by: Kevin W
Forgive me while I rehash some recent history; I believe it’s necessary to provide context for the posts that follow…
Millions of Americans, myself included, never thought we would see a Trump presidency. I laughed at the very idea of Trump campaigning; I was convinced it was ploy to promote his brand or another book like he’d done in the past. Even during his success in the primaries, as he began to draw crowds his Republican competitors could only dream of, I brushed him off as passing fad. He was a man more fit to be a reality TV star than Commander In Chief, a caricature ripe for a late-night TV show parody. His campaign was all flash and no substance. I assured myself that America was only playing along for laughs.
But I was wrong. Despite providing the bare minimum of policy details, Trump continued to surge. No matter how ill-received by the media, his campaign seemed to thrive on his insults and aggressive rhetoric. Trump doubled down on political gaffes that would have sunk any other candidate while critics shook their heads in disbelief. While I found his language in these situations worrisome, I shrugged it off as more bombastic language from a man merely looking to stroke his ego by staying in the headlines. Surely no woman who has ever been cat-called, experienced sexism in the workplace, or been sexually assaulted, could ever vote for him! No way will people support a candidate who suggested banning an entire religion! The other shoe was bound to drop any day and each act that the Left perceived as unforgivable brought Trump closer to his comeuppance.
Instead, Trump and his team, masters of spin, played off each event as the results of a Clinton-biased media that reveled in making mountains out of molehills. At worst, the media’s response to Trump’s blunders was positioned as proof that the election was rigged against Trump. Still, most polls showed Clinton leading. Some pollsters had her chances within the margin for error, but many ranked her chances as comfortably above that threshold.
You know how the rest goes: November 8th, 2016, arrived and as the results from each state came in that evening all but the most conservative of pundits were forced to eat crow.
Those like myself who were shocked by his victory, underestimated the divide in our country. I couldn’t fathom any reason why someone would vote for Trump. Yes, Hillary had her flaws, but how could a candidate with no political experience, whose primary talent appeared to be mocking others, ascend to the Presidency?
The Forgotten America
Despite losing the popular vote by 2.8 million votes, Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States by virtue of the Electoral College, beating Hillary Clinton 304-227. Trump’s electoral victory was analyzed to death in the weeks that followed, but a similar narrative prevailed: Trump supporters felt they had been ignored by the previous administration.
Many of the manufacturing jobs that were once plentiful in the so-called “Rust Belt” of America had either left for the cheaper labor of foreign countries, or had been replaced outright by automation. While the manufacturing output of the United States has never been higher, the blue collar workforce that was the heart of American industry for decades has seen the loss of over 5 million jobs since 2000 alone. In addition, most of the economic recovery following the global crash of 2008 benefited urban areas while leaving left much of rural America in the same state of disarray.
So is it a surprise that Trump’s “America First” messages struck a chord with middle America? For many, the prospect of jobs returning to these forgotten parts of America was incentive enough to take a chance on Trump. Trump’s faults came second to the hope that America would be “great again” under his leadership. We can, and will, debate whether Trump’s policies will benefit the working class who were instrumental in securing him the presidency but that will have to wait for a different post. In the minds of those who believed the political machine had left them behind, there was only one choice: throw a wrench in the machine. It was the ultimate protest vote.
That’s not to say other factors weren’t at play. Trump’s unconventional campaign style, which stood in stark contrast to Clinton’s well-oiled political machine, convinced many to venture a try on the Republican candidate. Then, Clinton hurt her own chances by poorly handling her email scandal, leading to doubts about her character. In addition, many independent voters who felt burned by the Democratic National Convention’s treatment of Bernie Sanders during the primaries vowed not to support Clinton, no matter her opponent. In the end, many voters found themselves between a rock and a hard place. By election day, voters were left with the two most unfavorable candidates in recent history: Gallup polls showed Hillary Clinton was viewed negatively by about 57% of national adults, with 62% viewing Donald Trump in the same fashion. This analysis is most certainly an oversimplification, as entire books can (and will) be written about these factors, but in the end these issues combined to create the perfect storm that Trump was able to ride to the presidency.
A Cause for Concern & Mission Statement
That brings us to today. At the time of writing, two weeks into Trump’s term, we’ve seen unconventional appointees, a flurry of executive orders, the re-framing of facts as “fake news,” the firing of an incumbent Attorney General, and a ban on immigrants from certain countries. In response, there have been national protests, most notably in the form of the Women’s March that drew millions of participants not only across America, but around the globe. To say the current political climate in the United States is contentious would be an understatement.
On this blog I will examine these highly charged issues as they pop up and explore both their background and potential impacts. I will post my own conclusions, subject to the lens of my own life. Will I make mistakes? Of course. But I won’t push conspiracy theories and any conclusions will be based on verified facts. New posts will be coming weekly or as the news cycle dictates.
If you disagree with any of my opinions, as per your right, I wholeheartedly welcome you to write me and explain your own position. I am always open to civil discussion and will hear you out. I urge you to talk with me — make me understand your viewpoint, even if I disagree with it. I want to understand. I’d love to hear you out. Hell, I’ll buy the first round.