There was a protest in downtown St Louis today that I chose not to go to. I respect and appreciate the people who went out to protest the president-elect that so many feel is unfit to be president. However, the people have spoken. Short of any election rigging, it appears that Donald Trump won the election.
Instead, I chose to go biking in the woods. It was a beautiful day, a gift of sunshine and 60 degrees in mid-November. There’s a relatively new trail in Wildwood called the Bluff View that has become a favorite. While I enjoyed the rugged ride, I found myself fixated on the election results. As I passed other riders and hikers, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of them voted for Trump. Several weeks ago, while still under the illusion that there was no way that Trump would win, it didn’t even occur to me that even these people deep in conservative West St. Louis County could bring themselves to vote for him.
How wrong I’ve been. White people, both the haves and have-nots, voted for Trump in strong numbers. Perhaps for reasons as varied as their backgrounds. People who are angry or desperate for help, or people who are just convinced that the GOP has the answers. Big government: bad. Big business: good.
What surprises me is that so many people are voting for a personality rather than the policies they stand for. I know there are a lot of one-issue voters out there, whether it be guns or abortion or immigration or any number of other passions or pet peeves. The media focused so much attention on the candidates themselves, and more specifically their character flaws, rather than what they stood for. Frankly, I don’t care a whole lot about how Donald Trump conducts his personal affairs. What really matters is how he will conduct our country’s affairs. I didn’t spend too much time looking at his policies during his campaign, because I couldn’t believe he’d ever get elected. So it really didn’t matter a whole lot.
Now it does. As Trump begins unveiling his plans for cabinet picks and key staff members, it’s clear that not only are his policies concerning, but he’s also electing to maintain the status quo within the establishment. After announcing his Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, it’s pretty clear that it’ll be business as usual in Washington, albeit with a consolidation of power between the executive and legislative branches of government. And soon enough, another tilt of the balance of the judicial branch.
He’s been very clear in his stance on healthcare and absolute intent on repealing the Affordable Care Act. It’s interesting to consider that after his conversation with President Obama, he’s at least amenable to maintaining a requirement that pre-existing conditions cannot be used to deny coverage, and that it might be harmless enough to let parents leave children on their policies until age 26. But for the 20 million people who have taken advantage of the ACA – well, you’re back on your own. He wants to replace Obamacare with Health Savings Accounts, which already exist (our family has been using them for years.) It’s interesting that, while the GOP typically prefers state control over federal control, this seem like a contradiction. And it may set the case to allow insurance agencies to set up businesses in the state that has the barest minimum of requirements, like South Dakota for credit cards and Delaware for incorporation.
He’s also been very clear about his position on immigration, with the much-hailed plan to make Mexico pay for a wall to stem the flow of immigrants. Never mind that our economic and agricultural policies have forced Mexican farmers out of business, fleeing in desperation to find work. What’s particularly disturbing is his intention to restrict the flow of refugees from Syria and other war-torn or economically distressed nations. How inconsistent is this with our long-held values, embossed on the Statue of Liberty?
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
No, instead we shake in the fear of terrorism, which is largely fueled by failed international policies that disregard basic human rights. There are no easy solutions to these problems, but some basic Christian values like “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” would be a good start.
What concerns me most about Trump is his rejection of climate science. To claim it’s a “Chinese hoax” is interesting, given the overwhelming global consensus about the problem. We can only wonder what will happen to the EPA and the Clean Power Plan under the leadership of Myron Ebell. Here is a man who has directed energy and environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is financed in part by the coal industry. Trump has announced his intention to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement and eliminate the Clean Power Plan. A total about-face of what his predecessor worked for, which garnered the respect of leaders worldwide.
Instead, we’re likely to see a drill baby drill attitude, along with a full-speed move toward approval of the Keystone pipeline. While there might have been some hope for the resistance of the Standing Rock movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline, now we can only hope that the courts will rule in their favor. It is entirely shameful that we decimated the native peoples of this continent during our westward expansion, and limited their free-roaming to reservations guaranteed by treaties. While we’ve repeatedly trampled their rights over time, here is just one more example of corporate profits usurping human rights.
It’s pretty clear that most Americans are addicted to cheap energy, including gas and electricity. We are content to waste up to 50% of the energy used in our homes, and drive gas-guzzlers while the price of gas is artificially low. We’re willing to gamble that the fracking that is responsible for this cheap oil and natural gas will have not environmental consequences. (Oklahomans must have to do some serious rationalizing to ignore the rise in earthquakes, since much of their economy is based on the fossil fuel industry.) While the majority of Americans support the development of renewable energy, including wind and solar, many conservatives reject the notion of any subsidy. Yet the subsidies received by the 100-year-old fossil fuel industry completely dwarf that received by an industry in its infancy. I don’t expect Trump to try and repeal the bi-partisan bill to extend the tax credits (because it has a number of concessions for conservatives as well.) However, the continued deregulation and promotion of fossil fuels – which will undoubtedly enable energy prices to remain low – will continue to make it challenging to economically justify investments in renewable energy.
Look – I’m not sure if we’ll ever find agreement on abortion and sensible gun laws. I shake my head at the fear that “Obama’s going to take your guns!” That threat, which never materialized, did more to empower the NRA and the gun industry by funneling an immense amount of money into the accumulation of weapons and ammunition. Their solution to arm everyone just goes against my belief that might doesn’t make right, and the importance of diplomacy over violence. Yet we’re the product of the Wild West, and it may just be in our blood.
Abortion, on the other hand, is a lightning rod for debate and passionate disagreement. I think it’s so sad that we have people in such desperate situations that they would terminate an unwanted pregnancy, while there are couples who are unable to have children equally desperate to adopt a newborn baby. In a land that prides itself on freedom, it just seems wrong for us to criminalize a very personal choice. What’s sad is that, where abortion is illegal it still happens, most often to the detriment of the mother. The continued cry for the overturn of Roe v Wade has been incessant, and has been a remarkably effective ploy to draw in conservative Christian voters who will often base their vote on this single issue. Never mind that the combined court appointments of the Reagan and Bush administrations have not seen fit to overturn this landmark case. Yet, Trump supporters maintain hope that the next appointee will be what it takes to make this happen.
The people that voted for Trump because they’re sick and tired of what’s going on in Washington and/or on Wall Street are likely to be extremely disappointed. While Bernie Sanders was branded a left-wing lunatic by many conservatives, he would have done more to address the inequities that many Trump voters so loudly protested against. I was energized by his plan to strengthen the middle class, and take on the powerful elite of both parties. Instead, the DNCC marginalized his movement, and worked to ensure Hillary Clinton’s ascent to the nomination, as it was “her turn.” Sanders ended up having a positive influence on the party platform, but the visceral indignation that people have felt toward Clinton was enough for people to vote against what she stood for because of concerns about her character. Never mind the fact that George W. Bush’s administration “lost” 22 million emails. That didn’t seem to matter anymore than Colin Powell’s use of a personal email account during his time as Secretary of State.
It’s very likely that Sanders would have defeated Trump, because there’s no dirt or skeletons in the closet to pin on him. He’s an honest, hard-working man who sincerely puts the common good ahead of individual interests. The self-described Democratic Socialist argued that many of the institutions that we hold so dear – our public schools and libraries, our parks, Social Security and Medicare, the minimum wage and a 40-hour week, unemployment insurance, child labor laws, collective bargaining, strong banking regulations and deposit insurance – are all “socialist” conventions that few of us would be willing to give up. Sanders would tirelessly champion reform both in Washington and Wall Street, benefiting Trump and Clinton voters alike.
No, for all it’s worth, we voted against one personality or the other, fueled largely by political beliefs that are usually not in our own best interests. We put a man in the White House that is one of the 1%, who will do little if nothing to lift up the common man. People argue that we should give him a chance, and I will. From what we’ve seen in the first few days of his reign, it doesn’t look good.