Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Post-Election Blues.... Which way do we go, now???

I just saw this photograph showing the silhouettes of two rhinos walking past each other by wildlife photographer Rudi Hulshof taken in the Welgevonden Game Reserve, South Africa:

I think this photo is the perfect metaphor for the leadership of both of our major political parties in the wake of the recent election:

  • For the Republicans — We won, but with Trump. How did we do that? What does it mean for the 2018 elections? How do we hold on to these new voters who supported us? What should we do, now?
  • For the Democrats &mdash: How could we have lost? The polls said we had it! What did the Clinton campaign do wrong? How do we correct our mistakes? How do we regain the trust of the Democratic constituency who, in the privacy of the voting booth, chose the opposition candidate? What should we do, now?

My Take:

  1. I think the Democratic party erred by selecting Hillary Clinton as their candidate. In the minds of many voters, she represented the past – a cold-warrior from a different era – who has not changed, even though the world (they believe) has changed.
  2. Many of my friends and neighbors could not relate to Ms. Clinton. Her message seemed tailored for the East Coast and West Coast audiences, missing the concerns of the Rust Belt, the Bible Belt and the rural and agricultural community. Here, in "fly-over country," she came off as elitist and, as a Washington insider, she appeared more concerned about the Government than about the people.
  3. The Democratic party promised a continuation of the recovery from the Great Recession. That recovery, weak as it is, will be one of the lasting legacies of the Obama administration. People across the nation are still living with lower wages, a depressed standard of living and the enhanced inequalities that were the hallmarks of this recession. They want change and they need it now, not five or ten years from now.
  4. Donald Trump caught the attention of the "h-u-g-e" portion of the American people still suffering from the after-effects of the Great Recession. He promised these people changes that he probably cannot deliver, such as "bringing the jobs back from overseas." The reality is that if the old factory that closed and eliminated 5,000 jobs comes back, it will be totally automated and employ only fifty, including the gardeners and janitors.
  5. Many people think that the Cold War is over. The reality is that it has just shifted phase. The world is still full of "proxy wars," including the Korean peninsula, Syria, India vs Pakistan and now, the Ukraine. Our opponents have grown more diplomatic and sophisticated, but they are still based in Russia, China and North Korea.
  6. In many ways, we are still dealing with the collapse of the European colonial era and the double-dealing of our European allies from days gone by. As the European powers withdrew from their colonies, they established "puppet" governments and drew new international borders as lines on a map, without caring for the racial, religious, tribal and ethnic boundaries that historically existed. They lumped traditional and historical enemies into the same new nation, creating governments that are inherently unstable – leaving these nations vulnerable to dictators who promise stability and security.
  7. We are also left with the fallout of our own hypocritical meddling in the internal affairs of these new nations. Using both covert and overt force, we have deposed freely elected governments, corrupted foreign officials and established non-democratic governments (see "banana republic") beginning in 1870 and continuing, if Edward Snowdon is to be believed, up to the present day.

All of these issues are tied together at our waistlines – literally – with food and trade. One of our biggest imports and exports is food, in various forms. We export tons of corn, wheat and sorghum. At the same time, we import tons of meat, fruit and vegetables, especially vegetables for our salads. The governmental instability and warfare in many nations disrupts our ability to buy or sell food there. The refugees created often cannot buy our food exports, so just to allow them to eat, we have to give away our food.

The Trump administration and the next few who follow will have to find ways to deal with these issues. We must lead. We must be a strong enough and honorable enough leader that others freely choose to follow us. The use of force, double-dealing and coercion will just create new, more intractable problems down the road.

In this endeavor, our political leaders must be part of the solution. They can no longer sit in their "ivory towers" of privilege and pontificate to us about what is good for us. They are replaceable. If nothing else, both parties have seen that in America, "political elite" is an oxymoron – the "unwashed rabble" who walk into the polls can, and will, "toss the rascals out."

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