Everything in life operates in relatively predictable patterns, even human behavior. And yet no one could have predicted the political ascendency of a man like Donald Trump. When something like this happens, something so utterly opposed to our rational inclinations and understanding of reality, its time to put away the rule books and look to the stars.
The unthinkable happened
Our compass was off because our instruments had become obsolete. No one expected that the widespread discontent with the political process would translate into a Trump win. We thought we had time to reverse course. To fix what was so clearly broken in Washington. To weed out the poison by working through the system and not by working against it.
Yes, the establishment and the political elite required a disruption. This much we understood, but no one imagined it would come in the form of a man so utterly bereft of common decency and stature. We were anticipating the rise of a hero, a reformer; what we got was the psychological equivalent of a politician with no degree.
Is this some kind of poetic justice? A kind of cosmic reminder that you cannot defeat falsehood with anything less than the integrity and moral certainty of an idealist. Perhaps this was the moment in our history when idealism actually stood a chance. But too blinded with cynicism, we dismissed our own faith based impulses. After all, it was not just the Democratic party that relinquished the idealism of a Bernie Sanders in exchange for the political savviness of a Clinton. We have all, on some level, put our faith in those we thought were smarter and more capable over those we knew were good and honest.
Clinton vs Trump
Hillary Clinton is impressive and experienced but she was perhaps the wrong candidate for this particular moment in our nation’s history. Not because she was a woman, but because she was an insider. Trump was not a product of the political or intellectual establishment. Although he benefitted from its corruptions, when it came to the dirty business of Washington elites he was able to claim cleanliness. Hillary was cast as an insider at a time when the country was pleading for anti establishment outsiders.
Is our humiliation in the hands of a man who is so clearly not a spiritual or political giant part of the lesson we need to register? Timing is everything and this nation needed the reassurance of a revolutionary mindset to upset the status quo. They were looking to preempt the slow and gradual with something radical. And apparently Trump was the only one unstable enough to destabilize the exsisting state of affairs.
The lesser of two evils?
A vote for Trump was a “civilized” reaction against an establishment that was not, in my opinion, so far gone that it could not have been put in reverse. But apparently most Americans just did not understand that this was not a contest between the lesser of two evils. It was not a difference of degrees that separated these two candidates, but a difference in kind. So the instruments of logic and achievement failed to conquer him. He appealed to the lowest impulses and what we needed was someone to appeal to our higher ones. High minded idealism, not status quo would have been the gatorade to our thirst.
It is not so much that trump is popular as it is that Hillary remains unpopular. Americans simply do not trust her. Even those who voted for her did it without the enthusiasm and moral fortitude necessary to overtake a man like Trump. There were too many depressed voters in this election. I suspect many people who voted for Trump just to protest the sick political system that has brought us to this juncture. They wanted to shake things up and they did.
Where do we go from here?
There is now a permanent alteration in our political chemistry but we are not a dictatorship or a fascist nation, not in spirit or reality. We are still Americans, and as such, we will have to honor the results of this election. Our time for equivocation is up. There may have been a way to reverse corruption painlessly through hard determined efforts and civic engagement, but that moment has passed.
Many are saying, we get what we deserve. But the truth is, we did not deserve this. We have never really been offered a real choice. What the American people deserved was an honest and fair campaign between two morally upstanding qualified candidates. What we got, was a choice between the status quo or a loose canon. What I find so bewildering is how easily disenchanted America can become with an admittedly troubled status quo. As bad as it may be for some, we were in a manageable predicament. America is and was great by most relative and objective standards.