Trump: America hitches a bumpy ride (but what else could it do?)

"...when your car breaks down on the side of the road and you are miles from home and night is quickly falling, you may jump into a vehicle that looks a bit rough in order to get where you want to go."

In recent years much has been broken in American political life. For decades both parties have had opportunities to fix some of these things – yet with little actual success and sustained focus. While the high school educated middle-class saw their wages drop from about 80% of those of college educated folks in the 1970’s to under 60% today, and while corporate America shipped jobs and money offshore (due to trade deals and poor tax policy), neither the Red or Blue parties did anything material. Every four years the Republicans would rail against taxes and spending, the Democrats would talk about healthcare and education…and little changed. All the while Americans became numb to lawless streets where dozens are shot in a single weekend while Senators and Mayors and the Overly Educated hangers-on (as we Brits would call them – or the “Intellectual Yet Idiots” as Taleb has said continued to fiddle. And in 2014 and 2015 while a sad and material refugee crises originating in Syria began to overwhelm our world and exacerbated left-right political tensions, politicians dug out their standard talking points and effectively shrugged. And despite all of this, even people who should know better (like the Clintons) continued to babble the tired old lines about America still being the greatest nation on earth. During the recent election it is now accepted that the elite and privileged classes failed to take these (and other) criticisms seriously enough since for them America did still feel great and still the greatest nation on earth. Indeed it may still be that for the top 20-30% who have nice homes in nice neighbourhoods and who have good jobs and healthcare. But for a material number, this was not their reality.

In recent years the system has worked well enough for the political and managerial classes to support their trance-like happiness and be satisfied to fiddle and play political theatre while not substantively doing anything much (but always making it a priority to appear to be doing something in order to get re-elected). This is in fact what America almost had yet again again if it had elected Hillary Clinton and continued to sing from the Consensus Songsheet. But the Trump and Bernie forces made that impossible this time.

Sanders and Trump were the political gunslingers ready and willing (and armed due to these failures) to shoot down the rotten and crumbling narrative of the continued greatness of American life. They each had unique criticisms of the state of affairs and body politic, but there were very similar threads weaved by both campaigns. Fast forward to today and Mr. Trump has been elected and this despite his many personal flaws and lack of a certain “polish” we have come to expect of our leaders. Should we be so surprised though ?

When your car breaks down on the side of the road and you are miles from home and night is falling quickly, you may find yourself taking a ride in a vehicle that looks a bit rough in order to get where you want to go. Beggars can’t be choosers, as they say. When you get in this vehicle you indeed noticed it was a rough and loud and aggressive, but clearly it working and has enough gasoline to get you closer to your destination. The car and driver may be a bit rough around the edges, but at least you are not left by the side of the road as night falls hoping for some more perfect car and driver to save you. So you jump in. Now, to continue the analogy, if your neighbours saw you in this rather rough vehicle they might say, “Wow, what is she doing in that?”.  But you know that this vehicle is going your way and you are better off in it than standing on the side of the road waiting. This, in a real sense, is exactly what America has chosen to do. Enough waiting by the side of the boulevard of broken dreams and time to hitch a ride at least to get me closer to where I feel I need to be. At least this car and driver are heading roughly where I want to go. If I get somewhat closer, but then have to jump out and walk the rest of the way – then so be it – but right now, getting into this vehicle is my best shot at possible help. That’s what America did in November, 2016. Is that really so hard to understand?

Most middle-class Americans (even more than the 48% or so who voted for Trump) have sympathies with the kinds of things he wants to do. But being that he is a rather crude vehicle, there will be bumps along the road. And he maybe an erratic driver at times and so Americans (and the rest of world) will need to hang on for the ride. The hope and prayer is that when it is over we will be closer to somewhere that is in fact true progress in key areas for America and the world. If Trump can get the American middle class back on the road in terms of believing in and investing in the American dream, then perhaps the wild ride will be worth it. Hold on.

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