Wednesday, 9 November 2016

An Election Rosary

Reminders for myself in light of the 2016 U.S. Election results:
  1. We've been here before.
    Brexit, and now this. 2016 seems to be one geopolitical blow after another. This is not unprecedented. In 2000 the Y2K non-event and the dot-com crash undermined the credibility and prestige of my I.T. career. George W. Bush was elected somewhat controversially in November. 10 months later: 9-11. 2000 me was bewildered and pessimistic, but 16 years later, I am older, wiser, wealthier, and arguably healthier. I have lost close ones and precious things in that time, but not only will I see this through, in the long run I will likely be better off. The world has enjoyed better times, and it has also endured worse. Still ...
  2. Old White Men want their world back.
    They weren't giving, just lending, and they didn't realise they had shared too much. A realisation that seems to have crystalised as they faced their antithesis. But...
  3. Let's not feel too bad for HRC.
    She has accomplished so much in public service. Trump would do well to have her as a role model. While being kind to them, we probably need to understand that...
  4. We set ourselves and America up.
    Americans did their best. They campaigned. They voted. But looking at the sorrow on my social media feed, even non-citizens world-wide with little stake in the outcome and little ability to do more than share links were heavily emotionally invested. Why? I think we'd come to associate the U.S. and its current president with courage, power, and temperance. Gradually, the world elevated a symbolic position within a symbol of world order over the qualities they symbolised. That doesn't mean that it's futile to participate in politics, but that it is dangerous to idolise a nation or its head of state and rely on it solely for leadership. What makes the sting worse is that:
  5. There seem to be few alternatives.
    When Brexit occurred, we thought we could - to paraphrase Churchill - count on the Yanks to do the right thing, eventually. Who will be America now that America cannot be? The U.K.? Europe? China? All appear too beset with domestic woes, which makes me entertain the idea that:
  6. America has its own frictions too.
    While the world expects a stable, uniform hegemon, we would balk if it projected from any other country, fearing an autocratic kleptocracy on one hand or a dehumanising caliphate on the other. That is because we comfortably, if imperfectly, assume understanding of the U.S.' internal diversity. We assume that America is exceptional in that it can provide stability through dynamic in-stability. That internal diversity - Disneyfied by the renderings of Hollywood's soft power - just expressed itself in real life, and looks quite active, evidenced by the fact that...
  7. Close to 50% of Americans wanted this.
    The majority is not overwhelming. That means the war continues while this battle is over. But it also means that the opposing side contains members close to home. Family, co-workers, neighbours. To sneer at those who voted for an outcome we do not like and deride them as ignorant or selfish is especially ungenerous and unbecoming given their likeness to us. This is difficult to comprehend, because:
  8. We like absolutes.
    We like narratives. That's why this election will be post-mortemed and analysed for some time, perhaps in vain. The truth is that a populace is complex, and events are not always causative in quantifiable, predictable ways. We now know that Americans individually and collectively are nuanced - chaotic, if you will - and hope that the branches of the U.S. Government are as well. I daresay that what hurts us most right now is not any direct threat at this early stage, but the knowledge that we will have to change our complacent assumptions of a predictable world. But...
  9. All growth is pain.
    Unfortunately, not all pain is growth and some shocking wastes will be perpetrated. As racist attacks spiked after Brexit, I can't imagine what acts towards women and non-whites the election result will be taken to give license to. That said, the presence of an African-American president did not end systemic police violence but merely highlighted it, and it is debatable whether people would be safer if racist and sexist sentiment were suppressed. Despite this fear of a triumphant, underestimated other...
  10. The fear, at least, is not silent.
    It is vocal, coming even from people who seldom expressed themselves. Sometimes it is mellowed by quips or humorous memes, but it is expression nonetheless. It is postulated that people connecting through fear led to the events of 2016. Concern also seems more unifying than humdrum, envy-inducing updates of holidays or family. Perhaps the outpouring of worry over the coming years will similarly connect us and lead to its own change, for which this year's events will be but a minor delay. And when that change comes... well, see point 1.


  1. Some positive thoughts.
    If you boil it down, there are fearful and hateful people everywhere. Though clearly the election has demonstrated for many that their expectations did not match reality. Agnosticism over the likely outcome is probably a safer position. I'm only aware of one person who confidently predicted this outcome, beginning some time ago:

    1. Michael Moore also called it closer to the date. But last year's winners (e.g. Nate Silver) will often be this year's losers. Unpredictability is systemic. Otherwise, we wouldn't hold contests. Forecasts are correct. It's just that our brains can't process the fact that 10-1 chances still occur.

      Agnosticism is prudent, but cold comfort to those in the crosshairs of the fearful and hateful.

      Now we get to see if the reality of rule by non-elites lives up to expectations.