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The Election – Enough Said

November 10, 2016

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I never, absolutely ever, write about politics. But those of you who know me personally and professionally also know that I never shy away from talking about the tough issues, whether at work or at home: religion, politics, the economy, social justice, whatever. I believe strongly that the foundation of democracy is frank, open, honest dialogue between people who may disagree and hold divergent views and opinions, but who affirm their shared belief in the value of our society by trying to understand each other (even if they may never ultimately agree with each other on this or that issue).

In that spirit, I give you this post on my immediate reflections on the 2016 presidential election.

The Good

Blowing up the two party system

No shock that the two party system has been broken for a while, but the current election has shattered it—the fact that Sanders and Trump both succeeded as well as they did (to the astonishment of their respective party machines) indicates that something is very, very wrong with them both.

In my opinion, business as usual for both parties has led them to be out of touch with what their voters want and need, the problems they face, and the solutions that would make their lives better. Again, no shock (and has been the case for a decade or more), but this election cycle has made it impossible for them to continue with business as usual…at least I hope so. Here’s to the wish that maybe the 2020 election will be better in this regard.

Lowering the cost of getting elected

Based on available data on what both candidates spent on the election ($1.3B for Clinton, $750M for Trump, divided by 50M votes), Clinton spent $26 per voter versus Trump at $15 per voter. I love anything that lowers the cost of running for office—how can you have a democracy where “anyone can be president” if it costs exorbitant amounts of money to run? It would be great if one impact of the 2016 election was significant decrease in the cost of running a campaign.

New modes of reaching the electorate

Just as Obama used grassroots fundraising and big data analytics to engage with the electorate in new ways, Trump has done a phenomenal job innovating in how he connected with voters, particularly in his use of Twitter. Say all you want about how uncensored tweets at three A.M. make a candidate look bad, the fact is, voters loved it. Corporations such as Kohls, Southwest Airlines, and Dell that have let down their guard to be real and authentic on social media have reaped the rewards, and Trump’s willingness to be true to himself onTwitter (no matter what you thought of who he was) obviously resonated with lots of voters. I suspect we’ll see a greater use of this technique not only in the next presidential race, but in the midterms as well—and I applaud that.

The Bad

Low bar political discourse

In my 47 years on this earth, I don’t think political discourse in the US has ever been so low as it has been this election cycle. The lack of issues, facts, data, and analysis was, frankly, totally scandalous and beyond belief. On both sides, by both candidates. As I said in the intro, frank, open, and intelligent discourse across the aisle is one cornerstone of democracy, so to see us sink so low as a nation as we did is really, really disheartening. What’s interesting is that in my personal conversations as I travel around the country for work, I had countless wonderful conversations and heated debates about politics and the election with people from across the political spectrum—total 180 from what we saw in the public sphere. So I’m not sure why we can do this on an individual level but not as a society, but we absolutely ned to figure out a way to do so, and fast.

The media

The media coverage of the election has been—to put it politely—shameful. Other than maybe NPR (admittedly a left-leaning source), Fox, CNN, MSNBC—really every mainstream media outlet—has resorted to salacious, fear mongering, lowest bar reporting. As an example, the ads for the second and third presidential debates looked more like WWE or UFC promos than serious political advertisements. Their willingness to latch on to the worst of what both candidates said and did rather than substantial, newsworthy, valuable content was shocking. And ultimately this did so much harm to the mechanisms of democracy that I don’t even know where to start.

The Ugly

Trump’s message

I’d say the thing that makes me the most sad about the election, and the thing that has had me weepy and emotional all day today, is the fact that we elected Trump on the basis of some of the most hateful, ugly, xenophobic, racist, sexist speech we’ve ever seen from a candidate, presidential or otherwise. Fifty million plus voters said yes to Trump and, tacitly or explicitly, said they were okay with sexual assault, characterizing Mexican immigrants as rapists, calling John McCain a coward, treating women as objects of either derision or sexual aggression, and playing loose and fast with the facts and bald faced lying. I’m from Chicago, so I get it: politics is a massively dirty business and politicians are not angels—I don’t ask that they be perfect, just that they be effective. I don’t want a “clean” elected official who can’t get stuff done, but I also don’t want a “dirty” one who can’t either. I just want one who can in fact get stuff done. But the low bar, hateful level of discourse on Trump’s side of this election, and the fact that it worked so well, makes me despair for the future of our nation and for the world that I’m leaving to my four kids.

Voter turnout

Was anyone else shocked at how few eligible voters turned out this year? 220M US citizens were eligible to vote, yet roughly 103M voted—less than 50%. In some areas, the numbers I saw were, to say the least, extremely disheartening. And I can’t help but think, how could we engage these 100M non-voters to make sure they care enough to participate in 2018 and 2020? Would we get a better result for our society? Let’s address the problem and find out together.

International perspective

To say that the world has been looking on the 2016 presidential election with horror is an understatement. Forget your alliances, Hillary if elected would have had a leg up on our reputation internationally. Well respected secretary of state, involved in world politics since 1992, she would have enjoyed a head start at least.

Trump? I shudder to think of what the world thinks of him. Based on my cursory scan of international headlines, it’s not good. So he has a long row to hoe to gain the respect of his international partners. Despite being a left leaning independent, I believe he’ll get there, but what happens in the meantime?

My Hope

With a republican president, senate and congress, Trump has two years of runway to get stuff done. I hope that he makes the most of it. I hope that Trump lands just right of center. Not building a wall, but meaningful immigration reform. Not banning muslims and dropping the the atom bomb on ISIS, but adopting a sane and actionable approach to helping stabilize the middle east. Not adopting an isolationist policy, but finding a way to participate in the global economy that benefits all US citizens.

I want my ten year old daughter, who, because we live in a hyper liberal town, associates Trump with the ultimate evil, to understand that we support whoever wins the election, hope for their success, and do everything we can in our sphere of influence to make that happen. Just because you don’t agree with a candidate, doesn’t mean you should demonize them or reduce them to a caricature. Their point of view always has merits, and there’s value in seeking to understand the value of those merits and achieving a meeting of the minds…even if you ultimately agree to disagree.

So I try to be hopeful and forward looking despite reservations and sadness, and look forward to the next two years, whatever they may bring.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 10, 2016 10:44 pm

    Great post Joe… I agree with you 100%!

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