It’s been little over a month since the election; yet the world pre-election day world seems so far away. “Shocked” and “stunned” echoed on all through the week, even from folks in the president-elect’s camp.
The populism-derived movement of the president-elect certainly is a disruption of the status quo. I frequently think of how the present will be written in history, and this administration certainly will have an interesting chapter.
With President Obama’s first post-election press conference, I’m reminded of how stark of a contrast these administrations will be; as much as he tries to reassure that the federal government is “like an ocean liner” in that it’s not very nimble; I suspect that rule only applies to those that understand and respect the institutions’ history. That said, I’m all for moving the country forward in the right direction, with so much yet unknown, we’ll just have to see how things go.
This election is one that prompts some introspection, about what my role in this democracy is, but also what kind of America we’re living, and sometimes fighting for.
As one that’s only lived in reliably blue states of Illinois, Washington, and California, and even at that, mostly close to (sub-)urban metropolitan areas of Chicago, Seattle, and the Bay Area, it’s been all too easy to fall into a bubble mindset about to what extent progressive values are shared.
Despite this, having grown up in a largely conservative environment, I considered my now-adult views relatively balanced, While I feel I can understand the motivations behind the Trump phenomenon, upon inspection, the balance of risk-reward did not seem to measure up.
I am starting to understand though, that underneath his strategy’s blatant appeal to populism — which perhaps suggests the president-elect will be able to leverage this bias to advantage — lies a sensibility about disruption and chaos and the ability to land successfully (and even better) than others around him.
This is a mindset I share, and though I probably wouldn’t risk the world order for a chance at disruption, I am cautiously optimistic that the results will be a net positive.
In November, for the first time, I will cast a vote for the head of state! Exciting! I’ve voted in every election I could since becoming a U.S. citizen in 2013 and the election of this year will be the first with one for POTUS. (Non-presidential years are important as well, particularly those involved in state, county, and local governments!)
Having grown up in the United States, and being one that’s long been a fan of US History, it’s impossible to ignore the weight of history evident in the long road it’s taken for citizens to fight and win the right to vote and participate in their governments. The history leading up to the independence of the 13 colonies, to the twisting tortured road within American history itself of the slow spreading over two centuries of the right to vote across to more and more of the living human beings of this country, all of it is powerfully in memory as I think about the upcoming decisions for November.
But what an election season…
After the past two years of ever-increasing media blitzing, election fatigue finally hit me earlier this month, and it’s clear that it’s not just me. Though to take a optimistic note, I note that democracy is messy and I think this election will teach us to treat our republic with a little more care.
We’re finally coming down to the last few weeks of this election cycle, and while I await the first the sigh of relief after election day (when normal media life, which seems so far away, may resume), this being such a significant election in the terms of my life and America’s future, I feel more like a marathoner at the end of a long race, and in a way, I think we’ll all remember it for the rest of our lives. Maybe we’ll even miss it when it’s over. Not necessarily in the nice kind of way, but more like a shell-shocked flashback to an alternate universe, where a ridiculous caricature of America almost became president. (And ridiculous is being nice!)!
I take the responsibility very seriously. Many have asked me who I intend to vote for and while the right decision seems ever so clear on every possible measure, I’m going to take in all the information I can until election day before I mail in my ballot (also while I try to decipher California’s 17 statewide measures).
But let me take a break and look back at these past eight years. I’ve had my own criticisms, but I’m going to miss Obama as president after he’s gone. While not perfect, I think he’s done a great job as anyone could as president in a challenging time. But democracies and presidents are human, and I’ve considered him authentic to critical values that represent a more inclusive America. Obama represents more than just the first black president; his upbringing and activist empathy is critical in how he accepted the responsibility and of the presidency; I feel that for the first time, we’ve had a president that was able to understand cross-racial issues in a way that shows the true power of American diversity.
The mid-21st century is going to be a very interesting time, and with the rise of the right in Europe, I can see that part of the world turning inward; it seems inevitable, as social media and populism combine to form coalitions on “making xyz great” again, which in code terms mean going back to nationalism and a tribal mindset about the world. This has other consequences, which I mentally associate with a devaluation of the individual and a reinforcement of in/out markers such as race, creed, color of one’s skin, or life choices.
It may not be the America that everyone wanted, or one that was going to wait until everyone was on board. But without a doubt, despite the problems, old and new, that have come up through these past eight years, as a society, as a people, as a world, we have moved forward. This is in stark contrast to the darker elements of society that have risen during this time; starkly evident in the coarsening political discourse in America and across the world.
Rather than be depressed by this, I consider it an even stronger mandate for those of us in the New World to reject these Old World notions of racial nationalism and fight for a more inclusive society. We say today that to become American is to accept a set of values (and of course, meet plenty of legal criteria). Of those values, many of which were taught, generally include a validation of intrinsic value of the individual; enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and reinforced through the American story over the past two centuries. I love great stories and the America that I’m proud of, the America that I feel compelled to help move forward is the one of freedoms and citizenship to one’s community and fellow neighbor, a respect for the strength of our diversity, and the innovative drive that I still see all over the country.
We have many challenges that we’ll need to overcome in the next eight years and we need a president, party, and political platform that has a rational eye toward the real world and what can be accomplished via the limited levers of the presidency; one that believes in the strength of the individuals and welcome all to better the American spirit.
I met Kentucky Senator Rand Paul at his campaign event in Seattle this earlier today. The first thing I’d note was that he seemed really tired, not that it had any diminishing effect on his speech, but it’s clear that running for president isn’t for the faint of heart. But then again, neither is occupying the highest office of the land, so I consider this a fair test.
Rand Paul (R-KY) appealed to me initially early last year with what appeared to be an unparalleled authenticity and devotion to the Constitution, and a logical message on pragmatic limited government that had the potential for broad appeal. He may have had it easier since he was one of the first to announce his candidacy because as we all know now, the primary season that was about to unfold was anything but predictable.
In trying to appeal to the conservative base that was turning toward Trump, Paul started airing more ridiculous ads–clearly designed to appeal to the Tea Party/Freedom Caucus that brought him to the Senate to begin with (and probably driving away everyone else). These efforts did not help his poll numbers and by the fall, he had fallen to the bottom of a too-big poll. At the same time, he started to become more visibly annoyed.
Videos like this, while understandable given the state of the race, cast him as both amateurish and a sore loser:
I suppose with the first primaries/caucuses yet to come, he may still have a shot at a reset of his image, but my guess is that he just doesn’t have the right appeal given the mood of the (Republican primary) voters right now.
Which is too bad, because he was the one leading Republican candidate who appeared to really have his message together in the beginning. I suppose that goes to show how the American political process is anything but predictable.