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Americans have voted and election results are mostly in. Time for political analysis? No, this election campaign and the preceding four years have long left the field of politics. This election has been mostly about human values, culture and citizenship, and less so about political views or government policies.
It is unlikely that we will get, or that we actually want any additional insights into what drives the man’s erratic behavior. Over the past four years we have seen and heard more than we can sanely digest. The man hopefully will be going into retirement, leaving us with a less toxic environment in which the finest flowers of quality journalism can shift back to reporting news and facts instead of spending their time debunking fake news and being pulled into a never-ending Outrage Express.
What remains are above 50% of the population of several U.S. states who have voted against a fact- and science based dialogue, against 1st world health insurance standards for millions of Americans, against a sustainable planet for the next generations.
Instead they have voted pro bullying and division, pro public witch hunts against the media and other perceived opponents, pro all caps deranged-message-diplomacy and pro constant whining about a rigged game whenever the rules don’t support one’s personal self interest.
Demagogy is not an invention of Trump. But he has raised it to an institutional level, establishing it as a fundamental element of what used to be a democratic system. Any used car dealer would have disapproved the way that this political marketing campaign was conducted, and any mature customer would have refused to even buy deeply discounted windscreen wipers from such a kind of car-dealership.
This is deeply worrisome. What about the causes? There have been many reasonable explanations. As often, there is not one single answer.
Some of it may have been fear driven.
For some, despite his long list failings in both business and in politics, Trump may still project power and success, the values of an individualistic society. This illustrates the lasting power of branding combined with an absence of taste that allows for an unembarrassed display of bling bling.
Then there is the explanation of polarizing ideologies between progressives and conservatives. This includes white male voters who not only face economic decline, but who also feel that their white male privilege is threatened by non-white-males who have received more success than they have.
In “The Audacity of Hope”, Barack Obama writes:
…the flash-point issues of the sixties were never fully resolved. The fury of the counterculture may have dissipated into consumerism, lifestyle choices, and musical preferences rather than political commitments, but the problems of race, war, poverty, and relations between the sexes did not go away. And maybe it just has to do with the sheer size of the Baby Boom generation, a demographic force that exerts the same gravitational pull in politics that it exerts on everything else, from the market for Viagra to the number of cup holders automakers put in their cars. Whatever the explanation, after Reagan the lines between Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, would be drawn in more sharply ideological terms.
Then there are the tensions of individual interests vs collective interest of any society. Those who have voted Trump for tax reasons fall into this category.
But do any of these reasons explain why more than 50% of voters of many US States gave up on basic human values? Wouldn’t it be cynical to claim that a large part of Americans have given up on a constructive dialogue and basic human values simply for selfish reasons? I don’t buy into such a cynical simplified view. There are more layers to the rationale. These layers will keep sociologists busy for the years to come.
As a European who went to the high school in California, where I had a truly wonderful time. I have always admired the US for its ability to proactively approach problems and find solutions, as well as for it’s optimism about life and faith in accountable choices of the individual. Let’s keep fingers crossed that a President Biden will bring that founder-spirit back to the US and that he addresses the fundamental underlying tensions, establishing at least a civic form of dialogue worthy of this country.
Onward. Let’s look forward to regaining a hopefully more positive, constructive and substance-based media dialogue for the months to come.
For a deeper dive into an understanding on Democrats vs Republicans I recommend Barack Obama’s Book “Audacity of Hope”.