I sit down to this post tentatively. I am not a fan of politics and there are clearly many who incredibly emotional at the moment.
I am writing this as an Australian, who does not normally pay close attention to US politics, and whose exposure to such is primarily through media exposure that has long since left behind any pretense of impartiality.
I have a series of mixed feelings, and thought I would work through them here.
Had I been part of the election, I would not have voted for Trump. I do not endorse policy that targets race, gender, belief system, sexual orientation or any other demographic that assumes all individuals of a group are the same. So often, innocents suffer injustices brought on by other members of whatever demographic they are part of, who do or say things that those individuals would never endorse.
I would rather face the challenges of treating people as individuals, than victimise those who are undeserving. Recognising that in a world where the threat of terrorism is real, such a position leaves me vulnerable.
Having said that, I fully understand why Trump is appealing to anti-establishment voters.
In Australia, I cannot remember voting in an election where I did not feel like I was choosing between the lesser of two evils. I have stated many times that our own two party political system is plagued by representatives that ultimately do little to differentiate themselves from their opponents. Both sides invest horrible amounts of time attempting character assassination of each other instead of focusing on policy.
This is the absolute height of insanity. Character assassination does not just undermine your opponent. It undermines faith in the entire political process. It becomes the reason you get protest votes, or donkey votes as Aussies often call them. And it opens the door for individuals to enter in to politics on platforms of hate, purely because voters feel like they can trust those individuals do represent a set of values that wont change before the end of their term. In Australia, it has caused the last few election outcomes to be Governments that only hold power through deals made with independent representatives in order to have enough votes to have a majority. An outcome that ultimately compromises the positions of all parties, otherwise nobody could hold power.
Then, there are the rabid voters who do not vote individuals or on the basis of policy. They vote for brands. Die-hard party zealots who consider anyone that doesn’t support their party blasphemous. We aren’t voting who is best out of Coca Cola and Pepsi here. We are trying to determine whose policies represent the best way forward for our respective countries. Blind devotion is dangerous. If anyone wants your vote, demand that they convince you why, first, based on their intended policies. If you vote for anyone and cannot list off the specific policies they stand for, then what did you really vote for?
Next, the “Not my President” crowd. In every election, there are those whose candidate wins, and those whose candidate loses. Threatening to leave the country because you didn’t get your way, or refusing to accept the outcome of an election because you don’t like the outcome also undermines the entire process of electing a Government. Throughout his tenure as President, hatred against Obama remained.
Debate his effectiveness in implementing policy. Raise your voice to remind the leaders that they represent the entire country, not just the ones that voted for them. But this puerile sulking attitude because the result wasn’t the one you voted for only creates further division and conflict within a nation. The one thing every political representative, winner or loser, will agree on is that after the result is known, the only way a nation can move forward is to come together under its Government and forge a future united.
But it is also the message that is increasingly going unheard. With race riots having taken place in the US even before Trump announced he would run, I fear the US could become a nation divided against itself.
This year I have watched Brexit and the US election result go differently that I might have hoped. Both with campaigns featuring anti-immigration policies and sentiments directed against racial minority groups. Not necessarily for all supporters, as the motivations of many are anti-establishment instead of bigoted. But these campaigns have emboldened those whose agendas are bigoted, and
It is sad that messages of hatred are being not only embraced, but validated on such a scale.
But perhaps what scares me the most is that I can see similar rumblings happening here in Australia as well. Comments sections on news articles on these subjects are scarily vitriolic, and not just on matters of race. Matters of gender, marriage equality and, unsurprisingly, the US election as well. I like to think that Australia might be a bit more tolerant on such issues, but I do not doubt that those on the losing end of Brexit and the US election probably thought the same thing.
What if ideologies like equality are actually the minority position?
In closing, I sincerely hope President Trump proves me wrong, and proves himself a strong leader. But also fear that should he prove at all competent, it will fuel racist and sexist attitudes for years to come.