We are angry. We were wrong. We were sure the obvious choice would prevail and the UK would whole-heartedly reject Brexit. We thought it stunningly obvious that we were about to see the first woman president sworn in. We didn’t need to do anything. We, the “Liberal Elite” had non-negotiable expectations. And then a few months later, as though by some grotesque accident, we watched the most powerful country in the world choose President-elect Donald Trump. A man we see as objectionable. Offensive. Racist. Sexist. Opportunistic. Underhanded. Unqualified.
So is America a country of racist, sexist, bigots? Do they not know what’s good for them? The easy answer is tempting. But the most dangerous thing we can do right now is declare this a big win for small minds. Look away. Make assumptions. Deepen the distance between “us” and “them”.
This election is an opportunity, and it’s just the beginning. This is a message from the people, and this time the world is listening. Our system is broken. Income inequality is rising. Our public services are groaning, bursting at the seams. Time and again, business interests are being put before the interests of citizens. This is the driving force behind Trump and Brexit, but it’s these same forces that have driven #NoDAPL and Occupy Wall Street. In our current capitalist system, social value is missing from the equation. Corporations engage in a race to the bottom to deliver their stated mandate – shareholder value. The rich get richer and in our political system, money equals power. Income inequality has been growing by unprecedented amounts since the 1970s. Politicians regularly put business interests before the interests of their citizens. The economy grows, but wages don’t. Trump rode a of wave of disenchanted, working class former Democrats to victory. People are being left behind. And they’re angry. And we should be too.
They want to take back control and make America great again. They want to do away with the politicians and the systems that have let them down, time and again. Let’s try to see past how that anger has manifested itself, or what mechanisms opportunistic power-seekers are using to translate that anger into votes. Let’s focus on what unites us all. We are all guilty of being complacent to a system that works to consolidate wealth in the hands of the few. The system is rigged. Let’s stop scapegoating. This isn’t the fault of illegal immigrants, nor is it the fault of Trump or some kind of uneducated, white supremacist “other”.
We’ve each played our part in the creation of this system. And we are all ready to change the balance of power. How? I don’t know. But let’s work together to find out. Let’s take a moment to evaluate our own biases and our own failures. Let’s step out of our echo chambers and onto common ground. We’ve got a lot of work to do and we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.
Frances MacLellan is a second year MPA concentrating in Public and Economic Policy. She is from Toronto, Canada and holds an MA in Social Anthropology and Development from The University of Edinburgh. Prior to the MPA she worked in fundraising and communication for Right To Play, an international NGO.