This week, the people of the United States of America chose Donald Trump as their 45th President Elect. Now that the election is over, as the dust settles on one of the world’s most keenly contested elections in recent history, there are lessons we can learn for ourselves and for our own brand of governance.
From the beginning, it looked like Hillary Clinton would be the winner. The media thought so and had the data to prove it; the pollsters would bet their very lives on it and the cultured liberals of the big cities thought their smug predictions on cultural assimilations and gender disparities were in place. The Hollywood’s posh kids preoccupied with fashionable issues thought people were on to their drift; the same way numbers are crunched by Kardashians on Instagram. They were wrong.
Donald Trump was the political novice, the plain speaking millionaire whose grasp of the political dialect and smart sounding words was not up to liberal expectations. They considered him a joker, not realizing that the joke was on them in the end. His own party did not want to promote him as their candidate; the politically hierarchical thinking of the Republicans themselves was aptly reflected when the Bush camp confirmed that they would be voting for Hillary, once their nemesis. But unknown to the pundits, that was one of the factors that held a wide appeal for the voters. As an outsider, Trump spent his own money on his campaign and did not have to return favours for corporate sponsors who would have oiled the Washington machinery. His was not a game Washington’s political henchmen were used to playing but the people lapped it up. All the way.
This election did not run on the gender ticket either, sorry as it seemed to those feminists ranting at the sexist comments The Donald is supposed to have made at sometime in his life. Men do make sexists comments – I don’t like it and many don’t but they do – that’s a fact of life. And the only dirt the Clinton camp could smear on The Donald did not stick the way they thought. You see, when it comes to choosing a leader for a country, you don’t do it based on a feminist agenda, or a race agenda, or any other agenda than deviates from burning real-life issues, issues that cut beyond the standard rhetoric of the liberals, finding their way right into the hearts of the masses. The millions of invisible Americans who were increasingly disillusioned with an administration that cared more about allowing six-year-olds to choose their gender and making sure the transsexuals could use female toilets just because a physically endowed man felt and thought like a woman, were ready for change. Big time.
Mrs. Clinton missed the larger picture, the issues that were critical for Americans sick of being showered with politically correct, increasingly irrelevant issues. The people had real-life topics to deal with, ones articulated well by Trump. They wanted the American economy to do well; they wanted jobs and the assurance that religious extremism would not do to the US what it was doing to Europe. All of it is real, everyday issues millions of families struggling to live in dignity and honour, were concerned about.
Dancing in the dark
The Hillary Clinton camp was preoccupied with their own sweet sound of victory from Day One. After all, the former Secretary of State had been the first female president in waiting long before Obama ruined her chances the first time around. She had figured it all out; they had been number crunchers for so long that they didn’t even know that sometimes in life, numbers just don’t add up right.
The fact that some of Hollywood’s greatest personalities – the ones who are delusional about their choices and imagine that people emulate them in the same way they endorse their products – stood for Hillary and vowed to leave the US if Trump was elected, didn’t help either. Having showbiz personalities around you does not necessarily translate into votes – even Sri Lanka’s former president could have told Hillary that. The people come to see showbiz personalities perform and for a free concert – as they did for the concerts Bruce Springsteen and Katy Perry put on for Hillary. In hindsight, Springsteen could not have picked a better song for the concert supporting Hillary – Dancing in the Dark. Hillary’s team, the Washington political pundits, the liberal media and the so-called experts were all dancing in the dark, smug in their own predictions and thinking.
So what can we learn from Trump? Go back to the issues that really matter – not the superficial ones. Nobody cares about bathroom rights and gender identification from an early age. Whether in the US or here at home in Sri Lanka, we care about issues that make our lives and the lives of our children better. Choices that empower us as citizens, allowing us to do things better today than yesterday. Those issues will continue to figure considerably in elections everywhere. Politicians need to be astute and maintain insights into the issues that matter to people; if they don’t, they must know that they will be voted out. This is the simple but significant issue that Hillary Clinton and her team in all their wisdom missed. Perhaps they had been too long in the hallowed hallways of DC that they forgot the issues that matter to people – this happens often enough to seasoned politicians who tend to be pre-occupied with large issues of global proportions that they forget the grass root issues people must live with everyday.
People do not always trust professional politicians – people know they lie and are used to doing things politically. In Hillary’s case, only her like-minded liberal elite understood the language she spoke. It went over the heads of ordinary voters in Middle America. The voters never wanted to vote along the lines of race, religion or gender. To them, there were greater issues of losing jobs to globalization and increasing involvement on foreign soil that could increase cost to everyday Americans in many ways.
Keep it simple – voters identify with simple yet powerful issues. They do not sync with professional pollsters, media and forecasters who rely on rhythms and methods that are supposed to work.
The greatest insight from the US election saga is that the expected outcomes, no matter how well you have figured it out, will not always work. That’s life. The sooner we learn to live with this reality, the better it is.
As my late father used to say, anything can happen between the cup and the lip.
a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at email@example.com)