Okay, so, in case you haven’t heard – and yes, I’m saying this sarcastically – Donald Trump won the 2016 US Presidential Election.
I know. I couldn’t believe it either.
In the weeks leading up to the election, I had heard a number of pundits saying that Trump had less than a 30% chance of winning. Some projected that his chances might even be as low as 12%, a view propped up by various hypothetical maps that predicted even Texas going blue. Republican and Conservative attempts to “unskew” these predictions just sounded like wishful thinking.
Because I live in Seoul, 15 hours ahead of my hometown in the States, I was watching the Tuesday night election returns on Wednesday morning (pretty cool, huh?). Every so often when my students were busy with something at their desks, I would head over to the classroom computer and refresh Real Clear Politics to see how things were going. No big surprise, the first few states that turned red on their election map were mostly in the South – the states everyone expects the GOP to win in pretty much every election. Like a lot of people, I assumed Trump would lead early but then get slaughtered as the northeastern and West Coast votes started coming in. As one of my Facebook friends put it, “This is like an Ole Miss game. Trump is way ahead now, but just wait.”
But then Trump took Ohio, an incredibly important swing state that often acts as an indicator of the entire election.
“What?” I said out loud. I knew Trump was polling well in Ohio, but I didn’t expect it to mean very much on Election Day itself. (Sounds nonsensical, I know. It’s really just a roundabout way of saying I don’t always trust the polls.) But then when I got back from lunch, I found an even bigger surprise waiting for me. Trump had won Florida, another important swing-state.
“Is this really happening?” I said, again speaking out loud. Yes, it was. And as I started mentally adding up all the other states that Trump was almost certain to win (Alaska, Arizona, etc.) my mind suddenly came to an unexpected conclusion: Wow. He might actually win this thing. And, of course, that’s what happened.
“So, J,” some of you might find yourselves saying, “you were a vocal critic of the Obama administration. Will you be coming home now that there’s a Republican in the White House?” Ummm, no. I may not be frothing at the mouth the way a lot of other people are, but a lot of things I didn’t like about Obama are also true of Trump.
Here’s a quick list.
The Cons of a Trump Presidency
(1) He is being handed entirely too much power. When Donald Trump assumes the presidency in January, we will find ourselves with a Republican president, a Republican House, and a Republican Senate. This means that, like Obama before him, Trump will have at least two years to pass virtually any piece of legislation he wants. A lot of people with no imaginations blamed the backlash against Obama on racism, but I think it had much less to do with race and much more to do with his lack of checks and balances. History is now repeating itself with Trump. I’m not a fan of one-party rule.
(2) He is inexperienced as a political leader. Trump has had lots of business experience, so he’s at least superior to Obama in that regard. But I believe the American president should have experience in both business and politics. It would have made sense if Trump had run for a smaller office, maybe governor of New York, but instead he’s all the way at the top of the mountain. Thus, the two most recent captains of the American ship are men who’ve never even paddled a canoe.
(3) His motives are not 100% clear and could potentially be very radical. One of the recurring criticisms of Trump throughout his campaign was his tendency to tell voters that his plans were “great” and “unbelievable” and “you’re gonna love them” without actually saying what those plans were. His stance on immigrants from Islamic countries, for example, has been interpreted in a number of different ways. Trump supporters are adamant that he never said he was going to deport all Muslims, only that he wants to find a better way to screen for potential terrorists coming to the USA from Islamic countries. His opponents, however – including President Obama – have stated that Trump has plans to “ban an entire religion.”
For me, it’s hard to form solid opinions about these things, because, again, they simply aren’t very clear yet. This was also a major problem that many skeptics had with the Obama presidency. The accusation that Obama was involved in radical/far Left/neo-Marxist/socialist politics was not a Republican myth or talking point. Dig into his background just a little bit and you’ll find that he was a member of the New Party, a close associate of many left-wing radicals, and a proponent of using intimidation tactics against voters and businesses.
Because these issues in Obama’s past were never properly addressed by the mainstream press, many people were left to fill in the blanks with conspiracy theories and fear. Again, history is now repeating itself with Trump.
And just a sidenote –
(4) Social media is gonna suuuuuuck for the next four years. In high school, I was a theater kid (Drama Club president, actually) who enjoyed offbeat, counter-cultural books and movies. In college, I was a liberal arts major who co-hosted a radio show that routinely made fun of Southern Conservative frat boys, religious student organizations, and rednecks. Some of you might recall the “Redneck at the Zoo” sketch my old roommate and I recorded in Memphis.
One Halloween I dressed up as the Rainbow Crusader (“the world’s first openly gay super hero”) and went prancing around my hometown wearing a Pride flag as a cape. And just this year, I’ve donated several hundred dollars to the African Wildlife Foundation to combat elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade.
These signposts on the road of my life might seem to indicate that I’m something of a liberal, right? Nope. I have never been a liberal. Why? Because, in my experience, liberals are the left-wing equivalent of Christian fundamentalists. They are convinced not only that they are right about everything but that everyone who disagrees with them is evil, blind to the truth, and deserving of condemnation. And, also like Christian fundamentalists, many liberals labor under the delusion that everyone around them not only wants, but NEEDS to hear their opinion on everything. You know how most people groan when someone approaches them and asks if they have a minute to talk about their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? I do the same thing whenever someone starts talking to me about male privilege and “the patriarchy,” tries to downplay Islamic violence by talking about things Christians did literally hundreds of years ago, or tells me that the only reason I’m opposed to government-run healthcare is because I want poor people to die.
Let me be clear that I do not think everyone whose politics lean farther to the left than my own falls into this mold. I know many intelligent people on the Left whom I consider both respectable and moral despite our differences of opinion. Some of them have even helped me refine my own political thinking. But you know who I’m talking about. I’m talking about the idiots who could look at this question –
Which of the following people is the worst human being on this list?
(A) A white male
(B) A black male who supported Donald Trump
(C) A woman who doesn’t support modern feminism
(D) An axe murderer who likes to molest, dismember, and eat the corpses of children
– and actually have to think for a while about the answer.
Looking into the future, I can already see these people taking my Facebook and Instagram feeds hostage with their endless virtue signalling and calls to “fight back against hate and oppression.” It’s gonna be 2004 all over again.
That said, I believe there are a few things that might actually be okay about Trump’s presidency.
Here they are, in no particular order.
The (Possible) Pros of a Trump Presidency
(1) Trump probably has a slightly better understanding of economics than President Obama did. That’s not saying very much, but take it for what it’s worth. Trump, as I mentioned, has considerable business experience and should be able to figure out that a country cannot increase its wealth by spending trillions of dollars that it doesn’t have. Then again, he did mention infrastructure spending in his acceptance speech, so maybe I should just prepare to be disappointed. (Note: fixing roads and bridges does not improve the economy.)
(2) At least there’s no creepy cult of personality around Donald Trump. The thing that disturbed me most about President Obama’s rise to power was the frenzied adulation that came along with it. For those of us who weren’t on the wagon, the whole thing was incredibly bizarre to behold. Seriously, just watch the following video and try not to find it at least a little off-putting and dystopian, especially at the end.
In the early days of his presidency, you could actually go to Wal-Mart and buy Obama merchandise. Bobble heads. Calendars. Banks. Posters. Pencils. You name it. I was working as a university writing instructor at the time, and to many of the students on campus Obama was no mere politician; he was the human embodiment of Hope itself. A philosopher-king. The smartest man to ever occupy the Oval Office. A bridge builder. A master orator. A man who could turn back the ocean tides and heal the planet. A modern-day combination of Jesus, Socrates, Einstein, and Gandhi. Amen! Alleluia! The savior had come! And the mainstream media was all too eager and willing to sing his praises.
Trump, it goes without saying, will not enter the White House with quite the same level of love-stricken support from the media and popular culture. And you know what? That’s great. Americans shouldn’t love their politicians. You shouldn’t want to have a poster of the president hanging on your wall. That sort of thing is not patriotism. It’s cult follower bullshit. Especially when the president is someone like Barack Obama or Donald Trump and has done nothing to deserve that level of emotional commitment.
(3) Thoughtful people on the Right and Left might very well find some common ground. Earlier in this blog post I mentioned the intelligent people on the political Left. In the wake of Trump’s success, many of these good people are genuinely, understandably afraid of what the future might hold. Believe me, I know that fear very well. I understand what it’s like to deeply distrust a president and his intentions. Have you seen all those people on television threatening to leave the country? I actually did it.
That’s why I will not condescend to anyone by telling them that they need to calm down and respect Trump because he’s the president or that they should give him time to prove himself. I won’t even tell them not to be angry at the people who voted for him. Lord knows I still lose respect for people when I find out they fell for all that vapid “Yes We Can” nonsense (especially the second time around). But what I will say is this: if you’re only angry about Trump, you haven’t gone far enough in your thinking…But don’t worry, you’re getting there.
In the past week, some of my left-leaning friends have declared that they will not pay taxes to a Trump administration. Others have expressed support for non-compliance and/or refusal to accept Trump’s authority. Some have even gone so far as to say they support #CalExit, a movement calling for California to secede from the United States. What the people posting these things might not realize is that this is exactly what most Republicans, Conservatives, and Libertarians have been preaching for a very long time. A healthy resistance to taxation, undue governmental authority, and federal control of the states forms the foundation of most right-wing thinking.
Do you suddenly feel as if the federal government has too much control over your life, that you’re taking orders from people you didn’t elect and don’t even respect? Have you begun to feel that government should be smaller and more localized, that voters in Iowa shouldn’t be making decisions for people in Massachusetts? Have you maybe even dared to think the unthinkable – that our whole idea of government is quickly becoming outdated in the digital age? Hey, welcome to the club. We took different paths, but it would appear that we’ve arrived at the same destination.
I can’t say for certain where we’re going from here. All I know is that my school recently asked me if I’d like to stay for another year. And I said yes.