By: Howard Lee
The question today on everyone’s minds: What happened to the Americans?
The US presidential Elections have clearly shocked many, particularly given that the straw polls showed the Clinton in the lead.
Why would anyone who is well-educated and politically aware vote in political leaders who lean towards racist policies, have complete disregard for their citizens’ well-being, prefer to prop up large corporations that do little to promise job security in their home country, hold a perpetual disdain for welfare in the snotty belief that meritocracy is the salvation of poverty, conveniently disregard human rights, clamp down of media entities, and generally like to mouth off the wrong things at every convenient opportunity?
None? Well, how about a 69.9% landslide?
It might be futile to try and understand why Americans voted the way they did, as trying to read minds at this stage is nothing short of speculation with hindsight. Yet the “why” question weighed heavy last night, and answers are being sought even as Americans protest or rejoice over the results.
Maybe Americans just didn’t like Clinton, at least not enough to register a stronger turn out of Democrats at the polls. Maybe the straw polls showing Clinton in the lead spooked enough Republicans to make then turn out by the millions, if only just to give Democrats less bragging rights in a landslide. Maybe American media, in either supporting Clinton and making a farce of objectivity, goaded Americans towards a sympathy vote for Trump. Maybe Americans were just ready for their two-term change.
Maybe what we saw last night was really a reflection of what is happening around the world, including in Singapore. We are feeling the pinch of a global economic slowdown. Terrorism continues, perhaps with even greater uncertainty and intensity. Citizens around the world are feeling marginalised in one way or another, backing into their corners as big government and big corporations take up even more of the middle ground.
Perhaps what we saw in the Trump victory was a desire within Americans to push back, raging against what they believe to be the globalisation machinery, to protect their own little turf. The best person that they saw for the job was someone who would stand his ground and not yield, even if that someone’s voice was stronger than his character.
In an era where America is losing its authority, maybe Americans sought an authoritative figure to, indeed, make America great again. In Trump, they saw authority – mad or deluded, but authority nonetheless – and hope.
But the irony is that Trump speaks for the same big corporations and big government that his supporters abhor. Trump’s values run counter to true meritocracy, valued work for valuable pay, fair dinkum societies, and a genuine concern for sustainability.
Big corporations and big government have decimated our societies over the years, reducing us to productive digits that feed their every rising desire for profit margins and power. The choice of either Trump or Clinton would not have undone that damage, and it would be delusional of Americans to think that Trump can really fix the economy or establish world peace, when he would essentially be doing more of the same.
Conversely, Trump’s election promises suggest that he would drag out economic uncertainty and start more conflicts, at home or abroad. In addition, he would establish American arrogance towards the world, not understanding, partnership and reconciliation. He would further divide American society and communities, which might even rub off on the rest of the world.
What is real is that America has to live with the completely democratic choice they made for at least the next four years.
But it would be an even greater folly if we were to feel despondent and retreat further into our corners in the wake of the Trump win. The result of the US Presidential Election should give us good cause to seriously rethink our existing models of economics, security and sustainability.
Big government and big corporations are not the answer. Political revolution is in order, and neither Trump nor Clinton represented that revolution. I hope Americans do not delude themselves in thinking so.
In our own societies, it is time to think less about whether we want more or less of the same, but about how we can come together to re-establish human dignity, systemic justice and economic and environmental sustainability. And if it means we have to tear down the current comfortable structures – our emblems of progress – we have painstakingly and proudly build over the years, do so we must.
Will we ever have such leaders to take the plunge with us? Americans, as with the rest of the world, have even more difficult choices to make beyond this election.