This was the week when the United States was to have joined countries like India, Pakistan, U.K. and Germany by electing its first woman leader. Millions were heartbroken and horrified when the electorate voted otherwise. Millions more were euphoric. And since Tuesday night, the conversation in this country has been about the chasm between the two Americas. About how the elitist and out-of-touch Democrats never saw this coming.
I am officially one of those out-of-touch liberals. It shocked me that I never saw it coming, particularly because I work in manufacturing — the place where liberals are supposed to go to understand the White Working Class. I have worked with the WWC, and I have made friends amongst them. Not just on the east coast, but also in a very white Christian community in rural Michigan (that invariably votes red). I am friends with people who do not have college degrees, who fall solidly in middle-income America, who work in factories, who have conservative values, who identify as Republicans.
These people are not ignorant and not bigots.
The vast majority of people (mostly men, since this is the world of manufacturing) that I have worked with have respected me just as much as I have respected them. They have not shown me resentment for being one of those phony professionals that order them around. And honestly, why would I order them around? I have been privileged to work with people who, college degree or not, are professionals in their own right. They know what they are doing, and they do a great job. Sometimes I learn from them; sometimes they learn from me. You need complementary skills for an effective work place.
Of course I have faced sexism and racism and bigotry in the work place. But the instances have been few and far between.
The most blatant example was a conversation with a co-worker over a friendly after-work glass of wine. He said, “You will go far in [Fortune 500 company we both work for]”. I was flattered. “Why do you say that?”, I asked. Had he noticed my problem-solving abilities? My rapport with my team? My technical expertise? He responded nonchalantly, “Oh, because you are a woman, and a person of color.” I was too shocked to say anything.
This man was a college-educated professional from Minneapolis, a liberal city that voted overwhelming for Hillary Clinton.
So yes, bigotry is alive and well among the “elites” as well.
I am a connector by nature. I have always wanted to understand the other point of view, and to this end, I had lots of conversations with my Republican friends in the past year. (I also had these discussions prior to the last few elections). It was interesting hearing the other side of the story. I have to confess that most of these friends did not support Donald Trump in the primaries. They found his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-women comments quite as distasteful as I did. But they were willing to give him a pass that I could not have given him. They cared about something else that made them vote Republican in the end.
Trump will not keep his election promises. Already, he has announced that he will “retain portions of Obamacare”, and that “parts of the wall with Mexico will be a fence”. He has declared that he will “focus on deporting the illegal immigrants who have committed crimes” — exactly the focus of the Obama administration. I imagine that he will end up saying “states rights” on most social issues, instead of passing conservative national laws. But I think his supporters will be okay with all of that. I think they took Trump seriously, but not literally, recognizing most of what what he said as campaign rhetoric. (Liberals, on the other hand, took Trump literally, but not seriously.)
I understand being okay with that.
After all, Obama didn’t fulfill all of the liberal agenda.
He did not close Guantanamo Bay. He increased the killing of civilians by drone attacks. He did not (or could not) invest in big infrastructure projects. He deported more illegal immigrants than any previous administration. He did not give us single-payer health care. Nonetheless, we love him. He is ending his presidency with his popularity at an all-time high.
My problem with Trump is that I don’t believe he will keep his other election promises — the ones that matter to the people that voted for him. Those people care about getting rid of special interests in Washington: Trump’s transition team is full of lobbyists. They care about taxation of the middle class: Trump has finally unveiled a detailed tax policy, and (to my complete lack of surprise) most of the benefits go to the top 1 percent. They care about bringing good-paying manufacturing jobs back to their towns, and Trump will not be able to keep that promise either. I am so sorry, but those days are gone. The factories that make pencils, and shoes, and steel, cannot come back. If we try to use policy to bring those good-paying jobs back from other countries, they will just be killed by automation. I don’t want this to be true.
I want everyone, college-educated or not, to have secure jobs that will enable them to give their families a comfortable life.
But the world has moved on, I’m afraid, and those secure jobs will have to be found somewhere other than manufacturing.
An agenda item I am actually hopeful about is infrastructure spending. With a Republican Senate and Congress, Trump should be able to get infrastructure funded if he has a will to do so. America desperately needs an overhaul of its once-proud bridges, roads, railways, and airports. Even if much of the money ended up going to Trump’s rich businessmen friends, this spending would also create a flood of middle-income blue-collar jobs.
I’m also hopeful that some sense of proportion will prevent Trump from starting a nuclear war when someone insults him. (Or that leaders around the world will recognize his uber-sensitivity, and refrain from saying or doing anything that could be construed as an insult. Or, perhaps, some potential Miss Universe will succeed in distracting him. Or that the God of the Trump-voting populace will make Trump contain his retaliation to Twitter.)
I seem to be in the liberal minority in expressing this (however minuscule) hope. Anti-Trump protests continue to rage across the country. I respect people exercising their First Amendment rights. Peacefully please!
Remember — when they go low, we go high.
However, the pragmatist in me does not see what purpose these protests will serve. There is no way that we are changing the result of this election — that’s a done deal. The protests are not telling any new story; everyone already knows what millions of people think — after all, Hillary won the popular vote. And if anyone thinks that any of this will impact Trump’s actions in the slightest — well, they should remember that this is a man who ignores even his own advisors. The only possible effect I foresee is the Democrats pursuing the same policy of obstructionism that has hurt this country for the last eight years. This, in my opinion, would be a “disaster”. Yes, Trump may be a sexually assaulting pig, but let’s not punish America for his faults. Let’s judge each piece of legislation on its own merits. Like the world of factory jobs, we too have to move on.
There’s so much more that I want to say, but the rest will have to wait. In the upcoming weeks, I plan to write about why this election was actually a referendum on women’s rights, to tell you what came up as I discussed the election results with Republican friends, and to share the few post-election articles (out of the hundreds I’ve read) that have seemed significant to me.