Regarding the 2016 presidential election, writer Clara Jeffery sums the results best:
…a small electoral majority chose a candidate who openly embraced bigotry, who slurred war heroes and mocked the disabled, who bragged of sexual assault, who said he’d roll back the protections of a free press, who was cheered by white supremacists, who said he’d upend our allegiance and the world’s long overdue climate deal, and who is ignorant and cavalier about the basics of safeguarding a nuclear arsenal. (“Don’t Mourn. Fight.” By Clara Jeffery, Mother Jones, Jan/Feb, 2017, pg. 7.)
Garrison Keillor, by way of contrast, describes the event as a cosmic joke. (Click) Meanwhile teachers and scholars struggle to understand what happened. Rick Perlstein writes of his encounter with one Trump fan during his weekend seminar for honors students in Oklahoma. (“Peter’s Choice,” by Rick Perlstein, Mother Jones, Jan/Feb 2017 pgs. 9-12) Peter, a young conservative, explains his support for the president-elect by asking Perlstein to imagine:
…being one of those rednecks under the poverty line, living in a camper trailer on your grandpa’s land, eating about one full meal a day, yet being accused by Black Lives Matter that you are benefiting from white privilege and your life is somehow much better than theirs. (Ibid pg. 12)
I don’t know what Perlstein replied but had I been his teacher I’d have answered that many Americans can imagine the life Peter describes. So can people in large swathes of Africa and the Middle East. They, of course, would see his life differently. They would see Peter as person with a roof over his head, the security of one meal a day and a grandfather who owns property. In their eyes, he is one of the world’s elites. Peter doesn’t know this because he lives in a remote, rural community of 3,000 residents, a few of them native Americans and 34 of them black. He doesn’t know and probably doesn’t care that for all the angry words said and written about globalization, it has brought a small measure of hope in places where no hope existed. The tradeoff in the world’s economic interdependence is that America, the world’s richest nation, has been asked to share a piece of the global pie.
What Peter also doesn’t know is that free trade isn’t the only disruptor in the 21st Century. Advances in technology are bringing rapid change and faster than it occurred in the industrial revolution. What’s more, that change demands new job skills. Those without them are being left behind and are angry. Needing someone to blame, they blame the government. But here’s the irony. Their disaffection has made it difficult for them to receive benefits to which they are entitled. The US Department of Health and Human Services, for example, reports 33,000 Oklahomans could be helped by the Affordable Care Act, yet they refuse to sign up for the exchanges. (Click)
What Peter doesn’t know is that poor people everywhere lead miserable lives That fact should unite them. But rednecks in the last election chose to follow a billionaire who poses as a populist even as he fills his cabinet with fellow billionaires. Maybe that’s all right with Peter and his friends. Maybe they imagine one day, given a fair shake, they could be billionaires, too. That is the illusions the haves create to keep the have nots in their place and to prevent them from uniting in a common cause. Hatred and suspicion are the tools a tyrant uses to divide the opposition. Welcome, Peter, to Never Never Land.