[124 million] said Trump lacked “the temperament to serve effectively as president” and yet, 20% of the 63% supported him. That’s approximately 13 million of his supporters voting against their own rational reasoning. That’s troubling. That’s desperation.
On November 9, 1799, 217 years ago, Napoleon led a coup and set himself up as the First Consul of France. France survived. And America will too.
(5 minute read)
“Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” – Spanish proverb
First, everyone should take a deep breath, exhale slowly and look for the truths behind what we all witnessed, experiencing unprecedented emotions of either joy or sorrow, not to mention disbelief. As Kahlil Gibran says in his poem Joy and Sorrow, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
November 8th exposed the joy (attention, hope, yearning) and the sorrow (pain, angst, anger) in 120 million American hearts, and left a huge question mark in most minds, which will only be determined in time. During these most troubled times is America in for more sorrow or new joy?
Everyone is shocked, stuck in limbo, somewhere between outright fear and desperate hope. But we should not be surprised. Amid the ad nauseam of the post-election pundits there is a common theme: We should have seen this coming. They’re right. And even with just 48 hours of hindsight, much of what happened should have been a blinding glimpse of the obvious. Psychology 101 teaches us that anger trumps reason, always (pun fully intended).
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. – Abraham Lincoln
Politicians have applied and hedged Lincoln’s historic principle throughout the 20th century and Trump mastered it. He knew, or sensed, that all he had to do was fool some of the people some of the time (24% of the people for 12 months). And he did it. He fooled 1-in-4 Americans, which was enough to win.
This is not a majority
Many commentators have referred to Hillary getting the majority of votes (Clinton: 60,026,197 votes; Trump: 59,766,418), but they fail to point out that her majority is only in reference to Trump’s numbers and, in fact, each of them only received 1/4 of all available votes. This is not a majority. Or a mandate. It is the myth of democracy.
The President of the United States has been elected by a minority for more than a century. The voter turnout has not been more than 65% since 1904 when 65.2% turned out and Teddy Roosevelt got 56% to vote for him (about 1/3 overall). FYI: In Lincoln’s time it was 81% (1860); for FDR 62.5% (1940); and Lyndon Johnson had 61.9% turnout in 1964.
According to Pew Research, America’s abysmal turnout rate is one of the lowest in the developed world. For comparison: Belgium (where voting is mandatory), had a turnout rate of 89.4 percent in its last election. Other high turnouts are: Australia 81% (mandatory); Italy 90%; Denmark 87%. Canada had 68.5 % in 2015, 61% in 2011 but has not been above 70% since 1993. The United Kingdom had 66.1% in 2015 but hasn’t been above 70% since 1997.
America’s turnout is not only shameful, it undermines the basic principle that in a democracy the majority rules. The silver lining, more a thin thread of hope, is that there’s an upside potential to get 80-85% of citizens to vote. But it will require courage, dedication and a grassroots uprising.
Community matters as never before
Port Hope, Ontario Canada
If a nation does not want to invoke mandatory voting (why not?) then the only hope for significantly increasing interest and participation of citizens is at the grassroots. Unfortunately, we have a problem at the local level too.
Voter participation in most small communities is lower than national, state, and provincial turnout. In Canada, municipal voter turnout is consistently below 50%. In the US, it’s even worse, ranging between 20-50%, and declining.
America and Canada’s problem is not a national problem, it’s a community problem. When a country is divided and fractured, you aren’t going to fix it with big, national band-aids nor with an ignorant, narcissistic, irresponsible person who thinks leading and bullying are the same thing. Of course, fiscal and monetary policy, infrastructure building, healthcare, immigration and regulations are crucial but the real fix has to happen in each and every community, in each and every neighborhood.
Across America there are over 19,000 small towns with 85% having a population under 10,000 (US census, 2014). In Canada, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities represents more than 2,000 municipalities, of which a large portion are small towns. It is here, at the in-touch-with-real-lives level, where true change must begin. And it requires the antithesis of a Donald Trump. However, the alternative cannot be what is commonplace in most municipalities, average, best-available people. It must be the best people. True leaders.
“It takes a village to raise a child.” – African proverb
Every small town is the foster child of a state or province and nothing more than an abandoned child to national governments. Nobody pays much attention to them. And yet, in the ongoing experiment called democracy, if it doesn’t flourish in small communities where “everybody knows your name” and where neighbors elect neighbors, and where the whole village needs to take responsibility for raising values, standards and well being, then our communities become the seeds of a declining society, and eventually a failed state.
After 240 years it’s quite possible the American empire is in decline. Canada, coming up on 150 years, might have a little more time to implement a turnaround.
All great leadership is personal
The problem is systemic; the solution personal.
People in leadership need to understand and accept that every village, town, city and nation depends on their personal dedication to light the fire of indomitable human spirit in every citizen. It is this collective power that is needed, born from, and anchored in, inclusion, mutual purpose and a shared belief in human compassion, respect and dignity.
If the roots are not nourished the tree does not flourish.
Until leaders understand this, they cannot lead – perhaps manipulate and bully for a short period but not lead. And they cannot connect to their neighbors and fellow citizens and the real-life frustration, anguish, pain, exclusion and desperation felt by so many. It is here, at ground level, where the seeds of change grow. Or revolution festers.
America’s simmering fire of discontent has just exploded into an all-consuming wildfire and it is unlikely to be contained any time soon. The fireman-in-chief – inexperienced, ill-informed, ignorant – will not be able to control the fire, he’ll fuel it with ego, hubris, idiocy, mendacity, prejudice, intolerance, injustice, racism, misogyny.
A leopard doesn’t change its spots and so far, based on what we have experienced with Trump, he’s a leopard who will not find compassion, humility, discernment, reciprocity and inclusiveness in a teleprompter. These human traits come from the heart, expressed through an artesian well of values and character. This applies to every leader, everywhere – mayors, legislators, governors, premiers, prime ministers, presidents, kings and queens.
“We the people”
Citizens everywhere are being conned into accepting a malfunctioning, non-democratic system that has nothing to do with delivering democracy or equal representation. In the US, we have just been eyewitnesses to the “rigged” system, not the one Trump blathered falsehoods about, but to the one that allows 24% of the people to elect a reckless reprobate, an ignorant blowhard, a bigoted sociopath – did I mention a braggadocian misogynist – to the most powerful office in the world.
There are dark, untraveled roads ahead and in the United States the genie – idiot – is out of the bottle so we will all have to proceed with much caution. But in the interim, let us begin to address the problem in our hometowns, in every community, in every country, and start rooting out the misrepresentation, misconduct, malfeasance and corruption.
Think about it.
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