It would seem that everyone wants a simple answer as to how somebody like Donald Trump could be elected president of the United States.
How does a man who made offensive comments about Mexicans, women, Muslims and generally all of the candidates that stood between him and the presidency win the free world’s most powerful elected office?
Truth be known, there is no single answer to that question. There are multiple, just as there have been with every other election for president.
In 2008 and 2012, there was a large segment of the population asking the same question, perhaps with different reasons, when Barack Obama was elected. How does somebody like Obama get elected — twice?
It’s never as simple as the talking heads of the two parties might have you believe. Even though many of us affiliate with either the Republican or Democratic parties, it’s highly unlikely that most Americans are going to agree with everything a particular party is promoting in that moment of history. And there is nothing wrong with that.
To think that either party could possibly satisfy and identify perfectly with all their voters is impossible. There will be and have been positions by both parties that have clearly left their followers uncomfortable and disappointed. That’s one of the reasons it’s dangerous, as a voter, to think that you must agree with and support every decision that your party puts forward. There is no reason to be a lemming because there is an endless supply of cliffs out there. You can and should decide for yourself what issues deserve your support and which ones don’t.
Trump’s ascension to the presidency seems rooted in a variety of fertile areas: discontent with the establishment, disappointment with the Affordable Care Act, gridlock on key issues like immigration, combating terrorism and how to prevent the decay of the middle class.
The last may be as important as any when it comes to why “fly over” country became such an important piece of the puzzle in 2016. There has been growing discontent with Washington, D.C. for more than a decade, as the middle class finds itself working more hours for less pay and with a fading belief that the economic outlook for the next generation is going to be any better.
To suggest that there is work to be done may be the understatement of the century. And it has left many people frustrated and disappointed.
For many that has morphed to anger and angst. And by virtue of the timing of technology, the tools that many have used to communicate that gnashing of teeth has been social media, email and text messaging. Never before in the history of the world has more vicious, vindictive, cutting, demeaning, insulting and non-productive comments and thoughts been shared with others the way they have been since the onset of this form of communication.
Still in its infancy, it is to be expected that it will take some time before we figure out how to use it productively. Clearly we are still stumbling to find our way. The artificial invisibility of those comments may feel powerful at the time, but in truth, if you can’t utter statements to somebody’s face, you should not be doing it electronically.
Perhaps more importantly, and how it relates to our elections, is how we as individuals set examples to those around us. Each of us is a leader, mentor or figurehead to somebody. It may be to just one other person or it may be to hundreds of people. But how we conduct ourselves matters. What we say, how we act and where we place our energies may well determine how that other person who looks to us as an example will in turn react and behave. One productive comment or suggestion can lead to many more and that is how creativity and solutions are born.
If there is one lesson to be learned from the election of 2016 it’s that an election should not divide a nation, a state, a community or a family. There are winners and losers in every election. But at the conclusion, we are one.
Our political leaders are not perfect and they will make mistakes. But it is up to each of us to not expect somebody else to solve problems that affect us all.
We are a united group of states that can only be successful when each one of us sets a productive example through our actions and words. That in turn can inspire our children, family members, neighbors and maybe even our politicians to strengthen our world with compassion, innovation and understanding, not tear it down with anger, baseless criticism and empty promises.
Be the voice that leads. You are needed now more than ever before.
Contact Keith Anderson, ECM Publishers director of news, at firstname.lastname@example.org.