The nightmare is not over; it has just begun.
I went to bed last evening at 9:30 p.m. My stomach was churning at what I saw coming, not just a win but an overwhelming win. One did not have to be a seer to know the outcome of last night. I woke up at midnight hoping that I had not had a nightmare. The horror was worse than I had ever imagined.
A man who denies climate change has been elected president of the United States. A serial liar has been elected president of the United States. A man who admires Putin has been elected president of the United States. A man who promises to make America great again because of a false narrative of national decline has been elected president of the United States. A man who claims crime has increased when the evidence points to the opposite has been elected president of the United States. A man who would build America’s military much stronger but who will no longer use that military to protect allies (unless they pay) or offer humanitarian protection for civilians is about to become president of the United States. A man who spreads illusionary fears of Syrian refugees has been elected president of the United States. A billionaire who promised to lower the taxes of the rich will become president of the United States.
A man who denigrates Mexicans and promises to build a wall just when more Mexicans are moving back than seeking entry into the United States has been elected president of America. A man who boasts about groping women and forcing himself upon them has been elected president of the United States. A man who saw two black men counting money before his casinos went bankrupt and insisted that they be replaced by Jews with kippas has been elected president of the United States. A man who promises to initiate destructive trade wars and demolish the existing international economic order has been elected president of the United States. A man who insists that the American political system is broken and/or rigged has been elected president of the United States by that supposedly rigged system. A man who denigrates constitutional norms and promises to resurrect torture has been elected president of the United States. A man who attacks and derides the media and threatens to introduce libel laws to shut down criticism has been elected president of the United States. A man who insists, “I alone can fix it,” a man who says that he knows more about ISIS than the generals, a man of such megalomaniacal proportions has been elected president of the United States. A man who will now control the nomination process of judges to the Supreme Court and over 4,000 federal administrative appointments, a man who clearly demonstrated that he has taken over the Republican Party from the economic conservatives and the Tea Party right, a man who claims that American democratic institutions are corrupt has been elected president of the United States.
When Donald gave his acceptance speech at about 3:00 a.m. in the morning, he was gracious towards Hillary and congratulated her on a well-fought campaign. He promised to represent all Americans of whatever race, religion, background or belief. He promised to reach across the aisle and work with both Republicans and Democrats. He promised to rebuild America’s inner cities, its roads, its bridges and its infrastructure. He promised to work with and on behalf of all Americans, whether white or black, whether Latino or Muslim. And he promised to work on behalf of America’s interest but in cooperation and fairly with all other nations willing to get along with America. His tone stood is sharp contrast with the voice of his campaign, the voice of anger, the voice appealing to fear.
Reagan won as the smiling candidate of optimism combined with a hawkish foreign policy. Trump won as the candidate of anger combined with pushing America’s withdrawal from the world much further than even Barack Obama. Yet he was humble and conciliatory and thanked many others for their role in his victory. He insisted that the victory belonged to “us” and not to himself. Will the real Donald Trump stand up? But perhaps there is no real Donald Trump, only the man who needs mass admiration and adoration.
How does my nightmare compare with the dream Donald sold to the American public? It is not as if this would-be pharaoh dreamt of zombie cows eating healthy fat ones with no benefit to themselves. Instead, he dreamt of elites acquiring power and getting rich in the dot.com age and leaving the cattlemen, the farmers and the industrial workers to rust away themselves in the backwaters of America. It is not as if this would-be pharaoh dreamt of thin stalks of wheat devouring healthy ones. Instead, he dreamt of zombie intellectuals, wimps, nerds and members of the chattering class eating the downtrodden people of small towns and the underemployed workers in the rust belt and called for reversing the tables. Further, he had his own court Jew, his own Joseph with the coat-of-many-colours, his son-in-law, to help him interpret his nightmares.
This would-be pharaoh was told that the nightmares had revealed what had been the case, not what would be the case. Further, the nightmare he envisioned in the inner cities and in the rust belt and in rural America was prophetic for the neo-would-be pharaoh elected by pent up anger and resentment, this would-be pharaoh was about to bring about the catastrophe that, as a fabulist, he had invented about the past. The catastrophe he envisaged as having taken place was but an adumbration of a catastrophe about to be visited upon America. “You see. What I said has been unequivocally been proven.” And to correct the catastrophe, he will appoint czars to all his ministries and create a very powerful centralized government. He did so, not because he despised a central and powerful government as traditional Republicans do, but because he resented the overseers who previously ran the dysfunctional central government and who were unable to read the fears and hopes of the populace.
The dream of America, the dream of its founding fathers, has turned away from real hope towards an ersatz hope, turned away from vision towards glitz and advertisements for Trump, turned away from the staggering but irresistible march of a nation towards equality and a flawed but still beautiful dream and turned it into a nightmare fuelled by a whitelash of resentment against minorities and women seeking equal status with men. And women who do not enjoy such equality joined the whitelash. There was a spread of white non-college women voting for Trump over Hillary of 28 points. That added to the spread of 50 points of white non-college educated whites made it impossible for Hillary to bridge the gap without really stimulating minorities and college-educated women and men sufficiently and probably without winning back enough of the millennials who supported Sanders.
So I woke up this morning and saw that my nightmare did not belong to the darkness but was now part of the daylight. The catastrophe I hoped would be averted is upon us, not only Americans, but the whole world. Could Canada be a refuge for hapless dreamers and disillusioned thinkers, creative inventers and conscientious but cautious entrepreneurs, for students and scholars wanting to live lives in an environment that celebrated truth, that celebrated trust and faith, that celebrated a world of progress rather than the art of the deal?
The problem is that Canada with a few other countries like Chile, finds itself to be an oasis of order and good government. But how can Canada float above the tsunami that will inevitably wash across our borders?
Again, so what went wrong?
Muslims are fearful as are the children of African Americans and Latinos, but the biggest and first losers in the election yesterday were our modern futurologists, our pollsters, our prognosticators who declared Hillary had an over 80% chance of winning the presidency. In their estimates of probable and possible outcomes, they had declared that Donald Trump had a few but highly improbable routes to the presidency. They were proven dead wrong. His victory has been overwhelming in the Electoral College. The electoral map was upended in key states. More specifically, the blue wall in the rust belt was breached, not just in one place, but Republicans burst through in two and possibly three breeches.
Donald Trump is the oldest person ever elected to be president, the only president-elect with no experience in public office, the only president-elect whom over 60% of the American population thinks lacks the experience and qualifications to do the job and who does not even have the temperament to do the job. For a candidate who made deporting illegals a central plank in his platform, over 70% of Americans believe there ought to be a legal route to citizenship for these foreigners living in America. Yet he won Florida where that pro-legal route to citizenship was favoured by a majority. They rersent immigrants and illegals because they believe they receive benefits to which they themselves are not entitlDonald Trump made immigration a central and perhaps the central plank in his platform. But there is insufficient evidence to indicate that this is why many voters supported him.
Donald Trump made terrorism another central plank. Trump promised to immediately wipe out ISIS once he took office. But ISIS and terrorism, other than for the alt-right, hardly appeared on the electoral screen. But trade was his third central plank. And the issue of trade did count. And count overwhelmingly. Americans elected him as their president because he opposed the trade agreements and because a very large number of Americans agreed that those trade agreements were the source of the weakening of America.
Sanders, the populist on the left of the Democratic Party, also blamed the trade agreements. American workers had fewer and fewer well-paid manufacturing jobs available to them. Between outsourcing and robotics, they have been displaced. What will happen when they learn that Trump’s promises of restoring those jobs are a chimera? But Sanders was defeated in the primaries because of the way the rules worked and because he was not given a prominent voice at the beginning of the campaign. Would a Democratic populist have won against a Republican populist? Possibly. My youngest son is convinced that this would have been the case. Hillary lost because she could not energize minorities – Hispanics and African Americans – sufficiently to outweigh Trump’s appeal, not only to white working class Americans, but to white working class females. And Trump not only energized his own unique movement, but forced traditional Republicans into a corner where most were unable to do much but back him lest they themselves go down to defeat at the hands of his supporters.
Will Trump cancel the Iran nuclear deal? Other than the alt-right, it did not loom as a huge issue. But the foreign policy establishment in Washington is totally afraid of Trump. And Washington gave Clinton 92.8% of its votes. In the end, Donald not only proved that he could stage a coup and take over the Republican Party, but that with both the width and depth of his support, he could win the White House. As he promised, “the forgotten will not any longer be forgotten.” Most Americans wanted radical change and Hillary came across, not as a change agent, not as someone breaking through a glass ceiling, but as someone who had constructed a mirrored wall around herself so that she was easily branded as a shape shifter.
As one pundit put it, Hillary died the death of a thousand cuts.
Given the economic state of the world, the Obama-led rescue in 2008 will soon appear as a blip as America comes face-to-face with the credit debit crisis. The direction Donald wants to take the economy ignores the underlying rumbles of an imminent earthquake. And instead of the Republicans trying to put their party back together, it has been totally remolded by Donald Trump. It is the Democratic Party that walks away licking its wounds and trying to figure what went wrong and how to re-create itself.
In all this chaos, I will be going back to my nightmares retreating, for my daymares seem so much worse.
With the help of Alex Zisman