Friday, November 18, 2016

The Election and Our Common Life

I am, I’m afraid, not ready to make nice.

Despite calls from such worthies as Barack Obama and ChuckMarohn, and the rather clear results in the Electoral College count, I find myself unreconciled to the results of the 2016 presidential election. President-elect Donald J. Trump ran a campaign that was relentlessly antithetical to the notion of a common life, and his election stands as a repudiation of the core of that concept. This appalling result is the more hard-to-take because it was unexpected, but even a previously-expected Trump victory would have been a calamity.

I began this blog 3 ½ years ago in an effort to corral all the material I was reading about the concept of place. The more I read and wrote, the more I was led to an understanding of place that is centered on people, and so the challenges places face in the 21st century are precisely those faced by people: economic opportunity on a broad scale hasn’t caught up to globalization and automation; environmental challenges (pollution, climate change, &c.) both threaten and are threatened by life as we know it; and governments everywhere are sinking into ever-deeper financial holes. All of this means, at a fundamental level, we must accommodate ourselves to diversity—we simply cannot afford financially or environmentally to live apart from all the people we don’t like—and then to celebrate the wealth of ideas and practices it brings. The better-off might declare themselves exempt from the realities everyone else faces, but sooner or later prosperity in the 21st century comes down to successful, inclusive, sustainable communities.

So for all the issues and scandals and corrosive rhetoric that made the 2016 election the most unpleasant in anyone’s memory, the core issue for me was inclusion. That meant, of course, looking past the very real weaknesses of Hillary Clinton: the scandals, her frequent personal ham-handedness and naked ambition, her lack of vision, and her inability even to resemble a change agent to an electorate screaming for change. Chicago blogger Pete Saunders notes:
Set aside Hillary Clinton's vast political and public policy experience; I agree, there's probably been no one more qualified to step into office and hold the reins from day one.  But that's precisely what the electorate was saying it did not want.  Hillary Clinton is about as establishment as establishment gets -- a political insider with close ties to Wall Street, and a hint of corruption thrown in.  She was never going to be a change agent, and in retrospect she shouldn't have been asked to try to be one.  That led to lower energy among traditional Democratic supporters, who couldn't match the intensity of Trump's followers.
That having been said, Clinton seems to me no more compromised personally or ethically than the average politician, albeit in somewhat different ways. She’s no saint, but neither is Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Mike Pence, Bernie Sanders or anyone else you can name. A lot of her enhanced bad reputation is thanks to WikiLeaks and the relentless efforts of congressional committees to discredit her. Compare the amount of scrutiny she’s received over her political career with Donald Trump, who didn’t even release his tax returns. Thanks to a multi-million dollar out-of-court settlement of fraud cases involving Trump University announced this week, his business dealings will remain mysterious.

I understand conservative policy preferences—I used to be one, and still have some sympathies in that direction. We don’t have to agree with everything they’re selling, but surely limited government, traditional values and a strong military are occasionally nice to have around. I understand people attached to the Republican Party. But I find it difficult to swallow that any of that can take precedence over Trump’s repeated middle finger to America. What needs to be clear to conservatives is that to the extent their ideas are connected with racism and other equally noxious forms of bigotry—and Trump’s campaign prominently featured them all, and his naming Steve Bannon as his chief strategist is far from being a hopeful sign—it discredits the whole set of ideas. It may not be immediately apparent, what with Republicans dominant in all branches of the national government and in most states, but in the longer term it is not a successful strategy, much less a moral one. (Says who? asks Trumpworld, noting that exit polls gave him 34% of the Latino vote and a majority among white educated women.)

Donald Trump on women: video video more videos 

Donald Trump on immigrants: video 

Donald Trump on judge in his fraud case: video   

Donald Trump on Muslims: video video video

Donald Trump on the Khans, gold star parents  video

Donald Trump on John McCain video

Donald Trump's collection of Twitter hates

Donald Trump on climate change

Donald Trump on torture

Add in the name-calling (Lying Ted, Crooked Hillary, Little Marco) and that's a lot to overlook. If only Overlooking were an Olympic event, right?

Trump supporters in St. Clairville, Ohio. Source:
Some people found Trump’s spewings refreshingly alternative to “political correctness,” whatever the hell that means. Other people don’t approve, but are able to overlook it so they can get tax cuts, or an end to Obamacare, or the right kind of Supreme Court (pun intended). Those seem like issues that can wait, that we can discuss after we’ve first decided to live together in community. If the price of stricter policies on abortion, or tax cuts on upper incomes, is sidling up to Trump and his friends, that may not be worth it. I sure hope it isn’t anyway.

So I can’t agree with Chuck Marohn, in his recent podcast “Elections 2016”, that both Clinton and Trump were “despicable.” Interestingly, Marohn then discusses a moving interview with the church historian Fr. John Dominic Crossan, motivated by Marohn's understanding (which I share) that America is headed for a rough patch, and that only by looking past our differences to higher ideals will we get through it. On that point, surely, Trump and Clinton are not equivalently despicable. It was Trump who repeatedly provoked division among Americans, who legitimized hateful rhetoric, and who used those to promote his own candidacy. It is not enough to say, hey, the election’s over and Trump won, time to move on. No other major party presidential candidate of my lifetime remotely resembles the campaign he just ran for opportunistic nastiness. Because of Trump, the fabric of America has been torn and will be a long time healing.

Kristen Jeffers, "Election Breakdown (and a Call for Self-Care)," Black Urbanist, 15 November 2016 
Leonard Pitts Jr, "Trump Presidency Means Mourning in America," Miami Herald, 11 November 2016
Pete Saunders, "'Whitelash'," The Corner Side Yard, 9 November 2016
Steven Shultis, "This is Also What Democracy Looks Like," Rational Urbanism, 13 November 2016


  1. Thanks for your thoughtful and well written perspective. I appreciate your words.

  2. Bruce I agree that it is difficult to accept the results of the election when the winner won by dividing and conquering. He is the antithesis of this country's history of principled leadership. As a Bernie Sanders supporter who felt the establishment Dems tipped the scales to marginalize a change movement that generated tremendous hope for a return to integrity I have to agree with Marohn that both chosen candidates were despicable. Hillary disqualified herself with her deceit and manipulation of the process via locking up the superdelegates and tying state parties to her campaign to lock out any challengers- while colluding with the mainstream media via the DNC to marginalize any other candidates. The details of pay to play through the Foundation also smack of the same opportunism and greed that Trump exhibits in linking official US international business with his own business interests. We've been played by both candidates and those of us tired of the false choice between two oligarchs revolted against this manupulation of our Democracy. I believe if the recount does not change the election results that we will indeed need to advocate for continued inclusion as our beliefs are tested by this neo-Nazi regime.


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