Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Trump: Prepare for Trauma
Three weeks after the election and it’s still hard to know where to begin in discussing the nation’s new political landscape.
We have seen some pretty spectacular failures by a number of the country’s institutions. The Electoral College, designed to prevent an incompetent rabble-rousing populist from winning the Presidency, has instead enabled victory by a man of such unprincipled essence that neither his supporters or his opponents can speak with assurance about what he will do in office.
The Democratic Party that eight years ago championed a candidate of audacious hope and change, this time rejected its best hope for audacious hope and change and chose a pale imitation of the last two Democratic incumbents, a candidate seemingly unable to articulate a core message that even acknowledged, let alone addressed, the electorate’s overwhelming desire for the end to a rigged system.
The Republican Party establishment proved itself spectacularly incompetent to halt the hostile takeover of its party banner by a man no more loyal to its precepts than Nixon’s dog, Checkers.
And the Fourth Estate, armed with every sophisticated tool and device imaginable, totally missed the underlying guts of this election cycle; cable television in particular allowed its greed and hubris to dismiss Trump’s antics and treat him as free program entertainment to the tune of almost a billion dollars in free publicity. They simply knew he could not win the nomination, could not secure more than 40% of the electorate, and could not surmount the levees of the Electoral College. And while they were spectacularly wrong, there they were the day after the election, bloviating about how he did it and what will happen next.
The truth is, Donald Trump won for a bevy of reasons, and Hillary Clinton lost for even more reasons. But fundamentally, Trump connected with the passions, fears, and resentments of enough voters in the strategically important places to turn them out. And it’s the passions, fears and resentments of all voters to which attention must now be paid.
For all his undeniable media mastery, the President-elect probably does not have a clue how to manage the expectations of the not even a plurality of voters who elected him. To be sure, a lot of those who voted for him don’t really expect him to keep all of his campaign promises. They just liked the fact that he made them; they especially delighted in the way he seemed to do it, sticking his fingers repeatedly in the eye of political correctness, with apparent indifference to the hall guards and monitors of the narrow political corridors. Will that be his style of governance? Could that approach possibly be an effective substitute for well-thought out, carefully executed policies? Does anybody think Trump has thought that far ahead?
Let’s set aside policy for a moment and consider what we do know about the man who will be sworn in as our President on January 20, 2017. We know he loves to make deals and he loves to win them. It’s what turns him on and he will break all the rules to win. We know he loves attention, craves it, can’t do without it. And we know he’s thin-skinned, rash and impulsive on a personal level, with a toddler’s attention span.
How does that compute to the daily running of a Trump administration that we also know is contemptuous of the political establishment, uses the media, and plays the public? No wonder his sensible allies are as frightened as his foes.
Among those who do need to be frightened but not paralyzed are people of color, Muslims, those whose sexual preferences or other characteristics make them less than the newly-defined mainstream of American people, which turns out to be the same as what was Constitutionally-baked in as the mainstream: white men who profess the Christian faith.
Those whose genes, pigmentation, accent, faith, or preferences do not accord with that mainstream are having a difficult time these days. A dear friend of mine — I have to say he’s white for clarity and pertinence — told me that after the election his 15 year old granddaughter went to school at Shaker Heights High, and that when the election was brought up, the whole class dissolved into tears, including the teacher. This story was not unique. We all have to acknowledge and deal with the fact that nearly half of our fellow citizens pretty much said “f*** you” to half the country because of their anger, pain, and resentment. Does it matter if they were manipulated into voting the way they did?
Perhaps that 15-year-old girl, along with her parents and classmates, should attend tonight’s town hall meeting sponsored by the Cleveland Branch NAACP. The meeting will feature a post-election conversation on the emotional impact of the election. A licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Natalie M. Whitlow, will be on hand to speak to the immediate trauma of the reported results and the potential for long-term damage. Dr. Whitlow told me yesterday that the consequences of anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and other symptoms are real and should be dealt with appropriately.
The meeting starts at 6:30pm tonight at St. James A.M.E. Church, 8401 Cedar Ave. These meetings usually have secured, free parking.