It’s not complicated to understand what happened with the election, nor is the best path forward difficult to understand. It’s not easy to execute though.
The “haves” can’t ignore the “feeling left behinds.”
Instead of feeling stunned or reacting with anger, we need to listen, understand and love better those who feel trapped or even downwardly mobile.
One look at the county-by-county map of the presidential election results makes obvious that the 21st century haves — cities, coasts, university towns — voted for Hillary.
Study closely Hillary’s campaign and fundraising techniques and you will see that she largely ignored vast swathes of our country. Doesn’t help that those who feel like “forgotten Americans” watched her raise more than $500,000,000 — one-half billion dollars — for her campaign while she ignored them too.
Affluent, well-educated citizens can’t continue to succeed indefinitely at the expense of the rest of the country. Girls, women and minorities can’t succeed at the expense of boys, men and whites. That is the primary message of this election.
America grew strong because hard-working, primarily well-intentioned individuals and families spread out and found opportunity across America. Yes, they were white and, yes, they built their success on the backs of slaves, minorities and women without votes. So while we’re grateful that the wrongs embedded in that initial success now are being addressed and rectified — like slavery and bigotry — we also can’t ignore that the descendants of those founding families in middle America face an increasingly bleak future.
Everyone needs to be able to see a hopeful future. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have a hopeful future in place need to listen to, learn from and organize around doing more to help those who don’t.
We need to do more to strengthen home towns and local communities too — rather than continue the practices that have decimated them. That will make America even greater.
Also, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the pollsters and media elite got it wrong. As communication channels proliferate, media companies compete ever harder for ever-shrinking advertising dollars that target affluent audiences — because they are the ones with money to spend on advertisers’ products. Therefore, it’s more profitable for these media companies to study and report on the affluent and elite. It takes unprofitable time and resources for them to really survey and listen to middle America.
As a result of the stunning election results, I’m having unexpected, intense conversations with my children, extended family members and others. I’m learning even more about their frustrations with “the system.”
My daughters feel cheated that the woman lost and a misogynist won. Surprisingly, my sons somehow correlate this election with their empathy with Chris McCandless, the “Into The Wild” young man whose disaffection caused him to abandon his loving family and identity after graduating from college, and eventually died of starvation in the Alaskan wilderness.
Something is wrong when our daughters feel more empowered by their society than our sons.
My brother reminds me that he ardently needs one of those manufacturing jobs that Trump promises to return to the United States. He and I had to shepherd our family business — community grocery stores — through bankruptcy and dissolution. He’s been bumped from one downsized industry to another ever since then, earning less with every job. There is nothing racist, prejudiced or mean-spirited about him. He just needs the system to work for him too.
Listening, empathizing and responding with love is the best I can do for now — and ask everyone else to do the same.
I’m also grateful for the communications that have come from our Make It Better community, like this heart-rending and brave autobiographical essay by one reader.
Hopefully everyone in media and other positions of power — parents, politicians, affluent and educated others — will start listening better and responding with love. Working harder to find human commonalities with those who don’t share our demographics and political or philosophical views will help too.
- The Myth of Female Solidarity (The New York Times)
- How a Black Woman Ventured into the Heart of Trumplandia (Fortune)
- A new theory for why Trump voters are so angry — that actually makes sense (The Washington Post)