This post is to get some things off my mind so I can move to a Thanksgiving mindset. Like I expect most of you reading this, I have been thinking constantly since the election about what it will mean. We are urged to just be patient and float along like the duck in the picture and wait and see and “give President-elect Trump a chance.” That admonition falls on the deaf ears of those of us who see policies and programs we care passionately about being threatened.
The expressions of racism, sexism and xenophobia are incredibly alarming. Many people whose political, policy, national and world views I respect are instead trying to peer beneath the surface and understand so we can shape our own views and prepare for our future actions and advocacy.
No matter whether you are elated or despondent over the election results, I think there are some aspects that we should all be concerned about. I don’t pretend for a moment that my list is particularly brilliant; it’s just some of what I have been thinking about and I hope it encourages you to add your own concerns. I apologize for the length of this but, even so, it is much shorter than what I wanted to write and leaves a lot out.
I have to start with the racism, bigotry and scare mongering based on religion and country of origin. This election has left a very divided country. In his acceptance speech President-elect Trump said he wants to be the president for everybody. If he truly wants that he needs to understand the effect his campaign has had. If he does, why is he continuing to attack the cast of “Hamilton” and demand an apology for their comments to the vice president-elect.
What were the offending comments? Simply that, “We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir.”
There was a very public healing opportunity here that was lost. If Trump is going to use Twitter, use it to speak out about the swastikas and other statements of public hate that have flourished of late.
The election was won and lost on several fronts, but two I think stand out and are somewhat related. These are the loss of jobs and globalization versus nationalism. First: jobs. I know enthusiastic Clinton supporters from states that Trump won who say, “yes, the loss of jobs, especially good paying jobs that used to exist is a major issue in my town.” President-elect Trump did a better job in some states of convincing people that only he would return their jobs. He said over and over that he will get American jobs back from foreign nations.
Clearly he was smart to focus on this. People forgot that a Republican-led Congress would not pass President Obama’s jobs bills. I’m leaving alone the paradox of why people thought that the candidate who had his own branded items manufactured overseas – and had his last big development project built with Chinese steel –is the champion to stop others from doing what he profited from. I expect that ultimately he will disappoint most of these supporters.
From all I have read, the loss of manufacturing jobs has come from improvements in technology as much as from factories moving to other countries. Technological improvements are not going back in the box. They will continue to put pressure on jobs. I read that self-driving cars may eventually put 3 million truck drivers out of work. Who is going to risk the money to restart coal mining, when it cannot compete against the huge, now easily accessible oil deposits being found in the Permian basin of Texas?
Even if a President Trump is allowed to reduce environmental regulations that lead U.S. manufacturing to be expensive, is anyone going to allow him to remove worker safety and working condition regulations that also add to cost? Even if OSHA and the EPA go away, we will still not be competitive on labor costs. Nowhere close. If we use robots and machines to work our factories, it may make U.S. manufacturing competitive but doesn’t help with the loss of good paying jobs. Fighting our higher costs with tariffs on foreign made goods seems to result in everything being more expensive and may indeed be a net loss to consumers.
All the fast food franchise owners that say if the minimum wage is increased they will replace workers with self-ordering kiosks are probably going to do just that when the technology gets cheap enough no matter what happens with the minimum wage. I don’t mean all this to say we shouldn’t focus on employment. I think we absolutely should and I have no idea what the answer is. I just don’t think the incoming administration has any idea either.
Second, this election seemed to be about globalization versus nationalism. The Obama administration and Hillary Clinton embrace globalization. Economies, communication and the movement of people, goods and information are so connected now that this is likely a movement that cannot be stopped. President-elect Trump seemed to say, “Wait a minute, lets tighten our borders, get extremely tough with immigration, stay out of foreign conflicts, only trade when we come out ahead and concentrate on our own cities and infrastructure repairs.”
This nationalistic view was clearly a compelling argument to many. Let’s circle our wagons, take care of our own and woe befall anyone who messes with us. Unpacking it all is way out of the scope of a Facebook rant. I just want to make one point. If we don’t want to be the world’s leader and policeman any more, we must be ready for who comes next. The world probably wants and needs a policeman and leader. If it is not us, then it will be China or Russia filling the void and will we be comfortable with that?
If you pay attention to the news, it’s already happening. The Chinese are positioning themselves to control vast amounts of ocean. Those of us who live in the Caribbean know that China has been expanding its influence in the region for years. Russia is imposing its will in Syria and the Ukraine. The Philippines (our former territory) are mad at us, asking our military presence there to leave and are cozying up to Russia and China. Ditto, Turkey, a NATO country. I am disturbed that the incoming administration will not rule out torture. I think that sends the complete wrong impression of us to the rest of the world.
There are other aspects of this election that I think both those elated and despondent should be worried about. One is the very likely influence of a foreign country, namely Russia, in our presidential election. Remember that even if your side won with this help, the next time you could be the loser. I hope the Trump administration and/or the Republican Congress makes investigating this a priority.
The outside role of the media this time also must be a concern. I am speaking about mainstream media and not the plague of fake news outlets which I hope are eliminated by next election. Whether you believe the media made Trump a viable candidate because he was so good for ratings, or if you believe he is a media genius and played the mainstream media, I don’t think there is any question that media played a role far beyond the reporting of news in transforming Mr. Trump from a fringe candidate to the presidency.
Early in the Republican primary process, all the major 24-hour news outlets would break away to show his rallies and provide extensive coverage of them. They were not doing the same for any other candidate. Many of the Republican contenders could only get TV time by reacting to something outrageous Trump said. In a recent speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School, CNN President Jeff Zucker admitted they gave Trump too much free airtime covering his campaign rallies. What happened to the requirement for equal time for all?
Math now matters. The difference between campaigning and governing is that 1 plus 1 equals 2 in governing. The fantasy of lower taxes combined with increased spending on defense and infrastructure, while not touching Medicare or Social Security, resulting in a reduced deficit sounds good while campaigning, but is unattainable in reality.
A guaranteed applause line was the promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Now they are talking about kicking the can down the road on a replacement policy. I conclude this means they finally figured out the replacement part is not so easy and may not be cheaper.
Final point, the conflicts of interest that are arising between President-elect Trump’s businesses and family and the presidency should alarm everyone. If it doesn’t, ask yourself how you would feel if Clinton had won and was doing the same things. The same people who wanted the Clintons to sever ties with their foundation during the campaign now seem fine with the flimsiest of barriers between Trump international businesses and the oval office.
This is on top of the refusal to release tax records or even a list of foreign banks that money is owed to. Trump’s advisors say he will follow the law, yet the news reports that his advisors and family members are looking for legal wrinkles and loopholes in the conflict of interest laws. Shouldn’t the standard be higher, maybe it should be what is ethically correct? Even if you love the incoming president, this does not pass the smell test.
OK, I’m done. There is a lot I didn’t address and please feel free to make comments. If you read this far, I appreciate it. My fervent wish is to look at this a year from now and realize I worried for no reason because all is fine and well. I won’t hold my breath.
Chris Finch is a 38 year resident of the Virgin Islands. He is the former Executive Director of Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands and former commissioner of the Department of Human Services.