A disclosure: I am not American. Hence, my interests in American elections may be very alien to actual Americans (same as the interests of the candidates may be alien to me). I have a different background, my political views (as in: what should be a priority and what are good means) are clustered differently. I also have a strong hype allergy. Long story short: I have the freedom of not having to choose and the possibility of saying “I strongly dislike both candidates” without having an impact on the outcome. The reasons are manifold, but just to give you a hint: I dislike Trump for his far-right campaign and his attitudes. I also dislike Clinton for the “vote for me, you sexist pile of shit” campaign sentiments and her rather hawkish policy.
I went to sleep on Tuesday with the thought that I missed an excellent opportunity to bet on Clinton against some politically active bloggers. On Wednesday, I woke up and the first word on my phone’s display my mind has recognized was “immigration office”. I then thought that not betting was actually a wise move (and like many wise moves, this one was due to laziness). And then the Internet exploded with pain.
After observing the immediate reaction, I found out that my personal Internet was (and still is) somewhere between pain, hatred, sorrow, and some schadenfreude (some good jokes have arisen, too). I have rarely seen so many people being so upset. I have rarely seen so many people panicking. It will take a while for me to appreciate the extent of the tragedy.
Why did this happen? I am not a sociocultural thinker who has to find, to keep an image going, some non-contradicting story to fit the facts into the consumers’ brains, thus I have the freedom to say that I have very little idea how this really happened. The least inadequate explanation to me is that there was a critical mass of people to whom this election was not about progress vs. conservatism, but about Cthulhu vs. Satan and they went for the more spectacular evil; then, there was a mass of people who were sufficiently conservative to vote Republican independent of the candidate, and, there was a critical mass of political observers who critically underestimated the former two groups. These “shy Trumpkins”, as they are called, finally got their safe space in the voting cabin.
Do I have something nice to say for the Democrat followers? Maybe. Again, I am not American, hence, you should not necessarily trust me. But, for starters, let’s suppose I live in a country where a terribly intolerable guy is President and I don’t want to be overly dependent on him. The first thing to do is always to check your state as is. The nice thing in the American constitutional construction is that it gives a lot of liberties to the states, which means that your life is more defined by the state you live in than by the President. This is cool and probably you should keep it that way. This can be less cool if the President is a nice guy who wants to enforce mandatory health insurance and the states don’t want that to happen, but it’s always a tradeoff. After you know what you have, you might want to know what you want. You probably want a better President four years from now. For this, you might want to learn from people who managed to do this feat (and not from those who write books on how to start a revolution after utterly failing at the attempt). Such as… President Obama. He promised change, portrayed himself as a rational, down-to-earth yet independent candidate with a good reputation. Or President Trump (oh!). He also promised change, portrayed himself as an independent candidate… hey, there seems to be a pattern. Seemingly independent candidates have better chances. Furthermore, taking class-based concerns into account also seems to work. So, the job of you, a left-leaning person, is to find a leftish candidate with a clean image and a sensible program that actually concentrates around working-class concerns (because the working class is HUGE), organize around her, and this may actually work. The keyword is “organize”. If you don’t, you will be asking yourself which choice is the lesser evil again four years from now. This may be actually a good moment for that, as the Clinton surroundings are running around helplessly screaming and Bernie seems to keep his calm and be ready to do something different from naming scapegoats.
Concerning the fears of people who assume that after inauguration, FBI vans will start taking nonconforming people into gulags, I have very, very good news. In this rather improbable case (I bet 30 EUR on this not happening, however, my betting skills are not that good, as you could observe above), the federal government actually declares the social contract null and void. In my book, the relevant state and cooperation philosophy tells me that (a) your loyalty is not required anymore (b) since the social contract was built upon an implied threat of
violencemisbehavior, you are free to misbehave. The good news is that in America, it is far easier to defend your civil rights, as you also have access to the relevant tools (not all of them, but a sufficient amount to make people think twice). In other words, you can organize and grab a gun and this is not even illegal as long as you don’t do something dumb. Seems that Second Amendment is not that bad, right?
For the rest of the world this is actually a good moment to get rid of illusions. The illusion of DC being the beacon of progress is one of them: irrelevant of the outcome, with a vote this close you can clearly see that there is sufficient support for right-wing policies in the American society. You also see that there is tension in the society, up to calls for violence. Some politicians cope with tensions like these by out-sourcing conflicts, which does not bring more happiness in this world. A further illusion is that nationalism is dead. Wherever nations are, there is nationalism, and we have not arrived at the world government phase yet. There is no shame in it, actually, there is still This Tribe and That Tribe and as resources are finite, and, most important, power is finite, most people will have an incentive to have more power, either alone, or by proxy of their tribe. Nationalism can be run in a cooperative mode, when everyone wins. Defecting from cooperation, however, results in competition (which can be more or less violent); and there seems to be evidence that some global players have defected. In Europe, the southern countries that were hit by the debt crisis were forced to submit to the will of Germany and France, which was considered more violent than was agreed upon and did not really inspire cooperation. This is a reason why euroskeptics thrive, they feed on fears that you will be the next one to lose your job as it is not too big to fail. They also feed on (not necessarily irrelevant) fears that the means of production will not be owned anymore by anyone but their producers (hi, shareconomy!) and the current owners will be degraded to tenants. There are other fears, but these two seem prominent to me, and, most important, they are something that can and has to be coped with by left movements, or else the topics will be hijacked from the right (and, as history tells us, there is little hope that right-wing movements solve these problems more efficiently).
Another illusion to get rid of is that self-identifying as progressive does put you on the right side of History. History has a dark sense of humor, and considering yourself on the right side of it is, ultimately, not very productive. Because literally everyone can do this. Everyone can put the righteous face on. Some people started to explain this as a new phenomenon, “postfactual politics”, however, it’s not new. It is the same kind of politics that has always been there, memes instead of arguments. By overstretching the possibility of free interpretation of facts (and proclaiming that everyone is entitled to her own world view, her own perception, and her own conclusions), this has been made possible—and yes, it is not only a right-wing thing. In the end, if “white male science” is a thing, why shouldn’t “left science” be a thing?
The sad thing is that the world now is already sufficiently prone to conflicts. The two-block system has fallen, a one-block system has not arisen (and, as far as I can see, will not arise), and this fuels uncertainty and competition. A transforming world order usually means conflicts, either a big one, or many small ones. We may face a US-China conflict in the next decade, including use of military force (and hey, even the rather dovish—not that much, actually—Obama administration hinted at that possibility). There is something dimly burning in Europe. The Middle East is, softly speaking, a disaster. My personal prediction is that the world is tending to a multi-polar construction, with several economic and military alliances. Independent of this prediction, there may be sufficient incentive to drop the pretense that everything is going according to the plan and start working to resolve potential conflicts.
There is still some non-trivial take-away. Looking at the medial echo of the election, and the real-life PAIN that is generated right now, it seems that for a hellish lot of people, something between the Apocalypse and an alien invasion happened, something completely, utterly, unexpected and awful. However, this is real, and facts, especially facts on society, should be less surprising. As an acquaintance said (albeit in a different context), the rose-colored glasses cannot be removed painlessly anymore, as they have already grown into the skull. This is surprisingly good news. Confronting the reality seems to be painful for everyone, not only for the people who were rooting for Clinton. And it thus also may physically force people to do something. This means that a revolution can, in fact, be televised.