When you build a campaign on hate, on racism, on xenophobia, on bullying, on slander, and on shockingly absurd lies, the backlash is going to build on that energy and throw it back at you. I think Trump must have seen this coming.
The concerning thing is that the backlash didn’t come before the election — at least, not strongly enough, not like now. But maybe that will be a good thing.
The passion there with the “No To Racism, No To Trump” signs is strong. The passion and involvement in streets packed with shocked and concerned citizens who are afraid for our democracy is powerful. All of that passion and involvement would have been highly effective prior to the election, but it could be even more influential following the election.
Trump won in large part because people who opposed him stayed home. People even stayed home on voting day. Let me correct myself — Democrats, Independents, and moderates stayed home. But that was just the end of a long story.
They stayed home in the mid-term elections 6 years ago that threw the Tea Party into power, and again 2 years ago to keep the trend going. Staying home, they gave President Obama the most obstructionist Congress in perhaps the history of this country.
Obama repeatedly said he can’t create “a change we can believe in” alone. He was clearly concerned about people falling off the map right after he was elected, and he emphasized this point throughout his two terms. But that’s exactly what happened. The public feels it didn’t receive enough from Obama — but that was after we left him in the federal government with a historically unprecedented extremist Congress. That was after politicians and activists who knew better demonized someone who was doing his best to help us. I’m sure this will haunt many a Republican politician.
The Bush family and others at the top of the Republican Party are perhaps the most stark examples to highlight right now. Two former Republican presidents, the previous GOP presidential nominee, and the person who 1½ years ago was most expected to be this year’s GOP presidential nominee told the country that they were not voting for the Republican presidential nominee — unprecedented. But they mostly held their tongues and it’s not clear if any of them actually voted for Hillary Clinton. They certainly didn’t join Clinton’s campaign, and I would bet money some of them wish they had.
But let’s put what they did shockingly do in other terms: The heads of an extremely “vote the party ticket” political party from the past ~3 decades wouldn’t vote for “their” candidate. “He’s not our nominee” was the sentiment. But he was — oh, he definitely was your candidate. And I think the Bush family, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Paul Ryan, John Boehner, and others at the helm of the Republican Party for a quarter of a century know very well how much their previous rhetoric, strategy, lies, obstructionism, and “rallying of the base” led to Donald Trump winning this 2016 US presidential election.
But the story isn’t just about the party elites — they are not you, and you are not them. The story is the overall lack of involvement in our political system, the degree to which the American public hardly knows who is running for office and what their actual record is. Overwhelmingly, people voting for Trump wanted “change.” But I would not bet money that the majority of that population knew who controlled the House of Representatives and Senate prior to the election, and how unprecedented their obstructionism was in American history. If you asked them, “Would you like to return to the economic recession we were in when a Republican president last left office?,” I would bet they would say “No” or some wishy-washy form of that.
Did they have any clue that trickle-down economics, deregulation, and a rising wealth gap fueled by core Republican Party priorities is what caused the economic recession? Most certainly not. Did they know that economic growth stalled after Democrats lost control of Congress two years after we gave Obama the presidency? Most certainly not. But all of us who did know also were not very helpful at informing them. Did we communicate with these people at all? Did we try at all? Did we use effective methods of persuasion?
I have been wisely advised to not shame the voters, but let’s be honest with ourselves — lack of political involvement among liberals, moderates, and moderate conservatives got us what we deserved. Our democracy got what it deserved.
It is on the people who didn’t vote. It is on those of us who didn’t do enough to get people to vote. And it is on those of us who didn’t inform the misinformed or underinformed.
Finally, though, the idea that we live in a democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people seems to be sinking in.
But let me emphasis this one point very clearly one more time for the people claiming Donald Trump isn’t your president: Donald Trump is your president-elect. He is very much your president-elect. Yes, our president-elect is a racist (the Congressional head of his own party said as much). Yes, our president-elect is a xenophobe (a dog or cat could probably sense that). Yes, our president-elect is a sexist who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and getting away with it because he’s a rich celebrity.
These things were obvious long before the election, but where were the people in the streets then? Where was the social pressure to not elect such a person? Where was the civic work ethic to look into Hillary Clinton’s background and discover that all of the faux scandals she’s been smeared for in the past ~30 years were fiction, nonsense, politically motivated brainwashing?
There were strong signs this was coming. It’s why I wrote “We’ll Get What We Deserve” in June and why I wrote “USA, You’re Embarrassing Us” one day before the election. Perhaps they weren’t the most effective articles for inspiring civic action, but they certainly came from a feeling that we had quite clearly neglected our duty as citizens of a democratic society.
As it turns out, I think Donald Trump may be the best thing that has happened to US democracy in many decades.
We are facing a reckoning and are being forced into a deep societal soul searching.
How could Donald Trump be elected president?
But if we let this anger, fear, and depression destroy us, we lose. If we let this shock turn us away from conventional politics, we lose.
We lost as this angry, clearly racist, clearly misinformed social movement took over Congress. Thoughtful Republicans in Congress lost — some of them lost their seats in Republican primaries, while others simply fell in line and swallowed their morals. Democrats and Independents lost. But we sat back and accepted it. Did we run for office in order to push a more positive hue into politics?
Well, I know at least one of our readers did. “Michael G” as he is known in the comments ran for local city council — not expecting to win, but utilizing that power to influence the debate. He got the press and his opponents to discuss global warming, to discuss clean energy and electric vehicles. He shifted the political debate. He got the topic and CleanTechnica‘s message into the mainstream.
This is what the Tea Party did in order to move the Republican Party to the right. This is how a President Trump was enabled. This is how a President Trump had the political base and confidence in themselves across the country to gain momentum and eventually win the election.
Our incoming president is Donald Trump because we sat back and let the most extremist wing of the Republican Party move the entire political discussion toward extremism. Our incoming president is Donald Trump because we didn’t do a good enough job of calling lies and misinformation the BS they are. Our incoming president is Donald Trump because we allowed racism, sexism, and global warming denial to become normalized.
We let it happen when we didn’t get more involved in Black Lives Matter, in 350.org, and most directly, in the Republican and Democratic parties we most align with.
No matter how much Big Business puts money into the political system, it is the people who vote, word of mouth that inspires, and civic involvement that controls this country. The Donald Trump campaign showed this. The Bernie Sanders campaign showed this. President Obama showed us this when he was the surprising success story of the US political system.
If you don’t think Donald Trump represents you, now is the time to start working on a 2018 political campaign. It is not going to be about work people do in 2019 and 2020 — it is going to be about how much work we do to shift the story on the grassroots level, how much work we do to get progressives and thoughtful moral conservatives into leadership positions in their parties, how much we do to shift the discussion exactly how Michael G has done.
Stay tuned. CleanTechnica is shifting with the demands of the time and what we see as the greatest potential for societal improvement. It is not going to be about partisan politics. It is going to be about bipartisan politics, civic engagement, and informed consumerism.
Please, though, use this opportunity right now to reflect on the importance of civic engagement in a democratic society — and who will continue to control society if we leave democracy to others. This request goes for all of our readers — American, British, Australian, Indian, Canadian, German, Polish, Brazilian, Ugandan, etc.
Thoughtful, caring American citizens are now more engaged in the political process than ever before. Thanks to Trump. I hope this engagement will continue and will shape our society and our individual approach to life for the better.