Saturday, November 12, 2016


I never thought an election outcome would affect me the way it did. I felt physically ill, emotionally drained and unable to sleep. Many friends in my circle felt the same. I realized I was living in a nation, that was profoundly divided. I always knew that, but was not aware of the extent of it.

The polarization that had begun in 2008, when Barack Obama became the first black president of this nation, was now complete. The path Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, The Tea Party and their ilk charted had come to fruition in the election of Donald Trump. The unthinkable was now real. The illusion that Americans can see through lies and distortions was now shattered. The nation voted against its own interest and the status-quo by taking a gamble on an unseemly candidate.

This election was a referendum on the failure of the two party American federal system of elections. Both dominant political parties of this country imploded and through their ashes rose Donald Trump - a Republican by label, but an independent at his core. He blew his own singular horn to victory and danced only to his tune to the dismay and horror of many. Personal traits such as decency, respect, kindness, inclusiveness, humility and humanity did not play a role. One's faith, personal taxes, obscene accumulation of wealth by unscrupulous means, which in the past would have decimated a candidate had no impact. Class, Race and Gender were the only primary positions along which votes were casted and decisions made.

So what went wrong? Why did America fracture right in the middle? Even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a narrow margin, why could she not seal the deal? At the heart of it lies the underestimation of Donald Trump, his rhetoric and the people he galvanized. The disconnect between a class of America and what we have come to know as mainstream America, was so deep and wide, that it took an election to awaken to. What the pollsters and pundits failed to see in Donald Trump was him resonating with a kind of America, which to a large extent had been relegated to the fringes by both political parties. They were abandoned by the elite left leaning liberals and the Republican establishment who were seen as belonging to the same corrupt ruling class. With their manufacturing and coal mining jobs evaporated by globalization, they felt they had been forsaken by the system. They had had enough of the smug urban centric media which consisted of college educated sophisticated liberals telling them that their values were out of touch with the times. That they were racist, xenophobic, gun totting, white supremacist "deplorables" in complete contradiction to the core values of the constitution and a changing America.

And so they gravitated to the most elite person they could find in the lineup, the billionaire businessman who would "win" and succeed for them where the ruling class had failed. When Donald Trump held immigrants, Muslims, Mexico, NATO, China, India, bad trade deals, crooked Hillary, Washington insiders, special interest groups, environmentalists as the cause for their misery, they thought they found their reason for despair. They figured only a bully like him could go to Washington, and be tough and get the job done with his no-nonsense, politically incorrect direct approach. He would "make America great again" and restore it back to its glory.  For this they were willing to overlook everything unsavory and brash about Donald Trump. To many this was the appeal. His open misogyny was overlooked, with 40% of his voters being women who detested Hillary for being dishonest. His bankruptcies and sexual indiscretions were ignored. Others felt a woman was not ready to be President of America, just yet. He became the man of the hour to many while he was being made out to be the clown of the hour to others.

Those like me, who lived in a bubble in Brooklyn, New York City, were so far removed from what was happening in the heartland, that we were unquestionably lulled into believing the pollsters and media pundits. The flashes we saw of Donald Trump on TV behaving like a boorish child, gave us the false impression and hope, that people would not take him seriously. The large crowds that were gathering to see him, did not seem that large on TV and in our minds. The lampooning of Donald Trump by late night television and the mainstream press was so scathing and direct, many were assured that America could never elect someone of his caliber, temperament and moral fiber. Others thought it was a left conspiracy to belittle him and undermine his candidacy. When President Obama used his bully pulpit to frame him as a man incapable in temperament and dangerous to trust nuclear codes with, it was seen as a further affirmation of a gang up. And so there was a backlash and the rude awakening on 11/9 brought a cloud of despair on a large part of this nation.

As those who did not support him ponder on the uncertain future and feel heavy in their heart, one must acknowledge all this is only politics. Politics can touch us in our daily lives, but its influence is minimal, unless you let it be.

One aspect I found deeply disturbing in this endless election season, was how degrading the discourse had become. While civility was discarded and obnoxious behavior came spewing through our television screens, what was sacrificed was innocence. As it is, in the times we live in, it is hard for a parent to shield their children from violence in popular culture. Some have lost all perspective in an increasingly pervasive environment. Now the election added a whole new layer of violence that was abhorrent. On one hand children were being subjected to a discourse that was deeply unsettling and parents were allowing it to wash over them, by projecting their rabid stance around dinner table conversations. Objectivity was abandoned as clear lines were drawn painting one candidate as evil and the other not. Children were forced to draw conclusions, based on their parent's preference, without knowing what it meant and why they were doing so.

So when the results came, I was shocked to see how disturbed children were. Children whose understanding of politics cannot and should not be more than knowing the processes of democracy, were deeply invested and emotionally shaken. At my ten year old's ballet class, a little girl, out of the blue showed me a drawing, which said "Donald Trump is a turd". The emotional instability around politics of parents had filtered into their children. When they should be reading fantasy books and watching cartoons, they were being sucked into a realm, which was far beyond their grasp, as the world was being dissected for them in the most basic dichotomy of good and evil.

His detractors are now orchestrating what Donald Trump promised he would do if he lost. Protests across the nation have broken out in mostly urban centers where he is deeply unpopular. In Oregon it has also turned violent. The violence that we witnessed in his rallies now seems to have infected the opposing side. If he follows through with his policies the time to protest will come. Anyone who has followed his rhetoric knows that it is inevitable. But to do it now seems like whining for having lost.

Even though Donald Trump did not win the popular vote, playing by the rules, he won the presidency fair and square. The system was not rigged as he proclaimed, and the institutions of America delivered the result in a free and non-fraudulent election. Now a peaceful transition of power is in progress. While he assembles his team, he must know that the way the system is designed, there are limits to what he can do. If he follows through with his promises, Donald Trump can unleash significant damage. It will be the responsibility of the opposition in power to stop him with all their might. There might also be somethings he might do in the interest of the nation. Like putting term limits on congressmen, limiting the reach of lobbyists and getting better trade deals so more jobs can be created in the US. But if he behaves the way he has on the campaign trail as he governs, he will face global isolation and social unrest like never seen before in this nation.

As Donald Trump prepares to move from his golden abode at Trump Tower to the less ostentatious public housing at the White House, he must meditate on this election. He must acknowledge that almost 50% of the eligible voting population of this country did not take part in this election and a majority of those who did, did not pick him. His contemplation needs to be expressed to all people in more than tweets. Or else his legacy will be as short lived as his mercurial diatribes.

In the end, the President we get, is the President we deserve. It is what it is.