[Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong about the result of the election. For my reaction and response, have a read of this blog]
When I worked at the Merivale Community Centre, we ran a few youth programmes. Whenever funders asked us for demographics, they wanted to focus on deficits, and there were plenty to find: youth unemployment; teen pregnancy; domestic violence; substance abuse; educational failure. Nothing particularly dissimilar to any other lower socio-economic community in Aotearoa New Zealand. But here’s the thing: all the statistics really proved was that the majority, the large majority of our young people were going to work out alright, with or without interventions. They would end up good, relatively functional members of society with jobs, families and a future.
In many ways, we can apply the same wisdom to the US election. Tonight, we will know who has gained the requisite electoral college votes to take the Presidency. It is likely to be Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee. If that is so, it will be an historic moment for the US: the first woman President. After this excessively long, distasteful and destructive campaign, I hope most communities in the US pat themselves on the back and have a big celebration. The moniker “lesser of two evils” be damned; after all the misogyny, the dog whistles, the criminal acts and the hate, the election of a woman who faced that down should bring joy to every after-party.
Much of the media here and in the US have clearly already prepped their ‘sigh of relief’ editorials and election coverage, with a little dash of ‘good riddance’ to celebrate the last any of use ever want to hear of Trump. Expect days of it: analysis from experts; laments about the campaigns; speculation about the future; celebrations of the first woman President, Hillary Rodham Clinton; a few self-congratulatory pieces for those in the Fourth Estate who picked it right.
But tomorrow’s result should not only give you a smile on 9 November; it should also give you hope for the election in 2020.
The election of the first woman President after the first African American President is evidence of a fundamental demographic shift in the voting blocs in the US. Yes, there are angry white men, but they are now only 19 percent of the US population. So whilst they are over-represented in the halls of power and in the media, on election day it is clear they cannot muster the numbers to win an election. Latinos, African Americans, women, LGBTQIA+ communities, other immigrants and millenials have forever changed the face of the USA. That face is brown, female, educated and committed to diversity and co-existence. Trump is a last gasp of a dying, hateful group. This diversity will only increase through to 2020, as will the challenges facing our world, and the Republicans will have nothing to offer that anyone wants.
It went a little bit under the radar, but this elections Democratic platform is the most progressive platform the party has ever had. It is a long document that I encourage you to read, but the highlights should warm the cockles of our hearts: a raise in the minimum wage; expanding housing, social security and healthcare; fixing the infrastructure (anyone who has been to the US knows what a problem this is); a commitment to human rights; fixing campaign financial systems to get money out of politics; a clean energy economy; honouring international agreements like the Paris Accord. The platform matters; it describes the starting policy positions for all Democrats, including the President. Bernie Sanders and his supporters, numbering in the millions, have been very clear they will hold Clinton accountable to this platform. The US could become a genuine leader in responding to urgent global problems if even some of this platform is realised, improving Clinton’s favourability by 2020.
In the last quarter, the US economy grew at its fastest rate in two years. Economic growth does lead to more jobs, more security of employment, and higher wages which will all be essential to addressing poverty and inequality. Clinton will not fundamentally change direction, and what is happening is steadily working. Her relationships with Wall Street are essential to this plan. It is ludicrous to paint all of Wall Street and all of the Fortune 500 companies as enemies of progress. Any modern CEO of a successful company that you hear speak understands the challenge of climate change, societal inequalities and geopolitical instability. Those are undesirable to them as they threaten the long term viability of their business. Many are questioning the structure and role of corporations internationally. They trust and respect Clinton; combined with the Democratic platform, we could see steps towards a new style of capitalism by 2020 that understands it needs to make a positive contribution to communities and the environment.
There is significant unrest in American society and particularly urban communities. However, most of the activism and protest is non-violent and asking for sensible change. Clinton has visited many of these protestors and activists. Pressure from them changed some of Clinton’s views in the election campaign; there is no reason it cannot continue to do so. Clinton is likely to continue to respond in a sensible and measured manner to the water quality issues in Flint and other place, to the North Dakota pipeline water protectors, to Black Lives Matter and to other groups. There are no quick fixes to any of these, but by 2020, it is likely this slow steady path forward will have improved race, indigenous and community relations in the US.
Which brings me to my final point. We shouldn’t be worried about 2020 because the extremism and hate generated by Trump have proven fundamentally unacceptable to most US citizens. They will not tolerate another gaffe prone, pussy grabbing, 3am tweeting rage monster. The Republicans are in disarray, poorly organised, exposed and awful, no matter the honeyed voice and tailored suit they put up. Trump moved political dialogue in the US, and worldwide, to a place it should never have gone. US voters have been horrified and will not allow it to go there again.
What is encouraging is that the 2020 version of Trump cannot surprise Clinton. Clinton will build the support, the capability, the insight to defeat another Trump. So today’s victory will be enduring for the Democratic Party. The White House will be theirs, perhaps even the Senate (and in time the the Congress). Their party has begun a process of internal reform, so the energy, concern and hope of all those millions who supported Bernie Sanders will be captured and utilised for the betterment of the USA. And when they need them the most, election day 2020, they will respond to the call. To all of our benefit.