the American experiment seems to me to be off the wall, and I’m not hopeful it can be put together again because the character and vision for what it should be is no longer agreed upon, at least as far as I can tell. That’s not a result of this election, or any other over the past 20 years, at least in my opinion. These elections are symptoms of a society that has made choices of what it’s willing to do and be, and those choices have made us a disparate people without a corresponding idea of a common meeting place to pursue divergent ways of life peacefully together. That’s what seems worth attention in these next few weeks and months, rather than where President-Elect Trump is having dinner and the minutia around the transition.